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Peace — Temporal, Spiritual Eternal

B.W. Teigen

1945 Synod Convention Essay

Peace! After years of bloodshed, family separations, maimed and crippled young men, fresh graves — all caused by war — is there a more welcome word than “Peace”? Sometimes before the war the world, in ridiculing a certain sect, would mockingly say: “Peace — it’s wonderful!”

If one used the expression in a facetious manner, one could always produce a laugh. Now things have changed. From the heart all will now say: “Peace, it IS wonderful!” Yes, even earthly peace is wonderful. But how infinitely more wonderful is spiritual and eternal peace. We do well to see what Scripture, the inexhaustible well of knowledge, faith and hope has to say on Peace.

1. Temporal Peace.

God is the author of peace here on earth. We may think that He has nothing to do with peace, but He Himself tells us: “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire” (Ps. 46:9). Human efforts are not equal to the task of averting war and making peace. Peace is not the normal state of mankind. Our nation, young as it is, has been engaged in quite a few bloody conflicts. It is said that by actual statistical count Europe has spent more years at war than at peace. Man’s efforts at peace-making have been quite fruitless. Peace treaties have been hailed as marvels of cooperation and as effective instruments for the outlawing of war, but even before the ink was dry on the signatures, plans for the next war were underway, with secret treaties, espionage, increase in military might and advantage. Not men, but God “maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth.” God “maketh peace in thy borders, and fillest thee with the finest of wheat” (Ps. 147:14).

Earthly peace is a blessing that God bestows on those who love Him and keep His commandments. “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them … I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid” (Lev. 26:3, 6). “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). These words are a severe indictment, not only of the world in general, but also of our nation. When God in His infinite wisdom permits a calamity like World War II to engulf us, He is speaking to us in no uncertain terms to examine ourselves and search and try our ways. If the wanton destruction by Pilate of some Galileans who were offering sacrifices, and if one minor (measured in terms of our Twentieth Century mode of warfare) calamity of a tower toppling over and killing eighteen persons, should cause our Savior to say to His own disciples who were not involved in the tragedy: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5), what is His message when a whole continent is reduced to rubble? If the sudden death of eighteen persons should draw such a solemn warning from the Lord of Love, what does the death of 150,000 of our youth in the European area (not to mention the millions of others) preach to us? Surely, that there be genuine repentance with us, and that we pray from the heart: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:3, 4). These words of the Lord by the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel are also to the point: “The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and the needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezek. 22:29, 30). There was not one of us who could stand in the gap and hold back the wrath of the Lord upon a disobedient people. Full well must we say with conscience,stricken David: “I have sinned against the Lord.” But the Lord’s prophet also says to us: “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). Surely as His words are true, He has accepted into His arms all who have come to Him trusting only in the merits of His blessed Son, Jesus Christ. For there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Even now He gives evidence of His love by bestowing peace on half the world.

But let us not make the fatal mistake of thinking that this peace is in any way achieved by our efforts. Not only have we we then not learned our lesson, but we would bring down God’s displeasure on us. In the Book of Acts we are told that when war between Herod and the rulers of Tyre and Sidon was averted, Herod sat upon his throne and made an oration. He thought that it had been achieved by his own and his oratory apparently convinced his people too, for they began to cry: “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (Acts 12:22). The description of Herod’s untimely end may well serve to keep us humble: “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory, and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:23). In this day of the restoration of temporal peace our watchword must be: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Ps. 115:1).

Since “the Lord has enlarged our hearts, we shall gladly run the way of his commandments” (Ps. 119:32). Christ’s redemptive love has shone into our hearts and changed them from cold and lifeless stones into living radiant instruments of God. As Christians we now love, and trust in God and willingly do according to His commandments. Therefore we shall also work for earthly peace. We who for the sake of the merits of Jesus have access to the Father, shall pray for peace, in keeping with the injunction of the Apostle: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Tim. 2:1–3). As Christian citizens we shall live upright lives, not becoming partakers of the national sins, remembering that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). We shall work diligently in the spreading of the Gospel, and while it is true that its central blessing is the salvation of souls, it is not to be denied that as a by-product comes Christian love which influences men to live. together in peace and harmony.

