THESE THINGS WE WRITE, SO THAT
OUR JOY MAY BE MADE COMPLETE: kai tauta graphomen (1PPAI) hemeis hina
e chara humon e pepleromene (RPPFSN).: (that: Isa 61:10 Hab
3:17, 3:18 Jn 15:11 16:24 2Co 1:24 Eph 3:19 Php 1:25,26 2Jn 1:12)
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These things -
Mortimer Adler among others helped me develop a questioning
mindset as I read, seeking to read actively rather than passively.
Strictly, all reading is active.
What we call passive is simply less active. Reading is better or worse
according as it is more or less active. And one reader is better than
another in proportion as he is capable of a greater range of activity
in reading. (How
to Read a Book)
Comment: Dear Christian
reader let me encourage you to strongly consider learning the skills
inductive Bible study
the rest of your life practicing them on the Scriptures. I can assure
you of two things (among many other things I will not mention): (1) It
will take diligence and effort to develop an "inductive" (especially
mindset as you read God's Word but (2) The benefits in this
life and the rewards in the next will make it
more than worth the effort you invest!
These things we write -
(Try to develop the "discipline
of dialoguing" with the Biblical text, maintaining an inquisitive,
questioning mindset with the assurance that your Instructor, the
Spirit of Christ [Jn 14:26, 16:13, 14, 15, 1Jn 2:20, 27 where
"anointing" refers to the Spirit] will never be "stumped" by your inquisitive
questions!) You may have arrived at
two answers - (1) The truths John has just recorded in the prologue (1Jn
1:1-4) or (2) All that John has
written in his epistle.
Notice how John's words parallel
those of Jesus in His "Upper Room Discourse" to His
disciples the night before His crucifixion...
These things I have spoken
to you (compare John's phrase "these things we write"), that (hina
- introducing a purpose clause just as John does in 1Jn 1:4 - see
terms of conclusion)
My joy may be (Verb = meno = more
literally "may abide") in you, and that your joy may be
made full (Jesus uses the same verb as John - pleroo).
Comment: What are "these
things" to which Jesus refers (Remember to
interrogate the text with the 5W/H'S)? Clearly we must read the preceding
of John 15:1-10 which
gives part of the answer. Ten times in those verses Jesus used the
same verb "meno" which He uses in Jn 15:11 to describe
His joy abiding in His disciples. It follows as we abide in
Him, His joy abides in us. In identifying "these things" it is
not unreasonable to expand the
context to include chapters 13 and 14, considering that Jesus' private discourse to His disciples
begins in John 13 and includes His promises to them in John 14 (not
the least of which was "another Helper", the Holy Spirit, the Source
of supernatural joy - cp Jn 14:16, 26, 27, et al).
repeatedly refers to writing in First John. Read each of
these uses below observing who is addressed, what is the truth stated
and why is it given. As you work through these passages, you will
begin to gain insight in the purpose (purposes) for John's epistle. At
the end of this list of passage is an "answer key" for you to compare
your observations. Enjoy!
1 John 1:4 And these things we write, so that our joy may be
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you
that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
1 John 2:7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you,
but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old
commandment is the word which you have heard.
1 John 2:8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to
you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing
away, and the true light is already shining.
1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your
sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.
1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him
who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you,
children, because you know the Father.
1 John 2:14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know
Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men,
because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you
have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:21 I have not written to you because you do not know
the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the
1 John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those
who are trying to deceive you.
1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in
the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have
"Answer Key" -
From these verses we see John wrote this epistle so that
(1) their joy would be complete (1Jn 1:4),
(2) that we might not live habitually in sin (1Jn 2:1),
(3) that we might not be deceived (1Jn 2:26) and
(4) that we might be assured of our salvation in Christ. (1Jn 5:13)
These things I have written
to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. (1Jn 2:26, cp
Does this passage
not give you a clue as to one of John's purposes for writing this
letter? Could this have anything to do with John desiring for their
(and his) joy to be made complete? Was something or someone disturbing
their joy? Obviously, the answer is "yes" for John is aware of the
fact that false teachers are trying to deceive the believers, trying
to lead them astray from the Truth and into error. Will that result in
"disturbance" of their joy? If you have even fallen prey to a false
teacher, you know by experience what happened to your "joy"! And so
John is writing truth to counter the deception.
Spurgeon (in his expository
Hear ye this, ye people of God! The
object of the revelation of Jesus Christ is that you may have joy, —
yea, that you may
a heart full of joy, and that you may know what full joy means; for,
here below, we get but drops and dashes of joy, unless we are brought
into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ; and, then, we have the
very joy of God in our souls. Oh, the delight of it! Oh, that you
could all know it to the full!
4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
I infer from this that everything which is revealed to us in Scripture
has for its intention the filling up of the Christian's joy
“There,” the apostle seems to say, “if you have doubts, they will kill
your joy. Doubt is a great joy-killer; but we have seen him, we have
heard him, we have handled him who is the fountain of all true joy.
Let no doubts come into your hearts, for these are well-attested facts
of which we speak. We live still,” saith John,-though, perhaps, when
he wrote, he may have been the last survivor of the eleven,-”we live
still, by our testimony concerning Christ, to confirm your faith, that
your joy may be full.”
Some Christians have joy, but there are only a few drops in the bottom
of their cup; but the Scriptures were written, and more especially the
doctrine of an Incarnate God is revealed to us, that our joy may be
full. Why, if you have nothing else to make you glad the feet that
Jesus has become brother to you, arrayed in your flesh, should make
your joy full.
N. Hardy writes that...
there are but two ways of declaring
the Gospel, to wit, sermo and scriptio, word and
writing, by the tongue and the pen, this latter is that which the
apostle principally intends.
True fellowship with one another
and with God
is the basis for true joy.
Notice that the recipients of
this letter are believers ("you who believe" 1Jn 5:13). Dear reader, if you are
a believer, than you can know that this letter is also written to you.
It therefore behooves all of us as believers to read and re-read this
short letter, not mechanically, but as an act of devotion, reading it
as we would a love letter, and as we do, we can be assured that it
will literally transform our life! Do you believe this? If not, I dare
you to take the "First John Challenge" and spend a month (or longer)
reading, memorizing, meditating, discussing, teaching the words of
this short and simple yet deep and profound letter.
Your life, your "zoe", will
never be the same!
Although this is repetition, let
me ask you again "Why did John write this letter according to 1John
1:4?" Notice the conjunction "so that". Whenever
you encounter a "so that" take a moment to ask "so
what?" -- try to discern what the writer is
concluding or what is his purpose. In this verse John's desire for his
readers is that their "joy may be made complete." Actually, he writes
"our joy" implying that his joy would be made complete
only when his
readers experienced that same joy. As one who disciples men, I know
that my joy is always impacted when I hear about one of my young
disciples straying from the flock, turning to the left and/or the
right, rather than walking straight ahead in God's Word of Truth (Dt
5:32, 28:14, read especially Josh 1:7, 23:6, 7, 8, godly King Josiah =
2Ki 22:2, Pr 4:27).
Wayne Barber comments on
"our joy may be made complete" noting that...
If something is disturbing these
people and their joy is not being made complete, then obviously John’s
joy is not going to be made complete. He is writing it to them so they
can understand the truth. Once their joy is complete, his joy could be
complete. The idea is the people to whom he is writing seem to have
lost their joy.
from root graph-
= primarily means to scratch on or engrave as on an ornament, reports,
letters, etc; English = graph, graphic, etc) means to engrave
or inscribe with a pen or stylus characters or letters on a surface
which can be wood, wax, metal, leather, stone, parchment, dirt (John
), paper, etc.
So that (hina)
expresses purpose (See
term of conclusion),
result or intent of what has been previously stated (so always go back
and read what has just been stated!)
