Peace on Earth Good Will Toward Men
From the November / December 1996 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
Peace On Earth,
Good Will Toward Men
These well-known words of the holy angel are shamefully abused by those who would not follow the Biblical principle: Scripture interprets Scripture. There are those who maintain that the “peace” of which the angel spoke refers to a peace which must be established by the nations of the world, by men themselves. This means, in their opinion, that men must learn to control their baser instincts and personal cravings and aspire to higher ideals which will then foster peace. But all such philosophical prattle obviously contradicts the Word of God and the plain facts of history. The Lord teaches us in His Word that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). All men have been conceived and born in sin and iniquity (Ps. 51:5) and are therefore by nature the children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:3; 2:1). Now what can be expected from flesh born of the flesh (John 3:6)? “A corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matt. 7:17). Out of the sinful hearts of every male and female proceed “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). And the Apostle James writes, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1). And history is replete with ample testimony to the truth of this Scriptural teaching. There has been no true and lasting peace in the world ever since our first parents fell into sin! On the contrary, all the efforts and aspirations of well-meaning individuals to usher in a lasting peace among the nations of the world have resulted in failure.
Then there are those who call themselves millenarians or millennialists who refer this “peace” to a period just before the Final Return of the Lord Jesus on the Day of Judgment. Through a misuse of some figurative or symbolical Bible passages (Isaiah 11:6-9; 41:18,19; Rev. 20), such hold that prior to the end of the world Jesus will rule on earth for a thousand years together with His believing saints. During that time there will be an unprecedented peace and joy throughout the whole world which will experience a golden age. Now is that the “peace” spoken of by the angel of the Lord? Indeed not! The almighty Son of God tells us that “ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…” (Matt. 24:6,7). Thus discord and wars will continue throughout the world until the Savior’s Final Return! The last days of the world will be anything but peaceful as we bear in mind the fact that the devil will be loosed for a little season and therefore if those days were not shortened for the elect’s sake, not even the very elect would be saved (Rev. 20:3; Matt. 24:21,22). The Apostle Paul reminds the Christians that “we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). No wonder our Lutheran fathers rejected the claims of the millennialists which surfaced at the time of the Reformation as “the Jewish dream of the Messianic Kingdom” (see Augsburg Confession, Art. XVII and the Apology, Art. XVI, 53-57).
If this “peace” of which the angel spoke does not refer to any such worldly peace, to what does it refer? Here we must allow Scripture to speak for itself. Our Christian faith is not based upon the opinions and interpretations of sinful mortals, but solely upon the infallible and immutable Word of Truth (John 17:17), for “all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16). And that blessed Word tells us that the peace which had been destroyed through the fall of our first parents, God restored through the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). O what it cost our dear Savior to gain that peace! “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed…” “The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:5,6). Because of Christ’s substitutional sacrifice, the sins of the whole world have been graciously forgiven. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (II Cor. 5:19). There was no merit or worthiness on the part of man to induce God to send Jesus — it was solely His love beyond all comprehension. Therefore the “good will” spoken of by the angel refers to the good will of our dear heavenly Father which He revealed toward men in sending His only begotten Son to be our Savior to free us from sin, death, and hell. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian congregation. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (2:13-17).
The “peace” which the angel announced to the shepherds is set forth in the precious Gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) which God has commanded to be proclaimed to the whole world (Mark 16:15). This Gospel of peace is not an empty shell, but the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth (Rom. 1:16). As soon as the individual sinner has been brought to faith by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, for “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3), then this “peace” is made his very own. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Now the God of hope fills us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost (Rom. 15:13). While there is no peace to the wicked (Is. 48:22), our consciences can be at rest, for “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). We are now “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). The gates of heaven are open to us; “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). What an undeserved Christmas present! Being the recipient of the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23), should prompt me to be more diligent in bringing forth the fruits of a grateful heart to please Him “who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
— M. L. N.