But lest we aid and abet the Jewish opinion of a millennial period here on earth when all warfare shall cease, we reaffirm the Scriptural truth that warfare shall never be banished from this sinful world. It is no one less than our Savior Himself Who has said in describing the last evil days: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matt. 24:4–6). Lest Christians should think that, being the children of God, they will escape the general tribulations that afflict mankind, the vision of the Four Horsemen was given to St. John. The second horseman is described in these words: “And there went out another horse that was red; and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given him a great sword” (Rev. 6:4). On the earth here there will ride the red horseman of war, followed by the black horseman of famine and the pale horseman of pestilence. This is not said as though it were useless for us as citizens to try to arrive at an enduring peace, but that no one may be led to look for a time of universal peace, and not finding it, think that Christianity is a fraud. God has also revealed this, lest we spend all our efforts looking for this millennial reign of earthly peace and lose the eternal peace of the Gospel.

2. Spiritual Peace.

Used in a spiritual sense, the word “Peace” contains all the treasures Christ has bestowed upon us. It is the very essence of the Gospel. This peace which the world cannot give has been won by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell. And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself” (Col. 1:19, 20). “But now in Christ Jesus; ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:13, 14). Not because there was a truce or treaty on the part of man, but because “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19), was peace established between God and man. There had been the most deep-rooted enmity between them. Man had rebelled against his Creator and Ruler, and endeavored to be like Him. Thus war was begun by sinful man, war which would have led only to a destruction far worse and more complete than any this world has seen. But God in His infinite love and mercy sent His best and dearest, His only begotten Son, into the flesh who condemned sin in the flesh and offered Himself for the sins of the world. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Is. 53:5). He satisfied the justice of God and by His life and death atoned for the sins of the world. In Christ “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10).

This peace is offered in the Gospel, yes, the Gospel is the very proclamation of the peace which God has established through His Son. St. Paul tells us that Christ, having won this peace, “came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Eph. 2:17). The same Apostle exclaims: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tiding of good things!” (Rom. 10:15). And he urges all to have their “feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). The angels in heaven rejoicing over the glad tidings of a Savior born to the world, sang the heavenly Gloria for mortal ear: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). The Gospel is God’s personal message of amnesty to every sinner: “Be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

But God who has done so much for us must also do something within us if the peace of Christ is to fill our hearts. And so this peace is bestowed by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. Creating faith in our hearts and enlightening our minds that we see Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Ghost gives this wonderful peace and enters into the heart of every believer. Hence St. Paul says: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Through faith we experience that forgiveness and peace which God has pronounced on the world. Through faith it becomes our personal possession. This word of St. Paul was a great favorite of the writers of our Lutheran Confessions, and is used by them often, for it expresses the central truth of our faith. The Confessions strike a clear and comforting note when speaking on this glorious subject. “How, therefore, will conscience here have peace without faith, if it believe that, not for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of one’s work, it ought now to please God? What work will it find, upon what will it firmly rely as worthy of eternal life, if indeed, hope ought to originate from merits? Against these doubts Paul says, Rom. 5:1: ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God’; we ought to be firmly convinced that for Christ’s sake righteousness and eternal life are granted us” (Apology, Art. III, Trig, p. 209). “The terrors of sin and death must be overcome by faith when we comfort our hearts with the knowledge of Christ, and believe that for Christ’s sake we are forgiven, and the merits and righteousness of Christ are granted us, Rom. 5:1: ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace.’ These things are so sure and so firm that they can stand against all the gates of hell” (Apology, Art. XXIV, Trig. P. 387).

This spiritual peace in Christ our beloved Savior is the greatest gift the Holy Christian Church has. In the Gospel for Pentecost Day we heard the Savior personally bequeath it to His Disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). No better commentary on these words can be found than those of Grundtvig in his well known hymn. There he says everything that can or need be said:

Peace to soothe our bitter woes

God in Christ on us bestows;

Jesus bought our peace with God

With His holy precious blood;

Peace in Him for sinners found

Is the Gospel’s joyful sound.


Peace to us the Church doth tell,

’Tis her welcome and farewell:

Peace was our baptismal dower,

Peace shall bless our dying hour;

Peace be with you, full and free,

Now and through eternity.

It is further to be noted that this peace is not dependent on human or temporal conditions. “Not as the world giveth, I unto you” (John 14:27), are the express words of Christ. It is not affected by the tides of war. Poverty, tribulation, hatred, good days or evil, cannot give it or take it away, for it is an inner peace of the spirit and heart. Men have often likened it to the depths of the ocean. Though the greatest waves and billows may cover the vast expanse of the sea, yet deep down in the ocean the waters lie quiet and tranquil, in the storm as well as in the calm. So it is with the peace of God. It is that inward tranquility which knows no disturbance, though the outward life is agitated by fierce storms. That heart to which the peace of Christ has come contentedly says: “I will both lay me down in peace, and for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).

