Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 December 6, 2020
“Peace with God”
Jesus, on the night of His betrayal, left His disciples—and us—a precious gift: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…” (John 14:27a). We receive this gift with great thanks, for we need it sorely. Then Jesus continues, commanding His disciples then and now, “…Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27b). Ay, there’s the rub.
‘Tis hard indeed to comply with Christ’s directive in our time. We have endured one of the most difficult years of our lifetimes—and nearly four weeks yet remain of it. We get help in today’s text as we contemplate the peace we enjoy with God—among other fruits that rise from our justification before Him. Let us hear, once again, the Word of God read and proclaimed in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, begins today text’s with these words: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace with God. Peace, in the New Testament’s usage of the term, involves two senses. First, to have peace with God means that there no longer remain hostilities between us and Him. We were rebels, we were estranged from Him, and we were in danger of eternal separation and misery apart from Him. Now, through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our rebellion ends, our reconciliation occurs, and our place in His company stands assured forever. Second, peace with God means that we have an inner tranquility in our souls—even amid the storm swirls of life—that this world simply does not have and cannot give. We have this peace, in both senses, because we are justified by God. To be justified before God is to be declared righteous in His sight—and, therefore, not guilty of our sin, for Christ bore our guilt to Calvary in our places. We are justified by God only through faith in the Person and work of Christ Jesus—a faith that God Himself gives to us (Ephesians 2:8). Therefore, having faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, we have His peace—and much more.
We also enjoy this grace in which we stand. We may understand the grace of God as His unmerited favor. Once again, as with God’s peace, so also His favor, we have access to it only through faith in Christ. Think of it: our blessings, so numerous and profound from God’s good hand, come as no result of our deserving. Our blessings come entirely from God’s unmerited favor—His kind, good provisions for us, body and soul.
We also have cause for rejoicing, because justified by faith in Jesus. We rejoice first in hope of the glory of God. We not only have hope for this life because we believe in Jesus, but for eternity to come. We shall behold the glory of our Lord face-to-face in Heaven, and we shall behold His glory forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth. This is cause for highest rejoicing, to be sure, but we also rejoice in another, rather surprising, cause endemic to our lives.
We rejoice also in our sufferings. Why would we do such a thing? After all, such seems counterintuitive. The Lord, through Paul, tells us why. Suffering produces endurance. This is true in athletic training, and it is true also in discipleship training. We see God’s hand even in our pains—and seeing His hand consoles us and encourages us as we suffer, and learn to endure, for His glory. Endurance, moreover, produces character (or proven character). This character, predicated upon endurance developed through suffering, proves that we are the children of God—and this character proves that we are not impostors masquerading as the children of God. Through suffering, and the endurance gained from suffering, we develop over time the character consistent with sons and daughters of the King. Character, or proven character, produces hope—a humble, confident expectations of good things from God’s good hand. Notice that, from such a doleful start as suffering, we arrive at hope via two intermediate steps. Hence, we have hope in this life, even amid difficulty, and we have hope in the eternal bliss yet to come.
Furthermore, this hope makes us not ashamed. This is true, and vouchsafed to us, because God’s love is poured into our hearts. The love that Paul describes here (Greek agape [agaph]) is the love which God has for Himself within the Trinity—and it is the love, among others, with which we love one another. This love has been poured (Greek ekcheo [ekcew]) into our hearts. God has caused His love to flow in our hearts in great abundance—and this through the Holy Spirit, God Himself, Who has been given to us.
Alas, at least for a time, we shall continue to endure the woes we lately endure in our world. We shall endure the coronavirus pandemic and its allied ills. We shall endure also the deep divisions within our culture—with animosity and hatred accompanying. Yet we shall endure—kept safe in the promised peace of Christ to us.
Peace with God, granted to the Christian believer as the result of justification by faith in Christ, further results in enjoyment of God’s grace, and enjoyment of how we obtained that grace. It also results in rejoicing—both in our future blessed hope and in our sufferings, which, in God’s good providence, lead to hope. God’s peace also leads—through intermediate steps, as we saw today—to hope, which never makes ashamed. Therefore, beloved ones in Christ Jesus, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (cf. Colossians 3:15)—this day, to endless days, and in every moment between these poles.
 From William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene i.