Do you have peace in your life? Do you know what real peace is?
When people say they “have peace” about something it usually means that they feel good about something or there is an absence of emotional conflict about circumstances or events in their lives. Some Christians refer to a “supernatural peace” that is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Philippians. The Apostle Paul, writing from prison, encouraged his readers that, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Sadly, though many Christians talk about having peace, even a supernatural peace from God, they sometimes treat the subject as if peace is nothing more than good feelings, or happiness about circumstances. Yet the Bible’s idea of peace is very different, and not always tied to the circumstances of life. Let’s define the Bible’s idea of peace.
From the Bible’s point of view peace is first peace with God. The Apostle Paul defined God’s peace in Romans 5:1: “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s first definition of peace means that the atoning working of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross has erased our enmity with God. Without the forgiveness of our sin we are God’s enemies—God is in conflict with us. But because of the death of Jesus for our sin, God is no longer in conflict with those who have received the payment of penalty for sins rendered by Jesus. We are “at peace” with him when we receive the payment of sin he made on our behalf.
There is a second definition for biblical peace. It has to do, not with conflict with God, but conflict within ourselves. Biblical peace is also a lack of internal conflict, or internal enmity with ourselves about something. In both cases this kind of peace does not precede a decision to do something, rather it is a byproduct of an already-made decision. The first decision is a decision to be at peace with God by accepting his terms of peace—the lordship of his Son Jesus over our lives. The second kind we shall explore in this chapter as we look at two aspects of the Peace of God, and learn how we can have true and lasting peace.
God: At Peace with Himself, But Not Man
Let’s begin our study with a more succinct definition of peace, one that covers our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. More importantly, we want to first examine God’s peace in his relationship with himself. Peace is a right relationship with oneself, with others, and with God that is void of confusion, conflict, or division. God is a God of Peace.
God is always at peace with himself. This means that he is never confused, conflicted, or divided within himself about his emotions, thoughts, or actions. The Apostle Paul noted in I Corinthians 14:33: “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.”
This idea of God being a God of peace is unique among the religions and philosophical systems of the world. In other religious systems the so-called gods or spirits are always in competition with one another or with man. But God is not in competition with himself. Man cannot compete against God since he is the Supreme God, over all.
Because God is completely secure in his thoughts, feelings, and actions, he cannot be in conflict with himself. He is always at peace with all he feels, thinks, and does, and is always in a right relationship to himself. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are never divided. Jesus revealed this truth about the unity of God when he said to his disciples: “I am the Father are One” (John 10:30).
God and His Enemies: No Peace
Though it is God’s nature to be at peace with himself, and whenever possible, to be at peace with us, it is also true that God is not always at peace with man. There are special conditions that we must observe in order to have peace with God.
God is not at peace with men who do not know or obey him. The Bible illustrates this by calling those who do not obey God, God’s enemies.
To say that we are God’s enemies is a strong statement. Some people believe that even though they do not follow Christ, they are not God’s enemies. These people think that if they live a good life, or try not to do bad things, that eventually God will accept them. But the Bible teaches something different than what we assume or wish to be true. The Bible teaches that the person who is without Jesus Christ is God’s enemy. The good news is that the person who receives Jesus as Lord can be reconciled to God. “For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son…” (Romans 5:10).
Paul notes that the Christian was formerly God’s enemy when he did not know Jesus Christ. He wrote to the Colossians, “You were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds…” (Colossians 1:21).
We see from these passages that the person who is without Jesus Christ is at conflict with God and separated from him because he prefers his own ways of sin rather than a righteous life that God requires. Since man has rejected the basic requirements of right living that his Creator has given him, man is under God’s wrath. This does not mean that God hates those who are without Jesus. Jesus said very plainly, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
However, though God does not hate us, neither are we his friends if we are without Jesus Christ. We are his enemies because of our sin.
God Longs for Peace with Man
This dichotomy of God loving man, yet man as God’s enemy can only be understood in light of God’s other character attribute of justice. This is our third principle. God loves us, and longs to be at peace with us, but his justice requires he punish our sin. Therefore, we cannot be at peace with God without a solution to our sin problem.
Though we are not at peace with God if we do not know Jesus Christ, God still loves us and wants to be at peace with us. However, he cannot excuse our sin anymore than a court should excuse a criminal. God must punish sin. The book of Romans reveals that, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).
There is no one who has not sinned. It is in our nature to think, feel, and act in ways that are contrary to God’s character of goodness, truth, and justice. And even though we may want God to overlook our rebellion, God has already declared the punishment for sin that applies to everyone, everywhere. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:13)
Because God is always just, he always punishes sin. He never excuses sin. But in the case of the person who has come to know Jesus—who has become a genuine Christian—the punishment for sin was heaped upon Christ instead of the sinner. Let’s go back to that passage in the book of John and see how this works. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe has been condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
Jesus: Peace Between God & Man
Let’s begin applying the principles about peace to Jesus Christ and see what we discover. Keeping in mind that Jesus is the one and only son of the one and only God, we can expect his nature to be just like his father’s. In fact, the scriptures teach that,
Jesus Christ was always at peace with himself, and with his Father.
