“The Peace of God from The God of Peace”, from Precept Austin (Divine Sufficiency, Faith in Christ, Prayer)

The Peace of God, From The God of Peace”, from Precept Austin

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Peace is a condition of freedom from disturbance, whether outwardly, as of a nation from war or enemies or inwardly, as in the current context, within the soul.

The peace of God which replaces anxiety in the life of the prayerful believer is impossible to experience unless one already is at peace with God through faith in Christ. The peace of God is the ANTIDOTE for ANXIETY. 

The peace of God – This is not the absence of problems but a reflection of the presence of divine sufficiency in the midst of problems.

(Isa 26:4Php 4:13notePhp 4:19note)

George Morrison said “Peace is the possession of adequate resources” and those resources come from the Lord when you yield heart and mind to Him.

Every believer has come into an eternal peace with God for Paul writes that

having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Comment: See notes on Romans 5:1 for more discussion of the distinction between the peace of God and peace with God

However, not every believer necessarily experiences the peace of God which Paul describes in this passage. This peace is a promise which is the result of the practice of thankful prayer to God. As Vincent puts it “Peace (of God) is the fruit of believing prayer.” Stated another way, one may have peace with God without having the peace of God. Peace with God is dependent upon faith, and peace of God is dependent upon faithful prayer. Peace with God describes the state between God and the Christian, and the peace of God describes the condition within the Christian.

Barnhouse comments that the truth of Romans 5:1 means for believers that…

Peace with God was already theirs, as it is already the portion of all who are placed in Christ. But the peace of God comes afterwards to those who are willing to accept the paradox of unconditional surrender. How many unsaved people there are today who are in misery because they will not accept the peace (“peace with God”) that God made at the cross when He declared that the war was over and that sin was dealt with. And how many Christians are going to Heaven miserably because they are not willing to accept the riches of His grace and the wonders of His peace that He is so willing to give if we will only acknowledge Him as our Lord as well as our Saviour… Day by day, we are the objects of that love and grace, and, when we are surrendered to it, we shall be at peace.

Calvin writes that

It is on good ground that he calls it the peace of God, inasmuch as it does not depend on the present aspect of things, and does not bend itself to the various shiftings of the world, but is founded on the firm and immutable word of God.

Peace of God (God’s peace, the dispeller of anxiety and worry) is the peace which God alone possesses (He is often referred to as the “God of peace“) and which He gives to His children.

Peace in the present context is a state without anxiety and worry about how and when our needs (physical or emotional) will be supplied. This peace is the result of going to Him and confidently committing everything into His trustworthy hands.

Although the context is different, the principle in Isaiah is applicable that

“The steadfast of mind (the mind that has confidence in God shall not be agitated by the trials to which it shall be subject; by persecution, poverty, sickness, want, or bereavement) Thou will keep (guard, preserve) in perfect peace (Hebrew literally is ‘Peace, peace;’ repetition denoting emphasis = inward peace, outward peace, peace with God, peace of conscience, peace at all times, under all events), because he trusts in Thee.” (Isa 26:3)

Henry describes the peace of God as

the comfortable sense of our reconciliation to God and interest in his favour, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, and enjoyment of God hereafter.

Before God saves us, we are ”at war” with the Almighty and our peace with Him is ”disturbed”. When we are justified by faith and reconciled to our Creator by the blood of Christ, we are made positionally at peace with God (see exposition of “peace with God” in Ro 5:1note) and are “set at one again” so to speak like Adam and Eve were in Eden before sin entered the world. Paul in this section is describing the “peace of God” which can be a believer’s experience (experiential peace) as he or she surrenders their will to His will, submits to His authority and walks in Spirit empowered obedience to His good and acceptable and perfect will. Specifically in the present context this peace is the Spirit borne fruit of thankful prayer. It’s logical isn’t it? If we can truly thank Him for every circumstance, good or bad, the result is His peace, the peace He gives.

Dwight Edwards on the peace of God – Of God” is probably a genitive of source. Thus God is the source of this peace, not the conditions around us. This peace is beyond our comprehension, for we cannot fully understand it; yet it is not beyond our experience, for we can fully experience it in the present. “Will guard” is graphic, denoting a garrison, or one standing sentry. The peace of God will watch over and warn us against any intruders. If the peace of God is not ruling or standing sentry over our inward man, then an unwanted intruder has already entered. Here we see a distinction between “heart” and “mind.” It would seem that they are referring to our emotional and intellectual facilities. Not only are we to be characterized by joy, we also are to be under the control of God’s supernatural peace.

