Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.…
I. WHAT IT IS.
1. It is more than contentment. To be content is not to murmur, not to wish for a better lot; to rejoice is to be right glad, and to be persuaded that we have got the best we could expect.
2. Can this be the duty of the disciples of the "Man of Sorrows"? Undoubtedly a true Christian is serious, and often sad (Psalm 119:136; 2 Corinthians 7:7); and therefore has no part in such mirth and revelry as flows from thoughtlessness and intemperance.
3. But it does not follow that he may not be truly happy — only his rejoicing is in the spirit, "in the Lord." And to thus rejoice must be computable with sorrow for sin and self-denial; yet for all this it may be a real, lively, and lasting satisfaction (1 Peter 1:8; Romans 8:8; Matthew 17:4).
II. WHEN IT MAY BE FELT.
1. In prosperity; especially if we have set our hearts on God's good gifts of grace. But it consists not in the goods we enjoy, but in those we hope for; not in the pleasures we experience, but in the promise of those which seeing not we believe. Riches may abound, but we know they are of no value compared to those in heaven; health may flourish, but what is that compared with life for evermore; friends and families may grow up and multiply the joy of all we have, but these serve only the more to make us glad that we have a Friend who will never fail and a home where with them we may enjoy His blessed company forever.
2. In adversity; which was the condition of those here addressed. Paul repeats his words as though aware that it might seem a hard saying. But the grounds of their rejoicing are yours. For you the same Saviour died; for you there is the same heaven, the same unsearchable riches. Do you believe all this? Then rejoice.
3. In temptation. Whichever way this comes we are prone at first to be sorry, because of our weakness and proneness to fall. Yet James (James 1:2) tells us to rejoice. Why? Because one thus feels sin to be the heaviest of afflictions, which is thus a sign of grace. So St. Peter (1 Peter 4:12-13). Whatever then may be the trials of our faith now we are to rejoice because we shall be glad hereafter when Christ's glory shall be revealed. Thus may we pray not to be led into it, and yet when brought into it rejoice that by God's grace we may come out of it triumphant.
4. In death. Nowhere is Christian joy distinguished from worldly satisfactions more than here. For this is the introduction to an eternal consummation.
(1) We lose nothing by the change we call death. We cease to breathe; but we still feel, think, love, and are beloved. If we part with our friends it is only for a brief season.
(2) Besides, losing nothing we gain everything (Matthew 6:19).
(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.