What Is Christian Peace?
From his deathbed, Jacob spoke this prophecy to his son, Judah. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Gen 49:10) The word, Shiloh, means tranquil. One named Tranquil was to come. He is called the Prince of Peace and the King of Peace. When He came, the heavenly hosts proclaimed, ‘On earth peace’. As Simeon held the way of peace in his arms, he said that he could now depart in peace. This Jesus was his Peacemaker.
Though the Bible never specifically divides peace into five levels, we can find much Bible truth by considering five levels of peace connected to this one called, Shiloh. What we will call Level One Peace is experienced in God’s natural creation. Since the one called Tranquil is the Creator, it is not surprising that a sense of tranquility can result from His Creation. We feel this kind of peace while looking out at sunset on the ocean, or while looking up at the stars on a summer night, or while looking down at a newborn in our arms. This peace lies somewhere between contentment and amazement. The creature can sense it, as he ponders the Creator. It occurs when the mortal mind imagines the Eternal.
I recollect having this peace at the quiet dawning of a new day of a wilderness morning. Once upon a time, my teenage son and I were backpackers. We would spend days in the back country with only what our packs could hold. After miles of trekking, we would make camp, filter water, re-hydrate the powder we called supper, recollect the day beside a small fire, and retire to separate tents. (I snored too much for us to share a tent.) Typical of a teenager, the ‘boy’ slept in, but the ‘old man’ awoke before the first hint of light. In the solitude of the darkness I would crawl out of my little tent and watch the woods come to life. I still remember the moments: the dawning of a day in the woods; the dim glow of near-dead embers from last night’s fire; the silhouette of trees on the soft light in the east; the hint of the stir of the first breeze; the song of praise from an early bird; the steady breathing of a sleeping firstborn son (though by then a man, still my little boy); the smile of God on an old man by a little tent; the dawning of a day in the woods.
In these quiet moments of solitude, the wonder of creation captures us. As we pause to ponder the Creator’s masterpiece, our minds are led to prayer and worship. Shiloh grants us this peace like a river, which H. G. Spafford spoke of in his song, “It Is Well with My Soul”. Yet there are levels of peace that far exceed peace like a river. Spafford spoke of a greater peace with the words: When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. This man had just lost four daughters to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Leaning on the rail of his ship of disaster, the sorrows pounded his heart, like the never-ending waves on the side of the ship. Yet, in spite of his circumstances, and no matter his lot in life, Spafford spoke of a wellness in his soul.
This is what we will call Level Two Peace. Anybody can have ‘gentle-flowing-river’ peace, but Spafford claimed peace on a ‘sea-billow-sorrow’ day. The world cannot know peace in these moments. And the way of peace have they not known. (Rom 3:17) Yet, God’s children are able to know the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. (Php 4:7) This peace truly goes past what we can understand. Even the one who is experiencing this peace cannot understand how it is happening. Yet this peace really happens, when the Spirit of God touches the troubled spirit of His child.
