The Fruit of the Spirit. Peace.
Call to worship
- “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” MP 557 (Piano)
- “Father Me” (Not in Mission Praise) (Guitar)
Ephesians 2:11-22. Wendy Breese
- “Father I place into your hands.” MP 133 (Piano)
“The fruit of the Spirit. Peace”
- There is a Redeemer MP 673 (Piano)
- “All things bright and beautiful”. MP 23. (Piano)
Carol Frances Alexander
Giving out of flowers to ladies (piano music. AV show ‘mother’s day presentation’ pp).
The Fruit of the Spirit. Peace
The world looks for peace through absence of war and trouble; a detachment from inner and outer hostility. Some philosophers espouse ‘inner peace’ through the elimination of desire. Other people avoid involvement with others to protect themselves from conflict; they have a ‘desert island’ mentality. Still others seek peace through the accumulation of wealth or positions of power. They feel they can then get what they want from life, but such pursuits in practice increase anxiety.
The biblical witness is that all human beings are sinners. We are self-willed and naturally in rebellion towards God and in conflict with other people (Luke 19:14, Hebrews 3:7-12). To keep peace and self-will together in a fallen world becomes an impossibility.
Perhaps this is why Thomas a Kempis wrote
“All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace”
Peace is the gift of God
In the Old Testament the word ‘Shalom’ is used for peace. It signifies wholeness; ‘full’ (Ruth 2:12), ‘finished’ (Nehemiah 6:15) and ‘made perfect’ (Isaiah 42:19).
The term used is closely linked with ‘Salvation’. In the Old Testament the terms ‘Peace’ and ‘Salvation’ are used interchangeably. Examples of this are found in Genesis 26:31 and 41:16 where the 'peace ‘offering’ is called the ‘salvation offering’
There is a recognition in the Old Testament that peace comes from God’s Salvation, and that the Messiah, who would usher in salvation, would be known as ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6)
When we look at our passage from Ephesians 2 we are presented with the picture of a hostile world. Paul writing to the new believers in Ephesus describes a common experience of what they and he were like before Christ saved them. ‘You were’, he writes in verse 1, “dead in your trespasses and sins”, and at one time you too “followed the ways of this world”. You were subject to “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” and “all of us” were busy “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature” It’s a picture of conflict issuing from our universal rebellion against the true and living God.
But this conflict arising from our rebellion against God, is also seen in a natural conflict with others. Paul refers to the “dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2: 14) between Jews and Gentiles.
But the gift of God is Christ. Christ brings Salvation. He reveals “God’s great love for us” (4) and that God is “rich in mercy”. We see this love and mercy shown to us through the cross. There Christ died an atoning sacrifice for our sins. God’s justice demands that we pay the price for our rebellion and subsequent sin, but Christ pays that price instead (Colossians 1:4, 1 John 1:9). That shows how rich in mercy God is!
Through repentance- turning from our rebellion against God – and coming to love Him instead, we experience His gift of peace. As Ephesians 5:13 describes it “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ…
Similarly His love replaces the hatred and conflict we once felt towards others:
“For he himself is our peace, who had made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two thus making peace” Paul makes it clear how this was done, verse 16 “and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross”
So we can experience God’s gift of peace. First in coming to know God through faith in Christ. This replaces our conflict with God. Second, as a consequence of experiencing salvation in Christ, we can experience peace in our relationships with those who were formerly our enemies.
Instead of hostility between God and man and man and man. Now through Christ the way of peace is opened up between God and man, and man and man.
“Nothing can give perfect peace of conscience with God but what can make atonement for sin. And whoever attempts it in any other way but by virtue of that atonement will never attain it, in this world or thereafter” (John Owen).
God’s gift of peace to us in Christ is summed up well in Romans 5:1: “Therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through Jesus Christ”
Peace in our walk with God
Paul listed the works of the sinful nature before listing the fruit of the Spirit. As we learn to “put off’ the works of the sinful nature we experience the fruit of peace in our hearts and minds. If we follow a life of immorality, impurity and licentiousness we cannot possibly experience the peace of God. A person who is guilty of idolatry, sorcery, enmity, creating strife and jealousy cannot possibly know the inward peace of God. Someone who lives a life of selfishness, dissension, who is controlled by party spirit cannot know peace. Someone who is envious, or drunk or angry will know inward turmoil but will not know peace.
Lawrence Miller wrote “I never have found peace of mind by giving folks a piece of mine!”
We must co-operate with the Holy Spirit as He works to produce His peace in within us, rather than give way to the thoughts and works of the sinful nature.
Sometimes we meet ‘hills of difficulty’ in our walk with God. The Holy Spirit is willing to produce the fruit of peace in our lives as we encounter these:
Philippians 4:6, 7 states “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”
Here is great encouragement for us to pray to our Father about the trials we face. As we yield up our concerns, the Lord replaces our anxieties with His supernatural peace which guards our hearts and minds. The idea here is that this supernatural peace is like a garrison of soldiers shooting down our troubled thoughts and emotions.
