GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE (3)
The third blessing which Paul sought for Timothy (1 Tim. 1.2) was peace. There can be no happiness without it. The Scripture says that Christ is our peace. It is through Him that we have access to the Father. ‘He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us’. An assured interest in Him gives a calm peace. Although the mind may be deeply exercised by outward trials and daily worries, the undercurrent is peaceful. He gives it; for He said ‘My peace I give unto you’.
Grace, mercy, and peace comprise rich spiritual blessings. The peace of God truly ‘passeth all understanding’, though it may be interrupted by things on earth. The loss of God’s favour by some act of sin or folly will interrupt it, and nothing will restore it but a restoration of God’s favour. The peace of God is very dear to the Christian. David pleaded for it with great earnestness in Psalm fifty-one.
Possession of the peace of God depends on the reconciliation brought about by peace with God. The peace of God, if it reside anywhere in a man, must reside in his conscience. Yet conscience alone, though it be ‘God’s deputy in the soul’, is no safe guide for the Christian’s conduct. Conscience fell in the Fall in Eden; it may be ‘defiled’, ‘seared with a hot iron’, and need to be ‘purged from dead works’. ‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.’ Of the things He told His disciples the Lord Jesus said, ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace’; it is the fruit of grace and mercy exhibited on the cross. Reconciliation with God changes everything for the sinner. What a change it made for Paul! He was no longer the proud Pharisee, boasting his connection with a visible church, and trusting in that. ‘Less than the least’ is what he said of himself after his conversion. How willingly he suffered the loss of all things for Christ! How deeply he felt the unbought love of God! ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved).’
It is a mistake to seek for peace in sanctification. True peace, like grace and mercy, is from ‘God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord’ and it rests in justification, not in sanctification. Once reconciled with God, a clear view of His love with delight in His presence, is a strong element of true peace. Then the Christian possesses not only peace of conscience, but hope of all good for the future. He knows that God is unchangeable, and that His love, like Himself, is everlasting. All good things are ensured to the believer, though his
own idea of what constitutes good things may be wrong; that must be left to God’s judgement. He may desire much earthly good which God may see would be against his soul’s welfare. Persecution and a martyr’s death may be his lot; but if that is to be the ‘good thing’ for him, a martyr’s grace will be given to him at the appropriate time. Some martyrs have not accepted deliverance from tortures and death because the conditions imposed were sinful; but the peace which came from God still remained. The ‘God of peace’ will give His people final victory over Satan, through Him who spoiled principalities and powers on the cross.
Satan himself is made subservient to the Christian who is at peace with God. Paul had his pride kept down through the instrumentality of the messenger of Satan, and he thus enjoyed more abundant grace from Christ according to His need. In the painful circumstances of life, unbroken peace with God in Christ is a source of comfort. How often the spirit of the Christian is wounded by some scornful remark with regard to his intellectual attainments, his physical weakness, or his being in a rather low position in the social scale! People who consider themselves good Christians still retain pride enough to lead them to inflict a stab of this kind. Every word, with the feeling that prompted it, is noted by God, and will not go unpunished, though He will apply His balm to the wounded heart, and draw the sufferer close to Himself, and thus make it conduce to the soul’s good. He not only reconciles in Christ, but sanctifies by His Spirit.
All the promises belong to the possessor of God’s peace, but the Father may have to use the rod in mercy when His children go astray, as in the case of David and others like him. God’s peace is perfect, and is so abundant as to be like a flowing stream. ‘Peace be with you’ was a common salutation amongst the Jews, but the Lord Jesus appears not to have used it until after His resurrection. Before His death He had said, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,’ but this was not by way of salutation. It was not a mere courteous expression, but a rich blessing which He imparted. When Paul, in his epistles, used the salutation of ‘grace, mercy, and peace’ the words implied every spiritual blessing which he had invoked for those to whom he wrote, but it was not in his power to bestow them. So far as they received the answer to this earnest prayer on their behalf, they would enjoy the friendship of God in Christ, and a holy communion with Him.
The false peace of a mere religious profession is a thing to be warned against; it is peace on a wrong footing. It is easy to sit under the sound of the Gospel, and to be satisfied with that, though there may be no sense of indwelling corruption, no conflict between flesh and Spirit. There may be plenty of dead works without life in the
soul. A false peace will keep a man asleep in his sins,; it is born with him and is the fruit of nature alone. It will disappear when it is most wanted. Like the lamps of the foolish virgins, it will prove of no use when the cry is made, ‘Behold! the Bridegroom cometh! But grace, mercy, and peace will everlastingly rest on those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching.
K. W. H. Howard