“And there was great joy in that city” Acts 8:8
“He went on his way rejoicing” Acts 8:39
What is it that makes Christians joyful?
Next to the joy of forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, surely one of our greatest joys is to hear about or witness for ourselves the great joy that comes to others when they hear the good news of Jesus Christ: His life, death, and resurrection for the salvation of mankind.
We know there is great joy in heaven over each individual sinner that comes to know Jesus as his Savior. Our Lord Jesus has told us this (Luke 15:10). Should we not also rejoice when we hear of non-Christians becoming Christians by the working of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace?
Acts chapter 8 begins with the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem as instigated by that zealous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. In order for Christians to preserve their own lives and the lives of their families, they got out of Jerusalem and found refuge wherever they could.
The same thing is happening in our own day as thousands of Christians in Islamic countries of the Middle East and Africa are running for their lives to any place that will give them refuge. Let us hope that the Christians of today are doing what the refugees from Jerusalem did in their time of persecution. “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word”
When the gospel Word is preached, wonderful things happen. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation” (Isaiah 52:7). The scattered Christians told their new neighbors about Jesus Christ and what He had done in Jerusalem. They did what their Lord told them to do. They talked about repentance and the remission of sins.
Philip, one of the seven deacons chosen to help the apostles distribute food to the poor in Jerusalem, was one of those scattered Christians. He traveled north to Samaria “and preached Christ to them” (Acts 8:5). In Jerusalem the majority of the citizens did not want to hear about Christ. They were happy that Saul was finally doing something about those blaspheming followers of Jesus.
But in Samaria “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip” (Acts 8:6). Yes, Philip was given special power to do miracles of healing to confirm the Word, as Jesus had promised. But the greatest of all miracles in that hour was that through Philip’s preaching of Christ the Holy Spirit changed unbelievers into believers.
And the next thing we are told is that “there was great joy in that city”
Joy in heaven among the angels!
Joy on Earth among the converted Samaritans!
And joy also among all Christians everywhere, in Jerusalem and elsewhere, that the good news of Christ had brought forgiveness and peace and eternal salvation to persons who had been traveling the broad way to death and hell.
The joy is there not only when multitudes are converted but also when just one individual learns to know Christ as Savior.
Later in chapter 8 Philip was guided to a wilderness road leading to Ethiopia. An Ethiopian official sitting in his chariot was trying to understand the meaning of a scroll from Isaiah 53 that he probably had recently purchased in Jerusalem. He wanted to know more about this mysterious person who “was led as a sheep to the slaughter” (Acts 8:32).
Philip knew what to do. “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). Again the Holy Spirit did His thing, using Philip’s preaching of Christ and administration of baptism. And the story ends on a joyful note: “And he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).
Joy in heaven over this one sinner who repented!
Joy in the heart of the Ethiopian!
And joy also among all Christians everywhere who hear this account!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever you are, whether you are pastors, teachers, helpers, make us all joyful by telling us what the Holy Spirit is doing through the gospel in your part of the world.
Of course, we will always be joyful because of what our Lord Jesus did for us through His life, suffering, death, and resurrection. This is joy that remains constant in times of persecution and days
But surely God wants His children to experience even more joy by hearing about the joy of those who have been brought to faith in Christ. The angels in heaven certainly do not mind if we
rejoice with them over all sinners that repent.
There is enough bad news in the world from day to day, for “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). But there is GREAT JOY in the community of Jesus Christ—joy in the work of Christ and joy also in the work of the