1 Peter 1:6-9 (KJV)6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
What did Peter mean when he wrote that we “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”?
It’s clear that the joy that Peter was talking about is so great you can’t express it in words, it is so great that is beyond human ability to describe. That’s a lot of joy.
Joy which is better experienced than expressed because there are no words to describe it. It is a joy on account of the glory of God, which the believer lives in the hope and faith of; and by it saints may know a little what heaven itself will be. - Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Greek word that Peter used for “joy” is chara which is defined by the Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary as from (chairo); cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight :- gladness, × greatly, (× be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous).
The dictionary defines joy as "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation."
With this definition, we could say that "happiness" and "joy" are interchangeable. But that’s not biblical joy.
Joy depends on God not circumstances
Happiness depends on circumstances, joy depends on God and we have joy because of our faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for us.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit biologist and philosopher, once wrote, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
One reason that we don’t always experience the kind of joy Peter talked about is that we confuse happiness and joy. We think that both happiness and joy are found in pleasure, security and prosperity. Joy is not the same as happiness — although they may. Happiness vanishes when things get tough; joy continues and may even grow when things get tough. When we focus on the love of Jesus and not the circumstance we realize that the joy of the Lord is our strength. While we may not be, happy as the world defines happiness, we still have joy.
Nehemiah 8:10 (KJV)10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
The joy of the Lord is more than our ability to describe. Peter said it’s full of glory too. The Greek word that Peter used for glory is doxazō and means to render (or esteem) glorious (in a wide application) :- (make) glorify (-ious), full of (have) glory, honour, magnify. - Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
This joy of the Lord is a joy which words cannot describe, and along with it comes honor. We are friends of God and with that friendship comes honor.
John 15:9-15 (NKJV)9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (Bold mine)
Jesus died for us to free us from the penalty of sin which is death, eternal separation from God.
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s a reason for unspeakable joy.
James tells us that we should even have this joy during the bad times.
James 1:2-4 (KJV)2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (Bold mine)
Our joy should rise above circumstances. This joy is not produced by something external that makes us feel happy. It is supernatural result of a life filled with the Holy Spirit of the living God.
Galatians 5:22-26 (HCSB)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Bold mine)
When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds he told them that he was bringing them new that would bring great joy. Not only to them but to all people. We, if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior are the recipients of that joy which is beyond words and brings honor..
Luke 2:10 (NKJV)10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
This announcement to those shepherds over 2000 years ago brought joy to a people who had been waiting for their Messiah for hundreds of years.
Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV) Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:7 (NKJV) Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:2,6 (NKJV)2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The shepherds, after seeing Him, were filled with joy.
Luke 2:17-20 (NKJV)17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
That joy wasn’t just for Israel!
Isaiah 42:6 (NKJV) "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles,
Romans 3:29 (NKJV) Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,
Jesus’ birth was then and still is an occasion for joy, the kind of joy that we do our best to express in the familiar Christmas carol “Joy to the World”, which is based on the second half of Psalm 98.
Watts wrote the words of "Joy to the World" as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating his first coming.The nations are called to celebrate because God's faithfulness to the house of Israel has brought salvation to the world. - Wikipedia
Psalm 98:1-9 (NKJV)1 Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.2 The LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.3 He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.4 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.5 Sing to the LORD with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a Psalm,6 With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.7 Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it;8 Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD,9 For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.
That’s what Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas is all about. Advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For Christians it is both the first and second comings of Christ. We celebrate the first coming at Christmas and look forward to His second coming. We anticipate the coming of Christ from three different perspectives. In the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts everyday, and in glory when Jesus returns.
We can choose to live in an attitude of resentment, anger and fear or we can choose to pursue the joy of Christ...joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Joy to the World lyrics by Isaac Watts
Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.