Sermon: The Peacemakers
An Identifier of God’s Children
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 03-Sep-22; 79 minutes 2022-09-03
watch: Go to the Blessed Are (sermon series)
description: (hide) The "signs of the times" scriptures (Jeremiah 6:10-15; I Thessalonians 5:1-3—Judah’s Day of the Lord and the coming Day of the Lord) illustrate the concerted effort on behalf of Israel’s leaders to minimize how bad things are when the world will be plunged from world peace to war in the blink of the eye. In the New Testament, the word for "peace" goes far beyond the usual understanding of lack of armed conflict. The meaning of "shalom" (well-being) implies bodily health, satisfaction, and contentment expanding into the idea of prosperity. Another facet of shalom is stability in a relationship as in a marriage relationship. In Ezekiel 37, shalom is associated with the covenant, in which in the second resurrection (Ezekiel 37:24-48) David will be king, instituting the New Covenant, in which the boundaries are spelled out living in an everlasting covenant of peace living in God’s laws and statutes forever. When people are not in a right relationship with God, peace is impossible. Sin (the breaking of the law or covenant) automatically breaks the peace (Isaiah 59:1-9). When we sin, we declare war on Almighty God. When we follow human nature, we show how much we hate God, separating ourselves from God and others. Our national sins have brought about distrust of institutions, mobs, disease, war, and death—metaphorically hatching vipers eggs or poisonous spider webs, or time bombs-which will eventually explode. Each sin is an act of treason. God’s people have been called to be peace makers (Matthew 5:9 ). The sons of God can make peace if they make the effort, using God’s Holy Spirit to allow Christ to radically transform them from zombies to living beings (or from worms to children of God (Job 25:6). If we do not pursue peace, we cannot expect to see God (Matthew 5:43-48; Hebrew 12:14).
As we begin would you please turn in your Bibles to Jeremiah 6. We are going to read verses 10 through 15. And then we are going to go into the New Testament in I Thessalonians 5.
Jeremiah 6:10-15 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD. I am weary of holding it in. “I will pour it out on the children outside, and on the assembly of young men together; for even the husband shall be taken with the wife, the aged with him who is full of days. And their houses shall be turned over to others, fields and wives together; for I will stretch out My hand against the inhabitants of the land,” says the LORD. “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the LORD.
I Thessalonians 5:1-3 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
We could call these two passages, “Signs of the times” scriptures. They tell us that at times of great crisis, particularly, like the coming day of the Lord, are often preceded by a concerted effort to minimize just how bad things are. And this is seen in the two phrases that I hope I emphasized—“Peace, peace when there is no peace.” And also the one in I Thessalonians where he said, “They say peace and safety, and then sudden destruction comes.”
The Day of the Lord, which may be just a few years ahead, will seem from the outside like the world shifting from relative peace to total war in the blink of an eye. We will be going along and SNAP! now we are plunged into world war. That is just the way it will seem to somebody out in the world. And the result in both cases—in Judah's day of the Lord, and also this coming Day of the Lord—is unescapable destruction. What God brought upon Judah in Babylon, by the Chaldeans, affected everybody in Judah. All the Jews.
And if you read the book of Lamentations, you see how deeply it affected them. The same will happen with the coming Day of the Lord. It is going to not only affect all of Judah, or even all of the church, it is going to affect every last person on earth. Everyone. No one is going to escape.
Now, this is how the church has always framed these two prophecies. They kind of go hand-in-hand. We have always framed them in the sense that “relative” peace reigns—I am just talking about the absence of martial conflict in a big way, there is always war going on somewhere. But we humans have a way of saying, “Well that’s not too bad that there is war here in war there. At least it’s not affecting me. So I am at peace.”
But then, as we presented it, there will be a definite time where that peace ends very suddenly and, we are plunged into world war. And that makes sense. That is how Jeremiah and Paul presented it here in these passages. I believe that should be the primary prophetic interpretation of these passages. We are supposed to get that understanding from it at least on the surface level.
However, I do not believe that is the only way that we should look at it, especially considering what the biblical words for peace imply.
Now in common usage, the Greek word eirene, at its root, describes the state of no war—the absence of war. That is what peace is. Peace is the opposite of war, a period or “an interlude in the everlasting state of war,” so says one German lexicographer, a man named E. Weiss (I could not find what his first name was) put it. So eirene describes an external state of rest or an absence of hostility.
