Joy is a readily understood word, so a Christian’s joy may seem to be self-evident. As a word, “joy” means pretty much the same in the English as it does in the Greek – the language in which the New Testament was originally written.

Webster defines the English word as, “A: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; B: the expression or exhibition of such emotion.” The occurrences of “joy” in the New Testament all stem from the same Greek word “chara” meaning cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness.

Interestingly, Dr. Andy Woods knows what the Christian’s joy is not. At 1:38 in his explanation of 1 John, he says that John wrote because he was afraid, “that they are going to lose their joy (not their salvation, but their joy). And his fear is that they are not going to be fully rewarded at the judgement seat of Christ (he’s not afraid that they’re going to go into hell).” Is that accurate with Scripture?

How Scripture answers "What is a Christian’s joy?"

A Christian’s joy is not devoid of the human emotion5. However, as a fruit of the Spirit13, it must assume more than simply a human emotion. A Christian’s joy is rooted in one’s Christian faith1,2,4,13,16 (being “in the Holy Spirit”12) and their continued walk/obedience to God’s word3,5,7 – the very spiritual fellowship John1,2 is concerned about. In fact, a Christian’s spiritual joy may include things that would temporally bring us pain or sorrow10,11 or sacrifice12 (exactly Jesus’ point to His Apostles). Ultimately, the lifelong journey of being faithful to the end1,2,5,6,7,9,14,15 is a “perfect and complete”10 Christian joy.

A “Christian’s joy” is a mutual, shared joy among all faithful saints1,2,3,8,14,16, including Jesus, Himself4,15. Contrary to Dr. Woods’ statement, Scripture generally3,4,5,7,8,9,10,14, and John specifically1,2 is, in fact, equating a loss of Christian joy with a loss of salvation and a heavenly reward in the end11,15.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
We [apostles] are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

The Apostle John’s opening in a letter written to Christians encouraging them to love each other (as God loves) and resist false teaching.  This verse begins with the conjunction “And.” It’s connected to the preceding verse where John says that he wants to make sure that they remember everything they had already been told and taught “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (vs 3).

Scripture-block application to this question

John wants “our joy” (his and theirs) to “be complete,” which is directly connected to the previous verse where John tells them to remember the apostles’ teaching so that they would have “fellowship with us” and “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (vs 3).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

In spite of having much still to write to you, I hope instead to speak with you face-to-face in order that our joy may be complete.

The apostle John is warning brethren (likely a local church – vs 1) about false teachers (as was much of his first epistle referring to “antichrists” having come).  He specifically tells them to “watch yourselves” (vs 8).
Scripture-block application to this question

Like his first letter1, John’s overall objective for encouraging and warning these brethren is so that they will remain faithful until the end, and that together (e.g. “our joy”) they will “complete” their salvation.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Just as I [Jesus] have kept my Father’s commandments and therefore abide in His love, you will abide in my love if you keep my commandments. I’m telling you these things so that my joy will be in you and that your joy may be made complete.

This entire section of Scripture (John 13-17) is Jesus in the upper room with the twelve apostles. He is speaking to them directly and giving them instruction about his coming death and what will follow.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus addresses the apostles to keep His commandments in order that Jesus’ joy would be their joy, and that it would be complete (e.g. “full”).

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Now I [Jesus] am coming to you [God in heaven], but these things I have spoken in the world so that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Jesus’ prayer before His crucifixion and ascension to Heaven.  The “words” are clarified earlier when Jesus prays, “I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. Now they understand that everything you have given me comes from you, because I have given them the words you have given me. They accepted them and really understand that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (vss 6-8)
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus’ prayer to the Father regarding the apostles’ care is so that Jesus’ joy might be matched in them.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Brethern, I [John] am praying that all may go well with you both physically and spiritually. Indeed, as some have reported to me, you continue to walk in the truth [of the gospel].  I have no greater joy than to hear about your continued faithfulness in Christ.

The apostle John’s third epistle (four books counting the Gospel of John).  This short letter is addressed to one brother, Gaius, that he loves “in truth” (vs 1).

Scripture-block application to this question

John’s greatest joy is that Gaius (and others) continue “walking in the truth.”

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom (e.g. best man) is at his side and rejoices at the sound of his voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete.
The people are questioning John the Baptist regarding this other one (Jesus) to whom the people are now going and being baptized (vs 26).
Scripture-block application to this question

John the Baptist speaks to his relationship with Jesus the Messiah in metaphorical terms. John is the ‘best man’ that has his joy completed in the coming of Jesus, the bridegroom. John’s “joy” here is his work/ministry in preparing the way.

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Convinced of my encouragement to you, I know that I will remain longer, coming to you again to assist in your progress and joy in the faith in order that you will have every ability to glory in Jesus Christ.

Paul is in prison in Rome and is uncertain of his future – whether release or death. He’s writing to the church in Philippi with greetings and encouragement.  He is torn between going home with Christ and remaining “in the flesh” (vs 24), but he knows the latter is better for them.

Even though here it appears he knows for certain he is “remaining” and “coming to” them again, the very next verse (vs 27) shows he is not working with any divine knowledge.  He doesn’t know if we actually will or won’t, but regardless wants them “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind” (vs 27).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul equates “progess” in their faith with “joy” in their faith. The end goal of their progress and joy is their final reward in Jesus (e.g. their salvation).

