What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The first two points in how to survive exile have to do with feeding the flock and getting ourselves back into spiritual shape. The third point deals with going to the world and increasing our numbers. The fourth concerns our witness to the world and our response to it.
Paul advises us to do it in peace. Live peaceably with all men as far as lies within you (see Romans 12:16-21). This is an important point because peace trickles down. Peace in the nation will trickle down to peace among citizens. If we live in an environment of peace, we can accomplish the overcoming, the growing, and the producing of fruit. As James writes, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18).
We have to be among the peacemakers, even while living in a world full of strife. We should seek God's hand in this, asking Him to give peace so that we can have the time—and not the distractions of strife—to use in producing fruit, getting our families in order, and increasing our numbers. If there is no peace, those things become much harder to do. We need to be peacemakers, which is one of Christ's beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). It is vital that we have peace.
"Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). He we see how important peace is to producing holiness. If we fail in this, we will not see God! Peace is vital. In James 4, the apostle curses the recipients of his epistle, calling them adulterers and adulteresses because they were full of strife with one another. They were at war with each other. They were not producing peace. They were certainly not producing righteousness.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile
Quite an indictment of the nature that drives human society! This helps us to understand that even the struggles between nations are really only small problems grown great. Two major powers locked in a hot war may seem more complex than neighbors arguing over a backyard fence or a family quarrel, but the causes are essentially the same.
Are there problems in our families? If we make an honest search for the cause, we will find that one or both sides are lusting for something and competing for it. Either abuse of authority or an unwillingness to submit—or both—will be present because one or both sides want something and feel this is the only way to get it.
Since we cannot serve two masters, lust drives us to serve ourselves to get what we desire. The spin-offs will be insensitivity, inattention, lack of cooperation, gluttony, alcoholism, quarrels, adultery, and lying. Our children will learn to be disobedient, nervous, selfish, and rowdy.
In II Corinthians 11:3, Paul writes that men's minds have been "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." This means that the massive city, state, national, and global problems are merely individual problems multiplied by the population. Nothing will change on earth until individuals are convinced that the solution to the problems begins with them. They first have to work to change themselves before they can begin to expect the community's problems to disappear.
This principle holds true in marriage. If the cause is the same as in individual family quarrels, the solution is also the same. Love, tolerance, kindness, mercy, patience, forgiving, sharing, cooperating, and helping, all done with and through contact with the true God and the power of His Spirit activated and used by the individual's faith, will do the job.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!
The Philippian congregation was generally a wonderful group of people. Many different commentaries state that of all the groups that Paul wrote to, Phillipi was probably the best of them all. However, Paul was writing to these people with some measure of sadness because two ladies were feuding, and it was inexorably dividing the group into rival camps. In this section, the apostle is spelling out our Christian responsibility.
Notice that nowhere in the entire epistle to the Phillipians does Paul tell them, "Don't come to church." He did not say, "Split away by yourself." That is what is happening in the greater church. Paul did not say, "Just go sit in your living room." That is not an option with God. He tells us here that we have to look to and seek higher things. He says to let our conduct be worthy of the gospel that we say that we believe.
How far did Jesus Christ go to make peace? To the death! He did not allow the hostility of the world against Him to justify hostility against those who were mistreating Him.
We should not be misled by the word "if" in verse 1. Paul is not stating a "maybe." He is stating an absolute fact. That word "if" is better understood as "since": "Since there are these things in you because of God's Spirit, sacrifice yourself. Make my joy complete and use them." What are we to use? Love, fellowship of the spirit, bowels and mercies. "Fulfil you my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."
Because of God's calling, because He granted us repentance and gave us His Spirit, we have already been enabled by His Spirit to use these things to make peace, to be of one accord, to be of one mind. "The mark of the beast" can be overcome by God's Spirit in us, but we must sacrifice ourselves to use it. It is already there. Thus, Paul is saying, "Use God's love in you, and be of one mind. Quit fighting with each other to gain the upper hand. Consider the other person better than you, and serve him by looking out for his interest."
When he says, "Let this mind be in you," what he literally says in the Greek is, "Keep thinking like this." How? As Jesus Christ has already shown us. He is saying, "Don't let your mind be drawn toward what you consider to be the cause of the offense." Or, "Don't dwell upon those things."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast
These two verses give direct and specific reasons why peace is such a great benefit toward spiritual prosperity.
"Wisdom" indicates influence of heavenly origin, that is, from God. Its effect on the mind is to make it pure and chaste, not more imaginative or intelligent. Its purpose is to make the person upright, inoffensive, and good, then peaceable, etc. It disposes a person to live at peace with others. By itself, it corroborates Jesus' statement that He is willing and able to give a peace unlike the world's, a state of being not native to man.
If a person is of a pure spirit, then peace tends to follow. First, this occurs because a pure-hearted person is at peace within himself. He is therefore not self-righteously, self-centeredly, and discontentedly seeking to impose his will and way on others to control their lives. Such a person will not induce conflict.
Second, the pure-hearted person will follow Paul's advice, which he gave in two places. Romans 14:19 says, "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." Hebrews 12:14 adds, "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." It is very difficult for people to have conflict with others who will not fight! This does not mean that we should make peace at any cost by denying truth. We can remain faithful to truth without going to war, though it might appear costly at the moment. Jesus—and many others—did it.
James goes on to say that this approach to life's relationships produces the fruit of righteousness. This phrase could mean that what is produced as a fruit is righteousness, but it can also mean the fruit that righteousness produces. The latter is preferable. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit the Spirit produces. The fruit of repentance is the change repentance produces in one's manner of living and attitude. Some of the fruit of righteousness are the qualities James mentions in James 3:17. Righteousness is therefore the seed from which these things grow.
But a seed needs the proper conditions to germinate, grow, and produce fruit. Regardless of how good a seed is, if the conditions are not right, this process will be hindered, and it will bear poorly. The Parable of the Sower and Seed in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 shows this clearly. Peace is the proper condition for the fruit of righteousness, and peacemakers are the green-thumbed gardeners. Growing a good crop demands the right conditions for good seed.
So important is peace to the Christian's spiritual prosperity that God will permit a marriage to be broken by divorce where there cannot be peace. I Corinthians 7:15 says: "But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."
Divorce is usually preceded by a fairly long period of contention. It is warfare on a small scale. Living in an environment of warfare right in the home contributes little to growing in the image of the loving God of peace. It forces one to focus on himself, and at worst, it is entirely possible God will lose the person involved in such a contentious circumstance. At the very least, growth will be slow and minimal.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
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