The Difference Between 'Peace With God' and the 'Peace of God'

dan delzell opinion page

Have you ever noticed the difference in the New Testament between "peace with God," and the "peace of God"? One is like stone, and the other is like the ocean. One deals with justification, while the other deals with sanctification.

The apostle Paul explained "our position" as Christians and "our standing" in Christ: "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." (Romans 5:1,2)

In other words, the relationship has been established. It is solid. We don't move in and out of it depending upon how closely we walk with the Lord hour by hour. The connection is rooted in Christ and therefore constant, just like a child's relationship in the family. Even at those times when the child is misbehaving, the relationship between parent and child is still locked in place. It is set in stone.

Now compare that permanent reality to water at a beach. At times, the water is fairly calm. At other times, waves pound the shoreline. There is an ebb and flow as waves are created by the friction between wind and the water on the surface. Things can change dramatically from hour to hour.

This is similar to the way a Christian experiences the "peace of God." Sometimes a believer's heart is calm, while at other times it feels like an ocean is churning inside of you. 

Paul addressed this spiritual dynamic when he wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

God's peace is felt by believers. It is experienced. Unlike our "peace with God" through faith, this "peace of God" is something that seems to fluctuate, especially when our behavior is erratic. In other words, the more we rejoice, pray, trust, obey, give thanks, and present various requests to God, the more the "peace of God" seems to fill our soul. There is a strong correlation between our choices and our peace, or lack thereof. Sometimes our heart is tranquil. At other times, our emotions are tossing and turning.

This doesn't mean that all of our anxiety is the result of something "we didn't do right." Sometimes anxiety rushes into our heart even though we have been praying and trusting. Life has a way of throwing us quite a few curve balls. Challenges come our way all the time. And we are still human. We are prone to getting upset and bothered. We tend to worry and fret over many things. And yet, God's promise about the "peace of God" remains in tact for all of His children. It is always available. Our job as believers in this regard is clear: Rejoice always; be gentle; don't be anxious; pray; give thanks; and present your requests to God. When we put these things into practice, we usually experience much more peace in our heart.

While all of these feelings are fluctuating, our relationship with God remains in tact. It doesn't change. We are in His family through faith in Christ, and are therefore at "peace with God." What a blessing it is to know that our eternity in heaven is secure even when the waves of pressure and stress are washing ashore in our heart.

The Christian life isn't easy, and it isn't natural. It is natural to worry, and complain, and try to solve everything ourself. The life of discipleship, however, is a supernatural experience. It is also one of reliance upon God in all things. And this practice isn't learned over night. In fact, I think most of us who are believers fully recognize that we are still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, Jesus is busy "preparing a place" for us in His heavenly kingdom. (John 14:2,3) In that land, we will never experience even a moment of anxiety or pressure. Everything will be calm, joyful, and peaceful. Until that day, we "press on toward the goal," (Phil. 3:14) knowing that we are not alone, and that our Savior will never leave us or forsake us. (Matthew 28:20)

So if you are a Christian, take tremendous comfort in the fact that you have peace "with God." And then do those things hour by hour that help to facilitate the peace "of God" in your heart. By doing so, you will enjoy your Christian life much more than when you are worrying about the details. Each one of us is guilty of worry at times, but we can learn how to bring our anxiety to the Lord in prayer.

Christ is the author of peace with God, which leads to the peace of God. One is like stone, and the other is like the ocean. And you can have both if you really want them. So how strong is your desire to experience peace?

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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