Supernatural Peace (John 14:27)
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (14:27)
Turmoil, both public and personal, is a reality that marks this fallen world. Such unrest is perhaps most clearly seen on the international level, as nations clash against each other in war. Many years ago, historians calculated that in the previous 3,500 years, the world had seen less than 300 years of peace (cf. Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968], 81). It has also been estimated that in the last five and a half millennia, more than 8,000 peace treaties have been broken, and more than 14,000 wars fought with a combined total of about four billion casualties. Even though there have always been illusions of global peace, this world continues to be unsuccessful in the effort to pursue that elusive goal.
The concept of peace is, of course, much broader than just the realm of international social harmony. People want peace in their personal lives, relief from the relentless pressures and problems that each day brings. The language of peace fills conversation. People seek “peace and quiet” to be refreshed from the din of life; they are told to “make peace” with their past; they expect local law enforcement to “keep the peace” and stop those who disturb them. Even when this life ends, the concept of “resting in peace” is so commonplace it has become a synonym for death itself.
Sadly, though people pursue it their entire lives, left to themselves they have no idea how to find true peace. Those who look for it in temporal things like social change, economic stability, or some recreational experience are always disappointed. Only God’s Word can authoritatively point to the relationship that produces lasting peace.
Both the Old and New Testaments underscore the divine source and character of true peace. One of the most important theological terms in the Old Testament is the word shalom (“peace”). The word, which occurs approximately 250 times, was sometimes used as a greeting (Judg. 19:20; 1 Sam. 25:6, 35), as it is in modern Hebrew. Shalom can also refer to the absence of strife between people (Gen. 26:29), nations (1 Kings 4:24), and between God and man (Ps. 85:8). In this latter sense, it will be the hallmark of the future messianic kingdom (Ps. 29:11; Isa. 2:4; 9:6–7; 52:7; 54:13; 57:19; 66:12; Ezek. 37:26; Hag. 2:9). But shalom also speaks of personal peace—not merely in the negative sense of absence of trouble or conflict, but positively of completeness, wholeness, contentment, welfare, health, prosperity, harmony, and fulfillment. Peace is one of the blessings that flow from a right relationship to God.
True biblical peace does not depend on the circumstances of life, but lives above them. One Greek lexicon defines the New Testament word for peace (eirēnē) as “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” It was this type of peace that characterized the apostle Paul, who wrote: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Phil. 4:11–12). Paul remained calm and at peace in the midst of the most trying circumstances, such as being thrown into prison (Acts 16:23–25), savagely attacked by an unruly mob (Acts 21:30–39), or caught in a raging storm at sea (Acts 27:21–25).
Humanity defines peace primarily in negative terms. For example, in some languages the word for peace means, “to be without trouble,” “to have no worries,” or “to sit down in one’s heart.” Peace to most people means the absence of war, strife, quarrels, disagreements, hostility, or unrest. They see it as deliverance from or the absence of any external conflict and every inner turmoil, resulting in an undisturbed and tranquil state of mind. But this understanding of peace is incomplete, because true peace is much more than just the absence of conflict. Armed with an inadequate definition, unbelievers are incapable of finding peace. They do not understand what they are looking for, and therefore fail to look in the right place.
There is only one source of true peace, as this simple yet profound verse (27a–b) reveals. The setting in which this magnificent promise was given is the upper room on the night before Christ’s death. The Lord, knowing His disciples were brokenhearted because He was leaving them, gave the eleven a farewell message of comfort and hope. As noted in the previous chapter of this volume, Jesus promised them that through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit He would continue to be with them, as would the Father and the truth. That marvelous legacy would turn the disciples’ temporary sorrow over His death into eternal joy. It also served as the basis for the supernatural peace that He now promised to them.
This one brief statement reflects four features of divine peace: its nature, source, contrast, and result.
