Summary: The Biblical word "peace" [Greek ~ Irene] signifies far more than merely the absence of war. It carries the idea of completeness and wholeness. It conveys a sense of inner-satisfaction and fulfillment. It communicates the idea of contentment and serenity.
Opening illustration: A four-year-old and a six-year-old presented their mom with a houseplant. They had used their own money to buy it and she was thrilled. The older of them said with a sad face, "There was a bouquet at the flower shop that we wanted to give you. It was real pretty but it was too expensive. It had a ribbon on it that said ‘Rest In Peace,’ and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest.
What is this peace we are going to address this morning? Is it the kind of peace these kids were thinking about or the peace their mom desired to have? Let us get into God’s Word and check it out.
Introduction: Peace, a most common word today, is on the lips of every news reporter, on the pages of every publication. We hear politician speak of a "just and durable" or a "just and honorable" peace. Peace is the part of the conversation of the average person as well as every ruler. Yet peace is a strange word for the twentieth century. Our world is rampant with nationalism, imperialism, racism, militarism, militant communism and division.
Some may even say...that in order to "have peace" ... you have to "declare WAR"! Isn’t that interesting? So let’s declare war against the "chaos" and bring order into the "chaos". So BE HAPPY, because there is hope in the midst of chaos. SHALOM! It’s a good day to FIGHT!
People everywhere speak of peace because all desire peace. "All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace".
Many times we give a false meaning to peace. On the personal level peace comes with old age, settling down in a country home in the quiet of nature. Or peace is a lad fishing for suckers on a lazy afternoon. In the family peace exist when no quarrels or verbal battle occur. In the church peace happens when the preacher doesn’t say anything upsetting or when members are satisfied with the status quo. On the national level people think peace is the absence of war and when the oppressed do not cause any opposition or commotion.
Background: What is peace? Why do we need this peace?
In the New Testament, the word "peace" is found at the beginning or end of every epistle except for James and 1st John. The breadth of its meaning is apparent when it is linked with "grace" (Romans 1:7), "life" (Romans 8:6), and "righteousness" (Romans 14:17). What are the different shades of meaning of this wonderful word?
Romans 1:7, "...to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 8:6, "...For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."
Romans 14:17, "...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
In the Old Testament, the concept of peace is usually expressed by the Hebrew word shalom and its derivatives. Has a wide semantic range stressing various nuances of its basic meaning: totality or completeness. These nuances include fulfillment, completion, maturity, soundness, wholeness (both individual and communal), community, harmony, tranquility, security, well-being, welfare, friendship, agreement, success and prosperity."
In the New Testament, the Greek word eirene [i-ray-nay] and its derivatives express the idea of peace. Thayer defines this word as "1. a state of national tranquility; exemption from the rage and havoc of war... 2. peace between individuals, i.e., harmony, concord... 3. after the Hebrew SHALOM, security, safety, prosperity... 4. spec. the Messiah’s peace... 5. acc. to a conception distinctly peculiar to Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is... 6. the blessed state of devout and upright men after death."
Bauer says eirene refers to "1. peace a. lit. b. fig. peace, harmony c. order; 2. corresp. to Hebrew Shalom, welfare, health... in a farewell greeting ... A new and characteristic development is the combination of the Greek epistolary greeting charein with a Hebrew expression in the Pauline and post-Pauline letters: ’grace and peace’; 3. Since, according to the prophets, peace will be an essential characteristic of the messianic kingdom. Christian thought also frequently regards peace as nearly synonymous with messianic salvation."
In conclusion, "the Biblical concept of ’peace’ is total and profound. It touches on our relationship with God, with our inner self, with other believers, and with the world at large. Biblically, peace is no mere absence of strife but the active experience of a harmony that promotes total well-being. Peace is always the product of God’s active involvement in our lives, and God’s intervention is essential, for sin has so marred individuals and society that strife is our constant companion. Only god’s saving work can bring us an experience of his peace."