Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:14a “For he is our peace,. . .”
We Gentiles were “far off” from God, but have been “made nigh” by the shed blood of Christ. The root cause of our estrangement from God was sin, and Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for sins Jewish, sins Gentile, sins of the whole world. Peace with God was won at the price of Christ’s blood.
The blood of Jesus vanquished sin, the great separator. Thus, Jesus is the great uniter. The Greek verb “eiro” means “to join.” Its noun form “eirene,” translated here as “peace,” refers to things joined together. To make peace means to join together what is separated. As “our peace,” God the Son has restored the friendship with God the Father we lost in the Fall.
Themistocles once offended King Philip. Desperately seeking to regain the royal favor, he sought to win the heart of the king’s young son, Alexander (later, the Great). In time, Themistocles gained an audience with King Philip, and entered the royal presence with Prince Alexander in his arms. When the king saw his own son delighting in Themistocles, and smiling upon him, the king’s wrath was quickly appeased, and his displeasure dissipated. Similarly, let all who seek an audience with God the Father approach the royal presence solely by means of God the Son. The Father smiles only on those whom the Son smiles on, “for he is our peace.”
Jesus is not only our peace-maker, but also our peace-matter. He is, in His own Person, the embodiment of peace. Jesus does not make peace and depart. He is the peace itself. As the medium and substance of peace, Jesus joins together and keeps together. If Jesus leaves, peace fails.
His presence is essential for peace to endure. John MacArthur tells a story which illustrates this truth well. In World War II a group of American soldiers was exchanging fire with some Germans who were occupying a farm house. The family who lived in the house had run to the barn for protection. Their three-year-old daughter became frightened and ran out into the field between the two groups of soldiers. Upon seeing the little girl, both sides immediately ceased firing until she was safe. The child brought a brief peace, but once she was back in the barn, gunfire began again. Her presence was essential to the peace being a lasting one.
A Presence is also always needed for one to have peace with God. Peace occurs only as Jesus is the peace-matter. He died on the cross to purchase peace, and intercedes at the right hand of God to maintain peace. He is even now our mediator, pleading our cause based on His blood.
In this phrase “He is our peace,” Paul makes a transition in his thoughts. He enters the phrase talking about man’s relationship with God, but departs the phrase talking about man’s association with man. “He is our peace” covers both. In annihilating the perpendicular distance between man and God, Jesus lessened the horizontal distance between man and man.
When Jesus overcame sin He dealt not only with the cause of man’s separation from God, but also with the root of man’s alienation from man. Sin ruptured the relationship between God and man, and also wrecked the relationship between man and man. Sin is the cause of human conflict and division. Evil carries within its own self the impossibility of peace. By its very nature sin is selfishness, which is divisive and disruptive. When we act selfishly, we inevitably infringe on what someone else wants or needs. As we have our own way, we inevitably infringe on someone else’s territory.
Fortunately, Jesus dealt with sin, the terrible thing within us which causes our social troubles. By overcoming sin with His own blood, Jesus “is our peace” in human relationships. He joins together what is separated.
Again, though, the key is to realize He is the embodiment of peace. He did not come buy peace, set an example, and leave us on our own to enact the results of His efforts. He made peace possible in the first place, has to come personally to enact the peace, and has to abide to maintain the peace. He has to be present for the peace He bought at Calvary to work.
Jesus unites people by bringing them to Himself first. He did not send Jews to Gentiles originally, or Gentiles to Jews first. He began by bringing Jews and Gentiles to Himself first. This was portrayed in Paul himself. Can you imagine Saul of Tarsus going as a missionary to Gentiles before his Damascus Road experience? God had to draw Paul unto Himself and fill him with Christ’s love before he was willing to go to the uncircumcised. Paul went to the Gentiles by way of Jesus.
The temple helps illustrate this. When Jesus died, the veil was torn, picturing the fact the way into the holiest is open to all who come by way of His death. Let us pretend we are in the temple the very moment the veil is torn. Visualize people from all over the world being present in the Court of the Gentiles. Now imagine God Himself saying from within the veil, “All who appropriate the blood of my Son Jesus Christ, come and welcome.” Since the Holy of Holies is quite small, as we approach the room, and try to enter it, a noteworthy thing happens–we are forced to draw closer to one another. Believing Jews and believing Gentiles of every tribe of earth are compacted together. This pictures a vital truth. In coming to God through Jesus, people are drawn closer to one another.
