Much evangelical propaganda has been written on how you can “feel the peace of God.” Can God give you a feeling of peace? Absolutely. God can certainly give us a peaceful conscience in the midst of turmoil as well as a feeling of content during affliction, suffering, and persecution. Yet God’s peace is not invariably a feeling. There are many times when we don’t feel at peace at all. This is the danger of mysticism. If you’re not feeling a good attribute from God, then it must not be true, you must’ve done something wrong to upset God, and there must be something you have to do about it.
Biblically speaking, the peace of God is not a feeling and neither is it something you do for God; the peace of God is the atoning reality of Jesus Christ that God the Father has laid upon His redeemed people by grace through faith via the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9).
The Hebrew word for peace (שָׁלָם, shalam) appears a total of 279 times in the Old Testament. The Greek word for peace (εἰρήνη, eirene) appears a total of 95 times in the New Testament. That’s way too much to sort through in the space allotted here, and these numbers are excluding the verbal forms of the nouns, so we won’t be going through each use. What we will be looking at is any time the genitive phrasing “peace of God” is used or a text implies the peace of God. We’ll only be looking in the New Testament.
The following is that list. You can read it all if you’d like or skip it; it’s up to you:
- Acts 10:36, As for the Word that He sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)…
- Romans 5:1, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Romans 14:17, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 15:33, My the peace of God be with you all. Amen.
- Romans 16:20, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- 1 Corinthians 1:3, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 7:15, But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
- 1 Corinthians 14:33, For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
- 2 Corinthians 1:2, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 13:11, Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
- Galatians 1:3, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Galatians 5:22, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…
- Ephesians 1:2, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Ephesians 2:14-15, For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the diving wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create life in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace…
- Ephesians 2:17, And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
- Ephesians 4:3, …eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- Ephesians 6:15, …and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
- Philippians 1:2, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Philippians 4:7, And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:9, What you have learnt and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
- Colossians 1:2, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
- 1 Thessalonians 1:1, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
- 1 Timothy 1:2, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 2 Timothy 1:2, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 2 Timothy 2:22, So, flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
- Titus 1:4, To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.
- Philemon 3, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Hebrews 12:14, Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
- Hebrews 13:20, Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant…
- James 3:18, And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
- 1 Peter 1:2, …according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
- 2 Peter 1:2, May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
- Revelation 1:4, John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne…
From this long list, we can gather four aspects of the peace of God:
- The peace of God is Trinitarian.
- The peace of God is used as a pastoral greeting.
- The peace of God guides how Christians live in the world toward one another and their neighbour.
- Most importantly, the peace of God is the status of the Christian before God.
The Peace of God as Trinitarian
Immediately gathered from this list is the fact that the peace of God is Trinitarian—the peace of God comes from all persons of the Holy Trinity. This is especially seen in the pastoral greetings following the Trinitarian formula, “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Though the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned in these greetings, His presence is nevertheless assumed since God’s peace is in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17; Ephesians 4:3) and peace is one of His fruits (Galatians 5:22).
Thus, the peace of God is an active thing He works in His people now and lasting into the final eschaton for all eternity. The peace of God is not only a reality for us in the here and now; it is also the eschatological reality for us.
The Peace of God as a Pastoral Greeting
If you’re Lutheran, you’ve probably heard your pastor open his sermon with, “Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.” This greeting is taken from various apostolic letters in the New Testament.
It is more than a greeting, however. That is, it is more than a “hello.” It is a prayer, hence “amen.” The pastor opens his sermon with this prayer, that God may grant you His grace, mercy, and peace in the proclamation of the Word about to be given to you. Not only in the Word, but also in the Sacraments to follow in the service. This is the pastor’s prayer for you.
The Peace of God as a Guide for Christian Living
Because the peace of God lays hold of us, it shapes, forms, and guides the way we live toward our brethren in Christ as well as those in the world. As Paul says, God has called us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). One of the fruits of the Spirit is God’s peace in how we are to live in the world (Galatians 5:22). It is the work of the Holy Spirit to unite us in the peace of God (Ephesians 4:3). “Strive for peace with everyone,” the author of Hebrews says (12:14).
I could write an entire treatise on how to live peaceably with others. If you want a quick and easy step in how to live in the peace of the Spirit, it’s this: Don’t be a jerk.
The Peace of God as Our Status before God
This is the most vital thing we must glean from these Scriptures. As I said above, the peace of God lays hold of us. Christ Himself is our peace, Paul says (Ephesians 2:14). To have the peace of God is not to have this calm feeling of peace, though it certainly can happen, but rather to have God’s peace. Peace is more than a platitude and it is not always a feeling; peace belongs to God and comes from God Himself. He gives His peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1).
To use another human term, the peace of God is your status quo before God (status quo coram Deo). Google’s dictionary defines status quo as “the existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.” Regarding spiritual issues, your existing state in the eyes of God before conversion is that of a criminal. A criminal breaks the law and rebels against authority. At the moment of birth, you are alienated from God. From birth, you are naturally predisposed to break His Law and rebel against His authority. That is your status quo before God.
Yet God the Father reversed your status quo in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ by giving you faith by means of His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Regarding spiritual issues, now that you are in Christ, your status quo is: justified, redeemed, sanctified, at peace. Once, you were a godless criminal. Now, God has pardoned you from all your former sins and crimes.
God did not just wipe your slate clean (Isaiah 1:18); He did something even better—something only God can do. He removed your filthy slate (Isaiah 64:6) and gave you a completely new, unblemished one in Christ, which shall remain clean forever. That is to say, He has given you a new heart in Baptism (Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 6:4; Hebrews 8:10). As far as the east is from the west, so He has far removed your sins from you (Psalm 103:12).
That is what it means to have the peace of God. Your status before Him is innocence—the pure innocence of Christ given to you. Upon the cross, Christ placed your sins upon Himself and He placed His innocence—His righteousness—upon you. Thus, you shall stand before God in perfect peace both now (in prayer and worship) and in the life to come. This is true for you regardless of how you may feel, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Your emotions might tell you that you’re damned when you’ve sinned though you believe and repent, but the peace of God is still true and real. The peace of God supersedes your feelings and the will of the Devil.
Your feelings about your status quo before God are not powerful enough to supplant the promise of God, which says you are at peace with Him through Christ Jesus in the Holy Spirit. This is reality, not a feeling.