Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Get on Yer Boots!!

I find it only slightly ironic that in Ephesians six, which is the classic description of spiritual warfare, as Paul is describing the suit of armor that Christians need to be equipped with, the necessary footwear is the "gospel of peace." If you are going to go to war with the evil one, you need to know that you are completely at peace with God.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:18, "God, through Christ reconciled us to himself." Or again in Romans 5, "since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God."

In Ephesians 2, Paul explains slightly differently, but to the same effect. He begins by saying that we were once, like the rest of mankind, children of wrath, at enmity with God. But God is great in mercy, and he made us alive together with Christ.

Peace with god. We have it, by faith. It is because God has reconciled us to himself, in Christ. And our peaceful relationship that we now enjoy with God is secure, because it is based on the work of Christ. If we had peace with God only so long as our performance lived up to his expectations, we would be walking on eggshells, and there would be no peace. But it is based on the death of Jesus on the cross. The hostility has been put away once for all because our sins have been decisively dealt with and forgiven.

This is not only good news as far as the whole salvation issue is concerned, it is also an indispensable piece of our Christian armor. Our knowledge of the gospel of peace, the fact that our relationship with God is in good order, and securely so, is part of what protects us from the attacks and flaming darts from the evil one.

The evil one does not want you to know that you have peace with God. He would rather you take your eyes off of the cross, put them on yourself and your own performance, and begin to entertain all sorts of doubts as to the status of your relationship. If you are insecure in your relationship with God, the darts of the evil one can land with deadly accuracy. Temptations to sin will feel persuasive and the allure of doubt irresistible. But the Pauline counterattack to this guerrilla warfare is a deep, heartfelt knowledge of divine reconciliation through the gospel of peace.

Of course, it would be impossible to read through Ephesians (especially 2:11-22 and 4:1-7) without realizing that the peace purchased at the cross extends to human relationships as well. Because I have peace with God, and you have peace with God, therefore you and I have peace between us as well. Growing roots of bitterness and stirring up dissension between believers is a favorite tactic of the evil one, and the boots of gospel peace are necessary for us to maintain a very practical, gospel-based, believer-to-believer peace among us.

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