Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďKEPT BY THE PEACE OF GODĒ

Philippians 4.7

 

Throughout Paulís letter to the Philippians we have seen his emphasis on the humility that is so foundational to a churchís unity. Indeed, without genuine and heartfelt humility there simply cannot exist the kind of unity in a church that honors and glorifies God. Let there be no mistaking the fact that it is entirely possible for unity to exist without a trace of humility. A professional sports team, for example, can exhibit the kind of team unity that vaults them to a world championship. But is there any real humility associated with such a feat? Not likely. So, too, there are churches which have banded together and are exhibiting great unity. And as a result of their unity they are experiencing astounding growth. But at what price? What that church is like-minded about, and what they are in agreement about, has nothing to do with the spiritual humility that so pleases God. No, what Paul urged wasnít just unity. He had seen and experienced, during the course of his own lifetime, great unity among the Pharisees, himself having been a Pharisee. But, oh, how wicked such unity can be when it is not the product of profound humility. For, let us never forget, God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.[1] And what is oftentimes found to be an integral part of the lives of Christians who are, indeed, humble? In addition to humility being a prerequisite to unity in a church, humility is also a precursor to effectual prayer. And does this not make perfect sense, when you think about it? The proud man believes he can live his life without the intervention of God in answer to prayer. He doesnít need Godís wisdom. He doesnít need Godís power. He doesnít need insight from God, either, because he is quite self-sufficient. For the humble believer, however, prayer comes much easier. Needing no convincing that he is helpless and needy, the child of God looks to God as his ever-present help in time of need.

We recently examined Paulís directive to the Philippians, with their concern about Paulís Roman imprisonment and with the dark clouds of persecution gathering over them, to ďBe careful for nothing.Ē Sinful anxiety has no proper place in the Christian life. We also took a look at what should be done instead of worrying about things you cannot control. What you should not do, then, is fret and be anxious. What you should do is pray. But what benefit is there to prayer? The most obvious benefits to praying to God are answers to prayer. In James 4.2 we are informed that we have not because we ask not. There are some blessings that God will bestow on His people only in answer to their direct requests for those blessings. But are there other benefits to prayer besides getting your prayers answered?

In our text for today, Philippians 4.7, Paul explains an added benefit to the Christianís prayer. And itís a benefit that is quite different than most Christians think it is from reading this verse. Letís stand and read it together, and then Iíll show you what I mean. Or should I say, Iíll show you what Paul means?

 

ďAnd the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Ē

 

Prayer to God results in protection from God by the peace of God.

 

There are three important concepts we need to strive to be clear about in this verse:

 

First, LETíS BE CLEAR ABOUT THE PEACE OF GOD

 

Iíll bet you have always thought, when you read this verse, or when you heard someone preach on this verse, that the peace of God referred to here is that feeling inside of serenity and tranquility that comes when you conclude things are right between you and God. That is not what the phrase ďthe peace of GodĒ means.

Let me contrast ďthe peace of GodĒ with three other kinds of peace in scripture. Turn in your Bible to Romans 5.10:

 

ďFor if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.Ē

 

Here is a shocking reference by Paul to his relationship with God before his conversion. Imagine Saul of Tarsus, a strictly observant and religious Jew actually being the enemy of God! He didnít imagine himself to be the enemy of God at that time in his life. But he was Godís enemy, just as surely as you are Godís enemy if you are not saved. Now turn to Romans 5.1:

 

ďTherefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Ē

 

Through faith in Jesus Christ the believer has peace with God. Understand, peace with God is not something you experience. Itís not something you feel. Itís a judicial decree of God that arises from the saving work of Jesus Christ. When a sinner comes to Christ by faith and receives the forgiveness of his sins, Godís holy and righteous demands for satisfaction are met by the Lord Jesus Christ for that sinner, and where there was war, a state of peace now exists between the sinner and God. Peace with God is the first thing brought about by Jesus Christ for the sinner who comes to Him. Finally, turn to Galatians 5.22:

 

ďBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,Ē

 

Whereas peace with God is an objective fact that is not felt or experienced, but is so because Godís Word says it is so, this second kind of peace which is the result of the Holy Spiritís unencumbered indwelling presence in the life of the believer is very much felt. When people talk about the inner tranquility of the soul and serenity in their thoughts, it is this peace they are referring to. One might call this the peace of the Spirit of God. A third kind of spiritual peace, and another kind of peace which is actually felt by the Christian, is found in First Thessalonians 5.13:

 

ďAnd to esteem them very highly in love for their workís sake. And be at peace among yourselves.Ē

 

This is the peace that exists between members of a congregation, when they actually get along with each other and refrain from quarreling. And how does this peace come to be experienced? Read verses 12 and 13:

 

12    And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13    And to esteem them very highly in love for their workís sake. And be at peace among yourselves.Ē

 

When you have a right relationship with your pastor, when you esteem him very highly in love for the workís sake, then you will get along with each other and experience this third kind of peace. You might call this the pastoral peace.

