peace-of-christ-rule-in-heartsLet the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

We have often interpreted this verse in an individualistic fashion to mean that each Christian should have peace in our heart.  This verse is even appealed to in support of the teaching that intrapersonal peace in our heart is a means by which we discern God’s will for our life.  Is this what Paul was conveying?  Let’s look at the context.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. 14 And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. 15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

Both the grammar and the context make it clear that Paul is speaking of interpersonal, social peace, not intrapersonal peace.  “Your” is plural, so Paul is talking about the church as a whole, not individuals within the group.  This is also obvious from Paul’s parenthetical comment that the Colossians “were in fact called as one body to this peace.”  He was speaking of peace on the corporate level.

The preceding context is even more telling.  In verse 11 Paul said we are all one in Christ, and because of this we are to show mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (v. 12), forbearance, and forgiveness toward one another (v. 13).  Why did Paul speak of forbearance and forgiving one another?  It was because there was interpersonal conflict within the church at Colossae, resulting in the lack of peace.  That is why Paul told them to forgive anyone they might be quarreling with (v. 13) and put on love.  Immediately following this we find the verse in question.  He admonishes them to let peace rule in their (plural) hearts because they are called into one body.  His message was to quit fighting and bringing strife into the body of Christ, but to forgive and let peace rule in the body of Christ.

When read in context, it also becomes clear that Paul is not employing “peace in your heart” as a form of discerning the will of God.  Paul is not talking about how we make decisions or know the will of God.  He is talking about living peaceably with our fellow brothers and sisters.

Keep it in context….