The Apostle Paul and Thanksgiving II

Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. Around this time of the year I usually blog about Thanksgiving. Last year I blogged about the Apostle Paul and Thanksgiving. This is part two which will continue in that tradition. Below we will continue to look at five verses from Pauline writings which concern a context of thankfulness and thanksgiving. In this post I will primarily be using the ESV. I will include translation abbreviations when another has been cited.

1) 2 Corinthians 9:15 "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" 

Paul begins here with using the same Greek noun also rendered as "grace" to express his deep gratitude toward God. Thanking God for his "gift" which has been understood variously to be Jesus Christ, the Gospel, gracious actions, brotherly love or unity, or the redemption event.

Most commentators go with Christ based upon Paul's usage of the Greek noun elsewhere but this is not decisive. No matter the gift we should never see or hear of a good work without being thankful and praising God. The Gospel came forth from Christ in His death, burial and resurrection and his saving work of redemption stirs gratitude in each of us. The NET has "indescribable gift" and the KJV "unspeakable gift". Christ, brotherly love, and redemption all offer moments when we can call them nothing but indescribable.

2) 1 Corinthians 15:57 "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Here we see, perhaps a sudden transition by Paul, to that of thanks to God. Who has given us the victory we obtain through Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated complete victory over death and the grave by His literal, physical resurrection on the third day. Note here Paul says "who gives us"--a present tense participle. Meaning it is a simple fact for Paul's thinking or a continual process. A.C. Thiselton noted that in this verse we have "a verbal equivalent to throwing one’s arm around someone in gratitude; or like throwing one’s hat in the air in sheer exultation."(1) 

3) 2 Corinthians 2:14 "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere." 

The ESV rendering is rich. W.R. Nicoll reminds us "The splendid image before the writer’s mind is that of a Roman triumph, which, though he had never seen it, must have been familiar to him as it was to every citizen of the Empire. He thinks of God as the Victor (Rev 6:2) entering the City into which the glory and honour of the nations (Rev 21:26) is brought; the Apostle as “in Christ”—as a member of the Body of Christ—is one of the captives, by means of whom the knowledge and fame of the Victor is made manifest."(2)

This passage starts out with a burst of praise by Paul thanking God, who was in Christ, leading us to triumph and through us spreads this knowledge of Him everywhere. In verse one Paul informs us that he had decided not to visit the Corinthians or "not to make another painful visit" and in chapter two is explaining why he has not arrived. His arrival in Corinth though is not as as urgent as it is to follow Christ. Paul tells the Corinthian community that despite his spirit not being at rest (2:13) he thanks God. Despite the obstacles God, in Christ, always leads him and us to triumph. Through this procession Paul, and consequently later believers, spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God. 

4) 1 Thessalonians 3:9, "For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,"

In the context Paul has written about desiring to come but "Satan hindered us" (2:14), sending Timothy to the community of Thessalonians and his encouraging report (3:1, 6). Even in "all our distress and affliction" Paul and company were comforted through their faith (3:7). Here Paul offers humble thanksgiving to God for the believers. In his Corinthian letter Paul states, "But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you." Here Paul also thanks God for Titus. In the next verse Paul carries this motif to another level.

5) In 1 Timothy 2:1, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,"

Not just for believers or for Titus, in particular, but "for all people". The humility of Paul here only serves as our example as present day believes. Paul was afflicted, suffered shipwreck and all manner of things for the spreading of the Gospel. Yet, in the midst of his pain and and suffering he thanks God for the Thessalonians miles away. Here Paul urges Timothy on in the faith and describes public worship. In this verse he uses four words which capture much of what should be involved in the Christian life and service: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and the giving of thanks. Paul has said "in everything give thanks" (NET). 

The four nouns "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings" are all in the plural form for added force.(3) In our self-centered society individualism is a premium. In contrast to culture, Paul invites believers to think outside themselves and offer prayers for others. To give thanks to God for others. People like leaders in our churches, governments, and all sectors of society. In his day the "all people" included those who bowed their knee to dumb idols. Those who spent time and money on these idols while being completely out of touch with God. This is not merely a passing fancy but part of what it means to be a believer. To be truly like Christ. 


1) Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000). 1303.

2) Nicoll, W. Robertson. "2 Corinthians." The Expositor's Greek Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912.

3) Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "1 Timothy." Gnomon of the New Testament,. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1858.


Thanksgiving : Rated R

This post is not for the weak of heart. This is not for the self-righteous or the politically correct. We live in a time when many inevitably believe that any and all walls should be tore down. No one will say it that way but our culture believes that walls are negative. They are isolating. They are polarizing. They exist but to restrict and torture us. Many want no wall around the sanctify of marriage and the sanctify of human life. Many do not care whether it be a small human or a big human, they just do not want a wall between them and the abortion clinic. Many do not want a wall when they glorify their sexual deeds and preferences. Many just want to build four walls and put everyone who does not think like them in those walls.

This is supposed to be about Thanksgiving. And it shall. Thanksgiving is a holiday by believers for believers who believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). As I was thinking about this holiday I thought of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. It was a time when the first harvest was good and although the relationship with the Indian and the white man had not completely deteriorated the Wampanoag Indians did offer food and taught the settlers how to plant maize. With the promise that they would help protect them from another tribe (Narraganset). Notice an excerpt from Margaret J. Preston's (1820-1897) early poem about this day:

Through virtue of vested power— 
ye shall gather with one accord, 
And hold, in the month of November,
thanksgiving unto the Lord.”

“He hath granted us peace and plenty, 
and the quiet we’ve sought so long; 
He hath thwarted the wily savage, 
and kept him from wrack and wrong; 
And unto our feast the Sachem shall be bidden, 
that he may know We worship his own Great Spirit, 
who maketh the harvests grow.”(1)

This was all short lived. The food supplies quickly ran out, the Indians felt betrayed and famine became the settler's torment for the next two years. By 1622 the tension between the Indian and the white man burst at the seems.(2) After thinking about these and other tragedies that transpired in early North American history my mind went to another time and another group of people.

To a time well before William Bradshaw and to a place other than Plymouth Colony. A time and place where the children of Israel were dedicating the rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah and giving thanks (Nehemiah 12:24-40). For them walls saved. Walls preserved. Walls protected. While Israel fell away from God many times in the Old Testament she did experience revival through her labor and thanksgiving. 

The Bible speaks often about Thanksgiving but of all the Biblical books the Psalms contain perhaps the most references. Thankfulness is not predicated upon success or even failures (Psalm 119:62). It is a personal, voluntary expression from our heart. If you were no longer able to work another would fill your place. If a solider falls another steps into their place. With thanksgiving no one can offer your word or sacrifice of thanksgiving for you (3). It is important that you give your thanks. And that I give my thanks.

Thanksgiving is not a reward or to be expected rather it is acknowledging ones thankfulness to another. No finite payment could ever repay what God has done for us and we are eternally thankful. The revival that Nehemiah and the Israelite's experienced rose out of their giving God praise and thanksgiving.

In the Old Testament the children of Israel offered material sacrifices of thanksgiving of which included specific direction (See Leviticus 7:12-13, 15; Psalm 107:22; 116:17). Today, it is the privilege and honor of the believers to participate in the Kingdom of God. We are to still offer gifts of thanksgiving to God but the motivation should be on sacrifice and thankfulness instead of compensation or re-numeration.

The Old Testament only anticipates the thanksgiving of the New Testament. There we find that there is to be ceaseless thanksgiving to God in heaven (Revelation 4:9; 7:12; 11:17) and on earth (Hebrews 13:15). Christ, our supreme example, practiced giving thanks regularly (Matthew 15:36; 26:27; Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17). As noted in other blogs posts, Paul was faithful in giving thanks to His Creator (Acts 27:35; Romans 14:6; 2 Corinthians 9:15).

The Apostle Paul even writes, "For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 4:15). Perhaps the pervasiveness of human ingratitude is neatly exposed when Paul even suggests, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (ESV) Read that again. Give thanks in all circumstances. All circumstances. Surely, Paul does not mean when a person gets cancer! Surely, this does not apply when our closest loved ones die or are injured! Read it again. Give thanks in all circumstances. 

