071 - Christ IS Our Peace [B]
Christ IS Our Peace
Ephesians Series #071
June 21, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we’re thankful for Your Word; we’re thankful for what You have revealed to us. As we look at this very important passage, begin to break it down and study it, there are so many things we’re going to learn and be reminded of. Father, help us to see not only what they mean, but their implications for the way we think and act, for there are things embedded in this passage that are profound and that stretch our understanding.
“But above all, it helps us to understand who we are in Christ, the importance of the church as the body of Christ, this unique thing You are doing and the privilege that we have as being a member of and part of the body of Christ, being in Christ—part of the many blessings that You have blessed us with. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Ephesians 2:14: we will do an overview of the next four verses, which are an explanation of the previous three verses, which sort of summarize the section that begins in Ephesians 2:11–22.
We have quite a few things to unpack and develop, and it all focuses on what Christ has done in this very first line in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace …”
I want to review the last three verses Ephesians 2:11–13, so we gain the context of “for,” which you ought to circle, box it in, color it or underline it. “For,” “therefore,” “since,” “in light of” and “as far as” are very important words, that help us to track the thinking, development and the logical flow, of what is being said in the text.
Ephesians 2:14, begins with “for,” which tells us that it’s explaining or developing something out of what was just said in Ephesians 2:11–13.
Ephesians 2:11–13, “Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now—very important statement—but now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Summarizing what we’ve learned:
1. Ephesians 2:11 reminds us of the former division which existed between Jew and Gentile:
- This is marked by the haughty arrogance of the religious Jews—specifically the Pharisees, but there were others that were conservative.
- The thinking among the Jews at the time was that circumcision was so important, that it was actually the basis for salvation.
- They were saved and nobody else was saved.
- Salvation for the Jews was totally dependent upon their heritage, their lineage from Abraham; if they were a descendant of Abraham, they were safe.
- They looked down on, with this attitude of superiority over all of the Gentiles, and it was one of the worst forms of prejudice.
- It was based on a spiritual arrogance, as well as a racial arrogance, which caused this great division
- Paul reminds the Gentiles that they were looked on this way by the Jews.
There’s a certain irony here; the Greeks gave us the word “barbarian.” The Greeks had this same sort of ethnic superiority over everyone else. Because foreign languages sounded to them as if somebody was just saying “Bar, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar,” they referred to all non-Greeks as barbarians.
The people in Ephesus had a primarily Greek background, although it’s not in Greece, but Turkey. The western part of Turkey or Asia Minor at that time had been inhabited by Greeks for several centuries. They looked down on everybody else, but they’re looked down upon by the Jews. Paul reminds them of this prejudice, this hostility, and this arrogance.
2. Since the call of Abram in Genesis 12:1–3, a new age had begun.
The Age of the Gentiles was from Adam to Abraham; and the Age of Israel was from Abraham to the Day of Pentecost.
Charting this, God began with the first Age of the Gentiles, which is subdivided into three dispensations and ended with the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Because the Gentiles had failed in their mission laid out in the covenant with Noah, God determined that from that point on He would just work through a specific people.
Not because they were inherently good, not because they were smarter than everybody else, not because they were brighter, because God continuously through Scripture reminds them that they’re the most stubborn, rebellious, idolatrous people. At times He’s just on the verge of just being fed up with them, but God chose them out of His grace to be the ones through whom He would provide the line of the Savior. Through them He would give the Law, would give the prophets, would give the writings of the Old Testament, and through them He would bless all of the nations.
There is a break with God’s plan for Israel at the cross, based on the Old Testament prophecies of Daniel. There is still seven years left in the Age of Israel, which won’t be fulfilled until the future Tribulation.
The break that occurs is the current Church Age: God does something unexpected; God does something that was not prophesied, and is totally different from anything else that He has done.
In the future will be the Messianic Age.
Those are the ages of God’s plan, not the dispensations, which are subdivisions.
