OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew

     There are many exhortations in Scripture regarding peace.  In Ephesians 4:3 Paul admonishes us to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  In Romans 12:18 the same apostle wrote:  “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”  It was our Lord who pronounced a blessing upon those who seek to be peacemakers.  “Blessed are the peacemakers:  for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9).

     Peace, harmony, unity and tranquility provide wonderful environments in which to live.  “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Ps. 133:1).  Because of the pleasantness of peace, many have come to believe that it should be the first order of business for the church.  Is peace the first thing that the child of God should seek?  Is peace our sole end?  The answer to both of these questions is:  “No.”  Peace is something we should desire.  However, before we can have peace, righteousness must be obtained.  Righteousness is our first order of business.

     Let’s begin by considering two passages of Scripture.  The first is Hebrews 7:2.  Within the context the inspired penman describes Melchizedek.  He says that “first” he was the King of righteousness, and “after that” he was the King of Salem, which is, King of peace.  The Holy Spirit’s choice of words here is very important:  first righteousness; after that, peace.  This is vital to our understanding of our Lord mission.  As a type of Melchizedek, Jesus sought righteousness first, then peace.  This explains the contrast between the words of the heavenly host in Luke 2:14 stating that Jesus would bring “peace on earth” and the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:34 where He said that he came to bring a sword and not peace.  Peace was desired, but it can only come through righteousness.  Oftentimes, the world is not interested in righteousness.  This opposition is what causes the “sword” to be brought forth instead of peace.

     James provides the second passage.  He sets forth a description of the wisdom that is from above.  “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 4:17).  In this verse, purity proceeds peace when God’s wisdom is being considered.  There can be no peace when God’s wisdom is tainted and defiled.

     Dear reader, God wants peace more than any human could desire it.  In Philippians 4:9, He is called “the God of peace.”  Yet, God does not want peace at any price.  First, He wants righteousness upheld.  In the Old Testament book of I Kings, one of God’s prophets is referred to as “he that troublethIsrael” (I Kings 18:17).  He is called this because he convicted Israel of their sinful ways.  In essence, Elijah was calling Israel to righteousness.  Elijah upset some people with his preaching.  Should he have overlooked the sins of the nation?  Should he have sought “peace” among his people?  No, a thousand times, no!  God desired righteousness before peace.  Israel had forsaken the commandments of God, and had followed Baalim (I Kings 18:18).  Until righteousness was restored, peace was not possible.

     There can be no peace with God until one becomes righteous in the sight of God.  There can be no peace with the world, until the world embraces the righteousness of God.  There can be no peace in the church until the members of the church walk in the paths of righteousness.  Oh, we can seek to maintain a pseudo-peace, but with such God is not well pleased.  This is the peace Israel of old sought.  “They have healed also the hurt of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11).

     In a sermon entitled, “Righteousness First, Peace Second,” Alexander Maclaren summarizes the sentiments of this article well.  He writes:

           “Let us take Him for ‘the Lord our righteousness,’ and we shall blessedly find that ‘this Man is our peace.’  Let us take arms in the Holy War which He wages, and so we shall have peace in our hearts whilst the fight is sorest.  Let us labor to ‘be found in Him, having the righteousness which is of God by faith,’ then we shall ‘be found in Him in peace, without spot, and blameless’” (Expositions of the Holy Scripture, Maclaren, Vol. 16, pl. 10).