Goodwill Toward Men

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” —Luke 2:14

These words spoken by an angel of God at the time of Jesus’ birth, have proven to be an enigma during the centuries following. Through misunderstanding of what was really said, the Christian world has looked to their leaders and governments to achieve its fulfillment, alas, with great disappointment!

Has our situation improved today? Indeed not! If anything, it has worsened. In spite of the sure knowledge that now our very survival as a race depends on improving human relationships, ethnic, political, and religious hatred is still rife throughout the world. Riots in South Africa, Middle East terrorism, increasing crime worldwide, fear and distrust between major world powers, Central America’s revolutionary hot-spot, Vatican dissatisfaction, Protestant Fundamentalist upheaval, are all current symptoms of a continuing and growing lack of goodwill between men.

Has God’s announced purpose failed? We think not! Perhaps we have not looked to the right source for its fulfillment. Let us consider the words of the angel again in the context of this article, and find in their true meaning a logical and bright-shining hope for the future.

THE glory song the angels sang on the night Jesus was born more than nineteen centuries ago is by far the most universally known and best loved anthem ever to thrill the souls of men. No words of philosophers, poets, sages, or even Holy Writ, have been so widely and frequently quoted as those which comprise that wonderful chorus of praise following the announcement that in Bethlehem that night the Messiah, the Christ, had been born, and that he would be the Savior of the world. This was indeed good tidings of great joy, which, as the angel declared, would ultimately be heard and appreciated by all people. How appropriate that a host of angels, in response to this proclamation, should sing, “Glory to God in the highest”!

How appropriate that God be glorified when it is recognized that because of his gift to men—even the gift of his beloved Son—there was to be peace on earth. How could the Creator more effectively demonstrate the fact of his goodwill toward men than through the gift of his beloved Son, who would die for the sins of the people, and later reign as king, and this in order to reestablish the divine will in the hearts and lives of a race that had transgressed the divine law and consequently was dying because of its sin.

Four thousand years prior to the birth of Jesus, divine justice had condemned sinful man to death, but now was providing a way of escape from that condemnation—a Savior was born, and for this gift of divine love men as well as angels will yet give glory to God, for who shall not reverence and glorify him when his righteous acts are made manifest!

But it has been a long while since Jesus was born, and there has been very little of the time since when the world has not been plagued by wars. This year the customary commemoration of the birth of The Prince of Peace will take place amidst ominous possibilities of deadlier war than humanity has ever before known. As though it were not enough that the nations should be dragged through two global wars and several other major wars in a generation, situations multiply almost daily for which the wisdom of this world is unable to find a peaceful solution. It is like a man walking in quicksand, whose every attempt to extricate himself leaves him more deeply and more hopelessly embedded.

And it is not merely a matter of worldly governments being at odds with one another. The great and powerfully organized churches of the world, the organizations which have professedly been carrying the banner of The Prince of Peace, are themselves under fire, being attacked by the equally well-organized forces of atheism operating in the name of communism and other forms of totalitarian dictatorship.

Within the ranks of the Protestant church strife is raging between the Fundamentalists and the Evangelicals. The credibility of the Catholic church is being greatly challenged by its own people.

No matter what segment of Christendom we look to, we find them impotent in their desires and efforts to establish peace among the nations, and there is grave concern in church circles generally as to whether or not organized Christianity will even continue to exist, especially should there be another global war.

But this does not mean Christ was born in vain! Nor does it imply that the glory song of the angels is but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. True, millions have lost faith in the Christmas message of peace and goodwill. They still try to enjoy the spirit of Christmas, but inwardly feel that the birth of Jesus has long since ceased to have meaning for a world that is threatened with total destruction by nuclear weapons. They cannot be sure but what some Christmas Eve, when the church bells of the world are playing “Holy Night,” atomic war may start, and within a few days all civilization be destroyed.

In view of these plaguing fears of what the future may hold for a world already terribly shaken by war, is it strange that millions are beginning to wonder what genuine meaning Christmas has for thinking people? And yet, to those who think along proper lines by basing their thoughts on the promises and prophecies of the Bible, there is no reason at all to doubt that peace will yet be established by The Prince of Peace, and that Jesus, the world’s savior and rightful king, shall yet be revealed in the eyes of all the nations, and that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”—Isaiah 52:10

One reason so many fail to see the full significance of the birth of Jesus is that they have thought that the divine plan which centered in him depended on the frail and imperfect efforts of man. They have imagined that the many promises of the Bible assuring us that Jesus is one day to be king over the whole earth can be fulfilled only as the followers of Christ are able to induce the world to become Christian and to conduct their affairs in keeping with the principles of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Since the churches in every part of the age have miserably failed to achieve this result, and since the entire human race is threatened with destruction because of this failure, those who have held to this wrong viewpoint of the divine plan must of necessity lose faith in the Christmas message of salvation and peace.

