When Paul wrote to the community of Christ at Rome that:
‘… the kingdom of God is …a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17),
he did not intend to give them a definition of the kingdom of God. He was, in fact, trying to adjust their ‘dietary theology’, their differing local ‘opinions’ (Romans 14:1) over the issue of which foods were kosher and which were taboo (Romans 14:1 – 15:7) – vegetarian purists versus carnal carnivores. He also took issue with the clashing views of sabbatarians who downed tools every high day and holy day on the religious calendar, and the libertarians who enjoyed normal life before God every day of the month, any season of the year.
He counsels them, firstly: not ‘to pass judgment on your brother’ (Romans 14:10), since
‘each of us will give an [individual, personal] account of himself to God’ (Romans 14:12).
And secondly: never to cause a brother to stumble (Romans 14:13) and so ‘destroy’ that brother’s
integrity, and therefore ‘for the sake of food, destroy the work of God,’ the local church (Romans 14:20).
Paul sides with the ‘strong’ libertarians (Romans 14:1, 14, 20; 15:1). But he counsels them to bear with their weaker brothers’ conscience about these ritual matters and to ‘welcome one another’ into their hearts and homes (Romans 15:7).
A good description of ‘the kingdom of God’
Even if our text was not intended as a definition of the kingdom of God, it is nevertheless an excellent working description of how God’s rule should operate among and through his people on earth.
 Joy is peace dancing; peace is joy resting; righteousness is peace and joy rooted.
 Peace is righteousness blossoming; joy is righteousness in full bloom.
 The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy authorised and organised.
 The environment and atmosphere of God’s rule is ‘in the Holy Spirit’.
 The motivation and empowering of God’s rule is ‘by the Holy Spirit’.
 The kingdom of God’s autumn fruit is a full orchard – not just one tree – living together righteously, peaceably and joyfully.