Loving God. Loving our neighbor.

The Greatest Joy

R. C. Sproul

Jesus warned His disciples about having a misplaced basis for their joy.

At one point during His earthly ministry, Jesus sent a group of His disciples out on their own to preach the gospel and to heal the sick and those who were under demonic possession.

Jesus appointed seventy-two of His followers to go throughout the land of Palestine, to every hamlet and village where He Himself was about to go, to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God. He warned them that in many places they would not be warmly received.

These must have been sobering words for the seventy-two. Luke does not explicitly say so, but I imagine they went out with a measure of trepidation. However, Luke is very explicit about the attitude of the seventy-two when they returned. He writes: “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” (Luke 10:17).

In all probability, they went out fearful and apprehensive, but they came back with exceedingly great joy. Why were they so happy? It was because they had been successful—God had used them and they had seen the manifestation of the power of Christ in their ministry.

Also, they declared that they were happy because the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name. So, they were filled with elation because of two things—success and power. These are the kinds of things that we typically enjoy, too.

But Jesus did not quite enter into their joy. He told them: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (vv. 18–20).

We need to ponder these words. Jesus obviously understood the excitement of His followers, who had enjoyed the success of ministry, but He warned them against having a misplaced basis for their joy. He said they should not rejoice that the demons were subject to them; rather, they should rejoice that their names were written in heaven.

Here our Lord identified the supreme foundation for Christian joy. Our joy is to come from the assurance that we have redemption in Christ. The greatest joy that a person can have is to know that his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he is saved and will live forever with Chri