Peace in the church

Nov 27, 2013

Previously in this series of essays concerning the fruit of peace, we discussed (1) peace with God and (2) peace with self. Let us now move on to the third and final level or aspect of the fruit of peace, and that has to do with peace with others.

This third aspect can be subdivided into three parts as well: peace with others within the body of Christ; peace with non-believers and peace among nations. We are going to pass over any substantial discussion of peace among nations at this point for two reasons.

First, very few of us are in a political position to affect or influence that in any material way. We can all pray for peace among all nations, of course, and that is good. We should do that. That deals with the spiritual realm of intercession. Insofar as any of us being in any political position to create and execute national policy, perhaps very few if any of my readers are in that position.

Secondly, I don’t think that peace among nations will ever be accomplished until men learn to have peace on these lower levels first. I look forward to the millennial kingdom when this will largely be accomplished. One of the beautiful assurances of that is found in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:6, 7 which was given 800-some years before Christ but which encompasses both His first and His second comings.

Isaiah 9: 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

God speed the day, but until then, I think we have our plate full just accomplishing peace among the body of Christ, don’t you agree? Since Paul was the major writer of the New Testament, it is not surprising then that we find more references to peace in his writings than anywhere else.

When he listed peace with other fruits of the spirit, it seemed to be in the context of peace among Christians more than with non-believers. Paul lists nine fruits here. (There are many more, of course.)

Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

All well and good…however, notice that verse 22 begins with… 22 But the fruit of the Spirit…indicating by that conjunction “but” that what follows is in contrast to that which precedes it, so let’s back up and examine what Paul was contrasting the fruits with. And I think we will see that he is referring primarily to members of the body of Christ.

Galatians 5: 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Paul is clearly addressing the believers in Galatia, isn’t he? Have you ever been in a church or fellowship where you have seen this occurring? —where the members backbite and gossip? It can become very destructive to the local body, can’t it? I have seen churches go through very painful periods and have been told of a number of instances where local churches which have split right down the middle, due primarily to members backbiting, due to gossip, to jealousy among elders or among Sunday school teachers or among other staff members. It is a sad sight and a disgrace and shame to the body of Christ at large.

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness

Do you think Paul nailed it there? In other words, do you think the priority is correct here? …that we need to be able to get along with other believers first, before we can witness to the world about how to accomplish peace. Our lives are our witness to the world, aren’t they? And if the world sees the body of Christ in perpetual discord, then non-believers are apt to scoff and say: you’re telling us that you have the answers but yet look at you. They may even quote Paul from Galatians 5 and say, I see this among you Christians…

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Would the non-believing critic be correct? I am afraid he would be more correct than we would like to admit. Because as we analyze verse 20, we will find much more here than we might have thought. The old English meanings of words in the King James sometimes obscure things that we would otherwise recognize instantly. The first sin is…

20 Idolatry,

Is there idolatry in the church? Protestants en masse point to the Catholics praying to statues and say “yes, look at those idolaters.” But idolatry is far more than physical idols of wood, plaster or stone. Idolatry in the heart is something that every Christian must seek to eliminate. Idolatry is putting anything in our lives above the heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. From that definition, idolatry is rampant in the church.

witchcraft, Witchcraft is rampant in the church. We must realize that witchcraft is not limited to a bunch of people sitting in a circle of candles and pentagrams chanting and casting spells. That’s the Hollywood version, and I don’t doubt that it exists.

But witchcraft exists in the church in other, more common ways, because the word witchcraft has a far broader meaning than the Hollywood portrayal. To begin with, the Greek word is G5331 pharmakeia {far-mak-i’-ah} which has to do with drugs. We get our English word pharmacy from this word which is here translated witchcraft.

It is the same word found in Revelation 18:23 which tells how all the world was under the control of the mysterious Babylon the Great, and that they had obtained this control by the use of drugs. Hmmm, …would you like to discuss the federal government’s prescription drug plan over lunch? Well, enough on that. We don’t want to go off on a tangent at this time. Ron Oja taught about it in a lecture to our Atlanta fellowship a few years ago, the title of which is The Death of Witchcraft. (Available on CD, $8 ppd., or on DVD, $16 ppd. We will include for free the recommended pre-study, my two-part lecture, Pride, Flattery, War & the Death of Absalom.)

Next, Paul lists hatred, which is self-explanatory. Do brothers and sisters in the church ever come to hating each other? Sadly, it is true. Then, there is this peculiar word, variance. When I think of variance, I think of technology or mathematics. Like in a machine shop speaking of millimeter tolerances for auto parts, or mathematical variances in statistical studies. Or in real estate, there are zoning variances. But what in the world did Paul mean by this word?

Very simply, it means contentions and strife. It is also defined as “wrangling,” which makes me think of cowboy wranglers as they wrangle that steer to the ground and contend with it until they can control it completely. King Saul was a cowboy as opposed to David the shepherd, and so the picture of the Saul church being full of contention and wrangling is appropriate, isn’t it? (To be continued.)

Category: Teaching