Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
There is a peace which is not with God. A dull bovine contentment is the stagnancy of life, and not peace with God. Absence of conscience presenting lofty ideals and urging effort; and in place thereof a series of compromises with evil, making things easy all round, is not peace with God; it is the peace of the lowest organism. Peace with God is within the soul, the balmy, vital peace of the summer day, when the forces of Nature are working mightily with the repose of power, moving on without strain or care unto the harvest. Peace with God is: —
I. PEACE WITH GOD'S RETRIBUTIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. God's laws are holy, just, and good. Disobedience ought, therefore, to be followed by punishment. And so the wrath of God, therefore, is revealed from heaven. Plainly is that wrath visible in the miseries of a dishonest and vicious society, in the life and doom of a Jezebel, a Caesar Borgia, or a Macbeth. But when the disobedience is manifested in a prudently selfish and godless life, the wrath is not so visible. Often such sinners, if they are clever, have little trouble. Most, however, who are not reconciled to God are uneasy and apprehensive. They feel at times as if some doom were on their track, now and again life feels like a prison, and in death they have no hope. The feeling of the fugitive and of the prisoner is the retributive providence of God, a foreshadowing of the judgment to come.
2. How, then, can transgressors be at peace with this retributive righteousness of God? Only by being justified through our Lord Jesus Christ, Now what is the right position for us to take up to God taking this gracious position to us? Plainly, to repent of the sin and to accept the forgiveness He thus offers. Taking this position, God justifies us — i.e., He acquits us from all penalty, and He declares us to be right with God. God is for us; who then can be against us? We are no longer as a fugitive pursued; we are at the feet of God, accepted as a child returned home; we are in right relations, and no soul can have peace till it is right.
II. PEACE WITH GOD'S REVEALED TRUTH; that is, that God is the Heavenly Father, that Jesus is His Christ and Son, who died for sin, and rose again.
1. How many in this day have not peace? Some are in honest doubt concerning it, but do not oppose it. Others, however, go to geology for stones to throw at it, to biology for theories to discredit it, to physical law as a great engine against it, and when fighting it forget their philosophic calm and their scientific modesty. Some raise a prejudice against it by holding up its professors to ridicule or by making merry with some of its facts. Accompanying this army is a motley crowd of camp followers, old sinners and thoughtless youths, the disappointed and the bitter, lacking courage for the fight, and caring not for the victory, but for the spoils — greater freedom for evil. Then, at a safe distance, is a great company of onlookers, not knowing which side to take. These are not to be envied. They who are definitely opposed have, it may be, a certain intellectual peace; they are not troubled with doubt, but their peace is not a peace with God. But they who doubtfully watch the fight are to be sympathised with. To be swung this way by this argument, then that way by that argument, and to feel, pendulum-like, no approach to the hour when the mind shall strike the truth, is a restless, painful state of mind. Being justified, we are delivered from such dispeace.
2. It is faith, and faith only, which can give certainty to our faith of the truth. Being justified, then, by faith, we have no doubt, no strife as to the truth of the truth. As our conscience has had peace with God by our being put right with God, so now our intellect has peace with God's revealed truth by being assured of that truth.
III. PEACE WITH GOD'S HOLY COMMANDMENT. In commandment I include both God's purpose and precept for our life.
1. There are works of fiction which have been written by two authors. Of course they must have decided the plot and its details between them, and each mast have worked in harmony. But suppose each had had a plot of his own, and had wrought each part according to his own particular plot! In the working or writing of our lives there are two — ourselves and our God. God's purpose is, "Seek first the kingdom of God," etc. But the purpose of many is at war with this. It is, "Seek first the other things, and then, if you can, add God and religion unto them." Absorbed in their own selfish purpose, they forget the purpose of God. Consequently, in their lives there are strife, dispeace.
2. The whole question of keeping God's commandment is simply a question of disposition, as the whole question of justification is simply a question of position with God. Love is good disposition, and love is the fulfilling of the law. Being justified by faith, we receive this disposition. Believing in this position of God toward us, we see His infinite love. Hence there is peace within — peace with the holy commandment; we want to fulfil it, we strive to fulfil it; it is no longer to us a task; it is a delight, and the burden is when we fail through weakness to fulfil it.
IV. PEACE WITH GOD'S DISCIPLINARY PROVIDENCE.
1. Even where the purpose of our life is at one with God's and we love His precepts, there fall to us, or at least to most of us, many trials and troubles. The wicked spread themselves as a green bay tree, but the righteous are often as a root out of the dry ground. Then comes the temptation to be not at peace with God's providence; to be angry with God.
2. But our justification is overwhelming proof that God is not against us. If God had forgotten us He would never have sent His Christ for us. But if God love us, it may be said, it cannot be that it is God who sends the trouble to us. No; in many cases it is through the fault of self or others. But God could have prevented them. Yes, but only by interfering with the natural order of things; and rather than He should do that He thinks it best that we should suffer. Then since He so loves us, let us in confidence say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight." Then the bitterness of trouble is past, the weight of the burden is gone. Moreover, God's love for us is associated with infinite wisdom, and He will somehow cause the affliction to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. As the fire which consumed the poor man's vineyard cracked the earth revealing veins of silver, thus afflicting the vineyard into a silver mine, so shall the fire which withers and consumes so much that we prize give us in place thereof a mine of imperishable and inexhaustible treasure. "All things shall work together for good to them that love God." Conclusion: Note that the apostle bases this peace on our being justified with God. Many of us seek this peace by endeavouring, first of all, to be at peace with God's providence; or, first of all, to be at peace with God's revealed truth, or to be at peace with God's commandment. But, first of all, we must take our right position at the feet of our God. It is monstrous to attempt to invert the Divine order in the lower spheres of Nature. It is more monstrous to attempt to invert the Divine order in these the higher spheres of grace.
(Albert Goodrich, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: