We are accustomed to reading of politicians and diplomats laboring earnestly to resolve international conflict through peace treaties. But, what tends to happen after an agreement is signed? It seems as though before the ink is even dry, there needs to be another summit to make another treaty because the former one has already been violated. Peace seems to be as elusive as it is desired.
This is why it is particularly striking to read that God is called the God of peace (Heb. 13:20).
Fact, Feeling, or Both?
When you first read those words how do you think of the word peace? Do you think in subjective terms—I feel a peace from God, or objective terms—I have peace with God? Most people tend toward the first while assuming the second. I want to convince you that the author is referring to the second and that the subjective peace comes as a (blessed) result of it.
How is God the God of Peace?
What does this mean that God is the God of peace? God is the source of peace, maker of peace, and the one who gives peace. There is no true and lasting peace outside of him.
In a most natural sense we think of peace as order. Remember the first words of the Bible? “In the beginning God…” Then the text goes on to say,
“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
In the subsequent verses God speaks creation into existence. He brings about order through his creative word. He orderly brings creation into order. This reflects him as the God of peace.
The Day the Record Skipped
Within a couple of chapters however, we read of the record skipping. Adam and Eve sin and plunge not only all of humanity but all of creation into a world that is cursed by sin (Gen. 3:15ff). As a result of this, this previously perfectly ordered world no longer functions as orderly and perfectly as designed. It still reflects beauty and some of the old world charm, but not in its fullness.
Some of the ways we see how things are not functioning properly are the prevalence of disorder. Specifically we see disasters, diseases, and death. All of which are assaults upon the God of peace and what he has ordered in creation. We know from reading the Bible that these things are not accidental intrusions in God’s creation but consequences of our sin. Sin creates chaos. It invades God’s good creation with disorder.
The God of Peace Brings Harmony
This brings us to how the God of peace has been involved to fix the problem. The God of peace brings peace through reconciliation. We understand that through our sin, disobedience and rebellion we have been alienated or separated from God.
On one level there is the disorder of creation, which we just talked about. But on another level, and at a primary level, it has caused disorder in our souls. It has brought a rift in people’s relationship with God; we are most naturally at odds or separated from God. There is something of a spiritual war that needs a peace treaty.
How does peace get made? Well, it is the God of peace who makes peace with his warring subjects, his creation. God becomes a man in the person of Jesus Christ to make peace.
Think about what you see Jesus doing in the gospel narratives.
- He heals disease. In Mark 1:40-43 (and many other places) we read of him healing the lame or sick. In this passage he heals a leper. Why? To show that he is the one to properly deal with the curse of sin. If he can fix the fruit (disease) then he can fix the root (sin). The God of peace shows himself by bringing order.
- He calms disaster. In Mark 4:35-41 we read of Jesus asleep in a boat. The sea began to rage and all were afraid. When they call upon Jesus he gets up and speaks to the sea. What happened? The raging sea calmed in an instant. It became as glass. The God of peace brings order amid disorder.
- He raises the dead. In John 11 we read of Jesus speaking to a man who has been dead for days. Lazarus rises from the dead and comes out. Jesus has power over death. He brings peace.- He pays for sin. In Col. 1:20-21 we read that Jesus makes peace through the blood of his cross. He reconciles all things through his death. Jesus brings the warring parties together to make a lasting, eternal shalom. By his death he brings peace. He brings order. Jesus rescue rebellious people like you and me. He offers himself upon the cross as the suitable payment for our sin. He brings us to God by removing the sin that alienated us. He reconciles us to God. The God of peace makes peace.
This is the primary sense in which the writer of Hebrews is talking here. He is talking about God being the God of peace in the sense of the fact that he is the source of peace and the maker of peace, and, as a result, the giver of peace. The peace that we enjoy is a result of the peace that God has made.
How do we think about this?
(1) We need to remember that God is at work in the world to make all things new. The disorder brought through sin has been remedied through the cross and will be realized at the end of the age. When you are feeling the effects of disorder (disaster, disease, death, pain, etc) you need to remember that the God of peace is actively working to make things new. What God does is linked with who God is. Take comfort in this truth even as things on the ground may appear to be unraveling.
(2) Do not forget that your greatest need throughout history and throughout eternity before you is peace. In our sin we declare war upon God and through the cross Christ makes peace for spiritual insurgents like us. Don’t let the beauty of the gospel of peace fade in your eyes. Cherish it daily.
(3) If you do not know this God of peace, know that you can today if you are willing to lay down your weapons of warfare in your opposition to him. If you will turn from sin (rebellion) and turn to him in faith and trust, he will accept you and you will enjoy this God of peace.
(4) Once converted God makes his people to be peacemakers (Mt. 5:9). We are to pursue peace with all people because God has made peace with us (Rom. 12:16,18). We no longer hold grudges, act vindictively, let things simmer, or otherwise nurture bitterness (Heb. 12:15). We serve the God of peace.
(5) This does not minimize the subjective feeling of peace, but rather informs it. We feel the peace from God because we have peace with God. The second is abiding and does not fluctuate, but the first goes up and down based upon how we react to circumstances. We must remember that the objective peace earned through the gospel has to inform and give shape to our feelings.
(This is an excerpt from a sermon preached at Emmaus Bible Church entitled Words to Live By full sermon here)