Why do we need forbearance? What is the peace of God? (2018-06-03)

The implications of understanding that man received the ‘knowledge’ of good and evil, but not the ability, leads us to treat others differently. Realizing that we “have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18) leads us to see our brothers and sisters, indeed all of mankind, as under the same condition. That is why the world is in conflict, from our personal relationships to relationships between countries. Although the solution is “to love our enemies as ourselves and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mat. 5:44) this being the ultimate goal, on the way there, in a more practical way, Paul says, “Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Phi. 4:5 – ASV)

In dealing with our own sins, we need to be serious, and confess our sins, and not excuse ourselves before the Lord as it is a very personal internal matter between God and us. However, in dealing with other people’s sins, we need to have forbearance, realizing they also cannot follow their knowledge of good and evil because they do not have the ability. Forbearance is an external matter of how we treat those around us. Just as Christ is showing us forbearance all the time, the Christ in us is the reality of our forbearance to all men. As Christ is lived out of us, we are no longer legalistic with all men. We do not exert our judgement simply based on our knowledge of good and evil. In fact we will think in a similar way as Christ and forgive those around us and help them see Christ. “For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17) That is forbearance. This forbearance should “be known to all men.” (Phi 4:5 – ASV)

Through forbearance, we are on the pathway to love. To love someone, realize we need to forbear them for their inability to do what is right. That is why 1 Cor. 13:4-7 tells us what love is. Most of what love is requires forbearance. “Love is patient, love is kind,…” (1 Cor. 13:4) Love “is not provoked, does not take into account the wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5) Love “rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all thing, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7) Each item of love is just an extension of forbearance. To be patient and kind requires forbearance. To not be provoked requires forbearance. To not take account of the wrong we suffered requires forbearance. To rejoice in the truth, when it finally comes out, requires forbearance. To bear all things, believe all thing, hope all things, and endure all things requires our utmost forbearance. Forbearance is the essence of love. When we forbear, we “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us].” (Mat. 5:44) Only then can we realize the reality of “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

Realize that we, ourselves, are not able to do this. Our anger comes when we feel our rights are violated, especially when we know we are right. That is what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has taught us. In fact, we even make up our own rules and act like gods. So Paul urges us to forbear. We have to remain in the enjoyment of the Lord, not grudgingly, but savouring the sweetness of his grace. “The Lord is at hand.” (Phi. 4:5) ‘At hand’ not only means he is coming soon in time, but he is ever present with us in space. The reality of Christ living inside of us is our forbearance. That is why when someone wrongs us, we can “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your [forbearance, reasonableness or gentle spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing.” (Phi. 4:5)

Anxiety comes when we think we have done wrong or we have lost control, or when we think others have done wrong, especially, when it affects the people close to us or ourselves. When this happens, realize the Lord is at hand. Realize that Christ is now living in you. When things that promote anxiety happens, realize the Christ in you. When we realize Christ is in us, that everything is “from him and through him and to him” (Rom. 11:36), our thinking is one of thanksgiving and rejoicing. We still request from our Father that everything will be fixed, but we will do it joyfully and with thanksgiving. That is why, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made know to God.” (Phi. 4:6) Notice when we make our request known to God, the prayer and supplication is ‘with’ thanksgiving rather than ‘and’ thanksgiving. Our prayers and supplications for things that concern us are expressed in thankfulness, as we are still rejoicing, realizing the Lord has won the victory already. In this way, we can “be anxious for nothing.” (Phi. 4:6) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phi. 4:7)

“The peace of God” is that sense that Christians all had when they realize that their sins were forgiven and they are somehow right with God when we first believed. Somehow our conscience became cleared before God when we first believed and we knew his sacrifice on the cross saved us. This is because, by the shedding of his blood, Christ has redeemed us and we now have peace with God, under a clear conscience. This is the peace offering in the Old Testament. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14) Our conscience is cleansed not by our abilities, which are only dead works because it is through the flesh, but by the blood of Christ, because it is through the eternal Spirit. That is how the Spirit establishes peace for us with God. We should seek and live in this peace all the time as the tangible reality within our spirit. It is how the second covenant, where “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Heb. 8:10), will be fulfilled. The peace of God in our spirits will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That is how we ‘know Him.’ (Heb. 8:11) We need to “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Col. 3:15) ‘Rule’ in our hearts means to ‘arbitrate’ (Col. 3:15 – Recovery Version), with a sense of ‘let rule’ (brabeueto – Greek). Paul is saying, “The peace of Christ, let rule in your hearts,” to give the sweet enjoyment, the peace of fellowship with Christ in our hearts, ‘let rule’ in us. This is how the Spirit communicates with us. The peace of Christ is his fellowship and speaking within our hearts. Let the peace of Christ within be the arbitrator in all our decision makings so that we would “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” (Phi. 3:9) Our righteousness is not legalistic based on our judgements according to the law, but it is in Christ, based on grace, depending on faith in him.

This is how the Body is built together into one new man. “By abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two [Jews and Gentiles] into one new man, making peace.” (Eph. 2:15) We have to let the peace of God have the final say in all our decision makings. That is how we abolish all the ordinances we have established between our ‘churches.’ I wonder what the Lord would have said when we formed the great schism in our churches over the theology of Christ. Would he value the issue as we do? Realize we have simply exercised our knowledge of good and evil and headed up all things in us.. This is the same in our daily lives. Wou;d he value what we are fighting for? We need to finally focus on Christ and let Christ alone be our leader. “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is Christ.” (Mat. 23:10) When we let the peace of God rule in our hearts and minds, there will be no enmity, just unity. The peace of God among the brothers and sisters of the Lord, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and will give us the forbearance to build the one Body of Christ. “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17) “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling.” (Eph. 4:4) We will finally have the unity that God wants, that is his will (Eph. 1:9-10), to bring in the New Jerusalem, the foundation (‘jeru’) of peace (‘salem’). In this peace of God, we will enjoy him without anxiety. We can finally let our judgements based on our knowledge of good and evil be at peace without anxiety, and let the peace of God be the arbitrator of our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Instead of making decisions, judging them with our knowledge of good and evil, we let the peace of God arbitrate within our hearts and minds. When we live with the peace of God within our hearts and minds, we are following our conscience in our living. This restores us to a dependency on eating the tree of life rather than depending on our own knowledge of good and evil. We are dependent on the living Spirit within us to enlighten us rather than our own knowledge and judgement. That is how “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phi. 4:7) Notice this is to ‘guard’ our hearts and minds rather than to ‘guide’ our hearts and minds. Realize, as believers, we are already “in Christ Jesus,” we do not need his peace to guide us there; we need his peace to guard us there. The peace of God keeps us in that sweet fellowship in Christ so we maybe “found in him.” (Phi. 3:9) What a blessing this is. The divine life that we were born into when we believed has placed us in Christ Jesus. In this life, we have a discerning Spirit who tells us what is of God. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) This is how the divine life, the Spirit, operates in men to give them the light of life. This is how our souls are “enlightened by the light of life.” (Job 33:30) The “peace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1) becomes our enjoyment as we eat of him as life to us. “And you shall sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, and rejoice before the Lord your God.” (Deu. 27:7) In the peace of God, we have the rest and the enjoyment of who he is, “For from his fulness we have all received.” (John 1:16) We just need to remain in his fullness, enjoying all that he is. So “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say; rejoice!” (Phi. 4:4)

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me [Paul], practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phi. 4:8-9)

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