The Christians’ Possession of Peace
“I will hear what the true God Jehovah will speak, for he will speak peace to his people and to his loyal ones.”—Ps. 85:8.
1, 2. What connotations does the very word “peace” have, and what prophecy well illustrates this?
PEACE! How pleasant the very sound of the word is because of its associations! Peace suggests calmness, serenity, tranquillity, freedom from friction and strife, from doubt and fear. No wonder that the promises of peace found in God’s Word are so comforting!
2 Delightful indeed is the picture of peace given by the prophet Isaiah: “In the wilderness justice will certainly reside, and in the orchard righteousness itself will dwell. And the work of the true righteousness must become peace; and the service of the true righteousness, quietness and security to time indefinite. And my people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting places.”—Isa. 32:16-18.
3. Who originally violated the peace of the universe, and why is there no peace now?
3 Peace is the will of God for all his creatures, and there was peace in all the universe until the great peace-wrecker, Satan the Devil, put in his appearance. Since then there has been little peace on this earth. In fact, we are told that in the past 3,370 years of recorded history there have been 3,143 years of war as compared to only 227 years of peace, or 13.8 years of war to each year of peace. But is that not what we should expect since Satan the great peace-wrecker is “the god of this system of things”? He is the personification of wickedness, and wickedness and peace simply do not go together, even as we read: “‘But the wicked are like the sea that is being tossed, when it is unable to calm down, the waters of which keep tossing up seaweed and mire. There is no peace,’ my God has said, ‘for the wicked ones.’”—2 Cor. 4:4; Isa. 57:20, 21.
4. In particular, since when has peace fled from the earth, as seen by the fulfillment of what prophecies?
4 In particular has peace been absent from this earth since 1914, the year that the fiery-colored horse and its rider of the apostle John’s apocalyptic vision put in its appearance: “And I saw, . . . a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him.” That year also marked the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ great prophecy regarding the end of this system of things: “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” Ever since then Jesus’ further words are finding striking fulfillment: “On the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Rev. 6:2, 4; Matt. 24:7; Luke 21:25, 26.
5. What shows that people in general desire peace, and why have they not been able to acquire it?
5 Not that people in general want it that way. Not at all! They strongly desire peace, and only when they are stirred up by hate propaganda do they want war. Proof of that is seen in the efforts of men to form peace treaties and compacts outlawing war. It is ostensibly one of the chief objectives of the United Nations, as can be seen from the inscription cut in a stone wall just across from the United Nations main building, and which reads: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Politicians promise peace in order to get elected. But in spite of their promises, their plans and their endeavors, because of bungling, greed and nationalism, and because Satan, the great peace-wrecker, is the god of this system of things, war keeps plaguing humankind.
6. By what specious reasoning do worldly-wise men seek to justify man’s inability to ensure peace, and what proves them wrong?
6 Apparently in an attempt to justify man’s inability to establish peace, we find, certain wise men of this world claim that war is a blessing, that it is indispensable to progress. Thus we read regarding the death of the late prominent British evolutionist, Sir Arthur Keith: “In 1931, echoing the opinion of Herbert Spencer and other neoDarwinists, he declared that war is a condition of progress. ‘Nature,’ he said, ‘keeps her human orchard healthy by pruning. War is her pruning hook.’ He also asserted that racial prejudice was important to a nation’s vitality.”* Could anything be more stupid? In time of war is not the best of a nation’s manpower destroyed? The weak, the misfits, mentally, morally and physically, are not wanted by the armed forces. More than that, can anyone claim that the world is in so much better condition today, mentally, morally and physically, economically, and so forth, than before 1914 because of having had two world wars? To take but one example: Can anyone point to the Swiss people and charge them with being inferior because they were not “pruned” by being involved in those two wars, nor in any wars for ever so many years before? On the contrary, a historian tells us regarding a certain period of Swiss history: “The ensuing period of peace contributed to advancement in every phase of Swiss life.”* Peace, not war, contributed to their advancement. Truly, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God and with all humans able to reason clearly!—1 Cor. 3:19.
THE GOD AND THE PRINCE OF PEACE
7. What testimony does the Bible give that Jehovah is a God of peace?
7 In direct contrast to Satan the great peace-wrecker and man’s inability to establish peace stands Jehovah God, the God of peace. In his Word, the Holy Bible, we find peace mentioned some 350 times. In its pages peace is promised, counseled and stressed time and again from beginning to end. In the Christian Greek Scriptures Jehovah God is repeatedly described as “the God who gives peace,” or ‘the God of peace.’ That is what we should expect of an all-wise, almighty, just and loving God.—Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20.
8. How does the Bible associate Jesus Christ with peace?
8 Even as Jehovah is the God of peace, so his Son, Jesus Christ, is the “Prince of Peace,” and the “Lord of peace.” (Isa. 9:6; 2 Thess. 3:16) Regarding his rule we are told: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” Yes, when he holds sway over the earth there will be “the abundance of peace until the moon is no more.”—Isa. 9:7; Ps. 72:7.
9, 10. To whom have Jehovah God and Jesus Christ given peace, thereby fulfilling what prophecies?
9 Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, however, do not keep this peace to themselves. They bestow it upon their faithful servants and followers, even as we read: “Jehovah himself will bless his people with peace.” “I will hear what the true God Jehovah will speak, for he will speak peace to his people and to his loyal ones.” (Ps. 29:11; 85:8) In particular has peace been held out to them since the time of Jesus’ birth, at which time the angels sang out: “On earth peace among men with whom [God] is pleased!” or, “Peace to the men he favors!” (Luke 2:14, RS; AT) And shortly before leaving his apostles and returning to his Father, Jesus assured them, “I leave you peace, I give you my peace.”—John 14:27; 16:33.
10 Have Jehovah God and Jesus Christ proved true to their promises to give peace to their servants and followers? Indeed they have! Great and abundant is the peace that prevails among them, even as foretold: “Continuous peace there will be to the one that is far away and to the one that is near.” “I will appoint peace as your overseers.” “Here I am extending to her peace just like a river.” And, not among the United Nations, but among those Christians are the prophetic words of Isaiah 2:4 finding fulfillment: “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.”—Isa. 57:19; 60:17; 66:12.
11, 12. (a) What kind of message are God’s servants bringing, causing them to be known as what? (b) What can be said about the manner in which these are to bring their message?
11 Imitating Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, those Christians among whom such prophecies find fulfillment are unselfishly endeavoring to get others to share their peace with them. That is why time and again the message they bring is described as “the good news of peace.” (Acts 10:36; Eph. 6:15) They are the peace messengers foretold at Isaiah 52:7: “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, the one publishing peace, the one bringing good news of something better, the one publishing salvation, the one saying to Zion: ‘Your God has become king!’”
12 Not only do these Christian servants of Jehovah bring a message of peace but they are bringing it in a peaceful manner, even as Jesus indicated when he sent out the seventy evangelists: “Wherever you enter into a house say first, ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you.” Note how important this makes peace; it is people who are friends of peace that Christians are to look for when they go from house to house with “the good news of peace”! That Christians are to present their message of peace in a peaceful manner is also to be seen from the counsel the apostle Paul gave Timothy: “Further, turn down foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing they produce fights. But a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed.”—Luke 10:5, 6; 2 Tim. 2:23-25.
A UNIQUE PEACE
13. What connotations or further meanings do the Hebrew and Greek words for peace have, as seen by what scripture?
13 The word “peace” as used in the Scriptures often denotes more than merely an absence of war. The Hebrew word ‘shalóm, usually translated peace, implies or carries with it health, prosperity, welfare. It is the same as the salam of the modern Arabs, and is used in like manner in salutations.’* Thus we read of King David inquiring of Uriah “how Joab was getting along, and how the people were getting along and how the war was getting along,” literally, how were the “peace” of Joab, the “peace” of the people and the “peace” of the war. (2 Sam. 11:7) Thus also Jehovah, by the prophet Jeremiah, instructed the exiled Israelites: “Seek the peace [or welfare] of the city to which I have caused you to go into exile, and pray in its behalf to Jehovah, for in its peace there will prove to be peace for you yourselves.” (Jer. 29:7) It also appears that this meaning of the Hebrew word for peace passed over to the Greek word for peace, ei·reʹnē, as far as the Christian Greek Scriptures are concerned. An instance of this we have in Jesus’ words to unfaithful Jerusalem: “If you, even you, had discerned in this day the things having to do with peace”; that is, with your peaceful welfare.—Luke 19:42.
