Description / Transcription
Father in heaven, as we come now to Your Word, would You bless us in the reading, the preaching, and the hearing of Your Word, that we may learn, but not only that we would learn new things, but that we would be challenged, changed, comforted in our hearts with the hope of the Gospel and the promise of Your peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians before you get to 1 and 2 Timothy, toward the back of your Bible. 2 Thessalonians 3:16. Whether you are new to the church or have been a Christian your whole life, I imagine very few of you have heard an entire sermon on just this one verse, but that’s what we are doing this morning. As we’ve been going through this series on 3:16’s, third chapter, 16th verse, various combinations, 3:16’s in the New Testament.
As I mentioned, Derek Wells will be preaching for me next Sunday as we’ll be traveling to Michigan and we’ll be actually rearranging those Sundays so that on Christmas Sunday I’ll be preaching from 1 Timothy 3:16, which is a great incarnation text.
This morning 2 Thessalonians 3:16. It is a benediction but don’t leave yet. Wait for the sermon. Here it is.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
Peace is one of those words almost everyone likes. If you don’t like peace, something’s wrong with you. “All we are saying is give peace a chance,” John Lennon wrote and then sang over 20 times in that one song. Or you could quote Cat Stevens, “Oh, peace train, glide on the peace train, come on, now, peace train. Everyone jump on the peace train. Come on, now, peace train.” That’s taken some of you way back. Most everyone prefers peace to war. We want peace, not strife.
I googled this week, “peace during the holidays.” The first thing that came up, “Five tips for finding peace during the holidays.” Here you go. Number 1 – Let go of your expectations. Number 2 – Don’t be afraid to say no. Number 3 – Children, you listening? Set boundaries in gift giving. 4 – Focus on self-care. Not self-indulgence. 5 – Be open about what you are feeling. That one’s for the Presbyterians in particular. Not bad advice, I suppose, but not anything particularly Christian there.
If we’re honest, even as Christians we can sometimes hear the words “peace on earth, goodwill to men” and it lands on us little more than a slogan, little more than something you might slap on a bumper sticker. Visualize world peace, and then it became “World Peas,” p-e-a-s.
What does it mean that we have the announcement in this benediction, “The Lord of peace”? It would be easy to skip over this verse as just another closing benediction, just the way in which Paul finishes off a lot of his letters, and it’s true. Paul ends almost every letter with “grace” or “peace” or “grace and peace.”
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul references the God of peace, but here he says the Lord of peace, meaning Jesus. Messiah, of course, was predicted to be a prince of peace. This is a benediction, a blessing, a final greeting. But it’s also a prayer, and it’s a simple and a profound prayer. Perhaps of nothing else, you will take from this sermon to and this into your repertoire or even make it a prayer for each day of this week, or perhaps each day leading up to Christmas, this simple and profound prayer for our church, for your family, for our world. May Jesus Christ, the Lord of peace Himself, give you peace at all times and in every way.
Sounds wonderful. What does that really mean? Well, the placement of this benediction, of this prayer at the end of this short letter, is deliberate. It’s actually the perfect way to wrap up what Paul has been writing about to the Thessalonians. So in order to understand, in order for this not to just land on us as, “Ah, that’s nice. Peace, oh, that sounds so wonderful.” What are the actual contours and edges? What does this mean? We need to understand what Paul is talking about in this entire letter to see why it’s so fitting that his last words would be, “The Lord of peace.” The only time in the New Testament that Christ is given this designation as the Lord of peace.
What we see in this little letter is that Jesus, for them specifically and for us by application, is the Lord of peace in at least three ways, three ways.
First, when Paul ends this letter by praying, that the Lord of peace Himself would give you peace, he means by peace protection from the world. So that’s the first point, protection from the world. So we need to understand the situation that they were facing. I hope you have your Bibles open because we’re going to look at number of texts here in the letter and a couple of other places.
So turn back to chapter 1 and you can see that the church in Thessalonica was persecuted and afflicted. Look at chapter 1, verse 3 – “We ought to always give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God.” Why? “For your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”
They are facing opposition as Christians. Look at what he says going on, verse 5 – “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you.”
