What does it mean to 'let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts' (Colossians 3:15)?
In Colossians 3:14, the apostle Paul urges Christians to maintain a holy lifestyle by loving one another, a virtue guaranteed to bind the Colossian church together in perfect unity. Then he adds, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).
False teachers had stirred up division in the church. The way to maintain unity, Paul explains, is to let the peace of Christ and "the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16).
Perfect unity among believers in the community of faith is only possible when they allow the peace of Christ to rule in their hearts (Galatians 3:26–29; 5:22–26; Ephesians 2:11–22). The term rule means "to be the factor determining the outcome; to arbitrate." In other words, the peace of Christ must act as the umpire of our hearts.
Earlier, Paul told the Colossians, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8). Believers must not let false teachings, deceptive philosophies, human traditions, and worldly spiritual forces take our minds and hearts captive. Instead, we are to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). We must let the peace of Christ and the truth of His message be the deciding factor in how we live and relate to other believers, particularly when disputes arise.
One of Jesus Christ's most comforting assurances in the Bible is His promise to give us peace in this world: "Peace I leave with 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). Jesus came to bring us peace (Luke 2:14; John 16:33; Ephesians 2:14–22). The "peace" of Colossians 3:15 is "tranquility; the absence of mental stress or anxiety; especially that results from a proper recognition of salvation's worth."
Jesus Christ obtained the ultimate peace for us by taking away the hostility between God and us through His atoning sacrifice on the cross to pardon our sin, as demonstrated by His resurrection. Romans 5:1 explains, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." When we have peace with God, we can also have peace with other people (see, for example, Ephesians 2:1–22; 4:1–32).
We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts by taking every anxious thought and turning it into a prayer. Philippians 4:6–7 instructs, "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."
We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts by living according to God's Word as demonstrated through Paul and other godly mentors: "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9). Paul told the Romans, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). Hebrews 12:14 cautions, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."
We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts when we keep our eyes focused on God and trust in Him: "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3). We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts when we love and obey His Word: "Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble" (Psalm 119:165).
God's peace is a tremendous blessing (Numbers 6:24–26). It is an umpire to rule in our hearts, a guardian to keep watch over our minds, an exceedingly precious gift from our Savior, a necessary virtue for living in unity with other believers, and a keepsake of God's constant presence to care for us throughout this life.
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