Let us now consider the peace of God referred to by Paul in Philippians 4.7. First, let me state that the peace with God in Romans 5.1 is the result of being justified through faith in Christ. The peace of the Spirit of God is the result of the indwelling of Godís Spirit in the life of the believer. The pastoral peace is also a result; a result of a right relationship with Godís spiritual leader in the church. The peace of God, however, is not the result of anything. The peace of God just is. You see, the peace of God is actually an attribute of God. Itís one of those qualities which makes God Who and what He is. As God is love and as God has the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience, so also does God have the attribute of peace. He is not ruffled, disturbed, worried, or anxious about anything. He is God, and there is peace in His being. What Paul is referring to here, then, is not anything that is the result of what God or anyone else does. This peace is the result, if thatís the right word to use, of what God is by nature and essence. We have seen, then, four kinds of peace. There is peace that is experienced by members of a congregation. There is peace that is experienced by a believer as a direct result of the indwelling Spirit of God. There is the peace with God that is the result of being justified, which is not felt or experienced, but is just as certainly real as anything else that is true. And, in this verse we have before us today, there is the peace of God. This is Godís peace. This is what He senses, experiences, and feels as a result of Who He is. And letís not forget: This peace of God? It is something ďwhich passeth understanding.Ē Which is to say that it is beyond our capacity to comprehend. Consider it. Ponder it. But do not expect to be able to grasp or understand it.

 

Second, LETíS BE CLEAR ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF BELIEVERS

 

ďAnd the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and mindsĒ

 

The peace of God will do something to your hearts and minds when you pray. Specifically, the peace of God will keep your hearts and mind. To keep is to stand guard and protect, to stand guard and control, to stand guard at the entrance of a city gate. The peace of God, then, is the gatekeeper for your heart and mind. But what is your heart and what is your mind, in this verse?

To the Jewish mind, and Paul is after all a Jewish man inspired to pen these words, the heart is the center of a man.[2] The heart is the place from which your thoughts originate. The heart is the place from which your affections flow. Remember, from Romans 10.10, that it is ďwith the heart man believeth unto righteousness.Ē So, to guard the manís heart is to guard the essence of the man. If you pray Godís peace will keep your heart. If you pray Godís peace will guard your heart. And critical it is to control access to your heart.

But thatís not all the peace of God stands guard over and protects. The peace of God also keeps your mind. The Greek word translated mind here is not the normal word for mind.[3] This word refers to the product of the mind, which are thoughts and the acts of the will which proceed from the heart. So, the peace of God, as a result of your prayer life, keeps not only your heart, but also keeps your thoughts, protects your thoughts, and guards your thoughts. My friends, where is the battlefield on which the Christian warfare is waged? Is it not the thought life of the believer? You see, then, how crucial prayer is to provide for you this unforeseen benefit, the guarding and the protecting by the peace of God of your heart and of your mind.

 

Third, LETíS BE CLEAR ABOUT THE POSITION OF BELIEVERS

 

The verse concludes, ďshall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Ē

No word means this and only this or that and only that. Every word in every language characteristically has a range of meaning that is dependent upon the context in which the word is used. For example: The word ďcoolĒ can mean anything from having a relatively low temperature to being synonymous with the word wonderful. Such is the case in the Greek language and the phrase ďthrough Christ JesusĒ possesses a word with just such a range of meanings. You see, the word ďthroughĒ is usually translated ďin,Ē which would give to us the phrase, ďin Christ Jesus.Ē

I bring this to your attention only to point out that all of these benefits, from being able to pray effectually to God, to having the peace of God actually keep your hearts and minds, occurs only in the lives of those who are actually saved and positionally in Christ. If you are not saved you are not in Christ. If you are not saved you will not experience pastoral peace or the peace of the Spirit of God. Peace with God will not be yours if you are not saved. And if you are not saved the peace of God, Godís own divine attribute of serenity and tranquility, will not keep your heart or your mind when you pray.

 

Hey, no wonder saved people like to pray. No wonder saved people do pray. No wonder saved people are willing to come to prayer meetings. This peace of God keeping your heart and mind is a wonderful thing. Now, perhaps the child of God doesnít consciously know what happens when he prays that is so delightful to his heart and mind, but he knows something happens. There is benefit from praying to God that comes from something other than answer to prayer, that comes from something other than humbling yourself before God. Itís Godís Own peace moving into an area of your life during and after prayer, to keep watch over you, to protect you, to safeguard your heart and your mind. And donít tell me that the peace of God keeping a manís heart and mind doesnít affect him. I know better. And the Bible says so.