There are people in their lives, in the community, afflicting them. They don’t like that they’re Christians. Perhaps they’re facing some of the same opposition that Paul was facing.
So flip back over to chapter 3. Paul writes about his affliction, verse 1 – “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we,” Paul and his associates, “may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.”
There are some in their wider community, they don’t have faith, they don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ, and some people, “Eh, fine, you go do your thing, we’ll do ours.” But some are implacably opposed to them because of their Christian faith. We know that there was opposition in Thessalonica from the very beginning in the first establishment of the Church.
So here I want you to turn to the book of Acts. So maybe keep your finger there and go back a little, closer to the front of the New Testament, Acts, which tells us many of the stories in the beginning of the Church. Acts chapter 17. Look at Acts chapter 17. You can see the heading, “Paul and Silas in Thessalonica.”
So here’s the story about the establishment of the Church among the Thessalonians. Paul went in and he taught there and he explained from the Scriptures, and then pick it up with verse 4 – “And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.”
So, good, many people are believing. Yes, we want to hear more, we believe what you’re saying about Jesus.
Verse 5 – “But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.””
So this happened from the very beginning. Some of the Jews, not all, but some of them, moved by rivalry or envy, “Ah, we don’t like some of these Jews becoming Christians and then they’re getting some of the Greeks and some of the leading women of the city are coming over to the church.” So they stir up some of the rabble and get people and they say, “Look at them, these are trouble-makers. They don’t believe in Caesar because they say that Jesus is King.” They’re not interested in all the theological niceties or the way in which we still honor the emperor even though Jesus is the one true King. No, they just know this is the sort of sloganeering that will get the Roman authorities’ attention.
When we come to the letter to the Thessalonians, we’re not too far removed from this initial establishment of the church. Paul established the church here around A.D. 49 or 50, during his second missionary journey, and our best guess, piecing together references in 1 Thessalonians and Acts chapter 18 and Gallio, the Roman Proconsul, and knowing some of those dates, our best guess is that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in A.D. 50 or 51, maybe a year or a year and a half later, and he wrote 2 Thessalonians a few months after that. We notice in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 he references “our letter,” likely meaning the first letter to the Thessalonians.
So this is not decades later, but year and a half maybe later. This same sort of opposition that they faced at the very beginning in Acts 17, this is likely the same sort of affliction and persecution. People are being stirred up, people physically maybe being dragged out of their homes, threatening their life and their livelihood, and Paul prays may the Lord of peace reign in the midst of their persecution and affliction.
Now look at how this peace was to take root in their hearts. So go back to 2 Thessalonians. On the one hand, part of the peace was confidence in God’s final judgment. This sounds strange to us. We sometimes think yes, ok, we know the Bible talks about final judgment but we try not to think about it, let alone that that’s supposed to give us some sort of peace.
But look in chapter 1 and follow Paul’s logic. Chapter 1, 2 Thessalonians, pick it up at verse 7: “And to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you.”
So part of what Paul envisions when he says “the Lord of peace,” know that the Lord of peace will come at the end of the age and He will be the Lord also of justice.
Our desire for justice, every one of you, has a desire for justice. Someone is too slow at the left turn lane and they’re not paying attention. They’re on their phone. We were driving yesterday and one of my kids looked over and said, “The person in the car next to us at the light is watching Tik Tok videos.” May that not be you. And they’re not turning left. And you honk and then they do when it’s finally yellow and you don’t make it through. You would now understand what it means to be persecuted and afflicted in this world. When you are on customer service and you’re going through the byzantine-like phone tree and you never can make it to a human being.
Those are just mild annoyances let alone real, lasting injustices. Every one of us wants justice. And the Bible doesn’t tell you, “Well, shame on you. You shouldn’t want justice.” That’s part of being made in God’s image. Yes, our desire can be out of proportion, like when the person doesn’t put on their turn signal when they’re turning and you get stuck behind them and then you want to smite them with a thousand thunder bolts, that’s justice out of proportion.