So that our joy may be made
complete - Fullness of joy is certainly possible for the
Christian, but it is by no means guaranteed as this phrase indicates.
If joy was easy or inevitable for every believer, John would not have
written this statement.
There is a joy which is only
fulfilled when we enter into practical fellowship with the Father and
with the Son. (1Jn 1:3-note)
There was so much in the conditions
and circumstances of the Early Church - persecution, loneliness,
atmosphere, martyrdom - which might be supposed to depress those first
Christians; but there were overriding blessings that would minister to
"your joy". Do you recall the circumstances of the occasion when our
LORD JESUS spoke of "my joy", (John 15:11 - Ed
comment: The night before His crucifixion! cp Heb 12:2)? This passage, then, has
things to say to its readers, and to us, that will conduce to real joy
of heart. (The
Pleasure of the Fellowship)
John Phillips notes that...
To be brought into fellowship with
the various members of the Godhead, and with true believers
everywhere, was not only good news, it was glad news (Ed:
News that brought "joy").
David Guzik discusses
some "joy stealers" and our great need to continually "fight for joy"...
The Christian's joy is important,
and assaulted on many fronts.
External circumstances, moods and
emotions, or sin
can all take away our joy.
Yet the Christian's joy is
not found in the things of this world, as good as they might be. When
John wrote about these things, he wrote about this relationship of
fellowship and love we can share in with God the Father and the Son
Jesus Christ (1Jn 1:3-note). Too many Christians are passive in their loss of joy.
They need to realize it is a great loss and do everything they can to
draw close to God and reclaim that fullness of joy. (Ed:
"antidote" for a low "joy quotient" would be to take time to
prayerfully pondering the truth in this epistle, not reading some
"self help" book that claims to be able to rejuvenate your joy!)
(1 John 1 Commentary)
J Ligon Duncan calls our
attention to the intimate relationship of what John has just stated to
what he states in verse 4...
Notice the order. Verse 1—message;
verse 3—shared life; verse 4—joy. Gospel proclamation leads to true
fellowship, leads to true joy. Gospel proclamation, true fellowship,
true joy. True joy comes in shared life with Christians rooted in the
shared life of God. This is the life that is the life of joy. This is
how the proclamation issues forth in a life of joy. The life of faith
is the life of joy, and is experienced only by those who respond to
the proclamation of the Word.... Notice the order. Verse 1—message;
verse 3—shared life; verse 4—joy. Gospel proclamation leads to true
fellowship, leads to true joy. Gospel proclamation, true fellowship,
true joy. True joy comes in shared life with Christians rooted in the
shared life of God. This is the life that is the life of joy. This is
how the proclamation issues forth in a life of joy. The life of faith
is the life of joy, and is experienced only by those who respond to
the proclamation of the Word. (1 John 1:1-4 The
Word of Life Appeared to Us)
Steven Cole writes that...
When a sinner comes to Christ, it
brings great joy to those who already know Christ (cp Lk 15:7, 32), but it also brings
great joy to the sinner who is saved. And as our fellowship
with God and with one another deepens, the joy deepens. In commenting
on the fact that God has given us eternal life, Calvin exclaims
(ibid., p. 157), “But if we consider how miserable and horrible a
condition death is, and also what is the kingdom and the glory of
immortality, we shall perceive that there is something here more
magnificent than what can be expressed in any words.” And so as God’s
children we are obligated to seek our greatest joy in Him. If we seek
joy in lesser things, we miss the greatest joy of all and we do not
glorify the God who rescued us from the ravages of sin and death.
Fellowship with God and with one
another really are just the two Great Commandments, to love God with
all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself (see Matt.
22:37-40). The aim of the entire Bible is to help us glorify God as we
experience the deep joy of a close relationship with Him and close
relationships with one another. As grow in obedience to these two
Great Commandments, we will grow in great joy, not only in this life,
but also for all eternity!
I encourage you, work on your
relationship with God. Don’t settle for occasional, distant
fellowship. Make time daily to spend with Him in His Word and in
prayer. Read books that help you to know Him better. Cut out of your
life anything that hinders fellowship with Him.
And, work on your relationships with other believers. In this sinful
world, such relationships will never be perfect, but they can be good.
But they won’t be good without effort! The payoff is that true
fellowship with one another and true fellowship with God will bring
you true joy. (1 John 1:3-4 True Fellowship)
Charles Spurgeon reminds
us that supernatural joy does not come naturally writing that...
The Christian’s joy wants looking
to. If any of you have lost the joy of the Lord. I pray you do not
think it a small loss.
In His "Upper Room Discourse"
the day before He was crucified, Jesus knowing that disciples' world
would soon be "turned upside down", repeatedly spoke of His desire
fro them to experience joy (which is still our Lord's desire for all His disciples!)
These things I have spoken to you,
that My joy may be in you (literally "may abide in you"), and that your joy may be made
full (Same verb
used here in 1Jn 1:4). (John 15:11)
Comment: This passage was
discussed briefly earlier. Again, compare Jesus'
phrase "these things I have spoken" and John's phrase "these
things I write". From our vantage point, both refer to the
Word of God. It follows that in order to maintain our joy, while it is
ultimately wrought by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, we have a
responsibility to read His Word as our part in in fighting "the good
fight of faith" for the joy He gives. Is this important? Nehemiah 8:10
says the "joy of Jehovah is our strength" ("our strong place", "our
stronghold") (Neh 8:10), which leaves no doubt that joy is vital to the
believer's spiritual walk and warfare!
How's your joy (Jehovah's joy
in you)? John Angell James alludes to how joy functions
as the believer's strength or stronghold writing that...
Spiritual joy is the oil to the
wheels of obedience. It is this which braces up the soul for action,
and carries it forward through difficult and self-denying duties. How
can we best vanquish the world, that ever present, and every where
present foe, which comes in so many forms, and with such golden pleas?
How, but by a heart already well pleased with its own happiness in
Christ. Spiritual joy is the world's vanquisher! And how easy, how
perfect in its triumph! The heart by holy joy rises above the world,
sees it below, covered with smoke and dust, and finds itself in a
brighter, purer, happier region, with the cloudless sun above, and all
around filled with his glory. (See James' article
which discusses a number of factors that dissipate and
destroy a disciple's joy, eg, his admonition "Watch against sin,
for sin is like water to the flame of joy.")
Comment: Beloved, complete,
full to the brim, overflowing joy comes to those who obey Christ (cp
1Sa 15:22 Gal 5:22) Sin (and disobedience to God) in any form is
a joy stealer. Run quickly to 1John 1:9! Compare David's sin with
Bathsheba and his loss of spiritual joy, for which he pleaded not once
but twice in his famous psalm (Ps 51:8, Ps 51:12 where "restore"
clearly indicates David had "lost" it!) Hab 3:17, 3:18 presents a
powerful pattern in our fight for joy. Notice the prophet's
circumstances did not preclude his personal choice to rejoice. While
the Spirit is not mentioned here, there is little doubt that He was an
active "Participant" in Habakkuk's making the choice for joy as he
focused on Jehovah rather than his circumstances.
