Let There Be Peace
God, what a joy it is to be with Your people, in Your house. We have sensed You here with us. And as we turn now to the study of Scripture, we ask that You would open our eyes to see You. Open our ears to hear You, Open our hearts to love You. Teach us and change us by Your power, through Your Word. We ask it that Christ might be glorified in us, Amen. You can turn in your Bible to . Once you have found that place, I’ll ask that you stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word.
In his writing, “Is Christianity a Matter of Convenience?” Michael Ramsden spoke of a colleague who while in Asia asked his audience to close their eyes and imagine peace. After a few seconds the audience was invited to share their mental pictures of peace. One person described a field with flowers and beautiful trees. Another person spoke of snow-capped mountains and an incredible alpine landscape. Still another described the scene of a beautiful, still lake.
After everyone described their mental picture of peace there was one thing common in them all—there were no people in them. Ramsden commented, "Isn't it interesting, when asked to imagine peace the first thing we do is to eliminate everyone else." But peace isn’t the absence of people. It’s the presence of Christ. I want to talk to you today about God’s peace for God’s people.
Before we begin to look at these verses I need to talk just a little about the peace of God. First, a definition. The peace of God is the state of harmony that is available to believers through having a right relationship with God. It is an absence of hostilities between you and God. It is being reconciled to a right relationship with God. Peace refers to the believers total well-being, and security.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Those who believe have peace with God. Christ secured it for us on the cross. Our well-being and security are not in jeopardy. But, we don’t always live with a sense of God’s peace. We don’t always have that sense or feeling of total security and well-being. Turmoil rather than tranquility is often what we feel in our soul. For the believer, peace is always a reality, but not always the way we feel.
As we come to it is clear Paul wants the church to experience the peace of God. He wants them to live with a sense of well-being and security because of their relationship with Christ. In these verses, Paul addresses three things that can disrupt our experience of peace. And he show us how Christ can help us overcome these things and experience God’s peace.
I. Disunity (Vv 2-3)
I. Disunity (Vv 2-3)
I. Disunity (Vv 2-3)
I. Disunity (Vv 2-3)
Few things will disrupt our experience of peace as quickly as conflict or division in the church. This was apparently a problem for the church at Philippi. Two of the leading women were at odds with one another. We don’t know what the issue was, but it was serious enough that it had reached the ears of the Apostle Paul in prison. It was serious enough that he felt the need to address it in a public letter. It was serious enough that it disrupted the peace and productivity of the church. It’s important to notice that these were godly women, women engaged in the Lord’s service. Notice how Paul describes them in the latter part of verse 3. These women worked hard alongside Paul in his struggle to advance the gospel. Working with Paul they no doubt faced opposition, but served faithfully. Paul even mentions their reward, their names are written in the book of life. All this just points to the reality that even God’s most faithful servants can disagree and have serious conflict. When that happens the sense of security and tranquility we enjoy as a church can suffer.
In the first church I pastored two teenagers had a falling out. One set of parents defended their child. The other set of parents defended their child. The friends of one couple took sides with them. The friends of the other couple took sides with them. What started as a disagreement between two teenagers quickly spread to their families, then to the church. And pretty soon none of us were at peace. Just turmoil and bitterness. Disunity destroys peace.
The good news is that in Christ we have the means to deal with disunity and restore peace. Notice verse 2 again. Notice the phrase “in the Lord.” We might say it like this. “Let your common bond in the Lord provide the grounds on which you come together. Let your common faith in Christ unite and unify you.” Based on their common faith in Christ Paul entreats these two ladies to agree in the Lord. He is literally telling them to be of the same mind. This is much more than just agreeing in thought or opinion. It means to strive after a unity and harmony in life. It is an appeal to be at one in their thinking, and as a result their unity of thinking they will have the ability to work together in harmony.
Notice Paul appeals to each woman separately. This tells us a couple of things. Paul is not concerned with who is right or wrong in their conflict. He calls on both women to resolve the issue. The grounds for their agreement is to be their common faith in Christ. Who is right or wrong isn’t what matters. The peace and productivity of the church is what matters. Paul expects these women to be spiritually mature enough to be able to come to gether in the Lord. You’ll notice in verse 3 he calls on someone to help the women agree. The word help implies that Paul expects these women to be working to come together in the Lord. If you are helping someone do something, they are involved in the process. Christ has given his followers the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit within us should give us the desire and the drive to come together in the Lord. That’s one of the ways Christ has equipped the church to deal with the disunity that disrupts our peace.
