Hebrews Lesson 206
August 12, 2010
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
A couple of weeks ago in our study in Hebrews 12 we came to the passage in verse 14 to the command to:
NKJ Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
Now that second clause there ("without which no one will see the Lord") is not talking about having an eternal destiny in heaven. In fact as we've studied in Revelation 21, our eternal destiny isn't actually going to be in heaven. It's going to be in the New Earth, in the New Jerusalem. We will be in heaven when we are taken to be with the Lord at the rapture; and we will be with Him during that period of time including the Judgment Seat of Christ and the period of the Tribulation. Then we return to the earth with Him to rule and reign with Him during the Messianic Kingdom, during that 1,000-year kingdom, the Millennial Kingdom.
After that the present heavens and earth are destroyed by fire. The New Heavens and the New Earth will be created and the New Jerusalem will come out of heaven and descend to the earth. That is where the saints will dwell. So we really don't spend eternity in heaven. We spend eternity in the New Jerusalem.
Now there are those who are going to be excluded from the New Jerusalem, and those within the New Jerusalem that are going to have as we've studied in various passages different levels of access to God. That's what this describes is that believers who are described in Revelation as overcomers. That is what we saw in Revelation 2:7 Tuesday night. At the end of each of those letters there are specific promises to overcomers. For example there are those who will have access to the Tree of Life, and they will live in the Paradise of God. So this seems to indicate a special area within the New Jerusalem.
There are other passages that indicate that those overcomers will be given a white stone, and their name will be written on it; a name which nobody else knows. This alludes to a custom in the ancient world where the name inscribed on a white stone became a ticket or an invitation to special events that were for certain individuals. So that's the idea. So there are going to be distinctions among believers in heaven.
That's what this describes. It's related to sanctification. Those who grow and mature spiritually are overcomers. Overcoming in Scripture as we have seen is related to what Jesus said the night before He went to the cross – that He had already overcome the world. That was accomplished before He went to the cross when He paid the penalty for sin.
So those are two separate issues. Overcoming the world is a sanctification or spiritual growth issue; the belief in Christ at the cross is our justification-salvation issue. So this is talking about sanctification or holiness. Part of that is that we are to pursue peace. It's a command that is to characterize the believer's life – a present active indicative – and it's not stated simply here. It's also stated in other passengers that we've seen such as I Thessalonians 5:15 that we are to always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
Now I went to about 8 points related to pursuing peace. I think this is very important and usually when you start talking about this kind of topic it doesn't take people long to realize that you're talking about personal relationships and conflict resolution. In many cases people have some extremely difficult personal conflicts in their lives. The most difficult of course are those that involve loved ones, those that involve family members. They may be conflicts between a husband and wife; they may be conflicts between parents and children; they may be conflicts between siblings. There are all kinds of situations and circumstances that can generate some pretty profound anger, hostility, resentment and vindictiveness among family members. It always seems like we can be our very worst with someone that we're very close to.
So we talk about the immediate circle of loved ones that we have in terms of our family. But then secondly we also have problems with those who are close associates or more intimate friends. Many of us have had circumstances where we've had close friends who have in some way or fashion broken their word to us, broken a contract with us, betrayed us in some way, stabbed us in the back – however you want to put it. Then we have to deal with this conflict resolution. Then it can extend. The further out you go in the circle you have lesser degrees of intimacy. You have people you work with, people in your business with, people you may be entered into a legal or contractual relationships with. Then you go beyond that to people who are just more or less casual acquaintances, people you have done some form of business interaction but it's been less personal. You don't really know the individual. Then you can go on out to somebody you hardly even know, somebody you meet perhaps at the grocery store or some other situation.
So we have to remember that this command to pursue peace with all is a mandate. It's part of the Christian way of life, and it is a mandate to every believer. It doesn't say pursue peace with everyone who deserves it. It doesn't say pursue peace with everyone because they're such wonderful people. It doesn't say pursue peace with everyone who has reacted to the circumstances and changed the way you think they ought to change and react. It's very difficult. Some of these circumstances are very, very hard and can lead to some real fractures within families that unfortunately sometimes can go on for years if not decades. This is just blight on the cross of Christ because it runs counter to everything that the Christian life stands for.
