God’s Priorities for His Churches: Peace (3)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2.13, 14
…the angels expressly say that there is peace on earth. This is intended to inform us that, so long as we trust to the grace of Christ, no troubles that can arise will prevent us from enjoying composure and serenity of mind. Let us then remember, that faith is seated amidst the storms of temptations, amidst various dangers, amidst violent attacks, amidst contests and fears, that our faith may not fail or be shaken by any kind of opposition.
- John Calvin, Commentary on Luke 2.13, 14
The righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the Spirit of God imparts as He transfers us into the Kingdom of God, leads to the condition of peace – with God, within ourselves, and with others. And this peace is the anteroom to joy. As we bask in the peace which Jesus Christ bestows, we cannot help but enter the joy of the Lord and overflow with the joy of our great salvation.
The Kingdom of God is a peaceable Kingdom, and we should expect to know that peace unto greater joy when we are assembled with our fellow Kingdom citizens to worship the Lord. From the storms of everyday life, the temptations that strew our path, the dangers, attacks, contests, and fears of human existence, we gather with the saints of God – co-heirs of God’s peace – to celebrate the grace of God in the work of Jesus Christ, and to be renewed in the peace of Jesus and the righteousness of His Kingdom.
Worship is a most important context for realizing, celebrating, and growing in the peace we have in Jesus. As the angels declared the birth of Jesus to be the source of peace on earth, so our worship together as God’s people must have as its aim to deepen our experience of His peace, and thus to further immerse us in His joy and fit us with His righteousness. But for worship to do this, it must focus on Jesus Christ, rehearsing His work, drawing us through Him into the presence of God, and enabling us to participate in Him and His righteousness.
The work of Christ and the narrative of worship
The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus is our Peace (Eph. 2.14). Jesus brings us into the presence and favor of God, where we rejoice in the hope of glory. He brings us together from our disparate backgrounds, and molds us into His one Body, the Church. He floods us with a peace which is unlike anything the world can offer, so that we rise above our mundane circumstances and live seated in His presence, in the fullness of life and joy.
The world is everywhere seeking peace, peace; but there is no peace to be found. The peace we need is in Jesus, and everything about Jesus, from His pre-incarnate state as the Word of God, through His incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension, to His reigning at the Father’s right hand, and His imminent return in glory – everything about Jesus taps into that peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
It is therefore natural that, in our services of worship, we should rehearse and revisit all stages of the work of Jesus Christ, and all aspects of His Person, considering Him throughout our worship, so that our souls may be revived and we may be strengthened to serve in Him (Heb. 12.3). Every service of worship should repeat the old, old story of Jesus and His wondrous love, leading us more completely into Him, and immersing us more firmly in His peace.
Peace in the elements of worship
All the elements of worship should bring us into some aspect of the peace of Jesus. The call to worship invites us to come from the storms and dangers of life into the peace of Jesus with praise and rejoicing.
Our songs of praise celebrate Him and His work, plug us into the shared experience of peace and joy in Jesus, and vault us into our Father’s heavenly court, where we know increasing peace and joy.
When we confess our sins, it is so that we may be renewed in the peace of Jesus.
In our giving of tithes and offerings, we express our gratitude for His peace.
Pastoral prayers seek the peace of Jesus for all aspects of congregational life.
The preaching of the Word imitates the preaching of Him Who preached peace to those who are near and those who are far off (Eph. 2.17).
Communion facilitates our participation in His Body and Blood, which are the means of our peace and the peace-giving food that fills us with joy.
Hymns and prayers flow from our peace with gratitude, magnifying the greatness of God and Him Who brings us into His peace.
And the benediction sends us away renewed in peace to press on in our pursuit of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness for the week to come.
Worship is crucial because it allows us to give appropriate honor and praise to Him Who is our peace, and it renews us in that peace so that we may go back into the storms of life, filled with that sense of shalom that glows with the glory of God before a world that knows no true or lasting peace.
What is the state of witness and evangelism in your church?
Dr. Michael McQueen addresses this question in the first of a series of Conversationson fulfilling our calling as witnesses for Christ. You can watch this Conversationat our website by clicking here.
Prayer for Revival: A Jonathan Edwards Reader
“As peace began to be established, the angels proclaimed: ‘Glory in the highest and peace on earth.’ When lower beings received peace from superior beings, ‘they cried, Glory on earth and peace in the heavens.’ At that time when the divinity came down and was clothed in humanity, the angels cried, ‘Peace on earth. And at the time when that humanity ascended in order to be absorbed into the divinity and sit on the right, ‘Peace in heaven,’ the infants were crying forth before him, ‘Hosanna in the highest.’ Hence the apostle also learned that one should say, ‘He made peace by the blood of his cross for that which is in heaven and on earth.’”
- Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 2.14-15.
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).
The Peace of Worship
- T.M. Moore
- May 25, 2018
Worship is where we celebrate our peace and are renewed in it.
God’s Priorities for His Churches: Peace (3)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.