17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
but [strong contrast]
There is a strong contrast between the legalism of not eating and drinking, and the dynamics of grace living.
Righteousness here is functional righteousness whereby a believer in this context does something right for another.
Grace living in God’s kingdom makes for mutual harmony in the church. This is the norm that has peace with God and demonstrates that peace with others. A contentious spirit destroys harmony in the church.
An inner joy comes from living out the principle of grace, from the indwelling Spirit of God. Only God provides this joy. Joy is inner animation of the soul that delights in relationship with God no matter what difficulty might come in life (Neh 8:10; Jn 14:27; 15:11; 16:22).
in the Holy Spirit.
True joy has its source in the sphere of the Holy Spirit. Inner animation of the soul comes from the Holy Spirit and not from self-induced joy.
The kingdom of God is about living by grace, not legalism.
The essence of Christianity does not reside in external observances but in liberty, in the grace principle. The Christian life is not fundamentally morality but spirituality.
Eating and drinking are non-essentials. Placing emphasis on such practices minimizes important things such as grace and liberty in Christ. People are prone to focus on unimportant externals. They are more than willing to negotiate away the spiritual life for an external emphasis for their lives. The kingdom of God is at a much higher level than externals.
Codes of conduct differ in varying parts of the world. Evangelicals drink alcohol in Germany, whereas most do not in the U.S. It is difficult to lay down specific rules for differing geographical areas. Principles of Scripture do not vary from one area of the world to another because they are universal to all cultures.
Believers operating in the principle of grace or liberty function on a higher level than when living by rules. Externals might not indicate spirituality. An apple might look good on the outside but be rotten on the inside. Mature Christians engage their lives on the higher principles of the kingdom of God.