By Peter Amsterdam
August 15, 2017
(Points for this article were summarized from The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Kelly Minter, and The Practice of Godliness, by Jerry Bridges.1)
Peace, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, plays an important role in our becoming more like Jesus. It is rooted in our being in right relationship with God, which is possible because of His gift of salvation. Peace is also the outworking of our trust in God and our confidence in His love for us.
The Hebrew word for peace used in the Old Testament, shalom, along with its New Testament Greek equivalent, eirene, had a fuller meaning than the standard definition of peace in modern-day English. In addition to meaning tranquility, a state of exemption from the havoc of war, and the absence of anxiety or stress, these Hebrew and Greek words convey the concept of being whole or sound, completeness, safety, health, and prosperity.2
Throughout the New Testament, God is referred to as the God of peace.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.3
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely.4
Jerry Bridges wrote that God took the initiative to establish peace with rebellious men, and He is the author of both personal peace as well as peace among men. Peace should be part of our character also because God has promised us His peace, because He has commanded us to let peace rule in our lives and relationships, and because peace is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore an evidence of His working in our lives.5
Peace as spoken of in Scripture is expressed from three angles: peace with God, peace within ourselves, and peace with other people—all of which complement one another and contribute to the manifestation of the fruit of peace in our life.
The salvation we have in Jesus has repaired the breach between God and us that was caused by our sins, so that we are reconciled with the Father.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.6
This peace has brought us back into relationship with God which was lost due to sin. It is because of this reconciliation that we can have wholeness and completeness; the peace of heart, mind, and spirit of shalom. Jesus is the pathway to this kind of peace.
A firm trust that God has forgiven us and that we are reconciled with Him, coupled with our knowledge that God loves and cares about us, gives us the true sense of full peace spoken of throughout Scripture:
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.7
The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.8
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.9
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.10
The foundation of true peace is in God’s love for us and the reconciliation He made available through Jesus, and it is because of His gift of salvation that we can put our trust in Him and His promises that we live in peace with Him. Salvation is the basis for our peace with God, which makes peace with ourselves and others possible.
We tend to feel at peace when things are going well; when we’re healthy, happy, doing well financially, and not facing any major challenges. But biblical peace goes far beyond the peace we experience when everything is running smoothly. It’s a steadying anchor even in turbulent waters.11 True peace transcends circumstances. It has to do with God’s presence with us, with living in His kingdom, letting Him reign in our lives, and trusting that He is our Father who loves us and always has our best interests at heart. We have peace because we have Him.
While we may have peace with God through salvation, this doesn’t necessarily mean we have the peace of God in our lives. Although difficult things we face in life will often drive us into the arms of the Lord, that’s not always the case. And sometimes it’s more natural for us to go to the Lord when something major happens, whereas we forget to do so with petty and reoccurring everyday difficulties. Often we are robbed of peace because we worry and fret over fairly minor events or challenges. We try to deal with them ourselves, instead of bringing them before the Lord and casting our burdens upon Him in faith and trust that He is with us and cares for us.
It’s interesting that Jesus spoke to His disciples about peace the night before His crucifixion.12 He spoke to them about the sorrow, trials, and tribulation they would face, but also of the peace they would have in Him.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”13
These two promises that Jesus made to His disciples hold true for us as well. First, He says that we will face difficulties in our lives. The difficulties we encounter can rob us of joy and peace by bringing uncertainty. We don’t know what the outcomes will be, so we worry, become anxious, apprehensive, and fearful.
Second, Jesus promised that we could have peace in Him. We are to take heart in times of difficulty and uncertainty, because Jesus has overcome the world. This awareness brings us peace, as we put our trust in the Lord. Elsewhere, Jesus said:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.14
The apostle Paul exhorted:
Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.15
The remedy for worry is to bring our cares to the Lord in prayer and trust that He knows all our troubles and that He loves us. We are not promised that when we bring our concerns to the Lord we will always be delivered from them, but we are promised that peace in Jesus is available for us.
Sometimes the reason we don’t find peace in trying times is that we’re unwilling to settle for anything other than full deliverance from a problem. The promise, however, is that we can pray for the resolution of what is causing our anxiety, and we can then have that unexplainable peace which allows us to put our well-being into the Lord’s hands and trust that He knows our circumstances and will guard our hearts and minds against our anxiety.
Of course, generally speaking, when we bring our fears before the Lord we’re looking for a solution to the cause of those worries, a deliverance from them. While praying for a solution is completely legitimate, often a solution takes time—sometimes a great deal of time—during which we can find peace because we’ve put these matters into the Lord’s hands. We’ve made our requests known, and having petitioned the Lord for help, we can have His peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, thus the Holy Spirit can produce peace within us. We are to pray for peace and look to God for it.
