Roland H Brown

John 14: 27

Colossians 1: 19, 20 (to “his cross”)

Philippians 4: 4-9

         We have had our attention drawn to two of the great basic matters in Christianity, the matter of faith, which is fundamental; and the matter of hope, a living hope and a blessed hope, as we sang -

         O bright and blessed hope

                    (Hymn 160).

May it become more so, dear brethren, as a result of our time together.   Would that that bright hope might become brighter and more blessed to us, and result in greater thanksgiving to the God who has secured for us such a wondrous portion eternally.   What we have had has encouraged me to speak a little as to another great feature of Christianity, which is peace, something that people strive after in the world.   All of us, I suppose, have said at times that we wanted a bit of peace and quiet, and would like to turn aside from a troublesome and tumultuous world and the cares and burdens in it, for a little peace.  That might be, of course, a very selfish desire, but what I want to speak about is something much more noble than that, the peace of Christ and the peace of God, as referred to in these passages that I have read.  And they are to be ours, dear brethren.  The peace of God Himself is to be our known and enjoyed portion. 

         I referred to this verse in John because the Lord says, “I leave peace with you”, and then He says, “I give my peace to you”.  The Lord left something here before He went on high.  He left a little circle here on the earth, persons that were very different from one another naturally.  If you read the gospels you will see, for example, that Peter was a very different character of man from John, but they were all united around Him, and as Peter said, “we have left all things and have followed thee”, Matt 19: 27.  The Lord never contradicted that.  What men they were!  Men who had left family and business and domestic comfort to follow the Man of sorrows.  What He had to offer them was not outwardly a comfortable life such as most of us enjoy; it was a life of hardship, it was a life of suffering.  Have you ever thought about that?  What was it that caused these men to leave their comforts, their business, their family, their circumstances, to follow the lonely Man of sorrows?  It was a little circle, few in number, but the nucleus of what God is going to tabernacle with eternally, the nucleus of the assembly.  And in that circle He left peace.  He did not leave them at odds with one another, He did not leave them each insisting upon their own will, He left them at peace.  What a blessed service that was!  How skilfully the Lord worked with those men that were the product of His own personal ministry, His own personal craftsmanship!  There was peace left with them.  Before He left, the traitor was exposed.  The Lord was going to leave peace in the circle.  It could not have been left with the son of perdition there.  The Lord in His grace humbled Peter, who was to become the spearhead of the Spirit’s activities in the Acts.  He prayed for him, and in His ways with him Peter discovered his own weaknesses.  He would appear to have been an impulsive man.  A man like that in this circle would not have been very peaceable to live with, but the Lord served him in His grace and in His love.  Satan demanded to have him, Luke 22: 31.  There was in Peter, as with us all, what Satan could claim.  He had the flesh in him but the Lord served him so that, as He left, this little circle was prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and He left peace with them.  No doubt He laboured with them all.  There were the two who wanted a place on either side of Him, and immediately that aroused the indignation of the others because secretly they wanted a place too.  So He spoke about Himself and He spoke about anyone that would be chief among them being their servant, Matt 20: 26.  With what grace the Lord had served these men; how tenderly He washed their feet!  He left them an example that in His absence, they should be at peace with one another.  That was His desire. 

         It was Paul’s desire, too, as he wrote to the Corinthians, “be at peace”.  He says, “rejoice; be perfected; be encouraged; be of one mind; be at peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you”, 2 Cor 13: 11.  You see that what disrupts peace, what brings in disorder, what brings in anxiety, destroys the enjoyment of the love of Christ.  It does not alter His love towards us, but it affects our enjoyment and experience of it.  We need to be in restful conditions to receive from the Lord, and the Lord would serve us as He served His own, that the features of the order of man that would bring disruption into the Christian circle might be excluded. 

         So He says, “I leave peace with you”.  But then He says something much greater than that, “I give my peace to you”, ’My peace’.  What a peace that was!  As you think of the Lord as the true ark approaching the waters of the Jordan, you think of all that lay before Him, the awfulness for Him of becoming a sin-offering!  What peace marked that blessed Man in those circumstances!  John records how He opened His heart to the Father: He said, “the hour is come”, chap 17: 1.  What an hour that was, the great focus you might say, of eternity, all depending on one blessed Man; everything for God depending upon Him, everything for us, dear brethren, hanging upon Him.  In that momentous hour He speaks to His Father about His own.  With what affection, with what love He speaks to the Father!  He commits them to the Father, that they might be kept in His name, that they might be sanctified by the truth, in order that these conditions of peace might be maintained among them.  He is thinking of them and not only of them, but in that momentous hour He was looking down the dispensation to those who would “believe on me through their word”, John 17: 20.  Think of the Lord Jesus in that momentous hour looking down to the present day, looking down to each of us in this company who have believed on Him through the word of His apostles, who through faith, as we have been reminded, have embraced the testimony of God concerning His Son.  You think of His desire “that they may be one, as we are one” (v 22), that everything that would disrupt and divide and disunite might be excluded.  We know how successful the enemy has been.  The Lord spoke of the wolf coming that he might scatter the flock, and I suppose the flock of Christ has never been more scattered publicly than in the day in which we are, but His desire remains the same.  As we gather together and give Him His place He would ensure that these conditions of peace might be known by us - “my peace”, the peace that can never be broken through the sorrows of the testimony.  What the will of God involved for Him!  “I give my peace to you”.  Dear brethren, what do we know about these things?  As I read a verse like this I am measured more than any in this room as to what I know about the peace of Christ.  As we have read of the peace of God, it surpasses every understanding.