Warren Wiersbe adds this comment
about joy: The secret of Christian joy is to believe what God says
in His Word and act upon it. Faith that isn't based on the Word is not
faith at all; it is presumption or superstition. Joy that isn't the
result of faith is not joy at all; it is only a "good feeling" that
will soon disappear. Faith based on the Word will produce joy that
will weather the storms of life. It isn't enough for us to read the
Word or receive the Word as others expound it; we must also rejoice in
the Word. "I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure"
(Ps. 119:162NKJV). In Bible days, people sometimes hid their wealth in
jars buried in the ground (Matt. 13:44; Jer. 41:8). If a farmer
plowing his field suddenly discovered a jar filled with gold, he would
certainly rejoice. There are great treasures buried in God's Word, and
you and I must diligently "dig" for them as we read, meditate, and
pray; and when we find these treasures, we should rejoice and give
thanks. If we read and study the Word of God only from a sense of
duty, then its treasures may never be revealed to us. It is the
believer who rejoices in the Word, who delights to read and study it
day by day, who will find God's hidden treasures. (Ps 112:1, Ps 1:2-note)
W: Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament. Victor
"Until now you have asked for
nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy
made full (pleroo). (Jn 16:24)
But now I come to You; and these
things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy (Jesus
is the Source of Joy - reminiscent of the old acronym = Jesus
Others Yourself) made full (pleroo) in
themselves. (John 17:13)
Robert Candlish comments: It
is surely very wonderful that the occasion on which Jesus manifests so
intense an anxiety about his disciples having enough of joy, and of
his own joy, should be the eve of his last agony. Is it really with
him a time of joy? Are the bloody sweat and the cry as of one forsaken
by his God the signs of joy? Is that the joy, his joy, which he prays
they may have fulfilled in themselves? At all events, his joy,
whatever it may be, must be of such a nature that it can be compatible
with experience as dark as that. For his joy must be, like himself,
"the same yesterday, today, and for ever." It cannot be fluctuating
and intermittent. It cannot be merely one of many emotions,
alternating or taking its turn with others, fitfully swaying the mind
at intervals, according to the shifting breezes of the outer
atmosphere. His joy must partake of his own unchangeableness, as the
eternal Son of the Father. It is true that in his human nature and in
his earthly history he is subjected to the impulses and influences of
this chequered human and earthly scene. He meets with what may move,
at one time to tears, at another time to gladness. Nor is he
unsusceptible of such impressions. But beneath all these his real joy
must be deeper far; a fathomless, infinite ocean, whose calm repose
the wildest agitations of the upper sea cannot reach or ruffle. "My
joy," he says to the Father, my joy in and with thee, I would have to
be theirs, through their fellowship with thee and me. Such, in
substance, is the Lord's own desire, as expressed to his disciples and
to his Father. And such is his beloved apostle's aim in his
teaching—"that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4 The Joy of the
Lord and Its Fulness)
Our joy - The KJV
(Textus Receptus) has "your"
joy, which is possible. However other more modern Greek manuscripts
have "Our" which fits with the
context for all of the pronouns in verses 1-4, which are all in the first person plural
(go back and circle "we" and "our").
Hiebert favors the latter
“Our joy” may also be
understood in an inclusive sense to include both writer and readers.
Thus The New English Bible reads, “the joy of us all.” This inclusive
meaning seems natural in view of the possessive plural pronoun “our
fellowship” in 1Jn 1:3 above. It is an instance of pastor and people
rejoicing together in the fellowship of the gospel (cf. John 4:36).
Wuest agrees with Hiebert...
The best texts have “our”
not “your,” that is, John’s joy and that of the recipients,
since both will then enjoy that intimate, intelligent fellowship with
the Lord Jesus which only comes when the saint sees Him, hears Him
speak, and touches Him, through the medium of the Gospel writers and
the Holy Spirit as He ministers what they have written about the Lord
in their writings.
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last
words to a friend:
It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad
world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy
people who have learned a great secret. They have found a
which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life.
They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters
of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the
Christians—and I am one of them.
JOHN'S DESIRE FOR US...
JOY, JOY, JOY
DOWN IN OUR HEART!
this song sung by kids)
is a feeling of inner
gladness, delight or rejoicing. Joy in the NT is virtually
always used to signify a feeling of "happiness" that is based on
spiritual realities (and independent of what "happens"). Joy
is an inner gladness; a deep seated pleasure. It is a depth of
assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart. It is a
cheerful heart that leads to cheerful behavior. It is not an
experience that comes from favorable circumstances but is God’s gift to believers.
Joy is a part of God’s very essence and as discussed below His Spirit manifests
this supernatural joy in
His children (Galatians 5:22-note,
Acts 13:52, 1Th 1:6-note). Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that
abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between
himself and the Lord. There is a chorus from an old spiritual song
that is apropos...
But joy abides
Chara - 59x in 57v in the
NAS and translated - greatly(1), joy(54), joyful(1), joyfully(1),
joyously(1), rejoicing(1). Note the association of
(joy and filled) -John 3:29, 15:11, 16:24, 17:13, Acts 13:52,
Ro 15:13, 2Cor 7:4, Php 2:2, 2Ti 1:4, 1 John 1:4, 2 John 1:12. This
repetitive association certainly suggests that God's desire for His
children is fullness of joy!
John uses chara once
in each of his epistles...
1 John 1:4 These things we write,
so that our joy may be made complete.
2 John 1:12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want
to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face
to face, so that your joy may be made full.
3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my
children walking in the truth.
Alfred Plummer writes that joy in 1John 1:4
that serene happiness,
which is the result of conscious union with God and good men, of
conscious possession of eternal life…and which raises us above pain
and sorrow and remorse.
Donald Campbell writes
Joy (chara) is a deep and
abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in
Christ (Jn 15:11). It does not depend on circumstances because it
rests in God’s sovereign control of all things.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote that...
in any definition we may
give of New Testament joy, is that we do not go to a
dictionary; we go to the New Testament instead. This is something
quite peculiar which cannot be explained; it is a quality which
belongs to the Christian life in its essence, so that in our
definition of joy we must be very careful that it conforms to what we
see in our Lord. The world has never seen anyone who knew joy as our
Lord knew it, and yet He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief.” So our definition of joy must somehow correspond to that....Joy
is something very deep and profound, something that affects the whole
and entire personality. In other words it comes to this -
There is only
one thing that can give true joy
and that is contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He satisfies my mind; He satisfies my emotions; He
satisfies my every desire. He and His great salvation include the
whole personality and nothing less, and in Him I am complete. Joy, in
other words, is the response and the reaction of the soul to a
knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Life
in Christ Studies in 1 John by Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
dictionaries define joy as the emotion evoked by well-being,
success, or good fortune or the emotion evoked by the prospect of
possessing what one desires. The world's definition of joy is
synonymous with the definition of happiness, for both of these
"emotions" are dependent on what "happens".
is a semblance of joy in human life, such as joy when one experiences a
victory ("We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of
our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your
petitions." Psalm 20:5
or when one reaps a bountiful harvest (see Isaiah 9:3), but more often the
Bible speaks of joy in a truly spiritual sense (as described
above by Martyn Lloyd-Jones). For example, Nehemiah
declared to the down in the mouth (not very filled with joy) Jews that
"The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh
Similarly, David pleaded with God to “restore to me the joy of
Thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12
As an aside, it is not surprising that joy and rejoicing are found most frequently
in the Psalms (about 80 references) and the Gospels (about 40
Play (and believe the
words of) the old song by Twila Paris...
THE JOY OF THE LORD
Brother and sisters
"Rejoice in the Lord and again I will say rejoice!"
C. S. Lewis
came a bit closer to the Biblical meaning of joy when he called
“unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other
satisfaction.” That statement is a bit obtuse but Lewis then went on
to add that joy "must be sharply distinguished both from
and from pleasure". Ultimately Lewis' experienced joy when he
discovered that Jesus was the wellspring of all joy.
Spiritual Joy then
is not only an emotion that comes from favorable circumstances but
paradoxically (supernaturally) can occur when circumstances are most
Jesus taught His disciples declaring...
