An Exploration of Galatians: Fruit of the Spirit Part 4
Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 4:4-7 - God’s peace surpasses all understanding!
”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB1995
The third fruit of the Spirit is peace. Let’s look at the word origin: Peace comes from the Greek word εἰρήνη or eirene. It has several Biblical usages:
a state of national tranquillity
exemption from the rage and havoc of war
peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
of the Messiah's peace
the way that leads to peace (salvation)
of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
the blessed state of devout and upright men after death
I marked in bold, above, the usages that are most relevant to this marvelous word. So what is peace? I decided to consult the splendid Gotquestions.org on this particular fruit of the Spirit; this is their answer in its entirety:
In Romans 12:18, Paul exhorts, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." What a perfect example of our role in the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. We are to submit our wills to God’s leading and our actions to God’s Word, but the actual results are up to Him. Only God can create peace through the work of the Holy Spirit. Especially the peace mentioned in Galatians 5—the peace of a harmonious relationship with God.
We are born at war. At birth, our sinful nature has already declared war on God and His truth. Our heart’s desire is to be separated from Him, and if we persist in this desire until death, He will give us what we want.
But God’s methods of warfare are not what we expected. Instead of a battle, He sent us the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus’ goal in coming to earth was more than simply to cease hostilities; He came to bring about a full and abiding relationship of restoration and love. The cost of this peace was His life (Isaiah 53:5).
But, just as we cannot force another to be at peace with us, even Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross did not ensure that we would accept His terms of peace. Romans 3:10b-11 explains, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." None of us can accept Jesus’ offer of peace through our own will and power. Our natural selves do not want it. Only God can lead us to want peace with Him; the Holy Spirit leads us to want Jesus and His message. Once the Spirit draws us, we believe in Jesus, and the peace comes. “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
However, the fruit of the Spirit includes a peace that goes beyond that of salvation. It is a sweet relationship. We are called to His presence (Ephesians 2:11-18) and called to be confident in that presence (Hebrews 4:16) because we are His friends (John 15:15). As Isaiah 26:3 says, "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You."
God’s peace transcends earthly matters, as Philippians 4:4-7 illustrates. Believers are to be "anxious for nothing," for God promises to "guard your hearts and minds." It is a peace “which transcends all understanding”; that is, to the worldly mind, such peace is incomprehensible. Its source is the Holy Spirit of God, whom the world neither sees nor knows (John 14:17).
The Spirit-filled Christian has a peace that is abundant, available in every situation, and unlike anything that the world has to offer (John 14:27). The alternative to being filled with the Spirit and His peace is to be filled with alarm, filled with doubt, filled with foreboding, or filled with dread. How much better to let the Spirit have control and perform His work of growing fruit to the glory of God!
This commentary references one of my favorite passages in the Bible - Philippians 4:4-7; more on this later:
”Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
Philippians 4:4-7 NASB1995
Our world has never been at peace. Oh, there might have been the illusion at times in our history that things were peaceful, but somewhere, during all those past times and now, there was and is conflict going on. It might be personal family conflict, it might be a war of words on-line, it might be conflict between lawbreakers and law enforcement, it might be a gang war, it might be tribal warfare, it might be a regional war, it might be a civil war, it might be a world war. Humans are genuinely incapable of living in peace in this world.
I look at the British soldiers in the photo above from WWI, resting in their trenches and enjoying the company of a stray dog. In a few moments, they were likely to be engaged in warfare with the enemy, for a cause that no one at their level really understands, but other humans with more power have decided that this cause is worth fighting and dying for. An obscure Archduke is assassinated and suddenly the world is flung into brutal trench battles in once-beautiful pastures, woods and fields. The end of that war creates the conditions for an obscure Austrian painter to gain ultimate power as a genocidal tyrant and he aligns with two other brutal tyrannies. The world is once again flung into a costly and debilitating war. That war ends, one of the allies of the United States immediately becomes the enemy, and a long and costly Cold War reigns for decades, even during times of apparent prosperity. It’s depressing and heartbreaking. Countless millions have died in wars and millions more will likely perish in the years to come.
As it says in the Gotquestions.org answer above, we are born at war because we are born into sin. We first declare war on God and want to be separated from Him. We then declare war on each other. Parents get into arguments, children rebel against their parents, spouses flare up at each other, co-workers curse other co-workers and their boss, people in opposing political parties insult and prosecute each other. People envy what others have and decide that they should not be allowed to have those things, so a revolution is declared. Anxiety is a plague in our culture and many rely on therapists and prescriptions to deal with it. We are fearful, are filled with dread, worst-casing every news headline into a palpable terror that the world is heading to a very bad place. And it probably is… (if you know your Bible).
Humans are desperately seeking serenity. Nature is a way of escape for many and I have personally experienced a type of temporary peace being in a beautiful part of God’s creation. But that love of nature can lead to idolatry of worshipping the creation above the Creator, and peace is also rare in that natural world (just try meditating near a pride of lions or pet that Grizzly Bear on the head). Nature is violent and unpredictable. That same tranquil scene in the photo above has likely been wracked by thunderstorms and raging winter storms.
The Peace of the Holy Spirit is something entirely different. It is a harmonious contentment that comes from our relationship with God and knowing our times, good or bad, are in the hands of God. Here is what Enduring Word says about this peace:
The fruit of the Spirit is… peace: This peace is peace with God, peace with people, and it is a positive peace, filled with blessing and goodness – not simply the absence of fighting.
We could say that this peace is a peace of the Spirit, because it is a higher peace than just what comes when everything is calm and settled. This is a peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
The ancient Greek word used here for peace is eirene, and it “means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man’s highest good. Here it means that tranquility of heart which derives from the all-pervading consciousness that our times are in the hands of God.” (William Barclay)
There’s that “peace that surpasses all understanding” again, from Philippians 4:7. We cannot create this peace and we cannot possibly comprehend it, but we will certainly know it! It is not “feeling good” or “feeling happy”. It is a supernatural calmness of heart that can face the worst in this temporary place because we are promised the best for eternity. One more good comment, from Charles Spurgeon in Precept Austin:
Peace in poverty — I have seen the Christian man in the depths of poverty, when he lived from hand to mouth, and scarcely knew where he should find the next meal, still with his mind unruffled, calm, and quiet. If he had been as rich as an Indian prince, yet could he not have had less care. If he had been told that his bread should always come to his door, and the stream which ran hard by should never dry; if he had been quite sure that ravens would bring him bread and meat in the morning, and again in the evening — he would not have been one whit more calm. There is his neighbour on the other side of the street not half so poor, but wearied from morning till night, bringing himself to the grave with anxiety.
The battle will always be raging around us until the day we die or He comes again in Glory (whichever comes first). Choose God’s peace through the Holy Spirit! Your hearts and minds will be guarded through Christ Jesus.
My next devotional explores patience as a Fruit of the Spirit. This will be interesting for me, being quite impatient most of my life!
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - I pray to you today these wonderful words from Charles Wesley, from Precept Austin:
I rest beneath the Almighty's shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
Wilt keep me still in perfect peace.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/11/2024 to review the lexicon for peace.
Gotquestions.org was accessed on 1/11/2024 to review their answer to what is the fruit of peace from the Holy Spirit.
Enduring Word commentary by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin, can be found Here.