         I read that passage in Colossians because it tells us how the peace of God has been secured.  This is not simply having peace towards God (that is one of the great blessings in the gospel, that we can have peace towards God, no longer afraid of God as a Judge; we can have peace towards Him in the knowledge that everything has been met righteously to His eternal satisfaction), but this passage that I have read in Colossians I think refers to the peace of God, the Godhead.  It speaks of One in whom “all the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell, and by him to reconcile all things to itself”, by Him!  What language this is!  May it not just remain remarkable language to us but may the Spirit of God convey to us something of the immensity of what is contained in these verses, that all things should be reconciled to God by one blessed Man.  Paul says here, “having made peace by the blood of his cross”.  There could be no reconciliation of all things to God without that.  That is how it was done, dear brethren.  Men, as we have already remarked, strive to reach peace through compromise, through negotiation.  They have tried it in Ireland, they are trying it in the Middle East, and it can never be successful, and the Scriptures tells us why.  Peace is the fruit of righteousness; it is not the fruit of compromise.  Peace is never brought about through compromise or agreeing to differ, or to settle differences half way.  Peace is the fruit of righteousness, and if all things were to be reconciled to the Godhead it was necessary that righteousness should be established, and established on an unchallengeable basis.  The expression that is used here is a very remarkable one; He has “made peace by the blood of his cross”.  Of course, what the apostle is referring to is the blood of Jesus, but that is not how it is put; it is put as the blood of His cross.  So the blood and the cross are presented to us.  Now I think when it comes to the question of our sins, Scripture teaches us that it is the blood of Jesus.  I trust that everyone in this company is sheltering under it, but as far as God is concerned righteousness has been established through the shedding of that blood.  God said, “when I see the blood” - ’when I see it’, Exod 12: 13.  I do not know what your appreciation of the blood of Jesus is.  I would have to confess that mine is very small.  I am thankful that it has grown a little since I first came to know Him.  That is why I feel at the Supper week by week, the Lord and the Spirit would help us to grow in our appreciation of Him.  He speaks of "my blood, which is poured out for you”, Luke 22: 20.  That is intended to come home to us personally, week by week.  That was the Lord Jesus speaking on the night in which He was delivered up; He was speaking about the pouring out of His own life blood and it being poured out for them.  Every time we partake of that cup I believe we are to be freshly impressed by it.  The great fear is that through familiarity with both the Supper and the words that I have just quoted they could become a ritual.  The feasts of the Old Testament were established by God, but they are spoken of in the New Testament as the feasts of the Jews.  You see, there was no longer anything for God in them because His Son was rejected and left out, and I think it should be a concern with us all as we gather for the Supper that there might be a true calling of Him to mind, and that as we partake of the emblems our hearts are impressionable.  I believe we can ask the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit to increase our appreciation of that blood.  But whether our appreciation of it is large or whether it be small, God says, when I see it, when I see the blood.  Think of God the Father looking at the blood, the blood of His Son, as the apostle Paul puts it so affectingly, “the blood of his own”, His own!  What an affecting thing that is, “the assembly of God, which he has purchased with the blood of his own”, Acts 20: 28.  That was the basis on which the peace of God was established as regards mankind.  How it behoves us then as we think about these things to be at peace among ourselves, not to introduce anything of a discordant nature into that circle which has cost God so much.  But then it is not only the blood that is referred to here.  What is spoken of here also is the cross and what I learn from Scripture is that when the cross is particularly spoken about it is not so much a question of our sins but it is a question of our sinful state.  It is not a question simply of the offences, but it is a question of the offender, and God has had to deal with both.  There could be no peace without the removal judicially of the order of man that has caused offence to Him from under the eye of God.  The truth of that is to come home to us constantly, so that in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit we disallow what belongs to that order of man.  We are to disallow it in the family setting.  We often forget, you know, that our testimony begins in our households where the persons are who know us best, and in that circle, what I am as after the flesh is to be disallowed.  In the local meeting, in ministering a word to one another, all that belongs to that order of man is to be disallowed, because it brings into the Christian circle what God has removed in order that His peace might be established.  He has “made peace by the blood of his cross”.

