Part 7 of The Fruit of the Spirit Series
PEACE BE WITH YOU
From the moment you were conceived in this life, your battles startled. The chaos of life began for you. So how does peace play into that kind of existence? Peace might be a word that we use quite often, yet do we really understand what it means? And I’m not talking about a definition based on the world around us. Instead, do you know God’s definition of peace? Perhaps you are seeking peace in life, but only seem to find chaos at every turn. Is that normal? Since peace is one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), it is not something we should take lightly. After all, the war is raging on all around you. Will you find peace from within the battle? Would you like to know more about it? Then read on and enjoy!
UNDERSTANDING THE CHAOS
Understanding peace, as a part of the fruit of the Spirit, really needs to begin with this one simple concept: We can never truly be at peace in this world. I know that might sound like a lost cause, not to mention contradictive to this lesson, but the fact of the matter remains. Peace is not something to be attained in this life. To further understand what that means, it first helps to understand what the word peace actually means. When used in the fruit of the Spirit verses of Galatians, the word for peace means rest, harmony, safety, well-being, and/or accord. Right out of the gate, it seems like words that we think we can attain in this life. “I’m not at war with anybody,” you might say. “Therefore I am at peace.” To help us further understand why this would be an inaccurate thought, let’s turn to God’s Word for the answer.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
– Ephesians 2:11-18
CIRCUMCISSION AND PEACE?
You might be wondering why such a passage of the Bible was chosen in order to help us understand peace on a more accurate basis. If you notice, the first couple verses are talking about a distinction made in the Old Testament about Jews (circumcised) and Gentiles (uncircumcised). The Book of Genesis illustrates the covenant made between God and Abraham regarding circumcision (Genesis 17) and, without going into too much detail, we will explain what one of the most amazing facets of circumcision was. In the days of Abraham and after, it was very easy to know if someone was was of God’s chosen people or not; the separation between a Jewish male and a non-Jewish male was very simple. If the man was not circumcised you knew very well that he was not of the Jewish lineage.
“Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
– Genesis 17:14
For a Jewish male, there was no getting around this covenant. Either they were circumcised and a member of God’s chosen people, or they were to be cut off from God’s people and be cast out with the pagan nations all around. One great aspect of this covenant is that it gives a physical example of what it means to be set apart. The covenant of circumcision is concept taught early in the Bible to teach us all what it means to be set apart life. It is this concept that Paul is alluding to with what he is writing in the book of Ephesians. If you notice what he says in verse 12 when he writes,
“…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
– Ephesians 2:12
In this one verse, we can clearly see some clear bullet points about how God viewed those who were uncircumcised in the flesh during the Old Testament time:
- separated from the goodness of God
- excluded from citizenship
- foreigners to the promises of God
- without hope
- without God
Wow! This list gives us plenty of food for thought. God was very clear with the Jews – his chosen people – that they should not intermarry with the Gentile nations around them for the Lord knew that if they did, their hearts would be led astray and they would abandon worship of the one true God and replace it with worship of false idols. As seen clearly in the book of 1 Kings, when God is describing King Solomon, it is written:
“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter – Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’
– 1 Kings 11:2
God’s children should be kept pure and holy, free from the defilements of sinful living and that which does not glorify God (Philippians 2:14-15). After all, how can light and darkness mix? It can’t, and God was teaching this concept very early on for his children. Therefore he established a way for them to be set apart from the other nations. Thus was the intent of what circumcision was meant to teach.
“What agreement is there between between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ;I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.'”
– 2 Corinthians 6:16-18
So this should hopefully raise a wonderful question in our hearts and minds: How does circumcision and peace play into my life today? Let’s find out.
IS PEACE ABOUT THE OUTER MAN OR THE INNER MAN?
At this point, you might be asking a very poignant question: Is the circumcision of the flesh important for salvation? Of course not! Someone can have a physical circumcision and break the laws of God and therefore be a lawbreaker. Adversely, someone can be not be circumcised physically and keep the law’s requirements and be regarded as though they were circumcised (Romans 2:25-26). Therefore, in Christ, its clear to see that an outward circumcision is not the answer for life and peace. We can see that more clearly outlined in the following verses in Romans,
“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”
– Romans 2:28-29
Thanks God for Paul having written such a clear and concise statement for us. The inner man – your soul and spirit – is what should be circumcised and set apart from your outer man (your physical, sinful nature). This should sound very familiar to the Old Testament reference we were just talking about up above. God has his chosen people (the inner man) completely surrounded by pagan nations (the outer man). And he told them to not intermarry with them or serve their idols, for it would taint the purity of their nation and ultimately, dishonor the name of God.
As we have been going through this series on the fruit of the Spirit, haven’t we seen this exact same concept pointed out about our own lives today? The outer, sinful nature of our lives begin from the moment of conception. Our nature is innately evil. And just like the Jews were surrounded by pagan nations, our inner man is surrounded and at war with the outer man of our life. Do we find it ironic that God established the main, central city of his people as a place named Jerusalem, which in the Hebrew literally means a foundation of peace? What does that teach us? Obviously, peace was not something that has its roots in the outer man. The foundation is established for the inner; the soul of a person. And as Paul outlined in the verses above, to be set apart and to have a taste of the peace that is found in God, it requires the Spirit of God. Thus the importance of understanding and applying the verses about the fruit of the Spirit.
How are you set apart from the world? From the outer man of your sinful nature? Is the Spirit of God at work in your life through your faith in Jesus Christ, or are you spinning your wheels on pleasing the outer man and putting on the façade of righteousness? The battles of life are real, and without the Spirit of the Lord leading and guiding in life, we have no hope of overcoming them. “What battles?” you might ask. Let’s take a moment to outline them briefly.
