The fruit of peace, conclusion

The fruit of peace, conclusion

Jan 22, 2014

This is a continuation and will be the conclusion of our study of the fruit of peace. Paul lists some of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5, verse 22. Since verse 22 begins with the conjunction “but,” it is obviously in contrast to what precedes it. Thus it behooves us to see what Paul was setting in contrast to the fruit. In part, it is this:

Galatians 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

As Christians, our manner of living is our witness to the world. If we as believers cannot have peace among ourselves, then we certainly cannot be attempting to tell unbelievers how they ought to live. In verse 20, Paul was listing a number of vices which he found among believers. We are examining them briefly in turn. We left off last time with variance, which we found meant contention and wrangling.

Next, we find this odd word emulations, the Greek word is zelos {dzay’-los} (Strong’s # 2205) from which we derive our word zeal. In a negative sense, this refers to “the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal 1b) an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy.” All of these sins work against peace among men, even within the body of Christ. Elsewhere, Paul lays out the ideal for the church when he wrote in …

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Back in Galatians 5:20, the next word is wrath, which has not changed its meaning from 1611, so we will move on to the word strife. I think you will find this intriguing because it has a very specific meaning. It comes from the Greek word eritheia {er-ith-i’-ah} (Strong’s # G2052) and its first meaning is 1) electioneering or intriguing for office.

Think of that definition in terms of members of a church seeking the office of an elder or a deacon or deaconess or Sunday school teacher or even seeking to be in charge of the nursery program. Any position of authority and responsibility carries with it some degree of honor and therefore it is a temptation for someone to seek it for their own glory.

The definition of strife goes on to include “a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts.” (These definitions, by the way, come from my BibleWorks Hermeneutika software, which combines definitions from the lexicon in Strong’s, along with Thayer, Brown-Driver-Briggs, and others.) Hence, we find a term which is seldom heard in our day: low arts.

Instead we hear about “a dirty tricks campaign” in the political realm. In the course of my life, I have run for office twice—not a governmental, political office, mind you—one was in college and the other in the business world, and both times, I lost due to “low arts.” I confess that both times, I had difficulty with personal bitterness towards those who had beat me unfairly by practicing low arts.

There is more to this word, strife, though. It is also defined as “1b) partisanship, fractiousness. Wayne Steury supplied this additional note in the BibleWorks program. “This word [strife, eritheia {er-ith-i’-ah}] is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. (A&G) Paul exhorts us to be one in the mind of Christ, not putting self forward or being selfish (Phil 2:3). James 3:14 speaks against having selfishness or self-promoting in your heart.”

As I said, these are certainly applicable to local churches and, of course, the larger the groups in the church world—such as denominations or associations—the more opportunity there is for electioneering and low arts in church politics. Not surprisingly, the election of a new pope in Roman Catholicism is the zenith for a playground of dirty tricks in church politics. If you doubt that, just read some of the history of the papacy. Moreover, it was not confined to the centuries past; it comes right down to our lifetimes. I am referring to the probable murder of Pope John Paul I, only 30 days after he was elected back in August of 1978. There’s a book about that event called In God’s Name.

The next sin which Paul mentions is translated “seditions.” We might think that sedition only applies to national government and it is something akin to treason. But again we need to see how Paul meant the word. He used the Greek word dichostasia {dee-khos-tas-ee’-ah} (Strong’s # G1370) which simply means dissension or division, which again is clearly found within the body of Christ.

Next is the word “heresies,” which comes from a similar-sounding Greek word and it refers to “dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims.” Those dissensions arising from differing viewpoints often degenerate into name-calling. Whenever one faction reaches a frustration point, they then often resort to simply labeling their opposition as heretics. This has been done in every century for the 2000-year history of the Christian church.

Sometimes it is done with pure motives, to preserve the truth of the Word of God. Other times it is still with good motives, but happens to be done in error when a person or a group thinks it is preserving the truth of the Word when in reality, they are the ones in error. And still other times, it is done out of sheer church power politics, with the ones charging heresy knowing full well from the outset that they are simply using the label in order to crush and destroy their opposition.

A centuries-long program called the “Inquisition” comes to mind. Thousands upon thousands of believers were put to death unjustly. But it is not the only example, of course, where those in power used the label of “heretic” unrighteously. But the Inquisition was probably the most egregious.

So that concludes verse 20 and truly, as we come to understand the depth of the individual words that Paul used, we also come to an understanding of the depth of these sins within the body of Christ. Paul goes on…

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

And then, finally, the nine fruits are listed after which Paul continues in the same vein admonishing believers to crucify the flesh, because…

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

We know that Paul did not divide his letter into chapters as we have them in our Bibles today, so let us go right on to the next chapter and ignore the break between chapters. Paul now proceeds in a more positive vein as he exhorts the believers.