The Nature of Peace
Peace I leave with you; (14:27a)
Objectively, peace in the New Testament has to do with a person’s standing before God; subjectively, with the believer’s resulting experience of peace in everyday living. Peace with God, of course, is the bedrock on which all other peace is based. If there is no peace with God, then there cannot be any real peace in this life. Thus, objective peace is a necessary prerequisite for subjective peace, neither of which are possible for the unsaved person to enjoy.
Since the rebellion of Adam and Eve (cf. Gen. 3), the human race has been at war with God. All violate His holy law and deny Him glory, and therefore are His enemies. The Bible calls this rebellion sin, and declares every human being (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to be a sinner (Rom. 3:23). From birth, every man and woman opposes God—both by heritage (Rom. 5:18; cf. Pss. 51:5; 58:3) and by personal choice (cf. Rom. 3:10–18). No one is neutral because, as Jesus said in Luke 11:23, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.” In Genesis 8:21 God’s own commentary on His fallen creation was that “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (cf. Job 15:14). Thus, having set themselves against God’s law, all people inevitably face His wrath and the penalty of eternal punishment.
Humanity hates God (cf. John 15:18–19; 1 John 2:16–17), and all who are part of the world system cannot be at peace with Him: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The good news, however, is that enemies of God can be reconciled to enjoy eternal peace with Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is through Him that God has chosen “to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20; cf. Acts 10:36; Eph. 2:14–17). In Romans 5:1 Paul wrote, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Because Christ paid sin’s penalty on the cross, those who trust in Him are “reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10; cf. v. 11; 2 Cor. 5:18–21; Col. 1:22). At the moment of justification, the rebellion ends, all sins are forgiven, and enemies become sons of God (cf. Rom. 8:12–17).
As a result, those who formerly had a “mind set on the flesh [resulting in] death” now have a “mind set on the Spirit [resulting in] life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). Thus Paul called the gospel the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15), because it is the good news of how sinful rebels can be at peace with God through Christ.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ to satisfy God’s holiness was necessary so there could be peace between sinful men and holy God, since righteousness and peace are inseparably linked (cf. Ps. 85:10). Because God is holy and just, He requires that a penalty be paid when sinners violate His law. It is only because Christ’s sacrifice fully satisfied the demands of divine justice that God can “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Though perfectly righteous, Christ was punished in the place of all who believe as though He were a sinner, so that they through faith in Him could be treated as though they were perfectly righteous. Thus, through Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the imputation of His righteousness to sinful men (2 Cor. 5:21), the enemies of God can become His friends (James 2:23).
That objective peace of justification results in experiential peace. This is not peace with God but “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,” meaning that it transcends human insight, analysis, and understanding. This peace “will guard [believers’] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). The Greek word translated “guard” is a military term meaning, “to keep watch over.” The peace of God protects believers from anxiety, doubt, fear, and distress. Thus, it is not passive but active; far from being affected by circumstances, it triumphs over them, turning sorrow into joy, fear into boldness, and doubt into confidence. This is the peace that Jesus promised to His followers.
Experiential peace is an essential part of the Christian life. “The kingdom of God,” wrote Paul, “is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Later in Romans the apostle added this benediction: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). Paul gave a similar benediction at the end of 2 Thessalonians: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance” (2 Thess. 3:16). Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)—given by the Helper whom Christ sent to indwell His people (cf. the discussion of John 14:16–17 in the previous chapter of this volume). Such peace not only manifests itself in private tranquility, but also in harmony with other believers (Mark 9:50; Rom. 14:19; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:13; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 3:2).
The Source of Peace
My peace I give to you; (14:27b)
Because He is the “God of peace” (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20; cf. Judg. 6:24; Isa. 9:6; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; 2 Thess. 3:16), God is the one source of all true peace; hence Jesus said, My peace I give. As with every blessing in the Christian life, peace comes from all three persons of the Trinity. The oft-repeated salutation in the New Testament Epistles, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:2; cf. Eph., 6:23; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 3; 2 John 3) indicates that God the Father and Jesus Christ are the source of peace. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to impart that peace to believers (Gal. 5:22). Like the rest of the legacy Jesus left the disciples, the peace He promised to give them would come in fullness on the day of Pentecost.
