14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
“Roll Freddy Roll” is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Tim Conway stars in this story about a father who tries to impress his son by getting into the Guinness World Book of Records. “Freddy” is played by Tim Conway. Through a sequence of events, he ends up striving to set a record for the longest time on roller skates. This means, of course, that everything Freddy does he does on skates.
Here is where the fun begins. Freddy tries to drive his Volkswagen beetle with skates. His foot becomes entangled with the accelerator pedal, and as a result he exceeds the speed limit. The police officer who happens to cross Freddy’s path at this moment is having his first day on duty. Getting Freddy to pull over is traumatic enough, but then the officer attempts to get him out of the car, insisting that he “assume the position” to be frisked. Freddy cannot lean against the car with his skates, and falls down, taking the police officer with him. A little later, Freddy attends the funeral of a friend, where he must serve as one of the pall bearers. Naturally, there are a number of steps which he must negotiate on the way from the church to the hearse. He looses his footing, clinging desperately to the casket, and causing considerable commotion.
It is not until Freddy is restricted to roller skates that he begins to appreciate the blessings of being sure-footed. One can imagine what it would be like trying to wage war on skates. In his description of the “well dressed soldier” Paul describes the ideal footing for fighting the spiritual war. The footwear which best suits the soldier of Christ is the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” It is this footwear which is the subject of verse 15 and of this lesson.
The New International Version renders our text this way: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the gospel of peace as a firm footing” (Ephesians 6:14-15). Let us listen well to these words, for they speak of a part of the full armor which assures us of victory, and without which we cannot stand in the face of Satan’s schemes.
Paul does not define peace here, which indicates to us that he expects us to understand what he means from other Scriptures. Our approach will be to trace the theme of “peace” from Genesis to Revelation, and then to focus on “peace” as Paul understands it, based upon his epistles, including the earlier chapters of Ephesians. We will then seek to apply this definition of peace to our spiritual warfare, as found in our text.
In the Old Testament Book of Genesis we read of Joseph’s brothers, who had betrayed their brother by selling him into slavery. Eventually, a famine forced them to go to Egypt to buy grain. They found themselves at Joseph’s house, not knowing that he was their brother, whom they had betrayed. Nevertheless, they were frightened, because they believed that this man’s hospitality was but a pretext, and that he would surely bring harm upon them (see 43:18). But when Joseph’s steward saw them and took note of their fear, he said to them, “Be at ease [literally, Peace be to you], do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money” (Genesis 43:23). Comfort comes only from the one true God, the God of Israel. And so this Egyptian steward (likely as instructed by Joseph) spoke to them about their God, informing them that their God had given them the blessing of the money they found in their sacks. They should therefore be thankful and at peace, rather than troubled and fearful.
Whenever the Israelites went to war, they were to do so without fear or panic, with a deep peace that was rooted in the fact that God was with them, and that He would give them the victory:
“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. Now it shall come about that when you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to save you’” (Deuteronomy 20:1-4).156
When God commissioned Gideon to lead the army of Israel against their Midianite foes, He knew that Gideon still lacked courage and confidence. And so He provided Gideon with an experience which gave him the peace he needed to wage war:
Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. “But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp. “So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” And his friend answered and said, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.” And it came about when Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, that he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands” (Judges 7:9-15).157
The peace which God promised the people of Israel was conditional. That is, they were promised peace only when they trusted in God and obeyed His word (in particular, the Law). If they failed to trust in Him and forsook His Law, God assured the Israelites that they would no longer have peace, but fear, doubt and dread:
“And it shall come about that as the Lord delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the Lord will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you shall be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. And among those nations you shall find no rest, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see” (Deuteronomy 28:63-67).
This theme, expressed by Moses in Deuteronomy 28-32, was taken up by the prophets who followed. They assured Israel that there was no peace for those who disobeyed God, but rather divine judgment:
“There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord (Isaiah 48:22; also 57:21).
“On all the bare heights in the wilderness Destroyers have come, For a sword of the Lord is devouring From one end of the land even to the other; There is no peace for anyone (Jeremiah 12:12; see verses 7-13).
“For thus says the Lord, ‘I have heard a sound of terror, Of dread, and there is no peace’” (Jeremiah 30:5).
