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John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Did the disciples show this complete joy?

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One who heard these words when they were first spoken, Peter, says :

... the appearing of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: [1 Peter 1:7,8.

Loving the Lord Jesus and believing in him, results in joy unspeakable and full of glory. That is the experience of those who follow the commands of Jesus : to believe in his name and to love one another. Being justified (through faith) they receive the indwelling of the Person of the Holy Spirit. His Divine Presence is holiness and thus the indwelt know true joy, within.

Certainly, Peter did as you ask (Did the disciples show this complete joy?). So did John and we have John's record and his epistles. So did Matthew. And Philip, as we see in Acts. Jude also, and James, from their epistles. Thomas, too, though he doubted, yet he rejoiced when he saw the Lord. Yes, indeed they did.

The knowledge of the forgiveness of sins (not just the reading about it, but the actual experience of knowing the personal forgiveness of God, himself) brings joy and release and results in love :

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. [Luke 7:47 KJV]

Jesus required no other obedience than love :

If ye love me, keep my commandments. [John 14:15 KJV]

And this is no burden, for :

... this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. [1 John 5:3 KJV]

For it is clear what are the commandments of God to those who follow Jesus :

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. [1 John 3:23 KJV]

Then is 'joy complete' when we love him, believe on him, love his own sheep, and keep those unburdensome instructions that are recorded in his word by his own chosen apostles.

Then is 'his joy' in us, if we so follow.

For his joy was to keep the Father's command :

And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: [John 12:50 KJV]

Life everlasting is the commandment of the Father to his only begotten Son. And love and faith are the commandment of the only begotten to those who follow him.

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The operative word here is πληρωθῇ from the root word πληρόω, meaning "I fill, fulfill, complete", occurring 88 times in the NT.

BDAG provides six basic meanings for this word, as does Thayer but classified a little differently. BDAG gives def#3 for this instance in John 15:11, namely -

to bring to completion that which has already begun, complete, finish, eg, Rom 15;19, Col 1:25, 4:12, Phil 2:2, 2 Cor 10:6, Gal 5:14, Rev 3:2, John 3:29, 15:11, 16:24, 17:13, 1 John 1:4, 2 John 12.

Similarly, Thayer has:

  1. to render full, ie, complete ... b. to perfect, consumate, eg, ... Philippians 2:2; passive, John 3:29; John 15:11; John 16:24; John 17:13; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12; τά ἔργα, passive, Revelation 3:2; τήν ὑπακοήν, to cause all to obey, passive, 2 Corinthians 10:6

Thus, Jesus is instructing His disciples that only when His (the divine) joy is "in you and that your joy may be complete". The force of Jesus' remark appears to be that the greatest and most complete joy only has its source in the divine joy provided doing the commands of Jesus (John 15:9, 10) out of love for Him.

The Cambridge commentary has something similar:

might be full Or, may be fulfilled. This expression of joy being fulfilled is peculiar to S. John (comp. John 3:29, John 16:24, John 17:13; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12). The active occurs Php 2:2; ‘make my joy full;’ but nowhere else. Human happiness can reach no higher than to share that joy which Christ ever felt in being loved by His Father and doing His will.

Similarly, the Pulpit commentary has this:

in order that your joy may be fulfilled, i.e. perfected, reach its highest expression, its fullness of contents and entire sufficiency for all needs. 1 John 1:1-4 is the best commentary on this last clause. The Old Testament prophets had often spoken of Jehovah's joy in his people, comparing it to the bridegroom's joy, and the bride's (Isaiah 62:5; Zephaniah 3:17). This entire idea is linked with Ver. 10; where the keeping of his commandments, from motives of love, will enable the disciples to "abide in his love." He now passes the whole law of the second table into the light of his joy and the power of his example.

Ellicot reaches the same conclusion:

And that your joy might be full.—Comp. the words of the Intercessory Prayer in John 17:13, and the same phrase in John 3:29; John 16:24; 1John 1:4; 2John 1:12. The state of which He has spoken to them—the loving and being loved of God—is the ideal perfection of human life. It supplies satisfaction for all the deepest desires of our being. The capacities of the whole man are fulfilled in it, and the result is fulness of joy. They have learnt little of the true spirit of Christianity whose religion does not impart to them a joy which sheds its light over the whole of their lives.

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    ...the divine joy provided doing the commands of Jesus... Could you substantiate that concept with textual evidence, please ? Secondly, is that a legal concept : reward for satisfactory performance ? Or is the joy a matter of the divine gift of the infilling with the person of the Holy Spirit. which infilling is a joyous experience of entrance into the things of Christ ?
    – Nigel J
    Dec 23 '20 at 23:53
  • @NigelJ - the textual evidence (as noted in the answer) is in v9, 10. The joy is not legalistic - the joy is the satisfaction from service to God and doing His bidding (= commands)
    – Dottard
    Dec 24 '20 at 1:02
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    So, you are saying it is self-induced. A kind of self-righteous satisfaction, if I may call it that. But that does not explain 'my joy' and 'my joy' being 'in you'. His commands are that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and that we love one another. The commandment of the Father is everlasting life.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 24 '20 at 7:18
  • @NigelJ - I think you are playing nit-picking semantics. All I am suggesting is the joy of service to God. That is the joy God provides to those who serve Him - He does not provide such joy to those who do not serve Him. Look at all the promises in the OT - all about rewards for serving God. Look at what John 15:9-11 actually says - Joy come from remaining of God's love and doing his "commands", ie obeying God and serving Him. Why is that even controversial?
    – Dottard
    Dec 24 '20 at 8:02
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    I am doing what the cloven footed do : picking my way carefully between two paths. The legal commandment, a killing letter - and the path of life.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 24 '20 at 8:06

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