3. Distinguishing Israel was a covenant—a contract, a special blessing—that God set forth in a contractual form where He promised certain things to Abraham. He committed Himself to the fulfillment of these promises unconditionally no matter what Abraham or his descendants would do.
It was an eternal, unilateral, permanent covenant, which means God alone committed Himself to the covenant. This is indicated in Genesis 15 with a sacrifice and the animals are split in two. Typically, in the ancient world, both parties would walk between the halves of the sacrifices.
God put Abraham to sleep. Then God, symbolized by a smudge pot, walks between the two halves, indicating that He alone is the one bound to this contract, no matter what Abraham does. So it’s an eternal, unilateral and permanent covenant. It will not be replaced, and this is described in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17.
We have studied the Abrahamic Covenant; it had three components: Land, seed, and blessing.
- The land meant that God not only distinguished the Jewish people as being the ones through whom He would give all of these blessings related to the coming of the Messiah, but that He would bless all the rest of the human race through the Jews.
Now He is going to give them land. Nobody else has a right to their land. The French don’t have any right to their land. The Italians have no right to Italy. The Germans have no right to Germany. We have no right to the United States.
The only piece of real estate that God has given to anybody is that piece of real estate in the Middle East of Israel that God promised to Abraham. That’s it; and it really makes other people mad. That’s the fountain of anti-Semitism because God chose to bless Israel and not the others in this way, so they rejected God’s plan and got mad at the Jews.
- The promise of the seed through the Davidic Covenant and the promise of future worldwide blessing that would come through the seed, and that eventually is worked out in history in the New Covenant when Christ returns and establishes His kingdom.
The Abrahamic Covenant distinguishes the Jews from the Gentiles.
4. We see the phrase “at that time” at the beginning of Ephesians 2:12. “At that time” refers to the time period of the Age of Israel. It is not related to “at that time” when you weren’t saved, because things changed on the Day of Pentecost. They didn’t change when those individual Ephesian Gentiles trusted in Christ as Savior.
During that age, five things characterized the Gentiles as a whole, as a class of people:
- Without Christ, they had no concept of a Messiah. There was no prophecy given to Gentiles of the future coming Messiah, unless they learned it from the Jews.
- They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; that is, the theocratic entity of Israel—the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were separated from that, from the Law and all of the blessings that accrued from that.
- They were strangers from the covenants of promise, which we just went through: the Abrahamic Covenant, the land covenant; the Davidic Covenant; and the New Covenant.
- They had no hope because they did not understand anything about the Messiah, anything about God’s plan. They had no future certainty. That’s the idea of hope, is a confident future and a certain future of blessing.
- They were without God in the world, unless they learned of God from the Jews.
5. This statement in Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus,” parallels Ephesians 2:4 where Paul says, “But God, who is rich in mercy …” It’s that kind of a contrast, but here it is “But now in Christ Jesus.”
Again, it emphasizes our new place, our new position in Christ. In the conclusion, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We studied that phrase last time because we need to understand that it is a figure of speech for the death of Christ. You can just do a simple word substitution if you want to get the literal meaning, “we have been brought near by the death of Christ.” It is the death of Christ on the cross that secures us our new position.
That death on the Cross is referred to in Ephesians 2:14 that He broke down the middle wall of separation; that was done by His death. It abolished, in His flesh—physically hanging on the cross—the enmity or the hostility of the Law that separated Jew and Gentile, so that He could make peace.
Ephesians 2:18, “For through Him—that is, through His death—we both have access … to the Father.”
That becomes foundational to what we’re looking at; it summarizes what we’ve seen. Those three verses serve as a setup, a summary, an introduction to Ephesians 2:14–22.
Which are some of the most significant verses in all of the New Testament related to the church, related to who we are in Christ, and related to the transaction of what was accomplished on the cross. This gives us two major explanations:
A. First of all, it explains the reconciliation between Jew and Gentile. There is enmity and hostility between Jew and Gentile. We will see contextually that this hostility is from the Law.
