Bible References: Acts 26:22-23 New International Version (NIV)
22 But God has helped me to this very day; so, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
Bible References: Ephesians 6:19 New International Version (NIV) “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”
What does it mean to bring Shalom? (God’s Peace)
To bring God’s Peace is to bring His story – that great story of redemption. The story of how God chose the Hebrew people, the Jews and set them apart as his treasured possession. A nation that was to live in such in a way that they would be a light to the nations and make God’s name known to all nations. Then people would be blessed and the world would know God, know His story of redemption from sin and chaos. The entire world could know shalom (peace) and praise the Lord and Heaven and Earth.
Paul, a disciple of Jesus Christ, a Pharisee, a student of the text (Torah) understood this. He also understood once he was met and was saved by Christ Jesus; that the Church has been given the same task. To show God to the nations so that they too can experience the Lord’s shalom – peace. Centuries before, God had chosen a people – the nation of Israel to show God’s plan. Their mission was to be witnesses to the world by how they lived and spoke. They were to show that God wanted to bring restoration/redemption to the world. To bring them into the Father’s house. Use the resources they were given to restore people into the family of God.
In the face of bringing the gospel – the good news that Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah – which Israel was to have carried out and then the Church (the body of Christ); that same mission had not changed.
Jesus commissioned all of his followers to continue by bringing the good news – Paul understood that the Good News of Jesus Christ was coming up against a different gospel. The worldly gospel at that time due to Rome being the dominant power was the gospel of Caesar. In the Greek/Roman world in which Paul lived, the two gospels displayed their message differently, even though both used similar wording.
Caesar was proclaimed in the Roman world as bringing peace – he brought peace by conquering. Jesus brought peace by his death on the cross to make the ultimate payment for our sin. Caesar brought his gospel by his Roman legions and by enforcing roman rule and social structure.
Caesar proclaimed himself as ‘lord and god’ and he was the son of a god. In the mix was a multitude of pagan gods and goddesses from nations that had been conquered by Rome and surrounding communities of people who had integrated into roman life.
Caesar was proclaimed as bringing peace and prosperity to those who served him well. But Paul brought a story of a different gospel, where the true Son of God, the God of creation and the Book (Torah) had a son, Jesus Christ who obediently came and paid by this death and shed blood for our sins and was raised to life by God, the Most High.
There were two kingdoms – the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth – there were two sons of gods, two lords, two saviors. In this setting, those who heard the two different gospels would need to choose.
So, Paul comes to Philippi where the gospel of Caesar was on display and the city had brought into the gospel of the emperor who gave them prosperity and peace. Philippi was a Roman colony. So, coming to Philippi was in essence as if you were coming to Rome. If you want to know what goes on in Rome, then you could visit a Roman colony. It was a leading city in Macedonia.
Paul would later write to the Philippians, and tell them that their citizenship is in heaven. Philippians 3 What Paul meant was act like you are already in Heaven. He was giving them an example that they understood. The Philippians understood that in coming to Philippi, you were essentially seeing what Rome was like. So too, the believers showed to the community around them, they were in the colony of Heaven. When people look at you, they would see how heaven is like. The “colony” of heaven was shown in Philippi because people came together and caring and loving one another. Our citizenship is in heaven although we are currently in ‘a colony.’
Caesar Augustus, the emperor at the time, claimed he had been born of a miraculous birth and was a descendant of the roman gods Venus and Apollo. Politically he was lord over the Roman empire – through his military, political action, and official decree. However, Jesus Christ brought a different gospel one where sacrifice, servanthood and obedience were part of bringing peace those lost, suffering and in need of a restored relationship with God. Caesar didn’t bring peace by sacrifice, he brought ‘peace’ by war, overpowering the weak, trodden down the poor and those who resisted his rule. Caesar wasn’t humble, nor obedient, he considered himself equal among the gods.
Paul brings a different gospel - one where a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. He was born in Bethlehem as the Bible tells us in Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 23:5 – a righteous king is coming of the line of David; Isaiah 7:14 – Wonderful Counsellor, eternal father, prince of peace…
Which Kingdom really brings peace? The kingdom which comes and dominates with force, warfare, power, military control? Or the Kingdom that welcomes the lost, despairing, confused, forgotten, fearful? A kingdom serves – with the King being the one who redeems?
So, as the early church grew around the then known world, believers had two choices: (1) to go along with the pagan world in order not to create offense and endanger themselves and their families; or (2) to stand firm and declare that Jesus was Lord and risk suffering, even death. The witness of the believers was a declaration of war on the Roman statue and its satanic foundation. Here, two worldviews competed for domination of the world, and there would be no compromise.
Today, believers face a similar choice; will they totally submit to the Lordship of Jesus regardless the cost? Will they serve him everywhere and in everything, whether the cost is economic, social, or even life itself? Jesus is Lord. The battle is not between believers and pagan authorities. Rather, it is a battle between Jesus and Satan, and the outcome of that battle has already been determined (Rev. 20).
Today, there are still many people confused about God. The world around us offers various attractions: health, wealth, entertainment, romantic love, and promises that they will bring happiness and prosperity. While these things are not evil in and of themselves, they become problematic when people treat them like gods.
These false gods easily creep into our own lives. We may visit the shopping centre, a modern-day "temple" to the gods of materialism, and find ourselves seeking self-esteem in the things we buy. Some pursue romance or financial investments, seeking joy and security in love or money instead of looking first to God.
In our country we may not face death or imprisonment. We may face persecution and being laughed at. Those in the roman world had heard the gospel of Caesar. To proclaim anything else was treason. In contrast to the gospel of Caesar the early disciples preached the gospel of Jesus Christ who brought peace by restoring relationship firstly with God the creator and with each other, by living in harmony, encouraging one another, knowing we have purpose and wholeness. Bringing God’s shalom (peace) to a world in suffering and chaos.
How might you bring God’s shalom – his peace to someone this week?