At the same time, the prophets also warned that false prophets would deny that the nation was under divine judgment, and would assure the people of God’s blessings by speaking false words of peace:
“And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).158
Peace is first evident in the Book of Genesis, where it is also quickly lost. God created not only the world, but all of the plant and animal life as well. He also created man, and a garden in which he was to live in fellowship with Him. How peaceful it must have been in those days, before the fall. In the evening God would walk about the garden with Adam and Eve, in intimate fellowship with them. But after the fall, all of this changed. The peace was lost. Adam and Eve now tried to hide from God, rather than to walk with Him in the garden (3:8). They were ashamed of the nakedness with which they were created and tried to hide it (3:7). The whole creation was thrown into chaos (see Romans 8:18-23). Peace was forfeited because Adam and Eve did not trust fully in God and obey His one command.
In Genesis chapter 3, where the fall of man is depicted, God not only spelled out the consequences of sin, He also spoke of the ultimate cure, a cure which would once again bring peace. Just as a man had sinned, a man would be the Savior from sin:
“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Significantly, these words of hope for men were also words of doom for Satan. It is to Satan that these words were spoken. His dominion would be broken by the One who would be born of the woman. The Messiah was to be the one who would reverse the fall, and to bring salvation to many. He would restore this fallen creation and replace discord and chaos with peace.
It is not long in Genesis before we are given further clues concerning the Messiah who is to come. The Abrahamic Covenant, first given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 and reiterated to him and his offspring throughout this book, speaks of the blessing which is to come to all the world through his “seed,” the Messiah (see Galatians 3:15-16). In Genesis chapter 14, we are briefly introduced to a mysterious king named Melchizedek, who is a prototype of the Messiah to come, a fact pointed out by the writer to the Hebrews:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, “Blessed by Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tenth of all (Genesis 14:18-20).
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually (Hebrews 7:1-3).
As the promise of the coming of Messiah continued to unfold in the Old Testament, it become increasingly clear to the Old Testament saint that eternal “peace” would come only through Messiah. Just how this “peace” was to be achieved was a mystery, not because there was no revelation concerning this matter, but because there appeared to be a contradiction among the prophecies of His coming.
On the one hand, Messiah was to come as the triumphal king, who would sit on the throne of His father, David, and who would overthrow all his enemies and establish the promised kingdom:
For Thou halt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:4-6).
On the other hand, the Messiah was to bring “peace” by suffering for the sins of men:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening of our well-being [literally, peace] fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us had turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him (Isaiah 53:4-6).
And so the Old Testament closes with the prophets scratching their heads as to how God would bring about peace through both the suffering and the glory of Messiah:
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow (1 Peter 1:10-11).
Only the fulfillment of these prophecies would solve this mystery.
When the Lord Jesus came to the earth as the perfect God-man, He was identified as the One who would bring peace. Zacharias spoke of the peace that was to come with the appearance of the Christ, whom his son John was to precede and introduce:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79).
At His birth, the angels praised God for the peace He was bringing to the earth:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 1:14).
When the aged Simeon looked upon the infant, Jesus, he spoke of the peace he had, a peace which enabled him to joyfully face his own death:
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart In peace, according to Thy word; For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:25-32).
In His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke words of peace. The woman who had “stolen” a miracle by touching the hem of His garment came to Him in fear and trembling. He knew what she had done. What would He do?
And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:32-34).
Shortly before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus spoke words of peace to His disciples:
“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. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you. If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it comes to pass, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here (John 14:27-31).
“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33).
After His death, our Lord’s disciples hid out in an upper room, fearful of what the Jewish religious leaders might do to them. When Jesus appeared to these troubled men, He spoke words of peace:
When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained” (John 20:19-23).159
After Pentecost had come, the disciples began to preach the gospel, which Luke refers to as “preaching peace through Jesus”:
And opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him (Acts 10:34-38).
In his epistles, Peter would continue to speak of peace as a worthy pursuit:
For, “Let him who means to love life and see good days Refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. “And let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ (1 Peter 5:14).
