And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I. THE PEACE OF GOD. It is so called —
1. Because it is that for which God made man at first — the realization of His original idea of the happiness of humanity. It springs from intercourse with God, filial trust, devotional communion, loving obedience, apprehension of spiritual truth, just and regulated affections, perfect repose in God's Fatherhood, and conscious complacency in everything that pleases Him. These things are such as would have entered into the happiness of man had he never sinned; many of them, of course, enter into that of the angels.
2. Because it is the result of His merciful interposition for man as well as the realization of His original plan. Something has been done to produce it beyond the original constitution of things, and the result of this interposition in human experience must be of a nature different from and additional to, the blessedness that would have belonged to humanity had it only realized that for which it was made. It is God's peace because it is by God's grace that it is possible, by the gift of His Son that it is procured, by the application of His truth that it is produced. It consists of forgiveness of sin, peace of conscience, deliverance from wrath, which man, had he continued upright, would not have needed.
3. Because it is that which is immediately produced by God's Spirit, and is thus a direct Divine donation. When Christ was about to leave His sorrowing disciples He promised that He would send them "another comforter," and then He adds, as if interpreting His meaning, "Peace I leave with you," etc. And so "the fruit of the Spirit is...peace." "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
4. Because it is sustained and nourished by those acts which bring the soul in contact with God — meditation on His truth, trust in His promises, prayer and praise, song and sacrament.
II. IT PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING. There is nothing unphilosophical in this. Mystery surrounds us. We are incessantly met with ultimate facts whose being and agency we are bound to admit, but which none of us can understand. In the natural laws of the mind, in things connected with our own consciousness, there are matters about which we can only say that they are. Surely, then, it is not wonderful that this should be so in religious life. His peace —
1. Passes the understanding of the man of the world. The very terms and phrases by which it is expressed are "foolishness" unto them, or repugnant, or unintelligible. In listening to the sober statements of a Christian man, if restrained by courtesy, they are silent, but incredulous and perhaps pitiful: if not restrained they reject the whole thing with contempt as cant or jargon. Nor is this wonderful. Many things connected with art, taste, science, and philosophy, can be understood only through the medium of experience. And so to him who is destitute of religious experience, the very language of religion must be incomprehensible.
2. It passes the understanding of the Christian himself.
(1) Light sometimes gushes into the intellect, filling it with clear apprehensions of truth, and an impression of its power in a manner perfectly inexplicible. The man, all on a sudden, is filled with joy and peace from seeing matters of faith after he had been toiling in doubt and darkness, and was just on the point of abandoning forever.
(2) In the same way the burden of guilt has been lifted, the troubled conscience calmed. The blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven has come like an angel of God.
(3) It has been thus, too, with taste and affection; by a sudden transition, the reckless and impure have become like unto a little child.
(4) So, too, in things of great and terrible afflictions. Christians have been kept in such calm peace as has been a perfect amazement to themselves.
(5) And so, too, in the ordinary course of the Christian life.
3. It passes the understanding of angels. The inward joys of hope and faith are associated with redemption and "into these things angels desire to look."
III. IT KEEPS THE HEART AND MIND. The word is used only in three other places, 2 Corinthians 11:32, where the words "with a garrison" are included in the word that stands for "kept;" Galatians 3:23, where we have the idea of a sort of strong room, or protected custody; 1 Peter 1:5, where it is "preserved as in a fortress." The general import of the statement is that the experience of religious life is the most powerful preservative of the happiness and virtue of man. Trouble and sin by the peace of God are cast out of the soul and kept out. "Heart and mind," however discriminated, include every, faculty of the inner man.
1. Suppose an attack be made on a man's belief, and dark clouds of doubt overspread the mind, I do not say that he need not go to his books and arguments, but I do say that the portable evidence of Christianity in his own experience of its power will often do more to reveal the hollowness of sceptical suggestions than all the learning of the schools. Nay, the peace of God as a felt possession will prevent the rising and entrance of the doubt itself, or will instantly repel it.
2. If the memory of his old sins comes to disturb the tranquillity of his conscience he will, of course, be humbled at the thought of this; but the counter recollection of the peace and joy he had in believing will prove a protection from what would break his peace. And here again the possession of peace will prevent the rising or entrance of that into the soul which would throw it back again on hopelessness and despair. "I know whom I have believed." "I will trust and not be afraid."
3. In like manner the peace of God will "guard" the heart against murmuring and anxiety, fear and distrust in relation to the affairs of life. "Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
4. It is a preservative, strong and sure, against all sin. The religiously happy are the morally strong. Duty is pleasant because the mind is in joyous harmony with God's requirements.
(1) It keeps the heart by keeping its volatile affections, not permitting them to go forth to twine themselves round anything forbidden.
(2) Sin is resisted from the knowledge that it will damage the peace of the soul.
(3) When this peace dilates the soul it is not easy for the devil to put in a temptation. A rich man cannot be tempted to steal; a sober man is not tempted by the sight of a tavern. So with the spiritually happy man; what might overcome others is nothing to him. He is raised above them, and the peace of God shields him from their influence.
IV. THROUGH CHRIST JESUS. He is the object of faith and the sole medium of spiritual influence. In virtue of His work on earth we obtain peace at first; and if, as justified, any man sin, it is by His work in heaven that peace is restored.
(T. Binney, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.