Rev. Smit is pastor of the Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada. Previous article in this series: August 2008, p. 452.
Peace certainly is a precious gift of God.
As the fruit of the Spirit, it is a gift of grace by the operation of the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. It is the gift of the knowledge and assurance of our peace with God through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In addition to the knowledge and enjoyment of our peace with God, there is also that part of peace which affects our relationships with our spouses, children, fellow believers, and all whom God is pleased to bring upon our individual and unique pathways. In fact, the enjoyment of peace in our earthly relationships is the perspective that Galatians 5:22 emphasizes when it speaks of peace along with the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit.
One place in Scripture that describes that place of peace in the daily life of the believer is Colossians 3:15. There the Lord admonishes the redeemed and justified believer to “. . . let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body.”
There is only one true peace, and that is the peace of God. We noticed in our previous article that this peace cannot be found in the world and that this peace the world will never have. The peace of God is the peace that Christ leaves with us and gives unto us by His Spirit on the basis of His perfect and complete atonement. This is the peace in which we know that we are right with God by faith alone, and not by or because of our works. This is the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7) and for us is very precious. It is the prayer of the saints in Psalm 122 that this peace flourish in the church. Sweet, spiritual harmony and unity in the doctrinal truth and the new life of our Lord Jesus Christ is the peace that we desire to be enjoyed among the brethren.
Now, how shall we enjoy that peace in this life? Just as we know the forgiveness of our sin by our heavenly Father in the way of our forgiving the sins of those who sin against us, so also we enjoy our peace with God in the way of being a blessed peacemaker (Matt. 5:9), by doing those things “which make for peace” (Rom. 14:19), and by letting the peace of God rule in our hearts.
The kind of spiritual rule or government that we must desire for the peace of God in our life is illustrated by an umpire. The word “rule” in Colossians 3:15 refers to the work and position of an umpire or referee. We know that an umpire in a baseball game, a judge in a track and field event, or a referee in a hockey game determines whether the contestants compete fairly, applies the rules of conduct and fair play, and resolves any disputes between athletes or teams in order to maintain proper conduct and orderliness during the game or event. The umpire, judge, or referee ensures and promotes orderliness as the teams compete for the ultimate prize of the contest.
Unlike the goal of many ball teams and athletes today, the goal of the believer is peace in his relationship with his neighbor, especially in the home and in the church. His goal in life ought to be the enjoyment of the peace of God. Sometimes that goal is sought through spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies. Often it is pursued through the things that make for peace among the brethren. Whatever the situation may be, the ultimate goal is true peace.
At the very same time, that peace of God must be honored as the umpire or referee in our pursuit of peace. The peace of God ought to be enthroned as the referee to regulate and govern the conscience, thoughts, motives, reasons, decisions, speech, and attitudes. The peace of God is needed to remind us constantly that we must remain within the boundaries of love, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, and self control, which make for peace among the brethren. This is the peace that must be the umpire and must rule in our life.
It is not the fruit of the Spirit that we allow the peace of man to be umpire, to which we are prone. In our sin, we do not want to turn the other cheek or forgive seventy times seven. We are prone to let the referees of revenge, retaliation, pride, selfishness, and love of earthly glory govern our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Instead of the peace of God as umpire, we are prone to let the principle of making the one who sins against us to pay for his offense and to suffer great misery because of it. When we are offended, we are prone to fight back in a sinful zeal for our own interests and pride. It is not difficult for us to examine our own lives and conduct and find examples of our failures to let the peace of God rule and instead to allow sin and unbelief to enforce their rules in our speech and conduct.
When the peace of God rules in him, the believer lives and behaves in submission to the peace of God. When true peace is umpire, the believer does not retaliate in kind, but he follows the example of Christ, who did not retaliate when He was unjustly afflicted by wicked men (I Pet. 2:23). When the peace of God rules in his life, the believer lives in the truth that God did not make war with us when we sinned against Him. In fact, when we were guilty of war with Christ, He died for us in order to redeem us from our warfare against Him and to unite us to Himself in the bonds of love and peace.
That truth determines that our conduct towards those who sin against us ought to follow the truth of what God has done to us in Christ. Since God made peace with us through the blood of Christ, so must we, in response to those who sin against us, make peace and reconciliation at the foot of the cross with brother, sister, spouse, child, fellow member in the church, and whatever neighbor the Lord may be pleased to bring upon our pathway.
As umpire, the peace of God ought to govern our attitudes towards those who do us good and towards those who do evil against us. When we remember the peace of God and submit to the truth that God made peace with us, our attitude towards those who do evil against us will become characterized by humility, love, and calmness. This fruit of the Spirit of peace is the opposite of a flaring, fire-cracker temper and a contentious, bullying spirit.
