A Devotional for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, given 9/9/01.
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him" (I John 4:9, RSV).
Peace with God, what an awesome concept. What would that mean for your life, do you think? To me, it means the war is over, not that I was at war with God, or He with me, but that the war within myself is over. Man is born with an innate sense of the Deity, Paul says, and "The National Geographic Magazine" and PBS Television shows confirm it. No matter how far from civilization you go, or how remote the location, you will find that man has a sense of something greater than himself. We've all seen pictures of native tribesmen worshipping their gods, practicing bizarre rituals of worship, and perhaps, wondered how they came to this kind of belief. In the first chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20, NIV). The Psalmist said, "The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory" (Psalms 97:6, RSV). In other words, the existence of God is in the hearts and minds of all men, though they have distorted the truth about Him. Out of the darkened minds of men, come these superstitious rituals practiced by pagans, and about them, Paul said, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Rom. 1:21-23, NIV).
Against this bleak backdrop of ritual and superstition, God appeared to Abraham, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:1-3, NIV). To his many descendants, heirs to the promise, God brought the law, which the Psalmist declared was divine truth (Ps. 119:142). The law was glorious and an expression of God's righteousness, but since it did not give life (Gal. 3:21), it in fact, brought death to those who could not keep it. Paul said of himself, "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:9, RSV). We learned last week, that Abraham, who lived and died before the law was given, believed God's promise to him, that in his seed should all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8), and God credited his belief to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Gloriously, the Apostle goes on to say, "The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness, for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom. 4:23-24, NIV).
What exactly does it mean that, like Abraham, we have been credited with righteousness, that we have justification with God? This is our topic today, and Paul gives us the answer. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have PEACE WITH GOD through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1, NIV). Justification by faith means that we have PEACE with GOD! I was not personally at war with Him, and I expect you were not either, at least not consciously, but since sin entered the world through Adam, and "in this way death came to ALL men, because ALL sinned" (Rom. 5:12), therefore, in that sense, at least, we were all at war with God. Through Christ, God reconciled us to Himself. His peace treaty is signed in blood! Notice the exact words of this passage, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:17-19).
The opposite of peace with God is war, which takes us to a place most of us do NOT want to go; that place is called the wrath of God. I was brought up in the wrath of God. I was threatened with it, scared spitless by it, and terrorized into obedience by that form of doctrine that was taught me as a child. Even today, millions of Christian people live in terror of God's wrath, of burning in an eternal hell when they die. To my mind, they are much like the Japanese soldiers who were discovered not too long ago, still hiding out on a remote island in the Pacific. These forgotten men had not heard that the war with America was over, and it took a considerable amount of persuasion to get them to lay down their arms and believe the word of the men who brought this incredible news. The war is over! The fighting has ceased; the bloodshed has stopped. You can go home! Christians who are still operating out of the Old Testament descriptions of the wrath of God, are in the same exact place as these Japanese soldiers.
If you are still cowering in terror of Yahweh, the lawgiver, let me bring you good news. The war is over! The fighting has ceased; the bloodshed has stopped. You can go home! Notice in the passage in II Corinthians, that Paul says that God reconciled us to Himself, NOT the other way round. Hell fire and damnation preachers would have you believe that God is furious with you, that His wrath is being held in check against the day when all unbelievers and all sinners will be thrown into an everlasting hell where God can have final revenge on those who disobey Him. They tell you that someone had to die to appease His wrath, and since no worthy man could be found, He sent His son to die in your place. Jesus did not deserve hell, and so He didn't stay there for long after He died, just long enough to preach to the souls in prison (I Pet. 3:18-20), and release them, but YOU, they say, will burn in hell forever if you don't obey Him, if you can't get Him to be reconciled to you. Oh yes, and shortly after that, they tell you that you have to love Him. Yeah, right.
This is the polar opposite of what the passage in II Cor. 5:17-19, says! WE are the ones who need to be reconciled, not God. WE are the ones who were "separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12-13). God did not stray off, we did. This passage in Ephesians, Chapter Two, goes on to say, "But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near" (Eph. 2:14-17, NIV). That dividing wall of hostility not only separated Jews from Gentiles, but it was the spiritual equivalent of the "Berlin Wall" which separated man from His Creator, and which kept us from fellowship with the Father. Through Christ, we have peace with God, not that He was EVER at war with us, but that we were at war with Him. The result is, "For through Him, we both (Jew and Gentile) have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household" (Eph. 2: 18-19, NIV).
The truth about it is simply this. "ALL (of us) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and (all) are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24). The last "all," though not in this text, is what Romans Chapter five declares. In Verse 12, the Apostle says that sin entered the world "through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to ALL men, because ALL sinned" (Rom.5:12). He spends the next few paragraphs telling his readers that God's judgment on Adam's sin brought condemnation and death to us ALL, to everyone, but he says, "God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ overflow to the many!" (Rom. 5:15). This is where the passage really gets good, and frankly throws a "monkey wrench" into the hellfire and damnation preacher's theories. They tell us that Adam's sin plunged us into death, but we have to get ourselves out by our obedience. That is NOT how Paul expressed it: "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for ALL men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:18-19, NIV). He is even more specific in this verse: "For as in Adam ALL die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). Christ is the one who delivered us from death!
Notice the all inclusive statements Paul made here in Romans, Chapter Five, and in First Corinthians, Chapter Fifteen. In Adam ALL die; all sinned. Did you get a vote when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit? Did you have a chance to say, "Hold the phone here. Let's consider the consequences of disobeying God. I don't want to go there." Not quite. You and I did not get a vote, but nevertheless, Paul says that death is our punishment just like it was theirs. That hardly seems fair until you consider the rest of the verse, "So in Christ ALL will be made alive!" Now, that is the Gospel, in a nutshell, folks. That is the pure, unabridged word of God on the matter. Along these lines, there is one more scripture that I want to include. It is found in Romans 11:32, the pinnacle of Paul's declaration of the Gospel of Christ, where he declares, "For God has consigned ALL men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon ALL" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). Do you hear that? The subject of that sentence is "God!" He is the one responsible for the whole matter. What this really means is that Adam was consigned to disobedience, and through him, the entire human race was consigned to sin and disobedience by God. That would be monstrous if He had not made provision for that sin. Notice that the Apostle John refers to Christ as, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8, KJV). This means that the cross was ALWAYS in the heart of the Father, and it was the means by which "He may have mercy upon ALL."
Just as God credited Abraham with righteousness even when he doubted and sinned, even so He credits us with righteousness through the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul concludes Chapter Five of Romans with this statement, "just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21).
Jesus came to reveal the Father, for He said to Philip, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9). Sadly, after 2,000 years of trying and failing to "get it right," many Christians still have not seen the Father as He really is. They are still trying to keep the law, to earn right standing with God by their own efforts. Far from having peace with God, they carry the guilt around from yesterday, and are burdened under fear and worry about tomorrow. This does not have to be so. If you are afraid of everything under the sun; if you worry that everything which COULD go wrong, WILL go wrong, or if you still are dragging around guilt and shame for past sins, STOP! Repent! Change your mind about who you think God is and who you think you are. Paul tells us who you are. You are a child of the king (John 20:17; I John 3:1), a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), heir to the promises of God to Abraham (Gal. 3:29). Do you believe the bible, or do you believe your feelings? God sent me here over three years ago now to tell you that you do not need to be afraid to die for fear of hell. I suspect that like me, many of you grew up in fear and trembling of the wrath of God. If you have trouble shaking your fears of His wrath, remember what the apostle Paul said, "Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God" (Rom. 5:9, RSV).
God has given me these words to say to you week after week, with scriptural references for them all. Don't take my word for it. I put the scriptures in there so that you can look them up for yourself, and rest on the promises that are written in the bible. Once you begin to feed on this banquet of goodies in the very presence of your enemies (your fears and doubts and guilts), you will see that He does lead us to green pastures beside the still waters. He does restore our soul. He anoints our head with oil and like King David, we can say, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23). Or as the Apostle Paul puts it, "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38,39, RSV). Trust in the Lord with all your heart, dear ones, for He alone is worthy of trust. When you do that you will know personally why it is that "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4, RSV). It is the "goodness of God," NOT His wrath, which leads you to Him; and you will find the truth in this scripture, "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7, RSV).
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Peace with God," the poem
The Glory Road
We always like to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister, on 9/8/01
and last edited on 11/04/08.