Now unfortunately we all know of situations and some of us were involved in situations where the person that has created the conflict, caused the breach, done the betrayal is someone who really doesn't care about the Christian life that is not under anybody's authority, doesn't really care what anybody else is saying. They're just on the high road of arrogance, and there is absolutely nothing you or I or anyone else can do that would ever impact them. I mean it's their decision to go that way, and we just have to wait on the Lord, and we have to put them in the Lord's hands. Sometimes that takes the rest of your life, maybe even longer before there is a resolution.
The other thing just has a point of observation that I've seen over the years is that even when there is a desire to reconcile on the part of two Christians over something that has happened often the feelings are involved, the emotions have gotten involved and people have become hurt emotionally. Their feelings have been hurt, and it takes time. Sometimes you want to rush things.
"This is the right thing to do. Hurry up and do it."
You can't do that. That's like talking to somebody whose husband or best friend or child has just died and two days later you're saying, "Hey! Straighten up. Quit crying. Jesus died for them. They're in heaven. What's the matter?"
You know you can't command emotions like that. It takes time and reconciliation in pursuing peace with somebody isn't something that just happens overnight. It may take some years and decades even to go through the process because of the circumstances that might be involved.
So we have to understand what the basis for this is.
You can't just tell somebody, "Go makeup. Go be friends. Go forgive them."
There has to be from a biblical and Christian background; there has to be a really solid understanding of how we do that.
You and I can't do that in the flesh. When our sin natures get involved, that's what causes the conflict. That's what caused the conflict between man and God. It was man's disobedience to God's authority. When sin gets in the way in any form whether it's arrogance or any other mental attitude sin or sins of the tongue; that just immediately shuts down the whole process. There cannot be real genuine reconciliation and forgiveness with people apart from the doctrine and apart from the Spirit. Apart from the Word of God and the Spirit of God, it's just wood, hay and straw. It's works of the flesh. It's trying to do the right thing the wrong way; and it just can't happen.
Even when I read books on this subject or papers on this subject what really bothers me is that you'll read and they'll give very good principles, and then they'll say, "Now if it gets to this point, what really needs to happen is they need to go see a counselor." And they didn't intend it this way; they may not have consciously realized what they were saying. But you know, what they just said was that the Word of God, the Spirit of God isn't sufficient. You've got to go to a counselor and counseling then takes the place of the authority of the Word of God, and the real problem is still not that they need a counselor, it is that somebody or both of the parties are still operating on arrogance. They're still operating on their sin nature and the timing just not right yet.
So I want to talk about some of those things, but I want to review since it's been two weeks because I took some vacation time last week to just take us through these first 7 points very rapidly.
- First of all, God is identified in the Scripture again and again as the God of peace. This is part of His character just as Scripture says God is love; God is holy. God is a God of peace. He is a peaceful God. Now we have to understand what that means, and we will as we go through the subject. But we see this in passages like 2 Corinthians 13:11 and Philippians 4:9. I'm going to go fast through this so if you don't get if you're watching live streaming these were posted from last time already on the web site. You can get those slides from there and download that. Hebrews 13:20, I Thessalonians 5:23. These indicate again and again God is referred to as a God of peace.
- The God of peace is the one who then blesses those who follow Him with peace. Peace is a blessing from God that is given or bestowed upon us. There's inner peace which we sometimes relate to inner happiness, the peace of God, the joy of Christ. This is together with peace indicates a lack of disturbance. It indicates tranquility. It indicates contentment. But it's not a low level contentment. It's not just settling for a situation because after all it must be God's will. But we truly recognize this is the authority, this is the plan of God, and I'm going to relax and be content with it and have a measure of joy - something positive. All of this is related to love. Unfortunately we've gotten the idea or some people have gotten the idea that biblical love or unconditional love or the term impersonal love, which some people really don't like because they take it wrong. Impersonal doesn't mean it doesn't involve people or persons. It means you don't have to know the person. There doesn't have to be a personal relationship with the object of your love. That's all it means. The term impersonal could mean other things, but it doesn't. It just means that one area that there's no necessary personal relationship with the object of your love. Like the person at the cash register or the police officer that pulls you over for speeding or the person who cuts you off in traffic, any of those kinds of scenarios. You don't know the person, but you treat them in a very positive way like the classic parable that Jesus told is of the Good Samaritan. A Samaritan was one of the most despised individuals by the Jews because they were a mixed breed. They weren't pure Jews, and they looked down upon them. So you have a Jew who is traveling along the road. He's basically bushwhacked and ambushed by a highwayman. Everything he has is taken and he is beaten up and left by the side of the road. This Samaritan came along who is despised in the eye of the Jewish traveler. The Samaritan comes along, takes him home, cleans him up, feeds him, gives him clothes, provides for him so that love is not something that is an absence of mental attitude sin. It also has something that is very positive. It is something that is giving. So when we look at these aspects of reconciliation and peace and love, we're talking about not just doing something as an absence of sin but going the extra mile positively initiating action. So we see that God is the model of that, and He's the one who blesses us with peace. Psalm 29:11; Luke 26:6
- Then we go into the third point. God commands His people to seek and pursue peace with all. If He's going to command us to do it, He's going to give us the ability to do it through His Word through the Holy Spirit. Psalms 34:14 is an Old Testament commandment to seek peace and pursue it along with Romans 14:19. "Let us pursue the things that make for peace and the things that by which one may edify another." I Corinthians 7:15 "God has called us to peace." I Thessalonians 5:13.
- We saw that God described His New Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah as a covenant of peace. Isaiah 54:10, Ezekiel 34:25, Ezekiel 37:26.
- I've said that peace which is shalom in the Hebrew and eirene in the Greek are forms of the greeting in Scripture; and it's not just a common greeting. For example Paul takes it and links "Grace to you and peace from God our Father." That is almost every single letter that Paul writes begins that way. He's taking two common greeting (grace) the Greek common greeting Shalom or peace with the Jewish common greeting links them together and makes a theological statement out of it. Only Paul could do that. Grace and peace (not just a common greeting) are for you from God. You can't generate it on your own. So there's that emphasis that they are forms of greeting throughout Scripture that is recognition of peace. The peace that is with you is from God. Judges 6:23; I Samuel 16:15; Luke 24:36.
- Also we see in the gospel declaration of the Angels who appeared to the shepherd's peace is the foundational message of the gospel: "Glory to God in the highest; peace and goodwill toward men." I dealt with the problem of the textual variant there last time showing that the view of the Majority Text which is this view is the better reading of the two - not "to men of goodwill" but "goodwill toward men."
- The only basis for understanding how to achieve this is to examine the dynamics of the most extreme conflict in history; and that is the conflict between man and God. This personal conflict that developed between man and God when man disobeyed God rebelled against God, betrayed God in the Garden of Eden and basically relinquished his title as the king of the Earth and dominion then shifted from man to the serpent. For the moment it looked as if Satan who had taken the guise of the serpent had put himself in a position of control over the planet Earth and that he had actually won. The game was just beginning as it were. So the only basis to understand how to achieve a real reconciliation and peace is to examine the dynamics of this rebellion where man rebels against God.
- This is what is set forth in the Scriptures. Romans 5, Colossians 1:19-20 indicate that God's provision in terms of He's the one who provides reconciliation. The one that was betrayed, the one that's wronged, the one that is maltreated, the one whose grace is just thrown back in his face, he is the one who takes the initiative (takes the steps) to create the environment whereby peace can be restored and reconciliation can be affected.
The way we act based on the sin nature is the guy who screwed up is a guy who's got to initiate. But that's not how the plan of God works. Also Colossian 1:21-22.
Then we closed with this section in Colossian 2:13-14 with forgiveness and understanding that forgiveness comes first because the price is paid and that peace with God is accomplished only because the sin problem is dealt with. So if we're going to understand peace, we have to start with understanding how peace is established in the greatest conflict that ever occurred in history. How did God go about conflict resolution with the human race?
And it didn't happen right away did it? Like so many people come away with their superficial, shallow view of the Christian life and sin and all the things that go with it; we just have such a silly superficial way of thinking about problems; and when people get all twisted up against each other. It didn't happen overnight. It often took a lot of time. Sometimes one person is hardheaded and stubborn more than the other person. Sometimes it is not going to ever be resolvable in the devil's world. It doesn't matter how much of a Christian they are. We all have areas in our sin nature where we really don't want God to go there in terms of our own life and our own mental attitude. You may be in a circumstance like that, and it may not be resolvable for a long time.
There are circumstances and situations we see with the sin problem and conflict resolution sin that it took 4,000 years before God could get the conflict resolution established at the cross. Some of these things just can't be it can be taken care of overnight. The issues are far too complex.
So we looked at Colossians 2:13-14 and we saw a couple of principles there to emphasize that it was at the cross because the penalty was paid that the conflict resolution could be established. The resolution takes place because the handwriting against us, that decree that sets forth the sin problem, was nailed to the cross so that we should translate that last part of 13 and 14: "He was able to make us alive and together with Him" (That is at the time of our faith in Christ) because He has already forgiven us all our trespasses." That's the first category of forgiveness we studied in the past that was a legal transaction that took place at the cross where the debt was paid – fully, actually and totally. That's what this verse says.
He already forgave us our trespasses. How did He forgive? The word that translated forgiveness here is the Greek word charizomai. Two Greek words are used. We've studied these before: charizomai and apheimi. Both of these words are used in context of the debt payment where the monetary debt is eradicated. Somebody owes a debt and somebody completely erases or eradicates that debt; and it's wiped out. That's the idea of forgiveness. So that's what's described here a little more dramatically in Colossians 2:14.
NKJ Colossians 2:14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it
That is the certificate of debt.
out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
…or because He nailed it to the cross. It happened at the cross. It didn't happen when you believed in 1959 or 1963 or 1985 or whenever it was that you trusted in Christ. The sins were paid for at the cross when they were nailed to the cross. That's why sin isn't the issue anymore.
Now that lays the legal foundation and framework for salvation. It doesn't save anybody, and it doesn't forgive anybody in the experiential aspect of it. Only the legal foundation and the legal realities in terms of God's Supreme Court are resolved, sins taken care of.
So if we're going to go forward with peace we have to understand two basic elements. These two basic elements are grace and love. It always comes back to that. We can't escape it. It runs counter to our nature 180 degrees. We are gracious and kind to those who are gracious and kind in return; and we have a real difficult time being gracious and kind to those who aren't. We love those who we like; we love those are attractive to us; we love those who do the things we want them to do, believe the things we want them to believe, vote the way we want them to believe – shall I go on or am I stepping on enough toes already?
But God loved people who were just the opposite: those who hated Him, who despised Him and who rejected him, and who betrayed Him. That's what we have to understand. If you are ever going to understand the love that the Bible talks about for the Christian life, that's this kind of love. It doesn't happen because you just simply want it to happen. It can only be developed by God the Holy Spirit.
That's why when you get into Galatians 5:20-21 "the fruit of the Spirit" is first all love. That's not in terms of order. That's in terms of priority or significance or quality, and love is the most significant. It's the topic that Paul had introduced earlier in about Galatians 5:12 or 13 that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves quoting from Leviticus 18 in the Old Testament. So grace and love are the keys.
Now what is grace? I know you all know this definition. I ought to call on people. Grace is unmerited favor. That means nobody does anything to merit it. Nobody does anything to qualify for your love. In fact the more they disqualify themselves the more we ought to love them. That's getting too convicting. Let's move on. It's undeserved kindness. That means they don't deserve it. They don't deserve for us to get out of bed at two o'clock in the morning to help them. We need our sleep. They don't deserve us to be nice to them. Look at all the things we remember that they've done and how many ways that they have mistreated us, abused us. All of these things are – mean that our kindness to them – we can justify not being kind to them a hundred different ways. But we can't justify it before God. But we can justify it in our own minds. We are excellent at those kinds of rationalizations. So it is this kind of grace and love that has to be the groundwork for peace. It only comes from really understanding the gospel.
Over the years I have heard, and I remember back when I was in seminary I would make these remarks. Others were a little snide, spiritually superior remarks like, "Well, if you're a Baptist you never get out of the Gospels. And if you're Pentecostal you never get out of Acts and if you're in a Bible church you never get out of the Epistles. Aren't we superior?"
And often you would have in a lot of Baptist churches you'd often hear people say, "Well, I moved to some little small town. All I can do is go to a Baptist church. I just get tired of hearing the pastor going through his little book 567 Ways to Preach the Gospel."
The sadness there is that's true not just in Baptist churches but in many churches that the pastors are not well trained and they don't know how to get beyond the basics of the gospel. We just thank God that they get the gospel right if and when they do. But there is a value to hearing the Gospel again and again. This is something I try to drill into younger pastors and new pastors is that you never know who's listening to you out there who finally is going to hear you say it a certain way and go, "You know that's the phrase I need to use when I'm witnessing to so-and-so. Maybe I can say it that way or this way."
You never know who's out there looking through that live streaming lens who's going to end up getting a DVD, who's going to end up reading a transcript, who's going to end up listening to the MP3 file off of the Internet. I mean anything that goes out on the Internet is alive and well and eternal until the New Heavens and the New Earth. It will always be there. Be careful what you send in emails. It's always there. It's alive and well and never ending on planet Earth. So we never know who's going to hear it. So people need to hear the gospel. There's always that opportunity to make it clear every time you speak. Try to get the gospel in there to some degree so people understand it.
But there's something even more important, and that is how many times do we come in the Scriptures to these commands like at the end of Ephesians 4 where we get a command that we are to forgive one another just as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us?
Then the next verse says:
NKJ Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
Wait a minute. That means we really have to think a lot about what went on at the cross. Once again we're back to teaching gospel, cross-oriented messages again and again because it's so hard for us to understand the kind of love that God demonstrated at the cross. He demonstrated it to us as enemies, not as friends. We were obnoxious; we were repulsive; we were unclean, filthy, and loathsome to God because of our sin. There wasn't anything about us that was attractive to God, and yet He demonstrated love for us. Now to understand love you have to spend a lot of time thinking about that the cross. And if you don't spend a lot of time thinking about the cross, you'll never understand love. And you're not going to understand it 25, 30, 35, or 40 – trust me. At 50 whatever I am now (58) I still don't in many ways because this is beyond our basic abilities and comprehensions in the flesh. We have to think about this and think about this; and it just blows our mind every time we do.
So we look at these passages like Romans 5:8 and we need to stop and think about this, especially if you're someone who is dealing with somebody out there who has offended you, somebody whose very name who makes you vibrate at the bottom of your gut with vindictiveness or hate or whatever, or if you are somebody who is in the presence of a family quarrel or a family conflict and you don't know how to resolve that or get passed some of these issues, then it's easy for us to let the sin nature get its claws into the circumstances and situation. We start thinking and we get involved in self- justification and self deception and self denial and all these other aspects of arrogance. We forget that there's not one thing that that person who's offended us has done that we didn't do a thousand times more intensely to God, at least five times in the last year.
We come along we say, "Okay. 1 John 1:9 – I'll confess my sin and God forgives me and moves on."
And He does!
But then when somebody says, "Well, you know you take so-and-so and forgive them the same way God just forgave you," and you go, "Wait a minute. I just can't do that. You don't understand what they have done."
You don't understand what you've done in relationship to God! That's the problem. Start dealing with that in terms of understanding God's love and forgiveness for you. Then all of this is going to take on a new dimension.
Now whenever we get into talking about this, everybody starts to get a little uncomfortable, shifting around in seats, thinking about different things and trying to figure out – "Wait a minute. There's got to be a hole here somewhere." No! There's not.
And it's as much a problem for me as for anybody else because that just cuts across the grain of our old sin nature. Now part of the problem we have is we don't' understand love. We come out of such a narcissistic culture; and it doesn't exclude anybody. But if your baby boomer, you are the personification of narcissism. And if you are younger than a baby boomer, then you are the personification of narcissism cubed. And if you're a millennial (you know what that means), you're even worse. So you know the poster child of narcissism is the United States of America.
That's why we have so many problems that we have, and it's very hard to think objectively when we are up to our jaws in self-absorption. We're so subjective that we can't get out of our own experience to think in terms of what God has done and what real love is. We have a culture based on narcissism defines love no matter how you get at it - it ultimately always comes back to some kind of self-love. But it's emotion. It's a feeling. It's a number of other things that just can't be held up in light of how the Bible uses the word love.
First and foremost love is not an emotion. Emotion may accompany it, and there may be very rich emotion with love at times. That doesn't negate the love or the emotion. They're just two different things. Don't confuse one with the other. That real love, the kind of love that is demonstrated at the cross, is primarily a volitional act and a mental attitude. It's those two things together. It is a volitional act, and it is a mental attitude.
Why do we know it's a volitional act? Because it's a command. You cannot command emotion. I can sit here all day long and tell you to be angry and if you just won the lottery that's not going to happen. You can't get angry. You're not going to get angry. If your three-year-old child or grandchild just got ran over him by a truck in the street and is lying there dead and I tell you to be happy and joyful and feel good; you can't do it. Our emotions do not respond to commands. But volition and mental attitude are the result of commands, and we can respond in that area. It may not change our emotions right away, but it will eventually.
There are several passages we have the New Testament where agape (the Greek word agape) for love which is the broader word that is used of God's love for man. There are two Greek words used for love, agape and phileo. God only has a phileo type love which is a more intimate form of love for believers. Unbelievers are never the object of a God-phileo statement. You never have God loving with the verb phileo unbelievers. There's no intimacy; there is no family relationship there. They're not in the family. But God has agape love for the world, for all in the world. So there are distinctions there. Phileo is the more intimate kind of love that we sometimes associate with – I'll say sometimes, on occasion is associated with emotion.
So in Matthew 5:44 Jesus says:
NKJ Matthew 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
Now if you want to get personal with this when you're at home (by yourself) and you're looking at the Scriptures, then you can substitute somebody's named for your enemies and those who curse you and those who hate you and those who spitefully use you, persecute you. Just plug somebody's name in there and that's going to get real personal; but that's what the command is. There aren't exceptions. There's no asterisk in the text there that says, "Look at the footnote and the footnote your favorite person to hate is excluded." It's not there.
This is not easy material. This is an imperative (present active imperative) indicating that this is a standard operating procedure God commands of every believer all the time. So if it's commanded, it's volitional act. That means you have to decide to do it. You can't wait till it feels right to do it because that's probably not going to happen. Those feelings are going to be generated by your sin nature, and you have to make a mental decision.
Other passages like Luke 6, Jesus said:
NKJ Luke 6:27 " But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
NKJ Luke 6:32 "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? …
What's the big deal if you love a nice attractive friendly positive encouraging person who's never done anything bad to you? Anybody can do that. That's no big deal. Everybody loves nice attractive people. Even sinners love people love that Jesus said.
But He says:
NKJ Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Even Luke, he's been influenced by Paul. What's he's done? He's gone right back to God that God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. So we're not going to be kind because somehow we're better than God?
John 13:34 Jesus commands love again.
NKJ John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
So this sets the fact that forgiveness and grace are the foundation. That necessitates what I usually refer to as either impersonal love or unconditional love. It's impersonal because you don't have to have a personal relationship with the individual. You may not know them. They may be somebody who you have just met, run into. You have some sort of business interaction with. You don't have to necessarily be inviting them home on some Sunday after church for a fried chicken dinner. You just have to have an interaction with them. So in that sense it's impersonal.
