Wednesday, 1 February 2023
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52
In the previous verse, Paul and Barnabas “shook off the dust from their feet” against those who expelled them from the region. They were now set to continue elsewhere with the evangelization of those they encountered, but they had made a life-changing difference in many while in the region of Pisidia, as testified to in the final words of Chapter 13 which begin with, “And the disciples.”
This is not referring to Paul and Barnabas but to the converts in the area, both Jew and Gentile. The word translated as “disciples” is mathétés. It signifies a learner or a disciple. It is thus not referring to Paul and Barnabas who provided the instruction, but to those who received it. That it is a word that refers to both Jews and Gentiles is most poignantly revealed in Acts 15. There, when referring specifically to the Gentiles, it says –
“Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples [mathétés] which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.’” Acts 15:6-11
The noun mathétés is not used after Acts 21, but the verb from which it is derived, manthanó, is used by Paul in nine of his epistles. If one learns, he is a disciple. The idea is that those now referred to by Luke are those in the region of Antioch of Pisidia, both Jews and Gentiles, that had received the gospel of Jesus Christ. With that noted, Luke records that they “were filled with joy.”
This is the exhortation Paul will later write to those in Thessalonica and elsewhere, saying, “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). These disciples apparently didn’t need the exhortation but were simply filled with joy because of the freedom they now found by being in Christ. Along with that, Luke completes the verse and the chapter, saying, “and with the Holy Spirit.”
Again, this is as stated elsewhere by Paul, such as –
“Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:16, 17
As for the whole thought of being “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit,” the verb is both imperfect and it is in the passive or middle voice. The meaning is that they were filled and continued to be filled (the imperfect tense) and they were both agents of the action and yet concerned with the action (middle voice).
In other words, the Spirit acted upon them as they interacted with God through the knowledge they possessed. The joy and the filling came about by the mutual relationship that was occurring in their lives.
Life application: Why is it that we may be lacking joy and the filling of the Spirit? It is because we have lost focus on what it means to be saved. When we are saved, at that moment in time, it becomes the main issue of our life. We let go of our sin, acknowledging it before God and placing it on Christ. The burden and the debt were lifted from us, and we experienced the knowledge that God had done this for us, apart from any effort.
That brought the joy and the filling of the Spirit. Eventually, we allowed this current life to overtake our thoughts. We struggle at work, we fight with family or friends, our faithful dog dies, or we have our car repossessed. In this, we are no longer filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Why? Because it is no longer the central focus of our existence. This is not how our life is to be conducted.
Rather, the most important event in our life occurred the moment we came to Jesus. Since that time, and forevermore, nothing will come to pass that can exceed the weight and marvel of what took place. The problem isn’t that the moment is over and gone forever. Rather, our focus has turned from that key and pivotal event.
Instead of having the attitude that existed then, our eyes, our attention, and thus our lives are redirected to that which is of less value, and we are consumed by the world once again. Rather than, “Work is such a burden, but it is nothing compared to Jesus,” we collapse under our own misery.
Rather than, “My wife says she is leaving me, but Jesus will never leave nor forsake me,” we have placed this temporary and earthly relationship above the Lord. Rather than, “I miss Fido so much, but Jesus gave him to me for a span and I am so grateful for those years,” our thoughts are consumed with this loss as if the dog is more important than the relationship we have with God in Christ. This is true with any earthly relationship or possession.
The key to joy is not focusing on what this world offers, no matter how great it was or how great it might be. The key to the joy the Bible speaks of is to know that God saved us, He is there with us, and we are guaranteed to have a restoration that is beyond anything we can imagine at this point. God has done it, God is with us now as we await its completion, and God will bring us to that state of completion, without fail.
This is the heart of joy in the Lord. And this is why so many Christians are so miserable in their walk with Him. They either have had their eyes redirected from what Jesus has done, or they believe that what Jesus has done is conditional. Who can have joy and be filled with the Holy Spirit at such times? Rather, FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS and be ASSURED OF YOUR SALVATION because the word assures you of it. Be FILLED WITH JOY AND WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT all your days. To the glory of God who is with you as you continue this walk to glory.
Heavenly Father, forgive us for diverting our eyes from Jesus and looking back to this temporary, fallen, and even dirty existence. We have the purity of Christ before us, and yet we cling to that which is hopeless and miserable. And, Lord God, forgive us for questioning Your word and the salvation that You have granted to us. It is no longer about us, but about Jesus, when we call out to You through Him. Forgive us for such a faithless attitude. Redirect us and reassure us and we will be sound in Christ once again. Amen.