"Now The God Of Peace be with you all. Amen." The "God of peace": Contrary to the general run of commentators, we regard this divine title as expressing first of all what God is in Himself, that is, as abstracted from relationship with His creatures and apart from His operations and bestowments. He is Himself the Fountain of peace. Perfect tranquility reigns in His whole Being. He is never ruffled in the smallest measure, never perturbed by anything, either within or without Himself. How could He be? Nothing can possibly take Him by surprise, for "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). Nothing can ever disappoint Him, for "of him, and through him, and to him, are all things" (Rom. 11:36). Nothing can to the slightest degree disturb His perfect equanimity, for He is "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). Consequently perfect security ever fills Him: that is one component element of His essential glory. Ineffable peace is one of the jewels in the diadem of Deity.
The God of Peace
Let us for a season gird up the loins of our minds and endeavor to contemplate someone vastly different, someone infinitely more excellent, namely, the One who is a total stranger to unrest and disquietude, the One who enjoys undisturbed calm, "the God of peace." It seems strange that this glorious excellency of the divine character is so little dwelt upon by Christian writers. The sovereignty of God, the power of God, the holiness of God, the immutability of God, have frequently been made the theme of devout penmen; but the peace of God Himself has received scarcely any attention. Numerous sermons have been preached upon "the God of love" and "the God of all grace," but where shall we find any on "the God of peace" except as the reconciled God? Only once in all the Scriptures is He specifically designated "the God of love," and only once "the God of all grace," yet five times He is called "the God of peace." As such, a perpetual calm characterizes His whole being; He is infinitely blessed in Himself.
The names and titles of God make known to us His being and character. By meditating upon each one of them in turn, by mixing faith therewith, by giving all of them a place in our hearts and minds, we are enabled to form a better and fuller concept of who He is and what He is in Himself, His relationship to and His attitude toward us. God is the Fountain of all good, the Sum of all excellency. Every grace and every virtue we perceive in the saints are but scattered rays which have emanated from Him who is Light. We not only do Him a great injustice but we are largely the losers ourselves if we habitually think and speak of God according to only one of His titles, be it "the Most High" on the one hand, or "our Father" on the other. Just as we need to read and ponder every part of the Word if we are to become acquainted with God’s revealed will and be "throughly furnished unto all good works," so we need to meditate upon and make use of all the divine titles if we are to form a well-rounded and duly balanced concept of His perfections and realize what a God is ours—and what is the extent of His absolute sufficiency for us.
"The God of peace." According to the usage of this expression in the New Testament and in view of the teaching of Scripture as a whole concerning the triune Jehovah and peace, we believe it will be best opened up to the reader if we make use of the following outline. This title, "the God of peace," tells us First of all what He is essentially, namely, the Fountain of peace. Second, it announces what He is economically or dispensationally, namely, the Ordainer or Covenanter of peace. Third, it reveals what He is judicially, namely, the Provider of peace—the reconciled God. Fourth, it declares what He is paternally, namely, the Giver of peace to His children. Fifth, it proclaims what He is governmentally, namely, the Orderer of peace in all the churches and in the world. The meaning of these terms will become plainer—and simpler, we trust—as we fill in our outline.
The Triune Jehovah
First, "the God of peace" tells us what He is essentially, that is, what God is in Himself. As pointed out above, peace is one of grand perfections of the divine nature and character. We regard this title as referring not so much to what God is absolutely, nor only to the Father, but to the triune Jehovah. First, because there is nothing in the context or in the remainder of the verse which requires us to limit this prayer to any particular person in the Godhead. Second, because we should ever take the terms of Scripture in their widest latitude and most comprehensive meaning when there is nothing obliging us to restrict their scope. Third, because it is a fact, a divinely revealed truth, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are alike "the God of peace." Nor could there be any force to the objection that since prayer is here made unto "the God of peace," we are obliged to regard the reference as being to the Father for, in Scripture, prayer is also made to the Son and to the Spirit. True, the reference in Hebrews 13:20 is to the Father, for He is there distinguished from the Lord Jesus, but since no such distinction is here made we decline to make any.
That this title belongs to God the Father scarcely needs any arguing, for the opening words of the salutation found at the beginning of most of the New Testament epistles will readily occur to the reader: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father" (Rom. 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.)—grace from Him as He is "the God of all grace" (1 Pet. 5:10), peace from Him as "the God of peace." The added words of that salutation, "and the Lord Jesus Christ," establish the same fact concerning His Son, for grace and peace could not proceed from Him unless He were also the Fountain of both. It will be remembered that in Isaiah 9:6 He is expressly denominated "the Prince of peace," which—coming immediately after His other titles there ("the mighty God, the everlasting Father")—shows that He is "the Prince of peace" in His essential person. In 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Christ is designated "the Lord of peace." Hebrews 7:2 tells us that He is the "King of peace," typified as such by Melchizedek the priest-king. In Romans 16:20 the apostle announced, "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly," and in the light of Genesis 3:15 there can be no doubt that the reference is immediately to the incarnate Son.
Less is explicitly revealed in Scripture concerning the person of the Holy Spirit because He is not presented to us objectively like the Father and the Son, inasmuch as He works within and indwells the saints. Nevertheless, clear and full proof is given in the sacred oracles that He is God, co-essential, coequal, and co-glorious with the Father and the Son. As a careful examination of Scripture and a comparison of one passage with another will demonstrate, it is a most serious mistake to conclude from theologians referring to the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Godhead that He is in any wise inferior to the other two. If in Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 He is mentioned after the Father and Son, in Revelation 1:4-5 He is named (as "the seven Spirits," the Spirit in His fullness) before Jesus Christ, while in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 and Ephesians 4:4-6 He is named before both the Son and the Father—such variation of order manifesting Their co-equality. Thus, as equal with the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit must also be "the God of peace," which is evidenced by His communicating divine peace to the hearts of the redeemed. When He descended from heaven on our baptized Savior it was in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16), the bird of peace.
Second, "the God of peace" announces what He is dispensationally, in the economy of redemption, namely, the Ordainer or Covenantor of peace. This is clear from Hebrews 13:20-21, where the apostle prays, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will." It was specifically as "the God of peace" that the Father delivered our Surety from the tomb, "through the blood of the everlasting covenant," that is, on the ground of that blood which ratified and sealed the great compact which had been made between Them before the foundation of the world. Reference is made to that compact in Psalm 89:3, which alludes to the antitypical David, the "Beloved," as verses 27 and 28 conclusively prove. In God’s foreview of the entrance of sin into the world, with the fall of all men in Adam, and the breach that made between Him and them, alienating the One from the other, God graciously purposed to effect a reconciliation and secure a permanent peace on a righteous basis, a basis which paid homage to His authority and honored His law.
The Everlasting Covenant
A covenant is a mutual agreement between two parties wherein a certain work is proposed and a suitable reward promised in return. In the everlasting covenant the two parties were the Father and the Son. The task assigned the Son was that He should become incarnate, render to the law a perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed, and then endure its penalty on behalf of His guilty people, thereby offering to the offended God (considered as Governor and Judge) an adequate atonement, satisfying His justice, magnifying His holiness, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness. The reward promised was that God would raise from the dead the Surety and Shepherd of His people, exalting Him to His own right hand high above all creatures, conforming them to the image of His Son, and having them with Himself in glory forever and ever. The Son’s voluntary compliance with the proposal appears in His "Lo, I come... to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:7); and all that He did and suffered was in fulfillment of His covenant agreement. The Father’s fulfillment of His part of the contract, in bestowing the promised reward, is fully revealed in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit was the Witness and Recorder of that covenant.
Now that everlasting compact is expressly designated "the covenant of peace" in Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25; 37:26. In that covenant Christ stood as the representative of His people, transacting in their name and on their behalf, holding all their interests dear to His heart. In that covenant, in compliance with the Father’s will and from His wondrous love for them, Christ agreed to enter upon the most exacting engagement and to undergo the most fearful suffering in order that they might be delivered from the judicial wrath of God and have peace with Him, that there might be perfect amity and concord between God and them. That engagement was faithfully discharged by Christ, and the peace which God eternally ordained has been effected. And in due course the Father brings each of His elect into the good of it. It is to that same eternal compact that Zechariah 6:12-13 alludes: "The counsel of peace shall be between them both." That "counsel of peace" or mutual goodwill was "between them both," between "the man whose name is The Branch" and Jehovah "the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 6:12). The "counsel" concerned Christ’s building of the Church (Eph. 2:21-22) and His exaltation to the throne of glory.
