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“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:14-15).
Three things are essential to congregational peace. First, love is “the bond of perfection” (NKJV) or “the bond of unity” (NASB). Christians are to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another… but above all these things put on love. James Burton Coffman comments, “The thought here appears to be not that of adding love as an additional Christian grace, but rather that of making love the cement that holds everything else in place” (studylight.org). John Kackelman Jr. differs a bit commenting, “‘Above all’ could be rendered ‘on the top of all.’ Using the clothing metaphor we find that love is the final piece of clothing to be put on. It is to be like the ‘belt’ or ‘girdle’ which bound the loose flowing robes of the first century dress. The only way that the other seven articles of clothing can be secured on the believer’s person is by the binding of them with the girdle of love. Love completes the dress of the believer.” (Kackelman, Studies in Colossians, pp. 111-112). Both commentators understand love to be that which holds the other traits (tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering:bearing and forgiving) in place.
Second, the peace of God is to rule the hearts. The message of the gospel is called “the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15). God’s word must have rule in our hearts. The word “rule” (brabeuo) means: “to act as an umpire” (Vine’s); “to be an umpire; to decide, determine; to direct, control, rule” (Thayer). Alan Adams comments, “Much of the turmoil which plagues individual Christians, and consequently the ‘one body,’ come as a result of people deciding to call their own balls and strikes, fouls and fairs” (ed. Garland Robinson, The Church at Colosse, p. 151). God’s word should be regarded as our objective standard (not merely “I feel,” or “I think”). It teaches peace (e.g. Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18; 14:19; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 12:14, etc.). It instructs us how to deal with issues between brethren (e.g. Matthew 5:23-24; 6:14-15; 18:15-17; 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; Romans 14:14-23; 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 8:1-13; 10:23-33; 2 Corinthians 2:6-11; Titus 3:10, etc.). It is to be our standard and rule book.
Third, thankfulness is needed. The word “thanks” appears in some form in every chapter of Colossians, a total of six times in the book (Colossians 1:3; 1:12; 2:7; 3:15; 3:17; 4:2). An attitude of gratitude and appreciation will go far in maintaining peace. We should be thankful to God (e.g. Colossians 1:12-14; 1 Timothy 1:12). We should be thankful to others (e.g. Romans 16:3-4). Consider the following words: “Gratitude puts situations into perspective. When we see the good as well as the bad, it becomes more difficult to complain and stay stuck. Gratitude helps us realize what we have. This can lessen our need for wanting more all the time. Gratitude strengthen relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and in general makes us happier… When Mark Twain said ‘I can live two months on a good compliment,’ he only told half the story. While the person who receives the praise enjoys feeling notices and valued (and is motivated to do more of the same), the giver can bask in the connection. With every compliment given, a bond is strengthened, trust is built and conversation encouraged. Potent stuff!” (unstuck.com). “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
“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).
Life is not always easy. The wording “be anxious” (merimnao) refers to having “a distracted care” (Vine’s). The root word (merizo) means “to draw in different directions, distract” (Vine’s). There are difficulties in life which can distract us from what is spiritually important.
We need to stay focused (Matthew 6:33). It is important that we continue to trust in God. Solomon instructed, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Job said, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15). Paul said, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God…”(1 Timothy 4:10)
Those who trust Him have certain characteristics. (1) They continue to pray (Philippians 4:6). No, God does not always grant their petition (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). They trust His wisdom. They know that God is able to deliver them, and choose to serve Him whether He does or not (cf. Daniel 3:17-18). (2) They have an inner peace that the world does not understand (Philippians 4:7). This peace of God guards their hearts and minds. Remember that Paul was in prison at this time. The ESV Study Bible comments, “Paul’s use of ‘guard’ may reflect his own imprisonment or the status of Philippi as a Roman colony with a military garrison. In either case, it is not Roman soldiers who guard believers – it is the peace of God almighty. Because God is sovereign and in control, Christians can entrust all their difficulties to him, who rules over all creation and who is wise and loving in all His ways (Romans 8:31-39). An attitude of thanksgiving contributes directly to this inward peace” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2287).
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea-billows roll; what ever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’” (Song: It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford).