In his last epistle, Peter urged his readers to be found by the Lord Jesus “in peace,” and not lured away by false teaching which would cause them to fall from their steadfastness:
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:14-18).160
The Apostle Paul was a man who had come to understand and to experience the peace of God. His epistles often begin, and sometimes end, with a reference to peace:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3).
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:23).
Paul contrasts those who do good and those who do evil, speaking of peace as the outcome of righteousness, and tribulation and distress and the consequence of sin:
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 2:4-10).
He speaks of peace as an outgrowth of salvation by faith in Christ:
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).
He also speaks of peace as the fruit of the Spirit:
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).161
To Paul, peace is not incidental, but fundamental. It is to be a priority for the Christian. The pursuit of peace necessitates avoiding all unnecessary causes for stumbling, dissention and strife. It even governs the way in which men participate in the meeting of the church:
Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:16-19).
Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15).
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:15).
Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
While the Christian may experience persecution, adversity, and suffering in this life, he or she should always experience the peace of God in such circumstances. Paul therefore condemns anxiety and commends peace:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:6-9).
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Paul also speaks of the false sense of peace and security in which unbelievers will mistakenly take comfort, when the day of their doom and destruction is at hand:
While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
Paul commences and concludes Ephesians with a reference to peace:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2).
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:23).
Everywhere you turn in this epistle you find teaching or exhortation which is closely related to peace. There is not a chapter in the book which does not have a great deal to do with peace, whether it is identified specifically or not.
In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul begins with a salutation of peace (1:2). He then calls attention to the eternal plan and purpose of God, which is to sum up all things in Christ (1:10). As a part of this plan, God has chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him (1:4). Our destiny was determined in eternity past, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (1:13), and our eternal future rests in the plan of God and the person of Christ.
Our salvation is as certain and sure as the power of God to accomplish His purposes. Paul’s prayer in verses 15-23 focuses on our grasp of those realities which make our hope for the future sure. He prays that we might be divinely enlightened so that we are able to grasp the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the magnitude of His power, the power which enables God to accomplish that which He purposed to do in eternity past. This power is evident in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in His consequent exaltation over all other earthly or heavenly powers. The angelic host, along with Satan and his allies, have been subjected to Christ’s authority. Now here is cause for peace.
Chapter 2 is just as full of assurance concerning our peace. In this chapter Paul speaks of two different kinds of peace which are brought about by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The first is “peace with God;” the second is “peace with men.”
Early in Ephesians chapter 2 Paul tells us that through the cross of Christ we are now at peace with God. As unbelievers, we were unwittingly the servants of Satan. We were formerly “dead in our trespasses and sins,” walking not only in the “course of this world,” but also “according to the prince of the power of the air” (2:1-2). We once lived, not by the promptings of the Holy Spirit (5:18), but by the impulses of our own flesh, doing its desires (2:3).
At this time, we were “separate from Christ” (2:12), but even more so we were enemies of Christ. We had no part of God’s blessings and no hope of them in sight:
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:13).
All of this alienation changed because of the work of Jesus Christ on Calvary:
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 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. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:13-22, emphasis mine).
Christ is the means by which we have obtained peace. That peace is both peace with God and the peace of God. Christ’s saving work on our behalf removed the barrier between us and God, which was the result of our sins. We have not only been brought “near” to Him, we have become a part of Him. As believers in Christ we are now a part of His body.
The peace which our Lord has won goes even beyond this. Before we were saved, we were the enemies of the Jews. We had no part of the covenant God made with them, and no hope of receiving His blessings. We had no fellowship with the Jews, and our relationship was clearly adversarial. Before we were saved, we were not only the enemies of God, we were enemies of the Jews. The alienation and separation was not just one-sided. The Jews felt as hostile toward us and we did toward them. There was a dividing “wall” in the temple which separated Jews and Gentiles. This wall symbolized the alienation and hostility which once existed between we who are Gentiles and those who are Jews.
Christ’s work on Calvary changed all this. He broke down the dividing wall which separated Jews and Gentiles. When He became our peace, He made both groups into one. No longer is the “Jew” and “Gentile” distinction valid between those who have come to believe in the gospel. Now, all who believe in Christ are one in Him. He reconciled us to Himself in “one new man.” We are joined together into one body, the church, which is His dwelling place among men.