Christ called that peace, My peace. It is the same peace that kept Him calm in the face of mockery, scorn, hostility, hatred, betrayal, and death (cf. 1 Peter 2:23). Christ’s peace provides believers with a serenity and freedom from worry and anxiety that is unaffected by and triumphs over even the most difficult of circumstances. In the midst of the trials and temptations of life, believers do well to fix their “eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). It is only in looking to Christ that anyone can find peace and settled confidence in the midst of any hardship.
The Contrast to Peace
not as the world gives do I give to you. (14:27c)
In the truest sense, no real peace is to be found in the world. Godless people in a godless world are by nature enemies of God and in a state of resultant turmoil. The world only offers an experience of a momentary, fleeting tranquility through self-indulgence, materialism, love, romance, substance abuse, false religion, psychotherapy, or a host of other placebos. But the world’s pseudopeace is in reality the bliss of ignorance. If unbelievers understood the wrath of God, and the agonizing, unrelieved, eternal torment awaiting them in hell, they would never enjoy a moment’s peace in this life.
The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that the world’s peace is inadequate. “ ‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” in Isaiah 48:22. In Isaiah 57:21 the prophet echoed the Lord’s words: “ ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ ” In Jeremiah 6:14 God excoriated the false prophets who had “healed the brokenness of [His] people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (cf. 8:11; Ezek. 13:10, 16). “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!” Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “But now they have been hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). The apostle Paul wrote of unbelievers that “the path of peace they have not known” (Rom. 3:17). In the end times, “while [unbelievers] are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). Like wayward Israel finally admitted, “We waited for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror!” (Jer. 8:15). The world’s peace is only an illusion. A peace based on temporarily positive circumstances or ignorant escapism is not genuine peace at all. The reason people lack peace is not emotional, psychological, or circumstantial, but theological. As noted earlier in this chapter, only those who know Jesus Christ can have peace with God and, subsequently, experience true peace in this life.
The Pursuit of Peace
“Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (14:27d)
After promising to give His disciples peace, Jesus repeated His command that they not let their heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (see the exposition of v. 1 in chapter 9 of this volume). There is no inconsistency between Christ’s promise and His command, however. The Bible teaches that Christians are responsible to appropriate God’s promises. The Holy Spirit indwells and empowers believers, but they in turn are to be filled with (Eph. 5:18) and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). Christians have been given eternal life; in response they are to “consider [themselves] to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11) and “present [themselves] to God as those alive from the dead” (v. 13). The Holy Spirit is their supernatural teacher (1 John 2:20, 27), yet that does not negate believers’ responsibility to study the Scriptures diligently (2 Tim. 2:15). The same apostle Paul who wrote “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20) also wrote “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26–27).
As is the case with all of God’s promises, then, believers are responsible to appropriate Christ’s promise of peace. Psalm 34:14 commands God’s people to “seek peace and pursue it” (cf. 1 Peter 3:11), while Psalm 119:165 declares that “those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” Similarly, Isaiah 26:3 reveals that it is those who steadfastly trust Him that God keeps in perfect peace, and Isaiah 32:17 links experiencing peace with living a righteous life. Paul instructed Timothy to pursue peace (2 Tim. 2:22), and Peter exhorted his readers, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). James also connected peace with godly living when he wrote, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable … And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17–18). In fact, one way God produces peace in our lives is by chastening us: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).
