By Mark Mayberry
In the New Testament, the word 44peace” is found at the beginning or end of every epistle except for James and I John. The breadth of its meaning is apparent when it is linked with “grace” (Rom. 1:7), “life” (Rom. 8:6), and “righteousness” (Rom. 14:17). It is used in benedictions like 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20; 2 Peter 3:14. What are the different shades of meaning of this wonderful word?
Webster defines “peace” as “l. freedom from war; 2. a treaty or agreement to end war or the threat of war; 3. freedom from public disturbance or disorder; 4. freedom from disagreement or quarrels; harmony; concord; 5. an undisturbed state of mind; absence of mental conflict; serenity: in full, peace of mind; 6. calm; quiet; tranquility.”
The Greek word which is translated “peace” is defined by Thayer as ” 1. a state of national tranquility; exemption from the rage and havoc of war . . . 2. peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord 3. security, safety, prosperity 4. spec. the Messiah’s peace. . . 5. the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ. . . 6. the blessed state of devout and upright men after death” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, s.v. eirene). Shalom is the Old Testament equivalent of eirene. It carried the idea of “completeness, soundness, wholeness, or well-being. ” It was a typical greeting among the Hebrews.
Peace With God
Our first priority should be to find peace with God. Sin brings unhappiness, conflict, and chaos into our lives (Psa. 1; Isa. 57:20-21). It causes fellowship with God to be broken (Isa. 59:1-2). If we are to avoid eternal condemnation, we must make peace with God. This cannot be accomplished on our terms; obedience to the Lord’s will is the key (Isa. 55:7-9)!
The Old Testament prophets spoke of the Messianic age as a time of peace (Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6). The New Testament reveals the fulfillment of this hope (Lk. 1:78-79). Peace expresses the reconciliation that was made possible through the shed blood of Christ (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 5:1; Col. 1:20-23).
Peace With Self
Today, peace of mind is a quality which is hard to find. The evidence is around us: delinquency, divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide. Witness the physical signs of stress: hypertension, ulcers, heart attacks, etc.
Peace of mind cannot be found in drugs or alcohol. It does not come in capsules. The secret is not found in reading self-help books. We achieve peace of mind by applying the gospel to our lives and letting the God of Peace rule our hearts (Rom. 8:6; Col. 3:15). Inner tranquility is the result of faithful submission to the Lord (Matt. 11:28; Gal. 5:22; Phil. 4:7).
Christians should be the happiest and most well-adjusted people in the world. We may face difficult problems, but the peace of God enables us to maintain balance. Through Christ, we can overcome any adversity (Jn. 14:27; 16:33).
Pence With Others
In one sense, Jesus came, not to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34-36). This describes the struggle between righteousness and evil. At times we will experience conflict with the world, but as a rule, obedience to the Lord will improve all our relationships (Prov. 16:7; Rom. 12:18).
Christians must actively promote peace (Psa. 34:14; 133: 1; Matt. 5:9; Heb. 12:14). This not only means that we should avoid strife and discord; we should put positive effort into building up the body of Christ (Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:3). If we are to achieve peace with others, we must have the attitude Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:1-8. He said, “Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (w. 3-4, NASV). Selfishness will destroy peace and unity. We need to seek the good of others. We can be at peace if we have the mind of Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 13, 385, 408
July 3, 1986