ISSUE: 2018, Volume 15, Issue 4
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One of the most famous speeches of all time is surely the one given by Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Standing looking out at the sea of faces before him he said, ‘I have a dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal’, 1 quoting from the 2nd paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.
Whilst on holiday last year I had the opportunity to stand on those steps and later to go and visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which is just a few hundred metres away. Whilst the ‘I have a dream’ speech is by far the most well-known, there are phrases from many other of his speeches etched in the marble walls of the memorial, and it was while reading these that part of a Bible verse immediately came to mind. The quote was, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice’, and it was Colossians chapter 1 verse 20, ‘Having made peace through the blood of his cross’ that came to mind.
The concept of peace is one we all understand. The dictionary defines it as, ‘Calm, tranquillity, freedom from disturbance, a period in which there is no war, or the war has ended’. When we come to the New Testament, the word for peace, Eirene, is defined by W. E. Vine as, ‘A tranquil state of soul, of rest and contentment as a consequence of harmonised relationship between God and man accomplished through the gospel’. 2 Any wonder, then, that Paul, in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 15, calls the gospel, ‘The gospel of peace’.
Certainly, before I was saved, I wouldn’t have considered myself an enemy of God. It would have terrified me as a child to think that I was an enemy of the omnipotent God of eternity, the One who could rain down fire from heaven in judgement upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And yet the Bible makes it clear that every human being without salvation is an enemy of God. In Romans chapter 5, Paul speaks of needing to be reconciled to God because, ‘we were enemies’. It’s not so much to do with how we feel, or even our attitude. It’s more with regards to our relationship with God. The writers of the Declaration of Independence had it right, all men are created equal. Since Adam’s sin in the garden resulted in God driving them out, every human born has come from the damaged, sinful, mould of humanity, children of wrath, under divine judgement, enemies of God.
Isn’t it wonderful then to appreciate that the Lord Jesus Christ has made peace by the blood of his cross! To return to our quote, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice’. God in his righteousness and holiness couldn’t just overlook the issue of our sin and declare peace. As the Psalmist reminds us, speaking of God, ‘Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne’. Or as the hymn 3 says, ‘God could not pass the sinner by, his sins demand that he must die, but in the cross of Christ we see, how God can save yet righteous be’.
The ‘blood’ of His cross speaks of violence, of the death of a sacrificial animal. The need for blood to be shed was something the Israelites understood only too well in Old Testament times. Millions of animals down through the centuries had been slaughtered and their blood shed to cover sin. But the death of Christ was the complete fulfilment of all those types, the one sacrifice for sins forever. On the cross the penalty for sin was paid in full, so God can righteously forgive, and we can be reconciled to Him. We can have peace with God. A poem called ‘Thoughts on Calvary’ 4 puts it this way:
‘The flaming sword which long had slept, God bids it now awake,
To smite the one that was as he, thereby my peace to make
And there my sin’s enormous load on him by God was laid,
The debt that I could never pay, by precious blood was paid’.
God’s justice is satisfied. We, who were enemies, have been ‘reconciled to God by the death of his Son’. The enemies have become friends; they have even been welcomed into the very family of God. The war has ended! Isn’t it wonderful to appreciate that no matter what our circumstances, no matter what our walk with God is like right at the moment, every believer has the complete assurance of peace with God. Knowing the peace of God is something different, and something we’ll look at in the next article.
1 Facts you may not have known about Martin Luther King Jr: https://wtop.com/national/2018/01/facts-may-not-known-martin-luther-king/.
2 W. E. Vine, Dictionary of New Testament Words.
3 The Perfect Righteousness of God (Echoes of Grace Hymnbook: https://bibletruthpublishers.com/the-perfect-righteousness-of-God/echoes-of-grace-hymnbook-264/page-share/lxps-lkh-264EGHB
4 Thoughts on Calvary – J Foster, Belfast May 3rd, 1913.