So, if you pray to God you will receive protection that comes from God by the peace of God. And some people will try to pay money to a psychiatrist so they can sleep at night. Nuts.

 

SERMON:

 

We have looked quite briefly at four kinds of peace found in scripture. Two of those kinds of peace are felt, are experienced.

What I have called pastoral peace is a peace that is enjoyed. When there is a right relationship between the pastor and the people the people, in turn, get along with each other. But when there is not a right relationship, when there is a failure to very highly esteem him in love for the workís sake, the Bible predicts that you will not get along with each other to experience and enjoy peace among yourselves. And this is reasonable. For example: Should you continue a friendship with someone who has demonstrated disloyalty, who has been unfaithful in leaving the church, or who has in some other way sought to harm the pastorís lifeís work, you place yourself in conflict with others in the church who are doing right. Peace cannot then exist between you and them until you either leave (which is wrong), or sever your irresponsible friendship (which is right). Pastoral peace. Itís experienced, and itís important to a church.

Next, there is what I call the peace of Godís Spirit. This peace, which is also felt, is the direct result of the indwelling ministry of the Spirit of God. Accompanying this peace is joy and love and goodness, and all the rest that goes along with the Spirit of Godís work in a child of Godís life.

Third, there is the peace of God. This is what Philippians 4.7 deals with. This is the attribute of God. It is His unalterable and immutable peace. This peace is a direct reflection of the fact that God, each of the three persons of the Trinity, are not in conflict with each other, but quite the contrary. The godhead is absolutely like-minded and in such united harmony as cannot be imagined by such creatures as ourselves. Since this is Godís Own peace it is not experienced by us, but the effect of Godís peace can be felt when, in the course of prayer, the believerís heart and mind is kept by Godís peace.

Finally, there is peace with God. I suppose peace with God is most important to human beings because of the four that we have dealt with this is the peace that is least felt or the least perceived. And with regard to our eternal destiny, this is the peace which is most important to us.

Four points need to be made with regard to peace with God this evening:

 

First, THE CONDITION OF PEACE WITH GOD

 

Sometimes when dealing with such issues as war and peace, we sell short the notion of what real peace is. To avoid doing this, let us remember that God means what He says and He says what He means, both by direct revelation to chosen men past times, as well as by means of His infallible Word, the Bible.

When Lucifer was cast down because of his rebellion against God a spiritual war began. I say it was a spiritual war because it was a war between spiritual beings, the true and living God on one hand, in conflict against Lucifer and that portion of the angelic host that aligned with him in revolt against God on the other hand. Then one day, Lucifer succeeded in his plot to overthrow the rule of God in the life of Adam, the first man and the head of the human race. Luciferís success did not alter in any way the outcome of the spiritual war, since the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His Own will had, in fact, incorporated Adamís fall into His plan for the ages. Nevertheless, when it occurred it created a breach between Adam and His Creator that had not existed before, and it enlisted Adam and his descendants into an alliance with Lucifer (now known as Satan) against the rule of God. The spiritual war had widened, with mankind now fully but unwittingly participating. I say unwittingly because none of this is recognized by sinful men because human beings are most consciously physical beings, and almost unconsciously do you have a spiritual side. But have a spiritual side you do. And the spiritual component of your existence is immoral, is ungodly, is wicked, is contaminated, and most important to our present discussion, is in total rebellion against God.

My friend, because so much that is physical and sensory dominates your existence, you may be quite unaware of the reality that exists between you and God, but He is most aware of that reality. And what is that reality? That reality is that you are Godís enemy. Romans 5.10 leaves no doubt about that issue. You are not Godís ally. And even if you choose to deny that you are Godís enemy, recognize that it is nevertheless true. Peace with God, then, is something that is wonderful and blessed. Peace with God is more than just a cessation of hostilities, such as has existed between North and South Korea, and such as exists between China and Taiwan, and such as existed for decades between the United States and the Soviet Union. Oh, no. Peace with God means all is forgiven. Peace with God means that justice is satisfied. Peace with God means that holiness is vindicated. Peace with God means that two who were at one time adversaries are now allies. Peace with God means that whereas the destruction of the other and His cause was once sought, such a goal exists no more. Now, with peace, each seeks the advance of the otherís cause. I seek Godís glory while God bestows upon me His blessings.

Peace with God is not felt. It is not experienced in the strictest sense of what it means to experience something. But the peace of God is real and wonderful and prized. It bespeaks the most important relationship a human being can possibly have. More important than parent to child or husband to wife. More important than patriot to country or soldier to flag. This is the relationship of creature to his Creator. And when there is peace with God that relationship is right.

