Peace, God, and Us
Read Luke 2:8-14. James Montgomery captured the spirit of this remarkable scene when he penned Angels From the Realms of Glory 200 years ago.
Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Shepherds, in the fields abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing. Yonder shines the infant Light.
Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ the new-born King!
This is a thunderous scene: one angel on the ground directing a sky full of other angels. These angels that appeared suddenly could indeed have been singing; or they could have been shouting. We are not told. What we do know is that this wasn’t a staid Baptist worship service!
They are directing praise to God, but it is obviously for the benefit of the shepherds.
Verse 14 is laden with theological truth. Let’s unpack it today. There are two great truths that serve as an exclamation point to the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem.
There is no verb in this verse. Instead it is a grand banner – a Christmas bumper
sticker! Literally it is, glory in highest to God and upon earth peace in men of good will.
Briefly, here is what the angels meant when they shouted “Glory to God in the highest…”
I. The birth of the Savior first and foremost evokes praise for God’s glorious character.
But, what did the angels mean when thy shouted, “and upon on earth peace in men of good will.”
II. The birth of the Savior also evokes praise for God’s gracious gift to men.
The English phrases are easily compared…
A. The angelic message invades the very space where men live. (and upon earth)
The scene shifts from heaven where glory abounds to earth where peace abounds. We must note that the angel message (the Christmas message) has to do with the earth – where we live! It is not sentimental gush!
B. The birth of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle to the great gift of God to men – peace. (Peace)
The concept of peace is multi-faceted in the Bible. However, we are exploring what the angels meant when they shouted out “and on earth, peace to men of good will. I believe four concepts stand out.
1. The angels proclaimed a general sense of well-being.
We may call this the peace “of” God.
Peace in this sense is nearly synonymous with “security”. Lk 11:21 when a strong man keeps his palace his goods are in peace. In other words everything is OK! Things are not out of control! God is in charge.
So I must ask whether you can say about your life “all is well.” Illust: Horatio Spaffordpenned the famous hymn It is Well With My Soulafter learning that his children had perished at sea. He could say, When peace like a river attendeth my way.When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say: “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
This means we can have genuine and lasting peace of soul. We can be filled up on the inside! NAS Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. The angels announced salvation for men.
This is the primary idea in the mind of the angels. Salvation after all is in essence peace…
The gospel is called the “gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15).
Read the remarkable description in Eph 2:14 and17.
Salvation brings order out of confusion; sense out of non-sense; and understanding out of ignorance.
In fact, peace is at the very crux of what it means to live. Rom 8:6 to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. This is impossible then apart from salvation.
3. The angels declared God’s practical care for men.
This unique peace is granted to believers. When believers pray, think, and act right they are promised peace, …the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus Phil 4:7. Our Father remembers us when we are don’t which way to turn!
Here’s the deal. When the angels spoke of the Savior and announced peace, they were not merely setting forth theoretical concepts. Peace is real. It has evidences. It is often measurable.
4. The angels heralded the healing of the relationship between God and men.
Illust: Gordon MacDonald relates an experience during one of his lectures. A Nigerian woman who is a physician at a great teaching hospital in the United States came out of the crowd today to say something kind about the lecture I had just given. She introduced herself using an American name. "What's your African name?" I asked. She immediately gave it to me, several syllables long with a musical sound to it. "What does the name mean?" I wondered.
She answered, "It means 'Child who takes the anger away.'"
When I inquired as to why she would have been given this name, she said, "My parents had been forbidden by their parents to marry. But they loved each other so much that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. And when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that's the name my mother and father gave me."
It occurred to me that her name would be a suitable one for Jesus. Citation:Gordon MacDonald, author, speaker, Leadershipeditor-at-large, Leadership Weekly(11-6-02)
This is really the greatest concept. Usually we call this peace “with” God. It is similar to the idea that peace = salvation (#2).
Here is the problem. We are not God’s friends. In fact we are his enemies. Things are not right with Him; they are all bad.
Read Romans 5:1-11 (NIV) in unison on PPT slide.
Wow! No wonder the angels shouted “Peace on earth…” Surely they could not foresee the cross, could they?
Thus, in many respects, Christ’s birth was God’s offer to us of a truce with Himself.
C. The birth of Jesus Christ does not bring peace to all men indiscriminately however (of goodwill)
Not everyone qualifies for this gift. Look around the world right now. Peace is not everywhere! In fact we may argue that Christ’s coming brings just the opposite – strife and turmoil (Mat 10:34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword).
Read also the not–so-peaceful scene of Rev 20:11-15. So what gives?
Well, the KJV translation has confused us “Peace on earth goodwill to men.” But good will is not a gift given to men. Better the NIV and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests or the NASVand on earth peace among mean with whom He is pleased.
This is a great statement of what God has given to believers!
So peace as we have described is possible only for those who have a special personal relationship with Jesus.
Col 1:20, having made peace through the blood of the cross
John 14:27, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you
Outside of this you are doomed to eternal torment. You can never know lasting peace.
And what of the shepherds who composed the audience? I’m sure they did not know all these implications, as do we who have the benefit of hindsight. But they must have known something was up! This must have been real for them? For v15 ff tells us that they rushed to Bethlehem to find the babe in order to worship him!
And what about you? I pray that you too have this peace. I pray that you too rush to submit yourself to the Jesus in humble worship.