The obedient disciple: Rejoice always (1 Thess. 5:16)

POST OVERVIEW. A series of posts based on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 describing how simple obedience to basic commands in Scripture can overcome persistent disobedience. This second post explains how rejoicing can deliver us from temptations to sin. (The previous related post was #608 on 1/6/2023.)

Our aim in this series of posts is to meditate on these verses (1 Thess. 5:16-18) until we have them ready for use, “on the (very) tip of our brain,” so to speak. If we do this well, as soon as we sense our thoughts drifting into temptation territory, we can fix our minds on a replacement verse. The replacement verse we will be considering is “Rejoice always” (5:16).

“REJOICE” IS A COMMAND

So, first, the disciple must recognize that “Rejoice always” is a command from the living God through the apostle Paul. In the original Greek, “rejoice” is a “present imperative” verb. The imperative means it is a command and the present imperative means it is a command we are to obey continually. Thus, the literal translation could be “Keep on rejoice!” Paul then adds, “Always,” just to remove all possible ambiguity. The disciple is commanded to have a rejoicing mindset.

The person receiving any command of Scripture has two choices: OBEDIENCE or DISOBEDIENCE. There simply is no third option. And it is easy to assess a person’s response to this command: “Are you actively REJOICING?” If your answer is, “Yes,” then you are being obedient, but if your answer is, “No,” then you are being disobedient.

The beauty of this particular command is that it is not at all vague or ambiguous. The command is clear and calls for immediate action. If you are not rejoicing now, then you are to BEGIN IMMEDIATELY. If you are rejoicing now, then you are to continue. There is nothing subjective here. The command does not ask how you feel right now; it does not take into account your current circumstances; it ignores all excuses and protests that might be offered to justify disobedience. Through His Holy Spirit-inspired Word, the Lord of the universe has commanded all His people, all His disciples to REJOICE ALWAYS, and the command demands obedience. Are you obeying this command to rejoice? Is your rejoicing evident to others?

THE POWER AND PURPOSE OF REJOICING

Before we go on, we should pause and appreciate the power of rejoicing. Rejoicing is commanded by the Lord because rejoicing expresses the heart set free. There is fullness of joy for the soul who has been forgiven and that joy must be released and expressed. In the physical world, when you expend something, you are left with less of it, but when you rejoice and pour out the joy of the Lord, more joy immediately rushes in to take its place. The more you rejoice, the more joy you have.

The Lord commands us to rejoice because we need to display the joy of the Lord to a dying world. The world is dying in its miserable pursuit of wealth and pleasure and power, and the world’s misery is expressed in their growling like bears and their moaning like doves (Isaiah 59:11). Men of the world stumble at midday and grope along like blind men (59:10), unaware that there is any other way to go through life. When these perishing souls see the overflowing joy of the Lord expressed in a life that manifests rejoicing, some may “see and fear and trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3). When the world sees a countenance that rejoices in the Lord, some of the dying may wonder why they are “spending their money for what is not bread and their wages for what does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2).

POSSIBLE WRONG RESPONSES TO THIS COMMAND

While the genuine disciple of Jesus would never openly refuse to rejoice, it is still possible for true, redeemed disciples of the Lord to be disobedient to this command. Let’s look at some causes of this disobedience.

“I AM NOT ABLE TO REJOICE RIGHT NOW.”

  • Not true. It is a doctrinal truth that all genuine disciples of Jesus are able at all times to obey the commands of Scripture. “God’s commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). So, the disciple is always able to rejoice. Obedience to God’s commands is never a matter of ability but is always a matter of the will. Therefore, the question is not, “Can I obey?” but, “Will I obey?” Rejoicing is an obedient choice and not rejoicing is defiance and rebellion.
  • The command is to “rejoice ALWAYS.” If I only rejoice sometimes, and the rest of the time I stoically go through the motions or worse, moan and groan, then clearly, I have disobeyed the command and need to repent. To declare, “I am not able to rejoice RIGHT NOW,” is simply to admit my disobedience.

“I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO REJOICE.”

  • In a sense, this response is hard to understand. The disciple’s joy in Jesus cannot be contained but must be expressed. We look forward to Sundays because we can publicly express our joy in worship of our great King. It is almost impossible for the disciple of Jesus NOT to express their joy. Rejoicing is a spontaneous act that simply bursts forth from the redeemed soul. As a fish knows how to swim because of its nature, so the disciple of Jesus knows how to rejoice because of his new nature.
  • But if you sincerely do not know how to rejoice, then learn how! Watch how the people in your church rejoice in worship and rejoice in like manner. You are commanded to rejoice, so you should learn to express outwardly the joy you feel inwardly. Also, the entire Bible is filled with examples of rejoicing. David rejoiced before the LORD, and the psalms are filled with rejoicing. Miriam rejoiced. Jesus rejoiced. Paul rejoiced from prison. Throughout the Scriptures, God’s people rejoice. Part of growing in maturity in your walk with the Lord is learning to rejoice more loudly and more often.  

“I HAVE NO REASON TO REJOICE.”

  • I shudder even to write these words! The one who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 5:9) has every reason to rejoice and to praise the One who has rescued them from God’s terrible wrath. The person who suggests that there is no reason to rejoice should dig deep into the doctrinal teaching of the Bible to understand the glory and the power of our great God and, in so doing, fan their joy into a flame. 

SUMMARY

Remember that our purpose in this post was to understand more about the command to “Rejoice always,” so that we would be ready to rejoice obediently when we found our minds wandering into disobedient waters. So, when I am drifting into depression or discouragement, I will choose to obediently rejoice. When I feel fear, by an act of my will I will shout joyfully to the LORD of all His goodness to me. If anger begins to burn within me, I will quench that anger by rejoicing about the Lord’s power and glory and mercy. When tempted to sin, rejoice instead!

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/9/2023                     #609

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