The God of Peace the Reconciled God
Third, "the God of peace" reveals what He is judicially, namely the Provider of peace, the reconciled God. That which here engages our attention is the actual outworking and accomplishment of what has been before us in the last division. Of old, God said concerning His people, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you... thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jer. 29:11). Yes, despite the guilt that rested upon them for their legal participation in Adam’s fall, and despite their own multiplied transgressions and apostasy against Him, there had been no change in His everlasting love for them. A real and fearful breach had been made, and as the moral Governor of the universe God would not ignore it; nay, as the Judge of all the earth His condemnation and curse rested upon them. Nevertheless His heart was toward them, and His wisdom found a way whereby the horrible breach might be healed and His banished people restored to Himself, and that not only without compromising His holiness and justice but by glorifying the one and satisfying the other.
"When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law" (Gal. 4:4-5). God sent forth His Son in order to carry out what had been agreed upon in the everlasting covenant, and to provide an adequate compensation to His law that God’s Son was made of a woman, that in our nature He should satisfy the requirements of the law, put away our sins, and bring in everlasting righteousness. In order to redeem His people from the curse of the law, the Son lived and died and rose again. In order to make peace with God, to placate His wrath, to secure an equitable and stable peace, Christ obeyed and suffered. In His redemptive work through His Son, God provided peace. At Christ’s birth the heavenly hosts, by anticipation, praised God, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). And at His death Christ "made peace [between God and His people] through the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:20), reconciling God (as the Judge) to them, establishing perfect and abiding amity and concord between them.
Fourth, "the God of peace" declares what He is paternally, namely, the Giver of peace to His children. This goes beyond what has been pointed out above. Before the foundation of the world God ordained there should be mutual peace between Himself and His people. As the immediate result of Christ’s mediatorial work peace was made with God and provided for His people. Now we are to consider how the God of peace makes them the actual participants of this inestimable blessing. By nature they are utter strangers to it, for "there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (Isa. 57:21). How could there be when they are engaged continually in active hostility against God? They are without peace in their conscience, in their minds, or in their hearts. "The way of peace have they not known" (Rom. 3:17).
The Work of the Holy Spirit
Before the sinner can be reconciled to God and enter into participation of the peace which Christ has made with Him, he must cease his rebellion, throw down the weapons of his warfare, and yield to God’s rightful authority. But, in order to do that, a miracle of grace must be wrought in the sinner by the Holy Spirit. As the Father ordained peace, as the incarnate Son made peace, so the Holy Spirit brings us into the same. He convicts us of our awful sins, and makes us willing to forsake them. He communicates faith to the heart whereby we savingly believe in Christ. Then "being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rom. 5:1) objectively. We are brought into His favor. But more, we enjoy peace subjectively. The intolerable burden of guilt is removed from the conscience and we "find rest unto our souls." Then we know the meaning of that word "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). By His Spirit, through Christ, the Father has now actually bestowed peace upon His believing child; and, in proportion as his mind is stayed on Him, by trusting in Him, the child of God will be kept in perfect peace (Isa. 26:3).
Fifth, "the God of peace" proclaims what He is governmentally, namely, the Orderer of peace in the churches and in the world. Though each Christian has peace with God, yet he is left in a world which lieth in the wicked one. Though the Christian has peace with God in his heart, yet the flesh remains, causing a continual conflict within and, unless restrained, breaking forth into strife with his brethren. Therefore, if God were not pleased to put forth His restraining power upon that which seeks to disturb and disrupt the believer’s calm, he would enjoy little or no tranquillity within or rest without.
The Blessing of Peace
"Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." By that petition the apostle requested that God would in this particular character manifest Himself among them so that His presence should be made known in their midst. Were it not for the overruling providence of the Lord His people would have no rest at any time in this world. But He rules in the midst of His enemies (Ps. 110:1-2) and gives His people a considerable measure of peace from their foes. This shows us that we ought to be constantly looking to God for His peace else assaults are likely to arise from every quarter. Peace is a blessing the churches greatly need. We ought to "pray for the peace of [the spiritual] Jerusalem" as our chief joy.
"Now the God of peace be with you all" implies that the saints must conduct themselves in harmony, that amity and concord must prevail among them, so that there be no grievous failure on their part that would offend God and cause Him to withdraw His manifested presence from them. "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:9). Individuals as well as a corporate company of believers must be in subjection to the divine authority and maintain scriptural discipline if they would enjoy the peace of God (see 2 Corinthians 13:11). Charles Hodge well said, "It is vain for us to pray for the presence of the God of love and peace unless we strive to free our hearts from all evil passions."