Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 5:16
2-23-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the Pastor bringing the morning message entitled Rejoice Evermore. That is a text.
In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the midst of the fifth chapter of the first Thessalonians letter. And last Sunday night we left off at the eleventh verse. We begin at the twelfth today – First Thessalonians 5:12:
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
[1 Thessalonians 5:12-18]
And in the midst of those precepts is one that apparently Paul liked: "Rejoice evermore" [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. He said almost the same thing in the Philippian letter, the third chapter in the first verse: "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" [from Philippians 3:1]. And in the next chapter, Philippians 4 and 4: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" [from Philippians 4:4].
We are never commanded in the Scriptures to be wretched or miserable or downcast. You’ll never read a thing like this in the holy Scriptures: "Groan in the Lord alway: and again I say, Groan." Never. Yet, you would think that to be a Christian is to go home and pull down the blinds and close the shutters. To smile would be wicked, and to have a glorious time is surely denied. Oh, how different, how different! This is a sunny precept: "Rejoice evermore" [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. And the religion of Christ is a light-filled and glorious faith. Why, the Lord would have this cloth of gold spread over every part of life: "Rejoice in the Lord always" [Philippians 4:4]. "Rejoice evermore" [1 Thessalonians 5:16].
This is a sign of the wonder and the blessedness of the New Covenant that God’s children should be under commandment to be glad – that rejoicing is made a duty. If we believe in Christ, then everything of Christ’s is ours [1 Corinthians 3:21-23], and we are invited to the banquet table of the Savior [Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:7-10]: "Come and eat and drink." All of it is ours. It would be only the Man of Sorrows [Isaiah 53:3] and His chosen disciples who could ever make an invitation like that: "Come and be glad in the Lord. Rejoice evermore" [from 1 Thessalonians 5:16].
Now, the sermon will follow a very simple pattern. The first word, chairete, is an imperative. Chairete: a commandment, a precept – "rejoice!" It is a personal responsibility. We are under duty to be glad in God. Isn’t that a strange thing? "Rejoice": pantote chairete, commandment, imperative, "rejoice!" Pantote: that means in every season, in every fortune, in every turn, in every vicissitude, in every time, rejoice all the way through – pantote, all the time and times. There is not to be any season or any hour or any fortune in which God’s children are not to rejoice.
There are many things to be done in their time, but time to rejoice is all the time. There are many things that, having been done once, are never to be done again. But we are to rejoice evermore [Philippians 4:4].
Look at the context. He lists here duties of the Christian. And I tell you some of them are sad and melancholy to perform: "We exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak" [from 1 Thessalonians 5:14]. Those are sad duties, but we are to rejoice evermore [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. If we are downcast and wretched and miserable and sad in the performance of these duties, then our own wretchedness and sadness and melancholia are a confirmation of their despair. But our faith and the light of our hope is to be a beacon and an encouragement to these whom he names.
Look again at what he says: "Ever follow that which is good and render none evil for evil" [from 1 Thessalonians 5:15]. Evidently, Paul means that the Christian shall bear evil, but we’re not to return it. We are to rejoice in every fortune, including that.
Our Savior said it like this:
Blessed are ye –
Blessed are ye, happy are ye, full of rejoicing and gladness ought you to be –
when men revile you and persecute you . . . and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad . . . for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.
Great is your reward in heaven.
[from Matthew 5:11-12]
"Rejoice evermore" [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. Well, after that introduction, if you have listened, in the preparation of the sermon, I had to sit me down and figure out what kind of rejoicing that is. When we’re to rejoice in every trial, in every persecution, in every blasphemy, in every disappointment, in every turn of fortune, we are to rejoice in God. Well, evidently, that’s a different kind of a rejoicing than what the world knows about. So as I set in my heart to this text to prepare this message, I came upon great truth.
First, what that rejoicing is not, what this gladness is not. All right, it is not worldly and terrestrial and mundane and carnal. If it were, it couldn’t last forevermore. If I rejoice in the summer, what shall I do when winter comes? If I rejoice in health, what shall I do in infirmity and age? If I rejoice in wealth and affluence, what shall I do in poverty and in need? If I rejoice in youth, what shall I do in age? And if I rejoice in life, what shall I do in death? Evidently, the apostle is referring to some other kind of gladness than what the world knows. All of the changing fortunes of life are like the waves of the sea, and we can never build our home upon the flood. So, I say, this rejoicing must be something other than what the world knows or could afford.
And could I sort of point out what it is before I proceed farther in the sermon? B. H. Carroll [Benajah Harvey Carroll, 1843-1914] came back from the Civil War a crippled, a broken man: in debt, in despondency, in despair, and sought death. I read this in his great sermon, "My Infidelity and What Became of It" [An address delivered by B.H. Carroll in Nashville, Tennessee in 1892]. He denied God. He denied the faith of his mother. He denied the church. In blackness and despair, he turned his back on everything and sought death.
