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Jim's Jots and Tittles. . .


"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." --Philippians 4:4

The words rejoice, rejoiced, and rejoicing occur approximately 71 times in the New Testament. Rejoice is used in 14 books in the New Testament. The word joy is used in 18 books of the New Testament. The word rejoice is used nine times and the word joy is used six times in Paul's letter to the Philippians.

So, for the Christian, what brings about the rejoicing Paul wrote about? After all, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians about rejoicing. And on top of that, some were preaching Christ in a way to cause Paul distress in his imprisonment (Philippians 1:17).

Prior to this, Paul had been held in custody by Festus in Caesarea and endured a year-long trip to Rome after he had appealed to Caesar. And Paul himself had said he had done nothing to deserve such treatment (Acts 25:8). So how could Paul write, "Rejoice and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

Paul did not write about rejoicing nine times in this little letter because he was glad to be in prison. Paul wrote about rejoicing in seven of his letters because this should be the characteristic in the lives of Christians. Look how he shared this attitude with the Philippian Christians: "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me." (Philippians 2:17-18)

There is a common denominator that creates unity among New Testament Christians--that is faith. And this comes about where Christians join in that unity of becoming one in Christ, with the old life of sin removed by the blood of Christ. Consider why Paul could have this joy in his life> "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:12-14)

Every Christian, like Paul, was dead spiritually, and separated from God before they washed away their sins in baptism (Acts 22:16). That means every Christian in this life can display a joy that goes beyond this life of sin. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." (Romans 14:22)

And to complete our rejoicing as Christians, nothing in this life should overshadow the reward God has promised. His promise was Paul's greatest reason to rejoice and it should be our greatest reason regardless of our circumstances. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful...." (Hebrews 10:23)

There is no room for sadness in the life of a faithful New Testament Christian. There was no room for sadness in the life of Paul!

—Jim Hunt