19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:19–20, NKJV).
The “same day” He was resurrected, Jesus appeared to His apostles and assured them He had overcome sin and death. Their fear of the Jews put them behind closed doors. But Jesus had not given up on them. Soon, Jesus would send them into the world to preach the good news of His death, resurrection, and our salvation from sins (John 20:21; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:1-11). Jesus did two things that evening that assures us God has not given up on us, either. (1) Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Fear is replaced with the gladness of faith when we believe Jesus is alive (John 16:22). Do not live your life in fear, fellow Christian. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). (2) Jesus showed them His wounds. It was really Jesus. He died for the whole world (Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). He bore our sins in His body on the tree as a sacrifice for sins (1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 10:10; Isa. 53:4-6). His resurrection assures us of God’s amazing grace and love (Rom. 5:8). Man’s sinful hatred killed the Son of God. But Jesus arose with forgiving love for all who will believe in His name (John 1:11-13; 3:16). We are saved because Jesus lives (Rom. 5:10).
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. (Romans 15:13, NKJV)
The Christians to whom Paul wrote these words were troubled with “disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The urge to demand others conform to our conscience over matters of liberties is strong. Left unchecked in our hearts, it leads to contempt and condemnation of each other (Rom. 14:3, 10). Critically condemning personal liberties had to stop to avoid being stumbling blocks and promote unity (Rom. 14:13; 15:1-3). Paul is not advising and advancing doctrinal and moral unity in diversity in Romans 14. He is advancing unity by respecting the consciences of each other in matters that are “clean,” “good,” “acceptable,” “pure,” in things God does “not condemn” (Rom. 14:14, 16, 18, 20, 22). By focusing our faith on God through His word guiding us, we avoid factiousness over different consciences toward God-allowed liberties. Christians glorify God by hearts filled with joy, peace, and hope by the power of God’s Spirit guiding us in truth (Rom. 15:5-7, 13).
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:16–17, NKJV)
The nation of Israel was chosen by God, fulfilling a promise He made to Abraham to make his seed a great nation (Gen. 12:2; Deut. 10:22). God told Israel through Moses, “‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exo. 19:5-6). Sadly, Israel often rebelled against God. Their crowning rebellion was rejecting the promised Messiah. As a result, the kingdom was taken from Israel and given to Christ’s kingdom, His church (Matt. 21:42-45; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Because His kingdom is “not of this world,” physical descend and possessing land do not define “the Israel of God” in this gospel age. Faith, not flesh, identifies the children of God (Israel) now (Rom. 2:25-29; 9:6-8). No longer does physical lineage and circumcision of the flesh by the Law of Moses. Now, the gospel of the cross of Christ produces and identifies God’s chosen people (Gal. 3:26-29). Paul experienced great physical suffering for Christ and the gospel. Yet, God’s peace and mercy rested on him and on all who walk according to the standard of truth, the gospel, that God’s Spirit revealed through the apostles and prophets of Christ (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:7, 16-26).
