As I said in an earlier post, I have been reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God at bedtime for the last little while. I read the following paragraph on Tuesday, September 30th. I read the paragraph twice, and that’s all I read that night.
What does the Gospel of God offer to us? If we say ‘the peace of God’, none will demur – but will everyone understand? The use of right words does not guarantee right thoughts! Too often the peace of God is thought of as if it were essentially a feeling of inner tranquility, happy and carefree, springing from knowledge that God will shield one from life’s hardest knocks. But this is a misrepresentation, for, on the one hand, God does not feather-bed His children in this way, and anyone who thinks He does is in for a shock, and, on the other hand, that which is basic and essential to the real peace of God does not come into this concept at all. The truths after which this account of God’s peace is feeling (though it misrepresents them, as we said) are that God’s peace brings both power to face, and live with, one’s own badness and failings, and also contentment under ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (for which the Christian name is God’s wise providence). The truth which this account ignores is that the basic pardon and acceptance into covenant – that is, adoption into God’s family. But where this change of relationship with God – out of hostility into friendship, out of wrath into the fullness of love, out of condemnation into justification – is not set forth, the gospel of peace is not truly set forth either. The peace of God is first and foremost peace with God; it is the state of affairs in which God, instead of being against us, is for us. No account of God’s peace which does not start here can do other than mislead. One of the miserable ironies of our time is that whereas liberal and ‘radical’ theologians believe themselves to be re-stating the gospel for today, they have for the most part rejected the categories of wrath, guilt, condemnation, and the enmity of God, and so have made it impossible for themselves ever to present the gospel at all, for they cannot now state the basic problem which the gospel of peace solves.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God, Chapter 18, The Heart of the Gospel, section VIII, p. 176. Emphasis in original.