4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:4–7, NKJV)
Continuing to regard God as “our refuge” in the face of raging enemies and uncertain times, the psalmist contrasts the roaring waves of disturbances that rush at God’s people with the peaceful tranquility of streams of water that sustain and refresh “the city of God” (Psa. 46:3-4). God is in the midst of this symbolic city, protecting and providing for His holy ones as surely as the dawn breaks on each a new day. God’s power is unmatched. He has but to speak, and the earth melts away. While the kingdoms of men rise and fall, the dwelling place of the Most High God never falters. Today, God’s dwelling place with His people is the church, the redeemed who are saved by the blood of the Lamb and who are at peace with God and man (Eph. 2:14-22). “Do not be afraid” and “let not your heart be troubled” are the constant refrains of the Son of God as He calls on souls to strengthen their faith in Him (Lk. 5:10; 8:50; 12:7, 32; Jno. 12:15; 14:1). As did Israel in the Old Testament, even so now, the “Israel of God” (the church) has a peaceful refuge in the God of Jacob (Gal. 6:16).
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15, NKJV)
The gospel calls us to peace with God and with others. Sin introduced conflict between man and God, producing spiritual death and consequentially, physical death (Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Rom. 5:12; 6:23). The angelic announcement at Christ’s birth (“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”) praised God for His goodwill toward humanity that brought peace between Himself and sinners through His Son (Lk. 2:14; Tit. 3:4-5). Jesus Christ “is our peace” (first with God, then with other sinners) – “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one…” (Eph. 2:14). Being reconciled to God “in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity,” hostility with God is removed and replaced with harmonious tranquility “in one body” (the church). That is the peace the angels announced. That is the peace Christ’s death accomplished. That peace must now rule (govern) our hearts. Being at peace with God, we can successfully strive to “live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Until then, sin rules the heart, infusing our marriages, families, nations, and the church with its selfishness, confusion, and every evil thing (Jas. 3:14-16). By contrast, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (Jas. 3:17). Thank God for His peace! Without Him, peace is unattainable.
22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22–26, NKJV)
This priestly blessing drew Israel’s attention to the presence of Jehovah and His providence over them. Israel was favored when the Lord God was with her, guarding the nation and being gracious to His people. As the sun warms the body, the face of the Lord looked mercifully in love and salvation upon the souls of His chosen ones (Psa. 27:1; 44:3). (But, the Lord’s face was turned against Israel when the nation sinned against Him, resulting in destruction and death, Deut. 31:17-18; Psa. 34:16.) This priestly blessing would remind the Israelites to keep their faith focused on the Lord God as their Provider, Protector, and Giver of peace. Surely these things have been written for our sake (1 Cor. 9:10; 10:11; Rom. 15:4). Christ’s church is the Israel of God, with Christians composing a royal priesthood (Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:9). The Lord shines down His eternal favors of grace and salvation to us, His children, compelling us to walk in the warm light of His truth (Jno. 8:12). We are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” and inherit a blessing when we are faithful to the Lord (1 Pet. 1:5; 3:8-12).
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1–3, NKJV)
Is your life full of conflict with others? If so, you may be unaware of the war that is raging within you. Today’s passage says the desire for pleasure and personal satisfaction fuels our fights with others. Hedonism is “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life” (Merriam-Webster). This philosophy suggests a satisfying life is about fulfilling personal pleasures, desires, and sensual delights. Yet invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, not kindness and love. The pursuit of such worldly desires makes one an enemy of God (Jas. 4:4). By contrast, Christians are to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). James had just taught that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17). If you want peace with God and with others, then reject fulfilling your own desires as the true course to joy. A good dose of humility will help us win these battles in our war against the devil (Jas. 4:6-7).
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17–18, NKJV)
Just as the wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, and demonic” has identifiable traits (bitter envy, self-seeking, pride, lies, and confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), so does the wisdom from above. God-approved wisdom is marked by dignified purity, and so is “consecrated to the service and glory of God” (Lange). With God as its object, wisdom from above has a social character that reflects innocence toward men and women. This wisdom is peaceable (not warring, Jas. 4:1). It is gentle – mild, moderate, fair, and just in its judgments and treatment of others. Approved wisdom is “willing to yield,” it is easily entreated, “open to reason” (ESV). Wisdom hears all the evidence instead of entrenching itself without reason against it. It is full of mercy and it bears the impartial, genuine fruit of compassion. Because of its nature, heavenly wisdom plants the seeds of peace (not hostile confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), and so produces peace (Matt. 5:9). Let us pursue the wisdom that is from above and bear the fruit of righteousness.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
Over the past week we have commented briefly on God’s “One-derful” plan for unity from Ephesians 4:4-6. It is the plan for unity that has God’s endorsement, and which binds Christians together in peace as we diligently guard it (Eph. 4:3). To summarize, God’s platform of unity consists of the following planks: One Body: Unity of Relationship (the church, Eph. 1:22-23); One Spirit: Unity of Life (new life in Christ, revealed in truth, Jno. 3:5; Jno. 16:12-13; Gal. 5:25); One Hope: Unity of Destiny (an eternal inheritance, 1 Pet. 1:3-5); One Lord: Unity of Authority (submission to Christ’s will, Col. 3:17); One Faith: Unity of Revelation (the gospel is the faith once for all delivered, Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3); One Baptism: Unity of Forgiveness (God’s plan of salvation, Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 10:47-48; 22:16); and, One God and Father of All: Unity of Worship (true worshipers, Jno. 4:23-24). Unity in Christ is possible as we trust and follow the wisdom and word of God (1 Cor. 1:10). Human wisdom leads to hopeless division (1 Cor. 1:11-13). The unity of believers for which Christ prayed honors God, does His will, and blesses every soul who participates in it (Jno. 17:20-21; 14:21, 23-24). May me diligently keep this unity with Christ and His people (1 Jno. 1:3-7; 2 Jno. 9-11).
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3, NKJV)
Jesus prayed for the unity of those who believe on Him through the words of His apostles in John 17:20. In fact, He prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jno. 17:21). The plans for unity men have devised are a far cry from this. Many Protestant denominations advocate some form of ecumenism (or in today’s vernacular, “acceptance” and “inclusion”), both doctrinal and moral. This is unity in diversity, which essentially means we will “agree on the core issues of the gospel and agree to disagree on everything else.” The Father and the Son do not agree to disagree (see John 17:21). Our question is: Who decides what are the core issues of the gospel? You? Me? A church? A council of churches? Someone else? Very problematic. The lowest common denominator prevails in these quasi-unity movements. The apostle Paul said Christians must endeavor to keep (watch, guard) the unity that proceeds from the Spirit of God, and to do so with the uniting principle or bond of peace (v. 3). The Holy Spirit has revealed the gospel of Christ that calls us all to partake of the promise in Christ (Eph. 3:4-6). We will find our answers to what Bible unity looks like in the Bible, not in the creeds of churches and the philosophies of men (Col. 2:8).