Our desire for justice can be misplaced when you want to take vengeance into your own hands. But as a matter of principle, our desire for justice is right and good. God is a God of justice, and one of the promises He gives to His people – God sees, God knows. Perhaps the degree to which some of this language of fire and vengeance sounds to us out of place may be because so many of us have faced such real small injustices. But in war-torn places in the world, or in moments of profound backstabbing or moral or legal injustice or abuse or violation, surely we say, “Lord, You must make this right. How can we have peace when so much is wrong in the world and wrong in my life?”
Here’s one of the ways – you entrust yourself to the God who promises to judge justly. No one else may see, no one else may know – God sees, God knows.
Then Paul’s benediction is also a prayer that they would be delivered. So you go back and you look at what Paul says in chapter 3, verse 2 – “Pray for us as happened among you,” verse 2, “that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.” That’s a good prayer.
So, yes, for the Lord of peace to reign in your life means you have confidence that He will one day right every wrong, but it also means we are perfectly right to pray, “God, would You deliver me from these unjust circumstances? Would You deliver me from this affliction and from this oppression?” Paul prays for it. I wonder do we pray for it? I mean, do we really pray for this kind of peace?
There are two dangers in prayer. Praying like we are in charge, and praying like God isn’t in charge.
To the one we have to say, “Not my will but Yours be done.” We’re not in charge. But to the other, we have to say, “Ask boldly.” I believe for many of us our danger may just be in the second half of that equation. Not praying as if we’re in charge, but praying as if God isn’t really in charge. As if praying wouldn’t really do something.
You know, when people say, “Well, I’ll pray for you,” and hopefully they mean it, or when you say, “No, there’s nothing you can really do for me right now, but would you pray?” Do you really think deep in your heart, “Eehhh, well, it won’t hurt. I guess you can pray.” Or do you think, “This is absolutely the best, most fruitful, most effective thing you could do in my life, with all that I’m hurting with, all that I’m struggling with, would you pray because there’s a God in heaven and He loves us and He listens to us.”
The mighty Apostle Paul says, “Here’s what you can do for me, Thessalonians. You can pray.” And Paul, who suffered shipwreck and beatings and stonings, he’s not too spiritual to say, “Pray that we would be delivered from wicked and evil men. May the Lord of peace protect you.”
That’s the first way in which God shows Himself, Christ shows Himself to be the Lord of peace. Protection from the world.
Second, and here we’ll spend most of our time, and then the last point will be more quickly. When he says “the Lord of peace,” he’s thinking also of harmony and obedience in the church. Harmony and obedience in the church.
So follow with me here as we do a quick blitz overview of what’s going on in 2 Thessalonians.
There are two big internal issues in the church. Now the external issue we’ve already seen, there’s persecution and affliction. But inside the church there are two big issues. Here’s the first issue among the Thessalonians – There are some false teachers who are saying that Jesus has already returned.
Look at chapter 2, verse 1: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?”
Seems like a strange thing to be confused about, but they’re imagining that, “Wow, this resurrection event happened within our lifetimes, and Jesus said He was coming back,” and they’re really on the edge of their seat. When is this going to happen? And some people start saying that’s already happened and the day of the Lord has come and maybe they’re already living in this new eschaton, this new sort of age, and they don’t realize it. Well, if they are and this is some sort of new heavenly reign to come or this is what Christ has been anticipating, then that would have all sorts of effects on how we live our lives.
Some of them are confused. Maybe they’re joyful, “Ah, we made it.” Maybe they’re scared, “What happened? What did I miss?” But a spirit, verse 2, or a spoken word or a letter seeming to be from us.
Imagine how easy it would have been, letters in the ancient world. How do you know? Somebody shows up, “Hey, I got a letter from the Apostle Paul.” Well, how do you know it’s really from the Apostle Paul?
Turn to the end of the book and you see verse 17, very deliberately Paul explains, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.”