In the darkness of those hours, a great thing was done for him by the Holy Spirit of God, and, in a protracted series of meetings, he was converted. Came home, was walking across the room on his crutches having said nothing to anybody of what had happened in his soul. And there was an orphan boy in the home being reared by his mother. And the boy looked at B. H. Carroll and remarked that he was crying and singing and whistling at the same time. And the mother overheard it. And B. H. Carroll left the room immediately, lest he be observed, went up to his own room, laid down on his bed, and covered his face with his hands.
He heard his mother coming up the steps, walked over to the bed, pull the boy’s hands away from his face, looked long and steadfastly into his eyes and then said, "My son, you have found the Lord." And he said, "The joy of my mother was indescribable."
And when I read it, I thought, "What a strange thing: to cry and to sing at the same time." The world wouldn’t know what that was. They’d have no idea: tears and rejoicing.
It is not – it is not presumptuous. That is, it’s not hedonistic. It’s not of indulgence. It’s not worldly pleasure. The worldling comes and he says, "Let me invite you to the grand feast." And I go with him. And there they are, table after table of them, like herds of swine, feeding and drinking.
Satan offered that kingdom to Jesus: the whole world – all of it [Matthew 4:8-10]. And it’s a poor bargain. There they are in Satan’s courts, looking to him for delights: all kinds of shows, all kinds of things to drink. But we are in heaven’s halls, looking to God for a blessing. They, to drown dull care over the glasses; we, casting all our care upon Him who careth for us [1 Peter 5:7]. It’s not in the same category. It’s not to be mentioned in the same breath. It’s an altogether different kind of gladness. In fact, this rejoicing that he says here, this gladness, is not even that high, divine, holy exhilaration that God’s people feel once in a while.
I reread the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel triumphing over the prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:1-40]. And in the triumph, and the rain came, the Scriptures say that Elijah girded up his loins and ran before the chariot of Ahab to the gates of Jezreel [1 Kings 18:41-46]. Good night! Do you ever think about that? He was on Mount Carmel. That’s over there on the Mediterranean Sea. Jezreel is down there in the valley toward the Jordan River. And in that rain, with cloud and thunder and lightning and wind, before the horses of the chariot, Elijah ran before them in the strength of the Lord [1 Kings 18:45-46]. Well, that is thirty miles before those horses of the chariot. I don’t know how he did it except in the strength of the Lord. Ah, with what gladness and rejoicing and high, holy exhilaration did Elijah triumph that day!
And then the next day when Jezebel said, "God do so and more to me if by this time tomorrow you’re not like one of those prophets of Baal whose head’s cut off" [from 1 Kings 19:2]. And poor Elijah ran for his life, got under a juniper tree, and said, "Lord, that’s enough. I’m no better than my fathers. I’m the only one left that loves God and worships God. And now, I want to die. Take my life away" [1 Kings 19:3-4].
Well, I can understand that. Haven’t you been so high like a flag on the Fourth of July, like a kite in March, up there where God is? And haven’t you been down there under a juniper tree? Don’t you know what that is? Peter was that way on the Mount of Transfiguration. Up there with the Lord: "Lord, let’s stay here" [from Matthew 17:4], then down there in a valley denying that he even knew the Lord [Matthew 26:69-75].
No. This is not that high, heavenly exhilaration that comes once in a while to God’s people. Not every day can Miriam take her timbrel and with the women sing:
We shall sing unto the Lord,
Who hath triumphed gloriously;
The horse and his rider
Hath He cast into the sea.
Not every day does Moses stretch out the rod of victory and triumph in battle [Exodus 14:27-31]. Not every day is a holiday. The day comes when David cries, as he ascends Mount Olivet: "Oh, my son. My son. Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" [from 2 Samuel 18:33] Not every day is a wedding day for the time comes when Jacob says, "And all of these things are against me" [from Genesis 42:36]
Well, this rejoicing, this gladness, must be of a different woof and warp, of a different cloth, of a different kind. "Well, then, what is it, Pastor?" It is easy to find. Jesus said – the night before the cross, Jesus said: "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" [John 15:11]. Well, what a strange kind of a joy that could be. A man, the night before He is crucified: "These things have I said to you that My joy" – His joy – "that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" [John 15:11].
Well, I see it again, that same kind of a thing, in the story of the old patriarch [Job] when he’d lost his children and lost his house and lost his lands and lost everything [Job 1:13-19] and in want and in poverty sat down and said: "Naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" [Job 1:21].
So I find that this joy of the holy Book – "rejoice evermore" [1 Thessalonians 5:16] in every fortune and trial and season of life – first, it is inward and not outwardly conditioned. How it is on the outside doesn’t matter. And Paul and Silas, at midnight, beat, with their backs covered with blood, thrust into the inner dungeon, and they prayed and sang praises unto God [Acts 16:22-25]. "For I have learned," he said, "in whatsoever state I am, to be content – to rejoice evermore" [from Philippians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16]: beat, then thanking God He counted us worthy to suffer for His name’s sake [from Acts 5:40-41]; poor, then rich toward God [Luke 12:21-22], having a hard, hard time, but, His strength is made perfect in my weakness [from 2 Corinthians 12:9].
Outward conditions never bother. They’re like the froth on the bosom of the sea. They’re like the transitory cloud: vanishes away. But the gray stillness of the depth of the communion with God is untroubled and unshaken: rejoicing in Him. It is inwardly and not outwardly conditioned.
