J. Gordon Duncan

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The God of Peace – Romans 16:20-23

Even the worst of liars (or is that the best?) among us will get mad if someone doesn’t keep their promises.  Even if we are not very good at always keeping our word, we get angry when others don’t keep theirs.  Or so many people are self-righteous thinking they never fall short in keeping their promises so they just never have patience for others.  Now, you may hear that and say, “Why should I have patience with people who don’t keep their promises?”  I would answer, “That’s the definition of grace; extending patience and forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it; sort of like what God does with you.”

My children have an absolute, dead-on memory of every single thing I’ve ever promised them, and if I forget something, they make sure to remind me.  Even if I don’t promise but just say, “Maybe” my girls take that as an ironclad guarantee.  If the idea of doing something fun comes and goes, they’ll sometimes say, “But you promised.”

The reason the girls respond that way is that they trust me and Amy.  We do our best, albeit imperfectly, in being truthful with the kids.  On the day we left the Great Wolf Lodge that you guys so graciously sent us to, the girls asked if we would ever return.  I said, “Maybe.”  The next thing I knew, my girls were already planning our next trip.  Meredith was writing stories about going.  Landry was planning on being taller so she could ride more rides, and Emma was happily playing along.    My simple “Maybe” was a promise in their mind because they trust me – a fact that causes to ask God to help me be a better parent daily.

The hope of promises kept equals peace of mind for a child as it should for you and me.  Believing in kept promises is an essential element of faith, but it requires someone in whom you can trust.  This week in the book of Romans, Paul is going to highlight one of the key kept promises of scripture and emphasize to us how that should be peaceful sleep and rest for us.  So with that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How is God’s keeping of His promises our hope for peace?

To get the full effect of the passage that we are going to look at this week, let’s do just a brief summary of the past two week’s passages.  Paul warns the Romans us against anyone who teaches against the fundamental truths of the Bible.  Paul says you will know who these people are because they teach certain truths like have faith in God and you’ll never be sick, but he will give you a sick house.  Paul calls this the feeding of their appetites.  In addition, Paul says that these teachers teach with flattering speech thinking that if they make you feel good about yourself, you won’t pay attention to what they are saying.  They are sort of like the magician who says, “Hey look over there, and as you do, they pick your pocket.”

Last week, Paul commended the Romans for their godliness but cautioned them that they should always be wise to what is good while keeping themselves innocent to what is evil. We spent a good bit of time last week talking about what those things meant, and I encourage you to check out the notes that appear online.  So as Paul winds up his very last exhortations, He boldly declares in verse 20.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

To help us understand this verse, let’s break down in this way:  in this verse look for a who, what, where, when, and why.  Let’s walk through each one of them.  First,  Who does this great work in verse 20?  The answer is of course God, but the answer is more full than that.  The God of Peace will crush Satan under your feet.  Now, this is a unique description of God that is only used 5 times in the Bible.  4 times by Paul and once by whomever wrote the book of Hebrews.  Listen to the awesome promised that come about whenever the descriptor for God is “The God of Peace…

  • Paul uses it in Romans 15:33 to describe his hope of seeing the Romans when he says, “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
  • The passage we are looking at today Romans 16:20 describes this God of peace as the victorious warrior who will crush Satan under your feet.
  • Philippians 4:9 shows God enabling believers to obey- “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
  • In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, God is the promised one who makes you holy and protects you until Christ returns. – “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • And listen to Hebrews 13:20 – Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The God of Peace is always accompanied by either a promise of what God has done or a promise of what He will do.  The basis of the peace that God gives His children is that He is faithful to Himself.   He makes and keeps His promises and it is the surety of His promises alone that insures our peace.  Sadly, this is so different than our day to day.  The temptation of the heart is to trust oh so many things instead of God’s faithfulness to insure our peace.  We make the mistake of thinking that something other than God will give us peace.  We do this with even good things.  For example:  If right now, you had great health, the job you wanted, 3 months worth of money in the bank, if you were happy and healthy, if you had Godly kids, a good relationship with your spouse, and a nice home, most folks would think, “I’m as at peace as I have ever been.”

Now God may grant you some or all of those thing…or none of those thing because none of them are the means by which you will have or know peace.  You might not have good health.   You might not have 3 days worth of money much less 3 months.  Kids are not always happy, healthy, or Godly.  Spouses fight.  Home sometimes are too small, get damaged, or even get foreclosed upon.   But the Gospel, the fact that God has unwavering affection for you because of Jesus Christ, gives peace.  The Gospel is big enough if you don’t have money, if you’re not healthy, if you’re kids are a mess or if you’re marriage is a mess, the Gospel is big enough to give you peace.  Here is how we know this God of Peace.  There are a host of verses that speak to God granting peace to His children, but for the sake of time, I’ll focus on two (one of which is my favorite verse in the Bible).

