Word of the Week
January 14, 2023
Eirēnē: Peace in Chaos
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, . . .
It was an artistic competition offering a prize for the painting that best depicted the concept of peace. Some entries portrayed rolling green pastures or homey scenes of family life. But the winning picture filled the canvas with a thunderous waterfall, with torrents of water tumbling over the edge chaotically. Near the verge was a lone tree with a branch reaching almost to the water. On that branch was a bird’s nest with a mother robin calmly resting on her eggs – an oasis of quiet in the midst of surging waters.
That’s how an artist portrayed peace. How would you describe peace? Better yet, how does the Bible describe it?
Peace is the third “fruit of the Spirit” that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22, an integral part of the Christian life. Let’s learn more about the way Scripture describes peace by looking at the Greek word for it.
“Peace” in Greek is eirēnē (ay-RAY-nay) and it’s easy to find, occurring 92 times. Naturally, there are many kinds of peace. Eirēnē can simply mean that no war is going on. Secular Greek used it to describe the cessation of hostilities between two nations, and Luke 14:32 uses it for a treaty that avoids warfare. Similarly, it can mean settling a conflict between two individuals. Moses tried to bring peace between two quarreling Hebrews (Acts 7:26).
Eirēnē can also mean the prosperity and well-being that can flourish when a period of peace allows people to stay home and work their land or follow their trade, rather than marching off to battle. The Greek Old Testament uses eirēnē as a match for the Hebrew shalom, the comprehensive blessing of God on the nation of Israel. It’s no accident that the great priestly blessing given by Moses ends with the request that the Lord will “lift up His face to you and give you shalom” (Numbers 6:26).
Jews still say “Shalom” when they greet you or when they depart, and Greeks used eirēnē in the same way. Many of the New Testament epistles start with the greeting, “Grace to you and peace,” and it also appears as part of a farewell in 1 Peter 5:14 and 3 John 15.
However, the most significant kind of peace in the New Testament is spiritual peace, which appears in the New Testament in three interconnected dimensions. Each aspect of eirēnē includes the end of a conflict which results in a condition of peace that allows all manner of other good things to happen.
- Peace with God
We were once alienated from God, hostile in our attitudes – but He has reconciled us through the death of Christ (see Colossians 1:21-22). Our war with God has ended and now there is peace between us and Him.
- Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
- The Peace of God
Because we have peace with God, we can reap the benefit of inner, subjective peace that flows from that relationship. The emotional turmoil that plagues us can calm down, changing our character. In short, we can be at peace with ourselves.
We can grow in the grace of a peaceful heart.
- Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
But it’s not merely a self-help project of trying to think peaceful thoughts. Peace is a gift from Christ, the supernatural outcome of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts.
- Jesus: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14:27).
- Peace is the fruit of the Spirit, not one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:22).
- Peace with others
Because we are at peace with God and at peace within ourselves, we can be at peace with others. In fact, we can be peacemakers!
- So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19).
- Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
- And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18).
For the believer, peace does not require quiet music or a cabin on a mountain lake. Even when conflict rages around us, we can have the three kinds of peace that are featured in the New Testament. We may not have an easy life, but we have hope through Christ, powered by the Spirit – and that is sufficient to power our joy and peace.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
We have talked about “peace with God” and “the peace of God.” But we don’t want to overlook one other key variation on that phrase: “the God of peace.” Peace is one of the attributes of God. He is never flustered or disturbed, never panicked. That’s why it means so much when Jesus promises to share His peace with us. Look up the passages that mention “the God of peace” and meditate on that aspect of our Lord’s character:
Romans 16:20 – linked with combat!
1 Thessalonians 5:23
See also 1 Corinthians 14:33
As we work our way through the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, we come next week to “patience,” an attribute that doesn’t come naturally to any of us. Join us next time for biblical insights aimed at those of us who hate to wait!
©Ezra Project 2023