But that does not do us a whole lot of good because that is not the principal usage of eirene in the New Testament. There is a very good reason why it was used a little differently in the New Testament. And that reason is the New Testament was written by Jews, and Luke, who was very much influenced by a particular Jew named the apostle Paul.
So in the New Testament, eirene stands in for the Hebrew word shalom. It has more of shalom's meaning than the normal Koine Greek idea of the absence of war. While it certainly does mean the absence of war, shalom is not only far broader than eirene in meaning, but it also is infused with a great deal of religious meaning. There is theology behind shalom that eirene does not have. Obviously the Greeks were a pagan people. They did not have the God of Israel as the one who was working with them for thousands of years. And so the language is not infused with the theology that the Hebrew language is.
Gerhard Kittel in his Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that shalom is actually an imprecise word since it is, “A general expression of a very comprehensive nature.” It is a general term. It is like a catchall for a lot of different meanings that span the whole of life. It is a word like the word “set” in English. Have you ever looked at a dictionary definition of the word, “set” in English? It is got like 92 definitions. It is a catchall term in which we generally think of in terms of placing. But there are lots of different ways that you could place something. And so, set has all these different meanings.
Well, shalom is kind of like that too, but in a more religious sense. It is a catchall term that has a lot of different facets to it. In other words, we severely limit the meaning of shalom if we equate it strictly with our limited definition of peace, meaning no war, or the absence of war. So we have to take a little deeper dive into shalom.
At its core, shalom means well-being; that is the basic meaning. This implies both bodily health and satisfaction. You know, our emotions are satisfied; our minds are satisfied; our hearts are satisfied—or content. So, it implies not only bodily health, but contentment or satisfaction. But at this point, from the physical emotional level it expands into the idea of prosperity. Now, you can see this when you are prosperous—all is well; you have a great well being. So it expanded into this idea that you are experiencing shalom when you are prosperous. When you have a lot of money; when you have a lot of land; when you have a lot of food, all is well. Then, when it is applied more fully to a group or across the whole nation, it edges closer to our definition of peace, which is the absence of war, because it is difficult to maintain prosperity in times of conflict.
In order to be prosperous, one has to have an absence of war and so the word shalom moved to cover that idea too, what we consider to be peace. We are living in peace. And when we are living in peace, when there is no war, and we are prosperous, and we are healthy, then we are in a state of shalom.
Now, this expands even more. Another facet of shalom is the idea of stability within a relationship. When spouses, or an entire family (we add the kids in), or friends get along, the relationship is secure. When it is free of conflict or any other disrupting influence, there is shalom—everybody is getting along just fine. We are all happy, we are all healthy, we are all prosperous. We are in a state of peace or shalom.
In this vein, then, in terms of being in a state of a relationship (and a good one, a relationship that is functional and harmonious), shalom is often connected to the term for covenant—berit—because covenants are made to ensure (that is provide boundaries and expectations for) stable, secure, prosperous relationships between people.
Let us look at this facet in Ezekiel 37. We are going to jump over all of history into the second resurrection here in Ezekiel 37. This is the dry bones chapter. This is getting to the conclusion of the matter. It is the conclusion of this matter. Notice what God says.
Ezekiel 37:24 “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them.”
What He is saying is that He has instituted the New Covenant to them. He has raised them up, He has instructed them, He has given them a chance at salvation, and they have accepted. So, now they are in a New Covenant with Him, in which the boundaries and expectations are all listed out, they can see them, and know what God expects of them. And they know what they can expect from God. It goes both ways.
Ezekiel 37:25-28 “Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them [maybe I was a little too soon in bringing in the idea of the New Covenant, but notice what it is called here: a covenant of peace], and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”'”
So this fits this idea of shalom—this covenant of peace, this covenant of shalom—encompasses all of those facets that we have talked about already. They will be healthy in mind and body; they will be satisfied and content. They will have no war, obviously, to harm them or to make them afraid. They will have great prosperity, long lives, their well being will be satisfactory to an extreme, you might say. And then most of all, they have a more than satisfactory, a wonderful relationship with God. He is the author of peace and He gives them a covenant of peace so that they can have this well being forever. It mentions eternal and forevermore a couple of times in this passage. So He promises them everlasting peace through this covenant.
