What Is the "Peace That Surpasses All Understanding"?
- Meg Bucher Writer and Author
- 2020 9 Oct
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
What Is “Peace that Surpasses All Understanding”?
The Book of Philippians began as a thank you note for the gift the church at Philippi had sent Paul when hearing of his arrest. Paul was no stranger to pain and dire straits. His letters to the churches he helped establish were meant to bring hope, encouragement, and instruction. He wrote to them to clarify things the early Christian churches were confused about, and to help them remember they were moving away from the legalistic religious structure of the past to embrace the hope of Jesus Christ, which no one could ever earn or be deemed worthy of.
Paul himself tortured early Christians before he became a Christ follower. To be washed in grace and forgiveness changed the countenance of his heart. He wrote this letter to the Philippians on what we would call a modern-day house arrest. He was imprisoned, but at a home in which he was allowed to preach the gospel to all those who came to him, explains the NIV Study Bible.
“The peace of God is the opposite of anxiety. It is the tranquility that comes when believers commit all their cares to God in prayer and worry about them no more,” explains the NIV Study Bible Fully Revised Edition. Paul knew this peace. As he wrote to the Philippians, Paul’s genuine hope and peace in Christ is evident, despite his past as a persecutor of the church, the thorn he speaks of living with, and his present suffering. It’s a prayer we can blanket our lives with today when we need to cling to the peace of Christ:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
The “and” which begins verse seven describes “the inseparable consequence of thus laying everything before God in ‘prayer with thanksgiving,’” the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible explains. We cannot, within the capacity with which the human mind is designed, comprehend God’s love for us, nor His ways. In the same great power, He protects us, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
No one and nothing can reach in and steal the peace we have in Christ. We are sealed as His. He guards our hearts, the seat of all emotion; and our purpose, authored by God and guaranteed not to fail. “There shall be peace secure within, whatever outward troubles may besiege,” the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible explains.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Sam Balye
Why Do Christians Need This Type of Peace in Philippians 4:7?
“Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Christ followers need this type of peace because it is the only thing that fills our longing. “The word anxiety means to be pulled a part in many directions, leaving a person divided and distracted,” Kia Stephens writes. “Here in Philippians, however, Paul is saying we can make a conscious decision not to be this way.” True satisfaction and peace is found in God through Christ Jesus. His ways are not our ways, and so we must humbly submit our ways for God’s purposes.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19). God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think (Ephesians 2:20). “The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favor, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness,” wrote Matthew Henry, “are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
It’s important to note, anxiety is not always limited to the daily worries of life. God provides for us, even then, through gifted counselors whom He loves, heals and hugs us through. We would never be ashamed to ask for help from God, or the people He has placed on the earth and in our lives purposed to heal anxiety and depression. Guilt and shame never come from God. It’s not a weakness of faith to worry or suffer from mental illness. It is human, and part of life on this earth. God stands with open arms to heal us, fully, whether here or in heaven, never to make us feel we are less than worthy. He loves us for who we are, right now.
Peace is found when we lay everything at His feet, and humbly and expectantly watch for Him to move. “When God says He is present (or hears, sees, remembers),” wrote Edward Welch, “He is saying that He is doing something. He is never a passive bystander.”
How Can We Get Peace That Surpasses All Understanding?
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Every Christ follower possesses this peace that surpasses all understanding, but we become easily distracted to the point we forget about it. When Jesus died on the cross, he defeated death, and wiped out the due consequence for our sins. The temple curtain was torn. This massive structure traditionally separated us from God’s presence. Only a high priest could enter, one time a year, or risk being burned up on the spot as those who touched the arc in transit did! No human could tear that curtain, figuratively or literally.
Jesus’ sacrifice was supernatural, as is the peace that flows through every Christ follower then, and now. “Remember how the Spirit of Jesus has been given to us (John 14:27),” wrote Edward Welch. “He is not limited by a physical body that confines Him to one place and one person at a time. He is with all God’s people all the time.”
Paul’s prayed to the Ephesians of the strength we find in Christ, and I scarce think anyone can pen it better than his divinely inspired hand:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).
The passion in Paul’s pen is still palpable! He was at peace in whatever circumstance he found himself in because it was established not in what he had accomplished but the victory Christ had already won. Reading God’s Word and prayerfully asking Him to give us wisdom brings us peace and grants us perspective.
Generations. Forever. Jesus was, is and will be. God is unchanging. He surpasses time and space, everywhere and all knowing. The peace we find in Him is granted in exchange for our submission of authority and control. The natural gripping of goals and achievements, accumulation and “finally arrived” moments. It’s all a facade, really. The only moments we truly arrive in our purpose on this earth are by yielding to the hope we have in eternity with Christ. “It’s casting our anxieties on him, because he cares for us, (1 Peter 5:7)” wrote Jon Bloom.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Dingzeyu Li
A Prayer for Peace
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Glory and honor to You, Abba! For in You, through Christ, we have peace. Peace the world cannot strip or steal from us. Peace sealed into and seared onto the soul of every Christ follower for eternity. Spirit breathe a calm reminder, over our worried and anxious thoughts, of who we are in Christ. Help us to recall His sacrifice and constant friendship, and Your constant presence in our lives to discern, guide, and comfort us. Spirit, take our prayers and mumblings to the throne of God, the feet of our Father, Creator, and Author. One True, Triune, God, we submit this day and every one after it to You. May Your will and purpose for our lives be realized on this earth and into eternity. Embrace us here, and now, Father, for You know the pain and struggles of this earth. You know the attack on our peace. You see what we cannot. Our understanding is limited. Fill in the gaps and carry us over those we don’t need to comprehend. Relieve us, Father, from the madness of the world. Unveil the beauty of Your creation spinning on in spite of a maddening world. We love You with all of our hearts. You are first. You are everything. All glory and honor to You.
In Jesus’ Name,
Photo credit: Unsplash/Radu Florin
Meg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.
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