14, 15. In what basic way is the Christians’ possession of peace unique?
14 The peace of God that is the Christians’ possession is also unique in that it is based on righteousness. It is not peace at any price, it is not a peace gained by compromise or expediency. In no sense of the word is it a peace of policy with the enemies of God, truth and righteousness, such as so many religious organizations have concluded with the atheistic Communists for the privilege of continuing their religious organizations and services without harassment by the government. Regarding the Catholic church in Cuba, M. A. Rauf, Jr., in his book, Cuban Journal (1964), states: “The church’s power, however, has been broken. The reason it survives at all is that it has entered into the same sort of unofficial bargain with the government as it has in the Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain countries: the bishops, in return for being allowed to exist, have ceased issuing pastorals against Communism . . . One Sunday I went to the Jesus de Miramar church in Havana . . . Everything was very subdued and mechanical. There was no spirit or enthusiasm in anything. A sermon was delivered but it lasted only three minutes.” In contrast thereto the author tells of the Cuban government cracking down on the witnesses of Jehovah and the evangelicals, but for different reasons.
15 Does Jehovah God need to compromise with any of his enemies? Why, he is almighty! Who can resist his will? He does not bargain for peace with his foes. That is why the angelic group at Jesus’ birth said, not peace to all men, but peace to men whom God favors! (Luke 2:14, AT) As General Jehu, in response to Israel’s king Jehoram, who had asked him, “Is there peace, Jehu?” emphasized, “What peace could there be as long as there are the fornications of Jezebel your mother and her many sorceries?” Yes, none who properly represent Jehovah God will compromise for the sake of peace.—2 Ki. 9:22.
16. How does the Bible show that righteousness takes precedence over peace?
16 In fact, unless peace is based on righteousness it cannot endure. Most appropriately, therefore, as prominent as the Bible makes peace, it repeatedly shows that righteousness comes before peace. As the apostle Paul counseled: “The kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.” So the disciple James, in describing divine wisdom, wrote: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits.” In keeping therewith we find Jesus listing the peaceable seventh in his beatitudes or felicities with which he began his Sermon on the Mount.—Rom. 14:17; Jas. 3:17; Matt. 5:3-9.
17. In what further respect is the Christians’ peace unique?
17 The peace that is the Christians’ possession is further unique in that it is not dependent upon environment. Well has the apostle Paul described it as “the peace of God that excels all thought.” It is a calm condition of mind and heart, an inner state of quiet regardless of what may be taking place on the outside. It has been well illustrated by the mother bird that sits on her nest of eggs in a tree during a thunderstorm, tranquil, undisturbed through it all. Clearly it is a peace of which the world knows nothing. That is why Jesus could say regarding it: “I leave you peace, I give you my peace. I do not give it to you the way that the world gives it. Do not let your hearts be troubled nor let them shrink for fear.” “I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” Yes, in spite of conditions that would ordinarily cause men to become troubled and shrink back in fear, in spite of tribulation, the true followers of Jesus Christ can have peace.—Phil. 4:7; John 14:27; 16:33.
ACQUIRING THE PEACE OF GOD
18, 19. (a) On what basis can one realize peace with God? (b) What ministry, therefore, have Christians been given?
18 How can a person come into this possession of peace, this peace that is described as one of the fruits of God’s holy spirit at Galatians 5:22, this peace that excels all thought? First of all, by making peace with God, by coming into friendly relations with Him. Friendly relations with God? Is not God everybody’s friend? By no means! As the apostle Paul well notes: “Indeed, you who were once alienated and enemies because your minds were on the works that were wicked, he now has again reconciled.” Reconciled by what means? By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “For if, when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have become reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” As was prophetically foretold: “He was being pierced for our transgression; he was being crushed for our errors. The chastisement meant for our peace was upon him, and because of his wounds there has been a healing for us.”—Col. 1:21; Rom. 5:10; Isa. 53:5.