It is easy to see here that the covenant of peace that He establishes during this time between God and Israel, sets the bounds of the relationship between the two of them. So it provides eternal stability and prosperity because at this point, and only at this juncture, does each side fully invest in the relationship. God was always fully invested in the relationship. But He was waiting on Israel to have a change of heart and He had to step in and do what He did or will do to make them fully invested in the relationship.
So at that point, they are voluntarily and entirely keeping the terms of the covenant, they are in a covenant of peace with God. All the enmity, all the sin, everything that was keeping peace from occurring between them within the relationship are gone. They are removed.
God has done His great work and they have finally accepted it and in moving forward with that and accepting the covenant of peace, they can have eternal prosperity, eternal well being. And we look forward to that. It would be great if they had that today. We would not be going through the stuff that we are. But that is something that will occur in the future; it is still 1,000 years out or more, but it is going to be in embryonic form during the Millennial period.
This understanding that we have finally gotten to—the true peace—is the ultimate expression of a right relationship with God (that is where it always has to start), but it brings out the opposite understanding as well. When we are not in a right relationship with God, peace is impossible. In other words, what we have is Isaiah 59:1-2—our sins or our iniquities have separated you from your God. That is what sin does. Sin constitutes the means of breaking the peace. So when sin is present, real peace is absent. There could be a modicum of peace in that there is no war, but that is not real true peace. True peace is having a right relationship with God, and sin breaks that right relationship.
Let us go to Isaiah 59 and see what is said there. But I do not want just the verses that we normally read when we are talking about sin separating us. I want to go all the way down through verse 8. I want you to see how God frames this. Remember, this is also in the context of Judah coming to an end. So we are in the same kind of timeframe as we were when we were reading Jeremiah 6.
This is actually before that time, but it is speaking to the Jews who were going that direction.
Isaiah 59:1-3 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity.
So, these sins—he does not leave it in the abstract, but he begins to show us what those sins actually were. And if you look at them, it is very easy to see how they would cause a lack of peace; how they would cause division, because they are things like violence, hands defiled with blood, with murder; harm to other, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. So, both our actions and our words, when we sin, divide people; they cause conflict.
Isaiah 59:4-8 No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; . . . They hatch vipers' eggs and weave the spider's web; he who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a viper breaks out. Their webs will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known [they have a word for it, but never really experienced it], and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace.
What it comes down to, here, is that when we sin, we immediately declare war on God first of all. We are breaking His law; we are defying and rebelling against the great Lawgiver and Sovereign of the universe. As many have said, trying to make it a little bit more a poignant, each sin is an act of treason against our King.
Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:7, that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” There is a hostility there when we sin; when our mind is full of the flesh, and all the desires of the flesh. When we follow them, we show how much we hate God, because we do not constrain ourselves, or restrain ourselves to do what He wants us to do.
Sin immediately creates division or separation with God. And it sows the seeds, if you will, for separation from others. And if it continues without repentance, God will turn from us and stop hearing us, as he says there in the first verse, because of our willful, incorrigibility. Now, if we repent, He is very willing to forgive us, and restore the relationship. But if we keep on sinning and keep on sinning, and keep on sinning without repentance, that separation, the division between us and God grows and grows and grows—and there comes a point that it is unbridgeable. Now, hopefully, that will never take place with any of us. But it is a possibility. If that happens at that point, the relationship and the peace between man and God has been completely shattered. As Jeremiah writes, there is no peace.
Now, further, as the passage colorfully expresses, our sins lay serpents’ eggs, vipers’ eggs. We can also look at this like spiders’ eggs because they are weaving webs in the passage. I am sure they are putting their eggs on their webs. We can update the metaphor a little bit by thinking of sins as little time bombs that will explode in our faces somewhere down the road. The serpents’ eggs, or a spider's eggs, those are time bombs too. They are there in a kind of inert form in their shell or in their coating or whatever that the spider would put on them. But after a bit of time they break out. You either get another snake, or you get thousands of spiders that crawl everywhere. And if they are venomous, watch out!
