Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword…. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:34–38—NKJV)

Hard-won freedom from evil, coupled with vigilance to prevent evil, brings very comfortable peace. Perhaps this is why people mistake peace as an utopian ideal rather than peace as a byproduct of right actions. Every man has a little Neville Chamberlain in him. He deeply desires the comfort that peace brings, and so he is sorely tempted to take any shortcut and make any compromise necessary to return to comfortable peace. He expectantly assumes that freedom will follow. Sadly, human history does not bear this logic out. We would know this by observing the length to which God goes to procure eternal peace for men.

As is true of every highly valued human virtue, true Peace is defined by God. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). God the Father is the God of peace (Romans 15:33, 16:20; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The Greek word translated by peace means to be connected into one, to join together, to reconcile that which divides, cessation of enmity, to be made whole. One thing must always be remembered about God and must always mold our understanding of peace among men—God’s peace is achieved by nothing short of His absolute victory. His peace is not won by any sort of compromise with evil. God’s peace is always heated in the furnace of conflict and forged on the anvil of hard-won victory. This kind of peace is the only source of authentic freedom. Our Savior’s triumph through His cross is the source of the Gospel of Peace.

It is this understanding which solves the apparent contradiction between the angel’s statement of “Peace on Earth, good will to men” at the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ and the current passage quoted at the head of this page where Jesus identifies the fact that He brings division between men. Though evil has been conquered at the cross, the evil of men’s hearts must be conquered through submission to the Lord Jesus Christ before peace is forged (Luke 12:49ff).

Paul speaks of “peace with God,” the “peace of God,” and the “bond of peace.” The peace with God must precede the peace of God and both precede the bond of peace. Remember, peace is the restoration of two parties from a state of enmity to a state of being made whole.

Peace with God begins with the work of God in Christ. Ephesians 2:14–17 reads, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Romans 5:1 states, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Where we were once at war with God and God had set Himself in battle array against the proud, now peace has been won by the conquering victory of Christ upon the cross. Through faith in Jesus’ redemptive work, we are set at peace with God because the substitutionary death of Christ opens the way for God to be at peace with every believer.

Being at peace with God makes it possible to live in the peace of God. It is the inward state of the trusting and obeying soul, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7) Now the bond of peace attainable among men as Colossians 4:3 admonishes, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Do you know the freedom found in real peace with God? Yield to the conquering Savior. Trust and obey.