The key to gaining a little understanding about the peace which passeth all understanding is to put the words in their context. Paul first said: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Php 4:4) Notice the words, in the Lord. We cannot rejoice in the loss of four daughters. Yet a child of God can rejoice in the Lord, even after such a loss. In the Lord, a man has hope of seeing those daughters again. In the Lord, a man finds grace to help in time of need. In the Lord, a man finds one that cared enough to give His life, so that those four daughters might live forever in heaven. Even at times when sorrows like sea billows roll a man can rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
Paul further said: The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing. (Php 4:4-5) If the Lord is at hand, we can feel His presence. We can even put our hands in His hand. If we face trials holding the hand of the God of eternity, we can be careful for nothing. That is, we need not be full of cares about anything. We can cast our cares on Him. Our world may fall apart, but our God is still on His throne. His promises remain sure. He stands by our side. He holds our hands. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say—The Lord is at hand. And if the Lord is at hand, then it is well with my soul. It surpasses all reasoning to think that Spafford could say, “Whatever my lot, it is okay.” It blows our natural minds to think of saying such words at such a time. Yet, if we have learned to rejoice in the Lord alway, and if we truly know that the Lord is at hand, then we are to the point where the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
When the peace of God, which passeth all understanding is keeping our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, we have ‘troubled heart’ peace. Jesus began His last sermon with the words: Let not your heart be troubled. (Joh 14:1) In the middle He said: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:27) Jesus ended His sermon with these words: These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Joh 16:33) Jesus did not promise us the world’s prosperity. Nor did He tell us that great faith would deliver us from the world’s troubles. Jesus said in the world ye shall have tribulation. In this world sorrows like sea billows will continue to roll. Yet Jesus said we can be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world. Though the world is troubled, let not your heart be troubled. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not in the world, but in Jesus we find peace. Even in the midst of the world’s troubles, when we have the peace that Jesus gives us, we have the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. Even though the world does its best to trouble our hearts, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
So Level One Peace hinges on external circumstances. It only happens when we stop to smell the roses, while life’s river is flowing gently. Yet Level Two Peace can occur even when sorrows like sea billows roll. It is ‘whatever my lot’ peace. It makes no sense how we can feel peace in spite of overwhelming situations, but the Bible and our experiences teach us that this peace of mind does happen. Thus, ‘whatever my lot’ peace far exceeds ‘peace like a river’ peace. Yet the next level of peace surpasses anything yet mentioned. So far, we have looked at peace of mind in the mind of a man about earthly circumstances. What we will call Level Three Peace considers peace of mind in the mind of God about eternal circumstances. If the peace of mind in man about earthly things passes our understanding, how much more could be said of the peace of mind in the infinite mind of God about heavenly things? What we call Level Three Peace is the peace of mind that God feels toward sinners.
God has a deep hatred of sin. His justice demands vengeance against sinners. The Lord was as an enemy. (Lam 2:5) Can anything appease such an angered God? Who could bring this Holy God to be at peace with sinful men? When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. (Rom 5:10) Jesus’ death reconciled the enmity. God…hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. (2Co 5:18) Since Jesus is God, God has reconciled us to God by God. God reconciled us to Himself, all by Himself. We did not help. God gets all the glory! We had no means to make peace with an angry God, but Jesus took away all the sins of all for whom He died, and thereby made peace between Holy God and His children. This Jesus-accomplished peace changed God’s disposition toward sinners. This Jesus-made peace spared God’s children from the burning hell reserved for His enemies. This peace affords us entry into the eternal peace of heaven itself. Thanks to Jesus, the God who was as an enemy is now at peace with His children.
We think again of the Savior called Shiloh. When He came into this world, the angels sang, ‘Peace on earth’. Before He left this world, He had made eternal peace in heaven, between the Holy God of heaven and some of the vilest sinners of earth. Surely, there must be a significant difference between peace on earth and peace in heaven. Surely, Level Three Peace far surpasses the first two levels. Surely, eternal peace in heaven goes much beyond a quiet morning in the woods! Please do not misunderstand. I still like a quiet morning in the woods. I even cherish those moments. Yet eternal peace in heaven has to be infinitely greater than any momentary peace like a river. Furthermore, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding is as nothing, when contrasted to the eternal peace of God in heaven. The temporal peace of God that gets us through the world’s troubles pales in comparison to the eternal peace of God that gets us through heaven’s gates. If the wonder of the peace of providence passes our understanding, how much more does the wonder of eternal peace go beyond our imagination. There is an infinite difference between Level Two Peace and Level Three Peace. There is a quantum leap from the peace of mind that man experiences regarding earthly circumstances to the peace of mind that God experiences regarding eternal circumstances. This attitude of peace, which occurs in the mind of God, as He considers a sinner that had been His enemy, far exceeds the peace that occurs in the mind of man, as he finds reassurance in God’s providence. As far as the heavens are higher than the earth, so is the peace of heaven higher than any peace experienced by those who reside on this earth. As far as His ways are higher than our ways, so is the peace in the infinite mind of God higher than anything pertaining to the finite minds of men.