         Now in writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “Rejoice”.  I believe if what we have had in these two readings laid hold of us, the reality of faith and the reality of hope, it would bring great joy into our souls.  The apostle says, “Rejoice in the Lord always”, not just sometimes.  What a challenge it is, is it not?  He could write to the Romans that they might be full of "all joy and peace in believing", chap 15: 13.  I would have to say that I am not always like that.  Those that know me best would say, very often not like it, but there it is, “Rejoice in the Lord always”.  There are no sorrows of a personal character, there are no sorrows testimonially or in our circumstances however great, that should take away our joy in Christ.  ’Rejoice in Him always’, Paul says, and he says it again.  There is no idle repetition in the Scriptures.  As we were reminded in the reading, “Every scripture is divinely inspired”, 2 Tim 3: 16.  I think our brother who quoted it said, ‘God-breathed’.  You would not expect to find any idle repetition in anything that was ‘God-breathed’!  He says it twice, “Rejoice”, because we need it.  We need to be reminded that in Christ we have a portion secured at great cost, which should be a source of inward joy and satisfaction to us, because He is the One in whom God has found His joy.  He has found great joy in Christ, both here in the days of His flesh and in the accomplishment of the will of God, even to the laying down of His life.  God’s pleasure also entered into the raising of Christ.  God has found good pleasure in one blessed Man and He is going to find His pleasure eternally in men that are like Him, “good pleasure in men”, Luke 2: 14.  Now God desires that we should each of us find our joy in Him, and this becomes an anchor for our souls in the day we are in, a day when apostasy is increasing on every hand, and pagan influences are sweeping across parts of the world where the light of the gospel has shone.  Also, the militant character of atheism is peculiar to the day we are in, where there is a rising in the western world of hatred, a visceral hatred of anything to do with God or faith in Him.  These are the conditions in which we are found, dear brethren, but the Lord said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it fear”, John 14: 27.  However dark the day, however difficult the conditions, and they may yet get much more difficult, the apostle says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice”.  He says, “The Lord is near.  Be careful about nothing”.  I do not think that means that we are to be careless, he is not suggesting that, but we are not to become agitated, we are not to become careworn like Martha.  She became careworn with the burdens that were upon her, and she missed the good part.  In fact her cares and her anxiety about them caused her to get out of her place and to speak to the Lord in an irreverent and unsuitable way, but the Lord loved her.  He did not love her any less because she did that, but He served her in grace.  “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but there is need of one, and Mary has chosen the good part”, Luke 10: 41, 42.  Then we read of Martha serving in another setting.  Lazarus was one of those at table "and Martha served", John 12: 2.  There is no suggestion of her getting out of her place; she was restored to the peace and the joy that is proper to the Christian circle. 

         Paul says “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.  What a wonderful thing that is, is it not?  How much there is that presses upon the hearts and spirits of the saints but, “let your requests be made known to God”.  It was what one man of God described as ‘faith’s outlet in pressure’.  You can always go into the presence of God, into the sanctuary.  This has been spoken of as going into the immediate presence of God.  In the tabernacle of old there was the veil.  Behind it was the Holy of holies where was the ark that was never seen save by the high priests.  To go in beyond that veil was certain death.  The high priest had bells on his robes (Exod 28: 33, 34) so that their sound could be heard, so that the people outside knew that he was still alive.  He went in once a year and then not without blood.  There was no drawing near to God without some reminder before Him of that great sacrifice, the basis on which everything had been established.  How solemn was the presence of God in those days, but you and I have a greater privilege: we can go in behind that veil.  We have the privilege to enter into the immediate presence of God and, unlike the Israelite, we are privileged to take account of the ark there.  There could be no greater privilege for the creature than that, to enter consciously into the presence of God and take account of His complacent love resting upon His beloved Son, to enter into a place, the peace of which has never, ever been intruded upon, nor could be.  It is preserved through the intrinsic, inherent holiness of God.  Dear brethren, that is what is presented to us as we are burdened and careworn.  We can make our requests known to God.  I do appeal, that as we pray to Him we might be sure that we are in the divine presence.  Even in the simple matter of giving thanks for food, it is said that the very food itself "is sanctified by God’s word and freely addressing him", 1 Tim 4: 5.  Such is the effect of the presence of God.  Be sure that your prayers do not become a ritual.  When you kneel down at night, that is a good custom.  Paul had customs like that.  “I bow my knees” (Eph 3: 14), and he says, “making mention of you at my prayers”, Eph 1: 16.  Daniel did it three times a day, Dan 6: 10.  I believe that is the sense of the presence of God.  The Lord said to His own, ‘You could not watch with me one hour’.  At that momentous time when He took His disciples with Him, they were not able to watch with Him one hour.  He puts it as though that was the very least that might have been expected!  How challenged we are, dear brethren, as to what we can sustain in prayer in the presence of God.  But not only praying for an hour, but with Me, “watch with me”, Matt 26: 38. 

