I am sure most of us are familiar with the oft quoted Romans 8:28, but we tend to focus on the ‘all things working together for good’ part. We believe this is a blessing externally poured out upon us and we seldom consider that there is a pursuit inherent in the verse.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28 (AMP)
Over 20 years ago, I preached a sermon on Romans 8:28 and talked about how radically different our lives and communities would be if we actually embraced and lived out this verse. Think about it. We would exude peace because we would actually be living out of faith that He is shepherding our lives for our ultimate good, and more importantly, the furtherance of His kingdom. The two qualifiers are loving Him and pursuing His call upon our lives. If we lived this way we would not worry about anything because our hearts would be at rest in His presence and purpose.
Given the importance of our trusting in Him and manifesting His peace as a result, I want to look at an OT counterpart and then more of Paul’s writing. Paul was a theological expert in the OT thus the OT conception of peace would have influenced Paul’s thinking and writing on the subject.
Let’s compare two translations of the same scripture.
3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
3 You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)
While the Amplified expands our understanding, what neither translation brings out is that the words ‘perfect’ and ‘peace’ are both the Hebrew word shalom. Isaiah 26:3 literally says, “You will keep him in shalom, shalom….” This transliteration of ‘perfect shalom’ is accurate. It carries the idea of a fullness of shalom, peace. Importantly, shalom is not the absence of conflict, it is His presence active upon our lives. After all, Isaiah said the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace and that is who Jesus is.
In Numbers Moses told the Israelite’s how Yahweh would rest upon their lives.
22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’ 27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27 (NKJV)
The result of what Moses described was peace, shalom. This concept carries forward into the NT because when we submit to Jesus we take His name upon us. Thus, when we receive Jesus the peace inherent in His name rests upon us. This is a theme in Paul’s writing. As an Israelite, even if Paul wrote in common Greek to accommodate his audience, when he used the word for peace, based on his Hebraic training and thinking he would be reflecting on shalom as he wrote.
19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19 (NKJV).
6 Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
In essence, whether or not we believe it, we have His peace because the Prince of Peace is within us. If we want to experience this peace, as the Amplified notes, let us incline our hearts and minds to trusting in Yahweh’s plan and purpose so His peace may rest upon our lives, no matter our circumstances.