St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Our God Is A God Of Peace

Sermon on Hebrews 13:20-21

Text: Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “peace?” I would guess that the picture would be different for most of us. Some might think of a quiet lake shore or being up in the mountains. Others might think of a gentle breeze blowing over a field. If you are a parent of a young one, peace is when the child finally falls asleep. Though the word “peace” might be hard to define, we know it when we feel it. In our text, the writer describes God using the word “peace.” We see that OUR GOD IS A GOD OF PEACE. 1. He Brought About Our Peace and 2. He Equips Us To Live In Peace With Him.

In this one sentence, the author of this letter summarizes all that Christ has to offer to the Christian. We are going to look at these two verses phrase by phrase. The first phrase is “The God of peace.” This phrase is so wonderful, because the writer could have highlighted the fact that God is a God of justice, who does not look the other way when sin is committed. God has made it very clear in his Word what he demands of all people. He demands that every one of our thoughts, words, and actions are to live to his standard of perfection. As we examine our lives, we know all too well that we have not lived up to that standard. There are the times that I spoke in anger to someone who frustrated me. There are the times that I quickly looked the other way when someone needed my help, because I didn’t want to be bothered. My thoughts have not always been what they should be. We know that God is serious about those who break his law. He describes himself in Exodus 20:5, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Yes, he is the great Judge, who will shake the heavens and earth in his wrath.

However, he is also a God of peace. How can this be? It is true because of the next two phrases in this sentence. The first is “through the blood of the eternal covenant.” The people who originally received this letter were people who had been brought up in with all of the Old Testament laws and regulations. They had observed the sacrifice of many animals. They knew that blood was connected to sin. An animal was put to death on the altar when sins were committed. The animal that was sacrificed was to be a perfect animal. All of those sacrifices pointed ahead to the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God on the cross. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because he did not commit any sins while he was here on the earth. That perfect life was sacrificed to pay for the sins of the entire world. Through the blood that was shed on the cross, God’s justice was satisfied. Where there was anger, there was now peace.

However, that precious blood would have been wasted in Calvary’s dust if Christ had remained in the grave. This brings us to the next phrase, “The God of peace . . . brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus.” Christ’s resurrection from the dead is living proof that sin has been paid for and heaven is opened. The filled cross and the empty tomb are seals of our salvation. Because of the blood of the eternal covenant and the fact that our Lord Jesus has been brought back from the dead, we have peace with God. The apostle Paul describes this peace in Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The fact that God could love us so that he was willing to do all this for our salvation is beyond our comprehension. This peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is described in our text as “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” This description reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 10, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) This is what he did so that we could be at peace with God. Because he is our great Shepherd, we know that we can walk through the life knowing that he will lead us beside the quiet waters and into the green pastures. He is the one who protects us even when we walk through the darkest valleys. Jesus is the great Shepherd who will bring us at the last to the place of eternal peace. Our God of peace has brought us peace with him now. We will live in that peace for all eternity.

The two verses that we are looking at are really a prayer that the writer of this letter had for his original readers, and for us, as well. In verse 20, we see that the prayer is addressed to the God of peace. In verse 21, we find the content of his prayer. “Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him.” First of all, he prays that God would equip us to do his will and then work in us to do his will. What is the will of God? What is it that he wants? God’s will, first of all, is that sinners repent and are saved. This part of God’s will was accomplished the day that you were brought to faith. The second part of God’s will is that these redeemed sinners then strive in thankful faith to follow his commandments. The writer prays that God would equip us to do this and then work in us what is pleasing to him.

God equips us to do his will when we are brought to faith. He gives us the tools to carry out his will. He shows us what is pleasing to him. Now, when we look at the law of God, we do not see it as something that we have to do in order to get right with God. Rather, we see the law as a guideline for our lives. We clearly see those things that are pleasing to God and we want to do them. We see those things that are displeasing to him and want to avoid them. God equips us to do his will by creating faith in our hearts.

Because of that faith, we find our motivation to do his will. We see all that was done for our salvation and we want to thank God. We see these commandments of God as opportunities to show our love for God. If it hadn’t been for the working of the Holy Spirit, we would have no desire to live for God. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:13, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God gives the faith he requires through his grace in word and sacrament. God also grows the fruits that he looks for on the tree of faith through that same grace. God equips us to live in peace with him as we go out in service to him.

As the writer concludes his prayer, he says, “through Jesus Christ.” These verses are at the conclusion of his letter. He is reminding his readers of then and now that it is not through the many animal sacrificed on Jewish altars or by anything that we do that we are saved. Only through Jesus Christ does God give pardon, peace, and power. This is a fact that we can never be reminded of too often. It is the very bedrock of our faith. There will always be a part of our nature that wants to take at least some credit for our salvation. How foolish that is and how harmful to our salvation! For, if we think that we help out a little, God says that we must do it all. We quickly realize that we cannot. God again reminds us that Jesus has done it all for us and through faith in him alone are we saved.

As we are reminded of that, we can well understand why these verses conclude with the words, “to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” All glory belongs to that perfect Savior forever and ever. We praise him here on this earth with our entire lives. We will praise him forever in the peace of heaven. We find one such hymn of praise in the opening verses of the book of Revelation, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:5,6)

As we began our sermon, we spoke about images that come to mind when we think of peace. The problem with all of the images that we mentioned is that they can easily be broken. The serene scene of the beach or the mountains can be ruined by other people coming through. That gentle breeze becomes a strong wind. The baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying. That is the problem with earthly peace. The peace that we enjoy with our God will never come to an end. He gave us peace when he sent that great Shepherd to be our Savior. He gives us peace as we walk each day beside him. We find our peace in living for him. We will live forever in peace with him. We are at peace because our God is peace. Amen.