For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.…
Differences of opinion respecting festivals to be observed and foods to be abstained from were certain to arise in communities composed of Jews of every sect and Gentiles of every race. And we may be thankful that these differences manifested themselves so early in the primitive Church, since they furnished an occasion for a deliverance by the apostle on such a theme. We are glad to have such a valuable weighty aphorism as that of the text. The apostle's firmness and meekness equally display themselves. He wants none to suffer bondage, nor yet does he permit their liberty in Christ to be harmful to their brethren, and thus a topic of reproach in the world outside. And he makes the position clear by distinguishing between what is fundamental in religion, and what is temporary, local, and adventitious.
I. THE NON-ESSENTIALS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The "kingdom of God" is a comprehensive phrase, denoting the new sovereignty established by Christ in the hearts of individuals where he rules in power and grace, and likewise embracing the whole company of those throughout the globe who, by personal reception of the truth, have entered into a society with duties and privileges emanating from the Kingship of the Redeemer. The code of life lays down no hard specific rules of abstinence or conformity. "Eating and drinking" are no necessary part of Christian living. It is the spirit in which certain actions are performed or certain privtions submitted to rather than the things themselves which make men Christians. External observances do not constitute religion. They are a visible embodiment of it, but not its vital principle. Let us not set too high an estimate on rites and ceremonies and forms of worship, or we may glorify the husk to the neglect of the kernel, and the shapely bark may conceal a rotten tree. Ordinances of touching, tasting, handling, concern things that perish in the using. Discussions respecting amusements, pleasures, occupations, as to which may lawfully be enjoyed and which not, seldom advance any man's obedience to Christ; they are the fringe, not the vesture, of religion, and talk concerning them is apt to degenerate into trifling and casuistry. Let each decide for himself with prayerful meditation what his course shall be, and try to secure the best, most lasting possessions. He who is always deliberating about the necessary outworks will never reach the heart of the palace of truth.
II. WHEREIN THE KINGDOM OF GOD CONSISTS. Having dismissed the negative aspect of Christianity, the apostle proceeds to set forth the main qualities of the Christian life. These are "righteousness," just, honourable dealing, keeping the commandments of God with a pure conscience, mindful of the claims of God and our neighbours. Also "peace," the tranquillity of the child resting on the Father's bosom, unruffled by storms without, not over-anxious about daily cares, nor depressed by bereavements or affliction. And "joy," which is peace brimming over into exultation, triumphant like snow brightened by the sunlight, even made rosy by the setting rays. These are spiritual qualities. They are spiritual in source and nature, are "fruits of the indwelling Spirit," are enjoyed and perfected "in the Holy Ghost." Righteousness is not the laborious toil of the legalist; nor is peace the apathy of the stoic or the sleepy contentment of the epicurean; nor is joy the momentary excitement of the sensualist. They are pure inward feelings, springs that flow spontaneously into outward behaviour. They are very practical, dealing not with abstruse or knotty points of conduct, but with qualifications easily understood, and unambiguous as to the method of attainment. It is not holding a certain creed, but cultivating a certain disposition and character. They tend to the harmony and usefulness of the Church. Dissension is impossible where these graces prevail. Unprofitable arguing is abandoned for mutual comfort and service. Engaged upon the higher business of the kingdom, petty details sink into their rightful insignificance, minor matters settle themselves. Would that the Church had attended to this dictum of the apostle, and been ever distinguished by these amiable virtues, instead of one section quarrelling with and persecuting another, making Church history a weariness to read, and confirming rather than quieting the doubts of the sceptical! Volumes of theology are not so powerful to convince of the truth of Christianity as a holy life. Men quickly discriminate between ritualism and religion, and detect the asceticism which mortifies the body, yet nourishes the pride of the soul. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.