Peace…The Biblical Meaning

By Paul Molyneux


Peace on earth, goodwill to men! We hear this every Christmas time being heralded by all as they get caught up in the flurry of the season. Many non-Christians have espoused the statement and adapted
it to secular philosophies.

One doesn’t have to spend much time in Bible study before he runs head-on into seeming contradictions to that concept. There are several throughout scripture. I would like to cite two of them as a focus for this discussion. The first is Matthew 10:24 and the second is Luke 12:51. They are very similar and both are quotes from Jesus. From Matthew – “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.” From Luke – “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:”

We now stand at one of those classic points of which critics of Christianity are so enamored, yet of which they have so little understanding. There are three main reasons why non-Christians have such difficulty in understanding situations like this one.

First, many conceive of God like a little voodoo doll that can be carried around and called into action when convenient. Growing from this concept is the second, placing a limitation on God by holding Him
up for evaluation to man’s standards. Likewise, the third stems from the second, scripture is interpreted only from the standpoint of man’s limited knowledge.

In solving this riddle, one must begin with a good understanding of the meanings of the word peace. The secular definition of the word focuses on the inter-personal aspects such as absence of war and the
absence of hostilities, the “getting along” qualities of peace. From this emphasis stems the popular concept of world peace and universal brotherhood.

The Biblical emphasis on peace is that of the inner man, the soul. It stresses personal calm based on the relationship of each person to God. Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, when examined, reveal an
intertwined message in the word peace that includes a release from inner conflict and a freedom from anxiety that is produced by the arrangement in proper perspectives of our relationship with God and
with the temporal influences of the world in which we live. It’s not a group effort, rather an individual one.

When we check the original manuscripts of the “peace on earth, goodwill to men” passage, we find the literal translation to be different in modern usage from the more archaic wording from the KJV.
(This is not to constitute an attack on the KJV, but simply to point out that present day usage of our own tongue is different.) Literally, we find, “peace on earth to those of whom God approves”. The Living Bible states it as “peace on earth for all those pleasing Him.” Those pleasing God will have that inner peace while here on earth as a result of their faith in God.

Now we are in sight of the resolution of the apparent conflict. Twice Jesus stated that He did not come to bring “peace to the world”… once privately to His disciples as He charged them with the responsibility of spreading the gospel (Matthew ref.) and publicly before thousands (Luke ref.). He didn’t bring peace to the WORLD, He brought peace to believers, individually. Jesus’ arriving on the scene WOULD cause division, would be like a sword. Within communities, even within families, some would recognize and accept the opportunity for salvation and receive peace while others would not. Hence the division, the demarcation of two distinct groups. It is a necessary part of the conflict between good and evil that the distinction be drawn between believers and non-believers. (Who is on the Lord’s side?) Those accepting would have the comfort and “blessed assurance”, as the hymn writer puts it, with a “foretaste of glory divine.” to uphold them and give them hope. Hope to endure the division and the errancy of the world which we temporarily inhabit.

Before I am branded as an “anti-brotherhood” heretic, let me point out that brotherhood is a major part of the goal in Christianity. It is the motives and methods of the world that cause the conflict. With that peace which faith brings, is the responsibility to witness… the motive of witness – to share the Good
News… the method – to encourage the free choice of God’s grace, thereby allowing individuals to experience true peace. As the witness multiplies, inter-personal aspects become an outgrowth of the faith and are evident in the Christians good works (faith without works is dead.). The self must be arranged in correct perspective before the outreach can be effected. One-on-one is the method of accomplishing what secular pomposity strives for. It cannot be legislated. It must be received by free choice and as the result of “new birth”. God has promised that He will be in charge, He will bring about the brotherhood and the unity – NOT man.

Oddly enough, scripture does promise that man’s way will make great headway and will succeed…. for a time. Worldwide unity will be achieved in the form of one government. This will be the work of man, imperfect and temporal. Ostentatiously, it will promise great unity and brotherhood – even doing much of it in the name of the Lord. Peace and prosperity will be at hand to tantalize those who resist.  It will be in reality, formed and legislated from greed and expedience. A great leader will emerge and be very charismatic in his universal appeal and he will do many seemingly wonderful things for those in the world. Then, the deception will be exposed.

As power grows and corrupts, the true colors will begin to show. Demands and oppression will replace the humanitarian actions. This Anti-Christ will press it so far that he will actually enter the restored Temple in Jerusalem and proclaim himself to be God! I will not attempt all the details here. This scenario in prophesy is enough material to carry us through an unbelievable number of discussions.

This will be the final straw. God will then intercede directly.  The fruition of the kingdom will be swift and certain. Our reward will be at hand – FOR EVER.

“… you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:7 LB) This “peace that passeth all understanding” (same, KJV) IS ours as promised in I Corinthians 13:12, “..We can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at
His reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see Him in His completeness, face to face! Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as
God sees into my heart right now.” (LB)

Paul Molyneux

Computers for Christ – Chicago