Peace On Earth!

At Christmas many people will have cause to consider the birth of Jesus Christ and the announcement from heaven:

Peace On Earth!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:41).

 The great theme of peace is declared in the old, but popular, carol “Hark the Herald Angels sing” (perhaps the fact that an article on this carol was released just last week is evidence of its popularity):

“Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King: peace on earth, and mercy mild,”

“Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!”

However, as we look at over two thousand years of history, since the birth of the Lord Jesus, there does not seem to be much evidence of peace upon earth. During 2023 we have seen an explosion of violence in the Middle East, and the war in Ukraine rages on. Reports of violent actions continue to fill our newspapers, as they have done since the inception of this medium of communication.

So, the honest enquirer, after looking at the world around him, might well ask “Did the mission of Jesus fail?” Some might even think the idea of Jesus bringing peace on earth to be a somewhat quaint unrealistic notion that could never be achieved but is nice to contemplate at Christmas, before we all go back into the “real world”. 

But what would it mean if we have misunderstood that heavenly announcement? What if the peace described was not about peace between men on earth but was a different kind of peace? Well, the very clear message, from the Bible, is that when Jesus came to earth, He did not come to bring peace between people. His own words testify to that truth:

 “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).

The Lord Jesus was telling His disciples that when someone comes to Him there would be hostility from those who do not follow Him, even from those in the same family.

So, what is the peace that Jesus came to bring? That well-loved carol, by Charles Wesley, sums up the Bible’s teaching:

“Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King: peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!’” 

The peace that we need most is peace with God because the greatest problem we all have is that, by nature, we are not at peace with God. Sin separates us from God and will bring His just judgement on each us, which would mean eternal separation and punishment. Our problem is not merely acts of disobedience, as they are merely outward displays of our inner self. Our inner tendencies and nature are geared towards gratifying ourselves and are directly hostile to God, even when our actions may appear to be good.

Jesus came to address this great problem, so that we might have peace with God. If we could work towards or achieve this peace by our own endeavours, then there would be no need for Him. However, as there is no work we can do to be reconciled to God then the coming of Jesus Christ and the prospect of being at peace with God is good news.

The Bible teaches us that we can know peace with God as an objective certainty and not as a subjective feeling that can change daily. This is possible for anyone who confesses Jesus Christ as their Lord and trusts Him as their Saviour.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Some thirty-three years after He came into this world, having lived a sinless life that was perfect in God’s sight, Jesus was crucified. This was not an awful termination of His mission as it had always been His purpose, so that whilst He was on the cross He could take, from God, the punishment for sin in His body (1 Peter 1:24). This great act of love and sacrifice means that all who trust Him can know they will never pay that penalty themselves and they are righteous in God’s sight.  

We live in a world where peace treaties are often broken, but every believer can enjoy an everlasting and unbreakable peace with God, knowing Him as their heavenly Father. 

The greatest need we have is to be at peace with God. This need has been met for all who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.