Let us think of this on a national scale. These papered-over eggs, if you will, these buried time bombs will explode. Remember these eggs or these time bombs are our sins, our iniquities. And in a matter of time, we just do not know exactly how long it will be, these things will bear there evil fruit. The fruit of our sins, this society’s sins, will wreak havoc on everyone. We are seeing it in the early stages of it, at least, in distrust of institutions; distrust of one another. People are discontent. They are shouting in the streets, they are breaking things, they are forming mobs, they are hurting people, and if we allow it to go any further, if we do not repent, it is going to end up in worse things—worse destruction, worse violence—and God says throughout His Word that these sins break out in things like disease and famine. Ultimately, we have war and then death. That is the course of sin.
As Jeremiah said, there is no peace. So let us take this broader idea of peace and put it back into Jeremiah 6, and put it back into I Thessalonians 5. These passages do contrast the absence of war with actual violent war. “Peace, peace when there is no peace,” but then God said He would bring them all down to destruction. And as Paul said, “Peace and safety, but then sudden destruction and no one will escape.”
So what we have here is that this crying out of “peace, peace” or “peace and safety,” actually exposes man’s spiritually rotten interior, because it is all said in hypocrisy. They know there is no peace, but they proclaim it to calm everybody down, to make everybody feel a little bit more content, to try to win over people to their sinful ways.
But what these passages are telling us, especially the one in Jeremiah 6 but it is also present there in I Thessalonians 5, is that those who proclaim peace are liars. If there is no Christ in their “peace, peace” they are lying. Since Eden, peace has never existed, except just perhaps a rare absence of bloody war now and then.
Now, both of these passages, Jeremiah 6 and I Thessalonians 5, portray a hypocritical people who purport to be healthy and stable. Have you ever said, “How you doing?” to somebody and they say, “I'm good.” Well, that is how they feel about themselves. These are those hypocritical people who on the outside give you a smile, and say they are doing fine. But the sudden destruction that will come reveals that they have been corrupt and rebellious all along. There is an interesting quotation from the Roman poet, Juvenal. I will give you the Latin if you want it—Nemo malice Felix is the Latin; in English, it means, “Peace visits not the guilty mind.” Or we could actually go to the Bible, because God says this twice in the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 48:22 and Isaiah 57:21. He says “there is no peace for the wicked.”
To put it concisely (this has been my introduction), outward peace, or an absence of war, hides inner turmoil and discontent in this world. Humans have no inner peace. Maybe I should modify that. Sinful humans have no inner peace. Most people in this world are at war with themselves, and are ignorant, or confused about what is true and right.
I mean, just think of our society today. We are seeing what is near the worst of it that has ever existed on this planet, at least in terms of inner war, inner conflict within the human mind. How many societies have flourished, how many societies have lasted much longer once their people decided that they cannot even tell what sex they are? Do you think that shows inner peace at all? That shows inner conflict. They are fighting against their own bodies, and marking themselves, and marring themselves, and cutting themselves, and doing all kinds of things, because their minds are conflicted. They have no stability. They have no sense of right and good.
And look, what about the people's manic search in this society for identity? I know they not only identify as various sexual things, but it is either ethnic, or racial, or regional, or this or that. And they get mad when you do anything that appropriates that identity. That used to not matter. But now it does, because they identify with these identities to such an extent that it is almost like if you do any of these things, you are offending them, and insulting them, and that tells you right there that they are at war with even their own identity, because they are not comfortable with it.
They dissolve into tiny identity groups, and fight for recognition and respect against everybody else, even among their own. They cry out for social justice, and reject on the other hand, everyone who is not like them. They cry out for tolerance and are totally intolerant of anybody else. It is because they are at war with themselves in their own minds. And one of the things that I have noticed that they do most often is that they ignore, or reject what humanity shares, all the commonality is right out the window. That does not matter. It is only what is inside them that matters. And there is no way you can have peace at that point.
So, at war within and without, any hope of real peace evaporates. And it is no wonder; this has been happening all along. Maybe not as bad as we see it out there today, but it is no wonder that Solomon expresses such frustration with life under the sun, because there is no contentment.
I mean, let us just look at Ecclesiastes 1. We will start in verse 12.
Ecclesiastes 1:12-13 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under the under heaven; this grievous task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.
If you look at the margin, it says “afflicted.” Read that in there: “This grievous task God has given to the sons of man by which they may be afflicted.”
Ecclesiastes 1:14-15 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.