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
With the encouragement of Christ, comfort from love, fellowship in the Spirit, with affection and sympathy, complete my [Paul] joy by being like-minded, sharing in the same love, working together in purpose and intent.
Paul is transitioning into a long closing in an otherwise short letter to the church in Philippi.  He has expressed his deep fondness for them (1:6-7) and encourages them throughout to have the “mind of Christ.”  His encouragement here is to remain strong in their “partnership in the gospel” (1:5) so they continue to “shine as light in the world” (vs 15).
Scripture-block application to this question

Similar/continued refrains from Paul7, only now it’s his joy that’s completed in their harmony and fellowship of the Spirit. Paul shares the same sentiment as John1,2

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.

Our [Paul and companions] hope, joy, crown of confidence before our Lord Jesus at His coming again is in you – you are our glory and joy.

In Paul’s extended introduction to the “church of the Thessalonians” (1:1), he is recalling the events around their first hearing Paul bring them the gospel (Acts 17 during his second missionary journey).  Here he is lamenting the fact that he could not come to see them in person (vs 18).
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul and his companions’ (Timothy, Silas, etc) “joy” was in the Thessalonians faith.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Brethren, count it a joy to overcome trials of all kinds that have tested your faith, producing endurance.  Let that have its full effect so that your faith will be complete, lacking nothing.
James, probably the brother of Jesus, is writing a very practical letter to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (vs 1).  This appears to be a figurative representation of all saints at that time that had been dispersed abroad.
Scripture-block application to this question

We are to define “joy” as overcoming trials that test our faith. In other words, in our Christian walk, it is a “joy” by becoming more “perfect and complete” in our faith.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Be happy when others despise, persecute, and speak evil about you falsely because of your profession of faith.  Rejoice and be glad, since a great reward awaits you in heaven and you keep company with the prophets who were before you.

Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ preached near the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as Matthew records it. These should all be understood within the spiritual context with which Jesus – indeed the entire Bible – speaks. For example, “mourn” is showing remorse for sinful behavior and being separated from God.  “Peacemaker” would be understoodd as someone sharing the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus instructs the people to rejoice in persecution (because of Him).

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome and a section dealing with disagreements on matters of opinion with those “weak in faith” (vs 1).  He illustrates with things that can be eaten (vs 2) and days that might be celebrated (vs 5).  His point, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul contrasts personal, physical pleasures or desires – things that would bring emotional joy – with a “joy in the Holy Spirit”. In context, he advocates for a “joy” that is only realized through sacrifice and service to God.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  There is no law opposing these things.

Paul, much like he does in the letter to the Romans, is imploring and encouraging the Christians (this time in the churches of Galatia) to remain obedient in the walk of faith.  He begins the letter with strong language about resisting false teachers and begins this chapter saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  He contrasts practicing the works of the flesh and its result (e.g. not inheriting the kingdom of God) with the work of the Spirit and its result (
Galatians 6:7-8
).
Scripture-block application to this question

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which by default, transports it to a spiritual realm with a spiritual meaning (e.g. a meaning defined in Scripture). It’s not simply a human emotion.

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
I’m [Paul] approaching you with great confidence and am so proud of you. In spite our challenges, I’m comforted and filled with joy at your faithfulness.

This chapter serves as a bit of a break in Paul’s letter. Up to this point over both letters, Paul has dealt with numerous issues that have sown division and discord among the Christians in Corinth. Now he shifts to summarize their successful response and reaction to his instruction by beginning, “beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (vs 1) and confirming their “repenting” (vs 9). He also shares some of his own struggles in traveling.

Scripture-block application to this question

In spite of great personal persecution and struggles, Paul is “overflowing with joy” at the report of the Corinthians faithfulness and repentance.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Therefore, since we have all around us a host of witnesses, let’s lay aside any encumberance and sin that clings so closely, and let’s run a marathon while looking to Jesus.  He is the author of our faith.  He completes it. Afterall, he endured the cross because of the joy that was before him by setting aside the shame and he’s now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Hebrews writer is transitioning to the close of his letter after having chronicled all of the great people of faith that have gone before.  They are the great “cloud of witnesses.”

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus’ joy was being glorified and “seated at the right hand” of God after enduring persecution (e.g. which is exactly how James defines “joy”10).

But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

I [Paul] ask God [the Father] to testify against me if I’m wrong. It was good that I was refrained from returning to Corinth at that time. We don’t want to rule over you practicing your faith, but work together with you for joy and standing firm in it.

Actually Paul’s third letter (13:1) to the church at Corinth, writing to them defending his apostleship and also rejoicing in their handling of the some of the issues/sin he dealt with in 1 Corinthians (his second letter).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul’s work isn’t to domineer over the practice of their faith, but rather to encourage them and work together with them in their “joy” and standing firm in it.

Leave your comment below…

…and if you’re wondering more about what we’re doing and why, here are some links we hope can help explain it (and maybe even get you excited about contributing):

what do you think?

related to 'What is a Christian’s joy?'

lend your own study to the discussion

PUBLIC COMMENT POLICY: While your email is required, it will not be posted publically.
All comments are vetted for potential spam before being published, but will not be restricted otherwise.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments