May, 18, 2014

Peace Rules

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Back in the ’60s, the US Post Office had a cancellation stamp that they would use on letters. It simply said “Pray for Peace.” Soon after that, the conflict in Vietnam started. Perhaps people were praying for the wrong kind of peace. The peace that was promoted by the Post Office no doubt meant to cease from war, or a ceasing of conflicts between nations. And that is indeed something very rare. Conflicts seem to be business as usual today. And of course we all need to be praying for peace on this earth. But according to the Bible, for nations to cease from their wars, does not mean there is true peace. True peace has spiritual roots, as we’ll see in our text this morning.
The apostle Paul, after telling the Colossians that they are to put on love as the outer belt to hold all the other Christian virtues in place, moves beyond our lives as individuals, to the church, and how the body of Christ ought to function:
Colossians 3:15 (NASB) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
The word “peace” is the Greek word eirene. In Hebrew, the equivalent word would be shalom. It has several different meanings. The root word has to do with wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness).
It most often is used to refer to: “the absence of conflict, or tranquility.”
But what is this “peace” implied in the text? Paul calls it, “the peace of Christ.” This term is not found anywhere else in the New Testament. We do see the words “peace of God” used in a number of places, (e.g., Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2) but only here does this “peace of Christ” phrase appear.
When we think about the peace of Christ, certain things come to mind. The first is about what Jesus Himself did in His body, for us.
Act 15, the council at Jerusalem, shows the divide between Jew and Gentile
15:1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
15:5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
In the church in Antioch, there were Jews who wanted the Gentiles to follow the Law of Moses, including circumcision. And Paul and Barnabas of course had a great disagreement with them. So they were sent to discuss this matter of whether the Law of Moses was binding upon the Gentiles who were coming to believe in Jesus. After some discussion between Paul and Barnabas and the other apostles and elders in Jerusalem, they came to an agreement, and wrote this letter to the believers in Antioch.

23 “The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.
24 “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
These things mentioned in vs. 29 all had to do with idol worship, and the immoral feasts that the gentiles had in the worship of their false gods.

So one result of what Jesus accomplished was to free the gentiles from the requirements of the Law of Moses. In Eph 2:14-18, Paul makes this aspect of Jesus’ work much clearer. He says:

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”
The emphasis in this passage is how, through Jesus’ death on the cross, Jews and Gentiles who had essentially been enemies with each other are now brought into the same family through Jesus’ blood. Rather than having hostility toward one another, through Christ the “enmity” or hostility has been removed, the wall separating the Jews and gentiles racially, socially, and culturally has been broken down. The 2 groups are now “one new man” in Christ. Therefore, we have peace in relationships to each other because of the work of Jesus Christ as mediator.
Notice how this peace came about. It was “by abolishing in His flesh… the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. In other words, the Law of Moses had to disappear and go away under the New Covenant so that the Jews and gentiles could become one body in Christ. Sadly, many Christians don’t understand this and want to put Christians back under the Law of Moses, or at least under part of the Mosaic Law. Peace between Jews and gentiles could only happen by Christ’s blood doing away with the commandments and ordinances. Yet there are many today who would like to rebuild that dividing wall that Christ tore down.
A second way we have peace in relationship to God is described by the doctrine of “justification.” It is by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, in bearing the judgment of God against us, against our sins, that we now have peace with God. This peace a gift from our God through His Son.
Romans 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Before this peace came, we were enemies of God. But now we are His children. We no longer are under God’s judgment, but under his blessing,because of what Jesus did.
In Col 3:15, Paul says it is this “peace of Christ” that is to “rule in your hearts.” This statement by Paul, that we are at peace with God through Christ and at peace with one another through Christ, is to be a real part of the way we act as believers. All our actions, all our decisions, need to be based on the peace of Christ. It must change the way we think, live, and act toward others. Also notice that Paul says “the peace of God is to rule in your hearts” (plural). You (in Southern “y’all”) were called in one body to be at peace and to be thankful.
Paul urges his readers to let the peace which comes from Christ’s work “rule” in their hearts in order that peace would exist between the brethren.
Paul’s request is that, as God has reconciled them to Himself through Jesus and has dealt with the problem of enmity which existed between them and God, so too should the Colossians allow that peace to overflow from them that they might welcome and receive all whom they meet in the name of Jesus Christ on this earth.
If we know Christ’s peace, we know that God accepts us by his grace, right? If we know this in our hearts, then this knowledge gives us a nature of peace. The more the person and work of Christ controls our minds, the greater peace we will have within.
In Col 3:15 the word “rule”” is an athletic term meaning: “to act as an umpire.” In ancient Greece, the umpire presided over the Olympic games. He judged whether the athlete was qualified to take part in the games. He determined whether the winner violated any rules during the games. As the umpire, he also enforced the rules of the game and awarded the prizes.
Paul applies this word to believers. The believer is to let the peace of Christ act as umpire in his heart. The peace of Christ should direct, control, or rule in our hearts. This peace of Christ gives us correct judgments and decisions when our hearts are guided by the principle of love.
When believers need to make decisions, the peace that Christ produces in our hearts should be a major factor. We should always be looking for the answer that will result in peace between us and God, and peace between us and others in the church. This is not just some nice tidbit of advice that Paul gives here, but it is the way we need to direct our lives, and our decisions. If our decisions as believers do not lead to peace, then what have we learned from our life with Jesus? If our goal is not peace, then aren’t we just like the unforgiving servant? We have been given peace beyond measure through Jesus Christ, but do we do things which lead to peace in the congregation of our Lord and Savior?
Colossians 3:15 (NASB) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Notice how Paul ends this verse, “…and be thankful”. What is it that they are to be thankful for? The Greek word translated “thankful” is eucharistos. This word occurs in the Septuagint in:
Proverbs 11:16 (NASB) A gracious [eucharistos] woman attains honor, And violent men attain riches.
It’s this idea of “graciousness” that is the foundation of the word. Most Bible versions translate this word in Colossians 3:15 as “thankful.” But I think the better choice would be “gracious.” In the Greek, this word literally means “good grace.” The root word is grace. And if we read the verse that way, it seems to make more sense. “Be gracious [towards the brethren]” would be much more in line with what Paul previously said. When he is talking about relationships between believers, the imperative is to be thankful.
The Greek says, “become gracious.” This is a continuing obligation. “Become” means “come about, or happen.” It indicates that the Colossians were not gracious before this admonition from Paul, and Paul is basically telling them to make it happen; become gracious.
Thankfulness has been a continuing theme in Colossians (cf. 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3: 16,17; 4:2) but the idea is more of “becoming gracious.”
Do you think an attitude of graciousness would lead to peace among the community of believers? Absolutely.
Jn 14:25-27
25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Another aspect of the peace of Christ is that we are not to fear. Jesus has given us His peace. We may need to practice it a bit more, but He has given it to us. In the same context, Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit. When we have God’s Spirit, we have peace, we know peace, because that is the very nature of Jesus toward us, His sheep.

Paul tells us we are to put on love. We are to let Christ’s peace reign in our hearts, and we are to be gracious to each other. When the church begins to live this way, we will have a very positive effect on the world in which we live. May God help us to be recognized as believers by the way we live.