War and the menace of war is a constant reality in the world today. Peace seems always to be under threat from one quarter or another.
The Bible has a great deal to say about peace. It teaches that envy and greed are the major threats to peace: “You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war” (James 4:2).
Because the brutality of greedy men must be resisted, the Bible recognises that peace is not always possible. Consequently, it allows for war to be waged in a just cause, and teaches plainly that there is “a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8).
It would be comforting to think that the Bible promises international peace. But it does not. In fact, peace between nations is quite low on its list of priorities.
According to the Bible, there is a more important War going on than any war between nations. This Great War is spiritual, and involves conflict between heaven and earth, God and mankind.
Because of our sin, we are alienated from God and in rebellion against him. We are hostile towards him in thought and deed. We have started a War that we can neither win nor end.
However, what we cannot do for ourselves, God has done for us. He has provided a Saviour, his own dear Son, to end the War between himself and mankind.
The Bible teaches that “While we were [still his] enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:3). He made peace between God and man “by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).
This is why the birth of Jesus Christ was and is “good news of a great joy.” He came to earth to establish “a covenant of peace” between man and God (Ezekiel 34:25), and to “guide our feet into the way of peace” with God (Luke 1:79). He is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), who came to end the War of wars. Little wonder the angels sang on Christmas day, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14)!
But note that the angels did not announce peace to everyone. They announced it to those with whom God is pleased. This raises a crucial question: What can we do to make God pleased with us? The answer consists of two parts.
The first part is: We can do nothing. No good work, no act of penance, no religious ritual, no secret knowledge, can make amends for our sinful acts and our sinful nature. We can do nothing to please God and to bring about peace with him. This is why God sent his Son. Jesus has done what we could not: he has pleased and appeased God on our behalf.
Reconciliation, the restoration of peace, is God’s perfect and priceless gift. We cannot merit or supplement it. But we can and must do something to receive it. This brings us to the second part of the answer to the question, What can we do to please God?
The Bible states that “It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God.” And it insists that “without faith no one can please God” (Hebrews 11:2, 6, CEV). God wants our faith, our belief, our trust, and declares that “one is justified [made right] by faith” (Romans 3:28). Specifically, he wants us to have faith in his Son: “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). We are regarded by God as righteous when we abandon all self-righteousness and instead accept the righteousness of his Son by faith. For God “put forward” Jesus Christ and his death “as a propitiation”, a peace offering, and this offering has “to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25). To meet with God’s approval, then, we must believe in his Son. We must surrender unconditionally to the Prince of Peace and accept him as the Prince of our lives. It is through faith in Jesus that we please God and obtain peace with him.
When we trust in Jesus we do not merely enter into a truce with God. We actually enter into a harmonious, loving relationship. God forgives the sins that once made us his foes and he declares us to be right and clean (justified) in his sight. So we can say, “since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Once we enjoy peace with God, we begin to enjoy the peace of God. For once the Son of God has established peace for us, the Spirit of God begins to communicate that peace to us. Speaking to Christians, the Bible says, “the peace of God, which passes understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Here is a promise of peace unlike anything the world knows—the very peace of God which satisfies our deepest longing, and strengthens our emotions and intellects with an abiding sense of calm, contentment and well-being.
Peace within and between nations will only come when the individuals who make up those nations are at peace with God. This is why world peace is not God’s first priority. Yet peace on earth is his ultimate desire. Indeed, the Bible speaks of a time when “the government shall be upon his [Christ’s] shoulder” (Isaiah 9:5) and there will be “a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), and with righteousness, peace. When the Prince of Peace reigns in the hearts of all people, then “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).