Ecclesiastes 2:17 Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing [grievous] to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Does that sound like the mind of a man at peace? And it is really ironic because his name was Shlomo—“Peace.” He was not at peace. His nation had temporary absence of war during his reign. But the man himself was a volcano inside, full of frustration, and doubt, and he was just ready to explode. All of that ended up making him go away from God at some point in his life.
With this in mind, we are going to go to the next beatitude in Matthew 5:9 where He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” I know we have spent a long time on it, but I wanted you to understand the basis for the idea of peace out of the Old Testament that Jesus is bringing into the New Covenant.
I hope you can see from my introduction that real peace—true peace—is an elusive, and maybe we could say impossible, quality in this world. It is coveted by everyone. Everybody wants peace of mind. Yet it is impossible to achieve alone, meaning impossible to achieve without God. But the sons of God can make peace. If Jesus gives us the command, the approbation, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” we can make peace, and we can have peace, because we have God.
Now the question is, are we making the efforts necessary to do so? To make peace and have peace?
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
In this beatitude, in the word, peacemakers, we are dealing with a “hapaxlegomenon” (one of my favorite words). It is a Greek term, and it means “a word only found once.” So, this is a word that is quite rare in the New Testament. However, the word eireneo poios contains the Greek word, you may have heard it there, for peace—eirene—and it adds poieao which means to make, form, construct, or create. So, the word Jesus uses is literally “peacemaker.” They translated it just as the Greek had it, peacemaker, peace former, peace constructor, peace creator. They would all have been good. But we for a long time have used in the English language the word peacemaker.
Remember Gerhard Kittel? I mentioned him about a half an hour ago when talking about the words shalom and eirene, he writes, “The reference in Matthew 5:9 is to those who disinterestedly come between two contending parties, and try to make peace. These God calls His sons because there are like Him.”
Now, I gave that to you because I wanted you to see how it looks from a scholarly point of view, but I take a little exception with the word disinterestedly, although he could be using that in a technical way, “those who disinterestedly come between two contending parties and try to make peace.” There is some truth to that. But I think once we get through you will see that disinterestedness is not a major quality of being a peacemaker. It may have been that this idea expresses that in Greek, but it does not necessarily express it in biblical terms, in theological terms.
I think we are pretty much done with Matthew 5:9. We are going to go to Colossians 1. Remember that the word that Jesus used was, eirenopoios. Now what we are going to come upon here in verse 20, is the Greek word eirenopoiaeo. It is the verb form. What we had back in Matthew 5:9 was the noun or an adjective form. This time we are going to get the verb.
Let us see how this works.
Colossians 1:19-20 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
“Having made peace” is that verb form, eirenopoiaeo. (Why did the Greeks have to make things so hard?) This is also a hapax legomenon in the New Testament. And here the verb is in the aorist tense; the aorist is often translated into English as simple past tense, and it works here just fine, because it says that Jesus made peace. It is something that was done in the past and He did this through His sacrificial death, the shedding of His blood when He was crucified, there just outside of Jerusalem.
Paul tells us here how He made peace, and He did this by what he said in the first part of this very same verse. He made peace (verse 20) by reconciling all things to Himself. That is how the peace was made that he is talking about. He reconciled all things to Himself or to the Father. Okay? So that is the thing that He did to make peace; reconciliation through His own death, His own shedding of blood.
Now we have to get the context here. I do not want to read it all, so I will just tell you what the context is, which is that this appears in Paul extolling the preeminence of the Son. Remember I did that series on the High Christology of Colossians, where I said that it has a very high view of what Christ was, who Christ is, what Christ did? It is all on the divine level. That is what a High Christology is. So he was talking about Jesus Christ here in His most elevated, most excellent sense that He is God doing these things for us.
The Father then, as we go through Colossians 1 has given Christ divine glory and responsibility because of the redemptive work He did in (verse 20) reconciling us to Him. That is one of the big things that makes Christ special, because He volunteered (Philippians 2) and came down here as a man, as a servant, and He gave Himself throughout His life, living a godly way with no sin. And then He gave Himself on the cross or on the tree for our sins. And so it says the Father has highly exalted Him for all of the sacrifice that He went through in order to reconcile man to Him.