8 Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame? 9 Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another; 10 Lest he who hears it expose your shame, and your reputation be ruined. (Proverbs 25:8–10, NKJV)
We live in a litigious society. Disputes arise, sides develop, lines are drawn in the sand, resulting in division and alienation that ruins previous goodwill, grace, and unity. The Covid-19 virus has revealed generous amounts of effort are required to maintain unity and peace in society. It has also shown how easily it can be disrupted and destroyed. Diligence by all is essential as we endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Today’s passage teaches an advantage to diligently solving a problem with a neighbor privately. Hasty retreat to court over disputes often leads to shame by exposing our errors and deficiencies. Better to solve the problem and correct our errors privately. That means do not spread rumors against your neighbor by innuendo, talebearing, and backbiting. Go directly to the person and solve the problem! Don’t ruin your reputation by “demanding your day in court” while failing to use every avenue to solve the real (or perceived) injustice. Jesus said to solve private sins privately and without delay (Matt. 18:15; 5:23-24). Do not develop a reputation as a person of conflict with a combative approach to disagreements. Instead, build a reputation as a peacemaker. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV)
The turmoil of unrest in our country and around the world impacts us in many ways. These things unsettle our thoughts, our emotions, and attack our faith. They give our adversary, the devil, an opening to infiltrate our hearts with evil thoughts, words, and deeds (1 Pet. 5:8). Scripture teaches us to meditate on good things – even when things around us are awfully bad. (Recall that Paul was imprisoned unjustly for more than two years when he wrote this exhortation.) The word translated “meditate” means “to take an inventory” (Strong, G3049). Rather than becoming immersed in the sinful venom and bile of worldly people, the gospel of Christ calls Christians to inventory our thought process and dwell on things that are 1) Noble (honest, honorable), 2) Just (innocent, equitable), 3) Pure (holy, clean), 4) Lovely (friendly towards others), 5) Of good report (of worthy reputation), 6) Have virtue (morally excellent), and 7) Praiseworthy (commendable). The God of peace guards our hearts with His peace as we trust Him and meditate on these heavenly things (Phil. 4:7, 9).
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
People pursue many things in life that are (to coin James’ phrase) here today and gone tomorrow (Jas. 4:14). Life on earth is temporary, but our existence does not end here. We are immortal beings, and our souls reach into the eternal realm (Matt. 10:28; Heb. 9:27). Therefore, we must pursue eternal things (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1). Peace and purity are among life’s highest pursuits. Peace with God and holiness (sanctification) of obtained in Christ (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:13-19). Christians are called by Him to press forward for peace with all (as much as it depends on us, Rom. 12:18), and to have amiable tranquility among ourselves (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 13:1). Commenting on this passage, brother Dan King observed, “The church is forever at war with the world, but ought never to be at war with itself” (Truth Commentaries: The Book of Hebrews, 427). Our reason for actively running after peace and purity is that we may see the Lord. Our desire to gaze upon the Lord calls us to strengthen the weak and straighten the paths of others rather than hinder them (Heb. 12:12-13). This desire also urges us to shun profane endeavors (Heb. 12:15-17). Make peace and holiness your daily pursuit, and your treasures will last eternally (Matt. 6:19-21).
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.
Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease. (Proverbs 22:10, NKJV)
The scoffer introduces and produces contention and strife in relationships where there should be peace (for example, marriages, neighborhoods, churches). The scoffer mocks truth and refuses the correction wisdom offers, “A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise” (Prov. 15:12). Pride is the trademark of the scoffer: “A proud and haughty man—‘Scoffer’ is his name; He acts with arrogant pride” (Prov. 21:24). Driven by the pride of self-righteousness, scoffers ridicule their spouse, their neighbor, their coworker, and their brethren in Christ – disrupting harmony with their poisonous disdain. The scoffer makes fun of others while satisfying ungodly lusts instead of doing the will of God (2 Pet. 3:3; Jude 18). The scoffer undermines peace and reconciliation by refusing to show mercy and forgiveness. Overconfidence, instead of compassion, denotes the scoffer (Eph. 4:31-32). To avoid this dreadful destroyer of peace, let us hear this warning and promise from God concerning the scoffer: “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble” (Prov. 3:33-34).
4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:4–5, NKJV)
Words are powerful. A fellow-Christian recently reminded me that one way God made us in His image is in our ability to communicate, to use words. God’s word is powerful, and so are our words. Small rudders maneuver great ships at the helmsman’s desire. A spark can engulf a forest in flames. Learning to control our tongues is about learning to control our hearts. Pride promotes the lust for power over others, and words are often the vehicle used to exert that power. “There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, and whose fangs are like knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men” (Prov. 30:13-14). Our words have great power and potential for both good and evil (Eph. 4:29-32). Pride prompts the destructive use of words (like gossip, profanity, and strife, Jas. 3:14-16). Just as surely as pride is the spark that kindles much self-seeking strife, humble purity of heart helps steer our words and our lives toward peaceful shores (Jas. 3:17-18).