Philippians: A Book of Christian Joy

Paul G. Kelsey
Berea, Ohio

Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe" (Phil. 3: 7). Paul did not consider it in bad taste or unexpedient to repeat often in this letter of the joy he experienced as a Christian, and neither should we. The joy of a Christian can fortify against all the difficulties of this life. How many times during the course of this life do you experience heartaches, tribulations, disappointments and other sad experiences? Surely we all have our share of these things, but Paul by inspiration tells us to rejoice in the Lord. The reason Paul could give this advice is because he knew of the joy in the Lord.

Time and time again Paul recorded his joy or occasions of rejoicing. He commended those who were thoughtful enough to supply him with occasions of joy. We so often are not this thoughtful. But the thing that caused Paul the most joy was that he was a Christian, a servant or slave of Jesus. He was not under a law which could not give salvation, nor was he under sin that it should have dominion over him, but he was a servant or slave of Jesus, which was an exalted position indeed.

In his letter to the Philippians he is writing to encourage these brethren. He mentions controversy little, although it is mentioned. He does not tell of the hard road he has traveled, nor does he talk at length of sin. But in the whole letter he tells of his joy, and this in the face of imprisonment and the fact that he can preach little if any while in prison. False brethren were preaching diabolically. Though these facts would annoy him, yet this man is full of joy, an unspeakable joy. The reason he is so full of joy is that Christ is his life. Though he is in prison, he is so because of the furtherance of the gospel. He realizes that regardless of what happens, in Christ he cannot lose. He says in Phil. 1:21: "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain". This is perhaps the key verse in chapter one.

In chapter two verse two he tells of his joy in unity. "Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Certainly this attitude would promote joy among the followers of Christ as it did with Paul. It is grievous when the contrary is practiced. He further points out in verse 1 of chapter two that another occasion of joy was for them to "hold forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ". Again it is an occasion of joy to see faithful brethren holding forth the word of life and to know that "not all in Israel have bowed their knee to baal."

He further exhorts in 3:1, "rejoice in the Lord." "In the Lord" is the only place for true rejoicing. Men can boast in their accomplishments, numbers, get gain of one kind or another and try to leave the impression that this is the source of true rejoicing, but the only place it can be claimed is in Jesus. If only we could convince some of this fact, even some who claim to be God's people, I am sure much more could be done for the Lord and there would be more true rejoicing. He further emphasizes this admonition in 4:4 when he says, "Rejoice in the Lord: and again I say, Rejoice."

Usually when advice or admonition is given the source is considered. So the source can well be considered in this case. When people who are not lacking in this world's goods, have desirable circumstances, many friends, etc., tell us in the face of our adversity, to be of good cheer, we consider the source of the advice and consider it worth little. But when we have one who is destitute, rejected of his countrymen, cast into prison, spoken against, bearing the scars of his stripes, having endured, to this point, most everything short of death stand before us and say "rejoice in the Lord again I say, Rejoice", it means something. It is not to be considered lightly. Here is an example that cannot be gainsaid.

We look into the life of Paul after his conversion and see that to him Christ was everything. He realized, as we should, that you cannot pray, you cannot perform your duties, you cannot go on your way to heaven, you cannot even think without Christ at every step. Therefore to Paul, as to us, to say the same thing often is not grievous.

In this epistle there are more than fifteen times when Paul tells of his joy or rejoicing. If it had not been for the joy Paul found in Christ, do you think he could have endured all that he endured or that he could have continued faithfully? We also must have our joys. All the joys of this world are transient and fleeting but in Christ is eternal joy, a joy that is not here today and gone tomorrow. Regardless of what happens to us we should always rejoice in the Lord. When all is said and done and we have been faithful, we know that it will be well with our soul. Heaven then can be our eternal home. Can you think of anything that should give us more joy?

Truth Magazine VII: 5, pp. 6, 24
February 1963