A reconciliation occurs: a peace, in that the two, “the both,” Ephesians 2:14 are made one.
We saw “both” in Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy …” Then Ephesians 2:5 “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together.” The ‘both” refers to “together.” “Together” is the Jew and Gentile.
Ephesians 2:6, “and raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenly places.”
That describes who the “both” are that are described in Ephesians 2:14, “who has made both one.”
B. Second thing is that not only have Jew and Gentile been reconciled, but there is a reconciliation of all humanity to God.
That’s where we tend to jump to, but what’s important is first Paul is saying—which makes it a little ambiguous in this section—there is peace between Jew and Gentile.
Then there’s peace between Jew and Gentile and God, so there are two barriers. The Law created a barrier between Jew and Gentile, but sin created a barrier between Jews and Gentiles—or all of the human race—and God. So, there are actually two barriers mentioned here.
Ephesians 2:14–16. This is all one sentence, so it’s important to think our way through this.
I’ve said many times, if you were to ask the Apostle Paul why you brush your teeth, he would start in Genesis 1 and explain that God is the Creator, God is the creator the human body. God created you with teeth, and because you are a steward representing God to the human race, you have to take care of that which God gave you, which is all of your body including your teeth.
He does this in many places. He always goes back to creation and goes through all the details, and often does it in one long sentence. Our English translations will often break those long sentences down into several easy-to-grasp sentences for those who can only read at the third-grade level in our culture today. We miss some of the nuances of what’s going on in the text.
This is all one sentence in the Greek:
Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,”
Ephesians 2:15, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
There is a lot said there, but I want to skim over the surface of these three verses, one sentence, and then the second sentence of the paragraph is Ephesians 2:17–18, just to give us an idea, sort of a birds-eye-view of what Paul is talking about here.
He begins by saying, first of all, that Christ is our peace, “For He Himself is our peace …” Christ is the peace. He has made the peace between Jew and Gentile. It is all about Christ. It is not God the Father; it is clearly Christ that is the focal point here. He did this because He brought us near by His death.
The second thing is what He did. Ephesians 2:14 describes what Christ did. First of all, He’s our peace; secondly, He made both one. “Both” is a term that refers to two.
That may seem rather elementary for some, but recently I was reading something, and it referred to three things as both. It is no longer obvious to English speakers or writers that both only refers to two. So, we have to go back and have some elementary education every now and then.
“Both” refers to two, and there are only two groups that Paul’s been talking about so far. One is the Jews, and the other is the Gentiles; He has now made them one. Not Gentile unbelievers or Jewish unbelievers. We’re talking about those who are in Christ,
“But now in Christ,” Ephesians 2:13, believing Jews, that is, those who’ve believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and believing Gentiles, Gentiles who have believed in the Jewish Messiah as the One who died for their sins and has provided forgiveness for them and reconciliation. He makes them both one in Christ.
In the Old Testament, they were not one; there were distinctions. A Gentile couldn’t go into the temple unless he was beginning one of several stages of being a proselyte. Unless you went all the way to circumcision, which a lot of them didn’t do, you would never truly become a Jew or be able to enter all the way into the temple.
Now there is unity, and this second thing that He has done is He has broken down the middle wall of separation. He’s our peace; that’s what He has done. In describing that a bit further, He is our peace because He made both one. Secondly, He broke down the middle wall of separation. There are two things there that Christ did in making peace.
What is the middle wall of separation? Contextually we will see it in Ephesians 2:15, which tells us HOW He made both one.
Ephesians 2:14 tells us what He DID to make both one.
Ephesians 2:15 tells us HOW He made both one.
It starts off with a participle of means. Some take it a different way, but I think it’s best explained as means. He is our peace by—how did He do it? “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, that is—so it’s going explain what that enmity consists of—that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” that is, the Mosaic Law, the Torah.
Then a couple of interesting phrases; this is one of Paul’s long sentences.
He does something, what does He do? “He abolishes in His flesh the enmity.” But He does it for a purpose. The New King James translates it “so as to,” which I find an awkward way of expressing purpose.
