John 10: 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (NKJV)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Righteousness and Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit by John Piper.

What does he mean that “the kingdom of God is . . . righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”? That is not immediately obvious because Paul uses at least two of these terms in more than one way. Righteousness can mean the righteousness that God imputes to us when he declares us righteous through faith even when we are guilty sinners (Romans 4:5). And it can mean the righteousness that he then, on the basis of that right standing, begins to work in us (Romans 6:13, 16, 18, 19, 20). And peace can mean the peace that we have with God (Romans 5:1) or the peace we have with each other (2 Corinthians 13:11).

I am inclined to think Paul has in mind the second kind of righteousness and peace—namely, the kind that he works in us in relationship to each other. But it may be that he wants us to think of both and remember that our practical righteousness and peace that we work out with each other is built on the perfect righteousness that he imputes to us by faith alone and the peace that we enjoy with him.

I say this because it is remarkable how similar this sequence of righteousness, peace, and joy is with the sequence of thought in Romans 5:1-2. “Since we have been justified by faith [that is, declared righteous!], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” So there is righteousnessimputed through faith, peace with God, and joy in the hope of his glory. So I wonder if Paul doesn’t want us to have that in our mind as the basis of the righteousness and peace and joy that he refers to here in Romans 14:17.

What makes me think that he probably is referring to our practical lived-out righteousness (rather than the imputed righteousness of Christ) and the practical-lived out peace with each other is the phrase “in the Holy Spirit.” “The kingdom of God is . . . righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This seems to mean that the Holy Spirit is working these things right now. He is ruling in us to make us more righteous, more peaceable, and more joyful. This seems to be the fruit of the Spirit now, not a declarative act back at the beginning of our Christian lives. This work is built on justification by faith. But now the Spirit is producing in us these things: righteousness, peace, and joy.

That, Paul says, is the kingdom of God. In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit and the advancing of the kingdom of God are the same thing. This is exactly what we saw in the ministry of Jesus, for example, in Matthew 12:28. Jesus said, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The work of the Spirit is the presence of the kingdom of God. Or to say it another way: The reign of God is exercised through his Spirit.

So when the Spirit rules and conquers our selfishness and pride, and replaces it with Christlike righteousness, then we will not grieve and destroy a brother for the sake of food. The Spirit of God—the kingdom of God—creates righteousness and peace and joy. This is what the Spirit of God does. He creates righteousness and peace and joy. And when you have these, you don’t grieve and destroy a weaker brother.

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