John tells his readers that he wants them to have joy and informs them that great joy is the outcome of spending time with the Father and the Son. What kind of joy could this be? Here are two features of it.
First, it is a joy that is independent of circumstances. The period in which John wrote was a difficult one for many of the churches in his area – in addition to the problems within the church there were threats from outside the church (as can be seen when we read the letters to the seven churches of Asia recorded in Revelation 2 and 3, which were located in the vicinity of Ephesus, and the letters to them were written round about the same time as 1 John).
This aspect of Christian joy is expressed by Peter in his first letter: ‘In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’ (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
Second, it is a joy that is received from God himself. The fellowship that exists eternally between the Father and the Son, and which John refers to here when he describes Jesus as ‘the eternal life which was with [towards] the Father’, is marked by great delight and happiness in one another.
Amazingly, the Father and the Son also have joy as a result of Christians seeking fellowship with them, and the divine Persons experience great joy in having communion with believers. One feature of that joy is that it is shared with God’s people by the Holy Spirit who functions as the heavenly Conveyor of spiritual blessings to their souls. Whatever their external circumstances, the Holy Spirit can communicate heaven’s joy directly into their hearts as they proceed with fellowship with God. This fellowship with God can happen in an individual sense when a believer enjoys personal communion with God and it can happen in a corporate sense when a company of God’s people seek his face.