PEACE AND TIME
There are 3 key elements that we included into the Bible Speed Art picture for peace. The first is the man standing in the background, holding an axe and a large clock. This man represents a battle that every single human being faces in life: the battle against time.
From the moment we are all conceived in this life, the clock of our life begins ticking away. We may not know how long we have to live on this earth, but we can be guaranteed one thing: That time will eventually run out. Whether we’re given 1 month to live or 100 years, not one of us are promised a tomorrow. Time will get each and every one of us. And with it, comes the axe of death. We can eat as healthy as we want, exercise to perfection, have the perfect body type, and yet something will strike us down eventually; a car accident, a heart attack, cancer, a strike of lightning, or old age. No amount of money, social media popularity, good looks, or church membership can stop that fact. Nobody makes it out alive!
So how much time, effort, and money do you put into your physical body, which is doomed to lose the battle against time? Why do we waste so much effort on that which is a loser, by default? If you could see into the future and know who was going to win this year’s Super Bowl, would you go and bet all of your money on the team you knew was going to lose? No! That’s foolishness! Than why are so many of us gambling with our lives, betting on ourselves and our outer man to bring us peace and happiness when we already know that our physical bodies are destined for death. After all, the Bible makes the correlation between sin and death very clear.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned –”
– Romans 5:12
PEACE AND THE SINFUL NATURE
The second element that was added to the picture was a snake, coiled around a broken branch of a tree. The illustration here is meant to depict another battle that we face in life, also from the moment of conception. The snake represents the unending battle we have with the sinful nature of our outer man. When we come to a recognition in life that we are sinners and therefore, need a savior to redeem us from the grip of death, it is because we recognize that the death that matters is spiritual one; without faith in Christ Jesus as Lord of all, our inner man is doomed to be forever separated from God. And what in interesting dichotomy we see playing out here: We can either be set apart (separated) from the things of this world, including our own outer man, or we will be eternally separated from the God of peace, joy, and love. The choice is not complicated. What will you choose? The Bible tells us, just before the fruit of the Spirit is listed:
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
– Galatians 5:17
We don’t need to say too much about this concept, I hope. As long as we are in this physical body, within this fallen world, we will forever be at war with the sinful nature. Knowing that will hopefully drive home the point we have been talking about throughout the entirety of this video series: To understand our perspective of the fruit of the Spirit, we must begin with Self-Control and move upwards. Without self-control (to refrain the sinful nature), we will never be able to have the gentleness of the Spirit. Without the self-control to live a gentle life, we will never be able to be seen – by God – as being faithful and worthy to carry the gospel message of Jesus Christ. If God’s view of us is not in faithfulness, we will never be able to know the goodness of God and our lives will never be able to glorify him. If we are not seeking the goodness of God, his kindness will not be known to you, nor will you be able to show his kindness to others. Without an understanding of the kindness, forgiveness and mercy of God, you will have no patience to overcome the people who seek to oppress you. And without the patience to seek only the light of Christ, you will never be at peace with God.
PEACE AND DEMONICS
The third element of battle you will see depicted in the Bible Speed Art picture is the encroaching wolf. In this digital art, the wolf represents a battle against the demonic forces of this world. Hollywood, books, and music have done a great in distorting the battle with demons (fallen angles). When you make the choice to put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, to repent from the old outer man and to live in the newness of the Spirit of God, then the glory of Christ fills you and the Spirit of God breathes life into your spirit and indwells within you. At that point, your soul – which prior was darkness (just like the world) shines like a bright star in the night sky. It isn’t difficult for the demonic forces of the spiritual world to recognize that there is a light in you that exposes them, calls them to account, and hinders their fun and games. So how long do you really expect them, now your enemy, to just sit back and let you roam around freely and take the risk that you will spread that light everywhere you go? Not long at all. I would guess that its rather instantaneous. Thus ensues the next battle that you face in life.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
– Ephesians 6:12
The demonic forces seek to diminish and invalidate that light within you. Therefore, the temptations that present are usually things of the outer man that have not been pleasing to the Lord. Again, another reason why self-control is such a pivotal starting block from which to be victorious in the battles that we face. Do you find yourself struggling with constant, habitual sinful acts/or thoughts of your outer man, sinful nature. That’s because that is where the demons like to play. They want you to believe that you have no hope of overcoming that struggle or addiction. They want you to believe that the outer man is greater in strength than the inner man. But that could not be further from the truth.
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
– 1 John 4:4
PEACE WITH GOD
In conclusion, where we can find peace, amidst the battles of this life? In short, God made it perfectly clear that we have one peace in this life, and it has nothing to do with the outer man existence.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
– Romans 5:1
The peace that we have is in the Word of Life, Jesus Christ. Aside from Jesus, there is no means of peace that we can have because, without Jesus, our existence is wholly in the outer man, where battle after battle ensues; where we have no hope of victory; where we will never make it out alive. However, if we choose to die to ourselves – to put to to death the ways of the outer man – than we already have the death that matters. That death, brings about new life; a new life that is worth having joy in (how ironic that the next part of the fruit of the Spirit is Joy).
Are you at peace with God today? Do you think that going to church is going to get you to that kind of peace? Because it won’t. No membership, no denomination, no amount of tithing, no time spent serving the church will usher you into the peace of God. Jesus Christ, and him alone, is the only option for your own, Jerusalem – your inner man foundation of peace.