CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CI)

It’s marvelous that the Holy Spirit used a man of Paul’s intellect and spiritual strength to communicate these truths. Being a Greek scholar, Paul understood that to the Gentiles, the term peace came only with the elimination of desire and the depth of emotion. For Greeks, peace helped them cope with the forces and circumstances beyond their control. As their Stoic teachers taught, longing for anything or anyone must be strangled before it is born.

At the same time, as a Jewish scholar, Paul comprehended the term peace to mean the absence of war, strife, tranquility, friendship, as well as being content, healthy, and prosperous. So, he weaves them together with a spiritual connotation affecting the believer’s emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual state after being reconciled with God. He tells the believers in Colossae, “Let the peace you have in the Anointed control your hearts, for as members of one body you are called to live in peace; you should always be thankful for this.” [1] How wonderful, if we have peace on the inside, we will have peace on the outside.

Early church teacher Augustine sees the role of peace in this light: The war between the Spirit and the flesh marks an intense fury in the believer’s life, and this spreads over into a fierce battle. Those in the spiritual world live in the Light while the unconverted world continues stuck in darkness. Therefore, says Augustine, when we maintain this peace that is ours among His people by being reconciled to God, it keeps the vices of witchcraft, hostility, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, and discord from infecting us.[2] When a believer is at peace with God and others, it will bring peace to themselves. In that light, Augustine sees peace more in a civil framework of human nature than in the structure for the spiritual condition.

We see this same thought carried on by medieval scholar Bruno the Carthusian, who describes peace as calmness and composure, or humbleness of mind, from which King Solomon takes his name,[3] meaning peaceful, saying he would restore tranquility during his reign.[4] For Bruno, peace is in harmony with all people that are born of love.[5] So for him, it equals cordiality among believers. What Bruno does not include is that such friendship between believers or even people of the world begins first with the peace secured in God through the Anointed. Without that, then peace only represents the cessation of hostility due to some sort of peace treaty. But even our Lord, the Prince of Peace,[6] did not come to sign a peace treaty with the devil; He came to destroy the devil’s power.

According to church theologian Thomas Aquinas, peace is provided by the continuous flow of love through joy into a state of secured satisfaction and contentment. With this in mind, Aquinas notes that first of all, joy must be complete and that only happens when a believer’s love is excited about God and know that this same God loves them even more. For it is then that the God who loves his peace when He is Lord to the person He loves. As Solomon says, “I have come into His presence as one looking for peace.[7] Secondly, that there is complete enjoyment in that which is loved, which likewise brings peace because no matter whatever else happens, nothing can hinder God’s love for them. As the Psalmist said, “Much peace is theirs that love Your law, and to them, there is no stumbling-block.” [8] In this way, joy is the fruit of transformed-love; peace then is the perfection of transformed-love through joy. And by these is a person made inwardly whole to enjoy only good things from the Lord.[9]

Reformer Martin Luther thinks we should simply accept peace as an expression towards God and others. Christians should be peaceful and relaxed members of society. Not argumentative, not hateful, but with thoughtfulness and patience. But there can be no peace without patience.[10] So we might say, rather than Luther seeing patience as an outgrowth of peace, he sees peace as evidence of patience. However, I disagree with Luther in that we must expect patience first before there was any peace. If one is not at peace, they will have very little patience.

Luke records for us the story of the woman with an immoral reputation who came in and washed Jesus’ feet while the self-righteous Pharisees laid around plotting to criticize Him for allowing her to do so. When the woman finished her act of loving-kindness, Jesus says to her, “Your faith has saved you; let that give you peace of mind as you go.” [11] How powerfully these words illustrate love being transformed into peace, knowing that after being forgiven, we can continue with our lives without letting those sins bother us and steal our joy. It is not a peace treaty with sin and evil; it’s the permanent peace we have with God that keeps sin and wrongful tendencies from controlling our destiny.

John tells us how the very presence of Jesus brought peace to His distraught disciples. On Sunday afternoon, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of Jewish leaders finding them and doing the same thing to them, they did to Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! Using the traditional Jewish greeting, He said, “Peace be with you.” [12] In other words, Jesus was saying, “Settle down, gentlemen! I’m here now; everything is going to be okay. Jesus implies that His presence, along with access to all that He is and ever will be, can result in the sense of inner peace. Therefore, not only is joy love excited by being in God’s presence, but we see that peace is love secured by God’s presence.

That certainly concurs with what Bible scholar Robert Gundry thinks. For him, peace is a fruit of the reborn spirit. It has nothing to do with peace of mind as with peaceful relations with fellow Christians – that is, the opposite of “biting and devouring one another,” figuratively speaking – so that community relationships might prosper rather than break down.[13] But this raises the question, does that also include Love and Joy? Love and Joy result from a close relationship with God. Peace, as well as the next fruit of the spirit, expands that relationship to include those around us.