It should be translated more as the ESV translates it, “that He might create.”
He abolishes for a purpose. Actually, there are two purposes when you look at the structure in the Greek, and that’s why I put the ellipses in here, so you’d catch the flow of thought, “[by] abolishing the law of commandments: first, that He might create; second, that He might reconcile.”
There are two reasons to abolish the Law:
1. to create something new
2. to reconcile us, that is, Jew and Gentile both in Christ.
That first block of verses is taken from the ESV translation, and the second block comes from the NET translation. I disagree with how they understood the participle in Ephesians 2:15 because they translated it “WHEN He nullified.” I think most translations take it as means “by abolishing.”
“Nullified” is a good translation instead of “abolishing.” They both have the same sense, but they translated Ephesians 2:15, “when He nullified … He did this to create—so there in English they used an infinitive to express purpose—He did this to create” and in Ephesians 2:16, “to reconcile.”
The grammar tells us He abolished the Law to do two things: to create something new and to reconcile. That is so important because Jew and Gentile are brought together in Christ. This is the church! This is who we are as believers in Christ. This is what Jesus did for us.
This elevates us as Church Age believers in Christ to a totally new plane above all other believers in all of history. Paul talks about this at the beginning of Ephesians 1: we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. This is our legal position in Heaven; this is who we are
One of the implications of this is no believer ever has a right to look around the circumstances of life and ever have a pity party and say, “Poor me! I wish I didn’t have all these things happening to me,” because who you are and what you have is so superior to anything that we see in this life, we can’t even articulate it.
That gives us a great confidence because we are ambassadors to this world, and we have that mission. That needs to inform our identity and the way we think about ourselves. It doesn’t matter what other things are going on, they are just superfluous details in our lives. They don’t relate to the real mission, which is to be an ambassador to Christ, as we’ll see.
Christ comes to do two things: to abolish the Law to create a new man; to reconcile us in one body to God.
Those two purposes are as underlined here, Ephesians 2:15, “… so as to create—what’s the result of the creating?—making peace.”
1. The first purpose was to create this new body; the result is to create peace and harmony between Jew and Gentile. Frankly, that applies to all races.
Right now, we are seeing all this racial turmoil, and one of the difficulties I have in talking with some people is that they don’t understand. Some groups have one perspective, other groups have another perspective. But if you’re a believer, you have to have a third perspective. We are called to a higher plane. We have a different reality, and we have to live in light of that reality, and we cannot get caught up in this stuff that’s happening on this lower plane.
Yet there are a lot of Christians that have gotten caught up in this, and that’s just pure carnality. The focus is on the wrong thing. We have peace, and we need to live in light of that and not get caught up in this worldly turmoil that is energized by pagan thought.
If we don’t do that … and let me tell you, the church never does; the church hasn’t gotten this right in 2,000 years! But that’s the standard, that’s where we’re supposed to be. Unfortunately, too many believers in the Church Age have gotten their eyes completely on the details of life, and they don’t ever understand this.
Ephesians 2:15. First of all Christ creates “in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” If there is not peace between believers, then what you’re basically saying is this is wrong. God lied. The Scripture’s not true.
2. The second purpose, Ephesians 2:16, “that He might reconcile them both to God—that is, Jew and Gentile—to God. What’s the result of that?—putting to death—that is, ending—the enmity—that existed between the two.” This is vital. Reconciliation isn’t just man to God, but it is man to man, which is the application.
Ephesians 2:17–18, “And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
Ephesians 2:17 is translated in English as if there are two main verbs here: He came and He preached. But “came” is a translation of a participle, so it should be understood “when He came He preached,” or “when He came He proclaimed.” Nearly every English translation gets that wrong.
“He proclaimed peace to you who are afar off and to those who were near.”
That’s the third time that we’ve seen this allusion to “far off” and “near.” We will see the background in Isaiah.
Ephesians 2:18 ends by telling us that it’s “through Him—through Christ—we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
In the Old Testament in the dispensation of Israel, only the Jews had access to the Father through the temple. But now there’s a difference; we both have equal access to the Father.
That’s the background for understanding what Paul says in Galatians 3:25 and following related to the baptism by the Spirit, that there is no longer Jew or Greek.
There are still ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles, but in the body of Christ there aren’t those distinctions anymore. We both have equal access to the Father.
He goes on to say there is neither bond nor slave. He never did tell Onesimus, “Oh, you’re a Christian now, so that automatically frees you from slavery.” He’s pointing out that in the Old Testament in the dispensation of Israel, if you were a slave, you didn’t have access to God in the temple. Only a free person can have access to God in the temple.
Then it says there’s neither male nor female. This has been taken by liberal evangelical feminists to mean that there’s no distinction at all between men and women, and that their roles are completely interchangeable. That’s because they’re reading their liberal bias that’s been shaped by a pagan world into Scripture.
The Scripture is saying that just as there’s reconciliation between Jew and Gentile and now both have access by the Spirit to the Father, the same is true for men and women. In the Old Testament there was the courtyard of the women, and they couldn’t get any closer to God than that.
In the Old Testament was a courtyard of the Gentiles, and Gentiles couldn’t get any closer than that, but now all of that has been set aside. Christ in His death on the Cross nullified the law so that there would be this new entity where in the spiritual life and access to God, there are no longer those distinctions that were present in the Old Testament.
The reason they were present in the Old Testament was a tool for teaching various things about the spiritual life and about access to God, and we will get into that eventually.
Look at how Paul begins this in Ephesians 2:14; he starts with the phrase, “For He Himself is our peace.” Remember, Paul explains what Christ did to accomplish His peace in this opening verse.
In the next verse, Ephesians 2:15, he’s talking about how He did it and what His purposes were. Right now, all we’re talking about is what Christ did in abolishing the barrier between Jew and Gentile, “He Himself is our peace.”
This is a loaded term. When you use the word “peace” in any random crowd, you’re going to get a lot of answers as to the meaning of peace. There are a lot of people who will think of it as the absence of violence or the absence of war. That is one nuance even in the Scripture, but that is not the primary nuance, which has to do with a reconciliation between people and the harmony that comes. That may be harmony with God, it may be harmony in one’s thinking and soul, and it may be harmony between nations in which it involves the absence of violence. But the essential idea is harmony.
This is referred to in a parallel passage in Colossians 1. Remember, Colossians and Ephesians were written very close to one another, and they touch on the same themes and same ideas.
Colossians 1:21–22, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He—that is, Christ—has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”
Here it uses the word “reconciliation.” We don’t have the word “peace,” but in numerous passages “peace” is the result of reconciliation. They are linked together, which we will see in Romans 5:1–2.
In this opening line, He is our peace. Let’s put this in context, because as we get into a passage like this, where we’re dealing with what some people will think of as pretty abstract theology or doctrine, we have to understand again how Paul thinks.
When Paul is giving you a very practical instruction on how and why to brush your teeth, he’s going to start off with the fact that your physical body was created perfect by God, and you have a responsibility to take care of it. That’s how he thinks. So, everything he is saying, which may seem somewhat abstract, is not. It is related and it is germane to understanding the application.
In the first section, of Ephesians 1–3, Paul is talking about the wealth of the church. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. That has to do with our identity: how we think about who we are.
We live in a world where you hear all kinds of nonsense about self-image and all kinds of different things. What the Scripture says is that the only image that matters is the image of God. It was distorted by sin, and what God is doing in your spiritual life is to conform you to the image of Christ. That’s the only image that matters. That’s pretty special; it’s really important.
All this psychobabble talk about self-image is just that. It’s the human viewpoint, pagan attempt, to try to deal with the negatives that people have with anxiety and worry and depression and discouragement and all these other things, because they’re trying to find hope and meaning in something other than God and other than by Jesus Christ.
