Calvary Road Baptist Church

“REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAY”

Philippians 4.4

 

There’s a chorus that kids oftentimes sing in Sunday School. And it’s good that they sing such choruses in Sunday School, since singing is such an important part of Sunday School. Of course, one can understand lost kids sometimes not much liking to sing Christian songs in Sunday School, but it is always good in a Sunday School class to sing praises to God. Perhaps you’ve heard the chorus. Perhaps you’ve sung the chorus. You find the words in our text for today, which is Philippians 4.4. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” I want you all to stand and sing this chorus with me. {Sing}

Is it not wonderful how suddenly the Apostle Paul turns from admonishing Euodias and Syntyche, and urging an unnamed fellow in the church to help him in encouraging those two women to “be of the same mind” in Philippians 4.2-3? One moment he is addressing those two wonderful Christian women, who were at odds over something, and asking for the help of another person in getting things between them worked out, and then he is exhorting the entire congregation to rejoice in the Lord always. What gives? Is Paul schizophrenic? How in the world can someone pivot so drastically? It is not really a pivot if you understand the underlying truth Paul recognizes and brings to the attention of those two ladies and the congregation. It is found at the end of verse 3 and is coupled with the phrase in verse 4, “in the Lord”: “. . . help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.” That is what results in them being “in the Lord.”

Reminding them that Christians are involved in issues far bigger than petty differences that we sometimes allow to distract us, and relationships that have eternal significance, Paul wants those women back in the gospel ministry they had previously labored in with him, with Clement and the other fellowlaborers, “whose names are in the book of life.” What trumps every petty concern that we might take issue with in the life of a fellow church member who serves with us is the reality that our names are in the book of life. We are blood bought and blood washed Christians. The result is that we are “in the Lord.” That was the basis for Paul’s ability to sing in the dungeon, as he had first done in Philippi and as he had continued to do since that night in the Philippian jail.[1] Nothing in this life, not persecution or suffering, and certainly not minor personality conflicts, will change the eternal certainty of your name being written in the book of life, will alter the fact that you are “in the Lord.”

Keep in mind that Paul has already written his epistle to the Romans, in which he wrote in Romans 8.28-39:

 

28    And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29    For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30    Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

31    What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32    He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33    Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

34    Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36    As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37    Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Being unalterably and eternally related to Jesus Christ is Paul’s basis for writing in Philippians 4.4, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”

May I suggest to you that you might not entirely understand what this verse means? You think you do. You think you know what this verse means. However, if I may be so bold as to suggest that you may not really know what this verse means. Perhaps you’ve sung the chorus your whole life, but you may find out in the next few minutes that you didn’t really understand what this verse really means.

Consider three separate, but related, items with me this evening, that will help us to better understand this marvelous verse from God’s Word.

 

First, CONSIDER THE CONCEPT OF JOY

 

You can’t really understand Paul’s command to rejoice in the Lord until you fathom the Christian concept of joy. Not the world’s concept of joy, mind you, but the Christian concept, the Biblical concept, the spiritual concept of joy. To get a handle on this kind of joy, real joy, durable joy, spiritual joy, turn to Galatians 5.22-23:

 

22    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23    Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

 

We recognize that in this present age we live in, according to the way God deals with believers in Christ during this dispensation and economy, a person who comes to Jesus Christ and is saved is immediately, instantaneously, and irrevocably indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.[2] These two verses that we have just read show the relationship between the indwelling of the Spirit of God in the believer and this characteristic we call joy, which is a vital and inseparable aspect of what Paul termed the fruit of the Spirit. Two things to notice about joy:

First, we see that joy is a personality trait. You cannot look at Galatians 5.22-23 without realizing, unless your spiritual eyes are closed while you read the passage, that the fruit of the Spirit of God, and joy which is a part of the fruit of the Spirit of God, is a combination of personality traits. Joy, then, is an integral and internalized part of the emotional makeup of the believer. If you are a believer you will have joy. It becomes as much a part of your personality after you are saved as any other personality trait. It is important to recognize that joy is something that individual Christians come to have. Some believers come to have joy more quickly than do other believers, but the unencumbered product of the Holy Spirit’s influence on every Christian’s personality is eventually joy. You, as a person, will come to have joy when you are saved and indwelt by the Spirit of God. This is not to say that joy is automatic. If that was the case, Paul would not have written our text. The Spirit of God does produce joy in the believer, while at the same time the various circumstances, challenges, and temptations that are encountered in the Christian’s life serve to rob us of our joy. Thus, you must cling to your joy, Christian.

