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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Promise of Peace
Text:Ephesians 1:1-2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-06-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Ephesians 1:1-14

Text: Ephesians 1:1-2

 

THE PROMISE OF PEACE

  1. The Source of this Peace

  2. The Foundation of this Peace

  3. The Purpose of this Peace

 

  1. Psalm 122: 1-3

  2. Psalm 37: 1, 3, 16

  3. Psalm 85:3

  4. Psalm 46: 1, 3, 5

  5. Psalm 4: 2, 3

  6. Hymn 8

 

Words to Listen For: tanks, colour, phone, chamomile

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. What’s the difference between “world peace” and true peace?

  2. How can peace be a fiat statement and be lacking at the same time?

  3. What are the three definitions of grace?

  4. What’s the difference between shalom and erené?

  5. What about peace might seem Arminian, but is really just Christian?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of Jesus Christ,

How many of you have ever gone to an opera before?  Or a musical of any sort?  Maybe if not in person, you’ve at least listened to recordings of them before.

And what’s interesting about the soundtracks to these great works of musical art, is the first track.  And here is what is interesting - the more often the CD is played, the less frequently that first track is listened to.

And for those of you who haven’t experienced this, or haven’t ever thought about it, let me explain.  The first track of any cast recording is, invariably, the overture.  The overture is a collection of the songs that you are about to hear.  Short sound bites, hints of what is to come, all mashed together, one quickly moving to the next, giving a taste of what is to come.  These are the songs, these are the themes.  This song is joyful - there will be joy.  This song is tragic - there will be tragedy.  This song is thoughtful, hopeful, etc.  It is fascinating to hear the overture the first time, and get a little taste…but the more you become familiar with the musical, the less you need to hear the overture, because you have the real thing.  You have everything fleshed out.

And it is an overture that is our text this morning.  An overture, not to an opera, but to an epistle.

The words Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, these words pronounced over you every Sunday morning…they contain in them…not only the basic message of Ephesians, but the basic message of the gospel.  The blessing pronounced over you each week contain all the riches of Jesus Christ.

And so it is my pleasure to dive into these depths with you this morning as we look at

THE PROMISE OF PEACE.  We will see

  1. The Source of this Peace

  2. The Foundation of this Peace, and

  3. The Purpose of this Peace

 

First of all, the Source of this Peace

Now, we all want peace, don’t we?

Last year, around this time, I mentioned much the same thing when it came to joy.

If there’s one thing we want, I said at that time, it is joy.  I began the sermon series on joy in Philippians with the example of Marie Kondo and her simple question “does this spark joy?”  And I asked you at that time if the church sparked joy.  If the gospel sparked joy.

At that time, with everything going on, what we were lacking was joy.  Joy was what we wanted because joy was what we were lacking.

And now…what do we want more than peace?  PEACE is what we want, because PEACE is what we are lacking.

As the church, we regularly use the gifts of the sacraments, including the Lord’s Supper.  A meal that speaks of grace and peace.  A meal that speaks of joy and unity.  And…did it work?  Was that what we celebrated at the table the last time we feasted?  I hope so…I pray that we did…because if that’s not what it was about, then we profaned the sacrament.

But whatever peace there was for those of us here…it wasn’t strong, it wasn’t free, it wasn’t easy.  We STRUGGLED for peace, and by the grace of God, I think some of us found it.

But on this side of eternity, peace is not a given.  On this side of eternity, peace is not perfectly enjoyed.  Because of sin in the world and sin in the church, there is the undeniable fact that we don’t have peace.

And we aren’t alone in this…this congregation is not unique or special in this struggle.  This is something that is plaguing churches all across this country.  And this lack of peace isn’t just happening now.  It may be that we look back with rose-colored glasses at the past, but this lack of peace has been a persistent problem in the world for quite some time.  Do you think it is a coincidence that contestants for the Miss America pageant when they are asked about what they want to see most in their lifetime, they will all, invariably respond “World Peace!”  It’s become a little bit of a joke really.

The world needs peace…this is undeniable…but the kind of peace that we need can’t come from a beauty pageant winner, it can’t come from the United Nations, it can’t come from melting down all the guns and tanks and bombers.  True peace can’t come from signing a document or having stricter laws.

True peace can only come from a true source.  And that source is God.

When Paul gives this greeting to the saints who are in Ephesus, when I give this greeting to the saints who are in Cloverdale, it doesn’t actually come FROM Paul, it doesn’t actually come FROM me, but instead, it COMES FROM God, just through me.  Just through the Apostle Paul.

