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The Angel Brings Glad Tidings

Peace on Earth, but for whom?

Luke 2:8-14 (ESV)

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”

This passage is widely misquoted and misunderstood. We often hear these angels quoted as saying, “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men*.” That misses something important. The song verse is closer – “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on Earth.” The key difference is, “His.”

This is hard teaching, but there’s a word in the Greek (eudokias) that shouldn’t be ignored. It is often translated as “of good will.” The translation, “peace on earth to men of goodwill,” is preferred over, “peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” The blessing isn’t for everyone.

But the foremost Greek lexicon (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker – BAGD) goes even further. It says that eudokias is properly translated as good pleasure or favor. In other words, BAGD says this should be translated, “peace on earth to men God favors,” or, “peace on earth to men on whom God’s pleasure rests.” The limited blessing is based on God’s choice, not anyone’s merit.

That’s not as warm and fuzzy as a universal blessing, but it’s what the Bible says. Rinse away the sugar coating, and you’ll find reformed doctrine every time. This is hard learning, but worth the work.

The “no sugar added” doctrine is healthier too.

*Note: the word “anthropois” is translated here as “men,” but means people, not just males.

The angels also said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” This says two important, even radical things.

First of all, Christianity will benefit everyone, even non-Christians. Yes, only some will get God’s peace, but the whole world will benefit.

But the second meaning is the radical one – this will be for all the people.

That means gentiles too.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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