Paul first has to help us understand the wealth that we have in Christ: that’s our identity.
Once we understand who we are, then it begins to make sense as to why we should live a certain way: that’s application.
One of the problems that we have in our world and in the silly, superficial, false evangelicalism that comes out of most pulpits today is that they think that all this doctrine in the first three chapters is wrong, “Let’s just get to the application.”
If you just teach people the application without understanding why you turn them into superficial legalists, because all you do is you give them a list of rules, “Do this, do this, and do that,” and they don’t understand why they do it or who they are in Christ or anything else. That’s the foundation.
That’s why Paul spends three whole chapters taking us through who we are in Christ and the wealth and the riches that we have in our identity. It is just phenomenal who we are! We capture about this much of it in the way we think and live in the Christian life because we don’t spend enough time really focusing on it.
- The WEALTH that we have in Christ, Ephesians 1–3
- The WALK—how we live, Ephesians 4:1–6:9
It is always a metaphor for how we live, and the Christian way of life is based on who we are, the first three chapters. If you try to do Chapters 4:1–6:9 without understanding Chapters 1 through 3, you will fall flat on your face and fail as a believer because you don’t understand who you are in Christ. That’s what transforms us.
The walk of the church is Ephesians 4:1–6:9, then we come back to the fact that when we’re walking, all hell is going to break loose because we’re living in the devil’s world, and he doesn’t want us walking like Christ.
- WARFARE will break out all around us. Ephesians 6:10–24, God has provided us with an armor to protect us when we’re in the midst of this spiritual warfare on the planet.
It starts with this phrase in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace.”
What’s interesting here is the way it starts off in the Greek. I’m not going to drill down into the minutia of this Greek phrase, but you have the Greek verb ESTI, which simply means “He is.” The verb itself means “He is,” but then you have another pronoun, AUTOS which means “Himself.”
“For He Himself.” That’s really emphatic. It’s talking about Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity. It’s not the Father; it’s not the Spirit, “He himself is our peace.”
But it goes further than that because of some of the nuances in the use of the Greek article. It should be translated, “For He is in Himself,” an even stronger statement than “He Himself.” He is in Himself in all that He is and all that He did.
“He is in Himself our peace.” It’s not just He Himself, but He as He is in Himself is our peace—He is the One who provides this peace for us.
Part of the background for understanding this is language, such as:
Ephesians 2:13, “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Ephesians 2:17, “Christ came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who are near.”
This is biblical language. It’s not a direct application of this Old Testament passage, which I’ll show you, but it is drawing an implication from it.
We’ve studied how Paul and others in the New Testament often used Old Testament passages in four different ways. Sometimes it’s a direct quote in a direct application; sometimes it is typology; sometimes it has to do with similarity.
Here he doesn’t use quotation language, but the third category “it’s similar to.” It’s similar to what Isaiah says about God in Isaiah 57:19, “I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near, says the Lord, and I will heal him.”
Here’s something interesting: first of all, the statement that is made is “Peace, peace,” “Shalom, shalom.”
Shalom is comparable to the Greek EIRENE meaning peace, and it has the same range of meanings: an absence of physical violence and hostility, harmony or wholeness and health. Here it’s translated “Peace, peace to him who is far off.”
In the context, “those who are far off” are Jews who aren’t living in Jerusalem, and “those who are near,” are those who are close, living in Jerusalem. But it’s a millennial and Messianic expectation that to those Jews who are far off—the dispersion—and those who are near who are living in Israel, “I will heal them.”
Healing in Isaiah is often a synonym for salvation because it views salvation as like a disease. It’s not like you’re just a little bit sick, but you have this constitutional defect, which is sin and you’re: corrupt, you have an old sin nature, and you’re separated from God due to spiritual death.
