LOVE, JOY, PEACE
Galatians 5:22a-c
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Galatians 5:22a (Holman) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, . . .

The New Testament says Christians are to love each other as family. The concept of our being brothers and sisters in Christ is often overlooked. The family-of-God image needs to be emphasized.

“Brother” and “sister” are hallowed titles. They imply being begotten of the same loins, conceived in the same womb, nursed at the same breast, cradled in the same bosom.

Believers are to share this level of intimacy. We are begotten of the same Father, born of the same Spirit, and share Jesus as our Elder Brother.

Believers are to love one another, not because we merit each other’s love, but due to a special family relationship. We dare not refuse anyone God has accepted as a child. Only a Cain mumbles, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This is one question Christians must never dare to ask.

We evangelicals take pride in saying salvation is given on the basis of God’s grace, yet we sometimes act as if people have to merit our love. We seem to be voicing a contradiction, “God’s love is free, but you have to earn mine.”

We must show, as well as receive, grace. He who knows everything about us loves us most. Our limited knowledge of others can work to our disadvantage. No two Christians would quarrel much if they could be each other for a while.

If we knew everything about our fellow believers, we could see in their hearts enough sorrow and suffering to disarm our hostility. The very believer we dislike most has probably had as hard a time keeping from being worse than he or she is, as we have had in keeping from being worse than we are.

This does not mean love is to be spineless. Sometimes love has to be tough. Causing division (Romans 16:17-18, II Thessalonians 3:6) is one of only three deeds considered hideous enough to warrant breaking fellowship over. The other two are open immorality (I Corinthians 5:5) and heresy (II Thessalonians 3:14, I Timothy 1:20, II Timothy 2:17-18; 3:5, Titus 3:10, II John 10).

Paul warned, “watch out for those who cause dissensions and pitfalls contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them” (Romans 16:17). People causing difficulty and division in a church must not be allowed to go on unheeded. “There is the ever present danger of our very Christian charity making us unwilling to deal with righteous sternness toward others who are doing deadly work” (Newell).

When any church discipline is done, whether due to immorality, heresy, or divisiveness, the motive must be redemptive love. Our sole goal must be to restore the one who trespassed. Paul delivered two men unto Satan, “so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (I Timothy 1:20). Another immoral one was delivered “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord” (I Corinthians 5:5). “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don’t treat him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (II Thessalonians 3:14-15).

Paul turned people over to the devil that they might come back to God. For the believer, revenge or meanness is never permissible. Our motivation must always be redemptive.

Galatians 5:22b-c . . .joy, peace, . . .

Joy and peace reside inside believers as neighbors in a delicate tandem. Joy is delight springing from faith in the promises of God. Peace is tranquility springing from faith in the same promises. Joy is peace dancing (F. B. Meyer). Peace is joy at rest.

Joy is pictured by David dancing before the ark. Peace is pictured by David’s prayer, “Even when I go through the darkest valleys, I fear no danger, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4a).

Joy, active and expressive, sparkles and flashes like a diamond. However, the body is fragile and cannot endure unending delight, a perpetual adrenalin rush.
At times the mind cannot be effervescent, and has to come down. For instance, in times of bereavement, we find it hard to be vivacious and energetic. Therefore, room is given for peace.

The heart, when it needs rest and relief, finds them in the lovely form of peace. In peace the heart is still joyous, but in a calm, quiet way.

Joy stands up and shouts hosanna. Peace leans her head in Christ’s bosom. Peace does not seek an exciting crowd, but prefers instead the calm shade and a quiet chamber. Peace is no less spiritual than joy, just less boisterous and stirred. Christians should seek this quiet, private, inner peace with God.

True peace comes not from an absence of outward troubles, but from the sensed presence of God within. “You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You, for it is trusting in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

The world’s prescription for inner peace is often little more than a veiled form of escapism, a refusal to face life head-on, a desperate effort to ignore troubles. The world’s idea of peace is day-dreams, pleasures, amusements, good jobs, successful business moves, noise, crowds ( anything to keep our mind occupied.

Some people dare not be quiet, because if they were still a while, their thoughts would be troubled. Many cannot meditate because it unnerves them.

The world offers spicy, titillating excitements to replace the last thrills it gave, which quickly turned flat and stale. The world can temporarily excite us, thrill us, tantalize us, and occupy our mind. Only Jesus can calm us long-term.

This world’s efforts at peace can never fully satisfy our innermost longings. This world’s peace always leaves an aching void. Like drinking salt water, it leaves us thirstier for more than ever before.

People tend to dream of being at peace someday. We hope we’ll be happy “one of these days.” It is a recurring mirage. We are beginning to live, planning to live, but never really living. Our fantasy is to someday sit down in peace, but it never arrives.

The difference between Christ’s peace and the world’s peace is well illustrated in a story from the early years of English Baptists. Queen Elizabeth jailed two of our forebearers, Greenwood and Barrow, who enjoyed peace in a dungeon cell shared with lunatics, murderers, and other felons.

On execution day, on the way to the gallows a reprieve arrived from the Queen. On another day they were taken to the scaffolds. Ropes were put around their necks. Allowed to address the crowd, they were at peace, and reasserted their beliefs in religious liberty. A second time the Queen sent a reprieve.

The Queen hoped they would recant, but finally gave up. Taken out a third time, the two Baptists were hanged. The Queen was exasperated by their unbreakable peace, and by how cheerfully they faced death on all three occasions. They acted as though they were receiving a necklace of jewels rather than a noose.

Their joyous and peaceful deaths were a stark contrast to the Queen’s. She ruled England, but died in sadness, saying “All my possessions for a moment of time.”

May God help us find all our peace in Jesus. All the world’s stuff and laurels, without Christ, are nothing. But Jesus without the world’s trappings is sufficient. C. S. Lewis said he who has God plus everything has nothing more than he who has God plus nothing.

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