Jesus was almost euphoric.
The most joy-filled outburst recorded in the life of Christ comes in Luke 10.
Jesus sends out 72 of his followers to preach and heal, to serve sinners in word and deed. As they hustle off in every direction, Jesus turns to lament the unbelief of so many sinners who refused to trust in him. In stark contrast, the 72 go out and see magnificent spectacles unfold before their eyes as they wield the power of Christ over demons. They soon return to Jesus, breathless, amazed by their power over evil.
But Jesus is careful to redirect their enthusiasm to higher realities: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Minutes later, with a heart overflowing with gratitude, Jesus turns his exuberance into God-ward thanks.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:21–22)
Puritan David Clarkson puts all this together and explains it like this: “We find Christ in an ecstasy, almost transported with joy. His spirit leaped within him, and as though he had been rapt into heaven, adds praises, his joy breaks forth into thanks. But what is the occasion of both? Not that the devils were subject through his name, but that it pleased the Father to make known the mysteries of salvation to despised men. Christ seemed to make man, of all earthly things, his chief joy on earth; this was it which revived him, joyed his heart in the midst of his sorrows and sufferings, that man should be thereby made happy.”
God’s sovereign plan to redeem sinners, and to fill them with joy, fills Jesus with joy. All of this intertwined joy was designed by God to work like this.
“Jesus will not leave our greatest joys to chance. He took it upon himself to secure our satisfied hearts.”
As far as I can tell, this is as manifestly happy as Jesus gets in the gospels, and his joy has everything to do with unconditional election. The eyes of depraved sinners are being opened to the glory of the Father and Son — whomever Christ chooses to reveal himself. Election works as planned, it was working, and Jesus is thrilled!
Luke 10 gives us a unique glimpse into how Christ prized election, and how it fueled his joy. But the harsh reality is that election hinges on the atonement of Christ. Jesus knew it. He must shed his blood if God’s plan of election would ultimately work.
Shed blood secures sovereign joy.
Seven Reasons To Be Confident Your Eternal Joy Has Arrived in Christ
First, Christ’s death proved definitely sufficient. When Roman soldiers hammer-drilled spikes into the wrists of Christ, and lifted him up in the air, he died a death that would prove sufficient to pay for every sin of the entire world, sufficient to save everyone on planet earth. Nothing lacks in that death or in his coming resurrection. In this sense, it is infinite.
Unless you’re a universalist, the all-sufficient atonement of Christ is only applied to the elect — to those who truly come to faith. So powerful is Christ’s atonement, so real is his election, that the redemption-accomplishing blood of Christ can be explained in application without any reference to human repentance or faith (like in Titus 3:5–6). Human repentance and faith are essential, as we’ll see, but the plan of salvation does not hinge on human effort; it makes it happen. Salvation hinges on Christ’s death for the elect.
Second, Christ’s death secures salvation. The cross does not open a door of salvation that was previously locked. The cross is not merely an open invitation to sinners. The cross did not merely make salvation possible. The cross did not secure empty chairs in an auditorium of the redeemed, chairs claimed effectively by anyone who decides to come to Christ.
No. Christ’s death secured salvation for the elect, individually as specific as your name, and as comprehensively as the Bride of Christ. Christ achieved redemption for all the elect, a point John Piper well explains:
If we want to go deeper in our experience of God’s grace this is an ocean of love for us to enjoy. God does not mean for the bride of his Son to only feel loved with general, world-embracing love. He means for her to feel ravished with the specificity of his affection that he set on her before the world existed. He means for us to feel a focused: “I chose you. And I send my Son to die to have you.”
This is what we offer the world. We don’t horde it for ourselves. And we don’t abandon it by saying, all we have to offer the world is God’s general love for all people. No, we offer this. We offer a full and complete and definite atonement. We offer Christ. We don’t say, come to a possibility. We say, come to Christ. Receive Christ. And what we promise them if they come is that they will be united to him and his bride. And all that he bought for his bride will be theirs. All that he secured with absolute certainty will be their portion forever.
God designed it to unfold in this way. Because of Christ, God will justify the elect, and the justified will be filled with joy in Jesus (Romans 5:2–3, 5; 8:33).
Third, Christ purchased faith. So Christ died, not to ensure that salvation is possible, but to ensure salvation will transpire. This means every grace the elect need for justification, sanctification, and glorification was purchased decisively at the cross, even to the point of purchasing the agency of personal faith. We must have faith to be saved, and that faith — for the elect — is a gift of God purchased in the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:7–8; Philippians 1:29).
Fourth, Christ’s cross patterns his ongoing work. The deep concern of Christ for the elect in his ministry, and his death for them in his cross, carries on after his death and resurrection. In his ongoing High Priestly ministry right now, the focus of Christ is zeroed on the elect. Right now, as our interceding High Priest, Christ does not pray for the entire world. He prays specifically for the spiritual flourishing of the elect (John 17:9).
Fifth, Christ’s definite atonement was motivated by joy. Imagine it. If Jesus burst out in ecstatic thanks for the blessing of a few elect disciples, how deep and rich must have been the manifold joy driving him to achieve in the cross his atonement for all the elect in the history of the Church (Hebrews 12:2)?
Sixth, Christ’s blood defeats every impediment to joy. In the blood of Christ, every obstacle to the happiness of his people is defeated — sin, selfishness, Satan, death, condemnation. Every enemy of ultimate and eternal joy is defeated, broken, or paid for, paving for the elect a way into the eternal pleasures in the presence of God.
Seventh, Christ’s blood purchased the joy of the new covenant. All of God’s promises to break into human depravity to redeem the world will not (and cannot) rest on the initiative of the depraved (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). Instead, these promises rest on the blood of Christ. His blood inaugurates a new covenant characterized chiefly by grace, not law, and it secures for the elect an entrance into the joys of God (Matthew 26:28).
In the marvelous achievements of our Savior we affirm bold statements like these: “Jesus Christ creates and confirms and purchases with his blood the new covenant and the everlasting joy of our relationship with God” (Piper). Or, “That’s what Christ bought for us when he died and shed the blood of the new covenant. He bought for us the gift of joy in God” (Piper). Or, to quote Jonathan Edwards: “Christ purchased for us spiritual joy and comfort, which is in a participation of God’s joy and happiness.”
Or to say this in a very personal way, as I do in worshipful reflection to our sovereign God: Christ decisively won my eternal joy, and that fills his heart with joy.
The Joy in Calvinism
In all these ways (and others), sovereign joy springs from Christ’s blood.
- Jesus finds exuberant delight in the salvation of the elect.
- Jesus desires to pass his full joy to God’s chosen.
- Jesus dies to redeem the elect, to become their High Priest, and to secure they thrive eternally.
- Jesus’s blood defeats every ultimate impediment to the joy of God’s chosen.
- Jesus’s blood purchases for the elect the promised joys of the New Covenant.
- Jesus’s blood purchases the Holy Spirit for the elect, opening an eternal fountain of eternal joy in the life of the elect, a sharing of God’s joy.
Jesus will not leave our greatest joys to chance. He took it upon himself to secure our satisfied hearts.
Sources: David Clarkson, The Works of David Clarkson (Edinburgh: 1864), 3:34. Piper, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace (Christian Focus: 2013), 52. Piper, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (Crossway: 2005), 29. John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Crossway: 2013), 53.