Paul’s second characteristic of the true Christian is joy,1 in his “fruit of the Spirit” list in Galatians 5.22-23.
Wherever there is joy, there must be a cause for it. Joy is the happiness of heart that arises because some help, benefit, rescue, salvation, etc. has come (joy of experienced relief); or is certainly coming (joy of expected relief); or where, after the cause of joy has come or happened already, its significance and consequences are begun to be understood (joy of comprehension). Joy is more than a feeling of euphoria.
The Holy Spirit plants and grows joy in the hearts of those who are saved from their sins by the Lord Jesus Christ, in place of the remorse they had been made to feel for their sins before God, their Creator and Judge. You must have become conscious of your awful predicament as a guilty sinner against God, always in his sight, and you must know that you deserve Hell. Then you must come to know you truly have been saved, and then you will have this joy of salvation. (This knowledge comes from the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection.2) This joy of salvation is in God and entirely because of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The joy of salvation is that everlasting,3 appreciative, thankful, glad, and sometimes solemn awareness of having been saved. I have added sometimes solemn, because joy knows the effort that her Deliverer has put in to rescue her. Joy knows what it cost her Saviour to be her Saviour. Joy stands where grief and terror once stood. Joy appreciates the state of freedom from slavery to sin that she now enjoys. Joy knows she owes a debt of gratitude to the Bringer of her happiness. Joy loves her salvation, and loves her Saviour—because of all that he has done for her, and all that he now means to her. Joy’s soul is full of thankfulness and praise for the One to whom she owes everything.
The joy of the Christian, the fruit of the Spirit, joins in with the great joy that accompanied the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is similar to what Jesus’s first disciples’ sorrow was turned into, when they saw their risen Messiah and grasped the significance of his resurrection. It is the joy of assurance and peace that comes from believing in the Saviour who saves believers. It is the joy that remains with us in our Christian perseverance, and that can carry us through the toughest times of affliction in this world. It is a fruit of God’s grace in us, an evidence of his upholding both us and our faith throughout all our Christian life.
In many Christians this joy burns even brighter when they share their faith with others, and they see God at work though their work for him. This is especially true of pastors. And it is an everlasting fruit of God’s grace in us, for our Emmanuel (meaning: God with us) keeps us safe—saved!—even through the valley of the shadow of death, and we too will be raised up by Christ on the last day, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The New Testament Greek word translated “joy” is χαρά (chara) (Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary, #5479). ↩︎
What is the chief and highest end of man? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever”—Westminster Larger Catechism, question and answer 1. ↩︎