Barnes on the peace of God – The peace which God gives. The peace here particularly referred to is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee;” Isa 26:3; see the notes at Joh 14:27.

Wiersbe – The peace of God” is one test of whether or not we are in the will of God. “Let the peace that Christ can give keep on acting as umpire in your hearts” (Col 3:15note, wms). If we are walking with the Lord (Ed: yielding to the Spirit), then the peace of God and the God of peace exercise their influence over our hearts. Whenever we disobey, we lose that peace and we know we have done something wrong. God’s peace is the “umpire” that calls us “out”! – Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series)

The peace of God – That harmonizing of all passions and appetites which is produced by the Holy Spirit, and arises from a sense of pardon and the favor of God. (Adam Clarke)

Fierce passions discompose the mind,
As tempests vex the sea;
But calm content and peace we find,
When, Lord, we turn to Thee
.
– William Cowper

Eadie eloquently explains the experiential “peace of God” writing that…

The Greek Fathers, followed by Erasmus, Estius, Crocius, and Matthies, understand the phrase of reconciliation:— “Peace,” said Chrysostom, “that is, the reconciliation, the love of God”. No doubt this peace is the result of reconciliation or peace before God . But this peace flowing from pardon and acceptance was already possessed by them—they had been reconciled; and what the apostle refers to is a state of mind which has this reconciliation for its basis. The former peace has a special relation to God (Ed note: “peace with God”), the controversy between Him and the soul being terminated—the latter (Ed note: “peace of God”) is more personal and absolute. This peace is but another name for happiness, for it is beyond the reach of disturbance. Come what will, it cannot injure—come when it likes, it is welcome—and come as it may, it is blessing in disguise (Ed note: equates with supernatural “fruit” borne by the indwelling Spirit). It (Ed note: “It” refers to whatever circumstance or person might disturb one’s peace) can neither dissolve union to Christ, nor cloud the sense of God’s forgiving love, nor exclude the prospect of heavenly glory. It is not indigenous: it is the “peace of God.” Man may train himself to apathy, or nerve himself into hardihood—the one an effort to sink below nature, and the other to rise above it. But this divine gift (“fruit”)—the image of God’s own tranquility—is produced by close relationship to Himself, is the realization of that legacy which the Elder Brother (Jesus) has bequeathed.

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, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

To know that it is well with me now, and that it shall be so forever—to feel that God is my Guide and Protector, while His Son pleads for me and His Spirit dwells within me as His shrine—to feel that I am moving onward along a path divinely prescribed and guarded, to join the eternal banquet in the company of all I love and all I live for—the emotion produced by such strong conviction is peace, ay, the “peace of God.”

The secret of peace – He who climbs above the cares of the world and turns his face to his God, has found the sunny side of life. The world’s side of the hill is chill and freezing to a spiritual mind, but the Lord’s presence gives a warmth of joy which turns winter into summer. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

John Philips –  What can disturb God’s peace? Could some happening in a remote part of the galaxy disturb His peace? Of course not. He is omnipresent, always on the spot. Nothing can take place behind His back. He is right there, no matter where, all the time. Could some diabolical thought of Satan disturb God’s peace? Could some mystery, some obscure idea, some crafty twist of error, or some plot hatched in the demented soul of Lucifer to thwart God’s beneficent purposes and bring new forms of suffering into the universe disturb God’s peace? Of course not. God is omniscient. He knows all the wiles of the evil one and in His infallible wisdom has anticipated and annulled every one of them. Satan’s deep counsels are just so much gibberish to God, however clever and sophisticated they may seem to us. Can all the might of the gates of Hell (Matthew 16:18) disturb God’s peace? Of course not. He is omnipotent.

He can command galaxies and create atoms. He can toss stars into space and hold satellites whirling at inconceivable velocities on their orbits. There is no physical, moral, or spiritual power that He does not rule with consummate skill and tireless ease—not in Heaven or earth or Hell, not now or ever. Nothing can ruffle the peace of God. It is a calm beyond all storms, a rest beyond all strife, a haven beyond all tempestuous seas. The peace of God is majestic and sublime.

Did Soviet atheism and militarism disturb God’s peace? Was He intimidated by the size of the Russian army, by the success of Soviet propaganda, or by the worldwide presence of the KGB? Of course not. Long ago He wrote Russia’s doom into His Book. In Paul’s day, was God upset by Nero? When that evil man burned Rome, blamed the Christians, and began a persecution rarely surpassed in history, did he take God by surprise? Did God hastily cut short the day of grace and summon Michael to usher in Armageddon then and there?

