GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 590 • December 6, 2020
JESUS IS TRULY “THE PRINCE OF PEACE”
QUESTION: Somebody asked if the Nobel Peace Prize could be given to Jesus posthumously. I think it would improper in his case because he has not produced peace in the world, and there is certainly no prospect of world peace. What does it really mean that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)? Can he force us to be at peace with each other? Is peace produced in us by his Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)? Or do we have to wait for it to happen in the millennium?
ANSWER: It is incongruous to expect a world which for two thousand years has generally refused and rejected Jesus to give Him accolades and prizes as a Peacemaker. The world is now in complete moral, spiritual, military, political, cultural, social, and religious chaos – not willing to be at peace with God or man, but seeking power and control by forcing its will and ways upon every person allowed to live in it. Incidentally, I wrote extensively on this same matter almost three years ago (Periodicals 335, 336, and 337 in January 2018) and I encourage you to read or re-read those essays. If you do not have them I can forward digital copies of them to you – just provide me with a request and an address. But, because we are now entering a season of widespread attention paid to Jesus, and because you mentioned a particular title or designation given to him in scripture, I will write something more.
Isaiah’s prophecy, acknowledged to be about the coming Messiah/Christ, says: For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NASB). Isaiah also notes that he would be named Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14). The term prince, or king, since he is also called King over all kings and Lord over all lords (1Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14 and 19:16), upon whom the government/rule over all others rests – having all authority in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18, 1 Peter 3:22). In a world filled with war, strife, violence, and constant grasping for power and control it is difficult to see Jesus as the supremely powerful God acting as the embodiment or incarnation of peace in human affairs and history. But Jesus does not reflect the physical safety and political equanimity which the world calls peace. He speaks of a different kind of peace: “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives” (John 14:27). “In me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but … I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
SHALOM, the Hebrew word for “peace,” is often used in reference to an appearance of calm and tranquility of individuals, groups, and nations. The Greek word EIRĒNĒ means “unity and accord,” which correctly describes the objective of the New Testament church, but the deeper fundamental meaning is the harmony – spiritual and social – brought about by an individual’s proper relationship with God and therefore with others. The apparently natural or customary state of man is conflict (perhaps even hostility and enmity) with God and separation from God as we struggle to go our own selfish and willful way instead of His (Ephesians 2:1-3, Romans 3:10, and Isaiah 59:1-2). Through obedience to Christ, by whose sacrifice we can be redeemed and restored to fellowship with God (Romans 5:8-10), we can be at peace with Him (Romans 5:1). The knowledge that nothing now separates us from God supports a deep abiding peace between our hearts and our Lord and God that cannot be taken away and is the fulfillment of Christ’s work as our Redeemer, Savior, Restorer, Shepherd, and Prince of Peace – the giver and sustainer of present and eternal peace in the house of the Lord forever Psalm 23).
Christ’s work in and for us also allows us to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, the Helper / Comforter / Advocate who promises to provide guidance for us (John 16:7, 13). The Holy Spirit not only helps us live faithfully with God but also fills our lives with love, joy, and peace and additional desirable fruit He produces in us (Galatians 5:22–23). All this fruit of the Spirit is the result and reflection of His abiding indwelling presence in us – He himself is God with/in us now. This fruit of the Spirit, especially love and peace, will spill over into all our human relationships as well as our relationship with God and His Christ – how desperately we need that! God calls us to be diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1–3).
The key to peace anywhere and everywhere is being right with God, making one’s personal peace with Him through Christ. Ironically, our effort to achieve peace with others is undermined and often fails at that key point of personal peace with God through submission to His Christ. As noted earlier, a selfish “gotta do it and have it my way” attitude seems generally characteristic of humans – “God must do what I want, the way I want it, and without delay when I ask for it if He expects me to accept Him as ultimate Lord of my life.” How we complain, doubt, and accuse God of ingenuousness when He doesn’t immediately grant our prayers – we sometimes say, “God answers some of my prayers but not all of them,” indicating that, to us, answer means saying yes. A no from God is considered a non-answer. Our complaints against an intractable God who is not amenable to all our desires means we cannot really be “at peace” with Him.