Truly, truly, I say to you, that
you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be
sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. Whenever
a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but
when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more,
for joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your
heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from
you. (John 16:20, 21, 22)
the Resident Source of joy within for as as Paul teaches
the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians
Compare other passages that associate the Holy Spirit
the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the
Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52)
Comment: Clearly one of the effects of being filled with the
Spirit (Eph 5:18-note)
is joy, a supernatural joy He gives us as we surrender our will to His
to the Thessalonian believers who had just come to Christ out of pagan
idolatry 1Th 1:9-note) You
also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word
in much tribulation (thlipsis) with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1Th 1:6-note)
Comment: Observe the juxtaposition of "joy" and "tribulation"
once again affirming that the believer's joy is supernaturally given by
the indwelling Spirit of Christ and thus is independent of the
Are your circumstances
dire? The Bible teaches you can still have the Joy of Jesus!
Does this truth not help us
understand Nehemiah's well known declaration to those grieving that
independent of their grief, "the joy of
Jehovah is your strength." (Neh 8:10) God given inner joy is like
a shield that deflects disappointments, like a spring deep within our
soul, able to quench our thirst regardless of how dire are our
And in Acts we see a beautiful illustration
of joy that abides, vividly contrasting with happiness that depends on
they (Peter and the apostles who had been imprisoned and flogged -
Acts 5:28, 29, 40) went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing
(chairo in the
present tense =
continually rejoicing) that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His
name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept
right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41, 42)
Comment: Note that the apostles' joy was independent of their
uncomfortable, even painful circumstances but it was intimately linked with their proclamation of
Jesus the Messiah (cp John's "these things we write so that
may be made complete").
Have you not had this supernatural joy in
those times the Spirit has opened a door for you to proclaim
Jesus to some lost soul? And doesn't this make sense...Jesus is the
single most important Person in time and eternity and when we have the
opportunity to share Him the joy we experience is simply unspeakable! May we pray for and be
alert for more and more opportunities from God's Spirit to share His
Son with those dead in their trespasses and sins and in desperate need
for the Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
life is to be a life of
joy. It is founded on
faith in Jesus, Whose life on earth began as "good news of great
joy for all people" (Luke 2:10) and Whose last prayer was for
His followers to have His joy made full in themselves (Jn 17:13). Joy
from beginning to end and then without end (See our rejoicing in
heaven in Revelation 19:7-note
where rejoice is chairo).
There is a joy which is not given
to the ungodly, that of all those who love Thee for Thine own sake,
whose joy Thou Thyself art; and this is the happy life, to rejoice in
Thee, of Thee. This is it! And there is no other.
Laurin has some interesting
insights on holy joy...
As fellowship is the result of
experience so joy is the result of fellowship. It is not said to have
its source in riches although riches do afford no small measure of
comfort and satisfaction. It is not said to have its source in
pleasure although pleasure may bring diversion and recreation. Joy is
mentioned in connection with Christ because it has its source in
character. Joy is born, not bought. It is the cause of our happiness,
not the effect of our pleasure. (As
Quoted by Paul Apple in First John - Tests of Eternal
Life - A Devotional Commentary)
May be made complete
literally means to fill something to the brim (a net = Mt 13:48, a
building = Jn 12:3, Acts 2:2, a city = Acts 5:28, figuratively of needs
= Phil 4:19) and so to make complete in every particular and cause to
The Highest Joy
The highest joy that can be known
To those who heav’nward wend—
It is the Word of Life to own,
And God to have as Friend.
In some NT contexts the idea of
pleroo is not only that one is filled with something but that they
are controlled by what fills them. For example, when Paul commands
believers to continually "be filled with the Spirit" in Ephesians
his desire for them is that the Holy Spirit would so permeate their
being, that He would control their spiritual lives. In a similar
manner when one is filled with joy (a fruit of the Spirit - Gal
that joy exerts (or should exert) a controlling influence on
our everyday lives. Why so? Because joy is a supernatural attribute, a
work of the Spirit indwelling us, and as such is independent of bad
circumstances, difficult people, etc, which is in stark contrast to
the unsaved world's word "happy" which is a feeling which depends on
How is your joy beloved? If your
"joy quotient" is low, my prayer for you is...
Now may the God of hope fill (pleroo)
you with all (not some but "all") joy and peace in believing (Our
responsibility - to believe, have faith, trust the non-lying God),
that you may abound (overflow the banks of the the river is the
picture) in hope by the power (dunamis)
of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13-note)
John uses pleroo
(indicating the subject receives the action or effect from an outside
source - in context this is what some refer to as the "divine passive"
for He is the Source) which points out the fact that as believers we
do not fill ourselves with joy by "self effort" (or even "self
affirmation") but we permit the Spirit of God to fill us (and control
us) with His joy. In short joy is a gift of God! In context John associates this "filling" with what
he is writing (especially that finite man can have fellowship with the
Infinite God). If follows that if your joy is low, get into the Word
on 1Jn 1:3)
and allow His Word to get into you. Surrender to what God says in the Word.
The Spirit Who transforms us from glory to glory (2Cor 3:18) uses the Word to
bring us joy.
generally identifies past
completed action with present ongoing result. The idea is that their
joy is brought to fullness and remains in that state. In this verse the
parsing of the verb pleroo
is referred to as the periphrastic perfect participial construction,
which Wuest paraphrases...
been filled completely full in times past, may persist in that state
of fulness through the present time.
make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness
(Lxx = pleroo)
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:11)
Spurgeon comments on fulness of joy: In Thy presence is fulness of
joy. Christ being raised from the dead ascended into glory, to dwell
in constant nearness to God, where joy is at its full for ever: the
foresight of this urged Him onward in His glorious but grievous toil.
To bring His chosen to eternal happiness was the high ambition which
inspired Him, and made Him wade through a sea of blood.
when a worldling's mirth has all expired, for ever with Jesus may we
dwell at thy right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore; and
meanwhile, may we have an earnest by tasting thy love below.
note on the heavenly verse which closes the Psalm is a sweet morsel,
which may serve for a contemplation, and yield a foretaste of our
inheritance. He writes
as much said as can be, but words are too weak to utter it. For
quality there is in heaven joy and pleasures; for quantity,
a fulness, a torrent whereat they drink without let or loathing; for
constancy, it is at God's right hand, Who is stronger than all,
neither can any take us out of His hand; it is a constant happiness
without intermission: and for perpetuity it is for evermore.
Heaven's joys are without measure, mixture, or end. (Psalm
16:11 - Treasury of David)
Chuck Smith writes...
Oh the fullness of joy that comes from fellowship with God. As
David said, "My cup runneth over." (Ps 23:5-note)
Peter said, "Whom having not seen you love, and though you do not see
Him now, yet you rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory."
I think of the words of that hymn, "The love of Jesus, what it is none
but the loved ones know." I feel so sorry for those whose hearts and
minds are closed to Jesus Christ. If they only knew what they
were missing out on. The philosophers who talk about the ultimate
experience, confess that they know nothing about it. We know what it
is. It is walking in fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus
Smith - 1 John 1:3 Sermon Notes)
Spurgeon comments on "the love of Jesus that only the loved ones
know": "I fear that if you do not love Christ better than you did;
if you do not feel that there are new tendrils which bind you to Him;
if you do not feel that it would be harder now than ever to give up
your hold on the Savior, you have not begun to learn the love of
Christ. When we know that love, when we feel gratitude for mercies
received, then we see every mercy, both temporal and spiritual, coming
from that love! Ungrateful souls cannot learn this love. They have the
Book of mercy but they are blind and cannot read it. Grateful souls,
in every Letter from Jesus their absent Friend, whom having not seen,
they love, and in every second of daily fellowship, and of daily
mercy, read again that glittering sentence—“He loved me, and gave
Himself for me.” (Sermon
Ray Stedman comments that clearly joy is the inspired word...