I would like to read to you a poem by Hazel Simon that takes the episode of Christ stilling the storm and applies that truth to our hearts:
Today Christ stilled a storm- not Galilee,
But in my heart, I heard His “Peace be still.”
There raged a storm and tempest here, I me
And fear that I might perish made me ill.
The boat that is my life seemed tempest- tossed,
And I forgot the Christ who knows our ships,
My heart sank low, I felt that all was lost,
So that a cry of “Help me!” reached my lips.
I turned to Him and know that He could save
That all my trials yield to His great will;
I felt the calming smoothness of the wave
On which I rode, as Christ said, “Peace, be still.”
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but a fruit cultivated by the Holy Spirit within the midst of trial and difficulty.
Further, a close union with Christ cultivates the fruit of peace in our lives. As we walk with Him:
Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls” Rest or peace comes from our being yoked with Christ. From closely ‘remaining in Him’ and having His words ‘remain in us’, so that we learn to follow Him and be like Him in the way we live. To have His words ‘remain in us’ is to be aware of Christ’s teaching and to obey Him in these (John 8:31, 32; 15:1-15,)
Isaiah 48:14 states “If only you had paid attention to my commands…your peace would have been like a river”
Jesus says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”
The Lord Jesus enjoyed such close fellowship with His Father, and while the disciples panicked, He knew perfect peace even as He approached the cross. He wants us to stay close to Him and the Father, and so know this same peace for ourselves: “My peace I give to you”
Peace as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is cultivated in our experience when we are peacemakers
Let me remind you again of our passage from Ephesians 2.
Christ is the Peacemaker. He has reconciled us to God, so we now have peace with God. Further believing Jews and Gentiles are now at peace with each other because Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:15, 16).
We are to be His peacemakers.
No natural difference should mar our fellowship together:
The healthy can be impatient with the sickly, the strong have trouble adapting to the weak, the fleet of foot do not do well with the slow, the wealthy can scarcely imagine the pain of being poor, the quick minds know nothing of being a slow learner, the co-ordinated shake their heads at the awkward, the pragmatic criticise the philosophical, the engineer has little appreciation for the artist, the stable and secure haven’t a clue on how to understand the fragile and fearful.
The early church knew no natural barriers. Look at the variety within the leadership. Acts 13: 1 includes an ex-Pharisee and aristocrat, a landowner, a Greek speaking Jew and an African. All enjoying peace with one another in Christ
The Church is to model the values of the Kingdom of God
“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” Colossians 3:11
When unbelievers look at the church and see us banishing natural barriers, banishing anger, malice, bitterness and other forms of immorality. When they see us showing love, joy and peace instead, they will want what we have.
So we need peacemakers in the fellowship. Forgiving. Showing grace to one another, just as we have received grace from the Lord. Actively building up one another, encouraging and giving, because the peace of God is aggressive. It fights evil and builds on what is good and right.
And we need peacemakers going into the world as missionaries and evangelists. So others can come to know peace with God as they hear and receive the Gospel and come to know Jesus for themselves.
A father had just settled into his armchair on Sunday afternoon, looking forward to reading his six-inch thick newspaper, when his five year old son John came scampering into the room. “Daddy! Daddy!” said the boy, “Can you play with me?”
The father tried to be gentle in his response when he told his son, “John, daddy wants to read his paper for a little while. But if you come back in twenty minutes, we can play together.”
Though mildly annoyed at being put off, John rumbled out of the room, leaving his father alone to read his paper.
But five year olds have a poor sense of time, so it was only a few short minutes when John was back. “Daddy, can we play now?”
“Not now John” said the father. “Don’t bother me until I’m finished with my paper”
John stomped his way out of the room to wait, but before his father could even get to the sports pages, John returned. He shoved his head up under the paper and said, “Please Daddy, can we play now?”
The father, now convinced that he would never get a moment’s peace without giving in, looked on the floor and noticed that there was a full page map of the world included in the newspaper. He reached for his wife’s sewing scissors and proceeded to cut the map into about twenty pieces. Leading his son to the kitchen table, he told John to put together this puzzle of the world as the first of their afternoon games. “When you finish the puzzle, then I’ll play with you,” the father promised. He knew it would take his son a long time to put the puzzle together, and that would give him plenty of time to read his paper.
Not five minutes had passed when John burst into the room. “Daddy, I’ve finished the puzzle! What can we play next?”
“What- You’ve finished already?” asked the father. He got up from his chair and went into the kitchen to look. Sure enough, the puzzle was complete, with every piece in its proper place. “John…how did you do this so quickly? Where did you learn how to do this? Asked the father in amazement.
“It was easy Daddy” said John. “You see, on the back of the map of the world was a picture of a person. I decided to put the person together first. When I did that, the whole world seemed to fit right into place.”
We live in a broken hostile world that needs to be put together. J C Ryle wrote truly when he stated “There will be no universal peace until the Prince of Peace appears”
You and I were broken people. Christ put us back together again. And through you and I, other broken people can be brought into the Kingdom, put back together again, as they experience peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Prince of Peace.
David Barnes 15/3/23