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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace” Galatians 5:22

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!  This is the beautiful greeting used by the Apostle Paul in each of his letters and it is my greeting to each of you as, this week, we take a look at the Fruit of the Spirit which is peace.

The Greek word translated “peace” in all the scriptures I’ll be discussing is eirene (G1515).  The Strong’s Concordance gives me this definition: …from a primary verb eiro (to join), peace, prosperity, one…set at one again.  How beautiful Luke 2:14 becomes: “Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  God Himself has come to bring peace on earth, to set everything at one again. So the heavenly hosts proclaimed.  Jesus Himself said something different: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)  These two scriptures appear opposed to one another.  I have heard some believers say that Jesus came to save us from the wrath of the Father but no…looking at these two scriptures it seems to me God wants peace on earth and Jesus said nope-not peace but a sword.  Do we Christians have a divided God?  Can one member of the Trinity be at odds with another? 

Such a thing is impossible in the God who has revealed Himself as One.  There are all of the scriptures where Jesus says “The Father and I are One” but let’s look at John 1:1; “The Word was with God and the Word was God”.  The word “with” in the Greek is sun (G4862) and means “union, with or together.”  No separation but union.  They are One in being and One in purpose.  Keeping this in mind, I took a closer look at Matthew 10:34.

My NKJV says “bring peace” but the KJV has “send peace”.  I looked up the Greek word and found ballo (G906) which carries the basic meaning of to throw or cast.  Here I see peace is not something imposed from without but rather, something central to a group of individuals.  The disciples carried it with them when they were sent out, it was something they could bestow, and it was something they could remove (see all of Chapter 10 of Matthew, specifically verse 13).  Chapter 10 of Matthew described terrible happenings, schisms between families, great tribulation.  There’s a similar passage in Luke’s Gospel but the word there is division rather than sword.  (Luke 12:51) 

Division or sword?  I think it’s both.  The word translated “division” in Luke 12:51 is diamerismos (G1267) and means “disunion (of opinion and conduct), division” while the word for “sword” in Matthew 10:34 is machaira (G3162) and means “a knife, i.e. dirk, fig. war, judicial punishment-sword”.  I find these two passages aren’t saying entirely different things though because, machaira is derived from mache (G3163) meaning “a battle, i.e. fig controversy-fighting, strive, striving” and, tracing further to the primary verb machomai (G3164); I find “to war, i.e. (fig) to quarrel, dispute:-fight, strive.”

Not that the sword mentioned by Jesus could not be and has not been a literal one.  History has recorded the people of God being put to death and, indeed, many times delivered up to death by a close friend or family member.  It is happening today in parts of the world.  To the shame of what it is to be Christian, the literal sword has been wielded by Christians.  I am not talking about being part of a military or defending one’s nation but am talking about killing another in the name of God thinking it brings Him honor.  This is not the way Jesus gave to peace.  “My kingdom is not of this word.  If My kingdom were of this word, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”(John 18:36) 

This thought continues in the New Testament and is perhaps best put into words by the Apostle Paul: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)  No, the sword, or the far more advanced weapons of this day; are not for the hands of Christians to usher in the Kingdom of God.  Neither do we declare another human as our enemy because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Perhaps all this is easy for me to say.  I do not live in a country where I am under threat of death for speaking what I believe.  That is true.  My life is not in danger (I hope) but I have experienced divisions.  I know the pain of separation because of my faith.  I can speak to the truth of Luke 12:51 if not to Matthew 10: 34, and I can also speak to the truth of the peace of God centered in Jesus.

His peace is to us in the midst of whatever we may face.  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

His peace is also, quite literally, a fortress.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  The word “guard” here is phroureo (G5432) and means “to be a watcher in advance i.e. to mount guard as a sentinel (post spies at gates), to hem in, protect; –keep (with a garrison).”

What a peace is this!  It is not given by the world, it is not given to the world, and it can never be found there.  The Hastings Bible Dictionary says, “The transition from OT to NT usage (of peace) strikingly illustrates the inwardness of Christianity.”  The entry for peace also contains a quote from G.G. Findlay: “Peace on earth is to flow from the peace of Christ that rules in Christian hearts.”  The will of God is peace on earth but this peace is found only in Jesus.  It is the fruit of Christian lives because of His Spirit in us.  May the Spirit open our eyes to the reality of His peace and then may we go into our daily lives with our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  (Ephesians 6:15)

Amen.

References:

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Reprint from the edition originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1909, March 2001, Page 696-697

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990