The Lord of Peace
‘But the Lord of peace himself give you peace continually in every way.’ (2 Thess. 3:16)
In the closing remarks of his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul makes reference to ‘the Lord of peace’. This is a designation used nowhere else in the New Testament. It was extremely pertinent to the Thessalonians in their circumstances, but it also has a special voice for us today. In this article we briefly look at its meaning, in four steps:
- we consider a similar term which is used more frequently in the New Testament (the ‘God of peace’);
- we reflect on the differences between the two expressions;
- we ask in what way the term ‘the Lord of peace’ was particularly pertinent to the Thessalonians
- we draw an inference in relation to the sort of circumstances in which this title is of special comfort to ourselves.
The God of peace
God is referred to as ‘the God of peace’ five times in the epistles (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20). If you include the ‘God of love and peace’ (2 Cor. 13:11) and the statement that ‘God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (1 Cor. 14:33), you come to seven references.
Together, these seven Scriptures provide a lovely portrait of what is involved for us in knowing this ‘God of peace’. For example:
- Some of the above Scriptures contain the wish or prayer that ‘the God of peace’ might be with believers. There is a wonderful progression from having ‘peace with God’ (Rom. 5:1), a judicial peace, to enjoying the ‘peace of God’ (Phil. 4:7) as a result of committing our concerns and requests to Him, and then from there to the experience that the ‘God of peace’ is with us (see next point).
- In Philippians 4:9, we learn under what condition this will be the case: when we act in obedience so that we enjoy communion with Him. The condition is: ‘What ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these things do’. This leads to the known and felt presence of the person, the very ‘God of peace’.
- Paul informs the Roman believers that this ‘God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly’ (Rom. 16:20). He will judge the one who has sought, at all cost, to disturb their, and our, peace.
- Further, the desire is expressed that He might ‘sanctify’ believers (1 Thess. 5:23) — i.e. to set them apart for Himself in their practical lives — and ‘perfect’ believers (Heb. 13:20–21) — i.e. to develop them into fully grown believers, fit for ‘every good work to the doing of his will’.
- To the Corinthians, Paul makes the point that disorder would be very uncharacteristic of this God and that, positively, He is marked by (not only order but) peace (we have ‘author of peace’ in the King James Version, ‘God of peace’ in the J N Darby translation, and simply ‘of peace’ in the original in 1 Corinthians 14:33).
- When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians the chief disorders had been corrected. Now he encourages them to ‘rejoice; be perfected; be encouraged; be of one mind; be at peace’ and states that then the ‘God of peace’ would be with them (2 Cor. 13:11).
The Lord of peace
Coming then to the ‘Lord of peace’, we have no doubt that the blessings and principles summarised above (in relation to the God of peace) are fully applicable. At the same time, there is a slight difference here in that the Thessalonians are directly referred to Christ Himself, and this under the particular aspect of His lordship. No less than 20 times is Christ referred to as ‘Lord’ in this brief epistle. There is the central subject of the ‘day of the Lord’ (2:2) when there will be judgment from the ‘presence of the Lord’ (1:9) for those who had not obeyed the ‘glad tidings of our Lord’ (1:8). Then ‘the Lord’ will consume the lawless one (Antichrist) with the breath of His mouth (2:8). But the Thessalonian believers were ‘brethren beloved of the Lord’ (2:13), and they could therefore look forward to both the ‘coming of our Lord’ for the rapture (2:1) and ‘the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the angels of his power’ (1:7). Meanwhile, they were to follow the things commanded to them ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (3:6; cf. 3:12) and to experience that ‘the Lord is faithful’ (3:3).
The Lord is the one who is in control, who has authority and supremacy. He holds sway over all things. But for the Thessalonians He was ‘the Lord of peace’: one characterised by peace, one who had peace at His disposal, and who was willing to bestow peace on them.
But why is this expression used in Thessalonians (only)? Considering their situation and experiences there seems real propriety and divine wisdom in this. There was no lack of things to trouble them, things designed to rob them of their peace:
- they were young converts (of 12 to 18 months maximum: see Acts 17; 18:11; etc.);
- they were in a heathen and hostile environment (Acts 17:5–9);
- the Jews in their city were particularly violent, ruthless, and determined to oppose the gospel (Acts 17:11–13);
- the main teacher from whom they had learned had been separated from them through the animosity of the enemies of the gospel (Acts 17:10; 1 Thess. 2:17–18);
- they suffered extreme persecution (Acts 17; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14–15);
- they knew that persecution and trouble were no accident for them, but part of what they had to expect (1 Thess. 3:4);
- from without they had been troubled by false doctrine, and false doctrine designed to rob them of their peace (if they were in the tribulation of the end time, as they were told, they were suffering under, and from, God’s wrath and judgment! See 2 Thess. 2:1–3);
- from within they faced trouble in the form of some of their own brethren walking disorderly, out of step, not doing any work and not being a good testimony (2 Thess. 3:6, 11, 12, 14).
These were unsettling circumstances indeed, designed to rob these young believers of their peace (note that what was in danger of unsettling them was in no way the teaching received from Paul but the false doctrine propounded, and their circumstances). How appropriate for them to be directed to ‘the Lord of peace’, the one who holds supremacy or, as has been said, the one who ‘is at the helm and not only preserves the ship but controls the elements’.
Give you peace
Now Paul goes a step further. He not only presents to them the Lord of peace but expresses his desire that He, the Lord of peace ‘himself’, would ‘give’ them peace. Peace is not only at His disposal, it not only characterises Him, but He would make it available to them.
Continually in every way
But when and to what extent? Both questions are answered in the same sentence: ‘continually’ (not only at the Lord’s coming, not even only just now, or at certain times but not at others), and ‘in every way’ (not just in some way).
What applied to the Thessalonians of old no doubt applies to us. At times, there is no lack of things that may unsettle us. How good to be pointed to ‘the Lord of peace’ who may not remove all difficulties but who, ‘himself’, is ready to grant us peace ‘continually’ and ‘in every way’.
 For further detail please see the articles by Arend Remmers and Greg Quail, Truth & Testimony 2017, Issue 3.
 Quoted from ‘Peace … My Peace’, The Bible Treasury (1871) vol. 8 p. 246 at p. 248.