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Tuesday
Sep202011

Peace on Earth

In a hymn that is really fitting for any time of the year, we sing about “Peace on earth and mercy mild,” a subject that has special appeal to the rest of the world around Christmastime when Hark! The Herald Angels Sing gets most of its attention. Knowing that Christmas is likely not the birthday of Jesus and that the Bible commands no observance of his nativity is useful information, but it still leaves us curious about the savior’s potential to bring peace on Earth.

I. Did He Come To Bring Peace on Earth

A. Prince of Peace

1. centuries before the birth of Christ, prophets spoke of a messianic child to be born who would bring great blessing to humanity (Isaiah 7:10-16)

2. much of that prophecy is rooted in Ahaz’s misguided trust in the King of Assyria, but its resolution is not bound by that chronology, looking into the distance to see a divine answer to Israel’s habitual disloyalty

3. when Isaiah returns to that theme a little while later, he provides even more detail (Isaiah 9:6-7)

4. the peace this prince would bring would exceed the comity of nations, even to bridging the separation that exists between man and God because of unrighteousness (Isaiah 11:1-10)

 

B. Away in a Manger

1. centuries pass without any further sign the messiah’s coming is imminent until the Jews find their land occupied by the Romans and in an unknown year and season, Caesar Augustus orders them to register that they might be more orderly taxed (Luke 2:1-7)

2. the child that had been conceived of the Holy Spirit during the betrothal period of Joseph and Mary, was now born (Luke 2:8-14)

3. peace on Earth is promised as part of his arrival, but in a context that values the pleasure of God, rather than extending to universal, unconditional honor (see Ephesians 1:5-9)

 

C. Rather, Division

1. thirty years later, that little baby is an adult, a teacher whose doctrines are revolutionary in their scope and whose personality is utterly polarizing

2. while he honors the peacemaker with promises of being called “sons of God” (see Matthew 5:9), he seems to purposely provoke his enemies to anger whenever their hypocrisy threatened the purity of God’s message

3. rather than surrender to the strategies of men for attaining peace – compromise, ecumenism, dilution, apathy – Jesus demanded unanimity in Jehovah and in him (Luke 12:49-53)

a. Matthew recorded even more explosive language (Matthew 10:36-39)

b. Jesus watched as his own brothers discounted his messianic claims and as his people fought over his identity

c. for someone who was to bring peace on Earth, great violence was an unavoidable consequence

 

D. Peace By Blood

1. it is not until after his death on a Roman cross at the behest of his brethren, the Jews, that the spiritual path of peace he cut became apparent (Colossians 1:15-23)

2. by the blood of the cross, he became our peace, our reconciler, our mediator and advocate with his father, the ensurer of our peace with the one who made us and will judge us when life is over (see Ephesians 2:14-16, Romans 2:10)

 

II. Peace on Earth

A. Divine Reconciliation

1. as much as our world seeks peace among nations through compromise and appeasement, suffering disappointment as squabbles envelop every inhabited continent and the oldest cultures on Earth, we cannot afford to overlook that true peace begins with acknowledging Jehovah through Christ and the cross

2. when “we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

3. we are a society that minimizes most forms of transgression these days, everything excepting child abuse and failing to recycle, but the slightest rebellion against God’s will produces a barrier that is not easily breeched (Romans 5:6-11)

4. the gospel is a ministry and message of reconciliation, providing both atonement for sin and instruction in righteousness, that we might enjoy peaceable relations with our God, rather than acrimony and terror (see Second Corinthians 5:16-21)

5. that sense of divine mercy mild reconciles us with a God who loves us and whom we rejected in favor of sin, but who now motivates us to a better life (Hebrews 13:20-21)

 

B. Interpersonal Reconciliation

1. wherever the gospel has gone, its effect has been to make people better and to improve society with attitudes of kindness, charity, and generosity, all epitomized by Christ’s Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).

2. worldwide peace has never been achieved, but, then, that kind of peace would require universal conversion and consistency, and such a thing is an unlikely goal in a world where freewill and self-interest dictate so much behavior

3. still localized peace on Earth is achieved wherever the disciples of Christ carry out their faith in regard to others, even their enemies (Second Corinthians 13:11-14)

4. peace is fruit of the Holy Spirit, whose influence is felt wherever inspired teaching meets application (Colossians 3:12-15)

5. peace among nations has proven elusive, but the gospel has settled communities, reunited families, and resolved petty disagreements wherever believers have had the humility to seek peace, for “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (First Corinthians 14:33).

 

C. Personal Reconciliation

1. a personal sense of inner peace is also possible because of the Prince of peace – freedom from crippling doubt, guilt, loneliness, greed, and dread (Philippians 4:4-9)

2. contentment is synonymous with inner peace, the ability to remain happy and hopeful despite trying circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13)

3. the objective, however, is not simply a psychologically pleasant life on earth followed by an uneventful death, but is eternal life (First Thessalonians 5:23-24)

 

Conclusion

Peace on Earth is defined not by comity of nations, but reconciliation with God, followed by fellowship among believers and contentment of individuals.

Questions for Review

  1. What was the basis of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Child?
  2. What else would he be besides Prince of Peace?
  3. Describe the circumstances of Christ’s birth, including the season.
  4. What kinds of division tended to follow his ministry?
  5. How did his blood bring about peace?
  6. How does the gospel foster peace among men?
  7. How does the gospel bring peace to the individual?

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