 

Next, THE CAUSE OF PEACE WITH GOD

 

When you were conceived you were conceived in sin. You have been by nature a sinful person since your beginning. And unless something dramatic happens to bring about peace between you and your God, you will someday die and begin to suffer the wrath of your God throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. All of this because the presence of sin results in the absence of peace.

Now, we know that in the case of some sinners peace breaks out in the midst of their war with God. But what causes such peace to reign with God? What brings it about? What is the cause of it all? Writing to Christians about their former lives, lost and without hope, and describing for them how they who were afar off have now been brought close to God by the blood of Christ, Paul says this about Jesus Christ in Ephesians 2.14:

 

ďfor he is our peace.Ē

 

My friend, Jesus Christ is the cause of peace with God. Without Jesus Christ there is no peace, because without Him, and the cleansing power of His shed blood, that which creates the conflict, that which antagonizes God, your sin, is ever present.

Romans 5.1 reinforces this truth:

 

ďTherefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Ē

 

Setting aside for a moment what the word justification means, the point that I seek to emphasize right now is that Jesus Christ, Who He is and what He did when He shed His blood for the remission of sins, is the reason a person who has peace with God has peace with God. Through Jesus there is peace with God. Without Jesus there is no peace with God. Itís that simple. Jesus Christ is the cause of peace because the blood of Jesus Christ washes the sin away.

 

Third, THE CONSEQUENCE OF PEACE WITH GOD

 

With sin there is no peace. With peace there is no sin. At least there is no sin that God hasnít forgiven, there is no sin that Jesus Christ hasnít cleansed with His blood, there is no sin that hasnít been forgotten by God. So, when there is peace there is nothing between you and your God except Jesus the mediator, who reconciles you to God and brings you to God. And with peace there is nothing to prevent you from coming to the throne of grace to pray to God, to seek His face, to worship Him, to honor Him, to adore Him, to praise Him.

And in the end, with peace, there is nothing that stands in the way of Godís holy angels escorting your immortal soul into His presence in heaven when your life on earth is done. But since you do not know Jesus, whom to know is life eternal, since you do not therefore have the cause of peace, neither will you enjoy the consequence of peace. Heaven is not your home. And an eternity with God in heaven is not your eternal destiny.

 

Finally, THE CONTRAST OF PEACE WITH GOD

 

There are only two types of status to be enjoyed or endured with respect to God. You are either at peace with God or you are at war with God. You are either His friend or you are His enemy. You are either for Him or you are against Him. You are either reconciled to Him or you are in rebellion against Him. You are either alive as a partaker of His divine nature or you are dead in trespasses and sins.

Most people, when they think of this thing called salvation, think only of either going to Hell when you die or going to heaven when you die. But Iím here to tell you that there is far more to it than what happens at the end of your life. Itís whatís happening while you are living your so-called life. Do you worship God? Do you adore God? Do you consciously seek to glorify God? Do you live for God? Do you love God? And what I mean by that is, do you obey God? Or do you sin against Him? Do you trespass against His commandments? Do you love yourself more than you love God? You see, when you commit sins you are actively warring against Almighty God. When you disobey His Word you are violating the One who said, ďBe ye holy for I am holy.Ē

Now, you may honestly think that you are not Godís enemy. You may think that everything is pretty good between you and God. But understand, if you are not at peace with God you are then at war with God. I close with two passages that may be familiar to you. But I hope that as I read them this time you will see that they describe the behavior of someone who is not at peace with God, someone whose destiny is eternal damnation, someone who is Godís enemy:

 

First Corinthians 6.9-10:  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Second Timothy 3.1-7: 1   This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2      For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3      Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4      Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5      Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

6      For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

7      Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

Only if you have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ will you ever truly experience the peace of the Spirit of God, or will you ever benefit from the protection of your heart and mind by the peace of God.

I have set before you the condition of peace with God, the cause of peace with God, the consequence of peace with God, and a contrast of the peace with God.

I close with this: You have no joy. You have no meaning for living. You have no cause but self. And at the bottom of it all you have no peace with the one Who created you. You see, you are at odds with your Creator. Until that issue is settled nothing is settled. Until you have peace with God you will never have peace, not real peace. The prescription for what ails you, my friend, the remedy for your sin, is the Prince of Peace. You need Jesus.



[1] James 4.6; First Peter 5.5

[2] Gordon D. Fee, Paulís Letter To The Philippians - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), page 411.

[3] See footnote for Philippians 4.7 from Gordon D. Fee, Paulís Letter To The Philippians - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), page 411.


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org