The man who wrote this song knew personal loss. In 1871, The Great Chicago fire destroyed nearly all of his material possessions. In 1873, his wife and their four children were on the passenger ship Ville Du Havre, when it collided with another ship and sank. His wife survived, but all four children died. Horatio Spafford wrote this song in 1876, despite these tragedies.
The original second verse of the song read, “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control. The Christ has regarded my helpless estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul” (Max Wheeler, Reflections on our Hymns, p. 10). If one is right with God, all will be OK. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
“The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
The context concerns the eating of clean and unclean food (Romans 14:14). The church at Rome was composed of Jews (Romans 16:3 cf. Acts 18:2-3; Romans 16:7; Romans 16:11a cf. Romans 11:1) and Gentiles (Romans 1:13; Romans 11:13). This was a transitional time for the Jews. Many were still struggling with their old Jewish practices. They were not comfortable eating certain things. The Gentiles did not have the same history of dietary practices.
The Old Testament contained certain dietary laws (see Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). When Paul wrote the letter to the church at Rome, these dietary laws were no longer in force (Acts 10:9-16; Romans 14:14a; more would be written later – 2 Timothy 4:4-5).
However, not all Jews were convinced. They had not arrived at personal faith (conviction) that it was permissible for them to eat. Moreover, it is a sin to do anything – if one cannot do that thing in faith or a good conscience before God (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:7, 9-13).
How should the Gentiles handle the scruples of these Jews? Should they mock and ridicule them? No. Should they pressure and tempt them to violate their consciences? No. Loving consideration should be given to others (Romans 14:14-15). In optional matters, that is – in things that do not have to be done to be pleasing to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:8), it is wise to ask: (1) Will this edify and help save others? (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24). (2) Will this unnecessarily offend or cause others to stumble? (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:32-33; 1 Corinthians 8:13; Romans 14:21). (3) Will this help maintain peace? (cf. Romans 14:19). (4) Will this help bring glory to God? (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31).
It is important for Christians to remember, and be able to distinguish between what things are important, and what things are not. The Kingdom of God (the church) is not about individuals pursuing their preferences in food and drink. Here are some things which are important: (1) The Kingdom of God is about righteousness. The word is used in different ways in the Bible. It is used of right doing (e.g. Acts 10:34-35), salvation and the plan of salvation (e.g. Galatians 2:21; Romans 4:1-8; Romans 10:1-3), and a right standing before God (e.g. Luke 1:6; Romans 4:3 cf. Genesis 15:6; Philippians 3:8-9). Christians should be focused on doing God’s will, maintaining a right relationship with God, and helping to save others. (2) The Kingdom of God is about peace. Christians should make great efforts to live peaceably with others (cf. Romans 12:18; Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14). (3) The Kingdom of God is about joy. Christians have hope. We can “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). We also should want others to have this same joy and hope. Let us remember and distinguish between what things are important, and what things are not. Paul wrote, “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, least I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13).
“Therefore, let us pursue the things which makes for peace and things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).
The word “pursue” (dioko) means “hasten, run, press on… strive for, seek after, pursue… strive for, seek after, aspire to something” (B-A-G); “to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after… to pursue i.e. to seek eagerly, earnestly endeavor”; “literally ‘pursuing’ (as one would a calling)…” (Vine’s).
Christians should, in optional matters, follow the course which makes for peace and leads to edification. Robin Haley remarks, “Here is every member’s duty with the Kingdom of Christ. The Lord’s church does not need ‘freedom fighters’ because our brother’s soul is much more important than my freedoms” (Haley, A Commentary on the Book of Romans, pp. 246-247). Remember that we are speaking of optional matters. This is not speaking of accepting sinful practices or compromising on obligatory matters for the sake of peace.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
Jesus made possible peace with God. It is through Jesus: (1) Man can be justified. Justification may be defined as: the state of one who has been declared to be, or counted as, just or righteous. Man is justified by the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:9). (2) Man can enter a state of grace. The reference is to the state of having received forgiveness of sins (cf. Ephesians 1:7). (3) Man can have a heavenly hope. In one sense, He is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1; Colossians 1:27). He is the basis of our hope. Christians can joyously live anticipating “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Man accesses this peace conditionally. (1) He is justified by faith (Romans 5:1). He must trust God and His plan for salvation (Romans 1:16). Saving faith is obedient faith (Hebrews 11). It is not a mere mental assent (James 2:24). Obedience is required (Hebrews 5:9). (2) He accesses grace by the faith (Romans 5:2). The definite article is present in the original language. The reference is to the message of the New Testament (cf. Acts 6:7; Galatians 1:23; Jude 3). Personal faith should be based on the objective system of faith, the word of God (cf. Romans 10:17).