Praise Shiloh for this eternal peace! Surely the greatest moment of all moments was when Tranquil made peace between the God of heaven and hell-bound sinners. The greatest event of all events was when Shiloh made atonement for wretchedness in the mind of Holiness. The most glorious thing of all things was when God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. How can it be that the all-righteous God can accept something like me? Shiloh is the answer. Tranquil! Wow! The perfectly righteous God will forever dwell with a sinner like me, thanks to a man named Shiloh! Jesus was my ‘Way of Peace’, even my ‘Peacemaker’. Peace! Reconciliation! I am justified! God is satisfied! Christ is glorified! Shiloh! Tranquil! What a name for my Savior!
Thus far, we have considered Level Two Peace that exists in the mind of the man, who knows the God of providence. We have also considered Level Three Peace that exists in the mind of God, who knows that God…hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. What we will call Level Four Peace somewhat combines these two. Like the second level of peace, this fourth level is a peace that exists in the minds of men. Yet, like the third level of peace, this fourth level concerns what is in the mind of God. This fourth level of peace occurs in the mind of a man, when the man comes to know what is in the mind of God. This peace of mind in man happens, when a man comes to know what God already knows about the eternal peace that Jesus made between God and man. When we come to know that God already knows that Jesus has made God to be at peace toward us, then we can in our minds feel to be at peace toward God. To put it simply, Level Four Peace is the peace that exists in the mind of the man, who knows that the mind of God is at peace with him.
We return to the words: God…hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Since God did the reconciling, we can be sure that God knows He has done it. Surely from before time, God knew that this reconciliation was going to occur. As it occurred, God watched all the details unfold, just as He had planned. God even now knows what the Bible clearly proclaims, even that Jesus has made peace between God and sinners. In the mind of God, there is no doubt, as to what Jesus accomplished on the cross. God knows for certain that the result of this peace is that all His children will be with Him forever in heaven.
Now, God knows what God knows, whether we know it or not. Moreover, our not knowing what we do not know, cannot make God not know what He already knows. The point is that God knows that He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, whether we know it or not. Some think that man has to believe that Jesus did what He did, in order for it to become real. God said in His Bible that He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. That statement is fact, and God knows it is true, whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not. If we do not know that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, our lack of knowledge cannot make God not know what He already knows. Yet if we do know what God already knows about having reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, then we can have peace in our minds, like God has in His.
Do we know this truth that God knows so well? Are we sure that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ? God’s mind is at peace concerning what Jesus accomplished, but do we have peace of mind concerning what Jesus accomplished? Do we have peace of mind concerning the idea that God is at peace with us? Do we know for sure that Jesus has already made God to be at peace toward us? Many of God’s heaven-bound children have eternal life, but still wonder if they have it. There is a difference in having eternal life, and having the assurance of knowing that we have eternal life. Many of God’s children go through life wondering if they are saved. There is a difference in being eternally saved, and having the peace in knowing that we are eternally saved. It is possible to have already been born again, and to exist in the state of having eternal salvation, yet still to exist in the state of mind of not knowing that we have the eternal salvation. Level Four Peace is the peace of mind that exists in the mind of the man, who knows (and is sure) that God knows (and is sure) about the eternal peace that Jesus made.
Surely we come to have this peace, when we come to know what God already knows. We have peace of mind about our eternal destiny, when we come to know that God already knows that He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. If we do not know this thing, we have doubts and fears in our minds. Yet, if we come to know this thing that God already knows, and if we come to know that God is sure of this thing, then we can have a contented peace of mind concerning our eternal acceptance with the Holy God.
The very purpose of the true gospel minister is to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luk 1:79) True peace comes in knowing that our salvation is of the Lord. God’s plan of salvation, which is by grace, and grace alone, needs no ifs, ands or buts added to it. God’s grace stands alone to save God’s people. God is totally satisfied with Jesus’ finished work on the cross. By Jesus, and Jesus alone, God is at peace with us. If we know these things about our salvation, then we know what God already knows. If our minds know what God already knows, we have the peace of mind of knowing that God’s mind is at peace toward us. If we know, without doubt or disclaimer, that Jesus has reconciled us to God, then we can have a peace of mind that few of God’s heaven-bound children now experience. This peace is what we call Level Four Peace.