In chapter 3, Paul focuses on another source of distress, which could give Satan a foothold in disturbing their peace. Paul was writing from prison. He was unjustly suffering for his faith. His incarceration could be the cause of much consternation among the saints. Chapter 3 is written to dispel any fear that the saints might have over his plight, and to show that his suffering is a privilege, and a part of God’s master plan to reveal the mystery of His will, and to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul looks at his ministry, including his imprisonment, as a privilege, which God has graciously granted him:
8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (Ephesians 3:8-13).
In verses 14-21 of chapter 3 Paul gives further reason for confidence and courage. He bows his knees before the Father in prayer, the One through whom “every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (verse 15). From the Garden of Eden onward, the one who gives a name to another is the one who has authority over the thing that is named. Thus we find God not only giving names to His creatures, but also changing the names of men, indicating the fact that he will change their destiny (see Genesis 17:4-7, 15-16; 35:9-12).
If God the Father is the One who gives every family in heaven as well as on the earth its name, then He is in authority over all heavenly beings, including the angelic hosts (so also Ephesians 1:20-22; Colossians 1:16-18). He is all-powerful, in control of every part of His creation, and thus we may experience and enjoy the peace of knowing that His plans and purposes will be achieved, even though we may, like Christ, suffer in the process. Such suffering is worth it, in light of the glory and the joy which our trials lead the way.
In chapter 4, we have yet another evidence of God’s victory over Satan and his fallen allies. The unity of the body of Christ is complimented by the diversity of spiritual gifts He has bestowed upon it. These spiritual gifts are not only the means of our growth and maturity, they are also the evidence of Christ’s victory over Satan in verses 8-10:
8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
The remainder of Ephesians—from 4:17 to 6:9—has to do with keeping the peace, especially the peace which God has accomplished between those who have a like precious faith in Jesus Christ. In general terms, one preserves the peace by forsaking the ways of thinking and acting which characterized us as unbelievers (3:17-32). We keep the peace also by walking in love (5:1-7), in light (5:8-14), in wisdom (5:15-20), in the Spirit (5:18), and in submission (5:21–6:9).
From all the references to peace in the Bible, we are able to derive a composite picture of what it looks like. We can define peace in terms of what it is not. Peace is contrasted with fear, faint-heartedness, panic, trembling, despair, doubt, dread, anxiety, and restlessness. It is an inner calm and tranquility, a clear-headed confidence. In relationships, it is the absence of hostility and enmity, and the presence of genuine unity and harmony, whether this is with our fellow-men or with God.
In the end, peace comes only from God. There are false forms of “peace,” which may produce some of the effects of genuine peace for a time, but they are ill-founded and temporary. God is the sole source of peace because He alone has remedied and reversed the fall of man in the Garden of Eden through the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. In Christ, He has removed the barrier between God and sinful men and brought about harmony among those who believe, whatever their race, sex, or status.
At first glance, the subject of peace seems incongruous with that of the spiritual warfare. How can one be “at peace” when one is at war? I believe that the Bible teaches that one cannot wage war without peace. This is why peace is a part of our spiritual armor.
Peace is not the absence of external trials and tribulations. Peace is an internal tranquility which is most evident and necessary when we are facing outward troubles. When Israel went to war, certain people were excluded from the battle:
“The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. And who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use its fruit? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man begin to use its fruit. And who is the man that is engaged to a woman and has not married her? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.’ Then the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart’” (Deuteronomy 20:5-8).
I believe that all of those exempted from going to war are those who do not have the kind of peace that war requires of a soldier. The man with the new house is thinking of his house, and not of war. The one who is engaged to a woman cannot get her out of his mind, and so he is distracted, which is deadly in war. The man who is fearful is also distracted. A man must be at peace if he is to wage war.
One of Satan’s many schemes is to rob the saint of peace, by promoting doubts and fears within and discord without. He sets out to frighten us so that we panic and do that which is foolish and destructive:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you (1 Peter 5:6-10).
I do not think it a coincidence that Peter speaks of Satan as a “roaring lion” immediately after instructing us to cast all our anxiety on the Lord. Satan looks for troubled souls, and then sets out to frighten them, so that they may fall into his hands when they panic. We can resist Satan by pursuing and preserving the peace which comes from God, a peace which is rooted in the knowledge that Satan is a defeated foe, that God’s purposes and promises are sure, and that we are safe when we trust in Him.
