It is clear from the news headlines that we need peace in the world. But that can happen only when we have the peace that flows from the Spirit. Everyone on the planet needs to be born again, be filled with the Spirit, and let the peace flow outwardly.
Let’s get started.
Peace is a fruit or produce or result of living in the Spirit. It should be growing naturally-supernaturally out of your heart and soul and mind. Here’s what the reality behind the word means in your life.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23, NIV).
“Fruit” is singular, which means each fruit grows together and feeds from the same life source. They are united, one collective. But it is okay to enumerate them one at a time, as nine fruits (plural). Just don’t separate them by highlighting one and ignoring another one in your life. They all grow equally strong together, as a unit, by the indwelling and power of the Spirit.
Now let’s define the term and then see how it looks in the New Covenant Scriptures in context.
The language of the Old Testament is Hebrew, and the main word for peace is shalom (pronounced shah-loam and appears 237 times), which means “prosperity, well-being, health, completeness, safety” (Mounce, p. 502).
The New Testament, written in Greek, uses the word eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). In classical Greek, used long before the New Testament was written, it means a cessation of hostilities or war and a state of law and order that “makes the fruits of prosperity possible” (Mounce, p. 503). That is, when a society is in peace, life can proceed in order and prosperity and well-being and safety (DNTT, p. 165).
“In other words, ‘peace’ is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people. Not all people receive this peace—only those who have been reconciled to God” (Mounce, p. 503). When we say peace as a greeting, it communicates blessing (ibid.). Peace “is the opposite of disorder” (ibid.).
BDAG, the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, has these definitions for the noun, which is used in Gal. 5:22: “a state of concord, peace, harmony” between governments and people; the opposite is the sword (Matt. 10:34 // Luke 12:51). It is “harmony in personal relationships, peace, harmony.” It means “good order,” which is the opposite of turmoil and disorder (1 Cor. 14:33). There is a way or path of peace that leads to peace (Rom. 3:17). We are called to strive for or pursue peace (Rom. 14:19; 2 Tim. 2:22). Another piece of the “peace puzzle” is that it is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6).
It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29).
Now let’s look at cognates (words that have different forms but are related).
Making peace is eirēnopoieō (pronounced ay-ray-noh-poi-eh-oh) and is used only in Col. 1:20. This is the act of causing “a right or harmonious relationship, make peace.”
The endeavor to reconcile persons who have disagreements is called eirēnopoios (pronounced ay-ray-oh-poi-ohss). It literally means “peace-making.”
The adjective is eirēnikos (pronounced ay-ray-nee-kohss) and it is linked with righteousness (Heb. 12:11) and it can be translated as “peace-loving.”
The verb is eirēneuō (pronounced ay-ray-new-oh). It means to “cause others to live in peace, reconcile”; “to be at peace”; “to live in peace, be at peace.” A literal and awkward translation of one sense of the verb would be “peace-ify.” We have the verb pacify, which means to calm the two striving sides down. The verb also means to “keep the peace” (Matt. 9:50; Rom. 12:18; 1 Thess. 5:13). Or it means to “live in peace” (2 Cor. 13:11).
What the New Testament Says
Now let’s return to the noun eirēnē, since it is the form used in Gal. 5:22.
It is significant that Paul begins and ends almost every one of his letters with the greeting of peace. This is his Jewish heritage, while first-century Greeks greeted people with the verb “rejoice! Celebrate!” Paul also uses this greeting.
When Christian missionaries greet a house or town, they can wish, out loud, peace to live there. If the house or town rejects their message, then they can withdraw their greeting of peace and shake the dust off of their feet (Matt. 10:13 // Luke 10:5-6). This authority granted to missionaries and evangelists is powerful. They can proclaim or withdraw peace over a town or household. What happens to the people when it remains or is withdrawn is up to God, not the Christians. When they receive the gospel, they can have peace with God, with each other, and in themselves.
When missionaries arrive in regions that have other religions than Christianity and families may be divided when a member of this family converts and follows Jesus, he forewarned that family strife may ensue. He came to bring a sword, not peace, in families (Matt. 10:34). Luke interprets the word sword as “division” (Luke 12:51). The converts must be willing to endure persecution and rejection from those closest to them. They can have a new family, the family of God. This happens in the Jewish world among extra-devout Jews and Islamic countries, where the authorities have passed laws forbidding what they call apostasy. See this post, written by me, at my first website:
People must count the cost before they convert. When they do convert, they will feel his inner strength if they get persecuted.
After Jesus healed people, he said their faith has “saved” (i.e. healed) them, and for the healed persons to go in peace (Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48). In these contexts, peace means that their now-healthy body functions in harmony, and now they are no longer needy and dependent on their families. They are no longer outcasts. They can even find employment if they were first-century men, and manage their households, if they were first-century women (and maybe find employment outside, too).
