“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22, NKJV)
At first glance, it seems counterintuitive that the wicked have no peace. On the surface, it often appears not to be so. But, what appears to be so is not always the truth of the matter. The psalmist began to envy the wicked when he saw their prosperity. It appeared to him that they live and die in abundance, without experiencing life’s pain or suffering (Psalm 73:4-9). It appeared the wicked were at ease, while the righteous struggled to survive (Psalm 73:10-14). But, looks can be deceiving. When he contemplated their end, his eyes opened to see their demise (Psalm 73:15-20). He remembered the Lord was His comfort, strength, and counsel (Psalm 73:25-26). And so, he resolved to continue to put his trust in the Lord God, and declare all His great works (Psalm 73:28). He rightly judged that “those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert you for harlotry” (Psalm 73:27). Truly, there is no peace for the wicked. Living in the selfishness of sin leads to eternal agony. Come to Jesus, and have rest for your soul (Matt. 11:29).
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
Peace without holiness is a facade that quickly falls away when rattled by the stresses and trials of life. Just as buildings crumble under the force of an earthquake, peace is shattered where holiness does not hold it together. Peace is much more than brokering a truce between enemies. Genuine peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Lasting peace includes the presence of tranquility and harmony. For peace to exist and thrive, Christians must inject the purity of holiness into every situation and relationship. Our text says to chase after peace with everybody. Another inspired text says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). So, let us couple our pursuit of peace with the pursuit of holiness. Allowing holiness to direct our words and deeds will promote the peace we pursue. Unholy anger, bitterness and resentment will only sabotage the peace we intend to seek. Furthermore, without holiness, we will not see the Lord, who is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).
16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, And your princes feast in the morning! 17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time— For strength and not for drunkenness! (Ecclesiastes 10:16–17, NKJV)
When a country has an inexperienced, self-indulgent leader, its people suffer. Foolishly ranting and raving, instead of wisely serving the best interests in the nation, such a leader brings ruin to his realm. Conversely, the leader who learns from the experience and counsel of others in positions of rule, are more likely to manifest propriety and decision-making that brings a blessing to his people. We live in dangerous times. Rumors of war are heard around the globe. Let us pray for leaders here and abroad who wisely defend justice while refusing the oppressive, destructive dictates of self-indulgent hearts. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 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).
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–2, NKJV)
The great grace of God is accessed by faith. Abraham’s faith is prototypical of the faith we must have in order to access grace (Rom. 4). Those who “walk in the steps of the faith” that Abraham had are those who are saved (Rom. 4:12-16). Notably, Abraham’s obedience perfected his faith (Jas. 2:21-24). In the same manner, obedient faith grants access to God’s grace today (Rom. 6:17-18). One greatly errs if he thinks God’s grace overlooks sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Rom. 6:1-2)? Faithful Christians will not develop a careless attitude toward what sin is, or toward what it does. The Holy Spirit warns us not to fall from grace, and persuades us to live by faith by obeying the “perfect law of liberty” (Gal. 5:4; 2 Cor. 5:7; Jas. 1:22-25). Do not falsely conclude that because God’s grace is so great, it will save you in spite of having unrepented sin in your life. That is not the faith of father Abraham. That will never be the faith that accesses and stands in grace.
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 10:15, NKJV)
From heads of state to lowly peasants, pleas for peace are heard around the world. God, in the gospel of Christ, has sent the world a message of real and lasting peace; a peace that is formed between God and sinners. Peace requires at least two things. First, removal of the adversarial conflict must occur. The fighting must end. Paul draws from the prophet Nahum, who saw the feet of the messenger who announced that God was about to remove brutal Assyria from the scene; God judged and destroyed the adversary (Nahum 1:12-15). Even so, sin has put us at war with God. The oppressive yoke of sin must be broken in order for peace with God to exist. The enemy of sin was defeated at the cross of Jesus. Secondly, sin’s conflict must be replaced with the tranquility of divine fellowship. Even so, Paul calls upon Isaiah 52:7, as Isaiah spoke of the beautiful feet that proclaim salvation to Zion, because, “Your God reigns.” The gospel of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness, replacing alienation with peaceful harmony between God and those who are saved in the Son. What beautiful news of peace we proclaim!
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her… 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:12, 15, NKJV)
Some Christians question whether they must end their marriage to an unbeliever, in order to be faithful to Jesus. The apostle applies Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 19:6 – “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” – and answers, “No.” Is the unbeliever is willing to allow the Christian to live his or her faith, do so and bring a godly influence into the home (1 Cor. 7:12-14; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). If that willingness is not present, and the unbeliever sunders the marriage (being unwilling to have his or her spouse to live for Christ, v. 16), the Christian is “not under bondage in such cases.” That is, the Christian is not now, and never has been a slave to the unbeliever (see 1 Cor. 7:23). This verse does not teach another cause for divorce and remarriage, that is, desertion. (Marriage is for life, with one cause for one party to be free to remarry, the cause of fornication, Matt. 19:3-6, 9.) Instead, it teaches the believer that his or her faith is not negotiable – even in a marriage. Do not surrender your faith for the sake of pleasing any person; “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God has called you to be at peace with Him (v. 15). So, do the will of God, not the will of men.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (James 4:1, NKJV)
Is your life defined by constant skirmishes with others? If so, there is a war taking place in you. Your desire for personal pleasure and satisfaction fuels these contentions and fights with others (which you deem necessary in order to obtain your self-defined happiness). Hedonism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life.” A good life, according to this philosophy, is fulfilling your personal pleasures, desires and sensual delights. Invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, instead of kindness and love. In contrast to the hedonistic pursuit of worldly fulfillment (by which one becomes an enemy of God, Jas. 4:4), Christians “pursue peace with all people, and holiness” (Heb. 12:14). James previously advised that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17). If you want peace with others and with God, then do not think and act like fulfilling your desires is the true course to happiness. A good dose of humility helps us win the battles in our war against the devil (Jas. 4:6-7).