Peace from God by Jesus
Peace from God
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul penned those words in nearly every letter he ever wrote. Last week we began our study in Philippians, and I didn’t want to rush past the depth of those words in Paul’s greeting. We looked closely at the grace of God last Sunday. God’s grace is an untouched pile of tinder in a fire storm; it is a homeless harlot made pure by a blameless and upright suitor; it is a dead vagabond resurrected and seated with God; it is a father giving instructions to his disobedient boy.
If those actions are grace (and they are), then peace is the condition afforded by those actions. In other words, grace protects from fire, grace cleans our filth, grace makes us alive, grace gives us words of life, but peace is the resulting state after grace was received.
Have you considered the overwhelming blessing it is to be at peace with God?
I’d like to begin today by giving a definition of Biblical peace, which is the reduction of a bunch of New Testament ideas: Peace means, God, whose standard is infinitely higher than I can achieve, who has great reason to be angry with me because of my sin, looks upon me in my totally meager attempt and says, “I’ve got no punishment for you; I’ve got no animosity toward you; our relationship completely lacks hostility; I’m working for you, not against you; I’m storing up blessings for you. I’ll make even the bad things that happen to you work ultimately for your good.”
How does that definition sit with you? I wonder if it stirs you. I wonder if it straightens weak knees and lifts drooping hands. Does it lift up a fallen face? Or, have those ideas become so common among us that the piercing sword is more like a rounded butter knife?
I think one of the reasons we don’t appreciate the peace of God is because we don’t grasp the alternative. To understand how good the peace of God is, we have to understand the wrath we deserve.
Several years ago, I had a dream I’ll never forget. In my dream, I was sleeping in my bed in Minnesota when suddenly I was startled by a trumpet call much like the blast of a fog horn on a massive ocean vessel. BMMMMMMM! You can imagine the sound. Without thinking—purely instinctively—I climbed out of bed and walked toward the front door in a trance-like state, passing my siblings and parents along the way. All of us went out the front door and looked up to the same point in the sky. Everyone in the whole neighborhood was looking on without a word. The sky was black all around, except for a single point of vivid blue, purple, and red clouds, behind which a totally radiant figure in all white was walking, growing larger as he drew closer to us. Just as his face became visible, my family and I began to rise. It was the Day of Judgment. Christ had returned. And I’ll never forget the look on the faces of so many who remained on the ground. Their dread was palpable. The terror in their eyes was haunting. At that moment, they knew the dread it is to feel the wrath of God and know the time is past to do anything about it.
We all deserve to be left on the ground. I didn’t do anything worthy of God’s peace—neither could I if I tried. God’s peace means nothing if we don’t understand the judgment we all deserve. My intent in this morning’s message, therefore, is simple: I want everyone in Christ to leave with a renewed sense of awe and gratitude for the peace we have with the God of the universe.
To accomplish that intent, here’s what I’ll do: First, I want to illustrate to you what righteous anger feels like. I’ll do so because I want you to have just a shred of an idea of how God feels toward our human sin. Then I want to illustrate how God deals with his anger.
Inciting Human Wrath
Let me incite your anger a bit with a fictional story told by a real man in Scripture. If you’re like me, you may feel sorrow first, then anger.
“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him” (2 Samuel 7:1-4).
Do you pity the poor man? Do you, in turn, burn for the rich man? Were this to happen today in our society, would anybody not feel anger? Would anybody think, “So what? I see no reason for punishment?”
Nathan told that story to David, and this was his response, and I suspect it would be everyone else’s response: “David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity’” (7:5-6).
David’s anger was totally just—until Nathan said to him, “You are the man (!)…You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife.”
Nathan told that initial story to get David’s attention because he had taken another man’s wife and then killed her husband. And David didn’t realize how greatly his sin grieved God. One of the man points of the story from 2 Samuel 12 is to illustrate that the anger we feel toward injustices is an anger God feels infinitely more toward us—because God is infinitely more righteous.
An Unlikely Justice
Did David deserve death? Did David deserve for everything good in his life to be taken away? Did David deserve to be eternally separated from God because of his actions? Emphatically, yes. He murdered a good man and took his wife for himself.
But see what actually happened: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die’” (2 Samuel 12:14).
There’s not a jury on earth who’d produce such a verdict. This is outrageous. Were the Bible to end here, we might could conclude, God is not a just God. I say that not only because David clearly deserves punishment but more so because of what God himself said in his own Law.
In Leviticus 20:10, God said, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Nathan said to David, who’d deliberately disobeyed Leviticus 20:10, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
The punishment for adultery was capital punishment. That’s not man’s law—that was God’s Law. So how did David afford such peace with God? How do we reconcile this apparent injustice with the God who says of himself, “I, the Lord, love justice” (Isaiah 61:8)? Well, there wasn’t an answer concerning that question for about a thousand years. Turn in your Bibles to Romans 3:21-26. Now, the word “justice” and “righteousness” is the same Greek word. So to make the point crystal clear, I’m going to replace every word “righteous” with the word “justice.”
“21 But now the justice of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s justice, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his justice at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).
Here’s the gist of it: Everybody has sinned, and therefore everybody fails to meet God’s standard; so God put Jesus forward as a propitiation (means “means of forgiveness”) by his blood. This was to show God’s justice (the justice we questioned in 2 Samuel 12), because in his divine forbearance (patience) he had passed over former sins.
So God passed over David’s sin because he knew Jesus would bear David’s punishment on the cross. Somebody had to die to satisfy the divine justice system. The Law clearly says, “Somebody must die.” So God put forward Jesus, who willingly took on every sin ever committed under the sun, and on him God poured out the fullness of his wrath. If you want to know what the wrath of God looks like, then envision perfect Jesus, torn to shreds, hanging on a piece of wood, bleeding out every last drop of blood.
Isaiah 53 says, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (53:5).
What was the last word there? Peace. In Romans 5, Paul says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…For while we were still weak (literally “insignificant”), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (means, ON BEHALF OF US). Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:1, 6-10).
So, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ—because while we were insignificant, ungodly, sinful, and God’s own enemies, he sent Jesus to die in our stead. The most poignant word in that text is this: “Since, therefore, we have been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
Paul told the Philippians, “Peace to you [who are in Christ].” The depth of that statement is understood when we see God’s wrath averted from our sinful selves to Jesus. We deserve death, but instead we have the peace of God called Gospel. This is the greatest news in all the world.
So, what are you to do? If you are in Christ, don’t take God’s peace for granted. Praise him for this peace. Think of it often. Don’t skip over greetings in letters that are meant for our reminder. Leave here with a renewed appreciation for God’s peace. And if you are out of Christ, then you need to get into Christ. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Come into Christ this morning by being baptized; and experience God’s peace.