LCN Article
The Spirit of Peace

May / June 2015

Dexter B. Wakefield

More slaughter in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, Ukraine! Beheadings, mass killings, violence all over the world! Unimaginable human suffering goes on and on and on. Homegrown terrorism has sprouted across Europe and the United States. Everyone talks about peace, but—more and more—peace seems like a mirage in the Middle Eastern desert, moving farther and farther away as mankind staggers toward it.

Will peace ever come? What if, one day soon, someone credibly announced that peace is coming to the whole world? Would not that be very, very good news? The good news of peace! Did you realize that this announcement has already been made? And we are continuing to announce it today. Of course, God’s people need to know what it means and must trust in it.

“Gospel” Means “Good News”

The English word, “gospel” comes from the Old English, gōd-spell, which is a word-for-word translation of the Greek word used in the New Testament, euangelion (eu: “good” and angelion: “message”). We get our word, “angel” from the Greek word, angelos, for “messenger.” Christ indeed brought a good message that is good news for the whole world!

God said through the prophet Isaiah, “The way of peace they have not known” (Isaiah 59:8). What a true statement! Generation after generation has seen centuries upon centuries of wars. But how will this promised peace come about? Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). What did he mean by that? How are we to travel through life, feet shod, and prepared with this good news—this gospel of peace? Can we know the way?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and He brings peace for His set-apart people in this evil age. He also has promised peace for the whole world in the age to come.

We can be very encouraged that the peace Christ has for His holy people in this age is only a foretaste of the peace that He will bring for His Holy Mountain [Government] and the whole world in the next age. And there can be no world peace apart from God’s Kingdom. The gospel of the Kingdom of God includes the good news of the gospel of peace!

Personal Peace

But how can we have personal peace these days when we are beset with so many personal trials? First, it is important to remember that we are still in Satan’s world in an evil age, and Christ said that it would be difficult for God’s people. This is because when God sets His children apart—makes them holy—He necessarily puts a difference between them and those in this world and age.

At Jesus’ birth, the angels promised peace on earth, goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14). But, speaking of our trials, Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth [now, in this age]. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34–38). This is not a contradiction. In this age, the world does not like the difference Christ makes in His people. And Satan will attack at every opportunity.

When we came into God’s Church, obeying God meant that we had to make some difficult choices. Christ and the apostles taught that we must repent of our sins when we come to Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38), and we cannot repent of sin and break God’s commandments at the same time (1 John 3:4). We remember that the Bible calls them “The Ten Commandments,” not “The Nine Suggestions.”

After we are baptized for the remission of sins, and we receive the Holy Spirit, we continue to make vital choices, throughout our lives, as to whether we will obey God and keep His divine law as our way of life. It is God who defines right and wrong for His people, and this puts a difference between God’s people and the rest of the world. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

What we do changes us, and we must overcome throughout our lives, demonstrating living faith (James 2:14–17). Jesus told His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Being set apart by God means something! For one thing, it means enduring. Jesus said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

But even when our Lord warned us of coming trials and difficulties, He encouraged us with a promise of peace. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Fruit of the Spirit

God’s Holy Spirit brings peace! “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23). Love, joy, peace! The order of those fruits is instructive. On Passover, we remember that just before He died, Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). At Passover, we remember that greatest love, and Passover is characterized by the spiritual fruit of love. John the Baptist declared, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Christ, our Passover, did that by dying for us.

We should also note that the scriptures often characterize the Days of Unleavened Bread with the spiritual fruit of joy. By the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are washed of the guilt of our sins and are “clean every whit.” Like the Israelites coming out of Egypt—a type of sin—God’s spiritual Israel has great gladness to be cleansed of the guilt of past sins and free from the bondage of it.

Similarly, after a period of idolatry, King Hezekiah returned the Kingdom of Judah to serving God. Then they kept the Spring Holy Days with great joy. “So the children of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness… Then the whole assembly agreed to keep the feast another seven days, and they kept it another seven days with gladness…The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah. So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:21–26).

Similarly, when Judah returned from captivity to Jerusalem, they joyfully returned to keeping the Spring Holy Days in Jerusalem. “And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month… And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful” (Ezra 6:19–22).

