Month 7:19, Week 3:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year:Day 5941:195 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 8 October 2017
Sukkot 2017 V
Salvational Joy in Acts & the Epistles
Continued from Part 4
Chag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the fifth day of Tabernacles! We continue with our theme which is on simcha or joy by looking at the remaining books of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament). We have seen how the Four Gospels speak of joyful proclamation of the Besorah (Gospel) and how this focuses on three main areas: the Birth of Messiah, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and the Resurrection.
Simcha in the Acts of the Apostles
The Book of Acts is a history of the early Messianic Community (Church) and of evangelism in particular - it is a defence of the Good News, it serves as a guide to the pursuit of its mission and it shows the triumph of the Besorah (Gospel) in the face of bitter persecution. As you would expect, simcha (joy) marks the life of the first qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) but this persecution in no way quenches that simcha (joy) nor deters the early believers in their witness. None of this is possible without the gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) given to the early talmidim (disciples), even as it is written:
"And the talmidim (disciples) were filled with simcha (joy) and with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)" (Acts 13:52, NIV).
Miracles, Gentiles Being Saved and Eating Together
You cannot be filled with one and not the other! Nor in New Testament times, it seems, could miracles not flow in the Name of Messiah if you had the Ruach (Spirit) and simcha (joy) (Ac.8:8). And, of course, back then the first Gentiles (non-Israelites) were coming to salvation in precisely the same way as the Torah-obedient Judahites (Ac.15:3). Finally, we are told by Luke:
Simchah Whilst Sharing Good and Bad
"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46, NIV).
You see, this simcha (joy) was infectious and its fullest manifestation was experienced when they were sharing, as a messianic community, in proclamation, during persecution, and having meals together .
Paul and Simcha
Let's move on to the Pauline writings where we discover that Paul uses simcha (or its Greek equivalent chara) in three ways, and here it gets really interesting because Paul, in characteristic fashion, likes to plumb the depths as he does with the salvation theology revealed in the Gospels by Yah'shua (Jesus).
1. The Growth of Disciples - 'Our Joy'
Firstly, a major cause for simcha (joy) for Paul is witnessing the members of the Body of Messiah grow in emunah (faith), and quite naturally especially those whom he has personally led to salvation, and in the Greek translation he calls these talmidim (disciples) hé chara hémón, that is, "our joy":
The Satisfaction of Ministers
"For what is our tiqveh (hope), our simcha (joy), or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Master Yah'shua (Jesus) when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our kavod (glory) and simcha (joy)" (1 Thess.2:19-20, NIV).
I can absolutely relate to this as a minister and can testify that some of my most precious simcha (joy) moments have come either when souls under my preaching get saved, souls under my teaching get understanding and souls under my intercession get delivered. And whilst the victories are all Messiah's, the sense of having participated in His work, and seeing the simcha (joy) of those who get saved, come to understanding or get deliverance is very, very satisfying indeed. So I totally get it when Paul says:
The Simcha of Corporate Ministry
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Messiah, if any comfort from His ahavah (love), if any fellowship with the Ruach (Spirit), if any tenderness and compassion, then make my simcha (joy) complete (full) by being like-minded, having the same ahavah (love), being one in spirit and purpose" (Phil.2:1-2, NIV).
And since everyone is a witness, minister and teacher at some level at some time, all may participate in this simcha (joy) because the work of the Kingdom is very much a team effort. I would not be able to do what I do without my family, those who support me in prayer and those who give me encouragement along the way. Though my name may appear on sermons and articles, though you may see me in the pulpit when I preach, there are many people behind the ministry. I am accutely aware of that. The Kingdom labour is never a one man show and if it ever becomes that, something is seriously wrong. Paul knew that which is why he craved the simcha (joy) that comes from echad (oneness) in corporate service. So thank you everyone who supports me and please express your gratitude to everyone else too because we are all one cooperatively functioning body. We come as many at the Sukkot Marriage Supper but but we also come as one. Never forget that. None of us is without the other.
The Paradox of Joy and Suffering
Secondly - and this is a huge mystery for unbelievers and nominal believers alike (we talked briefly about it last night) - our simcha (joy) is sometimes paradoxically the outcome of suffering and even sorrow for Messiah's sake since it is produced by the Saviour and not ourselves! Paul said:
Proxy Persecution for Yah'shua
"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Messiah's afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the Messianic Community (Church)" (Col.1:24, NIV).
You see, Paul was experiencing the persecution that was intended for Messiah. In spite of His death on the Cross, Messiah's enemies had not got their fill of inflicting injury on Him. So what did they do? They turned their hatred on those who preached His Besorah (Gospel) , so it was in that sense that Paul - and indeed all true witnesses of Messiah - filled up what was lacking in Messiah's death. Why was Paul willing to suffer? "For the sake of His Body", the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones), so as to build up the Messianic Community (Church). Godly sufffering produces much fine fruit.