19 That is why true Christianity or the preaching of the Christian gospel is termed by the apostle Paul “the ministry of the reconciliation.” Jesus came to earth to declare “the good news of peace to you, the ones far off, and peace to those near,” and this ministry he committed to his followers: “All things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’ The one [Jesus Christ] who did not know sin he made to be sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness by means of him.”—Eph. 2:17; 2 Cor. 5:18-21.
20, 21. (a) What does it mean to exercise faith? (b) What first steps must be taken?
20 Yes, peace with God can be had only through Jesus Christ: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” That requires, not merely one’s giving a mental assent to what Jesus did for one, but one’s exercising faith: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” To exercise faith means to do something about it, to act on one’s beliefs, for “as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”—John 14:6; 3:16; Jas. 2:26.
21 What kind of works are required? First of all, repentance from one’s selfish unrighteous course and converting or turning around to follow the pattern set by Jesus Christ, even as the apostle Peter admonished the Jews in Jerusalem in his day: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.”—Acts 3:19.
22, 23. What example did Jesus set at the beginning of his ministry, and how important is this step toward our gaining peace with Jehovah God?
22 Jesus began his career as the Christ by presenting himself to do his Father’s will, even as we read of his saying: “Look! I am come . . . to do your will, O God.” That was at the Jordan where he was also baptized by John the Baptist. Since he himself was baptized and he also commanded it for his followers, it follows that to walk in Jesus’ footsteps one must decide to do God’s will as Jesus did and then be baptized as Jesus was. This baptism stands for or pictures one’s having decided to do God’s will; it serves as a vivid reminder of having made that decision and it is also a public testimony to others that one has decided to do God’s will and to follow Jesus Christ.—Heb. 10:7; Matt. 3:13-17; 28:19, 20.
23 Today there are not a few persons associated with the Christian witnesses of Jehovah who attend their meetings, read the Watch Tower publications and even share in the field ministry but who are shrinking back from the step of dedication and baptism. They seem to be walking with God, but actually are not, for, as we read at Amos 3:3: “Will two walk together unless they have met by appointment?” Let all such know that one cannot enjoy the peace of God without first making peace with God by faith, dedication and baptism.
24. What course must be pursued to keep this peace?
24 Not that after having taken the steps of dedication and baptism we need to do nothing more to enjoy this peace with God permanently. That is only the beginning. Among other things, we must continue to take in knowledge, to let ourselves be instructed by Jehovah through his Word and his visible organization; we must truly love God’s law and make a pursuit of wisdom. If we do these things, we are assured, we will have peace: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you.” “Its [wisdom’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace.” As the apostle Paul counseled Christians: “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.”—Isa. 54:13; Ps. 119:165; Prov. 3:1, 2, 17; Phil. 4:9.
25. (a) How might the principle governing this peace be illustrated? (b) What, therefore, might the peace of God be termed?
25 This peace might be likened to marital bliss. A wedding is indeed a joyful occasion and opens up the way for marital bliss, but it does not permanently guarantee it, a mistaken idea that apparently many couples have. To have marital bliss a couple must continually work at it, give it thought, time and effort, manifesting maturity in all their relations. So also with those who have come into peaceful relations with God through repentance, conversion, faith in Christ’s ransom, dedication and baptism. They must continue to work at this peace in order to maintain it. It might, therefore, be said that the peace of God is a reward, even as Jehovah promised his ancient people peace if they met his conditions: “If you continue walking in my statutes and keeping my commandments and you do carry them out, I shall . . . put peace in the land, and you will lie down, with no one making you tremble; . . . and a sword will not pass through your land.”—Lev. 26:3-6.
Encyclopedia Americana Annual, 1956, p. 405.
Encyclopedia Americana (1956), Vol. 26, p. 152.
M’Clintock & Strong’s Cyclopædia, Vol. 7, p. 852.
[Picture on page 488]
“What peace could there be as long as there are the fornications of Jezebel?”