Romans Lesson 8 - Peace!
Peace of mind, peaceful sleep, peace and quiet, peace in the Middle East; there are so many kinds of peace we are all longing for. But the only peace that really matters for eternity is peace with God. Do you have it?
Today we complete the first sentence of Paul’s letter to the believers living in Rome, Italy.
In his introductory remarks Paul has delivered a summary of nothing less than the gospel truth.
In verse 1 he makes sure we understand that it is not a gospel that he originated or conceived of; it is the gospel of God, or the gospel, whose source is God.
In the 2nd verse he makes sure we understand that it is not a new gospel – a novel gospel, but that it had already been promised through God’s prophets in the holy scriptures.
The sum and substance of the gospel truth is the Son. The Son who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh – having the royal lineage and legal right to sit upon the throne. But also the Son of God who was declared to be the powerful Son through the resurrection from the dead.
This Son’s name was then given – Jesus Christ our Lord.
Those who have received the true gospel, we’re told in verse 5, are those who are obedient to the faith. That is, their lives mirror the demands and the distinctives of the gospel.
True saving faith is without works, but true faith is always revealed in works.
The person who says they have saving faith and are a Christian, but who care nothing for Jesus Christ; who care nothing about pursuing holiness; who care nothing for the scriptures or the Christian assembly; who care nothing for purity and who are deeply grieved over personal sin which brings them to confession and openness before God their Father; who care little about surrender to His name – these are not true believers, but are deceived.
True believers remember who they belong to, v. 6; they remember who deeply loves them, v. 7 and they remember what their new name is – saint! And with all their desire and passion they attempt to live up to their name.
The Son has chosen them, and they have chosen the Son.
And those who choose the Son “inherit everything that pertains unto life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) In other words, you who have chosen the Son have everything you really need.
Paul describes that inheritance in the form of two words.
grace and peace.
He concludes his salutation by writing in verse 7, “To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
By the way, you cannot have that inheritance of grace and peace unless you have what Paul intimates that you have. In the last phrase of verse 7, he refers to God as our father, and Jesus Christ as our Lord.
Try as hard as you like, your life will not be characterized by grace and peace unless you have a living, intimate, active relationship with God as your Father and, a submissive, surrendered, obedient life with Jesus Christ as your Lord.
Now the words grace and peace are a clever combination on the part of Paul. The word chairete, from grace is the typical Greek greeting and the Hebrew shalom, or peace is the typical Jewish or Hebrew greeting.
So Paul combines the two and thus properly greets both the Gentile and Jewish members of the church in Rome.
Oh, but these words convey so much more than a simple greeting. They are such deep words. In fact, we spent all of last Lord’s day uncovering the truths of the word grace.
And today, we will do the same as we explore 8 different contexts in which the word peace appears – and what those 8 different contexts have to teach us today.
(1)First of all, peace is something the world does not have
Twice Isaiah quotes the Lord saying, There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 48:22)
And in chapter 57 verse 20. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and
its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
The world just can’t arrive at peace.
In the last 5,000 years there have been at least 14,000 wars. In the last 400 years alone, the Western world has entered into 8,000 peace treaties and the average life expectancy of those treatise is 2 years.
“Peace,” one author wrote tongue in cheek, “is the glorious moment in history when everyone stands around and reloads.”
Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. People today want peace without the Prince. But apart from the Prince the world will never have peace.
Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “Men may be able to create alliances among a few states which are drawn together by common need or common greed, but a real unity among peoples is not possible in this world of sin and rebellion, where men wish to exalt themselves above the Creator of the universe. If the United Nations could really succeed, man would cry out, “Move over God! Get off your throne! We have succeeded in bringing peace to the earth, and we do not need you any more.”
Donald G. Barnhouse, Romans Vol. 1; Eerdmanns p.84
Jeremiah decried the lack of peace in his generation because people were attempting to create peace without obedience to and reverence for the word of God.
Listen as Jeremiah writes, Jeremiah 6:10 “Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the Lordhas become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. 13. “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. (in other words, Jeremiah said, “Everybody in my generation, among my people are consumed with greed. They just want more and more gain, and all of them from the leadership down, are living deceitful lives; lying to one another, deceiving and being deceived.” 14. “They have healed the brokeness of My people superficially, saying, Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.
They talk about peace but they don’t have it. They patch things together for a few weeks or months, but it never lasts.
In the New Testament, during the tribulation period on earth, after the church has been raptured to heaven, the world will be occupied with talk of peace. They’ll think they finally have it – Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.”
My friends, the world with it’s greed and selfishness; it’s rebellion against God and His word can have one peace summit after another; one peace accord after another, but they will never last.
Peace comes to those who’ve knelt before His majesty; to those who call Christ their Prince – to them He gives peace.
(2) Peace is an attribute of God
Paul wrote later on in Romans 15:33. Now the God of peace be with you all. A descriptive moral attribute of God is peace.
