Peace in the Church

Peace in the Church

Written by Mark G. Johnston |
Friday, January 13, 2023

However difficult we may find it to get along with our fellow Christians, we share the same spiritual DNA in Christ. As we are bound to Him in salvation, we are bound to each other for eternity in the communion of saints. This is the foundation for peace in the church. Just as the forensic righteousness of our justification is to be manifest in the practical righteousness of new obedience, so too the peace we have with God in justification must suffuse our relationships in His family.

One of the sweetest words in the Hebrew language is shalom—“peace.” It conveys a very specific sense of peace. As a dear Jewish friend of mine loved to define it: “Nothing out of place; everything as it ought to be.” Such a state has only ever existed in the created order at its very beginning. God surveyed the finished product of His work of creation and not only pronounced it in its entirety to be “very good,” but He also consummated it with the prototypical Sabbath rest. The secret to this peace and perfection was that God was at the center of everything and was acknowledged as such by Adam and Eve.

The entrance of sin through Adam’s disobedience brought discord and disruption. Friction resulted, not just between him and his Maker but also with Eve—with whom he had so recently been joined together as “one flesh.” It led also to his being at odds with the very creation over which God had placed him as His earthly image bearer and vice-regent. From that moment on, earth became the center of the cosmic conflict that has been raging ever since.

Mercifully, God did not wait for Adam to find the antidote to his failure. He Himself provided what was needed to satisfy His own justice and spare Adam and Eve from what they deserved for their sin. He provided two sacrificial animals whose skins would provide a covering for their moral and physical nakedness before God and would do so because the deaths of the animals pointed to the unique sacrificial death by which God would one day deal finally and fully with sin.

God made it clear from the outset that His intention for the world and for the human race was shalom of the highest order—a restored relationship with Him that would be reflected in restored relationships between His redeemed people with one another. One of the most eloquent and encouraging expressions of what this means and how it becomes ours is heard in the words of the Aaronic blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24–26).

As has often been pointed out, the key to this shalom is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence and favor of God. The theater in which God has chosen to display this blessing is His redeemed community, the church. That is, as men and women, boys and girls find pardon and peace with God through His redeeming grace, their relationships with one another are transformed by that same grace. The church, in both its old covenant and new covenant expressions, is marked by peace and reconciliation.

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