There are many believers who, while having life in Christ, have not simple faith in His work upon the cross, and in Himself in the glory. We meet with these souls daily, for there are thousands of them, and the more in earnest the more melancholy they are — the more zealous, the more sad.
It is to such that this chapter is addressed. Yes! beloved reader, peace is that which you long for; peace is that which now and again you seem to see through the mists and clouds of unbelief — but solid peace you have not. And each fresh struggle after the longed-for peace ends in deeper dejection, as feelings, tears, and resolves, rise up against you in condemnation, adding heavier weights to your already over-burdened spirit. Nor is the Tempter still; his insinuations, his suggestions, are your sorrowful companions in the dark valley of your grief. But, beloved, burdened soul, there is peace — peace now and for ever — peace for you!
Peace with God, as forgiveness, is the proper portion of all believers. Many are looking within their hearts for peace; but the true ground of peace must be looked for in God's word. Peace with God is a very different thing from a peaceful state of soul; the former is the result of Christ's work in atonement; the latter of a work in the believer. The basis of the one is outside self, and is the work accomplished by Christ; the other is the effect of a work within the believer wrought by the Holy Spirit. The first great fact for us to lay hold of is, that —
Peace has been Made.
This God Himself tells us in His word; and can any news be more welcome to the distressed and anxious heart?
What had to be done in order that peace could be made?
This is our first question. God Himself had to be satisfied. His wrath against sin had to be met. His righteousness had to be magnified. His heart had to find its rest. How could poor worms of the earth have peace with God, until God could say that the offending thing was put out of the way? So long as one single sin remained without a propitiatory, and one act of unrighteousness remained with the claims of justice against it unmet, so long there could not be peace. It is vain to ask our consciences whether they are at peace until we know that upon God's side it is peace.
What is the burden that bows down your head, and bears so heavily upon your troubled heart? It is your sense of your sins, your sense of your own unworthiness, or perhaps it may be the conscious want of a due sense of sin! But the cup which the Lord drank was not filled with our sense of sin, but with God's wrath and indignation against sin. Therefore as we think of peace with God, let our hearts fully heed, that God Himself has been magnified; that His righteousness and holiness have been glorified by the work of His Son. And the measure of God's righteousness is nothing less than Himself — the standard of His holiness, Himself.
How was God's righteousness satisfied?
None but an infinitely holy Being could meet the infinite holiness of God — infinite perfection alone could satisfy the requirements of the infinite justice of God. Christ alone could magnify God in regard to sin. The countless offerings by the law never afforded God's heart rest regarding sin: “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein.” (Heb. 10:8.) Therefore God prepared a body for His Son, wherein He might suffer for sin, and the Holy One said, “Lo I come to do Thy will, O God.” Having finished the work which His Father gave Him to do, having drunk the bitter cup to the dregs, and having gone back to the glory on the right hand of the Majesty on high, nothing more remains to be done, and through Him the “Gospel of Peace” is preached to sinners.
And as there was only one Person capable of satisfying the righteousness of God regarding sin, so there was only one way whereby that one Person could accomplish this end. Jesus did not make peace by becoming the Babe of Bethlehem, by His tears, by His mighty works of love, by His holy life — no, the work could be alone accomplished by His death, for “without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb. 9:22.)
Until Divine Justice was at rest about our sins there could not be peace. Our sins had to be taken out of the way. Jesus took our place and suffered in our stead. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” (Isa. 53:5.) And we have nothing whatever to do in this mighty work of making peace; our happy portion is to believe, and to praise God for what His Son has done for us.
But not only were our sins borne, our evil nature also was judged and condemned at the cross of Christ. “He hath made Him sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” It was God who made our iniquities to meet upon the Substitute; it was God who made His Son, when upon the cross, sin for us — that is, what we are by nature. And for this great end, that we, who are sin by nature, might become, in Christ risen from the dead, the righteousness of God! Sins not only taken away, and our sinful nature condemned, but a new and divinely righteous standing ours in the sight of God!
God, in His own righteousness and holiness, has been magnified by what the Lord did for us, and what He was for us upon the cross. The Divine Son has finished the work which His Father gave Him to do! Righteousness and Love speak in their respective tongues of His precious blood; both proclaim, “Peace made through the blood of His cross.” (Col. 1:20.) When He bore our sins, when He was wounded for our transgressions, when He satisfied every claim of Righteousness and met every wish of Love, when He bled and died upon the accursed tree — peace was made.
How do we know that God's righteousness is satisfied?
How do we know that all our sins are borne, and that Christ's work meets the uttermost requirements of infinite Justice? Because He who was our Sin-bearer on the cross, and who died for our sins, has been raised from the dead by God. The righteousness of God demanded that “Christ,” who “died for our sins” ( 1 Cor. 15:3), and, who had magnified God about the sins for which He died, should be raised from the dead. He was crucified through weakness; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; He was taken by wicked hands and slain, but He was raised by the glory of the Father. Our offences are linked with the cross of Christ; our justification is linked with the resurrection of Christ. The justice of God demanded satisfaction in full for our offences, and meted out to Him, when in our place, all that which we deserve, so that Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But when the Lord had completed the work God raised Him from the dead, and seated Him upon the throne in heaven. And now God proclaims to us, “Peace by Jesus Christ!”