Willing to Suffer & Martyr Complexes
There is a huge difference between the kind of 'happy-clappy' gospel, where no one ever wants to get hurt, and the simcha Gospel that is willing to suffer. Those willing to suffer for Messiah get a special kind of simcha (joy) which those who are unwilling do not. All suffering for Yah'shua (Jesus) has benefit even if it is not the benefits we seek in being willing to suffer for Him but simply because of our great love for Him. At the same time we should not get a martyr-complex and go courting persecution or suffering in order, as we suppose, to acquire this simcha (joy). Indeed, this is the point: authentic simcha (joy) cannot be planned in advance! You can't say. 'OK, I'll go and do this to get persecuted so I can get simcha (joy). It is something that comes unexpectedly because the self is not a part of the equation because the self of the sanctified is dead so that Messiah can live through them.
Willing to Suffer and Die
What kind of Christians or Messianics ought we to be? What is our mind-set - our attitude - and our reality supposed to be like? You cannot plan the results of your Christian/Messianic life because you are not given that kind of foreknowledge. We go where we are sent, say what we are told to say, and do so willing, if necessary, to suffer and die for it, because our life is not our own if we have truly laid it down. Thus Paul would very soberly write these words to the Corinthians:
How a Minister Commends Himself
"... as servants of Elohim (God) we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and in sincere ahavah (love); in truthful speech and in the power of Elohim (God); with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2 Cor.6:4-10, NIV).
No, such words are utterly meaningless to an unbeliever or to a false believer sold on the false 'prosperity gospel', for instance. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and when someone claims to be a minister, he "commends" himself in the sense that he is willing to suffer indignities and deprivations for his Saviour. He must, to be a minister, be willing to prove his his suitability through possessing the right character which is willing to show patient endurance. He must be faithful - not quit mid way just because the going gets tough or unpleasant (advice one could give, incidentally, to married people on the same grounds), even though his deprivations are many. One who is called to be a minister in the true Besorah (Gospel) must be willing to accept this. The ability to walk this way comes through the supernatural empowerment of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and he must live by absolute scriptural emet (truth) and deal with reality on the ground as it is. Such a man is promised a very special kind of simcha (joy).
The Extra Dimension: Joy in Triumph
There is also an extra dimension to this simcha (joy) which is not experienced down here on earth. Consider Peter's testimony:
Right now we live by emunah (faith) and the immediate simcha (joy) we feel in suffering for what we presume Yah'shua (Jesus) thinks of our endurance for Him but a day is coming when we will know His heart fully revealed and be overjoyed! The Aramaic here means "exult" or "jubilation" so it is the kind of simcha (joy) connected with success or triumph - like the feeling when a nation has won a war, coupled with it is a sense of release...or justification...of shalom (peace) too. So that is promised!
"... rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Messiah, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:13, NIV).
Losses of Material Things for Messiah
There are lots of scriptures I could cite so let me cite just one more:
If you have been robbed or had the government seize your money through fines or property confiscation because of your witness, you will understand what it feels like.
"You sympathised with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions" (Heb.10:34, NIV).
3. A Dynamic Simcha
Thirdly, and finally, simcha (joy) a gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and is therefore something DYNAMIC, not static - it is constantly 'on the move':
Coming from Love
"But the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) is ahavah (love), simcha (joy), shalom (peace), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no torah (law). Those who belong to Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Ruach (Spirit), let us keep in step with the Ruach (Spirit)" (Gal.5:22-25, NIV).
Most importantly - and this I have already noted - simcha (joy) derives from ahavah (love) - both Yahweh's ahavah (love) and ours - and that is why it is listed as being closely associated with the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) in the passage I just read out to you. But since it is a gift which may be interrupted by sin, every believer is called upon to share in the simcha (joy) of Messiah by a daily walk with Him and His salvation:
And again, as if to make sure his point gets across:
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Elohim's (God's) will for you in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus)" (1 Thess.5:16-18, NIV).
"Rejoice in the Master!" (Phil.3:1, NIV)
The Goal of Your Faith Being Realised
"Rejoice in the Master always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil.4:4, NIV).
There is much meat here that is easy to overlook and forget. But the Davar (Word) is plain for all those who would take it seriously and claim to live by it:
"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious simcha (joy), for you are receiving the goal of your emunah (faith), the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:8-9, NIV).
So said the apostle Peter and I think that is a suitable place to end this evening. I pray that you will soberly consider these things and understand the true relationship between simcha (joy) and the Besorah (Gospel) life as a whole. It all boils down in the end to emunah (faith) and ahavah (love), doesn't it, and whether we are willing to use them or not? That's the real choice. But we must know what we are having faith in, and what we are loving, so that we do not invest our hopes and expectations in false, unscriptural things. I hope you will ponder these things and join me again tomorrow evening. Be blessed! Amen.
Continued in Part 6
 Acts 2:46 is often interpreted by evangelicals to mean that they regularly ate the Master's (Lord's) Supper and that this was the context of their simcha (joy). However, this ordinance was principally a solemn occasion and whilst this is not to exclude the simcha (joy) of communion (by which the Master's Supper is also known), the context of the passage is the sharing of ordinary meals:
 John 15:18,24; 16:1-3
"And every day they were steadfast in the temple with one soul. And at home they were breaking loaves of bread. And while they were receiving food, and rejoicing in the simplicity of their hearts, they were praising Elohim while finding favor before all the people..." (Ac.2:47-47a, AENT).
"They broke bread in their various houses, and ate their food with glad and sincere hearts, praising Elohim (God) and standing in favour with all people" (Ibid., KNT).