but perhaps it will be more helpful for us to understand what John
means if we use the word, excitement. "That your excitement may
be complete." Joy is a kind of quiet inner excitement and this is what
results when we really experience the fellowship that John is talking
about. When we discover that God is actually using us, it is the most
exciting and joy-producing experience possible to men. I have seen it
happen many, many times. I have seen young people get so excited over
this that they literally jump up and down. There is a dear girl in
this congregation that cannot relate what the Lord does without
literally bouncing as she tells it. I have seen men, familiar with the
world of high finance who work continually in the great marts of
trade, get so excited over the fact that God was using them in some
simple way that they literally trembled as they told it. I have known
women who have discovered how exciting it is to have God at work in
their neighborhood, using their kitchen, and their coffee pot, that
they have not been able to sleep at night. They are overwrought with
excitement, with joy. That is what John is talking about, life, as
life was intended to be lived, filled with joy. Oh yes, with many
pressures! Do not make the mistake of thinking that the only way to
have joy is to be free from pressures or problems. No, take all the
pressures and the problems, but with them that wonderful feeling down
inside that God is at work, and He is at work in you. You are a vital
part of God's program. God is using you to do His eternal work. There
is nothing more exciting than that. That is what John is writing
about. That is worth listening to, is it not? (1 John 1:1-4: Life
that saying, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”
(Matt. 6:21-note) Whosoever, then, really perceives what fellowship with
God is, will be satisfied with it alone, and will no more burn with
desires for other things. “The Lord is my cup,” says David, “and my
heritage; the lines have fallen for me on an excellent lot.” (Ps.
16:5, 6.) In the same manner does Paul declare that all things were
deemed by him as dung, in comparison with Christ alone. (Phil. 3:8.)
He, therefore, has at length made a proficiency in the Gospel, who
esteems himself happy in having communion with God, and acquiesces in
that alone; and thus he prefers it to the whole world, so that he is
ready for its sake to relinquish all other things.
Steven Cole writes that...
by this point the only surviving apostle. But, how was his joy made
complete in writing these things? In the sense of 3 John 4, “I have no
greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth”
(see also, 2 John 4). If John’s little children would read these
letters and not be carried away by the false teachers, but continue in
the truth, he was a happy man.
think that joy in the Lord is a nice extra, but not essential. But as
John Piper often points out, we cannot glorify God properly unless we
enjoy Him thoroughly. A. W. Pink (ibid., p. 28) observed, “Now this
joy is not to be regarded as a luxury, but rather as a spiritual
necessity. We are obligated to be glad in God.” He goes on to cite
several Scriptures that command us to be glad and rejoice in the Lord.
Then he points out that we will not glorify God apart from such
genuine joy in Him. Our aim in proclaiming the gospel to others should
be that they, too, would come to share our joy in Jesus Christ.
Guzik summarizes these first four verses
Observations on this
first portion of the book, which is one long sentence in the original
a. John began with the
beginning - the eternal God, who was before all things.
b. He told us that this
God was physically manifested, and that he and others could testify to
this as eyewitnesses.
c. He told us that this God is the Word of life, the Logos.
d. He told us that this God is distinct from the person of God the
e. He told us that we may have fellowship with this God, and that we
are often introduced into this fellowship with God by the fellowship
of God’s people.
f. He told us that this eternally existent God, the Word of Life, who
was physically present with them, and present for fellowship, is God
the Son, named Jesus Christ.
g. He told us that fellowship with Jesus leads to a life lived in
fullness of joy.
h. We could say that in these four verses, John gave us enough to live
our whole Christian life on.
No wonder one commentator
Observe the note of
wonder in the Apostle’s language. Speech fails him. He labours for
expression, adding definition to definition. (Expositor’s)
NET Bible Note
prologue to 1 John (1Jn 1:1–4) has many similarities to the prologue
to the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1–18). Like the 1prologue to the Fourth
Gospel, the prologue to 1 John introduces the reader to important
themes which will be more fully developed later in the body of the
work. In the case of 1 John, three of these are: (1) the importance of
eyewitness testimony to who Jesus is (cf. 1Jn 4:14, 5:6–12), (2) the
importance of the earthly ministry of Jesus as a part of God’s
revelation of himself in Jesus Christ (cf. 1Jn 4:2, 5:6), and (3) the
eternal life available to believers in Jesus Christ (1Jn 5:11–12,
James Montgomery Boice sums up
This then is the way in which the gospel has come to us and must be
passed on. The apostles bore witness to what they had seen and heard
of Jesus, proclaimed it authoritatively on His commission, and finally
preserved it in the writings which have since become our New
Testament. Today believers are to take their writings and, having
through them entered into the experience of the apostles, proclaim the
Christ of the apostles to the world.
believe in a Jesus of their own imagination and have an emotional
experience that they call being born again. But when their problems
are not all magically solved, or they go through difficult trials,
they conclude that “Jesus didn’t work,” and they go back to the world.
The problem is, they didn’t believe in the Jesus revealed by the
apostles in the New Testament. Their experience was not that of true
fellowship with God and with others who know God. And so any witness
about their supposed con-version is lost when they abandon the faith.
It’s likely that they never experienced true Christianity. True
Christianity is essentially Jesus Christ—revealed in Scripture,
experienced in new life and fellowship, and proclaimed with joy. Make
sure that you’ve got the real deal!
G G Findlay
these truths (1Jn 1:1-3), to see this fellowship established amongst
men, is the Apostle's delight, the business and delight of all those
who share his faith and serve his Master: "these things we write, that
our joy may be fulfilled." We have a great secret in common—we and the
Apostles. The Father told it to Jesus, Jesus to them, they to us, and
we to others. Those who have seen and heard such things, cannot keep
the knowledge to themselves. These truths belong not to us only, but
to "the whole world" (1Jn 2.2); they concern every man who has sins to
confess and death to meet, who has work to do for his Maker in this
world and a pathway to find through its darkness and perils. The
Apostle John is writing to Greeks, to men far removed from him in
native sympathy and instinct; but he has long since forgotten all
that, and the difference between Jew and Greek never appears to cross
in writing this letter. The only difference he knows is between those
who "are of God" and those who "are of the world." (1 John - An Exposition of the
Epistles of St John)
He Put It In Writing - Two days after the April 27, 1996,
cease-fire in Lebanon, a TV interviewer asked Israel’s prime minister
how the new agreement differed from one a few years earlier. He
replied, “This one is in writing, whereas the former one was verbal
over the telephone. Print has a different value.”
Spoken words can be forgotten, or they can be changed when they are
repeated. Written words, though, aren’t dependent on memory, and they
can’t be easily ignored or changed.
In the Old Testament, when God spoke to the people of Israel, He told
His prophets to write down what He said (Dt 5:22; Jer 36:2; Hab 2:2).
He didn’t want His words to be forgotten or misrepresented.
Likewise, when Jesus lived on earth, God gave audible approval of His
Son (Mt. 17:5). John, who saw the transfiguration and heard God’s
voice from heaven, did not merely tell others. Under the guidance of
God’s Spirit, he wrote a book (the Gospel of John) and three letters
(1,2,3 John) so that all his readers would know truth from error,
believe on Christ, and be filled with joy (1Jn. 1:4).
When we read God’s Word, we too can “hear” God speak. We can begin to
learn of His greatness, glory, and goodness. Are you finding that
true?— by Dennis J. De Haan
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
God, who formed worlds by the power of His word,
Speaks through the Scriptures His truth to be heard;
And if we read with the will to obey,
He by His Spirit will show us His way.
When you open your Bible,
ask the Author to open your heart.
Are You Happy? - An elderly woman was once asked by a friend
about the spiritual welfare of a mutual acquaintance. She replied,
“Well, she’s in a very bad state of mind. She’s got just enough
Christianity to make her miserable when she’s doing wrong, but not
enough to make her happy in a prayer meeting.”