As is common in the ancient world, most letter writing took place by scribes. You dictate. We see this with many of Paul’s letters. Sometimes at the very end in Romans, “I, Tertius, I write this letter.” Paul’s not the one physically writing it, he’s dictating it to a scribe.
But here Paul says, “Ah, when I get to the end of my letters, you can know it’s from me because I always sign my John Paul Handcock there at the end and I write in my own letters. Here’s my distinctive handwriting.” He’s adding this here to the Thessalonians so that they know, okay, don’t be alarmed by the supposed letters coming from me. This is what I’ve really written.
So one of the issues internally in the church, a whole bunch of people are confused whether false teachers are trying to lead them astray or they just became confused on their own, they’re thinking, “Ah, the Lord Jesus has already returned. The day of the Lord has already come.”
There’s a second issue. We’ll see in a moment. It’s related to the first issue. So that’s the one internal issue. The second is that some people were disorderly in the church and they showed this disorderly behavior in particular by not working.
Look at chapter 3, verse 6 – “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” Not Idelwild, that’s a very fine road in town, we live nearby, but idleness, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
This was already an issue, it seems, in the first letter. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul says, “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle.” There were some in their midst who were refusing to work.
Now Paul does not explicitly link the two issues, but it’s easy to see how they were related. There’s a whole constellation of teachings here that Paul considers part of the authoritative apostolic tradition. You look up at chapter 2:15, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us.” Chapter 3, verse 6, “Don’t have anything to do with a brother not walking in accord with the tradition you received from us.” Paul says there is a whole body of truth I taught you and some of you are forgetting it.
You can see the connection here. If the day of the Lord has already come, Jesus returned, we’re in some Resurrection state, we’re in some new heavens and new earth, some eschaton, maybe some millennium, well, then, why keep busting our tails out here? There’s nothing more for God to judge. There’s nothing more for God to do. We’re already in our long-awaited reward. If somebody told you Jesus returned, the day of the Lord has already happened, you’re in it, you made it, here you are, this is the new reality. All right. Party time. Why do we need to work?
Work was present before the Fall, so work… We’re going to work in heaven. Now don’t sigh, it’s going to be good work, it’s not going to have thorns and thistles. We’re going to be busy with things. The importance of hard work is stressed in Proverbs, Paul talks about it. One of the reasons, he says here, why he’s refusing to be paid for his Gospel work, even though he makes clear many times that Gospel workers have a right to be paid for their Gospel work, Paul says for himself he’s going to forego that right because he doesn’t want anyone to think that the example is when you become a Christian, then you get to be lazy.
May it never be the case that any of your parents or your employers think, “Ah, this person was so hardworking, so disciplined, and then they became a Christian [sound effect] grades tanked, work tanked, they knew how to write lazy, spiritual-sounding answers on their tests.” No, Paul says you have work to do.
So what does this mean with the Lord of peace? Well, it means in order for there to be peace in this community, which is threatening to be divided by some who are refusing to work, it means, verse 12, we command such persons to work and to earn a living. Notice back up in verse 10, this is very important, he says, “If anyone is not willing to work.” So let’s be clear, Paul’s not talking about little children, not talking about the elderly, he’s not talking about the sick or widows who had little access to making a living for themselves. He’s talking about those who are simply unwilling. Not unable, there’s always people among God’s family that are unable, willing but unable. No, this is the category able but unwilling.
He’s probably thinking of two groups in particular. One would be younger widows. We don’t have time to fully unpack this. You can read about it in 1 Timothy, but there he warns in 1 Timothy 5 against some widows who become idlers and they go about from house to house as gossips and busybodies. He says in 1 Timothy 5:14 – “These women should marry, bear children, manage their households” because there was a widows’ fund in the church. The church collected, this is a fund to support widows because widows in particular in the ancient world, it’s not like women go out and have lots of opportunities in employment, they can maybe sell cloth, they can do some things through the home, but they don’t just go out as men had opportunities to do. So the church had a widows’ fund, how to support widows.