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

What else would we mediate on except our wonderful God of Peace?  As we mediate on Him, He keeps us at perfect peace.  But you say, Gordon, that’s my problem in the first place.  Of course if I could keep my mind on God I would have peace, but I can’t.  So I offer to you.

Philippians 4:5b The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Your peace is guaranteed as God is at hand or as God is with you.  You can make all of your needs and thanks known to Him and as you do, the peace, which is so different than anything our world knows, will guard your heart and mind.  This God of Peace, you know what He did?  He crushed the head of Satan.  This harkens back to a promise from long ago and leads us to our what question?

What Promise?  The promise of Genesis 3:15

In the Garden of our first days, God placed Adam and Eve in His beautiful creation.  Because sin had not yet entered into their lives, they enjoyed an uninterrupted relationship with God.  They truly knew Him as the God of peace as peaceful describes their interaction with Him.  I have no idea what it means to walk with God in the cool of the day, but I long to do it.  In this wonderful existence, God gave them several responsibilities.  They worked, they enjoyed God’s rest, and they were ultimately to fill the earth by having children.  God also gave them one prohibitional responsibility:  they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The punishment for violating this command was death.  Not just a physical death mind you, but a death in every way.  WCF 6.4 describes this death as utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.  Yet, sadly even with this warning, upon being tempted by Satan in the form of a serpent our first Father Adam willingly chose to disobey God.

Yet even upon Adam choosing of death, God made a grace filled promise in Genesis 3:15 saying “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  This is promise of called is called the protoevangelium or the “the first gospel”.  Even upon man’s first and greatest rebellion from God, He graciously promised to overcome the sentence of death by allowing for men and women to procreate.  From that procreation, a Savior would come who would ultimately defeat man’s enemy:  Satan.  Even as man chooses to walk away from his gracious creator, choosing death over life, God promises to defeat the very death they invited in.

It’s interesting, the whole Satan thing.  There are really two extremes here.  Some folks attribute everything to Satan.  If they stub their toe or forget their wallet, they blame the devil.  I think the more dangerous extreme is that many folks don’t even speak of him anymore because it seems illogical, superstitious, or ignorant to conceive of some personal evil who hates God and seeks to destroy His children.  But as Verbal in the movie “The Usual Suspects” says, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  Scripture, however, presents Satan as a very evil personal enemy of you if you are a believer in Christ.

  • He tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden Genesis 3.
  • He accuses Job in Job 2.
  • He accuses Joshua the High Priest in the book of Zechariah 3.
  • He tempts Jesus in Matthew 4.
  • He filled the heart of Ananias in Acts 5 to lie to the Holy Spirit.
  • He tempts married couples who don’t have intimate sex lives in I Corinthians 7.
  • He disguises himself as an angel of light in 2 Corinthians 11.
  • He was a thorn in the flesh to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.
  • He hindered Paul from visiting the Thessalonians 1 Thess. 2.

With the reality that scripture presents Satan as a personal enemy of God’s people, the promise that God will ultimately defeat him is reassuring.  To ignore the fact that Satan is your enemy is incredibly unwise and unsafe.  But God promises to defeat this enemy.

So if Satan is going to be crushed, where does that happen?  Now before I answer that let me make a few clarifications here.  God and Satan are not in some epic battle that rages back and forth.   God is His sovereignty permits Satan to live and work as He does only by God’s ordination.  Satan cannot do a single thing without the allowance of God the Father.  Otherwise, God would be subject to Satan.  We see this in the book of Job where the extent of Satan’s reach is only that which God allows, and if you read the text clearly, it is God who picks that fight, not Satan.

But just as God will punish each and ever person on earth who does not confess Jesus Christ as Lord, so He will punish Satan as well.  And that work of crushing Satan happens in the perfect life of overcoming temptation, the perfect death for sin, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It takes each part of Jesus’ life to overcome Satan.  Listen to Hebrews 2.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children (speaking of believers in Christ) share in flesh and blood, he (speaking of Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Since Jesus took on human flesh even as we have, yet remained sinless as we did not, being God, His death and subsequent resurrection have the power to overcome the penalty of death for all of those who have faith in Him.  In living and dying and being raised to new life righteously, Jesus disarms the power of death held by Satan in the lives of believers.  He does this by offering a sacrifice that appeases the wrath of God so that the power of death is broken, and if the power of death is broken in the believer’s life, then Satan does not have power over you.  Certainly, Satan wants to diminish the work you might do for Christ in the here and now.  He desires to impede any work you might do to advance the Kingdom of God.  He wants to see you walk away from growing in Godliness.   But Satan’s power of death over your life has been broken through Christ.