Peace between groups is ultimately achieved not by “us” going to “them,” or by “them” coming to “us,” but by both parties coming to Jesus. He is the meeting place, the site of concord between divergent groups. The way to have true, lasting peace is to take away that which prevents it. Sin is the preventer, and only Jesus deals effectively with sin.
Enduring peace is possible only when self dies, and the best place for self to die is at the foot of the cross. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (GL 2:20). This is the only way a pompous, self-righteous, bigoted Jew could ever love Gentiles.
The elusive human peace mankind seeks lies in understanding three haunting words in the New Testament, “I die daily” (1 C 15:31). Prejudice is so ingrained in us that we overcome it solely by letting it die with our old man. We must everyday climb on an altar and pray, “God, my thoughts and desires do not matter. Today think in me, love through me, make me you that you may be me.” We must decrease, Christ has to increase (JN 3:30). We need to become nothing that Jesus may be everything in us.
I was blessed to be raised in a home where prejudice was rarely, if ever, blatantly displayed. Demeaning words and jokes were forbidden in our household, a rule of conduct I try to maintain in my house. The reason our family felt this way is rooted in my dad’s boyhood poverty. One of thirteen children, he usually lived in four-room shacks. They were so poor that just before the thirteenth child was born they moved out of their house into the barn. The cows had better quarters than the Marshalls did. Being this low on the social ladder, Dad found it hard to look down on others.
What was true of Dad socially needs to become true of us spiritually. When we see ourselves as we really are, we will deem ourselves so low that we cannot look down on anyone else. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (RM 3:10). Face to face with Jesus we see our own wretchedness, and are left with nothing to brag about. Things we have exaggerated become trivialities. Condemned felons in and of ourselves, we are all down in the dust.
Our only hope was found in Jesus, who alone was able to lift us out of the miry pit. As we look around we see others different from us who have experienced the same thing. They, too, were lifted from the pit by Jesus. In reaching for the same cross, we touch one another, joining hands and hearts, lifting our voices together in songs of praise to our Savior.
Is one of us thinking, “I dislike Indians (or Orientals or blacks)”? Who asked our opinion? When did any of us who have been bought with a price gain the right to express such a view? A Christian should never say anything which Jesus Christ Himself would not say. Does one of us say, “I hate Catholics (or Jews or Mormons)”? Who appointed us judge and god? What right have we to speak such things with lips which are supposed to be Jesus’ lips. Would the gentle Nazarene ever say such a thing? Never!
We must learn to love one another. We must drown prejudice, flush it out, and replace it with tolerance. This happens only as we lay down our lives with all their ugliness, and take up Jesus’ life with all its beauty.
When two parties are at odds, the best way to bring them together is through someone whom they both love. This is what Christ does. “He is our peace.” A common love for Him causes people to love one another.
Jesus is the hope of nations. He alone can bring mankind into brotherhood. Only the Gospel can destroy alienation, separation, and bitterness.
It is not enough to desegregate schools and in them teach harmony and tolerance. These essentials must be done, but they are not enough.
It is not enough to call for goodwill, kindness, and friendliness. It is not enough to negotiate. We support such efforts. They are all a secular world and its governments have at their disposal, but they are not enough.
It is not enough to go to war. The sword is often necessary, but never accomplishes anything permanent. It has to be followed by a higher, divine purpose for being. The peace treaty we signed to end World War I was unable to end World War II, which was already raging in young Adolf Hitler’s heart. From occupied Japan, General MacArthur sent word to America, “Send missionaries.” We sent the computer chip instead, and now extreme nationalism in both countries threatens our relationship again.
Christ alone can bring lasting peace among the nations, because what is needed is a change of heart, and only He can bestow a new birth and a new nature. The Church is entrusted with the only message which can bring peace. Thus, it is tragic when we cry, “Peace, Peace,” and yet are delinquent in spreading the Gospel which alone produces unity. We are blood-guilty when evangelism and missions are not our number one priority.