What Paul tells us in so many words is that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the Great Peacemaker; He is the Great Reconciler; He is great because He did the impossible, He did what no other man could do and that is reconcile everyone, not just some, but all to the Father and that is what the Father is heading toward. He says He wants all to come to repentance and it is available to all through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Now, they must accept it, and each in his own time, each in his own order, as Paul says in in I Corinthians 15. But God is looking for total reconciliation, or as close as possible. Now He has given free moral agency to people. There probably will be some that have rejected Him. We know for sure that Judas Iscariot was doomed. He was the son of perdition. I do not want to go into all that right now. But it is very obvious that it will not be 100%, we know for sure that the beast and the false prophet will be sent into the Lake of Fire, so it will not be complete. But it is God's goal that all will be reconciled to Him. And that is what Christ did. He provided the means for total reconciliation. It does not mean that everybody will accept it, or claim it, but what He did is valid for all should they choose to accept it.
So, just take out of this, that He is the Great Peacemaker. He is the Great Reconciler because He did the impossible.
Let us go back a few pages to the book of Ephesians where Paul is on the same theme. This is another aspect of His reconciliation that we need to understand. He is speaking mostly here in the context of the Jews and the Gentiles now being reconciled through Christ.
Ephesians 2:11-18 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and 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.
In verse 15, we have the phrase, “thus making peace.” Making peace, there, is a verbal phrase and it is poioneirene. These are the same two words that were in the other word in Colossians, but they have been flipped. So it is a verbal phrase rather than a single word. But the meaning is effectively as the same as what we saw in Colossians 1:20. The subject, as I mentioned, is the inclusion of Gentiles among the elect. Jews and Gentiles, we have to understand, rarely got along throughout all of Jewish history. They had a mutual hostility, or a hatred and enmity for each other. Jews did not like Gentiles, Gentiles did not like Jews, and they had their reasons for doing so. That is just how people are.
But what Paul is saying here is that Jesus died for Gentiles too, just as He died for Israelites. There is no difference. It is not a different kind of reconciliation that He made between the Jews and Himself. No, it is the same reconciliation that He makes between the Gentiles and Himself. And, He does this through His death to reconcile them to God by abolishing the enmity, or as Colossians puts it, the handwriting of ordinances, or the record of their guilt against them. And if you want to jot down Romans 5:1, it says there, “That He made peace for us with the Father by His sacrifice.”
His work that He did on the cross has an added benefit of tearing down the wall that divided Jews and Gentiles. And that wall was the Old Covenant; it was what we might call the stone wall because it was made on stones, that kept the Gentiles at arm's length, or even kept them totally out. There was also the wall around the Temple or the curtain around the Tabernacle where no Gentile could go further than a certain point. This may be the allusion here. But that has been torn down—that wall or that curtain—through Jesus Christ. And now the Gentiles have just as much access to God and Christ as the Jews always did. Or more than what the Jews did, they did not have much either at the time, they just did not realize it. But now both Jews and Gentiles have equal access to the Father.
Now I think it is interesting, too, that we need to understand something here, which Paul goes into quite a bit actually in this section. He says that through Christ, under the New Covenant, Jews and Gentiles can live at peace in one body, and he calls the body the new man. We understand this, but I am just going to tell you anyway: The new man in this context is composed of two things. The new man is the Head—Jesus Christ—and the new man is also His Body—the church—but it is a singular thing. He is the head; we are the body; we are one; we are unified. When Jews or Gentiles come into the new man, they are one because the body is one, Christ is one. All you have to do is look at Ephesians 4 and see that. There is one body, there is one Lord, one Father of all.
So, they are already put at unity through Christ as a given, but they are still told to make peace, because it is not complete yet, not with us as human beings. The beginnings are there, all the necessary skill, power, talent, gifts, and whatever, are there, we just have to use them. That is why Jesus has to say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be sons of God.”
The most significant point, here, I think, is that Paul says of Christ, “He is our peace.” It only happens because He is, and what He has done. That is in verse 14. But this has been seen through most of the history of Israel. Gideon built an altar and called it, “The Lord is Peace.” You can find that in Judges 6:24. He was prophesied in Isaiah 9:6 to be the Prince of Peace. And Micah 5:5 also prophesied that this One (he is talking of the Messiah), shall be peace.
