by Martin G. Collins
Forerunner, "Bible Study," April 1998
In the center of Hiroshima, Japan, the twisted ruins of the former exhibition hall remain as a memorial to the death and horror of the atomic blast. On a standard outside, one word is inscribed in large, bold letters: Peace. Man has long desired peace, but found it to be elusive because he does not know how to acquire it. In the Old Testament peace indicated material prosperity or physical safety. But for the New Testament church peace means far more: spiritual well-being, completeness and stability of mind (II Corinthians 13:11). True, heartfelt peace is not merely the absence of or restraint from conflict, but a positive, proactive, heartfelt peace of yielding to God and of good will toward all. This Bible study will explore "peace"—tranquillity of heart (Galatians 5:22).
1. Can we trust just anyone who wants peace? Psalm 28:3; Ezekiel 13:10; Obadiah 7; Micah 3:5; I Thessalonians 5:3; James 2:16.
Comment: This Aesop's fable depicts a false promise of peace: Once upon a time, the wolves sent an embassy to the sheep, desiring that there might be peace between them for the time to come. "Why," said they, "should we be forever waging this deadly strife? Those wicked dogs are the cause of all; they are incessantly barking at us and provoking us. Send them away, and there will be no longer any obstacle to our eternal friendship and peace." The silly sheep listened, the dogs were dismissed, and the flock, thus deprived of their best protectors, became an easy prey to their treacherous enemy.
2. Can the wicked have peace? Job 15:20; Isaiah 48:22; 57:19-21; 59:8.
Comment: The world does not recognize true peace. During man's entire history there have been only a very few years of global peace. The leaders and false prophets lie to the people, "saying, Peace, peace!' when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11).
3. To what has God called His saints? Romans 12:18; I Corinthians 7:15; Colossians 3:15; Hebrews 12:14. How does peace relate to obedience? Psalm 119:165-166; Proverbs 3:1-2; Isaiah 48:18.
Comment: God has called us to peace. He expects us to keep His commandments, and in return He gives us peace of mind. "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). Sin separates man from God, causing a confrontational relationship with Him whereby man receives His wrath. This is anything but peaceful! Peace leads to more peace, washing away strife and fear as a river sweeps away debris.
4. Does God grant peace as a gift through Jesus Christ? Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:19-20; II Thessalonians 3:16.
Comment: We have "peace through the blood of His cross," that is, through the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in life and death. It opened the way for peace between man and God and between man and man.
5. How is healing related to peace? Isaiah 53:5; Jeremiah 8:15; 14:19; 33:6. Do peace and unity promote each other? I Kings 5:12; Ephesians 2:14-18; 4:3.
Comment: Forgiveness of sin and healing bring us great peace of mind and body (James 5:14-16). Wisdom, the right use of knowledge, facilitates unity and peace.
6. What kind of heart is needed to have peace? Philippians 4:6-9; II Timothy 2:22-23.
Comment: God gives His peace to those of a pure or righteous heart and mind. The transition from Old to New Testament usage of "peace" strikingly illustrates its personal, internal application: Out of about 90 New Testament instances, 90% refer to heartfelt peace.
7. Is internalized, heartfelt peace unhindered by the world's strife? John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 8:6-9.
Comment: God's peace is a deep, spiritual peace unaffected by the world. We can have this peace, if we truly trust in God's redemptive plan for mankind, are striving to produce His character and are obedient to His Word.
8. Are peace and righteousness related? Psalm 37:37; 72:3, 7; 85:10; Romans 14:17. How? Isaiah 32:17; James 3:17-18.
Comment: Righteousness produces peace with its qualities of quietness and assurance, but at the same time, peace provides the proper environment for righteousness to grow. One builds upon the other. A home without peace hinders the development of righteousness. Thus, God allows a Christian to divorce an abusive, unconverted mate (I Corinthians 7:15).
9. Does peace require effort on our part? Psalm 34:14; Romans 2:10; 14:19; II Peter 3:14.
Comment: Making peace takes real effort! Although a gift from God through Christ, peace has to be sought (I Peter 3:11). The pursuit of peace is not merely an elimination of discord, but peace is produced by conscious effort to overcome while asking God to grant it. By themselves, however, our efforts are not enough. Jesus Christ Himself will ultimately bring peace to all mankind (Isaiah 9:6-7).