Love, joy—and then peace! The Holy Day of Pentecost pictures, among other things, the giving of the Holy Spirit—which brings great peace to God’s people. God is the author of it. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Our Father is “the God of peace” (Philippians 4:9) and Christ “preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:17–18). God’s peace is something we remember in a special way every year at Pentecost.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit He would send would bring His people peace. “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, [that] the Father will send in My name… will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:25–27).

Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We in God’s Church understand that we have an infinitely powerful Father who will cause all things to work together for our benefit if we love, obey and trust Him.

When we know these things, we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). This confidence brings great peace of mind to God’s begotten children.

Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), and He is zealous for His Church. Paul exhorted the brethren in Corinth, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35–39).

We do not need to take anxious thought about whether Christ will perform in us what He said He would. He has both the will and the power to do all He promised!

The apostles preached the peace that Christ brings through His indwelling Spirit. “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). It is Christ who dwells in us through that Spirit, and we have His peace. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in [of] the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). That is why Christ said in John 14:27 quoted earlier, “My peace I give to you.”

Paul spoke of a peace that combines trust in God, a sure hope of eternal life in His Kingdom and a quietness of mind that is brought on by the indwelling of Christ in us. Jesus Christ’s indwelling enables us to be spiritually minded and like-minded with Him. This results in an inner peace for God’s people regardless of the trials we endure. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

The peace of Christ is not just something we feel and experience emotionally, but it is something we live and do. Paul exhorts us to live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with us (2 Corinthians 13:11). Peace for God’s people is not only a feeling; it is a fact!

We not only have peace within ourselves and with our fellow man, but Christ has put away the barrier of our sins between us and the Father. God’s people, made holy by His Spirit, are no longer profaned by the guilt of their sins. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

We seek to describe this peace of God, but can we fully comprehend it? The Apostle Paul told the brethren in Philippi, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7)—who lives in us. It is good news indeed that God’s Holy Spirit can bring us such peace!

World Peace Is Coming!

woman reading BibleThe Apostle Paul described the scene we see around the world today quite well. “‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways;and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (Romans 3:15–18). Welcome to the modern world—things have not changed much!

But this world cannot see that it is in bondage to an invisible ruler, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Christ called him “the ruler of this world” who “will be cast out” (John 12:31). The world is under Satan’s government which produces rebellion, destruction and violence. It is important to remember that this age is ruled for now by Satan’s kingdom, and Jesus referred to it. “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25–26).

Jesus Christ is not coming to reform Satan’s kingdom—his “mountain”—which currently fills the earth. He is coming to destroy and replace it! It will be replaced with the Holy Mountain of God—Christ’s righteous government. The prophet, Daniel, foretold how Satan’s government will be “blown away.” Describing the great Babylonish system that currently fills the whole earth, he wrote, “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.… You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone [Christ, the chief cornerstone] that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:31–35). Christ is the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29), and that “great mountain” is the Holy Mountain [Government] of God!

The prophet Zechariah, described Satan’s profane kingdom and government as a mountain that will be leveled.“So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [a type of the Messiah]: ‘Not by might [worldly armies or military] nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” (Zechariah 4:6–7, NIV). Satan’s government and kingdom will be “flattened”!

The King of kings will then establish His righteous government on earth. Isaiah tells us what that kingdom will be like. After Satan’s violent, profane mountain is destroyed, it will be replaced with God’s Holy Mountain—which will be characterized by peace. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 9:6–7, 11:9).

Why will they “not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain”? For one thing, the King of kings will not allow war and destruction in His Kingdom. He is “Melchizedek… first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace’” (Hebrews 7:1–3). And there is another reason. It is because “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”! It will be the job of the sons of God to teach the world the way to peace, because this world certainly does not know it now. That is why we must learn to live in peace today. Jesus was looking forward to that great day when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

The Apostle Paul exhorted the Church in Ephesus, regarding peace, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3).

Paul’s benediction at the end of the Book of Hebrews is an apt blessing for all of God’s people as we approach the Holy Day of Pentecost. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20–21, KJV). Christ’s gospel of peace is good news indeed!