“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’ ” (Acts 10:34-43)
World War II ended in 1974 for Japanese Lieutenant, Hiroo Onoda. That was the year Onoda came out of hiding on the remote Philippine Island of Lubang and handed over his sword. Peace had been made 29 years earlier when Japan surrendered to the United States ending World War II, but Onoda either did not receive or did not trust the news until his former commander went back to Lubang in 1974 to personally deliver the news of peace to him. The Onoda story may provide us with a useful comparison for exploring the proclamation of the Gospel which Peter described as “peace through Jesus Christ.”
Through His death and resurrection, Christ won a cosmic war which pitted the world against God. Christ defeated the powers of sin, death and the devil: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:15); “For ‘God has put all things under his feet’ ” (1 Cor 15:27a); and “[Christ] is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). This is the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.
But Christ’s victory brought more than a cold peace between former enemies, His victory brought, reconciliation and grace. “For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:19-20) Christ’s victory brought the world a gracious God.
Therefore, beginning with the apostles, Christ commissioned His Church to proclaim the good news of peace through Him. Just like the story of Onoda, the good news of peace must be proclaimed and believed if the war is to end and peace and reconciliation are to be made between former enemies. Without this proclamation, humanity is still at war; it is still living under condemnation and wrath at enmity with God. As Paul wrote: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14)
War creates bitter enemies. For most American Christians, until recently, we have not experienced here at home the opposition which is the byproduct of the war against God. However, the war is showing signs of heating up. We have heard about skirmishes waged against pastors, such as Reformed Pastor Tim Keller and Lutheran Pastor Jonathon Fisk, and against small business owners, who hold traditional views on marriage and sexuality based on God’s Word. If you follow these stories, you may notice there are groups who will settle for nothing less than to discredit, demonize and/or financially penalize Christians who follow God’s Word as traditionally taught on these subjects. To be fair, not all so-called “progressives” on these subjects are publicly opposed to the teachings of Scripture, but there is a vocal, active minority who are.
However, if you look at the deeper issue, we should recognize that the enemy ultimately is not the Christians (who are Christ’s ambassadors, and in these skirmishes, may suffer for Christ); the enemy ultimately is Christ and His Word. Unbelievers either have not heard that the war is over, or do not believe that Christ has been victorious. Therefore, for them, the war continues on. As Christians, we may suffer as human representatives of Christ, but we should understand that in this war, our oppressors ultimately are the enemies of Christ and are fighting against God.
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)
The reality is that the war really is over; Christ has won (Christus Victor); the devil has lost; and God has appointed Christ to be judge of the living and the dead. There may be sinners lost or hiding in the jungle of unbelief, unconsciously following a defeated devil, but the cosmic war is over. Therefore, any temporary persecution that the world may inflict on Christ’s Church or His Christians on account of His Word has no eternal significance for us who are in Christ. On the other hand by continuing their war against God and His Word, unbelievers remain children of wrath. Should they land as unbelievers before Christ’s judgment seat on the last day, they will face the eternal consequences of their unbelief.
Therefore, Jesus has commanded His church to proclaim the good news of peace through Jesus Christ to all nations.
“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
The good news of peace through Jesus Christ must be heard and believed to bring forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. He is Lord of all! Sadly not everyone who hears the Gospel comes to faith in Christ, and we who bring this good news, each in our individual vocations, can expect rejection and opposition by unbelievers. However, it is not the messenger but the message and its Author which the world ultimately rejects. Remembering this may help us as Christ’s ambassadors to love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us. For our Lord “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) Amen.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ ” (Isa 52:7) Amen.