As the only son of the only Living God, Jesus is part of what we call the “Godhead.” It is not that he is a part of God; rather, he himself is God, just as the Father is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Each is called God and the three persons are the one God. Therefore, Jesus has all of the attributes and nature of God. Just as the Father, being fully God is in complete unity with the Son and the Holy Spirit, so too Jesus, being fully God, is also in identical unity with the Father and Holy Spirit. There is no disorder, division, or disunity between them. There is always peace between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, and the three are never in disunity or not at peace with one another. How is this unity and peace expressed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Let’s look at examples from Jesus’ life.
In the New Testament book of Luke we see a strong declaration of peace and unity between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as Jesus begins his earthly ministry: “Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, in you I am well-pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22).
In this example we see the Father making a declaration of pleasure in Jesus as he begins his ministry, while the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus to empower him for that ministry. The Father declares, the Son performs, and the Spirit empowers—all working toward the same objective.
Later in his ministry when Jesus was debating his detractors he openly declared his peace and unity with God. “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that he himself is doing” (John 5:19-20).
In fact, in a heated exchange with Jewish leaders who wanted to kill him for making such grand claims, Jesus declared the supremacy of God in all things then startled his detractors further by saying, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Jesus: Making Peace Between God and Man
Earlier we learned that God is not at peace with those who do not know Jesus Christ. However, it is possible to be at peace with God because of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to make peace between God and man, making it possible for men to know God, obey God, and be at peace with him.
Though God was not at peace with man, God still loved man and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for the sins that offended God, which keep us from him. Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Jesus took the punishment for our sins on our behalf. Therefore, since the Lord Jesus has paid our debt of sin, we can now come to know God, obey him, and be acceptable in his sight. Because of Jesus death and resurrection we can now have peace with God so that God is no longer divided against us. Look at what the book of Romans say about this: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand…For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:1-1, 6-10).
Jesus is the Solution to our Sin Problem
Earlier in our lesson we learned that man has a sin problem. Though God is just and must always punish sin, and though our sin has separated us from God, keeping us from being at peace with him, God’s love for us has found a way to reconcile us so that we can be at peace.
Jesus expressed God’s love for man by willingly dying on a cross for our sin. Jesus is therefore the solution to our sin problem, making peace with God possible.
Because God has poured out his wrath for sin upon Jesus instead of us, his justice—his requirement to punish sin—has been fully satisfied. God no longer seeks to punish our sin by separating himself from us for eternity. Instead, God has made peace with him possible by solving our sin problem. Everyone who embraces Jesus Christ and the punishment he paid for us can have peace with God as God’s free gift. All that is required is to believe in Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, and confess our sins to him. The scripture says,
“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
Being at Peace with God and Yourself
Let’s take everything we’ve learned about peace and bring it down to a level of practical application. How can what we’ve learned about God’s character of peace, and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, help us? What do we need to know, and do, in order to live a life of peace? First, maintaining a life of peace requires obedience to God’s word. In order for us to become like Jesus Christ it is imperative that we obey the commands of God’s word. A person who claims to be a Christian but does not conform his or her life to God’s word is self-deceived about their practice of the Christian faith. God’s word says, “Those who love your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165).
We cannot have the kind of peace that God promises to the Christian unless we are living obediently to his word. The Bible is God’s instruction book for life. It is the Owner’s Manual for the human soul. Our designer has designed us to have peace with him, and within ourselves, but we need to understand God’s instructions on how to attain that peace—first by receiving Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin, then learning how to obey him. Obedience brings great benefits.
Peace Through Obedience
As we learn how to live a life of obedience to God’s word, God’s peace begins to have effect in our lives.
The Christian who lives a life of obedience to God and his word will have a life of personal peace regardless of his circumstances. A life of disobedience will put the Christian at odds with his Creator.
Though we obtain a right relationship to God through the obedience of Jesus death and resurrection, we must also imitate Jesus’ obedience in our own lives. Jesus did not pay for our debt of sin so that we can keep on sinning, he paid it so we can be forgiven and be empowered to live a life of righteousness as he did. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?…For the death that he died he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1-2,10-11).
When we obey God we signify that we are already in a right relationship with him. When we disobey (sin), we signify our relationship with him is not right. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment…” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
At Peace with Ourselves
As we enter into a relationship of peace with God through Jesus Christ, and learn how to live a life of obedience, the greatest benefit begins to take effect in our lives—we can have peace within ourselves, with ourselves. When we are at peace with God we can be at peace within ourselves knowing that we are living a life of obedience and that God holds nothing against us.
We can have peace, that is, an inner life without confusion, conflict, or division, through a right relationship to Jesus Christ. Just before Jesus was arrested and murdered—something that doesn’t seem so peaceful—he made this promise to those who would follow him: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27).
It is that right relationship which makes inner peace possible. We cannot have one without the other. Being in a right relationship with God means that we live a life in obedience to him. “Finally brothers, whatever is true, what 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, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).