Preceding the list of the fruit of the Spirit16 that Paul enumerated in the book of Galatians, he wrote:
If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.17
He then included a list of “the works of the flesh,”18 sins we’re often tempted with, which include actions that are the opposite of peace, such as enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy.
Throughout the New Testament, there are a number of references to being at peace with others.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.19
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.20
Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.21
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.22
Strive for peace with everyone.23
Whoever desires to love life and see good days, … let him seek peace and pursue it.24
We are to pursue peace, strive for it, seek it, and do as much as we can to live peaceably with others. We are to be single-minded about it, to leave no stone unturned in trying to achieve it, being willing to humble ourselves to reach the goal of peace with others. Of course, being at peace with others doesn’t only depend on us, which is why Paul wrote so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.25 Sometimes the other party doesn’t want peace, but in such situations, we are called to do what we can to be at peace with them.
As Christians, we should be the ones to take the initiative to restore peace, regardless of whether we have wronged someone or they have wronged us.
If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.26
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.27
It doesn’t matter who was at fault, our goal should be to restore peace in a godly manner.
If we’ve offended someone, whether they’re Christian or not, it is our responsibility to do what we can to restore peace. If we have been offended by the actions or words of someone, we are never to seek revenge or repay evil for evil. If necessary, we can seek justice through the courts, but we should never take justice into our own hands.
As those who seek to live godly lives, who want to be more like Jesus, we must strive for peace with everyone.
When we have Jesus in our lives, we follow His Word; and following His Word, living in alignment with what Scripture tells us about how to live, is what gives us peace. The byproduct of living in conjunction with God’s Word is a life blessed with wholeness, contentment, security, peace of mind, and the other biblical definitions of peace. We’re told that the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.28 Blessed are they that keep my ways.29 When we make God’s Word the foundation of our lives; when we look to it for guiding principles for our thoughts, decisions, and actions; when we do what it says; we can experience the peace that comes from God. It’s not as if we will never face difficult problems, or suffer or worry; but when we do, we can still have the peace which comes from knowing and trusting that our Father will make it all right in the end. We may not find the resolutions to some problems in this life, but we can still be at peace knowing that His truth, justice, and love will prevail in the life to come.
The apostle Paul wrote:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.30
It’s in communion with the Lord, abiding in Him, trusting Him, following Him, that we find the path of true peace. Our possessions, relationships with others, finances, or circumstances are not what bring us peace. Abiding in God, living His Word, trusting Him for everything, is how we find the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.31
There isn’t anything wrong with being successful materially or happy in our relationships, but a problem can arise if we put our trust in our possessions or circumstances, believing that they will bring us satisfaction, our hearts’ desires, and peace. The truth is that when we prioritize our lives around material things or physical circumstances, peace is often the last thing they bring us, as we can end up struggling to sleep at night, our hearts heavy with worry, our minds racing, because by trusting in these things instead of in God, we have forfeited peace, one of the most wonderful gifts available to Christians.32
The relationship between a life that pursues godliness and the gift of peace is touched on in Psalm 85:10, which says righteousness and peace kiss each other. Living in accordance with God’s Word and peace go together—you can’t have true peace without righteousness. Having a deep connection with the Lord, living His precepts, and having a clear conscience result in a soul full of peace, regardless of the challenges and adversities of everyday life—and this is something to be prized above all possessions and relationships.
If we truly value peace, the road we travel will need to be the path of righteousness,33 of living God’s Word, following its direction, committing to do those things which will enhance the spiritual fruit of peace. Keeping our hearts right with God, while sometimes difficult, is well worth the effort because of the peace it brings.
Most of all, knowing that our Father loves us and has sacrificed His Son for us is the foundation for the confidence to trust Him with every aspect of our lives, no matter what our circumstances. That confidence is what ultimately gives us lasting peace.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Kelly Minter, The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2011), 105–128.
Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010), 175–185.
3 Romans 16:20.
4 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
5 Bridges, Practice of Godliness, 175.
6 Romans 5:1.
7 Isaiah 26:3.
8 Isaiah 32:17.
9 Psalm 119:165.
10 John 14:27.
11 Minter, Fitting Room, 119.
12 John 16.
13 John 16:33.
14 John 14:27.
15 Philippians 4:6–7.
16 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22–23).
17 Galatians 5:15.
18 Galatians 5:19–21.
19 Matthew 5:9.
20 Romans 12:18.
21 Romans 14:19.
22 Colossians 3:15.
23 Hebrews 12:14.
24 1 Peter 3:10–11.
25 Romans 12:18.
26 Matthew 5:23–24.
27 Matthew 18:15.
28 Proverbs 3:17.
29 Proverbs 8:32.
30 Philippians 4:9.
31 Philippians 4:7 NIV.
32 The spiritual disciplines of good stewardship, simplicity, generosity, and giving and tithing are all things that help us keep the proper balance regarding possessions. You can read more on these topics in the series “Spiritual Disciplines,” which begins here.
33 Proverbs 12:28.