KJV Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

5 For every man shall bear his own burden.

6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Yes, that admonishes us believers to treat all people with goodness. And is not verse 10 reminiscent of the sermon on the mount? So observe the words of our Savior in this popular passage, the sermon on the mount. In a simple declarative statement, Jesus said:

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

In Romans 12, also, in the verses leading up to verse 17, we find Paul echoing and sounding very much like Christ in the sermon on the mount. And then he writes:

Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Two chapters further, in Romans 14, Paul is addressing strife among believers over food, meat-eaters vs. vegetarians perhaps. Speaking about believers, he concludes…

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

And in the book of Hebrews, if the author is not Paul himself, then the author is repeating what Paul said in the verse we just read in Romans 12, for it says in …

Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

To “follow” peace means to run after, to seek earnestly, to strive for, to actively pursue peace with all men. Now, having read those, it is important to realize that seeking peace with everyone does not mean that we are to assume a Caspar Milquetoast (see Footnote) attitude and agree with everyone just for the sake of avoiding conflict.

Seeking peace with all people does not mean caving in to tyrants, bullies and control freaks just for the sake of peace. That reminds us of the communists because as they defined peace, peace exists only when all resistance to communism is wiped out. The peace-at-any-price attitude is a flawed philosophy and that is not what Paul is teaching.

Exhibiting the fruit of peace does not mean capitulating to injustice. Of course, wisdom and prudence dictate which wrongs require action on our part. We cannot go around thinking we need to right every wrong in the church or in society or in the world. That opposite extreme, which is vigilantism, is to be avoided as well.

Let me now offer some practical advice on how to pursue peace within the body of Christ. The first suggestion is to truly be conscious of the fact that all believers are members of one body. Paul discourses on this in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. He writes…

1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

Then he goes on to teach how each believer has a particular function, a separate function from other members, but they are all to work together in unity. This even goes so far as Paul saying in Romans 12:5 that we are “every one members one of another.” That is a spiritual intimacy that should make us think twice if and whenever we have a temptation to think or speak or act wrongly towards another believer.

1 Corinthians 12:25 That there should be no schism [division, dissension] in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

Secondly, if we extend this body metaphor fully, we must always be cognizant that we comprise the body of Christ. Jesus is our Head, so picture every act towards another as though you were saying or doing it right before His face, for truly that is the case. Therefore, our relationships with one another will either glorify our Savior-God or they will bring disgrace to His name.

Nothing cheers the atheists more than to see a wrecking, wrangling, rotting body of Christians, backbiting and tearing each other down. Oh, how that brings sorrow to our heavenly Father. Father, forgive us and help us to keep your honor and glory foremost as we pursue peace with all men.

Thirdly, we should diligently seek to understand whether or not the cause of the discord lies partly or even completely in ourselves. We must be ready to admit that the reason for the lack of harmony in the body lies at our feet.

We must be willing to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness from the other parties. For if we are unwilling, how can harmony ever be restored? Humility is hard to attain and even harder to maintain, is it not? Haven’t we all learned that by experience?

Finally, it is the duty of every believer to take the initiative in restoring peace. It doesn’t matter who is in the wrong. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18 make that clear. These suggestions have all been dealing with the case where both sides are believers.

In dealing with unbelievers, there may some occasions where despite our best efforts, peace is simply not possible. For example, there may be a married couple where one is not a believer. Paul speaks about that in…

1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

In other words, if the husband and wife just cannot make it work, then there is no sin or shame in dissolving the marriage. (I know that some churches teach that divorce is a sin, but that simply is in error. Order our CDs, entitled Divorce and Remarriage, for a study of that subject. Two CDs: $10 ppd.) If, after great effort, there can be no peace within that marriage, then let the marriage be dissolved.

At the same time, a believer must be totally honest when he or she characterizes their spouse as an unbeliever. Just because a husband and wife have differing viewpoints on Christian doctrines does not make one or the other an unbeliever. For you see, that tactic could be a case where one is going back to the “you’re a heretic” ploy again, for the self-serving motive of getting out of a marriage with an air of self-righteousness.

Also, when seeking peace with non-believers, again an attitude of humility and willingness to admit wrong will go a long way. We are to do everything within our power to maintain peace. Yet, it will not always be possible, and we are speaking here of dealing with unbelievers outside of marriage as well. If we cannot attain peace with an enemy, then again we are reminded by Paul that we are not to seek to even the score.

Romans 12: 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Hard to do? Yes, it usually is! But if overcoming were easy, then everybody would be an overcomer, wouldn’t they? There is so much more that could be said on the topic, the fruit of peace but I hope that what I have set forth in these brief essays enough to enable all of us to more effectively pursue the fruit of peace.

Now may the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray Godyour whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (The Fruit of the Spirit series will be continued.)

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Footnote: Caspar Milquetoast was a comic strip character created by H. T. Webster for his cartoon series The Timid Soul. Webster described Caspar Milquetoast as “the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick”. The character’s name is a deliberate misspelling of the name of a bland and fairly inoffensive food, milk toast. Milk toast, light and easy to digest, is an appropriate food for someone with a weak or “nervous” stomach. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspar_Milquetoast] Comment by Dr. Bruggeman: Today we would characterize Caspar Milquetoast as a “wimp.”



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