Word of the Week
November 26, 2022
Agalliao: Joy that Cuts Loose
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.
1 Peter 1:6
I’m not the shouting sort.
Oh, I might yell “Come on!” at a crucial point in a football game. And I’ll applaud at the conclusion of a concert piece. But it’s not my instinct to go gyrating down the aisle clapping. No one has ever recruited me to become a cheerleader.
Not that I am without strong emotions of joy or excitement. But I generally feel those things internally, without the urge to cut loose and start whooping and hollering.
The Bible makes it clear, however, that there is a time to shout. Psalms is studded with exhortations to “Shout to the Lord,” and David was dancing so frenziedly in front of the ark that his wife was mortified.
In the New Testament, joy is a perennial theme. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 issues a command to “Rejoice always.” But there is a Greek word for joy that kicks it up to an even higher level.
The most common word for “rejoice” in Greek is chairō, but the word for super-charged joy is agalliaō, also translated “rejoice.” Although the two words overlap in meaning, agalliaō is more intense. It describes the outward demonstration of joy, the exultation that allows our emotions to spill out into action. Strong’s Concordance even says that it properly means “to jump for joy.”
It occurs 11 times along with a matching noun agalliasis (5 times) for “exultant joy.” Let’s take a quick tour of the New Testament to look at the places where exuberant joy shows up.
- The Beatitudes end with the instruction to rejoice and be glad when we are persecuted. Why? Because a great reward awaits us in heaven (Matthew 5:12).
- When Mary got the word that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she broke out in song: “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47).
- Jesus sent out His followers to proclaim the kingdom, even giving them power to cast out demons. When they returned to report victories over Satan, Jesus “rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit” and uttered a heartfelt prayer of thanks to His Father (Luke 10:21).
- The Lord described the enthusiastic initial response that brought throngs out to hear John the Baptist, “the lamp that was burning and shining, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (John 5:35).
- In a brash, startling claim, Jesus said that Abraham, father of the Jewish people, rejoiced to see My day” (John 8:56). It sounds as if Abraham was in heaven applauding from the stands as the Son went on His mission to earth.
- Peter used a section from Psalm 16 as part of his sermon on the day of Pentecost, including this quotation: “Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue was overjoyed.” The words were true of David, but Peter shows that the psalm goes even deeper, as a prediction of the risen Christ (Acts 2:26).
- After an eventful night marked by singing prisoners and a massive earthquake, the jailer in Philippi brought Paul and Silas into his home, fed them a meal and rejoiced greatly. And why not? One moment he was on the verge of suicide. The next he was the recipient of eternal life! (Acts 16:34).
- The book of 1 Peter is addressed to Christians struggling with persecution, bowed under the weight of suffering. So the apostle uses our word three times to help them see that even in the hardest times, we can rejoice – not just a whimper of relief, but an overwhelming burst of gratitude.
In this salvation we can greatly rejoice (1 Peter 1:6).
Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, so you can rejoice with inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8).
When you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that you may rejoice with exultation at the time when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).
We just had a Thanksgiving meal with most of our family and it was a joyful time for us. A lavish spread of food, all the grandkids around the table, a rowdy games afterwards. We laughed a lot, and we rejoiced in God’s goodness. Not everyone gets to enjoy such a holiday, but there’s one celebration that every believer can anticipate: the marriage supper of the Lamb.
One day when Jesus returns to earth as conquering King, we will get to share in the ultimate Hallelujah Chorus, followed by an invitation:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself. . . Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7, 9).
At that day, even the quietest among us will shout for joy, and perhaps you’ll join in a Jewish wedding dance!
You can expand this study by examining the matching noun agalliasis. Here are the references:
Luke 1:14 – Gabriel speaking to Zacharias
Luke 1:44 – Elizabeth speaking to Mary about the baby jumping for joy in her womb
Acts 2:46 – Daily life for the early church characterized by gladness
Hebrews 1:9 – Old Testament quote about anointing with the oil of gladness
Jude 24 – God is able to make us stand in His presence blameless with great joy.
We have a lot to look forward to!
Q – In 2 Corinthians 11:28, Paul says that he has to deal with “the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” What does he mean by “daily pressure”?
A – The Greek word for “pressure” is interesting. Epistasis occurs in only one other place in the New Testament. Paul is defending himself against false charges and asserts that he never tried to cause a riot.” The Greek word for “riot” is epistasis. Surely he didn’t have to deal with daily riots in his churches!
What’s the connection? In a riot, people are out of control, coming from all directions to cause trouble. I believe Paul was using this word to describe the way that his daily life was marked by reports from all directions bringing word of problems or concerns in the various churches he had started. Everywhere you looked, people had issues. And because Paul cared deeply for these folks, he felt weight of all the issues – more than he could possibly resolve. That’s a heavy burden, and one of the main reasons why he needed to hear Christ’s words in the next chapter: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in [your] weakness.”
This week we looked at the supercharged kind of joy. But that’s not the only kind. Next week we will look for insights about the usual word for joy. Perhaps we will pick up some hints about how to have joy at the holidays!
©Ezra Project 2022