A Time of War and a Time of Peace
A Time of War And A Time of Peace
When General Douglas MacArthur died, the United States lost one of its greatest generals and noblest sons. Writing about his background, one weekly magazine aptly said that MacArthur was "born to battle." His life accordingly was molded and matured amid the perils and hardships of war.
It can be equally said that the Christian has been "born to battle." While this warfare is carried on in a different sphere, it is nevertheless a battle. It is a battle against self, sin, and Satan himself; and in this encounter we are asked to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12) and to "endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3) (Prairie Bible Institute 1964, 206). There is a very close connection between the previous couplet and the one we are about to consider. When we love God and hate sin, we virtually declare war on the devil. Of course, as victories are won, there is always the blessing of peace. So, there is a time of war and a time of peace as long as life endures. Through all the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament, the Christian life is likened to a fight. But with the fight, there is also the reward of peace. The apostle Paul could say at the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7-8). We must face then:
The Call to Battle
The Puritan, Charles Bridges (1960, 62-63), points out that a time of war may arise from man's ungoverned passions (James 4:1), the just reparation of injury (Gen. 14:14-17), or some legitimate occasion of self defense (2 Sam. 10:3-6). But he adds,
All this is not chance. It is the providence or permissive control of the Great Ruler of the universe. War is his chastisement; peace his returning blessing. It is his prerogative to 'make wars to cease unto the ends of the earth' (Ps. 46:9) to 'scatter ... the people that delight in war' (Ps. 68:30); and, when the sword has done its appointed work, to 'make peace in the borders of his people' (Ps. 147:14).
This is certainly a helpful analysis of the biblical treatment of war and peace.
But our concern in this chapter will focus entirely on the Christian warfare. In the Book of the Revelation we read about war in heaven, when "the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil" (Rev. 12:9). The strategy of that great victory is then explained as John the apostle goes on to say that "they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Rev. 12:11).
Among other things, we can learn two important secrets on how to wage this holy war against the devil. First, how to detect the devil. "The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:9). With the instruction we find in the Holy Scriptures and the illumination we derive from the Holy Spirit we can learn how to detect the devil by studying his titles and tactics.
Consider the titles of the devil. In that one statement we have four names, or titles, which describe this archenemy of men and women. He is called "the great dragon" because he is essentially a destroyer. Peter even speaks of him as "a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). He is called "that old serpent" because he is a deceiver. His subtlety and seductions are unmatched by any other creature in the universe. He is called "the devil" because he is a slanderer and an accuser. And then he is called "Satan" because he is an opposer of all that is holy, just, and good. What an insight this gives us into the names and nature of this supernatural personality we call the devil.
But, then, examine carefully the tactics of the devil. We read that he "deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9); and again, he is "the accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). Here is his strategy spelled out in two words—deception and accusation. With supernatural subtlety he can deceive anyone into rebelling against God. And then having achieved this, he accuses his victim until he destroys the total personality. The reason people try to drown their guilt and fears in harmful, or even harmless, preoccupations is because of the relentless accusations of the devil.
This does not excuse man's accountability for sinning against God, but it does explain the consequences that follow when man rebels against Him. So by understanding these titles and tactics of the devil we can detect not only His presence and power, but also His purpose in the world today.
I am glad, however, that the Bible takes us further and shows us not only how to detect the devil, but also how to defeat the devil. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Rev. 12:11). In this one verse we have a threefold strategy for overcoming Satan himself. In simple language, let me put it this way. We overcome the devil by the blood of Christ. When Jesus Christ died on the cross as the Lamb of God, He made possible the conquest of the devil in our everyday lives. The Bible tells us that when Christ hung upon that cruel tree He "disarmed principalities and powers, [making] a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15). And in another place we read that "through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). The meaning of these verses is that in His death Jesus nullified the power of Satan to triumph over any person who knows the redeeming and protecting power of His precious blood. While the devil is still alive and loose on the earth, his final doom was sealed when Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead. In fact, as He anticipated Calvary, our Savior declared, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31). On the basis of that statement alone, you and I can experience victory over the devil. He knows that his power to defeat the child of God has been annulled through the cross of Christ. When we remind our enemy of Calvary, there is always victory.
