The Essentials of Christianity
Romans 14:17-18
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.…

I. A NEGATIVE DESCRIPTION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. "Meat and drink" includes the carnal and sensational in every shape and form. True religion is not —

1. Ceremonial observances. Godliness is at a low ebb when great importance is attached to external rites. Ceremonialism is the respirator worn by a Church when its lungs are too weak to breathe the bracing atmosphere of revealed truth. Consumption has set in, and in time it will die of exhaustion, and be decently buried in the grave of formality. This was the case with the Jewish Church. The temple services were carried on with regularity and gorgeousness, while the soul of religion was gone.

2. The gratification of the appetites. Pagan converts ran to the other extreme — religion to them was a matter of cookery, confectionery, and stimulants. Previous to their conversion they had been accustomed to associate worship with gluttony, drunkenness, and licentiousness of the lowest type. Their countrymen indulged in the wildest revelries while celebrating the festivities of Bacchus and Venus. What wonder, then, that such should come into the Church, expecting it to furnish them with fresh opportunities to pamper their carnal appetites? They even turned the Lord's Supper into a carousal.

3. AEsthetic idealism. Many minds have been so "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" by what is called higher criticism, as to lose all relish for doing, and they spend their time in dreaming. In this state of mind they devise for themselves an ideal Christ, no more like the real Christ of the gospels than the sensitive plant that grows in the hothouse to the hardy oak whose giant arms defy the storm. To the idealist the Bible is a poetical perfumery to regale the jaded senses, and not the voice of God, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." The house of prayer is a floral halt, where the roll of music soothes the feelings, and the dim light plays softly on the eye, and fashion displays the contents of its costly wardrobes; and not the house of God, where sincerity agonises and devotion sheds tears of penitence and joy.


1. Rightness of motive — "Righteousness." One of the old schoolmen has said that "manners make the man." That is true as far as society is concerned; but motives make the man in the sight of God; external accomplishments go for nothing if the moving springs of character are crooked and unrighteous. But how are they whose motives are wrong and character corrupt to be made right? For it is written, "There is none righteous, no not one." "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight." But, thank God, there is a way of escape — "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "Not by works of righteousness which we have done," etc.

2. Tranquillity of mind — "peace" —

(1) With God. The old enmity against the Divine character and government is slain, the hostile parties become reconciled, and the peace which passeth all understanding fills the believer's mind — "For He is our peace, who hath made both one." Tranquillity of mind is simply impossible until this reconciliation is effected. Who can be free from fear whilst the sentence of condemnation, like the sword of Damocles, hangs over his head?

(2) With ourselves. Conscience gives up accusing, the passions are kept under restraint, and the little kingdom within, once in a state of insurrection, becomes quiet and subdued and loyal to the Prince of Peace. But distinguish between a state of indifference and a state of peace. The former resembles the oppressive stillness of the atmosphere before the storm, and the latter the bright sunshine and verdant soil after the storm. Many are lulled to sleep in false security, like the drunkard who slept on the beach fancying himself at home; the advancing tide rudely awoke him to a sense of his danger, but in trying to escape he only went deeper into the water and was swept away by the current. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them," etc.

3. Jubilation of heart — "joy in the Holy Ghost."(1) Righteousness is the lowest stage in Christian experience; peace is the middle state; joy is the crowning state. Righteousness is the foundation of the temple safe and sound; peace is the superstructures roofed in, affording shelter to the weary, heavy-laden soul; joy is the tower, with a peal of bells giving forth a clear musical expression of the incalculable advantages of a holy life. Or, to change the figure, righteousness is the "root of the matter," strong and healthy; peace is the flower, fine and fragrant; joy is the fruit, ripe and delicious.

(2) Many Christians remain throughout life in a state of righteousness — are, indeed, "alive unto God through Christ our Lord" — but their spiritual life is of the lowest type. Others have advanced a step higher, and have attained to a state of peace. Sovereigns, when first minted, are rung on a sounding-iron, and those that do not give out a clear sound are reckoned "dumb," and are sent back to be melted again. The "dumb blanks" are good gold, but as they lack the ringing sound, they are not allowed to pass into the press-room to receive the last impression of the die. Even so those Christians who have reached a state of peace and never advance further; they are good gold, nevertheless they are "dumb blanks," and have need of being re-melted, so as to reach that jubilant state of feeling which breaks out into exultation.

(3) The inspirer of this joy is the Holy Ghost. There is another kind of joy produced by stimulants; it rattles on the tongue, flashes in the eye, leaps in the heart, and breaks out into all kinds of riotous comicalities. All this boisterous gaiety leaves the heart sad and sorrowful, and it ends in gloom and despair. "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful," etc. This joy in the Holy Ghost is —

(a) Demonstrative in its character. The outpouring of the Divine Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a most exciting scene; and during seasons of great awakening this has been repeated.

(b) Permanent. "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." To possess it is to possess the most precious of treasures, the sweetest of pleasures, and the richest of feasts; it is a constant summer in the soul, and a heaven in miniature.

(W. A. Griffiths.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

WEB: for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The Constitution of the Kingdom of God
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