14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (Hebrews 12:14–15, NKJV).
Christians are under a divine directive to pursue peace and holiness. We must run after peace and holiness like an animal chasing its prey. Without these attributes of faith, we will not see the Lord. While rage, vengeance, and violence drive the faithless, we must consistently and carefully stand in God’s grace by removing and avoiding from our hearts every vestige of malice and bitterness. The slightest bit of resentment or anger poisons and defiles the soul. A root of bitterness in the heart infects others; it is not dormant. Holding a grudge when someone hurts us is not the way to pursue peace and holiness. It chips away at peaceful thoughts and interrupts holy words and conduct toward that person. Bitter attitudes and treatment of other disrupts peace and retards holiness as it becomes a stumbling block to others. Bitterness builds barriers that solidify hostility. As Solomon said, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Prov. 18:19). Do your part to remove every hindrance to peace and holiness in your home, your community, your nation, and most definitely with your brethren (Rom. 12:18; 1 Thess. 5:13).
And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat (Mark 6:31, NKJV).
Jesus was in constant demand from the crowds. His apostles had just returned from their limited commission (Mark 6:7-13, 30). Finding a “deserted place” where one can “rest a while” is important to ”recharge our batteries” and return to our work with renewed vigor. God rested after finishing His work of creating the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:1-3). God commanded Israel to rest from their labors every seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). Every seventh year their land was to rest from planting and harvesting (Lev. 25:1-7). Every fiftieth year, Israel’s land was to rest during the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-11). Rest should have a calming, comforting, and reassuring effect. Rest also reminds us to trust the Lord for our strength instead of ourselves. Israel anticipated the rest God would give them from their enemies in the promised land (Josh. 1:14-15; 23:1). Christians look hopefully for eternal rest (Heb. 4:8-10; Rev. 14:12-13). With these blessings in mind, we will be taking a short time to rest from our daily regimen of writing Sword Tips. We believe this respite will invigorate us to count our blessings and thank the Lord for His provisions and promises in Christ. We plan to resume the daily Sword Tips in early June. I appreciate your interest in these daily offerings.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14–15, NKJV)
Paul’s sequential flourish of rhetorical questions reaches an apex with the glorious gospel of peace with God and its welcomed messengers. Nahum wrote of the impending downfall of Nineveh, the great enemy of righteousness whose sins doomed her to destruction. God was against her and would be laid waste by Babylon (Nahum 3:5-7). Messengers shouted the good news of Nineveh’s demise from the mountaintops; Peace had arrived (Nahum 1:15). Nahum’s portrait of this victorious proclamation typifies the more significant announcement of sin and death’s defeat by the Son of God. His gospel declares deliverance from sin’s bondage and death. It heralds salvation’s peace with God through Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6; Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 1:20-22). Preaching the gospel of Christ is essential for sinners to hear its saving message. Otherwise, they cannot believe in Christ and call on Him for salvation (Rom. 10:12-13; Acts 22:16). And so, Christ sent out His apostles to preach the gospel of peace to the world (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20). Early Christians went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Christians continue to walk in their steps, bringing the glad tidings of good things, the gospel of peace.
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:38–39, NKJV).”
The scribes and Pharisees perverted the Law’s stated penalty against crime by turning it into their justification to return in kind when personally wronged (Exod. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). The Law’s just punishment became their excuse to retaliate against others out of personal vengeance. Thus, they misapplied the Law’s prescribed treatment of wrong-doers while ignoring the Law also said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (Lev. 19:18).” Jesus rejected their manipulation of the Law of God to claim personal retaliation. The righteousness of the kingdom compels us to do the following: (1) Be generous when others mistreat us (do not resist, turn the other cheek, relinquish instead of litigating, go the extra mile, and “give to him who asks,” Matt. 5:39-42). (2) Help those who seek our assistance (“from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away,” Matt. 5:42). Our righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). So, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11). Love your neighbors instead of retaliating against them. Be a peacemaker, and be blessed as a child of God (Matt. 5:9).
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4, NKJV).
Isaiah lifted his eyes above Jerusalem’s mountain (upon which sat Solomon’s temple) to visionary heights of “the mountain of the Lord’s house,” to which “all nations” would flow in the latter days (Isa. 2:2; Acts 2:16-17; Heb. 1:2). His prophecy of “the mountain of the Lord,” the “house of the God of Jacob,” foresees the church Jesus built (Isa. 2:3; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:3-6). The “word of the Lord” would go into all the world from Jerusalem, which began on Pentecost after Jesus’s ascension (Isa. 2:3; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 2:1ff). God’s house “shall walk in its path” as we “learn His ways” (Isa. 2:3). Today’s verse describes the effect of the gospel in hearts and lives. The good news of Christ replaces conflict with cooperation, animosity with amicability, and war with peace (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; Eph. 2:14-18). This verse does not describe a futuristic millennial kingdom on earth, far from it (John 18:36). It describes Mount Zion’s habitation of holiness, the heavenly Jerusalem, the “general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:22-23). Sowing the seed of the kingdom in hearts brings peace and advances the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is “our peace,” our King who has come with salvation and speaking “peace to the nations” (Eph. 2:14; Zech. 9:9-10). Learn His ways and walk in His path. You will have peace with God and with other like-minded souls “in one body through the cross,” His church (Eph. 2:16; 4:4).
7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. 8Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name” (Romans 15:7–9, NKJV).
The gospel brings into one body people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, etc., “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:28). He is our peace, reconciling us to God “in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14, 16). Therefore, outward, physical differences must not become barriers preventing us from receiving one another as Christ received us: Fully, complete, and to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7). Using Christ as our great example of pleasing others instead of ourselves, the inspired apostle summarizes the message of Romans 14. Like Christ, Paul urges Christians to sacrificially serve each other instead of pleasing ourselves over scruples of conscience (Rom. 15:1-3; 14:1-3, 13-18). Christ served the truth of God (Rom. 15:8). For the Jews, He did so by fulfilling the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 15:8; Acts 3:20-26). For the Gentiles, He did so as their (our) only means of mercy (Rom. 15:9-12). Surely, since Christ served us by serving the truth of God, we must “receive one another” without rancor, dispute, and division over matters that do not prevent God from receiving us (Rom. 14:3-5). This is not a defense of “agreeing to disagree” over doctrinal and moral issues (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11). It is a pattern of how those who practice the truth of God receive one another to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7).
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17–18, NKJV).
The gospel forbids retaliation and taking personal vengeance. To do so disrespects God and His righteous vengeance against evildoers: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Therefore, Christians are to overcome evil with good by doing all we can to live peaceably with others (Rom. 12:21). We can seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:10-11; Heb. 12:14). For example, the carnally minded say, “I’ll never make peace with him because he wronged me.” But Christians are to be peacemakers, not conflict promoters (Matt. 5:9). The carnally minded say, “I’ll get even with him.” But Christians turn the other cheek instead of retaliating in kind (Matt. 5:38-42). The carnally minded say, “He wronged me once, and I’ll never trust him again.” But Christians forgive as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:31-32). To be a peacemaker takes self-control, sacrifice, and selflessness. Wisdom from above is peaceable because it is “pure” and “willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Peace does not happen on its own. Peacemakers wisely sow “the fruit of righteousness” to “make peace” (James 3:18; Matt. 5:9).
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).