A quick reflection on the gospel and joy.
As I’ve read through the book of Acts recently, I’ve been struck by the pattern of what happens when the gospel comes to people. A few days ago, for instance, I was reading in Acts chapter 8. Philip is a Christian leader who goes to Samaria. There’s someone visiting Samaria from Ethiopia. And Philip tells this man about the gospel. He starts by reflecting on the Old Testament scriptures that foretell about the coming Messiah who will die in the place of sinners and be raised again from the dead. And what happens? He believed, was baptized, and it says, “he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38). Joy. That’s what it happens when you hear and believe the gospel. This is what it means to become a Christian. You go on your way rejoicing. This man became aware of his sinfulness, aware of the judgment he deserved from God. And then he was, at the same time, freshly aware that Jesus hung on the cross to bear that judgment. So, in Samaria, this man turned to Jesus and received grace, forgiveness, and freedom.
That’s what happens when the gospel comes to one person. What happens when it comes to many people? Just before this, it says Philip preached the gospel to many people in Samaria. The result? “..so there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). That’s what revival looks like. Fresh joy coming to many because of the gospel.
And this joy comes from a confidence that we know God. A confidence that we have eternal life through Jesus Christ. This kind of rejoicing doesn’t happen from any other message than the gospel. This kind of joy wouldn’t have happened if Philip went to Samaria and said, “I have a message. If you’re a good enough person, if you really work at it, then God might accept you one day.” That’s not a message of freedom. That won’t send a wave of joy flooding through a city. And that’s not a message that sends someone on their way rejoicing. Only the gospel can do this.
What Christian wouldn’t want to be a part of this? Rejoicing because of the gospel and spreading this gospel-joy to others.