Summary: God's people can rejoice no matter what the circumstances may be because of Christ and what we have in Him.
The Bible presents certain birthmarks that distinguish the children of God from the children of the world. We read that, ‘by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.’ God’s people are called upon to be a ‘peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ Here in 1 Peter chapter 1, we find another defining characteristic of the Christian. God desires us to be a people who have a joy unspeakable, which is full of glory.
Jesus said in John 15:11
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is a divine joy. It is a remaining and overflowing joy. In the Old Testament we find that it is an overcoming joy:
‘…the joy of the Lord is our strength.’
Often time we use the terms ‘joy’ and ‘happy’ interchangeably. In its modern usage, we have come to believe that these words are synonyms. But that could not be farther from the truth. The word ‘happy’ describes an emotional response. As an emotion it is subject to change and influenced by external circumstances. ‘Joy’ on the other hand, is not an emotion. It is not contingent to what takes place on the outside –joy is the result of what has already taken place on the inside. Joy is not rooted in circumstances; it is based upon the Saviour.
*For example, have you ever known someone who was in a tremendous trial or difficulty? You were burdened about them and compelled by your concern; you go to them in hopes of being an encouragement to them. However, after a few minutes with them you realize that in spite of all that is happening, this person has joy. Although you had planned to encourage them, you leave having been encouraged yourself! How is that possible? It is possible only because joy is not an emotion that is subject to circumstances. Joy is the product of an abiding life in Christ –rooted and built up in Him.
That is the kind of joy that Peter is describing here. Notice the circumstances in which Peter is writing this letter. Note verses 6, 7.
Ladies and gentleman, you and I can have the blessing of possessing and emanating ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’!
Here in this chapter, Peter highlights three catalysts for the Christian’s joy in this chapter. Let’s consider them quickly.
I have Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory because of:
1. Hope by the Resurrection of Christ verse 3
We are living in a day and age where there seems to be a real lack of genuine hope. People want it. People recognize the need for it, but somehow fail to locate it. Think with me for just a moment. Where do people turn to for hope? -Politics, education, philosophy, the judicial system and even religion. But none of these can give true hope.
There are those who search for it in politics. But we are learning there is very little hope there. Just this week in the New York Times an article was published in which the writer commented, ‘for the first time in American history people feel voting does not matter.’ He believes there are an overwhelming number of people disillusioned with the whole democratic process. Please do not misunderstand me –that is not an endorsement or a critique of any political party. Earlier this week, a former financial advisor to the president came out and said that the problem of the US economy is so great the only solution is to remove democracy from the equation and to appoint certain people who will have decision making powers that are not subject public scrutiny. Not much hope in politics. The same can be said of the others as well.
Exactly what is hope? We speak of hope in terms of maybe or of a possibility. We ‘hope’ this or that will take place. Is that true hope? Biblical hope as described in the Bible does not have any doubt or contingency involved with it. When the Bible speaks of hope, it is referring to something that is assured of or guaranteed. The only place such assurance can be found is not in a religion –but in a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice again what the Bible says in verse 3. We have been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is a source of joy for the believer.
Consider what the Bible says in John 16:19-22. In these verses, Jesus foretells His death and His resurrection. Pay close attention to the expected result this event was to have.