The most unhappy people, it seems to me, are not the unsaved but
Christians who are disobedient to Christ. When they continue to sin,
they are inviting God’s loving chastening and are asking for much
sorrow and loss. Because they have the benefit of the indwelling Holy
Spirit and a knowledge of God’s will through the Scriptures, they feel
more wretched in their backslidden state than those who have not
accepted the Savior. Every Christian who has lived for a time with
unconfessed sin knows what I’m talking about.
To avoid such heartache and to be a happy Christian, we must seek to
know God’s will through Bible study and prayer. Then in the power of
the Holy Spirit we must strive to do God’s will, walking in the light
as He is in the light (1 Jn. 1:7). We are not without sin (1Jn 1:8),
but we must be honest and open with God about our sin (1Jn 1:9) and
strive to overcome it. — by Richard De Haan (Ibid)
Trust and obey—
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.
Sin causes the cup of joy
to spring a leak
of Joy - Remember those round, yellow, happy-face stickers that
showed up frequently on stationery and postcards? They were often
accompanied by the one-word message, “Smile.” They implied that you
can put a smile on your face as easily as you can put a hat on your
head. In a sense, that is true. A good actor can look happy even when
his heart is breaking.
Favorable circumstances can also produce smiles. A person with good
health, an adequate income, and a nice house finds it easy to look
happy. The best smile, though, comes naturally from within. It
reflects a joy that remains even when a person has few of life’s
material blessings. It comes from knowing God, believing and obeying
His Word, being assured of sins forgiven, possessing eternal life, and
anticipating the glories of heaven. The believer who depends on God
for these blessings can smile despite adversity.
In today’s Scripture reading, the prophet Habakkuk declared
triumphantly, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my
salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18). Even if everything were taken from him,
the Lord would be his strength. He didn’t need to “put on” a smile,
because the joy in his heart would do it for him. —Richard De Haan
A smile can conceal our pain
And lighten our despair,
But trust in God gives inner peace
And joy beyond compare.
Happiness depends on happenings,
but joy depends on Jesus.
THE JOY OF THE LORD
AND ITS FULNESS
Robert Candlish (continued
discusses the joy John desires for his readers
(which includes you and I beloved of the Father)...
Joy, as it is commonly understood and exemplified among men, is a
tumultuous feeling; a quick and lively passion or emotion, blazing up
for the most part upon some sudden prosperous surprise, and apt to
subside into cold indifference, if not something worse, when fortune
threatens change or custom breeds familiarity. "As the crackling of
thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:6).
It is indeed vanity; an outburst or outbreak of exuberant hilarity,
subsiding soon into weariness and vacancy, the dull cold ashes of a
brilliant but passing flame. All the joy of earth partakes, more or
less, of that character; for it is dependent upon outward
circumstances, and has no deep root in the soul itself. Even what must
in a sense be called spiritual joy may be of that sort. There may be
joyous excitement when the glad jubilee-trumpet fills the air with its
ringing echoes, and an enthusiastic multitude are hastening to keep
holiday. There may be a real elevation of spirit when some affecting
scene of spiritual awakening is witnessed, or some gracious ordinance
is celebrated, or some stirring voice is heard. Such joy is like the
goodness which, as a morning cloud and as the early dew, goes away.
There may be the joy also of complacency in one's own success in a
good and holy work; such joy as the Baptist's disciples feared that
their tidings would mar in their master's breast, when they came to
tell him, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou
barest witness, behold, the same baptizes and all men come unto him"
(John 3:26). His answer is very memorable, and very much to the
purpose of our present inquiry:—"He that hath the bride is the
bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears
Him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice; this my joy
therefore is fulfilled" (John 3:29).
It is Christ's joy that is fulfilled in him who is so truly and
heartily the bridegroom's friend; Christ's twofold joy; first, his joy
as the bridegroom possessing the bride; "as the bridegroom rejoiceth
over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Isa. 62:9);—and,
secondly, his joy as the Son possessing the Father; as the Baptist
goes on to testify so affectionately; "The Father loves the Son, and
has given all things into His hand" (Jn 3:35).
Now, upon the subject of this "joy of the Lord," this joy of Christ,
this double joy of Christ; his joy as the bridegroom having the bride;
his joy as the Father's beloved Son and trusted servant, into whose
hand he gives all things;—I would beware of "exercising myself in
things too high for me." I would not venture so much as to imagine the
ineffable joy of the Son dwelling from everlasting in the bosom of the
Father, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit ordering the eternal
counsels of the Godhead;—the whole vast ideal of creative and
providential goodness, all holy and all wise:—and especially the
covenanted plan of electing love, for "gathering into one all things
in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth" (Eph
1:10). Neither dare I do more than touch on what, as the eternal
wisdom, he himself says about the Father "possessing him in the
beginning of his ways, before his works of old;"—"Then I was by him,
as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing
always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and
my delights were with the sons of men" (Pr 8:22-31).
I come at once to his earthly course, his human experience.
And, first, I see him in the temple, when he was twelve years old. I
hear his answer to his mother and Joseph, "Wist ye not that I must be
about my Father's business?" How intense his consciousness even
already, at an age so tender, of the trust committed to him; his
Father's business, the business on which his Father's heart is set,
for glorifying that name of his which is light and love, and saving a
people to bask in that light and love evermore! "I must be about it."
There is deep joy in such a consciousness as that (Luke 2:49).
Then, secondly, I see him as the disciples left him, faint and way
worn at Jacob's well. On their return they find him fresh and bright.
Is it an outward cordial, or is it inward joy, of which he speaks as
having revived him? "I have meat to eat that ye know not of: my meat
is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John
And, thirdly, I
find it once, and once only, said in express terms that "Jesus
rejoiced in spirit" (Luke 10:21). The statement is a very strong one;
it implies inward leaping for joy. And the occasion is remarkable. It
is connected with the mission of the seventy. In sending them forth,
the Lord has been much exercised with thoughts of the failure, to a
large extent, of their ministry and of his own, and the aggravated
guilt thus entailed on the highly-favored objects of that ministry. In
receiving them back, he sympathizes so far with their delight at
finding even "the devils subject to them;" but he adds,
"Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to
you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." "In
that hour," and in the view of the names of these his little ones
being written in heaven, "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank
thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these
things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes:
even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight" (ver. 21). There
is here the joy of full, filial acquiescence, for himself, in the
gracious and holy will of his Father. And there is added to that the
crowning joy of so making known the Father to these babes that they
too may acquiesce as he does; "All things are delivered to me of my
Father: and no man knows who the Son is, but the Father; and who the
Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him" (ver.
