“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peace is a dominant theme at Christmas. Whether it’s the angels’ song “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men,” or the more abbreviated versions of “Peace on earth” or “Peace,” variations on this theme abound. Little wonder, because peace is a condition everyone wants, yet few possess.
While some might like to entertain fanciful thoughts that Jesus came to bring peace to earth, nothing could actually be further from the truth. Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’” (Matthew 10:34-36) He then goes on to say, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39) Jesus’ point was that no love or devotion in life is to be greater than our love of Him. And this loyalty brings strife, not peace. So what did the angels mean when they sang about peace?
In order to understand this, we need to understand the world’s condition prior to Christ. According to Romans 3:23, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” What this means is that since man’s original disobedience in the Garden of Eden, all are infected with sin. I Corinthians 2:14 tells us, “But the natural man [the natural human condition we are all born into] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them…” Our spirits, that part of us which is capable of knowing and enjoying God, are dead. It isn’t that all are guilty of the same kinds of sins. Clearly, all of us aren’t murderers, all of us aren’t thieves or adulterers. But regardless of what particular sins we succumb to, we all miss the mark of the perfect, sinless, holiness of God and want nothing to do with Him. In the language of the Bible, we are at enmity with, or estranged from, God.
The peace the angels sang of was between God and man, the reconciliation of an impossible rift. Because of our hopeless condition, and because there was no other way possible to solve this dilemma, God Himself, in the person of His Son, took on a human body that night. His mission was to do what was impossible for any other human being—live a life untainted by the sin infecting mankind, thereby qualifying Himself as a legitimate substitute for our sins.
Some 700 years before the birth of Christ, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah recorded these words about Him:
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…You make His soul an offering for sin…My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, 10b, 11b)
Paul explained, “…God…has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, we are forgiven, accepted, and provided by God with everything we need to accomplish His purposes. We have been reconciled to God through Christ and given a new nature, one that can and does know and enjoy God. Although we will invariably still sin, if we submit to the guidance of His Holy Spirit, we are free from condemnation. This is the good news of the gospel—the peace that was born on Christmas!
Thank You that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in You, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit! Amen.