“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” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
He (Jesus Christ) is our (this includes Jew and Gentile) peace. (1) He provides peace between God and man (Ephesians 2:16). He through the cross reconciles both (Jew and Gentile) to God. This reconciliation occurs in one body (church cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23). The plan was not to reconcile Jew and Gentile in different bodies, but in one body. (2) He provides peace between man and man (Ephesians 2:14-15). He has made both (Jew and Gentile) one (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). He has broken down the middle wall of separation. This is speaking of the religious distinction between Jew and Gentile. Wayne Jackson comments, “The imagery possibly was taken from the four-and-a-half-foot wall in the temple are that separated the court of the Gentiles from the sacred area reserved for Jews. It had death warnings posted at intervals (two of which have been found), forbidding Gentiles to pass beyond (cf. Acts 21:28-29). The barrier was literally broken with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. In principle, it was broken down with the abolition of the Mosaic system at Calvary. Others see the symbolism as a reference to the rending of the temple veil at the time of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51). Whatever the background, the language symbolized the fact that the religious wall separating Jews from Gentiles was gone” (Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, pp. 389-390). Furthermore, He has abolished the enmity. Thayer comments “by meton(ymy) i.q. cause of enmity.” He abolished the law of Moses (which separated Jew and Gentile) through the cross.
“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” (Ephesians 2:17-18).
Jesus preached peace. He preached it to both those who were afar off (Gentiles cf. Ephesians 2:11-13), and those near (Jews). Jesus earthly mission was not focused on the Gentiles (Matthew 15:24; Matthew 10:5-6). However, He did commission the apostles to go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20). It is because of this He can be said to have preached peace to both.
Both (Jew and Gentile) have access to the Father through Jesus. This access is available by the Spirit. What does this mean? Compare Ephesians 2:18, 20 with Ephesians 3:3-6. Ephesians 2:18, 20 reads, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father… having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 3:3-6 reads, “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)… it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” The Holy Spirit revealed the saving message of the gospel of Christ. The Holy Spirit revealed that this message is for both Jew and Gentile. We with joy should say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
“Who (God – B.H.) ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek for there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:6-11).
Judgment is in view. There is coming a day “When God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16; John 5:22; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Judgment will be fair, without partiality, according to each one’s works (Romans 2:6, 11; Acts 10:34-35; 1 Peter 1:17).
Those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth will be punished. They “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Those who live a life doing good and seeking the things above will be rewarded. They will find: (1) glory (1 Corinthians 2:7; Philippians 3:20-21); (2) honor (John 12:27); (3) immortality [Roy Deaver points out – “Certainly, Paul does not say that if one seeks for one thing God will give him something else. Rather, God will give him that for which he seeks. Therefore, glory, honor, incorruption, and peace are constituent elements of eternal life” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 76). The Biblical use of “eternal life” includes more than immortality. It refers to an eternal quality of life]; (4) Peace [Man today can have peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1, 9; Ephesians 2:17-18)]. Notice that it is a manner of life which is being described. It is speaking of those “who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7). “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).
Garland Elkins summarized the impartiality of God, noting: (1) He declared all under sin (Romans 3:23). (2) He provided a common Savior for all (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:9). (3) The same invitation is extended to all (Matthew 11:28-30; Revelation 22:17). (4) The same conditions of pardon are required of all (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 17:30). (5) There is one standard of conduct for all (Acts 10:34-35). (6) There is one common church for all (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23); (7) In the manner of judging, He will be impartial (1 Peter 1:17). God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), nevertheless He is a respecter of character (1 Peter 3:12) – [ed. Dub McClish, Studies in Romans, Denton Lectures, pp. 69-70].