Grace to you and peace FROM GOD our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this is something comforting.  It should be comforting to you that I am not the one who is promising you peace.  It should be comforting to you that the peace of this church and this world is not in my very fallible, very weak hands.

But instead, this is a promise that comes from God.  And when God speaks, when God promises…things happen.

It has been said that everything that God says is a FIAT STATEMENT.

Now maybe you haven’t heard this word before, except in the context of the car manufacturer.

But FIAT STATEMENTS are something truly awesome and beautiful in Scripture, and we should be aware of them.

Fiat statements, simply put, are statements that create their reality simply by stating it.

And this is what happens when our Lord speaks

  • “Let there be light” - and it was so

  • “Your sins are forgiven” - and they are

  • “Grace to you and peace” - and we have them

“Well, that settles it,” you might say.  “If God said it, and it was a fiat statement, then we have it and we are good to go.  World peace has been accomplished.  Whatever lack of peace we might experience in this life must not be real.”

But I’m not going to gaslight you like that.  After all, I just said that peace was lacking.  So…how can both of these things be true?  God proclaims peace to us, it is created.  But…we are lacking it.  How can these BOTH be true?

Well, the answer comes to us, not from the Apostle Paul, but from the Apostle Peter.

When Paul speaks of grace and peace, He does so, always in the exact same way.  Grace to you and peace.  And for those of you who focus on grammar, you may notice that there is no VERB here.  No action word.  It is assumed - grace BE to you, peace BE to you…but it’s not there.  And that’s not just a fluke in the English, it’s an accurate rendering, an accurate translation of the original.

Without this verb, we see grace and peace as objective markers of our STATUS before God.  Fiat statements created with His words.  This is our unchangeable status.

But with Peter, we are introduced to another aspect of it.  When Peter begins his letters, he uses the same greeting, but with a twist.  He uses the same greeting, but with a VERB.

In both 1st and 2nd Peter, the Apostle says May grace and peace BE MULTIPLIED to you.

Now what does this mean?  You might wonder why I bring this up, because it seems hardly different.

But here’s the thing - can your status before God be MULTIPLIED?

Can your adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High be MULTIPLIED?

Can your declaration of innocent be MULTIPLIED?

No!  You are a son or daughter of God, or you aren’t.

You are innocent or you are not.

It’s binary - it’s white or it’s black, there is no gray.  It’s like a light-switch - on or off.

But Peter speaks of grace and peace being MULTIPLIED.

So what shall we make of this?

Well, clearly there is another aspect to these blessings.

Grace, and especially peace are not only a static and unmoving status before God, they are also a constantly changing and evolving EXPERIENCE of that status.

There will always be peace between us and God.  Whether peace is felt, it will always, ALWAYS be there.  As we are promised in 1 John - whenever our heart condemns us, remember that God is greater than our heart.

Our heart may say “NO PEACE” but our God always says “PEACE.”   Our God always says peace.

It is my hope for you, as it was Peter’s hope for his flock, that the SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE of that OBJECTIVE peace be multiplied.

Peter is hoping, Peter is praying that each and every member of the congregation will FEEL that peace, each and every member of the congregation with FEEL that grace more and more each day.  That their experience of that peace will grow stronger and stronger.  And He explains how we do it - by fixing our eyes on the one who has given it to us, and by recognizing its unshakable reality in heaven.

It should be enough for us to accept that we have peace simply because God has said it…but our hearts and our minds ask “why?”  Why does God give us peace?  Is it arbitrary, like the colour of the sky, or is there something deeper here?  Well, thankfully, to satisfy our curiosity and to multiply His glory, God has given us a deeper explanation on the foundation of this peace.  Our second point.

Let me remind you of our text once more - Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even though this sermon, and this series is about PEACE, we must not separate this from the grace of our God.  For grace and peace are essential to our Christian faith.

One pastor put it this way: There are no two words more important to our faith than these - grace is the beginning, and peace is the end.

What does he mean by this?  That grace is the beginning, peace is the end?

Simply this - Grace is the gospel, and peace is the firstfruits and the finalfruits of the gospel.

So…if grace is the foundation of our peace…what is grace exactly?

If you look it up in a theological dictionary or textbook, you will probably find a definition similar to this: Grace is the unmerited favor of God to one who has no right to it.

And this, although fairly academic, is beautiful in itself.

The UNMERITED favor of God

Grace means that we don’t deserve it

Grace means that we didn’t earn it

Grace means that God, out of His goodness, and nothing else, chose to extend a hand to us.

 

Grace is the unmerited FAVOR of God

Grace is God washing us clean of our sins

Grace is God bringing us into His family

Grace is God refusing to look at us with contempt and disdain, but instead, with love.

