Peace is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. In Greek, the word for peace is ‘Eirene’; it refers to quietness, rest, peace among people, and the Messiah’s peace. In Hebrew, the word for peace is ‘Shalom’; Shalom describes completeness, soundness, and welfare.
In the Old Testament, peace usually refers to peace with others, peace during war times, and seeking to be at peace with God through animal sacrifices called peace offerings. However, books like Isaiah and Psalms talk about a peace within, a spiritual type of peace, or peace that comes from God.
In the New Testament, three different types of peace are described: peace with God, peace with others, and peace within. Here, I will focus on these three types of peace.
Peace with God
Do you ever crave peace? I do….
I crave peace in uncertain times – when I feel afraid, when I don’t know what is going to happen. I crave peace in times like this. I have already been off work for two months. I don’t know when I will return to my preschool position, or if I will return at all (my contract ends in June). I crave peace as I hear the daily numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths. I wonder how many more people are going to die, or if someone I know will become infected. It’s a horrible thing to think about.
But we have peace regardless of our circumstances or how we feel. Because the peace of God is not dependent on our circumstances or our feelings.
Romans 5:1-2 describes the peace that we have with God:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”
If we trust in Jesus, peace is a consistent spiritual reality. A spiritual reality that the Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts day by day. By nature, our sinfulness is at war with God’s holiness. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our sinfulness is paid for, we are made right with God. We are justified by faith in Jesus. Peace means that we are reconciled to God; we are ‘at one’ with God. By faith in Jesus, we have access to God’s grace, His unmerited love for us. By faith in Jesus, we have an eternal relationship with our heavenly Father, enjoying His love and care for us. This is an unchanging reality. This Gospel of Jesus is our source of peace. Through the cross, we are at peace with God.
Peace with Others
Further on in Romans 12:18, Paul calls us to live at peace with others: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
As Christians, we are called to be at peace with others. For the most part, we like this idea – it sounds good, doesn’t it? But I wonder how many people find it difficult to remain at peace with others in this current lockdown situation! I can think of many moments over the past few weeks when I have not been at peace with my parents – I have been impatient with them, and they have irked me at times!
This is a time when a lot of people are feeling tense and worried. A calm and patient approach to others doesn’t always come easily. Loving one another, and putting others before ourselves, doesn’t feel natural. God knows that we find this hard – it’s our nature. We are called to be obedient and submit our will to God – so we are called to live peaceably with others in obedience to God. But God, through His Holy Spirit is the one who brings about this peace with others. We just need to be willing.
The ESV MacArthur Study Bible describes peace within as “the inner calm that results from confidence in one’s saving relationship with Christ”.
The Holy Spirit works in us to bring about the peace of God in our hearts, our souls, and our minds. Colossians and Philippians describe a peace that goes beyond salvation:
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful”. (Colossians 3:15)
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:7)
It is a peace that we will never fully understand…
It is the feeling of being at rest
It is knowing that God is in Control
It is the experience of being in God’s presence
It is hard to describe, but when we experience it, we know it….
The Holy Spirit is the One who brings about this peace within.
How Can We Grow in Peace?
Peace is listed as one of seven fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-25. The fruits of the Spirit are a result of the Holy Spirit working in us, not our own efforts. Though, as we lean into the Holy Spirit, and lean into disciplines like reading and meditating on God’s Word, Prayer, and Fellowship with other believers, we can partner in the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit changes us, but we can walk with Him on this journey.
Isaiah 26:3 describes how we can grow in the fruit of peace: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because He trusts in you”. God will keep us in perfect peace, through His Holy Spirit. Our role is to trust in God and focus on Him. Our role is to meditate on the words of Scripture and to meet God in prayer. The Holy Spirit does the rest.
So How can we have peace in these days?
Life is hard, and very strange at the moment. We are in lockdown, in mandatory isolation, as a virus ravages our world. Fear, anxiety, loneliness, and lack of purpose are the norm. We don’t know when it will end. We hope that we won’t get sick….
For the first week of Lockdown, I experienced anxiety most days, and I hardly slept. Two months in, I feel that I have adjusted to life as we know it, but only by God’s help. ‘Hope When It Hurts’, a devotional study by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, describes how the Holy Spirit is at work bringing us peace in these hard times:
“Suffering has the ability to shake us to the core, rattling our confidence and comfort, often leaving us in a state of anxiety over what we can’t control…The Holy Spirit is at work to grow in us the peace that comes from knowing that we are not in control, but that God is – and that God is for us. He assists us to cast all our anxieties on God, and then to leave them there (1 Peter 5:7). He enables us to sleep at night because he reminds us that God never slumbers. Gradually, as Jesus Christ and his promises become our central focus, peace begins to drown out the noise of anxiety and fear.”
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”