Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. (Phi. iv. 4, 5)
The Apostle exhorted us in the end of the preceding Epistle that we should reserve all things to Christ, the true Judge; but, lest we should be overcome by the long delay, he said that He was about to come in a very little while. The Lord, he said, is at hand.
What we consider to be a long time is but the twinkling of an eye in relation to God’s eternity. So a long time with us can be a short time with God. And thus we must live in the day, always anticipating Christ’s immanent return to Judge the Quick and the Dead. The Lord Jesus Christ is always at hand, and thus we must live in the day and ask Him to judge us now, lest we be judged in a very unusual and unpredicted way on Judgment Day.
But the Apostle in the words of the text teaches three things (1) he exhorts to inward holiness; (2) to honest conversation ; (3) he subjoins the reason.
- Inward holiness consists in two things: firstly, that evil affections should be renovated; and, secondly, that good affections should be obtained. S. Bernard said that holy affection makes the saint, whilst evil affection is to rejoice in the world.
First, we must renovate or repair passions that have been bent on evil affection. Thus we must pray that the Lord will transform evil and sinful affections into good and noble ones. In order to do so affectively, we must contemplate the nature of good affections. Good affections are found in persistent meditation upon God’s nature, as what alone is true, good, and beautiful. Thus we must look into God’s essence and then supplicate His mercy in obtaining the effectual means of fulfilling His will through the infusion of His Divine virtues.
- But there is an evil joy of the world, as in evil things, in vanities, in base pleasures. The joy in evil things is to rejoice in wickedness; the joy of vanities is to rejoice in riches, which are vain; and the joy in base pleasures is to rejoice in wantonness.
We must thus endeavor never to rejoice in wickedness and evil. To rejoice in wickedness might be to delight in other men’s sins or even in our own. The absence of God must be mourned over. Next, we must never indulge vanities. Riches corrupt us. If we have more than we need, it is time to purge. Finally, when we engage in base pleasures, we have taken some good thing and perverted it to suit our fleshly lust. ‘Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton.’
St. Augustine says of these three kinds of joy: What is the joy of the world? Wantonness is the impurity or the wickedness of the world; to toy with the games, to be luxurious, to be allured, to be swallowed up, and to offend by baseness.
To rejoice in the Lord is that joy which tends to salvation; for the loving-kindness of the Lord leads to justification, for He is most bountiful by way of remuneration. For a very small servitude He gives eternal life and the heavenly kingdom, and such a Lord is without doubt to be rejoiced in; Who saves His servants by redeeming them; Who dismisses all their debts by justifying them; and Who will crown them with an eternal kingdom by preserving them.”
Of the first: The Lord is our King; He will save us. (Is. xxxiii. 22) He shall save His people from their sins. (St. Matthew i. 21)
God’s love far surpasses all that we can either deserve or desire. His reward is to give to us what we can never make or create on our own. His reward is to bestow upon us what cannot imagine or conceive in our minds and imaginations. His reward is what exceeds our natures and thus is the free donation of His love from His nature. Let us rejoice in God’s superabundant love for us.
Of the second: Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God. (Rom. v. 1)
God redeems and saves us in Jesus Christ. He justifies us or makes us right with Himself through His Son, Logos as flesh, the God Man. We are justified or made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is faith in God’s Grace made flesh. This is faith in what Jesus has done for us in bringing our old man to death and in beginning to recreate a new man out of His flesh and into our spirits. This is a dismissal of all our debts to God through Christ’s sacrifice. This is a gift imparted to us that will make us right with God beyond death and into new life.
Of the third: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Rev. ii. 10)
To be preserved unto death, we must be faithful in this life. We shall be rewarded with the crown of eternal life only if we are faithful until the end.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation. He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Is. lxi. 10)
God desires to clothe us with that righteousness that saves us. This is the clothing of Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us rejoice to be so clothed and robed by God’s Grace. Let us truly endeavor to rejoice in this process whereby God suits us up for salvation. Let us rejoice in the love that touches and transforms us. Let us rejoice in a love that punishes, disciplines, and corrects us through Divine Judgment beginning here and now. Let us rejoice in the love that will lead into eternal union with Himself, though for a season we must endure with patience His future coming. To which joy may we be led through Jesus Christ our Lord to our eternal destiny.