 

It’s a beautiful word: Grace.

But let me give you two other explanations of grace this morning.  Two other definitions.

Grace is also an acronym.  Each letter stands for something:

G-R-A-C-E

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense

This is already a step up from the other definition.  It is more pastoral, more comforting, easier to remember.

God’s Riches

This focuses our minds on salvation.  It’s not just that God smiles at us, but God SAVES US.

God’s riches - all the riches of salvation - being set apart by God, being made innocent before God, being made righteous before God, one day being glorified before that heavenly throne.  Truly great riches!

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

Once more, our minds are drawn to salvation.  But this time, not the benefits, but the cost.  What did it cost?  Everything.  The cost of grace, the cost of our salvation was the death of Jesus Christ.

Suffering, bleeding, suffocating, dying on the cross, mocked and humiliated.  This DEATH was the cost of our life.

This is grace - God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

And here’s the other definition.  The other definition of grace is, simply put, THE CROSS.

Grace is the cross.

When you think grace, think of the cross.  Everything leading up to the cross - a life spent suffering under the wrath of God.  The betrayal, the denial, the abandonment.  The mockery of a trial…all of this is grace…not because it happened…but because it happened to someone else.

This contrast…between what JESUS EXPERIENCED and what WE RECEIVE is spelled out so clearly in our form for the Lord’s Supper. It is my favorite part of the form, and I always love to read it.  So let me quote from it briefly this morning:

HE was BOUND

    That He might FREE US from our sins

 

HE suffered COUNTLESS INSULTS

    That WE might NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME

 

Though INNOCENT, HE WAS CONDEMNED TO DEATH

    That WE might BE ACQUITTED at the judgement seat of God

 

HE has taken OUR CURSE upon HIMSELF

    That He might fill US with HIS BLESSING

 

  • He was bound, so we might be free

  • He was insulted that we might never be ashamed

  • He was innocent and declared guilty, so that we, though guilty, may be declared innocent

  • He was cursed that we might be blessed

THIS IS GRACE.

It is grace that we do not have to suffer under the weight of the wrath of God every day of our lives.

It is grace that we are not betrayed by everyone, that we are not denied, that we are not abandoned, by our friends, family, and by our God.

It is this grace that we are not put to death, and then die eternally.

And it is grace that came from the cross.

Grace brought us back to God.  Grace is redemption, as we read later in Ephesians 1

Verse 7 and following - In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

Peace is not possible without grace.

True peace cannot be built on any other foundation.

And true peace is a fascinating concept.

You probably know the concept of shalom in the Old Testament.  A wonderful and full word that the Jewish people still use to this day to begin and end their conversations.  When a practicing Jew picks up the phone, he or she will say “Shalom” instead of “hi.”  And I think that’s beautiful!  For some it might just be a reflex or a regular thing, but for those who think about it, they are wishing peace to everyone they speak to!

And shalom is a word that means justice and comfort, wholeness and wellbeing.

Shalom is a beautiful word, and it was certainly in mind of the very Jewish Apostle Paul.

But the word used here is the Greek word for peace - erené - and its meaning is just as rich.

Erené, just like shalom, is more than just “absence of war” or “rest” or “quiet.”  Erené is an “accomplished peace” if I may say it like that.

Erené is not something natural or easy, but it has the flavor of union after separation.  Erené has the idea of bringing back together, of reconciliation after conflict or quarrel.

This peace is the firstfruits of the cross - that reconciliation between us and God, that declaration of innocent and righteous.  Peace is what was accomplished on that Good Friday.

And peace is also the finalfruits of the cross - our eternal life with God, that final step of salvation, our GLORIFICATION, with purified souls and new bodies, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…the New and Heavenly Jerusalem will be a place of true and total peace.  Peace is what will be accomplished when Christ returns.

Peace is the already-but-not-yet of the gospel.  That unchangeable status before God, and that very changeable, unstable, and fickle EXPERIENCE of that status.

So this is peace.  And this is grace.  It’s wonderful, it’s amazing…but what does it matter?  If it’s only for us to say “WOW” then it might as well just be a mountain, a rainbow, or a sunset.  But peace IS more than something amazing.  It is also something truly comforting, and it is something with a very intentional purpose.  Our final point.

There is always a balance to be struck in preaching, just as in life.  Recently I heard this description of someone that fits very well with this - his head was in the clouds, but his feet were always firmly planted on the ground.

This is what sermons should be, this is what the Christian life should be.