Thus "the joy of the
Lord is his strength;" prevailing over the diffidence of extreme
youth, the exhaustion of nature, and "the contradiction of sinners
against himself." Nothing—either in his being a mere child, as when
Jeremiah complained, "Ah, Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a
child" (Jerem. 1:6); or in his being overcome by distress, hunger, and
fatigue, as when Elijah sat down in the wilderness and requested for
himself that he might die (1 Kings 19:4);—or in his being forced to
utter triple woes against the cities of his own habitation, as when
Isaiah, sent on an errand of judgment to his people, was fain to cry,
"Lord, how long?" (Isa. 6:11);—nothing, I say, in any such trials of
his flesh and heart, causes either flesh or heart to faint. At least,
when flesh and heart faint, his spirit is refreshed with joy. To be
about his Father's business; to be doing the will of him that sent
him, and finishing his work; to say, "Even so, Father, for so it
seemed good in thy sight;"—such joy is his always. Throughout the
whole of his painful toil and solitary suffering there may be traced
an undercurrent of real joy, without Which, I am persuaded, that
countenance "so marred with grief" could not have worn, as it did, the
aspect of one "fairer than the children of men, into whose lips grace
Nay, even of
his last agony is it not said that "for the joy set before him he
endured the cross?" (Heb. 12:2). There was joy set before him, lying
full in his view, in his very endurance of the cross. But what! one
says—joy in that dark hour! Over the most excruciating torture of body
the brave soul may rise triumphant. But when his soul was exceeding
sorrowful even unto death; when his Father was hiding his face from
him; when the wrath of a holy God and the curse of a broken law were
upon him; when literally the pains of hell gat hold of him; how could
there be joy then? Nay, I cannot tell how. But I bid you ask
yourselves if, when he cried, "Father, glorify thy name;" if, when he
said, "The cup which my Father giveth me shall I not drink it?" if,
when in his bloody sweat these words came forth, "Father, thy will be
done,"—there was no joy in his spirit. More than that, I ask if you
can conceive of him, in his utmost extremity of peril, endurance, and
expiatory woe, ever for a moment losing the consciousness that he was
doing his Father's will and finishing his Father's work? Could that
consciousness be ever interrupted? Could it ever cease to be a source
of inward joy? There is joy lying before him, beside him, as he hangs
on the accursed tree; not the joy of hopeful anticipation merely, in
the near prospect of victory, but the stern joy of battle in the midst
of the hot and heady fight, as—true to the trust committed to him by
his Father and loving to the last his own whom he came to save—he
bares his bosom to the sword awaking in its righteousness to smite the
willing victim. That joy no man, no devil, taketh from him; the joy
with which he meets the Father's just demand of a great
propitiation:—"Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O God;"—the joy
with which he sees already of the travail of his soul when he says to
the dying penitent, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Not in heaven only, among the angels of God, but on earth also, in one
holy bosom at least, there is in that hour joy "over one sinner that
This joy, "his joy," is to become
ours; it is to "remain in us." "Our joy is to be full" by "his joy
being fulfilled in us." Let us notice first the reality, and then the
fulness, of this fellowship or partnership of joy between Christ and
(I.) Christ would have his joy to
be really ours. The bridegroom's friend, standing and hearing him, is
to rejoice greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. But that is not
all. Something more than the Baptist's official joy, as the
bridegroom's friend, waiting upon him as his minister, is to be ours.
For the Lord says that "to be least in the kingdom of heaven is to be
greater than John the Baptist." In all that constitutes the essence of
his own joy the Lord associates us in intimate union with himself.
Thus, first, in his standing with
the Father, and before the Father, he calls us to share. The position
which he occupies in the Father's house and in the Father's heart is
ours as well as his. It is that which opens the way to his joy being
ours. And what opens the way to that? His making our standing and our
position his. There is an exchange of places between him and us. Our
state of guilt as criminals and prodigals, with all its misery, he
takes to be his, that his state of acceptance as the Father's
righteous servant, and exaltation as the Father's acknowledged Son,
with all its joy, may be ours. Hence our sharing his joy begins with
our sharing his cross. It begins with our mourning for our sin as
piercing him. The very mourning itself has in it an element of joy; a
certain feeling of calm and chastened satisfaction that the strife
with God is ended, through our being moved by his Spirit to give in to
him. And soon clearer, fuller joy comes. Looking still on that pierced
one, pierced for us as well as by us, we see how thoroughly, by
putting himself in our place, he has so met and discharged all our
liabilities, that we, "being redeemed from the curse of the law," may,
by his putting us in his own place, "receive the adoption of sons."
Then, secondly, he makes us
partakers of the very same inward evidence of acceptance and Sonship
which he himself had when he was on earth. The Baptist testified, "God
giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." How much the presence of
the Holy Ghost, ever consciously realized, contributed to keep alive
in the holy human soul of Jesus, amid all his toil and pain, a joyful
sense of his being still the Father's chosen servant and beloved
Son—who can tell?
Thirdly, we have the same
commission with Christ; the same trust reposed in us; the same work
assigned to us. Accepted and adopted in him; sealed as he was sealed
by the Spirit; we are sent as he was sent into the world. This capital
ingredient, this great element of his joy, is ours. It was a deep,
secret wellspring of joy in his heart; the feeling, never for a moment
lost or interrupted, of his being the Father's fellow, the Father's
agent, in carrying out that wondrous plan that had been concerted
between them, in the council-chamber of the Godhead, from everlasting.
There could be nothing, in all his experience, so mean but that this
thought must ennoble it; nothing so dark but that this thought must
enlighten it; nothing so toilsome or so tearful but that this thought
must gladden it. And now, he takes us into his counsels, as the Father
has him in his. "All that he has heard of the Father he makes known to
us." He does not keep us, as mere servants, in the dark, about what he
is doing; prescribing to us our tasks, without information or
explanation, to be blindly executed by us in ignorance of what it may
all mean. We are "his friends;" the men of his secret; with us he has
no reserve; from us he keeps back nothing (John 15:14, 15). He admits
us to his fullest confidence. Some matters, indeed, pertaining to "the
times and seasons which the Father hath put in his own power," it may
not be for us to know. They are such as he himself, in the days of his
manhood, did not care to know. But as to all that is essential, we
have the same intelligence that he had, and the same insight. He sends
us, as the Father sent him.
Have you, let me ask, duly
considered what community of mind and heart between Christ and you all
this implies? And what community of joy?
Ah! when you wearily pace the
beaten round of certain devout observances; or when you painfully deny
yourselves this or that gratification on which your inclinations
remain as much set as ever; or when, with half-opened hand, you dole
out your measured mite, as you call it, in a good cause, or a cause
you cannot venture to put away as bad; or when you labor hard at your
cheerless daily toil, or drag your lazy limbs along in some
self-prescribed walk of beneficence, as if you were doing the dullest
piece-work for the scantiest wages; and when you count such sort of
service religion, as if that were the new obedience to which you are
called;—can you wonder that you have no joy in the Lord? May not God
say to you, as he said once to another, who, however grudgingly, must
yet do his pleasure,—"Have you considered my servant Jesus?" Get
something of his acquaintance with me, and with my plans and my ways.
Get something of his spirit as he rejoiced to feel always the
greatness of the trust committed to him. Get it from himself. Get it
in himself. "Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him."
For, fourthly, here is the chief
element of his joy. He is "meek and lowly in heart;" and therefore
"his yoke is easy, and his burden is light;" so easy, so light, that
he may count it joy to bear them. It is not an easy yoke in itself
that is his; nor a light burden. But his meekness and lowliness in
heart makes the yoke easy, and the burden light. The yoke that was
laid on his neck when he took the form of a servant was hard indeed;
the yoke of subjection to the law, as broken by us and demanding
satisfaction from him. The burden that was lying on his shoulders all
the time he was doing the work of a servant was heavy indeed; the
burden of bringing in an everlasting righteousness, with full
expiation of guilt on behalf of us, miserable sinners. But as the
seven years of service seemed to Jacob but one day for the love he
bore to Rachel, so the meek and lowly heart of Jesus makes the hard
yoke easy and the heavy burden light. In his case, as in Jacob's, the
charm is love; love, rejoicing in his Father, whose will he is doing;
love, rejoicing over us, whom he is purchasing to be his spouse. For,
in a word, it is his self-renunciation, so absolute and entire; his
self-forgetting, self-sacrificing affection; his so completely losing
himself, merging himself, in the Father whom he serves and the people
whom he saves; this is that meekness and lowliness of heart which,
making his yoke easy to him and his burden light, moves him,
"rejoicing in spirit," to cry, "I thank thee, O Father." We must share
that meekness of his; that lowliness of heart. We, like him, must be
emptied of self.
