Intro: We recently discussed the apostle Paul admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to “rejoice always“. We acknowledged the difficulty of this simple command. There are times when rejoicing seems far away if not impossible. I recently connected Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians with the words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes 2 (from our study on Wed. evening). Paul’s command is difficult because Solomon’s assessment of life under the sun is correct: Eccl 2:23 – “For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest.”
- But God not only commands us to rejoice always, but provides the means whereby we accomplish it. It is not mystical, and is much more substantial than the rhetoric of a motivational speaker. The reasons we can rejoice are rooted in the work of God through Christ. They are rooted in the fact of our salvation.
I. Read 1 Peter 1:3-5 – Following his introduction, Peter begins with a flowing description of the ultimate salvation of the Christian. This passage is a hymn of worship designed to encourage Christians living in a hostile world to look past their temporal troubles and rejoice in their eternal inheritance. Contained in Peter’s descriptions is the reason for our rejoicing.
A. We can rejoice because of God’s mercy – v. 3 – “Blessed be God” – The literal translation omits the word “be” in these opening words, (“blessed the God“) indicating that Peter assumes it is necessary for believers to bless God for all He has done. He is the source, and should be praised.
1. “according to His abundant mercy” – we deserved punishment but God pitied us (not just a little, but abundantly). Because He pitied us He was willing to allow us to be born again. Later Peter tells us that our rebirth takes place through the seed of God, which is the word of God (1 Pet. 1:22-25) when we obey the truth. If we have experienced this rebirth we have reason to rejoice, and no doubt we did. There is no greater position than to be a child of God.
B. We can rejoice because we have hope – “To a living hope” – We can rejoice because we have hope. Ps 33:18-19 – Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.
1. “Living” conveys the idea of a hope that is not dead, or dying, such as that founded upon fantasy or falsehood, rather than truth. The hope of the Christian is based upon God’s work, not his own, and therefore can be counted on. Heb 6:17-20 – Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. It is a living hope also because it is a hope that gives life. It is made possible through Jesus’ resurrection.
C. We can rejoice because we have an inheritance – v. 4-5 – to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, Children often receive inheritance from their parents. It may not come until later, yet can be a significant reason to rejoice. (change things). But the inheritance of the Christian is superior:
- to an inheritance incorruptible ( that will not corrode with time) and
- undefiled (that is not tainted or marred – no mistakes in the deed) and
- that does not fade away Whose attractiveness or glory will not grow dim to us),
- reserved in heaven for you, – this points to the surety of what God has done. That means it is “guarded, protected, set aside, watched over” in our behalf. There is no reason to despair, only rejoice. He goes on to say it is ready to be revealed. (prepared)
D. We can rejoice because we are kept. – who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We are “kept” (a military term meaning to guard). We are protected by the power of God. John 10:27-29 – My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. These passages do not teach an unconditional salvation or a once saved-never lost fantasy. But we can have the confidence that God’s work in providing an atonement is not undone. God provides protection.
1. How are we protected? Peter says it is “through faith” – God’s power for salvation is exerted through the gospel itself and as we continue to live faithfully we can be sure. In the face of temptation God provides a way of escape. If we fall we have an advocate. Through it all God is able to do “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). That’s something to rejoice about!
II. 1 Peter 1:6-9 – In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.
A. In this you greatly rejoice… Do you? Do these truths determine your level of joy and contentment? Often we live lives of discontent and murmuring despite these truths.
B. Peter is quick to point out that our faith is tested in trials (particularly Peter has in mind persecution for the sake of Christ; but the principle could apply to all of life’s trials). But the ability of these trials to refine our faith and strengthen us allows for joy in the midst of difficulty.
1. v. 7 – “may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” – This is a perspective that makes joy possible, even in the toughest times. God can be praised and honored through my suffering. (You mean this is not about me?) Because we have never adopted the selfless humility of Jesus, and we interpret every event in terms of how we feel, we are robbed of our ability to rejoice.
a. Even though these Christians did not see Jesus, they could rejoice, because they had learned to love Him. So can we! Could our level of rejoicing indicate our level of love for Christ?
C. We can rejoice because we can see things others could not… 1 Peter 1:10-12 – of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into.
1. Prophets spoke through the Spirit about a person that was to come, who would provide God’s blessings to all people who would heed to His words. They were eager to know who would fulfill these things and when. But God those things were not spoken about their time, but ours. We have the ability to know all about Jesus, (His life, miracles, teachings, etc.). IS that not a reason to rejoice? We have heard the gospel message, God’s last message to men. Is that not a reason to rejoice?
Conclusion: Let me close with another scripture that commands rejoicing: Phil 3:1-11 – Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
- Paul commands them to rejoice, but then speaks about his own ability to find joy… (written from prison) 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh – we can only rejoice in Christ if we put no confidence in the things of the flesh (things that others value or trust in) Paul referenced his Jewish pedigree and accomplishments. These meant nothing and could never bring joy… But what did bring Paul joy?
- gaining Christ,
- being found in Him,
- having a righteousness that is through faith in Christ,
- knowing Him and the power of His resurrection (through spiritual rebirth)
- and the fellowship of His sufferings (joy is suffering)
- being conformed to His death (joy in death)
- with the hope of being resurrection
In Acts 8, a religiously sincere man far from home heard the message of salvation (that angels desired to know) for the first time. He believed and wasted no time in obeying the commands contained in the message. Acts 8:36-39 – Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.