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1 John 1:4-5 by Robert Dean
Series:1st John (2000)
Duration:53 mins 3 secs

Joy, Emotion, Inner Happiness; 1 John 1:4

Everything from 1 John 1:1 to the last verse of 1 John 5 is "what we are communicating to you." That is the message. It is called the message of life in 1 John 1:2 which relates to the fact that this is necessary to experience the abundant life, the Christian life, of the believer. The purpose is "that you may have fellowship with us," verse 3. In other words, if you want to have fellowship with us you have to understand and apply the doctrine that is in this epistle or there is no fellowship. That means that fellowship in the Bible is something profound. This is not an advanced understanding of doctrine, this basically related to understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ and the importance of staying in fellowship with Him as part of advancing in the spiritual life. John is saying: "If you agree with us on this and you believe this and are applying in your life the things explained in this epistle then you have fellowship with us (editorial "we": to him primarily, and secondarily the apostles)."

 1 John 1:4 NASB "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." The "these things" relate to the doctrine contained in this epistle, the propositions he communicates. In order to understand that he assumes there is some level of commonality between himself and the readers and that by investigating vocabulary, syntax, sentence structure and thought organization we can come to a correct understanding of what he says. The purpose clause: "that our joy may be made complete." This is a first person plural here. The purpose for the readers is "that they may have fellowship with us and with the Father," and the purpose of John's writing is "that his joy might be made complete."

What does he mean by this? There are two categories of joy in the Scripture. One is emotional and has emotional dimensions and one does not. We should not confuse the two. There is a subtle criterion that spirituality is evaluated by how we feel, and so emotion becomes that criterion. But there is a right and proper place for emotion. Emotion is the response or reaction to positive or negative things that go on around us and often they are glued to what we are thinking and what we believe, and many other factors, but they are not a criterion or evaluation system and we should not make decisions in life based on emotions, that is where we get into trouble. But there is nothing wrong with emotion per se. Emotions change because of the mentality of the soul, they are not the autonomous leader of the soul. So when John I writing here he is not just taking about that inner happiness Jesus promised us, he is also talking about the fact that he is going to be downright happy if these folks he is writing to get with the program and go forward in the spiritual life. There is nothing wrong with that.

There are some examples in Scripture is the absolute of inner happiness. This is an inner happiness that is based on doctrine and it gives us stability no matter what the circumstances are. This is a product of the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22. This is not a joy that is based upon circumstances, upon the presence or absence of friendships, upon monetary prosperity or any other human factor; it is based exclusively and totally on the work of God and orientation to His plan, and orientation to grace. This is joy that we can have that no matter what is going on in our life we can experience this kind of tranquillity, contentment and stability, and we are not knocked off our feet by negative circumstances. But at the same time that we have that kind of joy we can also be sad. There is a legitimacy to emotional sadness, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians chapter four over the loss of a loved one: "We grieve but not like those who have no hope." But at the same time we have the fruit of the Spirit which is joy. At the core of our being there is tranquillity, contentment and joy but there is also a sadness and sorrow over loss, but it is not like the unbeliever.

Jesus talks about this unchangeable joy that is ours as believers. John 15:11 NASB "These things [doctrine] I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full." Jesus' joy never increases or diminishes, it is immutable and perfectly stable no matter what creatures do or don't do.

John 16:20 NASB "Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy…. [22] Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one {will} take your joy away from you." The point here is that no circumstances, no people, no event, no adversity, can take that joy away from us as believers. It is immutable, it is that "My joy" that Jesus gave us. [24] "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." John 17:13 NASB "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves." Romans 14:17 NASB "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

Then we come to those passages which talk about inner happiness as relative to circumstances. Acts 15:3 NASB "Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren." That is not the "My joy" that Jesus is talking about, it is the enthusiastic excitement that is produced when believers hear that somebody has been led to the Lord. It is a positive emotional joy.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 NASB "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" Something to be excited about is to see believers who are advancing in spiritual maturity. Paul already had inner happiness but he was going to be pleased and excited when he got to be with his friends and his protégé, Timothy. This is what John is talking about in 1 John 1:4. He is not talking about inner happiness, he is talking about the fact that these false teachers had been a problem to this congregation, that some of them had been seduced by the false teachers, and he is writing these things so we can believe them, apply them, and that it will change our lives, and to see that brings him pleasure. That is a legitimate role of emotion. It is not the basis for life and it is not a criterion for life and we have to guard against that because we live in a society and a culture that is motivated by experientialism and emotion, and people play to emotions—especially politicians.