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Joy and the Holy Spirit
By Anthony D. Palma
The themes of joy and rejoicing are found throughout the Bible. The most common Greek word for joy (chara) is found many places in the Septuagint and the New Testament. While the word itself has a purely secular meaning, in Scripture it is used more frequently with a religious meaning and, according to one authority, is “grounded in conscious relationship to God.”
The purpose of this study is to see how the Scriptures relate this concept of joy specifically to the Holy Spirit. Four passages make a direct association between the two.
Joy is listed among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This is the starting point for any discussion of the biblical concept of joy. People do not produce joy. In the final analysis, no one can command another to rejoice. The Holy Spirit is the source of the believer’s joy. Self-generated “joy” can only impress the observer as being “put on” and not a genuine expression of the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s emphasis in Galatians 5 is on the Christian’s walk in the Spirit (verses 16,25), one manifestation of which will be the fruit of joy.
In Romans 14:17 we are told that essential aspects of the kingdom of God are “righteousness, and peace, and joy” in the Holy Spirit. Here the implication is that as long as one “fights for his rights,” to the detriment of other believers, that person is not experiencing right relations with them, harmony with them, or Spirit-inspired joy. Joy in the realm of the Spirit will be a reality when one is willing to deter to a weaker brother or sister.
Perhaps the most startling statements about Spirit-inspired joy occur in contexts dealing with persecution and suffering. An interesting contrast is found in Acts 13, where we are told that the Jews who opposed Paul and Barnabas were “filled with envy” (verse 45) whereas the disciples were “filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit” (verse 52). It is possible to translate this last expression as “Holy Spirit joy.”
Paul tells about the Thessalonian Christians “having received the work in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6, NASB).1 The marginal reading in this version suggests the alternate translation “joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
This theme of joy in suffering is common in the New Testament (for example, Colossians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:4; Acts 5:41). The indwelling Spirit of God provides the internal pressure necessary to equalize any external pressure in the form of persecution of suffering. One paradox of the Christian life is the experience of joy in the midst of adversity.
Anthony D. Palma, Th.D., a longtime Assemblies of God educator, lives in Springfield, Missouri.
1. Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)