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Philippians Bible Study, Week 12

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! Philippians 3:1a
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Be joyful always! 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Things to think about

What does it mean to rejoice?
Are Christians more joyful than non-Christians?
Are you rejoicing in the Lord? Are you rejoicing in your salvation? Are you always rejoicing?

What is Joy?

“Rejoice” is one of those words which you rarely, if ever, get to use except when reading the Bible aloud. When was the last time you used the word “rejoice” in a normal conversation? Despite its lack of use in everyday vocabulary, its meaning is clear; rejoice means to “be joyful”. The concept of joy and rejoicing is a common theme in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. God wants us to be joyful!

Joy in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, joy is most frequently mentioned in the Psalms. The Psalmists often exhorted worshippers to shout for joy, dance for joy, and sing for joy before God — in God’s Presence. While there is a place for silence and solemnity before God, from the scriptures it appears that God wants his people to be joyful in his Presence and offer exuberant (and sincere) praise to him. King David delighted in God’s Presence, and he wrote that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11; 21:6; cf. Acts 2:28)

God also wanted his people to be joyful before him when they were celebrating certain appointed festivals, such as the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) (Deut. 16:11 & 14). Joy is a godly attribute.

The Holy Spirit and Joy

Some people are naturally more cheerful than others, but the joy spoken of in the Bible is not a natural disposition, it is a spiritual disposition. The New Testament typically links joy with the Holy Spirit (e.g. Acts 13:52). Romans 14:17 says that the Kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Moreover, joy is second on the Galatians’ list of the fruit of the Spirit, coming second only to the greatest Christian attribute: love (Gal. 5:22). Love, joy and peace are three spiritual fruit, and ideally should be defining characteristics of Christians.

Christian joy is not just a state of mind; it is indicative of the presence and work of God’s Spirit within us. If our personalities, our lives, and our church communities are not characterised by joy, why is that? Are we ignoring or neglecting the Holy Spirit? Even grieving the Holy Spirit?  If so, how can we become more aware of the presence and power of Holy Spirit in our own lives? How can our churches become more aware of the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in community life?

Paul and Joy

Of the 326 occurrences of the word for joy in the New Testament, 131 are found in the ten letters usually ascribed to Paul, namely 40 percent. . . So Paul can well be regarded as the theologian of joy, as he undoubtedly was that of grace . . . It is significant that the most common cognates for joy (chara, “inner joy” and charein, “to rejoice”) are derived from the same root char– as is the Greek word for “grace” charis. There is a close connection between the two concepts. (Morrice 1993:511)

Paul used the word “joy” in its various forms sixteen times in Philippians.

Salvation and Joy

We have so much to be joyful for. As followers of Jesus Christ we have received God’s gift (charisma) of salvation. Peter says we “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy because we are receiving the salvation of our souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

If we are not rejoicing in your salvation, we need to think again about how amazing the privilege of salvation actually is. As believers, we have become “. . . undeserving recipients of forgiveness of sin; deliverance from darkness; regeneration as our spirit is reborn and renewed; adoption as God’s own dearly loved children; justification, which effectively exchanges our sins with Jesus Christ’s righteousness; sanctification as the Holy Spirit sets us apart as especially belonging to God, and begins his work of making us become more and more like Jesus; and reconciliation which allows us to come near to God in a close relationship, instead of being distant.” (From my Beliefs.)

 Salvation gives us plenty of reasons to be joyful. Even the angels rejoice when a person is saved.

Ministry and Joy

Jesus spoke about joy and was a joyful person himself (John 15:11; 17:13). Interestingly, even Jesus’ joy is associated with the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).

Love was the main motivation behind Jesus’ earthly ministry (John 3:16); Jesus was also motivated by joy, however. Hebrews 12:2 says about Jesus, “. . . who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Despite the humiliation, the pain and the alienation, Jesus chose to die on the cross to pay for our sins. Why? Because of the tremendous joy that would result when mankind could be reconciled with God and once again be in relationship with him.

Are love and joy your main motivations in service? Do you experience joy in your service and ministry despite hardships and disappointments?

Suffering and Joy

A while ago I had to write an assignment on the fruit of the Spirit (including joy) and I looked up every New Testament verse on “joy.” I was surprised that several New Testament authors spoke of joy in connection with suffering, trials and persecution.

  • James says to consider trials as pure joy! (Jas 1:2)
  • Paul says we should rejoice in our sufferings (Rom. 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 8:2), in fact, he tells us to always be joyful despite our circumstances (2 Cor. 6:10; Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16)
  • Peter speaks of rejoicing even though presently we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (1 Pet. 1:6-9). [More on Glory, Joy and Suffering in 1 Peter here.]

God works through our struggles and difficulties of life to transform us more and more into the likeness of Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29).  Moreover, suffering and persecution can help us to identify with Jesus Christ’s sufferings, causing us to experience a closer union with him. Painful situations can also help us to trust and depend on God more fully. These are all great reasons to rejoice!

Hope and Joy

Finally, our joy is connected to hope. We rejoice in the secure knowledge that we have eternal life with eternal rewards, rewards often obtained through trials.

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 (Romans 15:13).
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24).

© 12th of August 2010, Margaret Mowczko

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Image Credit

Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay

Week 11: Timothy and Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:19-30
Week 13: Judaisers and Circumcision – Philippians 3:1-3

Related Articles

The Power of God’s Grace
Glory, Joy, and Suffering — 1 Peter 1:4–9
Motivations for Ministry

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