When we trust in His goodness, faithfulness, and provision, God fills us “with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13). To live in anguish over the past, anxiety concerning the present, or apprehension about the future is to fail to appropriate that peace. As noted earlier, believers are to be “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [their] requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out the sinful folly of allowing fear and worry to corrode the believer’s experience of divine peace:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:25–34)
God has forgiven the past, provided for the present, and guaranteed the future, leaving nothing to legitimately disrupt the believer’s peace. Applying that principle to his most difficult circumstances, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:8–9, 17–18)
The good news of the gospel is that the war between the sinner and God can end, since the treaty ending that war was purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The resulting experiential peace becomes a guiding and controlling principle in every believer’s life. In Colossians 3:15 Paul exhorted Christians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Brabeuō (“rule”) was used to describe the work of an umpire in deciding the outcome of an athletic event. Believers can allow Christ’s peace to referee the choices they make by asking two crucial questions. First, they should ask whether what they are considering is consistent with the reality that they are now at peace with Christ and thus part of His kingdom (cf. Col. 1:13). Anything that would disrupt the oneness and harmony they enjoy with Him must be rejected. Paul illustrated that principle in 1 Corinthians 6:17–18 when he wrote, “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality.” Their union with Christ compels Christians to purity.
A second consideration concerns how the choice will affect the peace of mind that comes with a clear conscience (cf. Rom. 14:22–23; 1 Cor. 8:12). Thoughts, words, and deeds consistent with the peace of Christ will result in a clear, good, and blameless conscience (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Heb. 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16); those that are not will result in a troubled, accusing conscience (1 Sam. 24:5). Christians who live in unrepentant sin forfeit the experience of peace and assurance that is Christ’s legacy to His people. Remembering his sin with Bathseba, David declared to God:
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long;
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Ps. 32:3–5)
The unsettled, guilt-ridden conscience is made whole when the believer confesses his sin to God and repents (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10; 1 John 1:9). Knowing that his sin has been forgiven (through the cross) and that his relational fellowship with God has been restored (through confession and repentance), the believer can once again experience the profound peace that God offers to all of His children.
On the night before His death, the Lord promised supernatural peace to His troubled disciples. By pointing to Himself as the giver of peace, rather than to the fearful circumstances they faced in His absence, Jesus offered His followers a peace that is unmoved by the events of this world and that lasts forever. It was this peace that characterized Him throughout His sufferings. And it would also mark His followers through the many persecutions they would face on His behalf.
Charles Wesley, the famous hymn writer, summed up the God-focused nature of the Christian’s peace with these fitting words:
I rest beneath the Almighty’s shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
Wilt keep me still in perfect peace.
27 On the eve of his departure from the world, Jesus bestowed on his disciples the legacy of peace. In that day eirēnē (“peace,” GK 1645) was used as both a greeting (Ro 1:7) and a farewell (Mk 5:34). The Greeks thought of peace in essentially negative terms, namely, the absence of hostility. In Hebrew thought, however, peace also designated a positive sense of well-being. The LXX regularly uses eirēnē to translate the well-known Hebrew šalôm (GK 8934). Jesus further identifies peace as “my peace,” the total well-being that results from a perfect relationship to God. It was his peace because he would purchase it by his own death and grant it as a gift to those who would accept it. Peace is a blessing that involves all the positive benefits flowing from Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Like all spiritual blessings, it cannot be earned but must come as a part of the free gift of salvation.
The peace of Jesus differs from the peace that the world gives. That “peace” depends largely on circumstances, which by definition are in a state of constant flux. Tasker, 168, lists as examples of the world’s peace temporary freedom from distraction and anxiety, the peace of momentary flight from all that is unpleasant, and the peace of false security. They all fall woefully short of the rich blessings of God’s personal presence in the life of the believer.
The peace Jesus provides is the peace of sins forgiven and of reconciliation to God. It is a peace that “transcends all understanding” (Php 4:7). Therefore, even though Jesus will soon depart, the disciples need not be “troubled” or “afraid.” (Knox translates the latter verb, deiliaō, GK 1262, with “to play the coward”; Berkeley has “to be intimidated.”) For the early Christians fear was incompatible with faith. Though opposition was strong, they should not be alarmed. Paul writes that not being frightened by the opposition is a sign to the opposers of their coming destruction (Php 1:28).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 121–129). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.