No. His peace was undisturbed. All was foreknown. We do not know why God held back His hand then or why He holds it back now, but “we’ll understand it better by and by.” The unfathomable peace of the God who controls the universe and pursues a faultless purpose, is the peace that Paul commended to his Philippian friends. Their arguing should vanish in the infinite calm of God’s peace. (Exploring Philippians: An Expository Commentary)

Rod Mattoon – Peace possessed by one who has health, wealth, friends, and loved ones is understandable, but the peace of God in the midst of trials and tribulation is different. The peace of God that passeth understanding is peace so precious, that man’s mind, with his skill and knowledge, can never produce it. It can never be of man’s contriving. It is only of God’s giving. This world demands a price for peace but it cannot deliver the goods after the price has been paid. The price for the peace of God has been paid for us, for the Lord Jesus Christ made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). (Mattoon’s Treasures – Treasures from Philippians)

Pulpit Commentary – God’s Peace

I. What it is. God’s own peace; that which he himself possesses. It is the peace which our Lord had and which he promised to his disciples: “My peace I give unto you.” It is, therefore, no mere superficial freedom from external troubles, but a deep-seated harmony with God the Source of all peace. Thus it transcends human understanding and human expression.

II. What prevents our possessing it? Over-anxiety and worry. These are a kind of practical atheism, since they prevent us from leaving all things to Him Who is supreme over all circumstances.

III. How to obtain it. By prayer, which rests upon Him for all things; by supplication, which brings our own special causes for anxiety into His presence; by thanksgiving, which recognizes that His will must be full of blessing. By thus turning our cares into prayers we throw them upon him who gives us in return His peace.

IV. What it does for us. It keeps our hearts and minds, preserving them from undue anxiety, and making them realize the strength of the peace which Christ bestows. How do these words come home with sublime force at the end of our Communion Service! Having received him who is our Peace (Eph 2:14), we have entered into and taken possession of the peace of God which passeth all understanding.—V. W. H.

The peace of God is a sense of holy repose and complacency which floods the soul of the believer when he is leaning hard upon God. Frances Ridley Havergal conveyed this truth beautifully in the words of the hymn Like a River Glorious

Like a River Glorious
Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blessed;
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

Source: Precept >Austin.org

“Serving Each Other Through Forgiveness” from Tim Keller

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SERVING EACH OTHER THROUGH FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION by TIM KELLER

On both a theological and a practical level, forgiveness is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. True forgiveness comes at a cost and is pursued intentionally within a community of believers. The new human community that the Bible requires cuts across all cultures and temperaments. Put another way, it doesn’t fit any culture but challenges them all at some point.

Christians from more individualistic cultures love the Bible’s emphasis on affirming one another and sharing hurts and problems—but hate the idea of accountability and discipline. Christians from more traditional communal cultures love the emphasis on accountability for morals and beliefs but often chafe at the emphasis on racial reconciliation and being open about one’s personal hurts and financial needs.

But one could argue that the biblical teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation is so radical that there are no cultures or societies that are in accord with it. It may be here most of all that we see the truth of Bonhoeffer’s statement, “Our community with one another [in Christ] consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a human reality. In this, it differs from all other communities.”1

In its most basic and simple form, this teaching is that Christians in community are to never give up on one another, never give up on a relationship, and never write off another believer. We must never tire of forgiving (and repenting!) and seeking to repair our relationships. Matthew 5:23–26 tells us we should go to someone if we know they have something against us. Matthew 18:15–20 says we should approach someone if we have something against them. In short, if any relationship has cooled off or has weakened in any way, it is always your move. It doesn’t matter “who started it:” God always holds you responsible to reach out to repair a tattered relationship. A Christian is responsible to begin the process of reconciliation, regardless of how the distance or the alienation began.

WHAT FORGIVENESS IS

When speaking of forgiveness, Jesus uses the image of debts to describe the nature of sins (Matt. 6:12; 18:21–35). When someone seriously wrongs you, there is an absolutely unavoidable sense that the wrongdoer owes you. The wrong has incurred an obligation, a liability, a debt. Anyone who has been wronged feels a compulsion to make the other person pay down that debt. We do that by hurting them, yelling at them, making them
feel bad in some way, or just waiting and watching and hoping that something bad happens to them. Only after we see them suffer in some commensurate way do we sense that the debt has been paid and the sense of obligation is gone.

This sense of debt/liability and obligation is impossible to escape. Anyone who denies it exists has simply not been wronged or sinned against in any serious way.

What then is forgiveness? Forgiveness means giving up the right to seek repayment from the one who harmed you. But it must be recognized that forgiveness is a form of voluntary suffering.

What does that mean? Think about how monetary debts work. If a friend breaks my lamp, and if the lamp costs fifty dollars to replace, then the act of lamp-breaking incurs a debt of fifty dollars. If I let him pay for and replace the lamp, I get my lamp back and he’s out fifty dollars. But if I forgive him for what he did, the debt does not somehow vanish into thin air. When I forgive him, I absorb the cost and payment for the lamp: either I will pay the fifty dollars to replace it or I will lose the lighting in that room.

To forgive is to cancel a debt by paying it or absorbing it yourself. Someone always pays every debt.

This is the case in all situations of wrongdoing, even when no money is involved. When you are sinned against, you lose something—perhaps happiness, reputation, peace of mind, a relationship, or an opportunity. There are two things to do about a sin. Imagine for example that someone has hurt your reputation. You can try to restore it by paying the other person back, voicing public criticisms and ruining his or her reputation. Or you can forgive the one who wronged you, refuse payback, and absorb the damage to your reputation. (You will have to restore it over time.)

In all cases when wrong is done there is a debt, and there is no way to deal with it without suffering: either you make the perpetrator suffer for it or you forgive and suffer for it yourself. Forgiveness is always extremely costly. It is emotionally very expensive—it takes much blood, sweat, and tears. When you forgive, you pay the debt yourself in several ways.

  1. First, you refuse to hurt the person directly; you refuse vengeance, payback, or the infliction of pain. Instead, you are as cordial as possible. When forgiving you must beware of subtle ways to try to exact payment while
    assuring yourself that you aren’t. Here are specific things to avoid:
  • making cutting remarks and dragging out past injuries repeatedly
  • being far more demanding and controlling with the person than you are with others, all because you feel
    deep down that they still owe you
  • punishing them with self-righteous “mercy” that is really a way to make them feel small and to justify yourself
  • avoiding them or being cold toward them
  1. Second, you refuse to employ innuendo or “spin” or hint or gossip or direct slander to diminish those who have hurt you in the eyes of others. You don’t run them down under the guise of warning people about them or under the guise of seeking sympathy and support and sharing your hurt.
  2. Third, when forgiving you refuse to indulge in ill-will in your heart. That is, don’t continually replay the tapes of the wrong in your imagination, in order to keep the sense of loss and hurt fresh so you can stay actively hostile toward the person and feel virtuous by contrast. Don’t vilify or demonize the offender in your imagination. Rather, recognize the common sinful humanity you share with him or her. Don’t root for them to fail,
    don’t hope for their pain. Instead, pray positively for their growth.

Forgiveness, then, is granted before it is felt. It is a promise to refrain from the three things above and pray for the perpetrator as you remind yourself of God’s grace to you. Though it is extremely difficult and painful (you are bearing the cost of the sin yourself!), forgiveness will deepen your character, free you to talk to and help the person, and lead to love and peace rather than bitterness. Further, by bearing the cost of the sin, you are walking in the path of your Master (Matt. 18:21–35; Col. 3:13).

It is typical for non-Christians today to say that the cross of Christ makes no sense. “Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t God just forgive us?” Actually, no one who has been deeply wronged “just forgives”! If someone wrongs you, there are only two options: (1) you make them suffer, or (2) you refuse revenge and forgive them and then you suffer.

And if we can’t forgive without suffering, how much more must God suffer in order to forgive us? If we unavoidably sense the obligation and debt and injustice of sin in our soul, how much more does God know it? On the cross we see God forgiving us, and that was possible only if God suffered. On the cross God’s love satisfied his own justice by suffering, bearing the penalty for sin. There is never forgiveness without suffering, nails, thorns, sweat, blood. Never.

WHAT WE NEED TO FORGIVE

The experience of the gospel gives us the two prerequisites for a life of forgiveness: emotional humility and emotional wealth. You can remain bitter toward someone only if you feel superior if you are sure that you “would never do anything like that!” To remain unforgiving means you are unaware of your own sinfulness and need for forgiveness. When Paul says he is the worst among sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), he is not exaggerating. He is saying that he is as capable of sin as the worst criminals are. The gospel has equipped him with emotional humility.

At the same time, you can’t be gracious to someone if you are too needy and insecure. If you know God’s love and forgiveness, then there is a limit to how deeply another person can hurt you. He or she can’t touch your real identity, wealth, and significance. The more you rejoice in your own forgiveness, the quicker you will be to forgive others. You are rooted in emotional wealth.

Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion—without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself . . . and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness. 

Jesus says, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:15). This does not mean we can earn God’s forgiveness through our own forgiving but that we can disqualify ourselves from it. No heart that is truly repentant toward God could be unforgiving toward others. A lack of forgiveness
toward others is the direct result of a lack of repentance toward God. And as we know, you must repent in order to be saved (Acts 2:38).

GOD’S FORGIVENESS AND OURS

When God reveals his glory to Moses, he says he forgives wickedness yet “does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exod. 34:6–7). Not until the coming of Jesus do we see how God can be both completely just and forgiving through his atonement (1 John 1:7–9). In the cross, God satisfies both justice and love.

God was so just and desirous to judge sin that Jesus had to die, but he was so loving and desirous of our salvation that Jesus was glad to die.

We too are commanded to forgive (“bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another,” Col 3:13–14) on the basis of Jesus’ atonement for our sins (“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . If you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins,”
Matt. 6:14–15; cf. Luke 6:37).

But we are also required to forgive in a way that honors justice, just as God’s forgiveness does. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). “Christians are called to abandon bitterness, to be forbearing, to have a forgiving stance even where the repentance of the offending party is conspicuous by its absence; on the other hand, their God-centered passion for justice, their concern for God’s glory, ensure that the awful odium of sin is not glossed over.”

PURSUING TRUTH, LOVE, AND RELATIONSHIP

The gospel calls us, then, to keep an equal concern (a) to speak the truth and honor what is right, yet (b) to be endlessly forgiving as we do so and (c) to never give up on the goal of a reconciled, warm relationship.

First, God requires forgiveness whether or not the offender has repented and has asked for forgiveness. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25). This does not say “forgive him if he repents” but rather “forgive him right there—as you are praying.”

Second, God requires speaking the truth. That is why Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 17:3 to “rebuke” the wrongdoer and “if he repents, forgive him.” Is Jesus saying that we can hold a grudge if the person doesn’t repent? No, we must not read Luke 17 to contradict Mark 11. Jesus is calling us here both to practice inner forgiveness and to rebuke and correct.

We must completely surrender the right to pay back or get even, yet at
the same time, we must never overlook injustice and must require serious wrongdoings to be redressed. This is almost the very opposite of how we ordinarily operate. Ordinarily, we do not seek justice on the outside (we don’t confront or call people to change and make restitution), but we stay hateful and bitter on the inside. The Bible calls us to turn this completely around. We are to deeply forgive on the inside so as to have no desire for vengeance, but then we are to speak openly about what has happened with a desire to help the person see what was done wrong.

In reality, inner forgiveness and outward correction work well together. Only if you have forgiven inside can you correct unabusively—without trying to make the person feel terrible. Only if you have forgiven already can your motive be to correct the person for God’s sake, for justice’s sake, for the community’s sake, and for the person’s sake. And only if you forgive on the inside will your words have any hope of changing the perpetrator’s heart. Otherwise, your speech will be so filled with disdain and hostility that he or she will not listen to you. Ultimately, to forgive on the inside and to rebuke/correct on the outside are not incompatible, because they are both acts of love. It is never loving to let a person just get away with sin. It is not loving to the perpetrator, who continues in the grip of the habit, nor to those who will be wronged in the future, nor to God, who is grieved.

This is difficult, for the line is very thin between a moral outrage for God’s sake and a self-righteous outrage because of hurt pride. Still, to refuse to confront is not loving but just selfish.

Third, as we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), we are to pursue justice gently and humbly, in order to redress wrongs and yet maintain or restore the relationship (Gal. 6:1–5). There is a great deal of tension between these three things!

Almost always one is much more easily attained if you simply drop any concern for the other two. For example, it is easy to “speak the truth” if you’ve given up on any desire to maintain a warm relationship. But if you want both, you will have to be extremely careful with how you speak the truth!

Another example: it is possible to convince yourself that you have forgiven someone, but if afterward you still want nothing to do with them (you don’t pursue an ongoing relationship), then that is a sign that you spoke the truth without truly forgiving.
Of course, it is possible that you do keep these three things together in your heart and mind but the other person simply cannot.

There is no culture or personality type that holds these together. People tend to believe that if you are confronting me you don’t forgive or love me, or if you really loved me you wouldn’t be rebuking me. God recognizes that many people simply won’t let you pursue all these things together, and so tells us, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). That is, do your part and have as good and peaceful a relationship with people as they will let you have.

Copyright © 2005 by Timothy Keller, © 2009 by Redeemer City to City. This article first appeared in The Gospel and Life conferences
of 2004 and 2005.