We not only thank God for His material blessings (jobs, cars, etc.) but we are to thank Him for His free gift of salvation brought to us through Jesus Christ. To do this admits there is higher purpose and that God has intervened in human history. We give thanks always. Even in circumstances like the very first thanksgiving which precipitated bloodshed and hunger. Even in circumstances like Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall.

Perhaps, we live in a time and place where we must work on rebuilding the wall. A time when the sin of ungratefulness (See 2 Timothy 3:2) is a trend and popular. A time when only one of the ten lepers who was healed actually returns (See Luke 17:11-19). A time to tirelessly work to rebuild the walls, even expanding the walls, in order to protect, preserve and add new territory. To change and make a difference. To offer hope for the hopeless and shelter for the weary. 

Rebuild the wall. 

1) Preston M. 2006 Jul 12. The First Thanksgiving. Poetry X. http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/11689/>. Accessed 2012 Nov 20.

2) Gillon, Steven M., and Cathy D. Matson. The American Experiment: A History of the United States. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. 64. Print.

3) Leviticus 22:29 | ESV And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.


Book Review: The Development of the Trinity by Glen Davidson M.A.

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In this work Glen Davidson sets out to outline the basic historical evolution of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is popular for modern Trinitarians to believe that this doctrine has a consistent, uniform stream of evidence. And that this is somehow completely consistent with the Trinity they believe today. The final test of the Trinity is the testimony of Scripture but as Davidson clearly outlines in his book, "The trinity--without any doubt of any historian--was indeed a development. The ideologies that led to and came from this dogma were from the influence of Greek thinking, namely Neo-Platonism." (Davidson, pg. 2)

Davidson has a M.A. cum laude from Bethel Seminary majoring in Church History. Davidson gives thanks to God, his wife and his Jewish parents for helping him through Seminary. He also thanks professor of Church History, James Smith III, ThD, at Bethel for his guidance and counsel.

The book is just a little over 133 pages which should not be intimidating for the novice but at the same time welcoming to the expert. Davidson outlines the development of the Trinity in three parts: Part One: The New Doctrine Is Introduced, Part Two: The New Doctrine Is Established and Part Three: The New Doctrine Is Mandated. The author also covers the period after the Apostles (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp) and discusses the New Doctrines Terminology: The Creeds.

The Trinity develops from the Deity of Christ, Deity of the Holy Spirit and then a definitive formulation. Oneness Pentecostals affirm that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God. This is Biblical doctrine. The definitive formulation of the Trinity is not and this is where the controversy enters.

Davidson also has a section on the terminology or words used to make sense of the "new doctrine". As he points out, "They can be found so common in Christendom that we would assume them to be in the Scriptures." (Davidson, pg. 105) Terms discussed are: "God the Son", "God the Holy Spirit", "Eternal Son", "Co-equal" and "Co-eternal". The author also points out that the locution "God in three persons" was "not used by the church "fathers" until Augustine...This set of words was most likely made famous by the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy," written by Reginald Heber in 1826, and with music added by John Dykes in 1861." (Davidson, pg. 122-123)

In Part One Davidson discusses the introduction of the "new doctrine". The formulation of this doctrine begins with the Greek Apologists (AD 130-180) which imagined a God that was transcendent and impassible. Vergilus Ferm, PhD notes that the "Apologists represented, on the whole, non-Jewish Christian converts trained to think in Hellenistic terms." (Ferm, pg. 145)

In Part Two the author examines the contributions of Iraenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, and Origen. He also concisely discusses modalism,  the Council of Nicea, Council of Constantinople, the Pre-existence of Christ, and the contributions of the Cappodocians in this section. Davidson accurately notes that through the Cappodocians "the major trinitarian concepts took root." (Davidson, pg. 81) In Part Three the book examines the work of Augustine and the Athanasian creed.

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1) Davidson, Glen (2012) The Development of the Trinity : The Evolution of a "New Doctrine" Hazelwood, MO : Pentecostal Publishing House

2) Vergilius Ferm, A History of Philosophical Systems (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1950), 145

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)