Posted on August 11th, by Doug Ponder in Sermons. No Comments


Written by on August 11, 2013

This article is a recap of the sermon Jesus Brings Peace in the Philippians series.

Meta-World Peace

People like to talk about peace, hope for peace, and work for peace. Indeed, it’s hard to meet anyone who doesn’t want world peace. (Even radical Muslims want peace—they just want it by way of ridding the world of non-Muslims). If everyone wants peace, then why don’t we have it yet?

The short answer is that we first have to agree on what peace really is, and second, we must have a way to actually obtain that peace.

Peace According to Whom?

Some think peace is the tolerance and acceptance of all things—but they probably don’t mean that. Or at least, they shouldn’t. And if they do keep insisting on the tolerance and acceptance of all things, you might ask them how well they would tolerate and accept a punch in the face. (No, seriously. Think about that.)

The truth is that no one accepts everything. We all know that at least some things are out of line with what is good for peace (Adolf Hitler’s murderous rampage is an easy example). So we must have some standard for determining what is out of line with the way things should be. We must have something that tells us what is right and good—and it must be a source for truth that is better than a majority vote, for the consensus of the people is precisely what held on to things like slavery for so long.

What God Says about Peace

The Bible gives a clear vision for peace. It involves all people who are full of joy, who have the same mind, share the same love, and live in harmony and agreement with one another (Phil. 2:2). These people do nothing from selfishness, rivalry, or pride (Phil. 2:3). Instead, they humbly consider others to be more important than themselves, and they out for the interests of others too (Phil. 2:4).

In addition to all humans would being knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood, the biblical image of peace envisions humans living in peace in a benign and fruitful world, where all of nature and all humans look to God, listen to God, and delight in God. As Christian author Cornelius Plantinga puts it, “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it “peace” but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”[1]

How to Get Peace

Even if we could agree on what peace is, we must have some way to obtain it. All efforts to date have failed (obviously). Saying things like, “Give peace a chance” and “All you need is love” may have sounded great in the marijuana haze of your parents’ VW bus, but those slogans clearly don’t help us achieve the peace they talk about.

Other failed attempts at world peace include: (1) education, which only increases our knowledge but cannot change our hearts;  (2) legislation, which can pass laws and threaten punishment, but can’t make us do the right thing when no one is looking; (3) medication, which tries to bring our biological makeup back in line—but what if our biology isn’t the problem? (4) liberation, which thinks that by telling everyone that there is no God, no truth, no morality, we can all be happy by living as we want to. But so far that approach has just created more people who feel justified in their selfishness.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

None of those “solutions” actually works because they do not get to the root of our problem. In poetic song lyrics, one song writer explains why none of those approaches can ever work:

We can’t educate man to perfection again.
We can’t legislate peace in our hearts.
We can’t medicate sin from our souls;
It’s been there from the start.

The blind lead the blind into bottomless pits,
Still we smile and deny that we’re cursed.
But of all our iniquities ignorance may be the worst.

Something’s gone terribly wrong with everyone.
All the world is mad.[2]

All the world is mad like the Mad Hatter, that is. The source of this “madness” is what the Bible calls sin. Sin isn’t just something that we do; it’s something that we have (1 John 1;8), and it works in us and upon us at all times, a lot like the law of gravity (Rom. 7:21-23).

Jesus Brings Peace

Sin brings insanity, but Jesus brings order.
Sin brings selfishness, but Jesus brings sacrifice.
Sin brings judgment, but Jesus brings forgiveness.
Sin brings destruction, but Jesus brings restoration.
Sin brings unending death, but Jesus brings unending life.
Sin brings strife and trouble of every kind, but Jesus brings peace.

Jesus accomplishes all of this in three ways:

First, Jesus brings peace between us and God our Father. As the Scriptures say, Jesus emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him. . .” (Phil. 2:6-9). In doing all this, Jesus was not merely our “good example”; he was the representative sacrifice who conquered sin and death on our behalf. Jesus thus brings peace between us and God by forgiving us, by abolishing the record of sin that stands against us, and by triumphing over death and the forces of evil (Col. 2:13-15). Those who belong to Jesus are now children of God instead of children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), having been forgiven, cleansed, and reconciled to God through the cross (Col. 1:20).

Jesus also brings peace between between human beings. His life, death, and resurrection have abolished every self-righteous reason for separation and alienation. This is why Paul instructs the church at Philippi to be unified in mind and spirit. They are one body,  sharing the same Lord, the same Savior, the same hope, and the same calling in the gospel.

Finally, Jesus will bring peace into through his future return. “God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). His resurrection is proof to all that Jesus is the one “appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Thus Jesus brings peace through judgment by making a sovereign declaration that this is good, and to be upheld, and that is wrong, to be avoided. At his coming he totally eradicate all sin and evil and their effects: sickness, sadness, and death.

[1] Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, 9-10.

[2] Thrice, “All the World Is Mad,” Beggars (2009).

Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.

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