Our head SHOULD be in the clouds - marvelling at the glories of our Heavenly Father, looking forward to the day when our peace will be complete and we will be with Him - paying attention to heavenly things, and finding our joy and security in them…

WHILE AT THE SAME TIME...being very practical.  Not being so heavenly-focussed that we are of no earthly good.  Applying the things we learn on Sundays directly to our weekly ordinary earthly lives during the week.

This is what the Christian life lift should be like, because this is what the gospel is like.

Salvation is not something that will only come to us later.  Christian joy, Christian peace, is not only something for the future, but it is available for us right now.

The promise of peace in our text isn’t just for later, it’s for right now too.

Our God promises us peace now and peace later.  Both are available in Him, but only one will come without any effort on our part.  And that is the later peace.  The static peace, the eternal peace.

But the temporary peace, just as divine, just as necessary, that only comes to us through hard work.

Peace is there - God is holding out His hand, but we need to take that gift and use it.  This may sound a lot like Arminianism, but it's not.

While it IS Arminian to suggest that SALVATION is something synergistic - God does His part, we do our part - it is simply CHRISTIAN to say that the temporary blessings of God in this life require something of us.

If God blesses you with a high paying job, it is your responsibility to not waste that money.

If God blesses you with a wonderful family, it is your responsibility to love them and care for them

And so, similarly, if God blesses you with this promise of peace, it is your responsibility to cultivate it in yourself.

Peace is God’s way of signalling to your soul that you can rest in Him…so now do that.  Rest in your God!

This rest doesn’t mean that you DO NOTHING, a simplistic “let go and let God” kind of rest, but rather, we rest in Him by casting our cares and burdens onto Him, so that we can run the race marked out for us.

This is stated, perhaps nowhere more clearly than in John 20 - that peace is given for a greater purpose.

John 20:21- Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Jesus said to them AGAIN.  This is key.  Because just two verses before, Jesus uses these exact same words as a greeting.  Jesus, as the Jewish man He was, said “Shalom” to His disciples when He saw them again after His resurrection.  Of course, this wasn’t JUST a greeting there either, as the disciples were emotional wrecks.  Their Lord had been crucified not 3 days earlier, and then they were confronted with an empty tomb that they didn’t quite understand.  They were frightened of the Jews, who had whipped the people into a frenzy so that the peace-loving Saviour, God-incarnate, a man who had been loved by the people and hailed as a king a week earlier, had called for His death.  The disciples had troubled hearts.

And so Jesus greets them with words of peace.  A greeting, and an assurance.  A greeting and a fiat statement.  He CREATED peace in their hearts.

But then, in verse 21, He says it again - “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 

Our God doesn’t just promise peace so that we will be happier in our earthly lives.  Our God’s promise of peace is so much more than chamomile tea that gives us a good night’s sleep.

But, instead, He gives you this divine peace - with our head in the clouds - SO THAT our feet may be firmly planted on the ground.  SO THAT we can be enabled to do His purpose.

Our God promises us peace so that we may run the race marked out for us.  So that we don’t have to spend every hour of every day, looking out at the world with fear and trembling.  Whether that fear is of a virus or of the government.  These are distractions for our race.

Should we ignore those who are vulnerable in our pursuit of peace?

NEVER.  NOT EVEN ONCE.  Where there is no love, there can be no peace.

Should we ignore those who are corrupt in our pursuit of peace?

NEVER.  NOT EVEN ONCE.  No justice, no peace.

But when we let these things consume our lives, when we bring our head back down to earth, we become very short.  We become very small people.  When we focus our eyes exclusively on earthly things, this will run us stuck.  This will make us frustrated, ineffectual, and bitter believers.  No grace, no peace.

What our God does however, is that He gives us the possibility of peace, He gives us the wrapped gift of peace that we need to unwrap through fixing our eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Our God gives us this wrapped gift of peace that we need to unwrap through understanding that greater peace that is waiting for us in heaven.  

That greater, future, heavenly peace that is ours because of the cross.  

That greater peace that is ours because of our status in Jesus Christ which can never be revoked, our status that can never be taken away.

Our God has given us liberty from all the things that burden our hearts so that we can be free for that which we truly desire.  That which He has created us to desire - the coming of His Kingdom.

And so, in this letter that is focused on grace and peace, with these concepts central in every chapter, every verse, I ask you to return once more to this overture.  This overture that we hear every Sunday yet again.  An overture that needs another chance, not because of its difficulty, but because of its familiarity.  Every time that we hear these words “GRACE AND PEACE” remember that grace is the cross, and peace is both the first and the finalfruits of the cross.

It is only then that we can truly live the Christian life.  It is only then that in times of trouble and fear and frustration that we can be still and know that He is God, and He will give us peace, now and forevermore.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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