Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men
John Telgren


In the nativity stories, we often hear the words of the angels who said, "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill to men" (Lk 2:14). Nearly every modern translation reads something like, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those whom his favor rests (or - "with whom God is pleased)." Nearly all translations have a similar reading, including the ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, God's Word, ESV, CSB, NCV, CEV, and the list goes on.

I went to my Greek text, and here is what I found. In the most woodenly literal translation, it says,

"Glory in highest (heaven) to God, and upon earth peace in men of goodwill/favor."

This is not talking about peace on earth in general, but peace among men of God's favor. In fact, Jesus himself said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Mt 10:34). The peace of God cannot come to the wicked in their wickedness or to the unbeliever in the faithlessness. The peace of God comes only in Christ. Jesus also said that the "worry of the world" can cause a man to become unfruitful even though he initially had responded to the word of God in faith (Mt 13:22). There is worry in the world not the peace of God.

Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (Jn 14:27)." The peace, or the "shalom" of God is something that can only come from our Lord Jesus. It is not the shallow, "cessation of hostilities" that the world pretends to give. It is not found in the deceitfulness of riches. It is found in a strong committed faith. God said that he who believes will not be troubled or disturbed (Is 28:16). This is the peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7). This is the peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

There was a song I can remember singing while growing up. The words to the refrain are, "There is peace in the time of trouble. There is peace in the midst of the storm. There is peace, though the world be raging, in the shelter of his arms"

God reminds us, " . . . in quietness and trust is your strength" (Is 30:15). Peace enables us to be still and know that the Lord is God. This is why Christians are typically so much better at handling tragedies that would disillusion the most positive of people. This is where Christians get the strength to serve and be compassionate in the most harshest and dangerous of conditions. Even though there can never be complete peace on earth without God, Christians as salt and light are able to be the peacemakers even in the midst of being persecuted for righteousness' sake (Mt 5:9-11). Christians can through example, prayer, service, and evangelism bring greater peace into the world in the midst of its trouble.