Summary: We develop peace in the body of Christ by focusing on what unites us and working toward the mutual edification of the body.
Let’s begin this morning by reminding ourselves of some important aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
1) Is demonstrated by being not doing
2) Is developed as Christ followers cooperate with the Holy Spirit
3) Is to be delightful to an unbelieving world
The way we do that as a body is reflected in two aspects of our life together in the body:
• The way we treat each other
• Our corporate worship
Today we’ll be focusing on peace as one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. This morning’s story from Home Town Tales is called “History Lessons”.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS…PEACE
As we have discovered with the first two aspects of the fruit of the Spirit – love and joy – we must begin by defining the term “peace.” If we look that word up in one of our English dictionaries, the most common definitions would be something like these:
• the absence of war or other hostilities
• a state of harmony between people or groups
• freedom from strife
• a state of stillness, silence or serenity
While there is certainly nothing wrong with those definitions, they fall short of describing the Biblical concept of peace.
In the Old Testament, the concept of peace is usually expressed by the Hebrew word “shalom”, a word that was used as a typical greeting among the Hebrews. That word conveys much more than just an absence of conflict. It was used to describe a state of well-being, wholeness and harmony that infuses all of one’s relationships.
The New Testament Greek word most often translated as "peace" is “eirene”. Although that word originally meant “the absence of conflict”, it was used by the New Testament writers as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew idea of “shalom.” Thus it also indicates that which makes for man’s highest good and brings fulfillment and wholeness to one’s life.
Biblical peace is always a product of God’s involvement in our lives, but it is so total and profound that it touches on every area of our lives – our relationship with God, our inner self, our relationships with other believers and our interactions with the world at large. Not surprisingly, the Bible rarely, if ever pictures peace as merely some kind of “inner contentment” or a purely mental state. It is just not possible to be at peace only with oneself and experience Biblical peace.
Although every element of the fruit of the Spirit is far more than just some character trait to be developed in our individual lives, it is the element of peace that best demonstrates for us the necessity of developing these attributes as a corporate body.
It’s not hard to see why a body of believers who exhibits peace among its members is attractive to an unbelieving world. Most people are searching for the kind of wholeness and fulfillment that characterizes Biblical peace. That’s why bookstores have such large self-help sections or why people watch Oprah and Dr. Phil in such large numbers. It’s why someone would risk their life in a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona because they saw a website that promised to help them “create harmonic wealth” in all areas of their lives [jamesray.com].
It’s also obvious why a church that fails to demonstrate peace in the body can be one of the biggest obstacles to people entering into the kingdom of God. Most people instinctively avoid conflict and when they observe it in a local church body, that is the last place they are going to want to go.
So let’s see what the Bible teaches us about how we can develop peace in the way we treat each other and in our corporate worship.
• Developing peace in the way we treat each other
Turn in your Bibles to the Book of Ephesians, chapter 2. This is probably the most comprehensive passage in Scripture regarding how to develop Biblical peace in the body of Christ. You can follow along as I begin reading in verse 11:
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands - 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.