As a result, the peace of God as umpire will affect the manner of our conduct towards others. It guides us away from the extremes that are poisonous and toward those things that make for peace in the church and the home. It guards us from conduct that is overzealous, like a rambunctious bull in an antique shop, and from conduct that is spiritually lazy, like a slimy slug crossing a sidewalk.
The peace of God guides us down the paths of wisdom and prudence in our life with one another. When we step outside the boundaries of godly conduct, the spiritual referee of God’s Word functions as a mighty blast, like a shrill-sounding, heart-pricking referee’s whistle! If necessary, we need the referee of peace to prick our hearts by the Word and, if necessary, to chastise us with a firm rebuke. The peace of God has as its ultimate goal the glory and honor of God. Peace may never be bro kered at the expense of God’s glory, honor, name, and truth. The true peace of God, which shines forth with the truths of His sovereign, irresistible grace, honors the name of God. And when that peace rules in our hearts, we are directed unto the same goal of God’s glory and in the same way of faithfulness to the truth of our peace with God in Christ Jesus.
Now, where does the desire and obedience that the peace of God rule our relationships in life begin? This begins in the heart. The Spirit must work this remarkable and sweet fruit of peace in us. He must work not only the peace of the forgiveness of our sins, but also the peace of the forgiveness of those who sin against us.
For the growth and maintenance of that peace with one another, there is the gift of prayer. Faithful submission to the preaching the Word of the gospel develops and maintains this peace. In the way of thoughts that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, this peace is nurtured. Another chief way is living with one another in the way of confession of sin, forgiveness, and reconciliation in the blood of Jesus Christ. Living in contentment and in humility serves the enjoyment of the gift of peace among brethren in the Lord.
Our daily experience shows that the maintenance of peace in the home and in the church is always accomplished through struggle. The Lord has it that way for us in this life so that we do not boast in ourselves and, instead, continually seek and trust Him alone for the grace to live in this fruit of the Spirit.
In that regard, we may understand that the reason for the rule of peace in our hearts is that we are called into one body (Col. 3:15). We are not created and called by Christ into a body of disunity, but into His fellowship and life, which is one life. Since we are called into that one body of Christ and the life of that body is the peace and unity of Christ, it follows that then we ought to pursue the expression of that unity in the home and in the church. We ought to desire even that unbelievers who are brought providentially upon our pathway be called out of the disunity and enmity of their sin and unbelief into the unity of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Furthermore, with that as the reason for our pursuit of true peace, we will seek the peace and prosperity of the church first. That may require that we deny ourselves, swallow our pride, and sacrifice our preferences, lest we injure and interrupt the peace of the home or the congregation. The blessed peacemaker will at the expense of himself let peace rule and reign.
When we consider how this fruit comes to visible expression in God’s people now, it is evident that we depend upon the Spirit of Christ to produce this blessed fruit in us and to make the means of its growth effective in our hearts and lives. What a blessing it is when the Spirit by His grace gives us the opportunities to harvest and taste this fruit in our lives. The taste of peace and unity with the brethren is of great delight!
However, the difficulty of the enjoyment of this peace in this life is shown by examples in Scripture. For example, do you remember the sharp disagreement between the apostles Paul and Barnabas over the question of whether John Mark should be taken on the second missionary journey? Barnabas was determined to take John Mark. The apostle Paul determined that it would not be good to take John Mark because of his past departure from the missionary team on the earlier journey. The lines of disagreement were clear. The contention between the two was so sharp they were forced to part ways. There is no question in our minds about the orthodoxy either of Paul or of Barnabas. They were equally committed and faithful servants of Christ. Yet, in God’s providence, for the peace of the church and the good of the church, they parted ways according to the Lord’s good pleasure (Acts 15:36-41).
I am quite sure that you can readily think of such situations in your own lives where for a time, due to struggle, sin, or controversy against false doctrine, the enjoyment of peace was affected adversely and even interrupted for a time.
Nevertheless, it is through such struggle and through reconciliation in the Lord, in faithfulness to the truth of God’s Word and to a life that follows from the truth of God’s Word, that by the grace of God the peace enjoyed afterwards becomes more precious and dear to those who truly desire in prayer and pursue in word and deed the peace of Zion here below.
You and I do take the blessed fruit of peace for granted all too often. We learn that fault especially when the Lord humbles us and withholds from us the enjoyment of His peace in times of testing, controversy, struggle, and our own sins. May we pray all the more earnestly that by the power of the blood of Christ and His Spirit peace may reign in our hearts and lives, and that we may delight to have Christ, our Peace, so rule in and among us.
How pleasant and how good it is
When brethren in the Lord
In one another’s joy delight
And dwell in sweet accord.
(Psalter No. 369, stanza 1)