But Paul writes to Timothy about those who are “truly widows.” Already there he saw that there were some who said, “Ah, good, I’m a widow. The church gets to support me. I don’t have to do anything” and they were idlers, Paul said, and they just went around and became gossips and busybodies. They were young enough, Paul says, what you should do is you should try to get married again and to have children and to manage your household.
But for those who have no family to care for them, or they’re past the age of being mothers or keepers of the home, that’s who Paul refers to as truly widows. Now of course the others are widows, too, but he means truly widows, that is those who are in true need of this assistance. So for them, yes, the church is there to help and provide. But if you have an opportunity, and you’re simply unwilling, so that’s one category of people, are likely these younger widows who had just gotten idle and just gotten used to being, “Hey, this is a nice way to live my life.”
Then certainly he has in mind men, probably mostly those men. “If anyone is not willing to work, let him,” let him,” not eat.” Now this was a hard word for those brothers. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. Now you might hear that and think, “Well, that’s just something my parents made up,” or, “That’s something that the World War II generation lived through the Great Depression made up.” Well, no. It’s part of biblical teaching. When people who can work refuse to work, it is not good for them, it is not good for their family, it is not good for the Church inside and it is not good for the witness of the Church outside. Paul says you are able to work, go and find a way to work.
Obviously, we know there are situations where you’re out of work for a time and you’re looking… All of the many variables of life. But we can certainly understand that this is still a relevant word.
The remedy may seem drastic. Look at verse 14: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”
Here is a proper use of shame. We tend to think of shame as just a bad word. You should not shame, shame is always bad. Well, you read Paul and you realize shame is a very complicated emotion, or moral affection. Sometimes shame is bad, when it’s misplaced, that is when you are ashamed for things that weren’t your fault or your forgiven for and you should no longer be ashamed of them.
But in Paul’s letters shame often serves a godly purpose, because it directs people to better behavior, to godliness, and points us away from behaviors about which we should be ashamed. If you’re feeling shame for something this morning, you’re going to have to talk to some mature Christians in your life to help you sort out is that misplaced bad shame or is that God’s real shame wanting to direct you to a better way of living and to find forgiveness in Christ.
So here, Paul says, these Christians… Now in becoming a Christian they’re already ostracized somewhat from wider society, but now they are to be ostracized from their Christian society. This doesn’t mean a complete break of communication, na na na, I don’t hear you, I don’t see you. I mean, how else would these people receive this instruction? So it’s not that you have no communication with them, but it means no more business as usual. You’re not aiding and abetting them in their life of disobedience. No, I am not going to help you and give you, we would call them enablers, to continue to live a life of disobedience. Take note of them, have nothing to do with them.
But notice, notice this – this is not quite excommunication. This is not the same language we find in 1 Corinthians 5, “hand one over to Satan.” In the ancient world if you moved from the category of a friend, the only place you went to was an enemy. But notice Paul is not saying these people are moving now into the category of your enemy. No, they’re still your brother.
Verse 15: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” You are not seeking to punish them but to warn them.
Our friends and family members may not understand this, but we can use a verse like this and a passage of Scripture like this, maybe to help explain, if not to others at least to ourselves, what we’re trying to do because so many of us with friends or family or it breaks our heart sometimes with children, have to say, “I love you, you are not my enemy, and I know you’re going to have a hard time believing this, but I am treating you this way and I’m telling you this, because I do love you, because I want to warn you, and I cannot be any part of enabling ungodly behavior. You know that and I know that’s hard for you to understand and hard for you to accept, and it may feel to you like it’s not loving.”
But that’s what Paul is telling the Church to do. This is what it means to be God’s people.
Notice Paul’s prayer for peace does not entail passivity. This is the mistake many people make. They think peace in the church means everyone gets along, no one does anything, just move on. And that’s very frustrating when there’s injustice. It’s very frustrating when there’s something to be done and someone says, “Well, we just all we need to be at peace,” which means nothing’s a big deal, don’t do anything about it.
Well, it’s true. Sometimes there are things that are not a big deal. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies that breed quarrels.” Sometimes the right answer is, “That’s pointless. Drop it.” But often the way to peace requires a lot of effort and a lot of exertion, and there are some in the church who refuse to do that.