But it is personal in the fact that you're dealing with another person who's created in the image and likeness of God and is a rotten sinner just like you are. You've been forgiven of sin by God, not because you've done anything good or great or wonderful or attractive to God, because you can't do it, and neither has this person. That's where the comparison comes. So we have to understand that love and grace are the foundation for forgiveness and peace.
Now this then results in unity. We see the extended passage. I want you to turn there with me now with me – Ephesians 2:11-18. It's foreshadowed in Psalm 133:1.
NKJ Psalm 133:1 …Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity
So this isn't simply talking about the kind of unity and oneness we have with God because of what Christ did on the cross. But that vertical unity is to change our horizontal unity.
Now in Ephesians 2 the first 7 verses deal with the gospel and understanding grace. That's foundational. That's basically what I've been talking about most of the time this evening – understanding grace and love.
NKJ Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
NKJ Ephesians 2:9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
But the next verse goes on to say that it doesn't means that good works aren't important. The next verse says:
NKJ Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
That has to do with divine good, walking by the Spirit, producing the fruit of the Spirit in us.
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
That involves our volition, that we have to walk in those good works, one of those of which is pursuing peace with all men. Now Paul then takes this and applies in terms of a circumstance where there has been a breach, a horizontal breach between the Gentiles and the Jews.
In verse 11 he says:
NKJ Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh
…talking to primarily Gentile audience in Ephesus.
-- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands --
So this had become an aspect of pride by the Jews. They looked down upon the Gentiles because they were circumcised.
"If you guys don't have a covenant with God; we've got a covenant with God. We're God's chosen people. You're not; so you're worthless."
So that is what he is criticizing here.
NKJ Ephesians 2:12 that at that time you were without Christ,
That is prior to the cross.
being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
…basically spiritually second class citizens.
and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
NKJ Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
That's the Gentiles who were far off.
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
…because the death of Christ applies to all people.
NKJ Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace,
There's our word. He is our peace. Now this peace isn't just relating it to peace with God. It's relating it to the peace and the breakdown of the division between Jew and Gentile. It's true in both cases.
who has made both one,
Who are the both there? Jew and Gentile. This isn't talking about the barrier between God and man. It's talking about the barrier between Jew and Gentile.
and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
NKJ Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
NKJ Ephesians 2:15 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,
Galatians 3 dealing with the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
NKJ Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Does that mean He wipes out the Jews? No. He wipes out physical distinctions? No. Jews are still Jews; Gentiles are still Gentiles. Asians are Asians. Chinese are Chinese. Africans are Africans. Slavs are Slavs. But spiritually there's not going to be a racial distinction anymore as there was under the Old Testament economy. So Jesus dies to tear down this division so that in Him there is now no distinction. Now that's not making a negative statement about Jews and Jews and their culture any more that it's making a negative statement about Gentiles and their culture in so far as it's not influenced by paganism.
So their wall of separation (the enmity between the two) has been removed thus making peace. Now that peace is between Jew and Gentile, not between man and God. That's what made it possible.
NKJ Ephesians 2:16 and that He might reconcile them both to God
Now that's the vertical aspect.
in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
NKJ Ephesians 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off
That is the Gentiles.
and to those who were near.
That is the Jews.
NKJ Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
So Ephesians 2:11-18 lays this down, that the vertical peace with God is what lays that foundation for a horizontal relationship of peace where the enmity has been completely removed.
Now let's talk about some elements of this peace. First of all the peace that we have, and that we should have as it applies to others, should come out of an inner peace. Now when I put out the ten problem solving devices and we deal with a sort of progression of maturity this often is seen later. But it's developed in bits and pieces and different stages as everybody grows in the Christian life. A baby believer has a baby believer's measure of peace. An adolescent believer has an adolescent believer's measure of peace and happiness. A mature believer has a mature believer's measure of peace and happiness. Just because peace and joy are a more mature type aspect doesn't mean that an infant or baby believer can't have peace and joy at that level for his stage.
