2017-2-12 Joy Inexpressible

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          February 12, 2017

“Joy Inexpressible”
Text: 1 Peter 1:8-9

We continue in our punctuated series through 1 Peter, and today we continue in this opening section of praise to God.  Even though we have been in 1 Peter since the first of the year, we have not yet arrive at the heart of what God says, through Peter, both to the Church at large, ca. A. D. 65, and to us today.  We continue in this section where the Spirit leads Peter to praise God for His living hope—and there is much in this section for us to glean.

We come to a thing, a new-birthright of the Christian, elusive in our time—joy inexpressible in Jesus Christ.  This joy, alas, is necessarily to the one outside saving faith in Jesus—for this joy, like the love of Jesus, according to Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), none but His loved ones know.[1]  Yet this joy—again, the new-birthright of the Christian—too often, and needlessly at that, eludes the Christian too.  Let us hear what God says to us today in His Word—and, in the hearing, let us grasp that which God intends His redeemed in Christ Jesus to have: His inexpressible joy.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Jesus, some thirty years before Peter penned this letter, uttered to a joyous Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).  Doubtless Peter concurs.  Though He himself saw Jesus in the flesh—and walked with Him as one of the Twelve–he notes that though his readers (including us) have not seen the living Christ, nonetheless we love Him.  This love (Greek agape [agaph]) is the love extant between the Persons of the Godhead—in what C. S. Lewis called the dance of the Trinity.[2]  This is also the love that God sheds abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).  Therefore, we can love Him in this way—though finitely and imperfectly—because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Having not seen, we love the Lord, but also, having not seen, we believe in Him.  When we think of saving faith in Jesus as Lord and as Savior, we need to think along two lines.  First, we believe at the cognitive level.  That is, we give our assent—or agreement—to the Biblical facts and claims.  Second, we believe at the volitional level.  That is, we trust willingly in God through Christ.  This can be illustrated by the two meanings of the Greek word peitho [peiqw]—which, interestingly, occurs nowhere in today’s text.[3]  In most Greek verb tenses, the word peitho means persuade.  In the perfect tense, though, the word means trust.  At the cognitive level, the Holy Spirit persuades us that Scripture is right in all it addresses.  At the volitional level, the Holy Spirit gives us both the power and the will to trust in Him for salvation.  We shall see more of God’s salvation later in this sermon.

Thus, loving our triune God and believing in Him, we rejoice.  Peter, led by the Spirit, qualifies this joy in two ways.  First, we rejoice with joy inexpressible.  That is, we cannot express the breadth or depth of our joy in Jesus.  Our sense of joy in Him is, at times, too great for mere words.  Second, we rejoice with joy filled with glory.  Our souls simply soar at the contemplation of our Lord—being filled with His presence and goodness.  This is true even though we have seen the risen Lord yet with our eyes.  Even though we have not seen Him, we love Him, we believe in Him, and we are extremely joyful with cannot-be-expressed joy.[4]

Though having not seen the risen Christ, yet having loved Him, having believed on Him, and having rejoiced in Him, we receive (English Standard Version obtain) the end (Greek telos [teloV]) of our faith.  We obtain the goal to which faith in Christ conveys us.  We obtain the outcome of faith in Jesus, to wit, the salvation of our souls.  We may define salvation in terms of deliverance, rescue, and healing.[5]  We may also note the vast scope of this deliverance, rescue, and healing through Christ in this vignette provided us by Michael Green in his book Evangelism through the Local Church:

“There was a day, so the story goes, when Bishop Westcott was seated in a train, wearing his frock coat, gaiters and all.  In got a girl from the Salvation Army, and seeing that her travelling companion was a bishop, she very much doubted if he were saved.  So she decided to pluck up courage and ask him.  ‘Bishop,’ she said, ‘are you saved?’  ‘Sotheis, sozomenos, e sothesominos?’ murmured the bishop, who was reading the Greek New Testament.  He wondered whether she meant, ‘Have I been saved? Am I being saved? or Shall I be saved?’”[6]

Green, in concert with the foregoing, goes on to note, “I have been saved from the penalty of sin by Christ’s death and resurrection.  I am being saved from the power of sin by the indwelling Spirit.  I shall one day be saved from the very presence of sin when I go to be with God.”[7]  This indeed is salvation, the outcome of our believing on Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.

What wondrous words of life we hear from God today—not because they are my words, but because they are God’s truth: either expressly (i.e., explicitly) or by reasonable inference from explicit Biblical truth.  Let these fortify you when the evil one aims to dampen your joy in Jesus.  After all, as Jesus said, the thief comes but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy, but Jesus is come that we may have life, and that more abundantly (John 10:10).  Believing on Jesus, and loving Him, leads to joy inexpressible—not to mention eternal.  Keep believing on Him until faith shall become sight and time shall be no more.

AMEN.

[1] “Jesus, The Very Thought of Thee,” words by Bernard of Clarvaux, 12th century, translated from original Latin into English by Edward Caswall, in Lyra Catholica (1849).  Music by John B. Dykes, in Hymnal for Use in the English Church, by John Grey (1866) (accessed at hymntime.com/tch/htm/j/t/v/jtveryth.htm (February 10, 2017).
[2] Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 175 (accessed at merecslewis.blogspot.com/2011/02/dynamic-love-of-father-son-and-holy.html, February 10, 2017).
[3] For insight into this I am indebted to Louw, Johannes P. and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).
[4] This last clause in the sentence is my wooden translation of the relevant clause in the Greek New Testament.
[5] These senses rise from the Greek verb sozo or sodzo (swzw).  Cf. Louw and Nida, op. cit.[6] Green, Michael, Evangelism through the Local Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992), 32.
[7] Ibid, 33.  We should note that we may well be saved from the presence of sin before death should Christ return first.

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