There is considerable discussion over the meaning of the term “preparation” in this verse. Generally, there are two main ways in which it can be understood and applied. On the one hand, it may speak of “readiness” to proclaim the gospel. In this sense, peace is like the starting blocks from which a runner gets his first initial thrust. We should, of course, be ready and willing to proclaim the gospel to lost men (see 1 Peter 3:15). Paul may be referring to a readiness to proclaim the gospel in this verse.
His principle thrust, however, seems to be more in line with the second meaning of the term which is rendered “preparation,” and this is the concept of “steadiness.” A soldier must not lose his footing, or he will surely be defeated in war. The gospel of Jesus Christ produces peace, and this peace gives the Christian warrior a steadiness, a stability which enables him to stand in battle. As strange as it must seem at first hearing, the peace with God gives the Christian is a part of the armor which enables him to stand firm in the spiritual war against Satan and his host.
My Christian friend, I do not sense that believers today experience peace to the full, and thus we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. There is great anxiety in the church. Parents are anxious about their children. Families are anxious about their finances. Churches are anxious about their programs or countless other difficulties. We are anxious about crime, and the economy, and the way our nation and the world seem to be headed. Such anxiety is dishonoring to God, who is in control, and it is distracting to our worship and our warfare.
In our text and in many others, God indicates to us that while peace is something which God has accomplished in Christ, it is something which Christians must pursue. How, then, can we regain the peace which we have lost? How do we pursue peace?
We must begin by remembering that it is a provision of God for us, which was accomplished at the cross. We must persistently go back to the cross of our Lord and meditate upon the many consequences of Calvary. We must make peace a priority and a guiding principle which governs our conduct. We must focus on the character of God and of His sovereign plans and purposes. We must recognize that He gives peace in the midst of adversity and suffering. We obtain peace the same way we obtain all of God’s gracious gifts to us—receive them as gifts of grace by faith.
Paul’s text in Philippians 4:4-9 is most instructive in dealing with anxiety and in experiencing the peace of God. Let us take one final look at what Paul tells us here about peace.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:4-9).
First, peace comes by delighting in God. He is our salvation. He is our security. He is our victory. He is our joy. Peace is the result of rejoicing and resting in Him (verse 4). Second, peace is promoted by pursuing unity and harmony through graciously enduring the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters in Christ (verse 5; see also Ephesians 4:17-32). Peace comes through prayer, as we petition Him to meet our every need, and then trust Him to do so (verses 6-7). Peace comes when we refuse to allow our hearts and minds to entertain thoughts which fall short of truth and righteousness (verse 8). Peace comes when we put into practice the things which we know to be true, and which we have pondered in our hearts (verse 9).
If you have not yet come to trust in Jesus Christ, the Bible speaks to all who are troubled in heart and promises them peace in Christ. Our Lord Himself offered this invitation:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew 11:28-29).
How often He said to those who were weary, and burdened down with their sins, and with fears, “Go in peace.”
Peace comes from God, God alone. Peace comes through Jesus Christ, who made peace between men and God, and between men at enmity with one another. He gives inner peace, the enables us to stand, even in the midst of Satan’s schemes. May you find peace in Him, by trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and for His righteousness which enables us to have fellowship with God.
And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you (Romans 16:20).
The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:23).
I dare not conclude this message without a word of warning. Peace is not the basis for our confidence. Our confidence in God is the basis for biblical peace. I have often heard people justify their decisions, attitudes and actions with the defense: “I have peace about it.” As both the Old and New Testaments warn us, there is a false peace, which is deadly and destructive. The basis for our peace should be the character of God and the Word of God. Peace must be rooted in God, and thus in righteousness and truth. Inner feelings of peace are not proof that we are in the right, but being in the right is the basis for peace. Let us therefore seek peace as we trust and obey God.
157 Notice that while God gave Gideon “peace” about going to war with the Midianites, God gave the Midianites a fearful and trembling heart. God was to the Israelites a source of peace, and to the enemies of Israel as source of dread. Compare Exodus 15:13-18.