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
There are two types of people in view. Some people let their fleshly, carnal appetites and desires dominate their thinking and guide their lives (cf. Ephesians 4:17, 19-20). Other people have their minds upon spiritual things, and they allow the teachings of the Holy Spirit to guide their lives (cf. Colossians 3:1-2; Psalm 119:104-105, 128). Roy Deaver comments, “To ‘walk after the flesh’ is to be concerned about, to be mindful of, desirous of fleshly things, temporal things – with no real concern about spiritual things, things of God. To ‘walk after the Spirit’ is to be concerned about, to be mindful of, desirous of, spiritual things, things of God, things sacred, divine, eternal…” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan for Man’s Righteousness, pp. 259-260).
Do you want peace with God? Then, set your mind of spiritual things. Decide to live according to His will, and not your on fleshly desires. Make Him King and not self.
“There’s a great day coming, A great day coming, There’s a great day coming by and by; When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left, Are you ready for that day to come?” (song: There’s a Great Day Coming by Will L. Thompson).
“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 14:27).
“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).
What is “peace”? Webster provides the following definitions: “1. A state of tranquility or quiet: as a. freedom from civil disturbance; b. a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom; 2. freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; 3. harmony in personal relations; 4.a. a state or period of mutual concord between governments; b. a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity; 5. – used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell.” (www.marriam-webster.com). Rush Limbaugh concisely says, “Peace is the absence of threat and the presence of justice” (www.rushlimbaugh.com/2015/03/18/what_is_your_definition_of_peace).
Most people primarily think of peace as harmony in the world. They think of peace between men. They think of peace between governments.
The Bible uses the word “peace” in a variety of ways. The original word in the New Testament is, the Greek word, eirene. It is from the root word eiro, meaning “to join.” The word is used of: (1) harmonious relations between men – Matthew 10:34, Romans 14:19; (2) friendliness – 1 Corinthians 16:11; (3) harmonious relations between nations -Luke 14:2, Acts 12:20; (4) a state of national tranquility – Acts 24:2; (5) Freedom from molestation – Acts 9:31; (6) a sense of rest – Mark 5:34; (7) Order in the state – Acts 24:2; or in the church – 1 Corinthians 14:33; (8) harmonious relations between God and man – Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:17; (9) the tranquil state of the soul assured of its salvation through Christ – John 16:33; (10) the blessed state of the devout and upright men after death – Romans 2:10 (see Vine’s; Thayer).
Jesus did not offer His followers peace on earth. He acknowledged “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
Jesus did not offer peace as the world offers it (John 14:27). What does this mean? It may mean that He did not offer the kind of peace to them that earthly governments provide. He, by force, would not directly regulate man’s behavior. Though, He does authorize government to do so (cf. Romans 13:1-ff). Many think that this means that He did not offer them empty words. Israelites at meetings and departures wished each other “shalom.” Matthew Henry comments, “I do not compliment you with ‘Peace be unto you’; no, it is not a mere formality, but a real blessing” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 904). Adam Clarke comments, “Not as the Jews in empty wishes: not as the people of the world, in empty compliments. Their salutations and benedictions are generally matters of custom and polite ceremony without desire or design; but I mean what I say; what I wish you, that I give you” (Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 625).
Jesus offers an inward peace which is not based upon external circumstances of this physical life. Guy Woods comments, “It is significant that the Lord did not say, ‘Ye have overcome the world; therefore, peace is yours’, this blessed promise was theirs because He did it. It is true that Christians must overcome the world in resisting its allurements and avoiding its temptations, but there must have been this initial triumph over it by our Saviour and Lord; Otherwise, salvation would not have been possible, regardless of any resistance to evil influences. Thus, the triumph of the Lord was also that of His disciples’. The verb ‘I have overcome the world,’ is in the perfect tense, completed action with continuing effects. The Lord’s mission into the world was now nearly over and so certain was it of completion that He could speak of it as already having been accomplished” (Woods, A Commentary on The Gospel According to John, p. 351). Jesus’ disciples can have an inward peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), because He has overcome the world!
“Peace, perfect peace, in this dark work of sin: The blood of Jesus whispers peace within/ Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed: To do the will of Jesus – this is rest/ Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round: On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found/ Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away: In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they/ Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown: Jesus we know, and He is on the throne/ It is enough; earth’s struggles soon shall cease, and Jesus call us to heav’n’s peace. (song: Peace, Perfect Peace by Edward H. Bickersteth)