"The God of peace."

Several times in the epistles reference is made to God as the God of peace, and this title, or expression, is full of blessed meaning to the spiritual mind. The term is however used in different connections, but this only adds to the importance of this presentation of Himself on God's part, letting us know how He delights to suit Himself to the needs and difficulties of His people, so that by the apprehension of what He is to them, and for them, they may enjoy perfect peace in the midst of tribulation.

We are in a world where sin has marred everything, and has also brought in its train sorrow, trouble, misery, and death. As connected by nature with this scene we are partakers of these consequences, and not only so, but we have a sense of distance from, and unfitness for, God, and a dread of judgment to come pressing on the conscience. It is as finding ourselves thus that God begins this blessed revelation of Himself to our hearts, not, indeed, in the way of slighting the question of sin, as every true believer well knows, but giving up His own Son to glorify Him about it by His atoning death on the cross. As to sin, God could never be at peace with it, nor rest where it was present; nor could we enjoy peace except by the complete putting of it away from God's sight. Hence we see at the cross (and we shall never forget it through all eternity) God pouring out His wrath upon sin; and we see His own blessed Son entering into those unfathomable depths of sorrow and anguish; as, "alone in that dark hour," He bore the sins of many, enduring the hiding of God's face, and sustaining His righteous judgment against sin. It was infinite grace that brought Him there, infinite love that gave Him up to suffer, and to die. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." What are the results? Who can ever tell a thousandth part of them? Let us get hold in our souls of this one grand result which gives character to all, namely, that God can have man before Him in perfect peace and acceptance (even as Jesus is now before Him as man), and reveal Himself to man as the Fountain of all blessedness and glory, also that those who are thus brought nigh "in Christ Jesus," and by His blood, are free to drink into this blessedness even now, and shall be eternally satisfied with it. Peace has been made, and now God can present Himself as "the God of peace," so that His people may know Him, and joy in Him, as the One from whom all true peace flows, who is Himself the Source and Author of it; and we, as brought to Him, can know and enjoy it in proportion as we practically abide in His presence.

We are not now referring only to the enjoyment of peace about the question of sins, though even this, alas! is but poorly and partially understood and known by many of the Lord's people, so that they are unable to enjoy the wider extent of it as ministered by the Spirit in the epistles. The cause of this defect is, in many cases, because there has not been entire looking outside of, and away from, self. Self-occupation is kept up, and peace is sought through some inward feelings or outward graces. If any such should read this, we would desire to direct their minds to that by which what they seek can alone be realized. We may find a beautiful presentation of it in Heb. 13:20 - "The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant," etc. What a region and atmosphere of peace the Spirit of God conducts us to here! Jesus our Lord, the great Shepherd of the sheep (who, as the good Shepherd, gave His life for the sheep, endured all the storm, the judgment, the wrath) is now raised up ("brought again") from among the dead. But how? By whom? By "the God of peace." Sin, death, judgment left behind for ever, we can truly say -

"The storm that bowed Thy blessed head
Is hushed for ever now;
And rest divine is ours instead,
Whilst glory crowns Thy brow."

How all this declares to us the attitude, the feelings, the desires of the blessed God now towards every believer in Jesus, towards the feeblest and weakest in that flock of which He is now "the great Shepherd." Yes, dear reader, God lets you know His feelings and desires to you as "the God of peace" (ponder over the expression, we pray you) in raising up Jesus our Lord, the great Shepherd of the sheep.

But we must leave this deeply interesting scripture to the meditation of our readers, and now consider briefly other places in the word where this expression is used in other connections. We find it in an intensified form in 1 Thess. 5:23, where we read, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly," etc. These Thessalonians had learned the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus. They knew God as the God of peace who had "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus," and they were at peace with God. They had turned to Him and were awaiting His Son from heaven. There were no troubles, nor fears in this direction, there was not a cloud above. They were however going through a storm of another kind. Satan was raising the storm of persecution against them - tribulations and afflictions were being heaped upon them to force them into evil, or, if possible, to destroy their faith. The apostle directs their hearts and minds to God, his words taking the form of a prayer or desire for them, showing how the apostle's own heart knew this sure refuge in the storm, and the power that could keep them in perfect peace, though surrounded by enemies and by evil. So he adds, "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it," and then, "Brethren, pray for us;" for when our own hearts are brought sensibly into the presence of "the God of peace" we can pray for others. Space will not permit the further development of this most precious presentation of God to us in this character, in its application to the numberless details of the lives of each individual who has entered on the path of faith,* for it is in this path - that is, in the everyday life of God's people down here - that this has to be proved. We could not learn it otherwise; it is

"In the desert God will teach thee
What the God that thou hast found -
Patient, gracious, powerful, holy,
All His grace shall there abound."

*In John 20 the reader will find in the Lord's words to His disciples what corresponds with the two scriptures we have considered. Twice there does He say "Peace be unto you." The first relates to their perfect acceptance, their position beyond all judgment and in assured blessing before God; the second refers to their pathway through the world, as sent by Him into it, and called to walk even as He walked, surrounded by sorrow, evil, and persecution.

We need not now dwell upon a somewhat similar expression, used in the second epistle to the Thessalonians (see chap. 3:16), except to remark that the apostle seems to introduce it in view of the efforts of the enemy to cause trouble and discord within - that is, amongst themselves - as well as from the enemies without. But whether it be the tribulations from without, or the troubles within, God would have us to know Him as the God of peace, who delights in it, and is Himself the Source of it for His people; and not only so, but who will, in His own time and way, judge those who are troublers of His people, whether as opposing them from outside, or as bringing in any element of evil or self-will, which surely produces troubles and sorrows to those who desire to walk with God.

We may now briefly notice this expression in Rom. 16:20, and here we may further discover where lies the source of all the evil and trouble, namely, in the working of Satan, either to hinder and oppose the people of God, or to introduce seeds of discord and principles of evil amongst them through acting on the flesh in those who - though taking their place as Christians, and, it may be, having found peace for their consciences through believing in Christ - yet have never learned what it is to "have no confidence in the flesh," and who are not walking in true self-judgment. Hence the enemy gains power in their hearts, and uses them as tools for his own ends - even mischief and sorrow to the people of God. We do well to remember this; to look beyond those who may be the mere instruments of the enemy, and to be alive to the fact that Satan is ever acting. This casts us more upon God, and leads us to seek to deal with matters only as He may direct and open the way, and as His word instructs. Then the weapons of our warfare will not be carnal. (2 Cor. 10:4.)

God, however, is always for His people; He delights in their happiness and soon He will judge the enemy and the troubler of His people. He, as the God of peace, will bruise Satan under our feet shortly, setting us above his power, and giving complete triumph and deliverance, the enemy himself being judged and cast out, and no longer permitted either to accuse or to tempt.

Then, free and unhindered, we shall enjoy the presence of "the God of peace" for ever; but even now the desire of the apostle for the "beloved of God" (Rom. 1:7) is, "Now the God of peace be with you all." (Rom. 15:33.)

For this present enjoyment there is a divinely marked path to be trod, and a divinely given way of dealing with all that might tend to trouble, or to produce distress. This is simply and beautifully set before us in Phil. 4:6-9. Following these directions with true exercise of heart we shall enjoy "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding," and "the God of love and peace" will be with us. The sense of His presence will be the enjoyed portion of the heart. S. M. A.