Anyone has this. You have passages like Isaiah 26:3. Isaiah says to God:
NKJ Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace,
That is stability, tranquility (the Hebrew word shalom) also relates to health and happiness.
Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
The Hebrew word there for trust is the Hebrew word batach, which we studied before and has the idea of emphasizing the source of confidence and stability in the believer's mindset. Why do we have confidence? Because, our focal point is on Him. So this takes us back to what I said about love.
- It's volitional.
- Is a mental attitude.
It's a mental focus. Our mental focus is on God who shapes our application. So then we have peace (tranquility) because our confidence rests in God - not in people, not in what people do, haven't done, how they react, how they respond or any of those things.
Another passage from the Old Testament is Isaiah 32:17.
NKJ Isaiah 32:17 The work of righteousness will be peace, …
See there is a level of integrity here shaped by the Hebrew word here for righteousness. The work of righteousness is peace. You can't have peace by compromising away everything.
A classic example was Munich when Chamberlain, the prime minister of England, compromised everything away, just got rid of all of his integrity, just flushed it down the commode and entered into a peace at all costs, compromised away all of his values, all of his integrity by entering into a compromise with Hitler. That is not how you achieve peace was somebody who is at odds with you. Peace is a priority; but it's not a priority at the expense of righteousness and justice and integrity.
The reason I get a little upset about this is every time you start saying you have to forgive everybody somebody comes along and says, "Well, I know this person is of absolute zero dud loser. You mean I have to forgive him?"
Well, that zero dud losers, have they ever asked you to forgive them? Have they ever admitted that what they did was wrong? No? Well then we're not there yet.
You know, you don't have to compromise your integrity and righteousness and have a pseudo peace. That's just pseudo humility that's just going to make things worse, not better. That is not biblical peace or biblical humility. That is just the reverse. It is pseudo-arrogance.
So the work of righteousness will be peace. It can only come when there's integrity.
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
Now we have the word quietness and assurance forever. That first word in the New King James that is translated quietness is the Hebrew word sahqat, which means to be quiet, to be tranquil, to be at peace, to be undisturbed by anxiety. So when you think about that person, you're not going to start getting all riled up emotionally with your stomach churning.
The second word there translated assurance is actually our friend batach from the previous verse. It means confident trust in God. So let's retranslate this a little bit more to get its sense. The work of righteousness will result in peace. There's a connection between righteousness and peace. You cannot have peace when there is unrighteousness. The effect of righteousness is quietness. That is undisturbed tranquility and confidence forever. That's when there's peace.
Another passage, Isaiah 48:18.
NKJ Isaiah 48:18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river,
You can't get this kind of peace and create it artificially. It got to come from God and again it's located in connection with obedience to God, which is where you get the idea of righteousness. It's in accord with the standard of God and so righteousness has to be there. That comes from obeying the commandments.
Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
So there's a connection between integrity and peace.
Then one last verse to close on. Jesus said:
NKJ John 14:27 "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,
Notice to contrast to peace is not nonviolence. It is inner tranquility and stability. The word translated troubled is the Greek word tarasso which means to shake together, to stir up, to stir, to unsettle things, to throw things in disorder, to stick your emotions in your emotional blender and get everything all churned up. So when you have the peace which comes from the Word of God, the Spirit of God. Also a fruit of the Spirit is the opposite. That is, don't let your thinking get upset and all churned up by focusing on the wrong things and letting your sin nature get in control.
neither let it be afraid.
This is not phobos (phobeo is the verb) the noun for fear. This is the Greek word deiliao which also has that idea of fear. But it also to worry and anxiety and brings in that whole measure of meaning there.
So Jesus contrasts the peace that we have from the Holy Spirit which He gives us to that which gets us all stirred up and all out of focus and all shaken up inside emotionally because we're just like Peter. We just get our focus on those blasted waves all the time and start sinking rather than putting our focus on the Lord and the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
So we'll come back next time to start looking at the path to peace in terms of how do we really implement this in terms of other people around us and also addressing the question - how do we deal with those who just don't care and they're not going respond? So we'll do that next week.