For no true joy is or can be
selfish. I may hug myself, and applaud myself, and pamper myself, and
think to laugh all thought of others, and all care about their
thoughts of me, away. I do but kick against the pricks. The task of
vindicating my self-sufficiency and asserting my self-will, to my own
contentment, against all and sundry, I soon find to be no child's
play; but a hard yoke indeed, and a heavy burden. Let me get out of my
own narrow self into Christ, and the large heart of Christ. Let me,
like him, be meek and lowly in heart; accepting the conditions of my
earthly lot; discharging the duty of my earthly calling; meeting the
trials of my earthly pilgrimage; not as if I were entitled selfishly
to take credit for what I do, or take amiss anything I have to suffer;
but simply in loving obedience to my heavenly Father, and loving
sympathy with him in his truth and holiness and wide and pure
benevolence. That was Christ's way; that was Christ's joy. Then may I
have freedom, enlargement, joy, as Christ had, in walking with my
Father in heaven always; going about in my Father's name doing good;
drinking whatever cup my Father giveth me; and on whatever cross he
may see fit to nail me, saying still, as I give up the ghost, "Father,
into thy hands I commend my spirit."
(II.) The reality of this
joy,—Christ's own joy remaining in us,—may now be partly apparent. But
who shall venture to describe its fulness? "That my joy might remain
in you, and that your joy might be full;" so he speaks to his
apostles. "That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves;" so he
speaks to the Father concerning them. "That your joy may be full;"
such is the beloved apostle's longing on behalf of his disciples, as
it was his master's on behalf of his chosen ones.
Surely, one would say, it is to the future state, the life to come,
the world beyond the grave, that these expressions point. And that is
doubtless true. In its utmost and ultimate perfection, this full joy
belongs to heaven. So it is with Christ's own personal joy. In heaven
he fully rejoices with the Father and the eternal Spirit over his
fulfilled work of glorious righteousness and grace, and the fulfilled
fruits of it, in the fulfilled salvation of all the multitude of his
Was it something of that joy that
Paul caught a glimpse of in that strange ecstasy of his, when he was
caught up into the third heaven,—into paradise,—and heard unspeakable
words, which it is not lawful for man to utter? (2Cor. 12:1-4). Was it
Moses and Elias that he overheard, as on a higher mount of
transfiguration, talking with Jesus about the decease now accomplished
at Jerusalem? Or was it Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the everlasting
Father, communing with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, now in his bosom
evermore, and the blessed Spirit plying evermore his ministry between
God and men? But "something sealed the lips" of Paul. Let me,
therefore, be silent, and wait. Let me rather see if there is not some
sense,—some humbler and more practicable point of view,—in which I
have to do with that fulness of joy.
In the 45th Psalm the Messiah,
rejoicing over his church as a bridegroom over his bride, is thus
saluted: "Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness; therefore
God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy
fellows. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out
of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." This gladness
of the anointing oil and the sweet-smelling spices is all associated
with his loving righteousness and hating wickedness. The secret of his
full joy lies in his being, as his Father is, the holy one and the
Hence there can be no discrepancy
of thought, or taste, or feeling, between him and the Father who has
sent him. All things about his mission appear t6 him as they appear to
the Father; they are to him what they are to the Father. No painful
effort is ever needed to bring his judgment into subjection to the
Father's; or his will into harmony with the Father's. No lurking
tendency of his own nature toward evil; no insidious suggestion of the
tempter; no impatience of subordination; no secret longing to taste
the liberty of self-will;—can ever interfere with his walking in the
light as God is in the light. And that is the perfection of
blessedness. To one who is at once a servant and a son that is
"fulness of joy."
Is it attainable by us here? Yes,
in measure, and in growing measure. Let our nature be assimilated to
that of God; our mind to his; our heart to his. Let our souls learn
the lesson of seeing as he sees and feeling as he feels. Let sin be to
us what it is to him; and righteousness and truth as well. Let there
be a clear understanding between him and us upon all questions; a
thorough identity of interest and inclination in all points; an entire
agreement of opinion and choice in the great strife of good and evil
going on in the world. That was Christ's own joy. And it was fulness
of joy, even when his personal share in that strife cost him the tears
of Gethsemane and the bitter cry of Calvary. Let it be ours, more and
more, through our growth in grace and in holiness. All misery lies in
our judgment not being in subjection to God's; our will not being in
harmony with his. Misery ends, and fulness of joy comes, when we think
and feel and wish as God does. Therefore fulness of joy may be ours;
ours more and more; when "beholding as in a glass the glory of the
Lord,"—this glory of his being the Father's willing servant and loyal
Son,—"we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as
by the Spirit of the Lord."
And now, perhaps, we may see more
clearly than we have been accustomed to see the propriety of this "joy
of the Lord,"—this "joy in the Lord,"—being represented as not merely
a privilege, but a duty. "Rejoice in the Lord; and again I say unto
you rejoice." For this joy is not anything like that sort of
mysterious incomprehensible rapture into which the spirits may be
occasionally thrown under some sudden and irresistible impulse from
without or from within. It is not mere excitement. It is not what many
call enthusiasm, proper to high festivals. It is a calm and sober
frame of mind, suited for everyday wear and everyday work. Neither is
its nature recondite, abstruse, and mystical; nor does it come and go
in flashes, like the winged fire of heaven. It can be explained and
accounted for; analyzed and described. Its elements and causes can be
specified. Its rise and progress can be traced. It is not therefore an
attainment with which we can dispense; it is "our strength." Nor is it
a grace for which we may idly wait until it drop upon us unawares from
above. We have it in us, the germ of it, the essence of it, if we have
Christ in us; if we have the Spirit of Christ. "And if any man have
not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
Stir up then the gift that is in
you. Do you ask how? Observe the different connections in which your
sharing the Lord's joy stands in the farewell discourses and the
farewell prayer;—as first, with your keeping his commandments and
abiding in his love, as he kept the Father's commandments, and abode
in the Father's love (John 15:10, 11); secondly, with your asking in
his name as you have never asked before (16:24); and, thirdly, with
your being kept in the Father's name, in ever-brightening disclosures
of the Father's glorious perfections (17:11, 13). And observe, in the
fourth place, the beloved apostle's warm appreciation of this joy as
realized in the communion of saints: "Having many things to write unto
you, I would not write with paper and ink; but I trust to come unto
you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full" (2 John 12).
Surely this joy of the Lord, as it is thus intimately
associated;—first with obedience,—secondly with prayer,—thirdly with
the study of the divine character,—and fourthly with the cultivation
of Christian communion;—is no rare rapture, to be snatched at
intervals of excited devotion. It is, on the contrary, a calm and
chastened frame of mind; such as may be realized in every common duty,
in every humble supplication, in every devout exercise of soul upon
the divine word, in every greeting exchanged lovingly with any of the
Well therefore may the apostolic
precept run thus—"Rejoice evermore." For this joy is independent of
events and circumstances. The labors you are engaged in may be the
hardest drudgery; the people to whom you are seeking to be useful may
be the most perverse of all men. Your temper, patience, love, faith,
hope, may be tried to the very utmost; all may seem dark; friends may
change, and enemies may be round about you. But Christ is the same,
and his joy is the same; the joy of doing and suffering his Father's
will. "Rejoice ye if ye are counted worthy to suffer for his sake."
"Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this,
that the trying of your faith worketh patience," and that if "patience
has her perfect work" ye shall be "perfect and entire, lacking
nothing." Let nothing mar or damp your joy. What can mar or damp it if
it is Christ's joy remaining in you; Christ's joy fulfilled in you;
Christ's joy and yours together in his Father and your Father, his God
and your God?
"Although the fig-tree shall not
blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive
shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut
off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I
will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Hab
That was the prophet's joy, because
he apprehended it as Christ's joy, seeing his day afar off, and being
glad as he saw it. Let it be your joy also, your joy in him, "whom
having not seen you love, and in whom, though now you see him not, you
rejoice;" with his own joy fulfilled in you; and therefore "with joy
unspeakable and full of glory." (1 John 1:4 The Joy of the
Lord and Its Fulness)