Another way He has equipped the church for this is by giving us spiritual leaders. The spiritual leaders of the church should make disunity a matter of concern. Paul didn’t just sit back and hope these ladies would work it out. No! He entreated both of these women to agree in the Lord. The word “entreated” is often translated “implored” or “to plead with.” It is used in of a man who implored Jesus earnestly to heal his daughter who was dying. Christ has given the church spiritual leaders. They are a gift of grace to the church. Part of their role is to preserve the unity and peace of the church by imploring God’s people to agree in the Lord.
All this just points to the reality that even God’s most faithful servants can disagree and have serious conflict. And when that happens the church suffers.
Another way Christ has equipped the church to deal with disunity is through those in the church who are spiritually mature. You’ll notice in verse 3 that Paul refers to someone he calls, “my true companion.” We might say, my faithful partner. We don’t know who this is, but it’s someone who has labored for the Lord alongside Paul. It is someone with enough spiritual maturity that Paul trusts him to get involved and help these women come together. There are those in the church that are mature enough in the faith to help resolve conflicts without taking sides. People who are far enough along with the Lord to keep the focus on the unity of the body. These are people that Christ has gifted and equipped for just such a purpose.
Disunity will quickly disrupt our sense of peace and tranquility as a church. But Christ has equipped us to deal with disunity and preserve peace. We have the Holy Spirit in us driving us to come together. We have spiritual leaders to get involved and push for unity in Christ. We have gifted mature believers to help. Christ has equipped us to deal with disunity and preserve peace in the church. But disunity isn’t the only things that threatens our peace.
II. Anxiety (Vv 4-7)
II. Anxiety (Vv 4-7)
In verse 4 we see two things Paul calls on the church to do. First, he calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” It means we are to be glad in the Lord at all times. Regardless of the circumstances we are to be glad because of the Lord and what He’s done for us. Keep in mind Paul was saying this to a church who was facing almost constant opposition and persecution because of their faith. Always, at all times, be happy in Jesus.
The second thing he tells the church to do is, “Let your reasonableness be known by everyone.” This word “reasonableness” refers to a humble, patient steadfastness that can face injustice, disgrace, and mistreatment without becoming angry or bitter. It is an attitude that doesn’t seek retaliation. It is often translated gentleness. This is the Christlike character of a person who can patiently bear abuse.
Think about these two things Paul is telling us to do. Be happy in Jesus at all times. Be gentle with others no matter what happens to you. A heart that is at perfect peace can do those things. If in my heart I have that overwhelming sense that all is well. If my heart is overflowing with God’s peace, I can face difficult and abuse with joy and gentleness. But, too often what happens in the face of difficulty or abuse is we are overcome with anxiety. We worry.
Think about it. When you are facing a serious illness, you get this feeling that all is not well. That’s anxiety and it’s the opposite of peace. And it’s hard to rejoice when you feel that way. Or suppose your boss is against you because of your commitment to Christ. You feel like your security and well being are threatened. That feeling is anxiety and it’s the opposite of peace. And it’s hard to respond with gentleness when you feel that way. Anxiety disrupts peace and when you don’t have peace it’s hard to be joyful and gentle.
Thankfully, Christ provides us with the means of overcoming anxiety, so we can experience God’s peace. We overcome anxiety through prayer. Read verse 6. The word anxiety is being used in a negative sense, a lack of trust in God. You are worried about your security or well-being and that reveals a failure to trust God as you should. But Paul says we shouldn’t be anxious about anything. And he tells us how that is possible. The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything.
Three words are used synonymously to refer to what we might call asking prayer. The words are: prayer, supplication, and requests. By using three words synonymously Paul is emphasizing the need for constant dependence upon God in prayer. We are to come to God with every request and concern, no matter how large, no matter how small. And we are to do that with a spirit of thanksgiving, an attitude or gratitude. Our prayers should be permeated with gratitude for all that the Lord has already done. As we come with our requests, we don’t overlook all the good that God has done and is doing in our lives. With thankful hearts we bring every cause for worry, every reason for anxiety, and we lay them all at His feet.
Now look at verse 7. When we trust God with our anxieties we can experience His peace. It is a peace that surpasses all understanding. That means it is completely beyond all power of human comprehension. Notice this verse doesn’t say everything will turn out the way you want it to. It doesn’t say the thing that is causing you anxiety will go away. God may not calm the storm. But He will calm His child. That’s part of what makes God’s peace so hard to understand. The world can be falling down around you, but deep in your soul it’s like, “It’s all good.” Circumstances may not be entirely pleasant, but there is still a sense of security and well-being that keeps you anchored in the storm. The world never has and never will be able to understand that kind of peace.
But when we trust God with our anxieties that kind of peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. “Guard” is a vivid military term used of a detachment of soldiers who stand guard over a city and protect it from attack. What is guarded is our hearts and minds. The heart refers to our emotions and our will or desires. The mind refers to our thoughts. Together these describe what we would call the soul: our mind, will, and emotions. Christ is standing as the guard of our very souls. He is protecting our peace. When we trust God with our anxieties, Christ will draw His two edged sword and slay worry or fear before it has a chance to destroy my sense of security and well-being.