We overcome the devil by the word of Christ. The only testimony that counts is that which is rooted in the Holy Scriptures, and there is power in the Word of God to overcome the devil. This is dramatically shown in our Lord's temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). You will remember how the devil attacked Him three times, and on each occasion He overcame by the word of His testimony. He could say, "It is written," "It is written," "It is written." How true it is that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). How important it is, therefore, that we should spend much time in the Holy Scriptures, in order that we might be able to draw the sword whenever we are attacked.
We overcome the devil by the Spirit of Christ. There is only one power that can make us resist, even unto death, and that is the power of the Holy Spirit. When our Lord confronted Satan in the wilderness He was "driven by the Spirit." When He fought the battle at Calvary He did it through the power of "the eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14). Isaiah reminds us, "when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him" (Isa 59:19).
In Jesus Christ, we have this threefold power to overcome the devil: the power of the blood, the power of the Word, and the power of the Spirit.
Some time ago I was in Norfolk, Virginia, where I saw for the first time a large, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Nimitz, named after Admiral Chester Nimitz. Its overall length is 1,092 feet, and its flight deck is about 4.5 acres. Its combat load displacement is about 95,000 tons, it carries a crew of 6,286 persons and has a speed of over 30 knots. One of its significant features is that because of nuclear propulsion it can run for 13 years before refueling. In many ways it is like a floating city, containing everything a community of over 6,000 would require. Fighter planes can take off and land, at the same time, even at full speed. The ship contains the most sophisticated electronic equipment for all purposes of peace and war. The thing I learned about this remarkable carrier is that it is totally unarmed! It has no mounted guns or missile-launchers. On its own it is totally vulnerable to enemy attack. But that is not the whole story. When in action, this ship is protected by subs under the sea, destroyers on the sea, and aircraft above the sea—and this constitutes the total protection needed by the carrier.
As I recalled these facts, I couldn't help relating that whole operation to the text that we have been considering. The submarines answer to the blood of Christ, the destroyers answer to the Word of Christ, and the planes answer to the Spirit of Christ. In and of ourselves, we are totally vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy, but God has not sent us out as carriers of the gospel without adequate protection. We have our submarines, our destroyers, and our aircraft! In the holy war in which we are engaged we can be more than conquerors. Hallelujah! In the spirit of this victory, we can with confidence now appropriate:
The Calm of Blessing
With the time of war, the Preacher promises "a time of peace." In the Scriptures, the word "peace" has reference to health, prosperity, well being, security, and respite from war. Isaiah reminds us that "there is no peace ... for the wicked" (Isa 48:22; 57:21), even though many of the wicked will continue to seek to encourage themselves with a false peace. For the Christian, however, the word "peace" gathers up the innumerable blessings that are found in the gospel of the grace of God, and these blessings are not benefits laid up in eternal glory only, but are a present experience.
Think, first of all, of the individual peace that we can possess (Eph. 2:14). Paul declares that Christ "is our peace." And the Master confirmed this when He said: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). What the world gives, it takes away again; what Jesus gives lasts forever.
Now the Bible has much to say on this individual peace. We read, for instance, that this peace is from God. In many of the apostolic greetings we have the phrase "peace from God" (Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1). The obvious inference is that God is the Source of all true peace. Indeed, He is spoken of as "the God of peace" (Heb. 13:20). How foolish it is for man to imagine that he can create peace outside of God. With all the good intentions of presidents and politicians in the world, there will be no permanent peace until Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is owned and obeyed. As William M. Peck has put it, "There will be no peace so long as God remains unseated at the conference tables" (Wirt and Beckstrom 1974, 170 ).
Then the Bible speaks of "peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). This is the work of Christ into which the individual enters by faith. Because of His death on the cross, all the righteous demands of a holy God against sin have been duly met. Therefore, you and I can know this state of peace through simple faith. And the wonderful thing about it is that no devil in hell, no man on earth, no angel in heaven, can ever rob us of this peace with God. Whereas we were once at enmity with God, and war prevailed, now all hostilities have ceased and peace prevails.
The Bible also speaks of "the peace of God" (Phil. 4:7). This is the inward state of the soul of the believer who, having entered into peace with God through faith in Christ, has committed to God, through prayer and supplication, all his anxieties. This peace is described as passing all understanding. It remains unshaken and unruffled in the depths of our heart. J. D. Mozley says:
"You have seen the sea when it was perfectly smooth, with hardly a ripple on the water; and you have [also] watched when it was lashed in fury by the tempest. But you know, all this rage of the elements is only on the surface; below the waves and foam and howling winds there are depths which no storm can ever reach. Such is the contrast between the outward trials of life and the deep inward peace that reigns in the heart which is stayed on God. We cannot escape the trials of life, but if there be within us this true trust in God, then there will be depth in our inmost being where no storms can reach and where all is calm and still" (1957, 331).
Thus peace is "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 whatever sort it is" (Feinberg 1960).
But with the individual peace that we are to possess, there is the universal peace that we can promote. Writing to believers, Paul says, "As much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18). And Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9). With the entrance of sin into the world there came the need for a peacemaker, for wherever there are peace breakers there must be peacemakers. And so the Lord Jesus came and died and rose again, not only to make peace by the blood of His cross, but also to share this peace through you and me.
We are to promote peace within the church. The word to each one of us is "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). Now as we have seen, peace is God's gift to His own people. But once we possess this gift we are to promote it by walking "worthy of the calling with which [we] were called" (Eph. 4:1). We are to allow the Lord Jesus, who is indwelling Peace, to speak, live, look, and love through our lives within the local church. There is nothing that brings joy to the heart of the Lord more than a united church. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1). By the same token, there is nothing that grieves the divine heart more than a divided church. I believe His prayer every day is, "Father, make them all one, 'as You Father, are in Me, and I in you; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me'" (John 17:21).
But the promotion of peace goes beyond the church to the world. We are exhorted to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:2-4). This is the greatest contribution we can ever make to a measure of world peace. Such a discipline as this does not commend itself to the carnal mind, and far less to the natural man—who would rather try to organize peace in the energy of the flesh. But history is replete with examples of how God has brought tranquility and peace into national situations because of the prayers of God's people.
We are also to "preach the gospel of peace" (Rom. 10:15). Even though the world does not know it, and in many cases would not accept it, the greatest promoters and purveyors of peace are the despised evangelists and pastors. Since peace can never come until men are right with God, there is nothing more worthwhile or valuable in the world in which we live than the preaching of "the gospel of peace."
It is true, of course, that universal peace will never be experienced until Jesus Christ comes to reign as the Prince of Peace. God hasten that day! In the meantime, however, the greatest measure of peace we shall know upon this planet is when our lives are yielded to the only One who made peace and is our Peace, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Chinese have a proverb that goes like this: "If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world."
We have seen, then, that there is "a time of war, and a time of peace." How wonderful to know that in Jesus we can have victory in war and liberty in peace, because in every situation He is the contemporary Christ!
Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8)
As long as we remain in this sin-cursed world, there will be "wars and rumors of wars" (Matt. 24:6). Now and again there will be an unsettled "peace." Only when the Prince of Peace is enthroned will wars cease and peace prevail. In the meantime, for the surrendered Christian there can be victory and harmony in daily living. In the language of the apostle Paul we can exclaim, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57). Commenting on this doxology Dr. Leon Morris ( 1976, 235) writes: "The use of the present participle may convey the thought that it is God's characteristic to give victory. There is also the implication that we participate in that victory now, and that we participate in it daily."
— Time for Truth, A