Such is the title which the Rev. Edmund P. Clowney, Jr., in the Presbyterian Guardian of December 15, 1955, placed over his article reflecting on the passage found in Luke 2:14 which reads as follows: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, among men of his good pleasure.”
We were pleased with his interpretation of this text. The article is too long to quote in its entirety, so we give you a snatch here and there but especially call attention to the last part which we consider most important and interesting. The reader is no doubt aware of the fact that there are several different translations given to this text. To this I called attention in the October 15, 1955 issue of the Standard Bearer.
In the first part of his article the writer calls attention to a “Hymn of Praise.” Writes he: “What is the cause of this angelic joy? Why is the chorale of glory raised on the fields of Bethlehem? As we listen to the hymn of the angels we hear first a pure great shout of praise.Glory to God in the Highest! The glory of heaven shines from their song as from their faces. On earth the host of heaven ascribes to God the glory that is His in the heights from which they have come. Wherever the angel hosts may pass at the bidding of God, their faces turn to the lodestar of the great throne. Even from dark Judea, even in the language of shepherds, their burning cry must blend with the praise of seraphim in the heights . . . . Surely it is with hymns of awful praise that the hosts of heaven march forth to sanctify God’s name upon the rebellious. Before that shout of glory to God the walls of the powers of darkness crumble.
“But this not the cause of the hymn of the angels. They have not come upon the bestial tyrants of earth’s kingdom or the polluted priests of earth’s idols. They have come upon a little group of the poor and lowly. To despised shepherds they have come with a message from heaven. Their shout of glory to God is the response of heaven to the announcement of their herald—a child is born! . . . . The sign that the heavenly archon gives is that this child may be found wrapped in a cloth and lying in a manger.
“How utterly incredible! How can angelic praise which reflects with such fierce purity the glory of the throne be concerned with the child of a sinful daughter of Eve? How can the heaven-centered hosts look with bursting joy to a feed bin in Bethlehem?
“Yet here is the secret of their rapturous praise. Now that has come to pass which no angelic intelligence could have conceived. The spontaneity of heaven’s praise flows from ever fresh revelations of the glory of God . . . . Before the worshiping angels God has wrought the triumph of His grace . . . The angelic host could destroy men but it could not save them. Not by angels will earth’s new song be sung, but by the host of redeemed men, under the Prince of their salvation, who is not ashamed to call them brethren.’ I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.’ (Heb. 2:12).
“The shepherds, not the angels, must sing the new song of Moses and the Lamb. That vast host of light has come because the Lord of glory has come . . .”
In the second part of his article the author of this article calls attention to “The Promised Peace.” Here are some of the things he says about this:
“There is a second strain to the angels’ hymn in which the saving purpose of God is declared even as it is adored. Having sung God’s glory in heaven the angels also proclaim God’s grace on earth: ‘on earth peace among men of his good pleasure.’ How great the mystery of salvation must appear to angels! In awe at God’s coming to earth they ascribe to Him praise in heaven. But on earth His blessing is made known. This strange disordered world is to know His peace. Yet the angels’ song does not seem to bring peace but fear. The shepherds shrink from the touch of heaven . . . . Is it to this world that peace is proclaimed? . . . Peace! The world professes to long for it, yet it will not seek it. False men exploit the word for propaganda, and the vulture of world Communism is painted by Picasso in the form of a dove . . . yet that which they seek is not the peace of which the angels sang. There is no mistaking the meaning of peace on the lips of angels. They enter a world alienated from God and at enmity with Him but they come as evangelists, not as avengers, and their word of peace is the peace of blessedness, it is peace with God. The secret of the peace they proclaim, as the secret of the joy with which they praise God, is at Bethlehem. There can be no peace without a Savior, and only the Lord of angels can save lost men . . . . The God they worship is holy and cannot look upon sin. The very seraphim who ceaselessly cry, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ shield their faces before Him who alone is holy.
“How can this Holy God give to his messengers the evangel of peace? . . . . He who is the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, is born for His people that He might die for them. The road from Bethlehem leads to Calvary . . . . Highest heaven has awaited the climax of God’s redeeming work. This is the peace the angels declare. The, Son of the woman must crush the head of the Serpent. Though the dragon seeks to devour the child with the sword of Herod, he must fail. And though he makes war with the seed of the woman through the ages, he continues to fail, even as the beast and the false prophet shall fail, for God gives to His own perfect peace.”
As I said earlier in this article, it is the last part of Rev. Clowney’s article that is to us the most important and interesting. In this last part he speaks “Of God’s Good Pleasure.” Under this caption he writes as follows:
“Perhaps no hymn is more familiar or more misunderstood: ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to men.’ For a long generation that isolated legend has appeared on Christmas cards. We have come to think of it as a Christmas greeting from heaven in which God sends His good wishes of the season. If any misunderstanding could be more blasphemous than that, it is the one which would read this verse, ‘peace on earth among men of good will.’ God’s blessing is thus reserved for the democracies as over against communism, or for cooperative suburbanites in preference to troublesome foreigners across the tracks. Superficially this translation is a plausible rendering of the original. The phrase is men ‘of good pleasure.’ But both the use of the term in Scripture and the thrust of the angels’ praise leave no doubt that, this is not man’s good will but God’s sovereign decree. Those who receive this promise of peace are those who are the objects of God’s good pleasure. In love God has ‘predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.’ (Eph. 1, 5). The men of God’s good pleasure are those who are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The Lord of the angels is a sovereign Savior. His peace is never a wish but a grant—’my peace I give unto you.’
“God has not chosen many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. The massed hosts of glory sing their nativity anthem before a handful of despised herders of sheep . . . . Blessed are the spiritual paupers, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are these shepherds, these men of God’s good pleasure who say when the angel troop has passed into the vast reaches of the night and they are cold and alone, ‘Let us go now even unto Bethlehem . . . .’ Blessed they are in their believing haste, and thrice blessed in that faith in which they see the Baby lying in the manger. Shepherds of the field or Magi of the East,—before that Child they are merely men of God’s good pleasure—broken hearted sinners who have been brought to their Lord and have entered into peace. Those angels who sang in the fields of Bethlehem sing again in heaven over each poor sinner whom the great shepherd lifts to His shoulders and bears home.
“To us through the ages comes the hymn of the angels. We must take it and make it our own. For we and not the angels are the evangelists of this dark world. We must with lip and life give glory to God in the highest, we must sound forth the gospel . . . . ‘Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ Only so shall the men of God’s good pleasure find their eternal peace in Him. Then the songs of men and angels shall hail the Lord in that grand hallelujah of glory.” So far the article.
I am pleased to observe that Rev. Clowney will have nothing of the translation of Luke 2:14 which says: “Peace on earth among men of good will.’ Nor is he satisfied with the translation “Peace on earth, good will to men.” But the translation must be: “Men of His good pleasure.”
Especially delighted I was with the following interpretation of him: “Those who receive this promise of peace are those who are the objects of God’s good pleasure. In love God has ‘predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.’ (Eph. 1, 5). The men of God’s good pleasure are those who are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The Lord of angels is a sovereign Savior. His peace is never a wish, but a grant—’my peace I give unto you.'”
This is not merely Reformed, but Protestant Reformed language, and it is that because it is Scripture. We rejoice when we read of others outside of our immediate ecclesiastical circle who speak our language.
I am told, and was again recently, that not all the ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church speak as does Rev. Clowney in the above article. How wonderful it is to be a member of a denomination of churches where we have reasonable assurance that the entire ministry speak the same Scriptural language and unitedly teach the same doctrines.