The Apostle Paul and Thanksgiving

Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul and Thanksgiving? Yes! I do not mean to suggest that the Apostle John ate turkey or even celebrated any such holiday. I am sure however that as a Jew giving thanks to God was a staple in his spiritual diet. This cannot be doubted since nearly every Pauline epistle begins with words of thanksgiving and praise to God. Paul's own words testify to his thankful heart.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul states "In every thing give thanks..." (KJV) Or "Give thanks in everything..."(HCSB). In 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 it is recorded that Paul was imprisoned, flogged, exposed to death, received 39 lashes, beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, spent a day and night in the open sea, constantly on the move, in danger from rivers, bandits his own countrymen, gentiles, in the city, in the country, at sea and in danger from false brothers. He labored and toiled, went without sleep, knew hunger and thirst, felt the cold and was naked yet he still says that God is to be "praised forever"! (2 Corinthians 11:31 NIV).  

Obviously for Paul and for believers then thanksgiving is not dependent on personal circumstance. Christ should put a thankful heart in any Sitz im Leben. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2 he tells them "We give thanks to God always for you all" (KJV). Or "We always thank God for all of you" (HCSB) For Paul thanksgiving was daily flowing from his life out of his love for Christ and the saints in the Church of Christ (no pun intended). As suggested earlier Paul frequently uses the Greek word for thanksgiving. 

The Greek verb for thanksgiving used often by Paul is from eucharisteo (eucharistoumen). This word is from eu (well) and charis (grace, thanks). For Paul to simply contemplate the charis (grace) of God compelled him to give eucharistia or thanksgiving. Eucharistia is a rarely used word in pre-Christian Greek literature. The Gospels do not contain this word but similar ones appear in Matthew 26:16 and Mark 14:22 or Luke 22:17 and John 6:11, 23. Long after the writings of Paul's epistles John uses the noun form twice in his apocalyptic literature (e.g. Revelations 7:12). 

For Paul thanksgiving wasn't only something he does. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul state that not only are we to "always thank God" but that "We are bound to thank God" (KJV) or "We ought always to give thanks to God" (NASB). It is our duty to thank God for all he has done. In fact, Paul presses this concept further in 2 Thessalonians 2:13:
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: KJV
Believers give thanks to God because God chose us from the beginning for salvation and sanctification. Indeed for Paul our "life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3 ESV). As believers we will naturally have an outflow of thanks to God for His salvation. In The Restoration of Christianity Michael Servetus rightly suggested that for God nothing awaits existence.

Remember in 1 Thessalonians 1:2 he tells them "We give thanks to God always for you all" (KJV) Paul says "for you all" or "all of you" (HCSB). Here Paul leaves no one out. Every believer is consequently a part of the Body of Christ and is vital to every other member or part of that Body. Our thankfulness to God for "all" means that we must also be prayerful of them "all". Being thankful and praying for fellow believers is a cure for many problems that can arise in Christian assemblies.

As we have noted Paul connects thanksgiving with prayer. Not only do we thank God for others but also for ourselves. In order to give thanks for others or ourselves we first be mindful of them and ourselves in prayer. We must pray on purpose with purpose. When we go to prayer we do so mindful of not only ourselves but also others. Notice the start contrast that Paul paints between the believers and the unbelievers:

Romans 1:21, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." KJV
Romans 1:21, For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. HSCB

Throughout the New Testament the thankful heart of the Apostle Paul is abundantly and clearly seen. We have only examined a few here. In this previous text however the necessity of a thankful heart is in full bloom. Here Paul attributes the darkness of the heathen to a lack of praise and thanksgiving to God. It is a sign of the darkened heart that does not praise or thank God or acknowledge its Creator. Thanksgiving is not just a holiday but it is a way of life for the believer.

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Adversus Trinitas

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