Let us place these words of the Lord together:
“Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” “It is finished!” “Peace unto you.”
How exquisitely do they unfold to us the gospel! He was forsaken because He took our place; but the wrath has been borne, the work is completed, He Himself has finished it; therefore in the fulness of that work He says, “Peace unto you.”
Yes! Our Lord risen from the grave, brought with His own lips the glad tidings of peace to His sorrowing disciples.
As Victor from the fight He stood in their midst, and proclaimed the result of His anguish; the fruit of His sufferings and death —
The billows had rolled over Him; the storm had exhausted itself upon Him; the sword had found its sheath in His bosom, when, risen out of the grave, He announced “Peace” — peace established in resurrection-power — peace, eternally secure. And having proclaimed peace, Jesus showed the Divine evidence or it: “His hands and His side.” (John 20:20.)
Upon Himself He bade His disciples look. We behold Jesus risen from the dead, and see in His once wounded hands, and feet, and side, the evidence that our sins have been borne, and that the justice of God has raised the Sin-bearer from the dead. There is none other evidence of peace having been made, like the Person of Him who made it.
It is the wonder-working love of God in the gift of His Son, the miracle of grace in Jesus. shedding His blood upon Calvary for wicked man, that overwhelms the natural hatred of our hearts to God. The love of sin stood between our hearts and God, and by wicked works we were enemies to Him; but God's love to us in our sins, and the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, draw out our hearts in love to God. Having made peace by the blood of His cross God hath reconciled us to Himself by the death of His Son. The enmity of our hearts is subdued, and in the righteousness of God we learn His love. God is light — God is love.
Thus, before we were born, long centuries ago, peace was made. The Eternal God, according to His own Majesty and Being, devised the plan. In the depths of His wisdom He settled the mighty way of peace, and His own Son came down to this earth to make it good. And faith now says of the once crucified but risen Saviour, “He is our peace.” (Eph. 2:14.)
How is peace obtained?
“Have you made your peace with God my good woman?” said a kindly-intentioned visitor to an old friend of ours. Now although our old friend was dying, yet she knew perfectly well what she was saying, when she replied “No; that I have not, sir.”
“Then see to it at once, and make your peace with God before you die, I entreat you,” replied the visitor, with solemn earnestness.
After a few moments' silence, the aged believer fixed her eyes upon him, and said, slowly, “It was all done eighteen hundred years ago. 'He hath made peace through the blood of His cross.'”
It is a fearful thing to attempt to make our peace with God! a dreadful delusion for a dying hour. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1.)
The stone over which so many stumble is their feelings. But our experiences do not affect God's fact. Whether the believer is in a peaceful state of soul, or harassed and disturbed, the fact that peace is made remains unchanged. The sun has risen, and though clouds blot out his beams from sight, and a chilly atmosphere takes the place of his genial glow, yet the fact that the sun shines, remains unchanged. What the believer has to do is, by faith, to forsake the valley of distrust over which the clouds hang, and to climb the mountains above the clouds.
Some little time ago a friend of ours, when speaking to a christian, asked her if she knew the blessing of having settled peace with God. She replied, “He sometimes hides His face from me.”
“Why does He do so?” our friend inquired.
“Because of my sinfulness,” answered the doubting believer, adding — “Oh! sir, my heart is such a wicked one, and I often have sinful thoughts and feelings which make Him hide His face from me.”
“But,” asked our friend, “Is God not satisfied with what Jesus was and is for you? Can He then hide His face from you? No it is you, who; by looking within yourself, and, pulling the blind down, shut Him out. You must keep the blind up. If the sun is pouring forth all its golden beauty, and you are keeping the blind up, it will show forth all its power to you; but if you draw the blind down you hinder its rays from entering your room. And if you become occupied with self, and are taken up with your own feelings and thoughts, instead of with Christ, you are in darkness, for you thereby shut out the light of His presence.”
The thought of “keeping the blind up” helped the poor doubter much; and she received the truth of the perfect satisfaction which God has in Christ, and peace coming to us through Christ in glory. “Keep the blind up,” reader, look not within the dark chamber of your heart, but outside of yourself to Christ.
Again, many doubts are bred in the bosom, because there is not faith in a risen Saviour. Too many linger over the cross as if Jesus were still there. As if He were still a dying and not a living Redeemer. Upon the cross the work was done; by the blood there shed the peace was made; but a living Jesus, a risen Jesus, is the object of faith, and His words to you, as He shows you His hands and His side, are — “Be not faithless, but believing.”
“I am ever looking to Jesus upon the cross,” said one. Another gently replied, He is not there.” No, He is not upon the cross; He is upon the throne. He has made the peace, and now He is our peace.
Reader, do you believe on God who raised up Jesus from the dead? Then you are justified. And when did this justifying occur? Upon your believing! There and then God justified you. God did this; and what then shall you say? Oh! in the words of scripture; these great and sweet words — “Therefore,” because God has justified me, I have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”