Contend Earnestly: The Gospel of Peace?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Gospel of Peace?

I have decided to read through the book of Ephesians for a while…just read it…to see what the Spirit of God wants me to be gripped by. I would usually tear it apart looking for every specific meaning and find those ways to congratulate myself for being right in my current theological bents. What I’ve decided to do this time is actually humble myself to the Scriptures and seek the face of God through them.

When you think of the book of Ephesians, what is the first thing you think of? I would guess if you are a Christian it would be a few things. Maybe that salvation is by grace alone and a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8,9); if you’re a Calvinist you’ll look for ways to prove predestination in the first few chapters; if you’re a charismatic, you might look to the end of the book where Paul tells us to pray in the Spirit always and see it as speaking of tongues (Eph 6:18), some will look at the great debate in both marriage and slaves (some people think these go hand in hand) in Ephesians 5, and some still will look to the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6. There are many theological stalwarts in Ephesians, but as I was reading, I was struck by how many times a book, that has been used to divide the Christian church, mentions “peace.”

The term is used 7 times in the book.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
Ephesians 2:14

by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
Ephesians 2:15

And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near;
Ephesians 2:17

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:2,3

and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Ephesians 6:15

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 6:23

When one reads Ephesians one will notice that grace, peace and love of God are the overarching themes in the book, as it is in all of the Scriptures. I will focus in on peace for this post, as I find it to be very interesting.

Why are we to be peaceful? And why does Paul bookend this letter with the term “peace” to the Ephesians? I believe it is because this is exactly how Jesus started and ended his earthly ministry.

When Jesus started his earthly ministry, by being dunked by John the Baptist, it is said that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove from heaven, which is no doubt a picture of the dove that was sent out by Noah that returned with an olive leaf. If you look at any major peacemaking effort, what is the symbol of peace? Is it not the dove with an olive leaf? This picture was to show that the wrath of God was now at peace with man, followed up with that the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on the man, Jesus the Christ, who was ushering in the Kingdom of God to bring peace to all nations.

Then when Jesus is raised from the dead, what is the first thing he says to those disciples who are scared for their lives in the upper room, wondering what to do?

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
John 20:19
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Why would Jesus say this? Why would Jesus tell us to be peacemakers? Why would Jesus commit the apostles to be peacemakers when he says:

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
John 20:21

I believe it is evident throughout the Scriptures and history. We, as people, are at war, not just with each other, but within ourselves. We continue to see wars and violence and Jesus tells us that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, the life speaks, the man shows his heart. The warring around us, has very little to do our wants on the outside, as they are just evidence of the wants on the inside. The warring around us has EVERYTHING to do with the warring that is happening within our souls. We are a restless people, always desiring something more, something different, something greater. We are always looking for the grass that is greener on the other side. Yet, no matter what we do…that grass is never greener, just more that needs to be mowed.

You see, as a proclaimer of the good news, I have always focused on the greatest peace, the peace that Jesus gives our souls, yet have had little to do with the shadow of that peace, namely, building bridges of peace while here on earth. We are called to do both.

We are called to give food to the poor, to point them to the one who is the bread of life.

We are called to give money to the poor and to the needy, to point them to the one who will give them abundant riches in the next life and is our actual prize

We are called to go to the widows and the orphans, to point them to the one Father and husband who will never abandon them in life or death

We are called to go to the religious, to point to them that Jesus has paid their debts

We are called to the hopeless, to point them to the fact that Jesus is their only hope

We are called to the prisoner, to show them that only Jesus can release them from their bondage.

Why wouldn’t we desire to go to the warring, to show them that there is only peace found in the grace of God for their souls?

I have discarded this for a long time in my life. I am questioned a lot about why I desire to bring reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. The reason is not to show only the grace and reconciliation to the Muslim, but it is also to show this to the Christian.

Those who follow Jesus have peace. We are to bring that peace on this earth, which is a shadow, to point to the true peace that comes by healing our souls from the warring that is happening within.

If you love Jesus and you do not promote and actively seek peace with your enemies, with America’s enemies, or with the enemies of your state…you are in sin.

May we seek peace, for the sake of showing the greatness in the grace of Jesus.

May we see clearly that Paul calls the gospel we love so much, the gospel we desire to proclaim and live so much is called:

…the Gospel of Peace!
Ephesians 6:15


Jonspach said...

Grace and peace is how Paul greets in almost all his letters (he adds mercy sometimes like 1 Timothy).

My understanding was that he was running with the traditional Greek greeting of Grace and the traditional Jewish greeting of Shalom, which is awesome because it means so much more than the americanized concept of peace (no conflict).

Seth McBee said...

yeah, my point wasn't that Ephesians was unique on speaking about peace, but sometimes forgotten.

As far as shalom..Yes! Totally agree...but even though Americans miss the depth sometimes, we as followers of Jesus can miss the basic shadow of literal peace vs war right in front of our eyes...Both relationally and nationally

Make sense? .

Cammie Novara said...

What I’ve decided to do this time is actually humble myself to the Scriptures and seek the face of God through them." Truer words were never uttered.

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