Paul is using this idea, and applying it to the situation between Jew and Gentile. They are separated, the Gentile is far off, the Jew is near, but now they’re both brought together in Christ,
Ephesians 2:14, “For He is in Himself our peace …”
For “peace” in New Testament usage, we won’t find its meaning by looking in fifth century BC or going through Classical Greek literature to determine how the Greeks use “peace,” but how “peace” was used in the Old Testament and its significance in the Old Testament.
Its background is understanding shalom; they generally have the same basic meanings. But first of all, we have to be reminded that in this context, in Ephesians 2, “peace” relates to two different issues.
The first issue in the text is peace between Jew and Gentile. The second is peace between Jew and Gentile and God—between the human race and God. In Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, He has made both one,” contextually that peace is between Jew and Gentile.
But he broadens it very quickly to the fact that God is making in Christ a new man from the two, thus making peace. It’s a word that has to be carefully looked at because it has both of these ideas present in it. Ultimately, it is focusing on the peace that comes between us and God.
1. A lack of physical violence. Jesus uses it this way in Matthew 10:34. I think this is a good verse to remember right now. Jesus said, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace on the earth.”
He did in terms of a Messianic sense; remember: He’s the Prince of Peace. But he’s rejected as the Messiah, so in Matthew 10 He’s alluding to that, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” His presence and His claim would cause reaction and division.
2. A state of peace with God in contrast to a state of enmity, hostility, alienation, or animosity.
It has to do with the new harmony that we have with God. When Jesus is called the Prince of Peace; as the Prince of Peace, His primary mission is to bring harmony between us and God, a primary sense in the Scripture.
3. As a result of that harmony with God, we can have a mental attitude of peace.
I decided to give a few promises here in case you need to be reminded of them:
Philippians 4:6–7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will defend your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
On the one hand, we’re not to be anxious or worried or give in to it. But on the other hand, when we are, we go to prayer, we go to God, we constantly do that with thanksgiving, and the result is the peace that comes from God, which is beyond our comprehension. It’s not just something that is man related. Some people have tranquility and contentment because that’s just their personality. This goes beyond all of that, and it defends our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Jesus on the way to Gethsemane, as he was teaching the disciples about this new spiritual life, promised, John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace—not just peace abstractly, but —My peace I give to you …”, the peace that Jesus had.
Jesus had peace even in the Garden of Gethsemane. Get the context here: He is walking to Gethsemane. In 15, 20, 30 minutes, He’s going to feel the emotional pressure of what’s coming the next day, and it’s so great that it’s forcing the blood out of His capillaries, and He is sweating blood.
When you think of peace, you have to factor that in. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to be in tough situations. It means that we’re not going to let the tough situations dictate our state of mind. Because Jesus, as immutable, never loses that peace, that calm, that tranquility, even though He’s in the midst of the pressure cooker. Peace is not the absence of the pressure cooker. Peace is not letting the pressure cooker affect your mental attitude.
Jesus said, “… My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
God doesn’t like it when we’re afraid or worried or anxious. That’s not part of the Christian way of life. We will get that way at times, but we have to choose: are we going to let it control us? or are we going to turn to God and claim promises?
John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I’ve spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus is facing tribulation, but He has peace.
Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.”
That’s how we maintain that stability.
4. The New Testament concept is based on the Old Testament word shalom.
The root noun is the word shalem, which means to be complete or sound—the idea of wholeness, health, of everything being what it’s supposed to be.
Shalom has the idea of peace, prosperity, wellness, health, completeness, or safety. The “Theological Workbook of the Old Testament” says the general meaning behind the root sh-l-m is of completion and fulfillment—of entering into a state of wholeness and unity; a restored relationship. It’s part of His Messianic mission.
Isaiah 32:17 is Messianic, “The work of righteousness will be peace—the righteous Messiah will bring peace—and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”
Takes us back to a passage I’m sure occurred to you already in Isaiah 9:6–7, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father—actually Father of eternity—Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end—
Obviously, this only happens when He comes and establishes His kingdom in the future—of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
We see the Messianic prophecies that emphasize Christ as the source of peace and the One who brings peace are connected by Paul when we get into Ephesians 2, because He is the final sacrifice. Remember, there are peace offerings in the Old Testament that look forward to what Christ does on the cross and that connects the Old Testament to the Messianic promise.
Luke 2:14. When they were announcing the birth of Messiah, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
You may have heard that this is a bad translation. Actually, this is based on the Majority Text, used for the King James and the New King James. It is not based on the Critical Text, which says “peace to men with whom God is well pleased.”
The reason is it’s Messianic! Messianic! What did the Messiah come to bring based on Isaiah 9:6? He came to bring peace. “And on earth peace …” He is offering peace and goodwill to men.
You don’t have to go with this misconception in the critical text; it’s not in the majority of manuscripts. This is in the majority of manuscripts because this fits the Messianic context. This is not offering salvation to everybody, it is offering peace in light of the Messianic mission of Christ until He is rejected.
Acts 10:36 is really a good background for the coming together of Jew and Gentile, and I just want to remind you. When Peter goes to Cornelius and takes the gospel officially for the first time to the Gentiles, he said it this way, “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is the Lord of all.”
The message through Israel to the Gentiles is preaching peace.
Also, earlier in Acts 10:28, talking to Cornelius, “You know how unlawful it is for Jewish men to keep company with or go to one of another nation.”
He’s talking about their culture, that they as Jews—Law-abiding Jews—were told that this was not what they were supposed to do.
The word that’s translated unlawful is not the word you would expect. Instead, it is a word that means something that is culturally not allowed, something that’s forbidden by the tradition of the Jews. It’s not the word “Torah;” it’s something that is outside of Torah, the tradition of the Jews among the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the others. It was their haughty arrogance. Peter comes to realize this, which is why he now goes to the house of Cornelius.
Romans 5:1–2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
The context of Roman 5 connects justification with peace and reconciliation.
Because we are reconciled to God, we have a mission. 2 Corinthians 5:18 Paul says,
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Every believer has a ministry of reconciliation, which is another way of talking about giving people the gospel, so they can come to realize they’re reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:19, “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” He has committed to us the message of the gospel.
2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then—here’s the application of all this—we are ambassadors for Christ.” That’s the mission of believers. That’s why we can’t get caught up in all of this nonsense that’s going around today. Believers have to stand—we’re accountable at a higher level. We’re called to a higher ethic, a higher standard of living, and we can’t get caught up …
Politics is interesting; politics is great. It has to do with a lot of important things in our life. But when people get carried away as we’re watching on the streets in these demonstrations and riots and all of these other things that are going on, no Christian has any right whatsoever to be involved in that for numerous reasons.
But mostly because we’re called to a higher standard. Therefore, when you act like the world acts, you’re living like the prodigal son, you’re living in the muck and the mire with the pigs. That’s where a lot of Christians are today, because they don’t understand what our mission is, and they’ve become distracted by politics.
2 Corinthians 5:20, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word today, to be reminded of who we are in Christ, that we have been called for a higher purpose. We have a distinct mission as Your ambassadors to proclaim the message of reconciliation—that peace has now been made between Jew and Gentile and between the human race and Yourself.
“Because of that we can have peace in our own lives. We can have a contentment, a tranquility in our thinking. We cannot be worried, fearful, consumed by all of the chaos and the nonsense that is going on around us: all of the rioting and destruction and everything. We have been called to announce to the world that there is peace and there is stability, and we can’t get trapped into these human viewpoint categories.
“Father, we pray that You would help anyone listening to this message to understand the hope that we are offered in Christ: the peace, the stability, the tranquility. Because our relationship with You is what takes precedence over everything else in life.
“Father, we pray that they would understand the good news, the great news, the wonderful news: that Christ died for our sins, and that we can have eternal life. We can have this hope, this peace and stability that is ours because of what Christ did on the Cross. Only when we learn Your Word can we really see this become part of our daily thinking and part of our daily living.
“We pray that You’d challenge us with all that we learned today. In Christ’s name, amen.”