I Corinthians 14:33. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
In Ephesians 2:14 Paul speaks of Jesus Christ by saying, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15. by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16. and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
You only have peace when you come to the cross, where the peace treaty, as it were, was signed between God the Father, who represented holiness and just wrath against sin, and God the Son who represented the satisfaction of the Father’s wrath by dying for sinful humanity.
The peace treaty is signed in the blood of Christ, and it will last, not for two years, but forever.
(3) That’s one of the reasons why Peace is also a description of the Gospel
The gospel is the declaration that the peace treaty has been signed and mankind can now have peace with God.
And every believer is to spread the news of the gospel, thus, Paul wrote that every believer should have their “feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)
Paul wrote Ephesians 2:17. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18. for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.
(4) This peace, then is something you receive at salvation.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:19. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20. and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22. yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
Listen, the average person in America might think that they can assume some neutral position before God. In fact, the average evangelistic approach to unbelievers is, “You know, you ought to try Christ – He’ll make everything better in your life . . . you ought to give Him a chance. . .I know you really want what the world has to offer, but God has something even better.”
That is no gospel truth. That’s a sales pitch. There is no such thing as neutrality before God. To not belong to Christ is to be an enemy of God.
James wrote, “Those who wish to be a friend to the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Whatever happened to preaching like Jonathan Edwards who once preached 100 years ago, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” There’s no sales pitch there.
That is the urgency of the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, but how shall they hear without a preacher. . .”
I remember, many years ago, one time when my family made it’s annual summer trip to Minnesota, the place of our forefathers. On the way, we usually went zigzagging to different homes and churches in the north that supported my parents as missionaries. We stopped in at the home of a godly elderly couple that had faithfully supported my family for decades. They had living with them their aged father (I don’t remember whose side of the family). He was old and hard of hearing, but still fairly lucid, and had evidently come to live out his last days with them. Evidently, this couple pulled my Dad aside and whispered the news that they weren’t sure if their father was saved, would he have a word with him. Usually my brothers and I would be outside playing kick the can or hide and seek – something to keep us occupied while my parents did what missionaries were supposed to do, but on this afternoon, for whatever reason, we were all sitting in the living room. I remember this elderly man was sitting in a chair with a blanket pulled about his legs and a heavy sweater on. His breathing was labored and his head drooped down a bit. At some point, my father pulled his chair over near to this man, so that he was facing him, and he said, “Sir, do you know for sure that if you died today, you would go to be with the Lord?” The man paused and then finally said, “I don’t believe I do.” My father launched into God’s plan of salvation. He explained that salvation was necessary because we were all sinners, and that, because we were sinners, we could never earn salvation. We can only accept it as a gift from God. And that’s why the proud cannot be saved – they’d rather point to some accomplishment or some act of obedience or some morality or philanthropy – surely they deserve it. But it’s free and only sinners who admit they are sinful can receive the gift of salvation. I remember sitting there thinking, surely this man will accept Christ today. Finally, my father asked, “Do you understand what I’ve been saying?” He said, “Yes.” Well then, sir, would you right now be willing to confess your sinfulness to God and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” He paused a long time and then said, “I don’t believe I will.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought, well, that’s one stubborn old man. My Dad gave it his best shot. Too bad. Then my father got up, took his chair and brought it directly beside that man, and started over. With greater urgency than ever, my father reminded this man that he would soon die, and it would be forever too late. He explained again the gospel and then asked, “Would you today accept Jesus Christ and confess to him your sin and need of the Savior?” He paused for what seemed like an eternity with his chin on his chest, contemplating his answer. And then he said, “I believe I will.” I remember tears coming down my cheeks as they prayed together. Another unbeliever rescued from the wrath of God.
That’s why there is true urgency in true evangelism. The gospel truth is a warning as well as a promise. We are not talking to people who’ve just chosen to not accept Christ; we are talking to people who are under the condemnation of God and who will face the wrath of God as enemies of His.
And I stand before you today as a warning from God. The opposite of peace with God is not lack of sleep or a case of indigestion. The opposite of peace with God is condemnation. And if you die without His peace, you will suffer eternal wrath and condemnation as His enemy who refused the peace treaty in Christ.
You will be a sinner in the hands of an angry God. And it will be too late.
Unless you come to the Peace giver; the Peace maker. The Embodiment of the peace treaty between God and man and receive from Him salvation which delivers you from condemnation and gives you peace with God.
Now, for the believer, there several additional contexts where peace is displayed or observed.
(5) Peace is something independent of circumstances
Isaiah 26:3. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Thee.
It’s not the outward pressure, but the inward focus.
Peace isn’t something you have when everything goes right; peace is something you have even when everything goes wrong.
Why? Because your mind is stayed or fixed on Him.
Paul wrote to the Romans, “grace to you and peace. . .”
Frankly, what an odd word to choose. Peace?