As we near the end of our thoughts on peace, let us return to the words of H. G. Spafford. He described what we call Level One Peace with the words: When peace like a river attendeth my way. This is that soul-soothing, pause-and-ponder God kind of peace. Imagine what the Apostles felt when Jesus said to the raging storm, Peace, be still. (Mar 4:39) There was a great calm in the presence of the one named Tranquil. There still is!
Spafford wrote of Level Two Peace with the words: When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. A declaration of soul wellness while gazing into the depths that held his daughters seems quite impossible. The world cannot understand such an irrational attitude. Even the child of God who experiences this providential peace of God does not understand how it can happen. This peace passes all understanding. Yet, men like Spafford (and Winfrey) can attest to the world that it is real. It is not explainable, but it is real peace that can overcome real despair.
Spafford expressed Level Three Peace in the words: My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more. Oh, the bliss of the wonder that God’s Son died on a cross for me. In the words of Stuart Hine: And when I think of God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing. He bled and died to take away my sin. To think that God sent His Eternal Son, His Perfect Son, His Beloved Son! It seems too good to be true. My mind cannot fathom such a God. For some unexplainable reason God loved me enough to send His Precious Son to a cross to pay a debt that I owed. When I further think that Jesus willingly died for me, I am brought to tears. Tears of sorrow and tears of joy! What love! What a Friend of sinners! What a God! Moreover, when God spared not His Son, but sent Him to die, God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. When Jesus gladly bore our burdens by nailing our sins to His cross, God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Peace was made. God is satisfied. To God be all the glory! Eternity will be too short to praise our God for the gift of His Son. Eternity will be too short to praise our Savior for His unselfish sufficient salvation of sinners. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Oh, my soul.
Perhaps Spafford alluded to Level Four Peace with the words: Let this blessed assurance control. A child of God can have eternal salvation, without having the assurance that he has the salvation. In God’s mind, the salvation of His children is past tense, even a ‘done deal’. Their debt is paid in full. Nothing further is required. It is finished. God is satisfied. Salvation is accomplished. Since God has reconciled us to Himself by Himself, God’s children have eternal salvation, and none can pluck one of them from the God who saved them. When a hell-bound sinner comes to understand God’s foolproof plan of salvation, he senses the assurance that only salvation by grace can offer. When the sinner understands that he has already been reconciled to God by Jesus Christ, his guilt-stricken mind experiences indescribable relief. He has peace of mind concerning his eternal destiny. He has joy in his heart, and rest in his soul. He has blessed assurance. He has the peace and assurance about his eternity that only comes through understanding that salvation is of the Lord. This peace of mind concerning the next world is the greatest thing a man can have in this world. Let this blessed assurance control.
We finally come to what we will call Level Five Peace. Spafford certainly proclaimed this ultimate peace with the words: And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend. Even so, it is well with my soul. The voice of the archangel! The blast of the trumpet! The coming down of the Lord Omnipotent, Savior King! The glorious appearing of that Great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ! Resurrection morning! The dead live again! Wow!!
All has changed. No more death; no more tears. No more doubts; no more fears. No more battles with sinful flesh. No more looking through a glass darkly. Our faith is sight! The clouds are rolled back, all barriers removed, heaven’s door opened, nothing between Jesus and me! No more envisioning the Savior’s face. No more imagining what He looks like. Oh, to see Him, as He is! To finally be able to glorify Him with perfect untainted praise! To at last be totally satisfied! All will be well with my soul, with my mind, with my heart, and with my resurrected body. Lord, haste the day. Even so, come Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)
The hope of eternal life! A time of timeless, endless, perfect peace is a few days away! There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come, no more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye; all is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore. What a day, glorious day that will be! (Jim Hill) All is ‘what’? All is peace. Everything peace. Everywhere peace. All-the-time peace. Peace without end. Forevermore peace. Ultimate peace! A life forever, and ever, where all is peace! What a day! What a glorious day! What an eternity! What a glorious eternity! All by a man named Shiloh! What a God!!