Friday, August 15, 2014

Is Peace a Dangerous Thing?

Rom 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Rom 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Php 4:7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The verses above speak of the two aspects of peace that come with conversion.  The ones in Romans refer to having peace with God whose wrath formerly was against us due to our sin.  Having our sins forgiven in Christ we are no longer condemned but now enjoy a relationship with God as being perfectly righteous having Jesus’ righteousness imputed to us.  We stand in Christ sinless because he has given us his righteousness. 

This in turn clears our conscience knowing that our sins are no longer separating us from God and so we have peace within.  We can enjoy life without constantly worrying about death and the judgment.  All this is pretty basic stuff for most saints but is completely hidden from those outside of Christ.

I recently learned of a leader in the Roman Catholic Church during the Counter Reformation in the 1500’s.  He made an interesting and telling statement concerning the Reformation led by Luther and Calvin.  He said that the most dangerous thing about the Reformation was that it gave peace!  Think of it, why would anyone consider having peace with God a dangerous thing?

It isn’t hard to see the thinking behind this statement once you realize the theology that produced it.  The last think any cult wants is for their adherents to have assurance.  Once you are sure of your salvation they lose control over you.  As long as you think your salvation is in the hands of your leader you will do whatever they tell you.  There were a couple of problems (of many) with Catholicism that inspired Luther to start the Reformation; both deal with this very issue of peace.

One was the fact that he was never sure he had done enough and was sincere enough to merit salvation.  In other words he constantly worried that he had fallen from grace if he was ever in it to begin with.  Catholic theology aided this thinking because one was supposed to constantly have your sins forgiven by taking mass and confession and any number of things.  So if you constantly need to have the sins you were committing daily forgiven how could you ever know that the slate was clean?  Of course, you can’t and that is why another teaching of the Roman Church is that everyone gets to spend time in purgatory to “finish up” the atoning of your sins.

The other thing that bothered Luther was all the indulgences.  There were any number of works and purchases one could make to have your sins forgiven and shorten time in Purgatory.  Of course, each and every one of these was established by the Church but not mentioned in the Bible.  In fact the Bible only speaks of one way to have your sins forgiven and have peace with God, through faith in Christ’s work and it specifically says not our works, Tit 3:5  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

It isn’t hard to see that the basis for our salvation has everything to do with our ability to have peace.  If it is up to me I am floating in a sea of doubt; if it rests on Christ’s righteousness I couldn’t be safer or more at peace.

Unfortunately this same peace is the enemy of many Arminians.  I speak especially of those that believe you can sin away and lose your salvation because it was up to you to believe to begin with.  We might call them consistent Arminians since those that believe that we have the freewill to believe and once we do God won’t let us lose our salvation are trying to have their cake and eat it too. 

The reason these don’t like the doctrine of eternal security or peace is because they think to believe you can’t lose your salvation destroys your incentive to obey God or behave.  So by hanging over their heads the threat of losing your salvation if you don’t behave they keep one worried if they are doing enough to stay saved.  And it is very easy to see that this is pretty much the same stance as Roman Catholicism.  They might not all be doing it with the same sinister and crass motives that Rome has throughout the church age but in both cases they see peace and assurance as an enemy. 

At the end of the day this is all about exalting Christ and his finished work or exalting our efforts.  One is Christianity and the other is man centered religion.  One gives peace, something this world desperately needs; the other keeps one in bondage to his own goodness and that is certainly nothing to trust in and can never bring peace. 

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