Peace Among Men ~ 20191215 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/15 Advent: Luke 2:14 Peace among Men; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191215_peace-among-men.mp3
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift, the gift beyond fully telling, the gift that must be told over and over and over again, the gift we must remind ourselves and our families and one another to take time to treasure, to ponder and take pleasure in. The inexpressible, the indescribable, beyond words greatest gift of all time.
God’s Glory Primary
We are looking at the chorus of the angelic multitude as they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:
We saw last time that what is primary is the glory of God. It matters that the first thing the angels said was ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ The highest goal of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Another way to say this is that the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus in his coming, in his life and in his death and resurrection was pursuing above all else the glory of God. Jesus came to rescue us from our insistence on glorifying created things rather than the Creator, who is worthy of all glory, to free us from being glory thieves who pursue our own glory, to restore us to our purpose of living all of life to the glory of God. This is primary. It’s important that we keep first things first.
The thing the angel choir put in second place was peace on earth among men of good will. Peace is important. But only when God’s glory gets first place will we be able to enjoy genuine peace that endures.
What is this peace? And who does this peace come to? The King James version has this verse as
Songs like ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ and ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ have memorialized the words of the angels as ‘peace on earth, good-will to men’ That sounds global, like a declaration of peace to all mankind. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned his poem on Christmas day 1863, during the American Civil War, the year his son had joined the Union army without his permission, and had been severely wounded in battle. You can hear him wrestling with these words in this verse:
Where is this peace the angels sang of? Is that what it actually means? Does the angelic declaration announce peace and goodwill to all mankind? What kind of peace is this?
The second part of the angels praise corresponds to the first. Glory in the first corresponds to peace in the second. In the highest corresponds to on earth. God corresponds to men of good pleasure. It answers the questions ‘what, where, and to whom?’ Glory or peace, in the heavens or on earth, to God or to men of good pleasure. God is glorified in the highest. To us is announced peace on this earth.
Let’s back up and take in this staggering scene:
A multitude of the heavenly host. These are military terms. The multiplied hosts of heaven; the armies of heaven appearing in battle array. We are told what they say, but not how they said it. It could have been in song, it could have been shouted, it could have been chanted in military cadence. The infantries of heaven appear in battle array bearing a declaration of peace.
Peace. What is this peace they declare? We need to understand what this peace is. What kind of peace did Jesus bring? We can quickly identify what it is not. Jesus said:
So the peace that Jesus brings is not a military peace, not the absence of wars, at least not at his first coming.
Nor is it peace in relationships among people. Just ten chapters after the angelic declaration, Luke records Jesus saying:
And he goes on to describe the conflicts he will create within families.
In John 16, Jesus talked of a time when all his followers would be scattered, a time ‘when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (v.2). Then he promised his followers:
So Jesus does bring peace to his people, but the peace that Jesus brings is peace in the midst of tribulation. Not international peace (not yet) and not interpersonal peace (not yet), not even personal peace and safety, but peace in him. The peace Jesus brings is other-worldly peace, peace that passes understanding.
This is otherworldly peace, not peace that changes our circumstances, but peace that conquers our fears. The apostles heralded this peace through Jesus Christ. Peter said to the Gentile household of Cornelius:
And then he went on to recount the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, and he concludes
The good news of peace through Jesus Christ is peace with God, the forgiveness of sins through his name. This peace comes as a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus.
In the book of Romans, after explaining the concept of sinners counted by God as righteous not because of their own works but because they trust in Jesus, it says
The peace that Jesus brings is peace in our relationship to God. We were weak, helpless, ungodly sinners, enemies of God and fully deserving of his just wrath. But because Christ died for us, that severed relationship is made whole; we can have peace with God. And this reconciled relationship with God produces great joy.
Good news of great joy!
Men of Good Pleasure [ευδοκια]
To whom does this peace come? If we are right in defining the peace as peace with God, a reconciled relationship, then not everyone experiences this peace. The testimony of Jesus and the Apostles is unified that this peace comes to everyone who believes in Jesus, and only to those who believe in Jesus. This is not universal peace, because not everyone will believe. This phrase of angelic praise actually qualifies the peace. This is translated in the King James as.
The comma makes it seem like there are two distinct things here, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And this should cause us to ask ‘What does that even mean? Whose good will?’ Is this the good will of man toward man; nothing more than the warm sentiment ‘I wish you well’ toward our fellow man?
The ESV and NASB both translate this phrase ‘peace among men (or among those) with whom he is pleased.’ Rather than two things, the good will defines to whom this peace comes. The NIV renders this ‘peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ Wycliffe gave us a very literal translation ‘in earth peace be to men of good will’
This word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ modifies and defines the ‘men’ in the sentence. Literally, it says ‘to men of good pleasure’ What does it mean to be a person 'of good will’ or ‘good pleasure'? Does this mean that God is pleased with the performance of some people, so he gives them his peace? This option is excluded on the grounds of the teaching of the rest of the New Testament:
There was only one man who ever totally pleased God with his life:
The clear teaching of the New Testament is that peace with God comes to those who don't deserve it, who didn't earn it, to those who simply believe the promises of God. The well pleasing life of Jesus is credited to the account of those who embrace Jesus as their King.
Looking at other places this word 'good will' or 'good pleasure' shows up might help get a clearer picture of what is meant here. Luke uses this same word in chapter 10
Jesus rejoices in the gracious will, the good pleasure of his Father in hiding things from the self-righteous and revealing them to the humble. The verb form shows up again in Luke 12:32
The same word shows up twice in Ephesians 1
This word points to the mystery of the good pleasure of God's will. It is God's gracious purpose, what God is pleased to do, what God wants to do and chooses to do. On earth peace to men who are objects of God’s good pleasure. This is not the well-wishing of man toward man. This is not that God is impressed with the performance of some or responds to the initiative of some. This is good news of great joy to undeserving sinners! This is good news to unexpecting ordinary shepherds. To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! This message came to some shepherds. It did not come to Herod the Great, not to Caesar Augustus, not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders, not to the Jewish High Priest, but to some shepherds who were out watching over their flocks at night.
God's grace, his undeserved favor is extended to sinners. It was his good pleasure, his gracious will to reveal this to shepherds.
This message of peace with God is the gospel of great joy that will extend to all the people.
Notice the response of these simple shepherds to this gospel presentation.
These shepherds heard the good news. They talked to one another about it. They resolved to go see. They went with urgency. They went and found things exactly as the angel had promised; the message of good news was confirmed. So they made the message known. They told everybody! Good news of great joy for all the people! Good news of a birth, good news of a person. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. All who heard wondered, marveled. Some treasured. Some pondered. The shepherds returned glorifying God.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org