         So Paul says to make our requests and supplication with thanksgiving.  How important it is to remember the thanksgiving!  We go in to God with requests but we have to remind ourselves, however burdened we are, that we have much more to thank God for than we have to ask Him for.  How easy it is to forget the thanksgiving; so the apostle says, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.  Then he says, “the peace of God, which surpasses every understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts”.  Our hearts and our thoughts are very feeble.  “Why are ye troubled? and why are thoughts rising in your hearts?” (Luke 24: 38), the Lord says.  Something happens and, oh dear, what are the consequences!  Let me get on the phone to somebody else and see what he thinks about it, and we run here and we run there.  What about going into the presence of God?  What about telling Him about it?  What about pouring into His ear the fears and doubts in my poor heart?  What a blessed thing it is as you do that, to find that peace entering your own soul, “the peace of God, which surpasses every understanding”.  It is for our safety, dear brethren.  Our hearts and our thoughts need guarding.  The best of us is weak; weak, mortal man.  We get things out of perspective, we tend to go to extremes one way or the other.  How blessed to get into the presence of God and find everything measured at its true worth, but above all to find that peace that has never been intruded upon, the peace of God’s presence, the peace of the sanctuary, guarding our hearts and our thoughts.  These are very blessed things, dear brethren, and they are the property of believers.

         And then the apostle says - and I touch on it briefly in closing - “For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true” and so on, “think on these things”.  That is a very practical word.  Our peace is often disturbed by what we read, by what we give our minds and our thoughts to, and the apostle here tells us what to think about.  God has provided an Object for our affections, for our hearts.  But there is also provision for our minds, that they should not run wild, that they should not be lawless, that we should not think "high thoughts above what we should think" (Rom 12: 3), but that our minds might be renewed and that we might give them to these things.  There are very blessed things that are worth thinking about.  You say, well, ’I read the ministry’, and that is good because that will bring these thoughts into your soul.  But I would urge that in reading you give time to think about it.  Do not just gallop through the books so that you can say you have read this number or that number, but allow what you read to lay hold of your soul.  The apostle says, “think on these things”.  Then he says, “What ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me”.  It was not only the apostle’s teaching - we are very thankful for the teaching of the apostle Paul - but along with the doctrine there was a working model.  If we open a book, especially when we are young, we like to see the pictures in it.  There is the reading, well, we will look at that, but a picture is much more vivid.   You can look at a picture and get the sense much quicker than ploughing through the written word.  Now there are no pictures in the Bible as such but, in a very wonderful way, there are pictures in the Bible.  In the Scriptures you will find not only the teaching of the truth but God has provided for us in giving us pictures, and these brethren, whom the apostle says were “beloved and longed for” (v 1), had a picture in the apostle.  In Acts 27 he was in a storm and he was at peace in it.  An aged brother in the locality where I came from said that he thought that Luke must have been a painter as well as a doctor, because the way he wrote of that shipwreck was so vivid.  He wrote as if you were almost standing on the deck.  You could hear the wind in the rigging, you could hear the howling wind and the creaking timbers and feel the desperation of the sailors as everything was jettisoned to save the ship, and then the whole thing breaking up and about to sink in the raging waves.  And in the midst of it all there was a man who could speak about the God “whose I am and whom I serve” (Acts 27: 23); the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, incomprehensible to the people around him.  It surpassed all understanding and it was guarding his heart and his thoughts in that crisis.  He says, “what ye have both learned, and received, and heard and seen in me”!  How extensive it is!  Along with the teaching there was an example of a man who knew something of the things of which he wrote in this chapter.  He knew the sanctuaries of God.  The psalmist was very concerned about the wicked and how they were prospering and he thought that doing the will of God did not get much reward, “Until I went into the sanctuaries of God”, (Ps 73: 17), then everything fell into place for him.  We are encouraged to approach.  “Let us approach”, Heb 4: 16.  A way of approach has been established through the blood of His cross.  It has been established at immense cost to God so that we should be able to go in freely at any time and open our hearts to Him about our simple matters here, none of which is too small to escape His notice, none of which is too great to exceed His power, but as we go in with our matters to that holy presence, the peace of God will garrison our hearts and our thoughts.  We need them garrisoned, never more so than at the present day.  May each of us prove these things, for His Name’s sake.


24th September 2010