The fruit of the Spirit – Peace
Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbour, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea."
Christian peace is like that. It’s not disengaging with life but in the depth of life – cushioned by the spiritual fruit of peace. I’m not sure we get to the point of not knowing there’s a storm, but certainly protection and peace in it.
We will look at three aspects to the fruit of peace:
- The promise of peace
- Types of peace
- The results of peace
1. The promise of peace.
The natural produce of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian is peace. Jesus said,
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.(John 14:27)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (16:33)
We don’t always feel peaceful! Jesus recognised that in saying that in the world you will have trouble. So peace is not the absence of troubles, but peace in them.
Taking a couple of quotes from Paul we can see the challenge and the choice of peace:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Col 3:15)
So Paul says that the peace of God will rule…if you let it! Peace as “the fruit of the Spirit” is of and from the Spirit of God, but has to be cultivated and nurtured by us: “Live by the spirit”. Yet from God’s point of view it is not a “maybe”. It is promised: “my peace I give you”. It is there for the taking, whatever troubles and anxieties life may throw at you.
A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do; all we have to do is to enter into it.
Do you sense peace in your life? It is there for the taking. But what is it?...
2 Types of peace.
Peace with God.
If God has promised peace, and if peace is the fruit of the Spirit, it is obvious that the first and most important type of peace we can have is peace with God. Spiritual peace.
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
Before Paul became a Christian he was religious, yet his accounts of his previous life do not show a sense of peace, and he certainly was not a peacemaker (e.g. Acts 9). He speaks of running round persecuting Christians and striving to be the best Jew. He was filled with zeal but not peace. Only when he found his peace with God did Paul realise that he’d formally been striving for an earned peace that was freely available as a gift. It came through being justified (put right) by faith through Jesus. The greatest peace we can have is that of knowing we don’t have to strive to be right with God – he’s done it for us. So it follows that there will be no deep peace in any of our lives until we accept Christ, make our peace with God. Have you done that?
Peace with each other.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. (Col 3:15 again). It follows that if I have made my peace with God, and you have made your peace with God, there is common ground between us and therefore there should be peace with each other. Yet we sometimes (often?) have to confess that we don’t always live in peace with each other. We can stir up, agitate and even oppose one another over theology, ideology, hymnology, ecclesiology, eschatology and nearly every other -ology you can think of! But this verse tells us that our peace is the peace of Christ because we are members of one body, the body of Christ. When we think of all our little differences, we ought rather to think of the New Testament differences, and many of ours would be set into perspective. In Ephesians 2, for instance, Paul speaks of the two worlds that came together in Christ:
11 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)— 12 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 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, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
In every difference and tension in the church we ought always to stop and ask ourselves, is this difference worth risking the peace of Christ for? Occasionally it will be, if the fundamentals of the person and work of Christ are compromised, but many times it will not be worth it! Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Peace with all people.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Rom 12:18). Because of what God has done for us and in us, we can’t be the same as people for whom that has not yet happened. Peace is an evangelistic tool! We show by our lives that we are not like we were before knowing Jesus. The human instinct is to react to wrong with wrong. Seek revenge, bite back, create tension…That is what Paul goes on to refer to in v19f and concludes with “overcome evil with good”. But back in v18 he says “as far as it depends on you…” Complete relationship peace is a two way thing. You can’t be accountable for the other person, but you can account for yourself with godly peace. Paul recognises peace will not always prevail, but make sure you’re not the one stopping it! If you do that, then you have no need of guilt about tension. Spirit filled Christians are sensitive about whether they have caused is harmony. “Should I have said that?” “Maybe I went over the top”… Sometimes we will have to apologise and ask forgiveness. But there are also times when we have to say “I worked hard for peace, I did all in my power, and if someone else won’t let go, that’s their issue. My conscience is clear before God”. Sometimes the peace we need is the peace to not feel guilty for what we are not responsible for.
So there are three types of peace. Now briefly we’ll think of the results of peace:
3. The results of Peace.
If we cultivate the spiritual fruit of peace, the results are quite obvious:
Peace will replace worry.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6)
Most of us worry! The spiritual fruit of peace can allay it.
Peace will replace inner tension.
Back to Romans 12. When all those negative emotions bubble up, we can call on the Lord not only to react properly, but to change us inside. Feelings of revenge can be set aside. Internal stress and tension can be relieved. Hostility can be changed to compassion.
Peace will over-rule circumstances.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress… Psalm 46:
Peace will create well-being.
Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of sorrow; it empties today of strength.
When we swap the worry for peace, our lives have the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing God has always intended for us. The psalmist says:
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (4:8)
Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. (37:37)
So it makes sense to live a life of peace! May the peace of God guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 Dwight Moody (1837–1899)
 Corrie Ten Boom, cited in T Trask & W Goodall, The Fruit of the Spirit p63.