Why would Paul include righteousness, peace, and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?
“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.
Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!
Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.
Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. Compared to His holiness, we all end up far short.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.
“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.
Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety, and absolute security.
When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life. Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.
“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper
When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.
In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace, and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.
Kingdom of God
Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:
“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all! What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.
We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.
Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace, and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.
Righteousness, Peace and Joy
Righteousness, peace, and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.
God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.
No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.