All right, second, it is of heavenly triumph and promise and not earthly vanity and glory. When the seventy came back to the Lord, they were rejoicing that the devils were even – were subject under them. And they used that word "even": "even evil spirits." "The devils are subject to us" [from Luke 10:17]. And they were rejoicing in such abundance of heavenly power. And the Lord said: "That’s great. I beheld Satan as lightning fallen from heaven [from Luke 10:18]. The kingdom is coming. The victory is ours." But He added – now, listen to the Lord: "But in this rejoice not" – such power, such victory: Satan falling. "In this rejoice not, that even the devils are subject unto you; but rather rejoice in this" – now listen: "But rather rejoice in this that your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life" [from Luke 10:20].
Why, bless you. Is there any time when I can’t be glad in that? My name is written on the page bright and fair. My name is written on the Lamb’s Book of Life. Why, think of that! I may grow aged and infirm, I may be sick, but think of that. And our families may be dissolving – and they do, and they will – but think of that.
O how sweet it will be on that beautiful shore,
So free from all sorrow and pain.
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands,
To meet one another again.
Your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. "In that," said Jesus, "rejoice" [Luke 10:20]. Be glad. This is the temporal – the seen, the passing away. That is the eternity that is yet to come. "Rejoice . . . and again I say rejoice" [from Philippians 4:4]. Chairete pantote – evermore, evermore [1 Thessalonians 5:16].
Then there’s one other. There’s one other. This gladness, this rejoicing pantote, in every season, in every time, there’s another one, and it is this: "And the shepherd called his friends and his neighbors, and said, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Likewise, I say unto you there is joy in the heaven over one sinner that repenteth" [from Luke 15:6-7].
And now the second part of it: " . . . And she called her friends and her neighbors and said, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which was lost.’ Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" [from Luke 15:9-10].
And the last part of the parable: "And the father said to the elder son, ‘Son, it was meet – it was meet for us to be glad and rejoice: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found’" [Luke 15:31-32]. Rejoicing over God’s people coming home: somebody saved, somebody added to the great roll call in glory.
Why, though it would be hard to defend, and if I were pressed, maybe more difficult to describe, but I have been in services where I didn’t know anyone – an absolute stranger – but the Spirit of God was there. And when the appeal was made, people were saved. And, I say, I’d have great difficulty explaining it, much less defending it. But I have stood there while the invitation hymn was being sung, and watching those people saved, just cry. Tears roll down my face. I do not know how to describe it. If you’ve never felt it, you’d never know it. But it is a fountain opened up. It is a gladness that overflows. It’s the welling up of the soul. It is a rejoicing in God.
Well, may the Lord give us that gladness. It is hard. All life inevitably and finally becomes hard, becomes difficult. But these things never change, and we are to rejoice and be glad in them.
Now, while we sing our hymn, somebody, today, give his heart to God. Into the aisle and down here to the front, would you come and stand by me? A family of you putting your life in the church – as the Lord shall open the door and the Spirit shall whisper the word, would you come? It is still early. Listening on this radio, somebody who’s never opened his heart to Jesus, would you say, "Lord, today, in my need and want and failure and fault, I come to Thee, trusting Thee, now and forever"? And in this throng and host of people here, today, taking Jesus as Savior, "Here I am and here I come." These stairwells at the back and at the front, in this balcony around, somebody you, today, in the great throng on this lower floor, into that aisle and down here to the front, "Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to Jesus." Would you? Or to put your life with us in the church, while we make appeal, would you come and make it now while we stand and while we sing?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 5:16
I. Chairete, "rejoice" – imperative, commanded(Philippians 3:1, 4:4)
A. No ordinance of God commanding you to be miserable, downcast
B. A sunny precept
C. If we believe in Jesus Christ, everything there is in Christ is ours
II. Pantote, "evermore" – in everything, in all seasons, all times
A. A personal, permanent duty to be glad in God
B. Some things are to be done in their time; but time to rejoice is all the time
C. Duties of the Christian – text in the midst of many precepts(1 Thessalonians 5:12-27)
1. Some are sad, melancholy to perform(1 Thessalonians 5:14)
2. We shall face trouble; but we’re to rejoice in every fortune(1 Thessalonians 5:15, Matthew 5:11-12)
III. What is this rejoicing?
A. What it is not
1. Worldly, earthly, carnal
a. If it were, it would be impossible to keep up evermore
b. B. H. Carroll
2. Presumptuous, hedonistic, fatalistic
a. The invitation of the worldling
b. Offer of Satan to Jesus – a poor bargain
3. That high, divine exhilaration which God’s people feel once in a while(1 Kings 19, Exodus 15:21, 2 Samuel 19:4, Genesis 42:36)
B. What it is(John 15:11, Job 1:21)
1. Inwardly, not outwardly conditioned(Philippians 4:11)
2. Of heavenly victory, not earthly triumph(Luke 10:17-20)
3. Of the saving of the lost – making up the body of Christ, fellowship of the saints(Luke 15:6-7, 9-10, 32)