Joana Stratton, chairwoman Education Department at Hobe Sound Bible College, Hobe Sound, Florida, informs us that peace is something for which the world is looking. There are books written on how to find peace; We can find interesting research connected to “mindfulness,” a popular movement in our country, seeking the product of peace. According to the dictionary definition, says Stratton, peace can be defined as “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.” That sounds pretty good, says Stratton.

But let’s look further than the dictionary. We have freedom from sin, bondage, and oppressive thoughts in Jesus the Anointed. Did he not say, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” [14] Shouldn’t this be enough to keep us from becoming stuck in trying to figure out all the upsetting things going on in our world and our lives? Jesus us our peace. So, to have Jesus is to have peace.[15]

Caslyn Rice points out that there are many different personalities, opinions, and preferences which can easily cause discord within relationships. We will allow those things to bring separation, or will we be exhibit peace and take the appropriate actions to restore unity?[16]

I love this story! A hardworking businessman/philanthropist finally retired and wanted to take up his life-long passion for painting. But years of heavy labor and arthritis crippled his hands and fingers, so he was unable to pursue his dream. He decided to have a contest for up-and-coming artists. He rented a large auditorium and sent out invitations to all aspiring artists in the country, inviting them to enter the competition. His common theme for all artists to interpret in their painting was “Peace.”

On the day of judging, he began walking down between the many rows of canvasses to see who portrayed “Peace” the best.  He stopped at the easel of a young lady. It depicted a scene high in the Alps with untouched snow filling the valley. A small cloud seemed snared at the tip of the highest peak as the sun shone through the pure air glistening off the undisturbed mountain landscape. He asked the young lady, “What do you call this painting?” “Peace on the Mountain,” she replied.

After a while, he came to a portrait where he saw a beautiful valley with knee-high grass, blossoming flowers, and trees full of fruit. A small herd of deer stood drinking from a slow-moving brook flowing through the lush meadow. In the background sat a beautiful vine-covered cottage with a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney. “My, oh my, what do you call this piece?” he asked the young man. “I call it, ‘Peace in the Valley,’” replied the young fellow with a gleam in his eyes.

As he approached the end of the last row in the exhibition, he spotted a watercolor created by an older artist that startled his eyes. To get a closer look at the canvass, just to make sure of what he saw, he came nearer. He stared at a wild rushing river of white foam, roaring through a mountain gorge, pushing everything out of its way. The sky was pitch dark and flashes of lightning emitted from the clouds with brilliant bursts, as rain pelted down with horrendous fury pounding everything it hit with ferocity. The shocked philanthropist looked at the artist and exclaimed, “Weren’t you told that the theme was ‘Peace?’ I don’t see any peace here!”

The artist asked the gentleman to get even closer. He then saw up on the side of a sheer cliff, a slender limb sticking out underneath an overhang holding a nest on which a small bird sat chirping away as she calmly covered her eggs. “What in the world do you call this painting?” the philanthropist exclaimed! The artist smiled and said softly, “Sir, I call it ‘Peace in the time of storm.’” It didn’t take long before the philanthropist announced that the artist of “Peace in the time of storm” was the winner. This graphic and touching illustration of the peace portrays what the Prince of Peace came to instill in our hearts and minds. Like that little bird, our love is secure in the love of the Anointed our Savior, which gives us a peace that goes beyond anything we’ve ever experienced.

Such peace the world cannot give, nor can it be acquired by amassing fortunes and reaching the pinnacle of fame. It can only come from the Prince of Peace when we go to Him to make peace with God. No one can manufacture it or produce an imitation. That’s why for Christian believers who desire more peace, they must seek more of God and more of Jesus the Anointed and the Spirit in their life. That will surely bring heavenly peace. As the old hymn written by Warren D. Cornell in 1889 goes: “Peace, peace, wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above! Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray, in fathomless billows of love!”

[1] Colossians 3:15

[2] Augustine of Hippo: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[3] From the Hebrew name שְׁלֹמֹה (Shelomoh), which was derived from Hebrew שָׁלוֹם (shalom) meaning “peace”.

[4] Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] Bruno the Carthusian: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Isaiah 9:6

[7] Song of Solomon 8:10

[8] Psalm 119:165

[9] Aquinas, Thomas: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Luther, Martin: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[11] Luke 7:50

[12] John 20:19

[13] Gundry, Robert H., Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] John 14:26-27

[15] Stratton, Joana: Revivalist Magazine, April 2019, p. 5

[16] Rice, Caslyn, op. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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