Just like here, there are some who refuse to work. You can understand how this was disruptive in the body. Invariably, wouldn’t that cause problems in families, in friend groups, and in the church? They’ve got to watch and say, “Wait a second. Are they getting financial support?” or wonder “Why am I working so hard and they’re doing nothing?”
Paul says here’s the first step – you need to get to work. Second step, take note of those people, warn them, have nothing to do with them.
Now you understand that likely will not feel like peace to the ones who are being shamed. But is the way of peace for the whole church. If we are a faithful, healthy church, or you are a faithful, healthy Christian, there will be times when you, or we, say things or do things that will feel to other people mean, unloving, or un-Christian. Now that is not an excuse, of course, to be mean or unloving or un-Christian, and sometimes that accusation may be true. But let me say it again – if we are faithful, healthy Christians in a faithful, healthy church, there will be times when you say the right thing and you’re doing the right thing and the people receiving it, it will to them feel like the very opposite of peace.
But Paul says this is the way to peace. It requires a lot of hard work and it requires you Thessalonians to do some hard things.
Notice that Paul’s prayer is hopeful. “Now,” look again there at verse 16, “may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
Even the benediction, even the prayer, is hopeful that you guys are going to figure this out, that the people who are idle are going to get to work, that the ones who need to be ashamed will be ashamed, that they’ll be warned, that they’ll come back, that this is not going to split apart the church. The Lord’s peace will be with you all.
And then finally, and just briefly, but perhaps most importantly, peace means protection from the world, harmony and obedience in the Church, and it means comfort in the Gospel.
This is most implicit but it’s also most important. Peace with God. The peace that passes all understanding. The peace that leads to eternal life.
Now to be fair, this is not mainly what this letter is about, but we certainly see it suggested here. Look at chapter 2, verse 13 – “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us.”
You see what Paul is saying – may the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 16, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
What a rich couple of paragraphs. We have election, redemption, salvation, atonement, sanctification. Paul wants them to experience this peace.
The word isn’t mentioned, but the idea is. The ultimate peace is to know the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and to know God our Father who loves us and to know His eternal comfort and good hope. The peace that matters most is the peace that only comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s what hopefully you hear every Sunday here. That’s what we sing and celebrate about at Christmas.
Most of you have probably seen A Charlie Brown Christmas before, way back from 1965. They thought it would be a complete flop with the jazz score, which has become so famous, and the very simple animation, sort of slow, melancholy delivery, but it’s become a classic. You probably, if you haven’t seen it you can go see it, but most of you can picture one of the climatic scenes as Charlie Brown is despondent, that’s what Charlie Brown does, and he’s despondent with the commercialization of Christmas and everyone makes fun of his puny little Christmas tree. He cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” at which point Linus comes, center stage, and he recites from Luke 2 in the King James:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
And Linus finishes the recitation and then he says to his friend, “That is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Now many others have pointed this out, this is some not new, it is not a new revelation to me, but go watch the clip, “Linus Christmas Speech,” and see for yourself. Linus, you remember he’s the character who’s always holding his blue security blanket. As many kids do, they have a stuffed animal, they have a blanket, and it’s there and they sleep with it and it’s always with them, it makes them feel safe, secure, unafraid. At the exact words, where Linus reading Luke 2 and he says that the angels announced “fear not,” he drops the blanket out of his hands. Go watch it for yourself. It’s quite deliberate, quite intentional. That as he holds it up and he trembles for a moment, and they were sore afraid and he holds the blanket, and the angels announce “fear not.”
There is no need for any earthly security blanket. Eternal comfort is here. Good hope has come, and even in that old Christmas special it’s not only a verbal recitation but a poignant little picture of the Gospel, that only with Jesus can you drop the blanket. Only with Jesus can you know true and everlasting peace.
“And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, may we know this peace. Deliver us from our enemies. Give us peace in the body of Christ. And may we know most of all this eternal comfort and good hope through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.