When that same “do it my way” attitude intrudes into negotiations for peace with our neighbors and enemies, insisting that the others submit to us, means peace is impossible. It is like a personal application of Islam in relationships. Islam is sometimes called “the religion of peace,” but the word itself means submission, not peace. So in practical application it is like saying, “If you submit to me, then (but only then) can I be at peace with you.” Christ urges that, in any planned or purposed hostility, one should estimate his chances of success – do not enter warfare with an enemy who has such superior numbers and resources that you are certain to be overwhelmed and defeated. Instead send ambassadors who can work out some reconciliation and agreement, terms for an accepted peace (Luke 14:31-32). Christianity directs us to seek what is good for all and not just what is desired by our own self – sometimes putting others ahead of oneself (Philippians 2:4), compromising in the details when appropriate but not compromising in the principle, never yielding up the will of God in order to pacify (achieve peace for) oneself or others. But we are not always willing to be restricted to the will of God in our relationships with others. To achieve some sort of non-hostile compromise, a secession of overt hostilities with others by compromising God, is unsatisfactory – a pyrrhic victory that leaves a decidedly bad taste in one’s mouth because it breaks one’s own relationship with God.
The Nobel Peace Prize that you mentioned in your question may be awarded, accepted, and rejoiced with but it can be meaningless so far as peace with God is concerned. What the world calls peace and celebrates as peace may not coincide with God’s peace, with the peace generated by the Prince of Peace, Jesus. It amounts to yelling, “Peace, peace,” when there is no real peace (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11). Your own feeling of peace with yourself, with others, and with God may be unwarranted and unreal from God’s point of view. Remember that, ultimately, peace must be made and maintained on God’s terms, not your own. Jesus did not come to impose peace upon anyone, but rather to make peace possible for everyone. But His plan and principles are not accepted by all. He himself admitted and predicted that was and would be the case. In effect he would not bring peace but a sword that would be wielded in hostility, even violence, by those who did not accept him (as in Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and Socialism/Communism). Read carefully Matthew 10:34-38. His words, restrictions, and requirements would separate people from each other, even in what should be the closest of human relationships: marriage, parents and children, and siblings. In some places it is considered an “honor” to kill members of one’s own family who depart from the religion or culture by which it is bound together – another example of imposing peace by submission. People actually feel they are obeying, serving, and honoring God by persecuting and killing those who refuse to abide by imposed traditions (John 16:1-3).
The peace Christ desires and makes possible may be rejected by some and thus be impossible to implement effectively. Jesus wants his people to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), but to make peace all parties involved must be able and willing to comply with the Lord’s terms. As apostle Paul said: “If it be possible, and as much as lies within you – as much as it depends upon you – be at peace, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Peter adds, “Seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). Do what is right, good, and productive of peace because of who you are, and because of Him, the Prince of Peace whom you seek to emulate in all parts of your life.
For one who is at peace with God in Christ it is impossible not to be at peace with all others who are at peace with God through Christ (Isaiah 26:3). Christ himself is the One who binds us together in perfect peace, even in this dark world of sin. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will be with us, guiding and keeping us, if we are faithful to Him and His Christ and are accepting of the fruit produced in us by His Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:4-9).
I have neglected to address your suggestion that peace may be delayed until the millennium. The reason for that is simple: the so-called millennial kingdom of Christ is not something yet to come at some unpredictable time in the future. The kingdom rule of Jesus Christ – with Christ ruling in his kingdom on earth – is happening now and will continue until His return. All the saved on earth are in it and obediently submissive to it, enjoying all aspects of the peace available in it (Colossians 1:8-20). The supposed (actually mythical) millennium (1,000 years) with Christ physically present and ruling on earth refer to an unbiblical man-made doctrine neither given nor sanctioned by God. Questions about a never-to-be millennium must be reserved for special exegetical treatment at some other time. Ask specific questions about it if you want further discussion about it. <><>