Rome was already beginning to decay. Nero, the latest leader was bringing and would bring anything but stability and peace. He had already poisoned Brittanicus and about the time the Roman believers would read Paul’s letter, Nero will have had his own mother brutally murdered. He had already married, divorced and murdered his first wife. While Rome itself was immoral, they were still amazed at the debauchery, not the least of which were his public marriages to two different men. Nero revived the law of treason and began executing people on mere suspicion of disloyalty. He had begun to roam the streets at night, visiting brothels and bars, starting fights with people. On one occasion he attacked a woman but was beaten instead by her husband, who happened to be a Roman senator. Back at the palace, Nero laid low for a while because of his bruises and black eyes – wondering if the Senator had realized who he was beating. Then Nero received a note of apology from that Senator – he hadn’t realized until too late. Now it would be know publicly – so Nero, without any conscience at all, had the senator executed. Then, Nero wanted a new palace but lacked the land, so he personally set fire to Rome, burning more than half of it to the ground. Then he blamed the fire on the Christians, and persecution against them ignited. He was known for such cruelty, he would impale believers on stakes, cover them with pitch and them use them to light his gardens during his evening parties. It was an incredibly dangerous place for a Christian to live. What tremendous storms and grief they would share.
You would think Paul would write, “Grace to you and courage . . . or “Grace to you and perseverance . . .”
Not, “grace to you and peace.”
Because peace is not found in the absence of grief, it is found in the presence of God. Peace is something you experience when you fix your focus, not on the storm, but on the Savior.
(6) Furthermore, Peace is something you invest in others
Romans 12:18. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
I love the realism of Paul. A religious writer trying to sound spiritual would have left off the first two words, “If possible.” Not Paul. “If possible, so far as it depends on you (in other words, do everything you can) to be at peace with all men.”
He did not say, “Let all men be at peace with you, because some people will not be a peace with you – no matter what you do. Instead Paul writes, “You, be at peace with all men.”
He goes on to write, in verse 19. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
You might like that “burning coals” part. That sounds better than revenge doesn’t it? The only trouble is, we don’t understand this phrase any more because of our lifestyle. In Paul’s day, as it still is in more primitive cultures, people carried things on their heads. I’ve seen them in India and Africa with buckets and bowls and pots and pans filled with goods, balanced on top of their heads. Paul is referring to one of your enemies who’s fire goes out. He has to start all over, and it takes a long time until there is a good bed of hot coals for cooking. But you’re going to give him some of the hot coals from your fire so he can quickly build a fire and cook his dinner. When you do acts of kindness to your enemy, Paul says, it is like giving him a bucket of hot coals for his own fire.
Paul’s point to them was, it’s hard for somebody to remain your enemy when you invest in him by helping him rebuild his fire.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
2 Corinthians 13:11
Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2. with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3. being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Peace is something that accompanies gratitude
In Colossians 3:15 Paul commanded, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, (the word rule is the word, brabeuw – it means to umpire, to referee, literally, to call the shots – Paul goes on) and be thankful. Present tense = “be thankful” – it indicates a continual action pointing to a habit of life. Is thanksgiving a celebration with turkey and cranberry sauce or is it a way of life?
Would believers who knew you well say of you, “He or she is such a grateful person.” “They are such thankful people.”
Or, are you known for complaining and whining and griping. Life is never good enough; the weather is never pleasant enough; people are never kind enough; your paycheck is never big enough . . . complain, complain, complain.
To the Philippians he wrote, 4:6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Trench wrote, “Thanksgiving is that element which should never be absent from our devotions.” And what happens when thanksgiving is a constant element of your devotions? Verse 7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Peace is experienced when thanksgiving is expressed.
Finally, Peace is something you surrender to learn
Galatians 5:19. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20. idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21. envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .what does the fruit of the Spirit mean? It means, “that which grows in you by means of submission to the Spirit.” In other words, when you surrender to the Holy Spirit’s control in your life, things grow inside of you – and one of those qualities that surfaces in the submissive heart is peace.
Paul said basically the same thing, but in a different way to the Philippian believers: 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Believer, do you have a sense of peace? What do you dwell on – what do you feed into your mind – what do you mull over – is it true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, gracious?
Do you lack a sense of peace? What do you practice? How do you live? Are you practicing truth. Do you live an honorable and right and pure and lovely and gracious life?
If you dwell on these things and practice these things, you will sense the pleasure and peace of God.
When you submit to God’s Spirit, you sense God’s presence.
Let me summarize all of the contexts in which we’ve read about and talked about peace by these four statements.
- You have peace with God through Christ – that’s a fact.
- You have peace from God through obedience – that’s a feeling.
- You have peace within through mental and spiritual discipline – that’s the fruit.
- You have peace with each other through humility – that’s our fellowship.
As God through Jeremiah pictured for Jerusalem their future rest and redemption, God said, “I will extend peace to her like a river. . .” That phrase has become a song for the redeemed who have found in Christ their Prince of Peace.
Only the redeemed can truly sing, “I’ve got peace like a river, in my soul.”
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