Peace On Earth
Most of us know Luke 2:14 as quoted from the Majority Text – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (KJV) From greeting cards to a speech made by Linus each year on the Peanuts TV classic we are all familiar with this passage where God is given glory and peace on earth and good will to men is resounded.
It’s become a seasonal anthem of sorts promoting better relationships – one to another, family to friends and nation to nation. Everyone seems to rally behind world peace and prairie-wide group hugs making Luke 2:14 a certain let’s-play-nice banner waved high to the world at this time of year. But is this really what this verse says?
Curiously, the NASB translates it differently –“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” The NASB is based upon the Nestle-Aland early manuscripts that contain a textual variant which significantly changes the meaning of the passage. According Metzger’s work, “Most of the Itala witnesses and some other versional witnesses reflect a Greek text which has the genitive εὐδοκίας but drops the preposition ἐν. Not only is the genitive reading better attested to, but it is more difficult than the nominative. The meaning seems to be, not that divine peace can be bestowed only where human good will is already present, but that at the birth of the Savior God’s peace rests on those whom he has chosen in accord with his good pleasure” (Metzger, TCGNT 111). The NIV conveys the sense of the text by putting it this way – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Notice how this rendering while toppling over the peacenik van lover’s attempts to hijack it, absolutely and completely lines up perfectly with the rest of Scripture’s testimony to the meaning and purpose of Christ’s life.
This expression of grace is a common epistle greeting like we see in Galatians 1:3-5 – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” Here we have a wonderful expression of what the peace is that is being expressed in Luke’s description.
When Christ was born in that feeding trough in the little town of Bethlehem peace had come to the world. The peace mentioned here is not a legion of pacifist hippies and yuppie-coated denizens lining up the streets of the New York City holding hands on a multi-nation live telecast hosted by Katie Couric and Deepok Chopra; rather, it is the peace that can only come from Him, by Him, and through Him. It is the peace that Christ established by the giving of Himself as the sacrificial love offering from God to man on the cross at Calvary. It is the reconciliation of our souls to Him; the salvation of our lives for all eternity.
He is our peace and the bridge of salvation that transcends all borders and nations and tribes and tongues for the terror that awaits man is not of this world’s hate. The destruction that awaits us is not from a dark corner of any earthly ruler, country, or madman. The peace we must pursue is not tribe to tribe or person to person, but rather God to man for the terror that awaits us is the very wrath of God Himself, the jealous fury of the Holy One of Israel against a sinful and wicked world who although they know Him, refuse to acknowledge Him as God and would rather cling to idols and self-glorification than bow down to the Almighty – a world that would rather uphold perversions of beauty than embrace His purpose.
Sadly, temporal peace is nothing more than a détente hoax bringing with it a better seat to the same dark fate; yet the peace of Christ is eternal, being anchored in God Himself and experienced by faith in His promises – the New Covenant of Christ.
And so this week we celebrate HOPE and HOPE ETERNAL for the Gospel is a gospel of peace according to Ephesians six and God is a God of peace according to 1 Thessalonians chapter five and for those who truly seek Him, He will not refuse to give them what they need – a humble and contrite heart He will NOT refuse.
Our conscience wars against our God. The Gospel frees us of that battle. The sweat and toil of a legalist religion that thinks one can ever earn one jot of purity before perfection has missed the entire message of the Cross for a denial of Christ’s benefit is a denial of God’s impeccable work in saving man.
The joy of Christmas is the recognition of the historic moment when God became flesh and the incarnate deity dwelt among men. It is the recognition that Christ was born in Bethlehem so that we would live. It is the submission of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that His righteousness is now mine. It is the enjoyment of the peace that surpasses all understanding for we deserve nothing from Him, but He is willing to give us the Kingdom.
There is no other joy more grand. There is no other peace more precious. There is no other love more secure.