Now this sounds great.  It is an encouragement, but when does all of this happen for you personally?  Look at Paul’s language.  The God of Peace is going to crush Satan under your feet.  Being united with Christ by faith, His defeat of Satan is your defeat of Satan.  Through Christ, you personally have defeated your enemy.  So you might ask,

When will Satan be crushed under my feet?   Right now, through Christ, you have defeated the work of your enemy, Satan.   The answer is found in Colossians 2:3

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Jesus personally triumphed over Satan.  So, when God gifts you with faith, when He transforms you from dead in your sins to alive to Christ, He makes you personally triumphant over Satan.  Your enemy, Satan, is put to shame.  According to Colossians 2, you were dead in sin thus captive to Satan’s powers.  You were separated from God.  But God made you alive in several ways.  He forgave you of your sins.  He canceled all the debt and punishment that those sins deserved.  He did this by nailing them to the cross with Jesus.  And by doing this, God disarmed Satan and his minions.   In fact God openly puts Satan to shame and triumphs over him.

The word triumph there is the same for a Roman victory parade.  God leads a parade on your behalf as you have defeated your enemy Satan and come under the gracious rule and reign of your heavenly Father.

Why did God do this? The answer is so that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ might be with you.  Everything that God does is to bring Himself glory.  Practically, in the life of the child of God, bringing God glory means that Jesus defeated Satan so that you might walk in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul celebrates this in his wonderful blessing by saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

It is God’s grace that secures every blessing for the believer.

  • It is God’s grace that defeats your enemy Satan.
  • It is God’s grace that forgives your sin.
  • It is God’s grace that cancels the debt you owe.
  • It is God’s grace that allows you to walk in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

So when Paul says “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” Paul is commanding you both to live your life by grace and to extend grace to every other undeserving person around you.  If you want to grow in obedience, then it will only happen by His grace poured out to you.  If you want to grow in knowledge of the scriptures, then it will only happen by His grace pour out to you.  If you want to raise Godly children, then it will only happen by His grace poured out to you.  If you want to grow in believing the promises of God in your life, then it will only happen by His grace poured out to you.

And so on and so forth.  You’ll never impress God enough to give you something or for God to change something.  God works for His glory and if He works in the life of any sinful person, it is only by His grace.   The gauge to which you get the last statements that I made is the degree to which you are presently undone.  The Gospel that all things come through grace should both paralyze you and preserve you.

  • We get so caught up in negotiating with God.
  • We do this when we cannot believe that something has or hasn’t happened.
  • We do this when we think we earned God’s gift to us because we negotiated a week of obedience.

But Gang, you don’t deserve either God’s love or Jesus’ defeating of Satan on your behalf or any single blessing in your life.  The only thing you deserve is for God to keep His promise and meet your sin with your death.  Whatever you have, it is there by God’s grace.  But God does promise to work in your life.  You didn’t earn a thing and no one else does either.  But this is also freeing.  Our obedience, our study of scripture, our work here at SK, they are all to be done as affectionate love to the Father free of manipulation of expectation.  We do obey but we fall into the trap of thinking,  “Oh now God is really going to bless me.”  We often substitute in our minds silly earthly blessings as something greater than God overcoming the sin in our life restoring us to fellowship.

There is no greater blessing than the Gospel that brings you salvation.  So we trust God for both good and bad knowing we can’t be any more blessed than having our sins forgiven, having our debt canceled, having our enemy defeated, and having the goodness of Jesus.  In addition, because we live by this grace, we should not selectively pick and choose those in which we will show grace.  So often, we are hard and exacting choosing only to be gracious to those who we think have earned it which contradicts the definition of grace.  Unfortunately, folks within the church will see someone who we disagree with politically, sexually, theologically, musically, socially, and pretty much any other adverb you can think of, and we’ll think, “Ugh, look at those folks.  I won’t nothing to do with them.”

Living this way completely contradicts the statement, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”  Instead, we should take great risks for the Gospel even with folks that we would never think might come to know Christ because that is the Gospel.  Look at the folks Paul mentions in verses 21-23

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.  22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.  23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

Timothy, Paul’s fellow worker, understood grace and understood that God keeps His promises as that’s exactly what it took to travel the world with Paul to share the gospel to a bunch of people who didn’t really want to hear it.  Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater who bravely by grace left the trappings of Judaism to embrace Jesus Christ.  Tertius who was Paul’s scribe for many letters, was willing to live by grace traveling with Paul in order to enable him to write books like Romans.  Gaius understood grace because he hosted Paul while he traveled and he opened his home to the church in Corinth.  Erastus who by grace risked his high profile job of being a city treasurer to follow Christ.

Each and every one of these folks understood that if they were going to play a part in the work of God with Paul, they were going to do it by grace.  They trusted this grace because our faithful God keeps His promises to be gracious to us.  ang, you know what makes the promises of God true in your life?   It is not the degree to which you believe or don’t believe them.  It is not the degree of your obedience or disobedience in the last week.  What makes the promises of God true in your life is that God keeps His promises…simply and profoundly.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment