Whatever Happened to “Peace on Earth”?
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord … And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ "
Luk 2:10-11, Luk 2:13-14.
The great challenge facing the Church today is to proclaim the absolute relevance and authority of the message of the Bible to the common man of our times. Tragically, poor scholarship and faulty interpretations only tend to alienate men from the truth of God’s Word. The seeming contradiction between the angelic announcement and current world conditions is sufficient for many to doubt the Bible’s claim to accuracy and authority. Viewing current world conditions, many would be inclined to ask, “What ever happened to peace on earth?” The real problem lies in the failure to accurately interpret this passage.
This task has been made almost impossible by the overwhelming compromise of our time, by which sound doctrine has been set aside for convenience and “feel-good theology.” The reality is that the Bible means exactly what it says. The truth is that the “Christmas message” of the above passage brings to our age the one and only hope for the future, as well as an uncompromisingly terrifying warning to those who reject that hope.
Let us look to the above text, taking it at face value in light of the Scriptures. The Gospel is the “good tidings” (good news) that God has fulfilled His promise to send mankind a Savior from sin. As a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, Jesus was born in
(cf. Mic 5:2 and Mat 2:6). That He was the “only begotten” of God is clear from His title “Christ the Lord.” This is equivalent to saying “the God-man,” as the prophet Isaiah made clear that the “Christ” (Hebrew Messiah) must be (Isa 9:6). He would be the “Child … born” and the “Son … given.” In other words, eternal God and virgin-born man united forever in one Person. This is what the New Testament term “Christ” means in every case (see Mat 16:16; Joh 11:27, Joh. 20:31). Bethlehem
When God fulfilled His promise to send the Redeemer, the angels broke forth in song, with a message of hope which also carried an implicit warning. The “heavenly host” means more than a multitude of angels. It literally means “an angelic army,” as “host” is a military term. Jesus is Himself the “Lord of Hosts” (Jam 5:4, Sabaoth in Greek), which translates “Lord of Angelic Armies.” And what is the message of these armies? Since the couplet is elliptical, the verbs being implied and understood, we should look at the message this way:
“[Give] glory to God in the highest and [result] on earth [will be] peace
[i.e., with God], and goodwill among men.” Luk 2:14
Some ancient texts even read, as the New American Standard Version shows, “and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” God is pleased with men who—by faith—claim Jesus as their Savior, and thus acknowledge that He alone is “the Christ” of Old Testament prophecy. In other words, the only hope we have of knowing peace with God and promoting good will among men is to receive by faith the Lord Jesus as the One and only “Christ of God.” The Apostle John concludes his Gospel with these words, “these [things] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (Joh 20:31). On the basis of this faith, the Apostle Paul declares, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
It is my genuine hope and prayer that each one reading this newsletter may know the “peace of God” that comes through faith in His Son. God is glorified when we believe His Word and live by faith. May I encourage you to take the time over this Christmas to re-read the story in Luke chapter 2, and explain it to your children and loved ones. Then, also, may our lives proclaim the truth to this sorrowing world that the peace and good will of God will never be known on this earth except through the Prince of Peace—the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, may we never doubt for a moment that—if and when we truly begin to reflect the true character and life of our Lord—this world will do to us exactly what it did to Him. And this is another reason for the phrase, “Be not afraid …”
Nan and I, and the board of Basic Training, we wish you all a Christ-centered Christmas and a New Year of growing in grace and conformity to Jesus Christ. May you face the future full of faith and free from fear because of the promises of the Word of God.
In His love,