So Paul reflects this in Ephesians 2 by calling Him basically, “the embodiment of peace.” He is the One. If we want to learn how to make peace, we look to Christ, we look to all of His actions, we look to what He said; He is the One we follow to make peace. And Paul here describes Him as a Uniter who through self-sacrifice removed or canceled or made ineffective or made powerless the causes of division. He removed, He paid for, our sins. So that part is out. The record of our guilt is not a part of the problem anymore. What is a part of the problem is our current sins, and the ones that we have not repented of, and allowed to fester in our midst.
Notice what else Jesus did: He invited both Jew and Gentile, that is, He invited every one of those whom He called into a New Covenant. He abolished the old and gave a new one. Different parameters, stronger parameters, better rewards. As we find in in the book of Hebrews, everything about the New Covenant is better than what was in the Old. And He taught us the truth by coming as a man; giving us His example; and preaching. So Paul encapsulates this in one phrase, he says that, “Christ came and preached peace,” because the way of God which He preached is all about peace.
And then Christ was not done yet. He still had a lot to do in order to make peace and maintain peace and teach us how to be peaceful. So, what did he do? He provided the power and the mind to live peacefully. Paul says, here, in verse 18, that He gave us “access by one Spirit to the Father.”
So not only did He give His life, give His blood so that we can be reconciled to the Father, so our sins could be forgiven, so we could be redeemed from this evil world, He went above and beyond. He came, He gave His example, He preached, and He is now sitting on His throne with the Father, and He is giving us the Spirit and the gifts and the guidance and everything that we need so that we can follow His steps in being peacemakers. Just about everything has been done. Everything is in place for us to be peacemakers.
Turn back to Numbers 6 and see that which has been staring us in the face for so long. This is the priestly blessing, the thing that we listen to as we leave the feast each year [the benediction just before the closing prayer].
Numbers 6:24-26 “The LORD [which was Jesus in the Old Testament] bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”'
He was the only one that could do it. And the priestly blessing shows that it would only come through our Mediator and High Priest, Jesus Christ.
I have one more technical thing to show you here. I have gone into a great deal of detail to show you just how much He did, because it is important. His comprehensive work that I have been describing may be why Paul uses a term that is used very infrequently to express reconciliation in Ephesians 2:16. It says, “That He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thus making peace.”
The word reconciliation, or reconcile in verse 16 is the word, “apokatalasso.” Now the word, “katalasso” is used quite a bit more frequently, but when you add the prefix “apo,” you raise it up a level. Apokatalasso means, “To change from one state or condition to another that is profoundly different.” Paul is saying by using apokatalasso that what Christ did made us holy, and radically unlike what we were. Our reconciliation, which produces peace with God and should eventually produce peace with man, is so radical that it implies we become a completely different person at conversion. It is like the old person we were completely vanishes and we have an entirely new being that is so much more.
In fact, this is described several times in the New Testament as a (the word I have been using is) radical transformation. It is like we have been changed from what we now call a zombie—the walking dead—to a living being with eternal life. You can find this in several places. I will give you a few: Luke 9:60, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Romans 6:4, “That we have been raised to newness of life.” Ephesians 2:5, “That we were dead in trespasses, and made us alive together with Christ.” Another way to put it would be as Job described himself in Job 25:6 as a worm—we have been transformed from a worm to a child of God.
All that was due to the work of Jesus Christ in making peace, in reconciling us to God. So He is our peace, (1) because He did this all for us. Or, maybe I should put it the other way, He did all this for us. We had very little input into it. We had very little to do. And (2) because all this occurs within Him. There is no peace outside of Christ, outside of the Body, outside of the new man. So He is the one actively making and maintaining peace within the church. And each member's loyalty and devotion to Him, that is, their unity with Him, causes or should cause unity and peace between the others who also are united to Him.
Since we are all united to Christ, we should all be united with each other, right? because we are one, we are in one body. And there is peace within the body, because Christ has made it. He is the focus and means of every called member’s relationship with God that is with Him, and should be with each other. He is what unites us. So peace with God produces peace with those who are also at peace with God. That is how it should work.
Now we are getting down to the nitty-gritty. Because of this great blessing of being part of Christ, being in His body, being in union with Him, we must put on His character to maintain harmony and peace with Him and with each other. And this means that we must follow and grow in His trait of being a peacemaker.
As the beatitude says, when we express this facet of divine character, when we make peace, it identifies us as His children. Christ is a peacemaker. God is a peacemaker. We, when we make peace, show ourselves to be on the way to being fully part of that Family, because the divine family is a peacemaking family.