But this peace of God is so precious that the Christian will not sacrifice it for a false peace. He will not give up one iota of it to appease the devil, the world or his own flesh. In our day the “appeasers” and the “appeasement policy” have been stigmatized in international affairs. To be called by such a name is about as great an insult as can be heaped on one. They are “fighting words.” Of course, in temporal affairs it is a matter of human judgment when one should stand firm or give in for the sake of peace. For temporal peace is not possible except by mutual forbearance. But in spiritual matters, God cannot warn too strongly against sacrificing this hard,won peace of Christ and looking for peace when He has called us to war. No less than three times the Lord’s prophets warn against crying: “Peace, Peace, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11; Ezek. 13:10). The Gospel of Peace has been entrusted to us by God to be preached in all its truth and purity, without any human conditions, additions or subtractions. It is not for us to do with it as we wish. And since this Gospel is so hated by Satan, it is small wonder that he has attacked it from all sides. So the Christian should not be offended when he sees that where Christ’s Word is preached in its truth and purity, there will be attacks upon it. It has always been that way. When Abel offered, he had his Cain; Isaac, his mocker Ishmael; Moses, his Korah; Christ, His Pharisees and Sadducees. But the Gospel of Peace would not be a real Gospel of Peace if it were not attacked by Satan, for it seals his doom. “A little word shall fell him.” And it is just to warn us against being offended and against making a compromising peace that the Savior has said: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). The Church on earth is a fighting Church, the Church Militant, and will be that until the Last Day. God forbid that we should lay down our arms in our sector until He has called us to the Church Triumphant!

3. Eternal Peace.

But at times the Christian becomes so weary. There seems to be no end to the desperate struggles that he must wage in this life. Then he needs well to remember that this gift of peace which the Savior has won for him is intended, not principally for this life, but for that glorious life to come. Inwardly the Christian here has peace with God through the blood of Christ, but outwardly labor and trouble. But the spiritual peace he now has is also an earnest, a down,payment, of the eternal peace to come. It gives assurance that he is on the right way and shall surely reach the journey’s end, the salvation of his soul. He has the Lord’s promise: “My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Is. 32:18).

Who can describe the glories of that peace and rest that await the child of God? Though eye hath not seen, nor ear heard it, yet God’s Word tells many things about it. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9, 10). It is God’s rest in which man is to share. Even as God, at the end of creation, entered into His rest and is even now resting from all the works that He made, so those who in this life trust in Christ, their Sabbath,rest, will rest from their labors. Here they sowed in tears, there they shall reap in joy. There will be the rest of perfect happiness and contentment, of bliss unspeakable in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ. For a moment God lifts aside the curtain of heaven and eternity, and we hear: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).

Some one has said that the Word of Divine Revelation itself must of necessity tell us much of what heaven is by telling us what it is not. So we learn that in heaven there will be no sin, no sorrow, no crying, no hunger, no thirst, nor any heat; there will be no night in heaven, no more death. Surely we may view our subject from a negative angle — no more war in heaven, — no earthly war with all its blood,shed, hatred, famine, pestilence, suffering. But what is more important, there will be no spiritual warfare, no constant struggle with the devil, the world, and our own flesh. Here we have “fightings within,” and we must sigh that “the good that we would, we do not, and the evil we would not, that we do.” Here we also have “fightings without” and must stand in the defense of the Gospel against the world. It may even be necessary for the sake of the Gospel of Peace to withstand “to the face” (Gal. 2:11) blood relatives, former brethren and dear friends, and how hard that is! To those who by the grace of God have learned to know and appreciate the free gospel of grace in Christ Jesus, and whose consciences are tender over against hindering the free course of that pure Gospel, it is much more painful to see that Gospel disparaged, conditioned and neglected, than it is to suffer earthly privation. But in heaven all that will be done away. There will be no more spiritual warfare. Perfect peace will be attained. No longer will we have to fight; no longer will we have to lament over our own weakness and sin; no longer will we be torn between love of the truth and temptation to error. All that will be past!

All trials are then like a dream that is past!

Forgotten all trouble and sorrow;

All questions and doubts have been answered at last;

Then dawneth eternity’s morrow.

Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!

Brethren, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest.” May our entire life be an expression of the prayer:

Jesus, in mercy bring us

To that dear land of rest;

Who art, with God the Father

And Spirit, ever blest.

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