Second, we see that the person of the Holy Spirit is responsible for this personality trait. The Holy Spirit is a person, after all. He is the Third Person of the triune Godhead. He is as much God as is God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is also the Author of holy writ. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.[3] So, when you want to know about joy you don’t go to an arena where people lift their hands and claim to have joy. Neither do you turn on the television set and search it out on some religious cable channel. If you want to know about the joy that the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of those individuals He indwells, you need to go to, yes, His Word, the Bible. It is in the Bible that we see joy, such as is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which refers to a delight in the heart and soul, a gladness, which is actually produced from within by the Holy Spirit of God as a result of coming to grasp the profound significance and the staggering import of your eternal and uninterrupted relationship with Jesus Christ.[4]

 

Next, CONSIDER THE CONCEPT OF REJOICING

 

Once a proper concept of joy is grasped, once it is understood that this gladness is produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit as we come to appreciate our eternal situation, and not by any outward circumstances of life (the circumstances of the Christian’s life being very frequently adverse), then it is but a short ride to a Biblical concept of rejoicing. Two simple aspects of rejoicing:

First, rejoicing is joy that is verbalized. Perhaps a better term would be vocalized instead of verbalized. You see, to verbalize means to express with words. But sometimes joy that is felt, the gladness of heart that bubbles through to the surface, cannot be expressed with words, but must be vocalized with a squeal of glee or with the quiet humming to yourself in songs and hymns and spiritual songs. Just understand that joy, which is a personality trait the Holy Spirit produces in those He indwells, is both communicated and expressed. When it is expressed, when it is vocalized, that is called rejoicing. Joy is what you have. Rejoice is what you do with what you have.

Second, rejoicing is joy that is projected. Look at those several aspects of the fruit of the Spirit of God in Galatians 5.22-23. Of those nine characteristics, notice that the only one which can be instantaneously seen at a distance is joy when it is projected by rejoicing. Love is expressed over a period of time, as is faith and goodness and meekness. However, you can walk into a room where a Christian is rejoicing and immediately perceive its effects. You can walk around the corner of a building and straightway take note of a child of God rejoicing. With the eight other aspects of the Spirit’s fruit you have to kind of watch for a while, to take note of what a guy is doing, to see whether or not he is exercising temperance or showing gentleness. However, when a person is rejoicing he is projecting joy immediately, instantaneously, and marvelously.

 

Finally, THERE IS THE COMMAND TO REJOICE

 

Perhaps, up to this point you have thought to yourself, “You said there would be things here that I would learn that I didn’t already know. But I already knew this stuff.” That is marvelous. But you did listen extra carefully, didn’t you? That said, it is at this point that I will share with you some things that are almost universally overlooked and ignored. Turn back to Philippians 4.4, where we see two things:

First, the command is stated. Paul actually begins the verse with a command:

 

“Rejoice in the Lord alway”

 

I want you to take note of the context in which Paul issues this directive, this command to rejoice, to express joy. There are actually two contexts. The first context (are you ready to learn something?) comes from the verb “rejoice.” It’s an imperative verb, meaning that it’s a command. That’s not news to you. But this is. It’s a second person plural command. That means Paul is issuing the command, not to individuals, but to the congregation.[5] This lets us know that the context in which this command to rejoice can be obeyed can only be in the context of the congregation. Philippians was written to a church, and it is to the church that the command to rejoice is issued here, not to individuals. The second context is seen in the prepositional phrase, “in the Lord.” Rejoicing is really something that only Christians can rightly and properly do. Only Christians have the joy that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, only Christians really can express that joy by means of rejoicing. When did Paul direct these people to rejoice? There are two ways to answer that question: First, he directed them to rejoice after the two women, who were already in doctrinal agreement with each other, had been urged to set aside their personality and preferences differences. How important is it for Christians to be doctrinally straight and humble enough to abandon their maverick approaches to serving God in favor of a like-minded and harmonious approach? It is critical, for only then can we rejoice together. Context, saved people in a church, is so important to serving God. Next, there is continuity. “Rejoice in the Lord alway.” This means that, as a church, we are to be in continual rejoicing mode. There should be never-ending expressions of our joy in our singing, in our testimonies, in our demeanor, and in our prayers. In everything we should rejoice. How is this possible? It is possible only when we realize that joy is not dependent upon circumstances, has nothing to do with what has just happened or is presently happening, but is grounded on our eternal and unchanging relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord.

