And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near.
The peculiar force of this reference to the preaching of peace will be perceived as we mark who the Preacher was. The Preacher to whom Paul in these words referred was God.
I. First of all, let us notice how THE PURPOSE OF THE MESSAGE of the Great Preacher is here put — He "preached peace." The purpose of it was then what it is now, and will continue to be as long as there are ambassadors for Christ in the world. That peace which is the great need of earth is the actual possession of heaven. Yonder in the realms of bliss and order and perfection, there is, even amidst ceaseless activity, serene unbroken peace — the peace of those who have found their true centre and move in their proper orbits. It is what rests upon everlasting foundations. It stands out in contrast to all counterfeit appearances that raise men with bright expectations for a while, and then leave them in the end blasted with disappointment — as we are told was the experience of a great man, a German poet, who lived some years ago to old age, laden with honours and earthly blessings that rarely fall to the lot of men, but who confessed that, looking back on his past life, he could not remember a day in which he had found real happiness or true peace. That a mind wondrously gifted with the power of rising to some of the loftiest conceptions of what is noble and divine, should have been compelled at last to utter this terrible confession, is indeed striking evidence of the need of a Divine provision for man's peace.
II. Observe, in the second place, where lay the special force and efficacy of the Preacher's message; it was in this — that HE HIMSELF EMBODIED HIS OWN MESSAGE. His own Person and work were its theme. This gave it a reality and power which characterise the preaching of no other messenger ever heard on earth. "He came and preached." And from whence, over what vast distance did He come? If a narrative of travel from one who has explored an unknown country brings before you the scenes through which he has passed with a vivid effect which it is impossible for any other person to convey, how much more should the testimony of one who has come from another world arrest your attention, and be in awful power and import (as the words of Jesus were) unparalleled and alone. He preached peace because He was — as He is — "our peace." The angels at His birth had so proclaimed Him in their song. But let us notice a little more closely that Jesus embodied His own message by being Himself "our peace" with God. Not only was He God's peace with us, but from what He is, and by what He did for us, there is exactly that which can make the peace already on God's side available to us.
III. This brings us to notice, in the third place, the prominence here given to preaching, AS THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH GOD'S PEACE REACHES us. The Saviour has not deemed it enough for Him to do His work, and then allow it to speak for itself, and appeal in silence to the consciences of men. No. He accompanies His work with words — with a message designed to bring out His work in all His bearings; to interpret the signs, and trace the issues of it; to unfold its preciousness, and make unceasing application of it to the heart, according to the daily wants, and the endless variety of the different circumstances of man's lot. Preaching, therefore, is the necessary accompaniment of God's work. "He came and preached peace."
IV. THE URGENT NEED OF THOSE TO WHOM THE MESSAGE WAS ADDRESSED — "to you which were afar off," "and to them that were nigh."
1. "To you which were afar off." And "afar off" indeed were these Ephesians when the message reached them, even in such hopeless estrangements from God, as described in verses 11 and 12. The change was something much more than a social transformation, a mere improvement in outward aspect and manners. Even their escape from all the fascinations and enchantments of idol worship at Ephesus would have availed them nothing had they not also been brought "nigh" to God "by the blood of Christ." To them the vastness of the change was m a changed eternity — a glorious futurity "as fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God." It was marked at the same time by such a change of heart as had turned their desires toward Him who had come near to save, and had set their affections and hopes on things above. But not merely to heathen converts do these words apply. To converted souls in every age — to you, believing Christians, this message comes with the same force now as it conveyed in the days of Paul.
2. It was preached also "to them that were nigh" — to Israel whom the ancient psalm called "a people near unto Him." So nigh in virtue of external privilege, that., to them belonged "the adoption" and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of' God, and the promises, whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever." And yet when He came, where were they? He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. He was "near in their mouth, but far from their reins."
3. Preached "to them that were nigh," the message must have included the true Israel of God, who were "nigh" in the real and vital sense of the term. Is it then to be preached still to those who are now at peace with God? Is there any point in their journey at which they can afford to let this part of the gospel drop in order to "go on unto perfection" through other truths, or by the use, it may be, of other means than those of the gospel? Never with safety or continued health to their own souls. Never, but by some subtle wile of the enemy, who, as an angel of light, would seduce them from the continuance of their faith in this one secret of their true peace in which their great strength lies.
(R. S. Muir.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.