This happens only when we come to God in prayer through a living relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. Don’t miss this. We said that disunity disrupts our experience of peace. But we have what we need to mend that disunity and maintain our sense of peace. We have the Holy Spirit. We have godly spiritual leaders. We have one another. All of these gifts were purchased for us on the cross of Calvary. In the same way, we have the privilege on coming to God with our anxieties and knowing that He will give us peace. This is a privilege bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. In Christ neither disunity nor anxiety can steal our peace. But there’s one more thing that can steal our peace.
Don’t miss this.
III. Impurity (Vv 8-9)
III. Impurity (Vv 8-9)
Peace is not the normal experience of a believer who is out of step with God. Christians who have fallen into sin are not going to be at peace. So, Paul calls the church to purity in both thoughts and actions. Paul lists eight things and then says “think about these things.” That’s a present tense command, which means “at all times be thinking about these things.” I’ll go through them briefly. Think about things that are true, things in which there is nothing false. Think about things that are honorable, things that are admirable or worthy of respect. Think about things that are just, things that are in conformity with justice, law, or morality. Think about things that are pure, morally pure, undefiled. Think about things that are lovely, things that inspire love. Think about things that are commendable, things that people always think good about, of good repute. Think about things that are excellent, moral excellence. Think about things that are praise worthy, things that deserve high commendation. The bottom line is that our thoughts should be dominated by those things that are good and right in God’s sight. Don’t entertain sinful, worldly thoughts. We should ponder and contemplate those things that are pleasing to God.
But not only does Paul call the church to purity in thought, he calls us to purity in action. Notice verse 9. “The things I have taught you, do them. The things you have learned from me through my writings, do them. The things you have seen me do when I was with you, do them. The things that my fellow workers have taught you, do them. All that I have taught you by way of teaching and example, practice these things.” When Paul says, “practice these things,” he means these things should be the pattern of our life. He taught them about loving one another. He taught them about avoiding worldliness. He modeled for them prayer and the study of Scripture. Paul is calling them, and us, to pattern our lives after Christian teaching.
Let your thoughts and actions be pure and pleasing to God. Then, the God of peace will be with you. The God who is the source of peace, the God who alone can give peace, will be with you. You will experience the peace of God when you are walking closely with God.
When Paul says, “practice these things,” he means we should pattern our lives
Suppose you leave your son a list of chores to have done before you get home. You get home and he hasn’t even started on your list. He is focused instead on doing what he wants to do. Now, your relationship with your son is not in jeopardy. But the peace in your home is going to be temporarily disrupted. It’s the same way in our walk with God. An impure life affects our experience of His peace. So, we must live pure and upright lives before Him.
Thankfully, we aren’t left on our own to try and do this. To walk with God as we should, we need supernatural help. And in Christ we have that supernatural help.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Paul is talking here about sanctification, growing in the Lord. He says, “you have to work at it. And you are able to work at it because God is at work in you giving you both the desire and the ability.” How are we going to live pure lives? We work at it, knowing that God will give us the desire and ability. We have the Holy Spirit as our supernatural help. He blesses our efforts and makes the effective. He shapes our desires so we want to live right before God. The supernatural help of the Holy Spirit is how we are going to live pure lives. And Christ bought that supernatural help at the cost of His life. We experience God’s peace when we live right before God. And because of the cross we have God’s help to live right before Him.
Big Idea: In Christ God’s people can experience God’s peace.
Big Idea: In Christ God’s people can experience God’s peace.
Disunity will disrupt our peace. Anxiety will disrupt our peace. Impurity will disrupt our peace. But on the cross Christ secured for us all that we need to overcome disunity and experience peace. On the cross He secured for us all that we need to overcome anxiety and experience peace. On the cross He secured for us all that we need to overcome impurity and experience peace. Peace is not the absence of turmoil; it’s the presence of Christ. Peace is not the absence of difficulty; it’s the presence of Christ. Peace is not the absence of persecution; it’s the presence of Christ. Christ has restored peace between believers and God. What a shame it would be for us not to walk in that peace.
We can live with a sense of tranquility. We can live with the feeling that all is well. We can live with a sense of security. This can be a reality regardless of the circumstances of our lives. Let the resources Christ has provided dissolve the disunity that would rob you of peace. Take advantage of the privilege of prayer Christ has gained for you and be free from the anxieties that would rob you of peace. Walk with God by the power and desire Christ provides so that impurity won’t rob you of peace. My message today is simple. Look to Jesus and let there be peace.