So vital is rejoicing to our spiritual welfare and vitality that Paul issues the command again.

 

“And again I say, Rejoice.”

 

Remember that these words came from a man who, at that moment, was writing from a Roman prison, having been falsely arrested and charged, and having been incarcerated for several years beginning in Caesaria, awaiting word of his fate. However, he still had joy and he continued to rejoice, both expecting and demanding that every other Christian he knew do likewise. His determination can be seen in the words, “and again I say.” The verb is future tense. So, Paul is telling the readers, “I will say again,” and again and again and again. Paul was not about to stop insisting that Christians rejoice. When a Christian fails to rejoice he has ceased to proclaim the greatness and the glory of the Savior he embraces. Paul’s directive, this second stated command to “rejoice,” pretty well sums it up. He is simply not taking “No” for an answer. Neither is he accepting any excuses, for there is no excuse for the child of God not to rejoice. After all, your name is already written in the book of life. You are now and forever “in the Lord.” What is there really to complain about? Again, referring to what Paul had already written in Romans 8.18:

 

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

 

May I now correct a commonly held Christian precept that I think I have shown you to be wrong? It is the notion that rejoicing, for a Christian, is not an option. Good as far as it goes, a clearer picture is provided when we understand that rejoicing for a church is not an option.

How does this speak to someone who is visiting our church this evening, who has blessed us with your presence in our worship service? As well, what about you unsaved young people who come with your parents even when you don’t want to? To be brutally direct, Paul’s directive about rejoicing doesn’t really apply to anyone who is outside the context of the congregational assembly. Don’t get me wrong. It’s possible for any Christian to have joy. As a matter of fact, it’s rather strange and unusual for a genuinely saved person not to have joy. And anyone who has joy can rejoice, since rejoicing is the expression of your heart’s gladness, your joy. However, this specific verse of the Bible was written to a church, and it’s really only a church that can combine our hearts and minds in truth and practical agreement to obey this command to rejoice in the Lord. Therefore, let us decide to do this, Calvary Road Baptist Church. What do you say? Let’s decide to obey this command to rejoice in the Lord. Let’s rejoice when we testify. Let’s rejoice when we sing. Let’s rejoice when we pray. Let us continually rejoice in the Lord and express to the world around us, for one and all to hear, our joy.

For the rest of you? You are cordially invited to come to Christ if you are not converted. You are urged to yield to the lordship of Jesus Christ in believer baptism if that is the next step for you, by which means you become a member of Calvary Road Baptist Church. Such steps of obedience to God, you will discover, open up new opportunities to put on display the lordship of Jesus Christ in your life, and provide for you the opportunity to express your joy in Christ in a whole new context.

How should you respond? Give no thought to the opinions of men, but seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. I have never heard of a Christian who was sorry he obeyed God, so you can put that fear to rest.



[1] Acts 16.23-25

[2] Romans 8.9; Ephesians 1.13

[3] 2 Timothy 3.16; 2 Peter 1.21

[4] Though the entire article is beneficial, I will note a few excerpts from Gerhard Kittel, Editor, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol IX, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), pages 372-402, cariV, carizomai, caritow, acaristoV: “cariV is what delights,” “The word is widely used in the class. age. cariV is the ‘favour’ of the gods in Aesch.” “cariV is a fixed term for demonstrations of a ruler’s favour, often used in inscr.” “In Paul cariV is a central concept that most clearly expresses his understanding of the salvation event.” “cariV” is the divine ‘favour’ shown in Christ.”

[5] Peter T. O’Brian, The Epistle To The Philippians - NIGTC, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), page 485.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org