When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he said, “Peace be with you!” (Luke 24:36). No doubt he used the Hebrew word shalom. He was speaking to their fear so that it would subside. He spoke to their anxiety as to what they should do next. They were about to be told to go into Jerusalem and wait for power from on high (Acts 1:4-8). They were about to go on a global mission, so they needed peace for the task.
In his great discourse before he died, he put peace on his disciples (John 14:27; 16:33). They needed it because they were about to go through a tough time as their shepherd was about to be struck down at his crucifixion and death and burial. During our hardest of times, we need God’s peace, as they did too, two thousand years ago.
The believers at Antioch sent off Judas and Silas with the blessing of peace (Acts 15:33). It would be great to know their exact words, but they may have spoken at least some of the words in Numbers 6:22-26. Look it up. They are wonderful.
In an important verse, the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). If your being led by the Spirit increases divine life—the God kind of life—then that is a signal you are following the Spirit’s lead. And if it leads towards peace, peace with God, peace with your neighbor, and peace within your own spirit and soul, then the Spirit is behind it.
Peace is linked with righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). The Spirit is the source of true peace. We must link righteousness with our inner peace. If your leading by the Spirit does not produce righteousness, even if you seem to feel peaceful about your future course of life, then your leading is false, and so is your peace. You are actually confused because you have allowed your own desire to take the place of God’s will.
In a great promise, Paul says that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20). This comes through the God of peace in our relationship with him and is ultimately fulfilled in the Messianic Age. Satan will at last be vanquished, and in our own life he is defeated—or should be if we fight like Jesus did during his great temptation (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13), with Scripture and a steely determination to resist by God’s Spirit and power.
God has called us to live in peace (1 Cor. 7:15). This is in the context of community, and if we do not have peace with them, then we are falling short.
Paul commanded the Corinthians not to cause fear in his mentee Timothy and not to show him contempt. After Timothy ministered to them, they were to send him back to Paul with peace (1 Cor. 16:11). This instruction reveals that Timothy needed bolstering, and peace should prevail in the Corinthian community, where Timothy was going.
Christ Jesus himself is our peace (Eph. 2:14-15). That means we have peace and reconciliation with God, and peace and reconciliation with different ethnic groups, particularly Jew and Gentile. And his peace also means we should have it in our inner beings. So peace is vertical, horizontal, and inward.
We are called not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:5-7). Further, we are supposed to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, and then the God of peace will be with us (Phil. 4:8-9, NIV’s choice of words). God is the God of peace; he is the source of peace. Prayer and petitions and thinking on the right things will bring us peace. Renew the mind with godly things, and then and only can you have peace.
See my post Do I Really Know God? He Is the God of Peace
One great sign that you are walking with God is that the peace of Christ should rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15). This verse is in the plural (y’all), since we are members one of another, so we should see the promise in the context of community. But peace with our brothers and sisters starts with God, the source of peace, then it works into our hearts and finally works outwardly to brothers and sisters. It’s difficult to have peace with others when we have no peace in our souls and minds.
In a yet another great promise, Paul says we can have peace at all times and in every way (2 Thess. 3:16). No matter the circumstances, we can have peace in our minds. We don’t have to live in inner turmoil (see Phil. 4:8-9).
Peace is placed in a list of other attributes that we must pursue and exhibit, by the Spirit: righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). So please don’t believe, for example, that God is leading you to steal another man’s wife or a woman’s husband. There is no love or righteousness in your desires and schemes. If your peace does not include love, faith, and righteousness, then you don’t understand peace. Beware! You may be deceived by your own runaway desires!
In the Christian community and in the larger world, we must turn away from evil and seek the good, and pursue peace (1 Pet. 3:11). Once again living in righteousness is linked with peace.
Finally, in an amazing verse, Peter says to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with the Lord (2 Pet. 3:14). The Lord calls us to himself to be reconciled with him and have peace with him, and now we have to maintain it. This is called the perseverance of the believers. “Perseverance” just means, “Hang in there! Don’t give up on your faith!”
How does this post help me grow in Christ?
Peace flows from the heart of God, goes through salvation in Christ, enters the hearts of all his disciples, and works in the Christian community, and finally goes outward to the larger world. Only in Christ can the world experience lasting peace.
This post is about the fruit of the Spirit. As noted in the other posts in this series, the fruit of the Spirit should flow out of you, like grapes grow from the branches that are connected to the vine (John 15:1-8). Some teachers say that fruit comes from the vine without effort, and that’s true, but Jesus also said that every branch that does not bear fruit gets pruned, so that it may bear more (and better) fruit. The Father must prune you, or else your fruit will be substandard, sour maybe. Pruning can be painful, but it has to be done. The fruit of the Spirit needs his tending and divine management. Accept it from your loving Father; he knows what you need.
Maintain your peace with him first, with each other, and within yourself.