Let us go to I Corinthians 7. I want to start getting into some of the practical things here. This is the section on marriage in I Corinthians 7. So, there must be peace in our marriages, in our most intimate relationship with another person.
I Corinthians 7:12-16 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
Paul is relaying here God's opposition to separation and divorce, because separation and divorce are obviously a lack of peace. That is what causes them. God hates divorce so much for this very reason. Divorce creates not peace and unity, but war and division. Among us, it should be a last resort. Why? He tells us very simply there: We have been called to peace. When we divorce, we are not doing peacemaking. We are actually going to war and causing separation. But God allows it, He says, in situations in which the relationship has been so undermined by sin (like adultery) that peace is impossible. Trust has been ruined. It takes quite a person to go back into a loving relationship after such things have happened. It can be done, but He allows it [divorce], because God considers peace to be more important.
So, the child of God must strive to do his or her part to make and maintain peace, especially in a marriage, even if the other spouse is an unbeliever. Make it work, because that is what our election binds us to do. We have been called to be peacemakers, not to be disruptors, not to revel in conflict, but to make peace.
Let us go to James 3.
James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Let us also see Ephesians 4.
Ephesians 4:1-3 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.
Peace is so very important in our relationships with one another in the church.
These passages instruct us in our relationships in general and specifically within the church. James tells us very clearly that the wisdom of the world comes from the Devil and the Devil has been self-seeking from the beginning. He is only trying to do what he thinks is good for himself. And so a person who follows this way is self-seeking and cares not a whit about anybody else. That is not the way we have been called to live, because this creates division and confusion. But James goes on to say that the wisdom that we have to follow is one of peace. It is without ulterior motives, it is sacrificial, it is outgoing. And when we act toward others in this way, in this sacrificial, peaceable, outgoing way, it produces harmony; it produces ultimately mutual love. And that binds us together.
Love is the great bond and peace has a lot to do with it, because it is hard to love when you are in conflict. But if you have peace, that love can then grow and strengthen.
Let us go to Romans 12. I have been telling people as I visit the various areas to read Romans 12 in terms of personal conduct, and how to bring unity to the church. I just want to read a couple of these. Let us start in verse 18:
Romans 12:18-21 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
So Paul provides more instructions about how we make peace. And it is simple: (1) resist giving into your carnal nature to retaliate; leave that in God's hands. He will take care of vengeance. (2) Instead, do what no one is expecting, which is do good to your enemy. Paul says here, it may perhaps shame him into apologizing or reconciling. And (3) seek to encourage and build that enemy up, rather than tear them down. What you do is for his or her good. Do not look to what is good for you. Think first about what is good for them. And this is where sacrifice and humility come in, because when you do this, you are probably going to have to do some giving in, and that is like Christ. Christ showed us a life of humility and self-sacrifice in order to bring peace.
Stay here in Romans 14:
Romans 14:15-17 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food [here he is talking about a specific problem], you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
I want to also mention Hebrews 12:14, where the author writes, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Maybe you have not considered how important peacemaking is to our salvation. But Paul in both of these places thinks it is critical.
The Kingdom of God, he says, is all about doing right—righteousness. It is all about making peace with one another. It is all about bringing each other joy through the strength that God gives us through His Holy Spirit.
So, our petty differences of interpretation divide rather than bring peace, especially on what He calls doubtful things—the things that are arguable because the Bible really does not say a whole lot about them. Instead of quarreling and looking down on others who do not hold the same exact views we hold, we should be pursuing peace with them, and creating reconciliation and unity. And once that happens, the product is joy, another fruit of the Spirit.
This is what the Kingdom of God is all about: Behaving like God! And creating loving relationships. That is what He is trying to do. The author of Hebrews puts it very plainly, very bluntly: If we do not pursue peace with everyone, and also holiness, we will not see God.
Do you know why?
Because we will not have the right godly character to be included in the God Family. God is a holy God. God is a peacemaking, reconciling God.
I was going to turn to Matthew 5:43-48, but you can read that in your own time. But if we do those things that He says there, “Love our enemies and do good,” we will be making peace. We will be revealing ourselves to be sons and daughters of God, because we are peacemakers.
I want you to think on II Corinthians 13:11 as we close. Paul says:
II Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.