Thanksgiving for the Blessing of Christian Graces

Has the Thanksgiving Holiday always been important to you and your family? I grew up in a home that was not especially patriotic or civic-minded, and more legalistically Jewish than religious. I don’t remember our Thanksgiving celebrations as something significant. But for us believers, Thanksgiving goes further as we appreciate our blessedness in Christ. Biblical Thanksgiving implies the most humble, appreciative, and adoring attitude toward all God has given and done for us. We are thankful and blessed with a relationship with Jesus Christ and, therefore, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. But recognizing our blessedness and giving thanks takes practice; it means turning away from our self-centeredness and our preoccupation with materialism and opinions. Yesterday I visited with a dear Christian neighbor, 98 years old, struggling with the after-effects of two falls in a short time. She has been asking the Lord for a while why she is still around, as many Christians do in her season of life. Knowing how much she loves seeing GG, my pup, I stopped by with him for a brief visit. After we left, I realized that the thing I missed the most in her was her attitude of gratitude. She was frustrated and unhappy with her trying circumstances, whereas before, she was exceedingly grateful for her home and the people around her despite her limitations. Growing older and more incapacitated is hard. But, I want, more than anything, as I age, not to allow my circumstances to change my gratefulness to God for all our blessings in Christ. So I give God thanks privately every morning and evening in my journals and publicly with others whenever I lead meetings. Practicing thankfulness brings us more intimately into God’s grace and allows the Spirit more influence over our attitudes. But it takes practice; giving specific thanks can be a real struggle if we only do it rarely. I hope this Thanksgiving will find us more capable of praising God and recognizing our American blessings because of our medications on our blessedness in Christ. Perhaps we can learn from Paul’s example in his letter to his brothers and sisters in the Corinthian church. After all the Thanksgiving food is wrapped up for leftovers and the football games are won or lost, maybe we will remember to thank God for our blessed union and fellowship with Christ.

Paul’s Thankfulness

Paul opens his letter to the church by thanking God for all the graces of speech, knowledge, and gifts given to the Corinthians, who are sustained by their fellowship and union with Jesus Christ. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-8) “Paul is thankful that God has richly blessed the Corinthians with speech, knowledge, and spiritual gifts…Paul will say that the Corinthians’ spiritual riches have led to an inappropriate pride. Paul’s thankfulness here shows that the problem lay not with the gifts God had given them but with the way the Corinthians used those gifts. The cure is found in a healthy dose of gratitude. The Corinthians valued especially the gifts of speech and knowledge, but because they had used these gifts in wrong and improper ways, the exercise of the gifts led to disunity.” (1) Sometimes, we also misuse our God-given talents, skills, and gifts. We convince ourselves that our achievements are based on our innate wisdom and abilities, leading to a prideful, superior attitude. If we were born in America, it is not because we made it happen; God alone is sovereign over our physical birth, just as he is over our spiritual rebirth. If you immigrated to the US, you might have more of a tendency to give yourself or your family credit, but isn’t God the one who provided the means and protection to accomplish your goal of becoming an American citizen? Let’s thank God for sovereignty controlling his providential plans.

Thanking the Lord for His Most Precious Gift

In Paul’s letter, “the object of Thanksgiving is God, for as he is the author of all mercies, the glory and praise of them ought to be given to him. The apostle styles him ‘my God’, to distinguish him from others; and to express his faith of interest in him; and to observe to this church, that all the good things they enjoyed came from him…by so doing set them an example…and the continuance of his thankfulness for them, is ‘always’, as often as he went to the throne of grace, or at any other time thought of them: what he particularly gives thanks to God for in this verse is, for the grace which is given you by Jesus Christ: and includes all sorts of grace, adopting, justifying, pardoning, regenerating, and sanctifying grace; every particular grace of the Spirit, as faith, repentance, hope, love, fear, humility, self-denial, all are gifts of God, and entirely owing to his free grace, and not to man’s free will and power, or to any merits of his and all come through the hands of Christ…and in consequence of his blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and merit…and particularly the apostle is thankful, that they were enriched by Christ in all utterance, and in all knowledge; that not only they had the knowledge of the truths and doctrines of the Gospel, concerning the person, offices, grace, and righteousness of Christ in the theory of them, or a speculative notion of them; but for the most part had a spiritual experimental knowledge of these things.” (2) If we celebrate Thanksgiving with other believers, will we not also plan to thank God for our union and fellowship with Christ and our resulting holy speech, knowledge, and the wise use of our God-given spiritual gifts?

Eternal Grace

Paul “assures the saints of confirmation in grace by God, the author and giver of all grace: and which may be understood of their confirmation in the love and favour of God, from which there can be no separation…and of the permanency of the grace of the Spirit in them, and of their perseverance in faith and holiness unto the end: that is, of their days; even until the day of Christ, when the good work begun in them shall be performed and finished…their interest in Christ can never be lost; grace in them is an immortal seed; nor shall they be ever finally and totally moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” (3) We may sometimes wonder if we are so established because of our ongoing struggles with sinful habits or relational conflicts. Paul had no such doubts about his brothers and sisters. He wrote to the Philippian believers, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6). Paul’s confidence in God to do all he promises is also clearly stated in our passage from 1 Corinthians. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1:9) And, to the Romans, he wrote, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30) “God is faithful, by whom ye were called…whatever he has said, he will do it; he will never suffer his faithfulness to fail…having called them by his grace, for whom he effectually calls by his grace…to enjoy communion with him in private and public exercises of religion, which is an evidence of being in him, and of union to him…such are members of Christ, of his body, of his flesh, and of his bone; and shall never be lost and perish, but shall be confirmed to the end; be preserved in him blameless, and presented to him faultless, and have everlasting life.” (4) “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) We have much to be thankful for, especially our union and fellowship with Christ, leading to holy speech, knowledge, and the wise use of our God-given spiritual gifts.

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:9; Romans 1:8; 15:14; 2 Corinthians 8:7; 9:11; 12:4-31; Philippians 1:6; 2:16; 3:20-21; 2 Peter 3:11-13; 1 John 2:20.

Notes:

1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

2. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-corinthians-1.html

3. Gill, Ibid.

4. Gill, Ibid.

November 17, 2022

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