The Scriptures tell us that known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world, and God knew that today, nearly two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, conditions among the nations would be just exactly as we now find them. (Acts 15:18) He knew, and through Jesus, foretold that at this time there would be very little faith in the earth. (Luke 18:8) He knew, and again through Jesus, foretold that this would be a time of fear and distress among nations—a time of trouble so distressing and destructive that unless “those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.”—Matt. 24:22; Luke 21:25,26

But some may ask why an all-powerful God has permitted this sort of thing to develop, why he has not shown the nations a better way, and caused them to walk in it. The answer to this question is that God’s plan embraces the entire human race, the living and the dead. He created the earth, not in vain, but to be inhabited—fully inhabited—so the glorious consummation of his plan, that climax of everlasting peace and happiness and life, could not take place until the human race had become large enough to fill the earth; for he designed that all should have an experience with evil, and by that experience have an opportunity to learn the terrible results of disobedience to his law.—Isa. 45:18; Rom. 7:13

But why, then, was Jesus, The Prince of Peace, born far in advance of the time designed by God for him to rule over the nations? The Scriptures reveal that there was another feature of the divine plan to be carried out. It was God’s plan that Jesus should have representatives of the human race share the glory of his kingdom, that these were to be selected upon the basis of their willingness to follow in his footsteps of sacrifice, thus suffering and dying with him. Jesus therefore came and died as man’s redeemer sufficiently in advance of the time for him to reign, to make possible the preparation of this little flock to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom.—Luke 12:32

It is this class that the Bible refers to as the church. The word church is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which means ‘a called out class’. So Jesus said to his disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19) The Gospel has been preached throughout the world during these nineteen centuries for the purpose of calling others out of the world—as many as God desires shall be called. This, the divinely authorized work of the present age has gone grandly and successfully on, although unobserved by the world and, to a large extent, by worldly churches.

Meanwhile, the Lord has not interfered with the downward course of the world. He has allowed the selfishness of the human race to drag it down into ever lower depths of sin and degradation. Even when his professed people, misguided by their lack of understanding, and motivated by their unscriptural ambitions, have established church-state systems in his name, he has not interfered. And when these have fallen, and when all the misguided efforts of those who have tried to establish peace for The Prince of Peace have left the nations in an all-out armament race the end of which no human mind can conceive, God still has not intervened. His plans for peace have been separate from all human efforts, and he wants the whole world, including worldly churches, to learn that apart from him they can accomplish nothing permanently beneficial or completely satisfactory. He wants them to learn that in order to achieve success they must work with him, and in keeping with his plans, rather than expect him to bless their plans and efforts to establish his kingdom.

There are many prophetic evidences now that the divine plan for this age is about complete, that soon all the members of the true church of Christ shall have been gathered from the world and made ready—by proving faithful even unto death—to live and reign with Christ in his kingdom. This means that the glory song of the angels will soon take on a deeper, a more profound, a more far-reaching meaning.

“Glory to God in the highest”—how appropriate! Why did the professed followers of the Master ever imagine that peace could be established in a way that would bring glory to the great and the wise of this world? There has never been a great achievement in the world but what the glory has gone to man. We have our George Washingtons, our Lincolns, and in other parts of the world they have their great heroes. Had the angelic prophecy of peace been fulfilled through human channels, human leaders living at the time would have been given the glory. But it is not to be that way. The prophetic song of the angels ascribed glory to God because it will be through his provision and in keeping with his loving plan to bless the nations with happiness and life that peace will come to the world.

“The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this,” wrote the Prophet Isaiah. (Isa. 9:7) Man, in many instances, has been very zealous in trying to establish peace, but has failed. Only the zeal of the Lord of hosts, manifesting itself by means and through agencies of his choosing, will translate the glory song of the angels into reality. Thus will God demonstrate his goodwill toward men.

Human misunderstanding and failure is indicated by the modern way of translating this wonderful glory song of the angels. It has been wrested to read, “Peace on earth among men of goodwill.” But this is not the thought at all. This mistranslation again emphasizes the erroneous viewpoint that whatever of peace is brought to the nations will be done by human efforts, with God not doing much more about it than smiling his approval.

No, it is not, fundamentally, the goodwill of man toward man that will usher in the foretold everlasting peace, but the goodwill of God toward man. That goodwill was manifested in an outstanding manner on the night Jesus was born; for God had sent him to give his life to redeem the world, and thus to lay the foundation of peace, not only among men, but—and even more important—between God and men.

Every provision of God through Christ for the establishment of the divine kingdom is a further evidence of his goodwill. Part of the kingdom arrangements as outlined by the Prophet Micah is a program of education by which the nations will be instructed in the advantages of peace. (Mic. 4:1-4) This is a further divine arrangement manifesting God’s goodwill toward the people.

Thus it will be through God’s goodwill that peace will come to the world. First, and of greatest importance, through Christ the world will find peace with God. Then it will naturally follow that they will be at peace with one another. And when this divine purpose is accomplished—and accomplished it will be soon—all the glory will go to the Lord to whom it will be due, and the nations will praise him forever!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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