Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THANKSGIVING”

First Thessalonians 5.18

This being Thanksgiving weekend, with everyone at least somewhat reminded that our first permanent settlers from the Old World were Christians seeking a place to worship and service God according to the dictates of their consciences, and having at least formally observed a season of thanksgiving as a nation, it is appropriate for me to bring a message from the Bible concerning the giving of thanks.

My text for this morning’s message from God’s Word is First Thessalonians 5.18, which reads “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Though it is a straightforward verse, and easy to understand, a greater impression will be made on your mind if we deal with this matter of thanksgiving under three headings during this Thanksgiving time of year.

 

First, THE CONTEXT OF OUR THANKSGIVING

 

First, take note with me of the context of the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul wrote to. We know from Acts 17.1-10 that Paul and his party were only in the city of Thessalonica for a little over three weeks, because he “went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” before persecution drove him to the city of Berea.[1] This shows us the Thessalonian believers were only weeks old in the Christian faith when Paul departed. Unable to return to provide those young believers further instruction, First Thessalonians 2.18, the Apostle wrote two short letters to them instead, First and Second Thessalonians. Though inexperienced in their newfound faith, the Thessalonian Christians were remarkable for their commitment, as we see from reading First Thessalonians 1.2-10:

 

2      We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

3      Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

4      Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

5      For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

6      And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

7      So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

8      For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.

9      For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

10     And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

 

Despite their remarkable conduct, and because of their recent conversions, the Thessalonian believers had a very understandable concern about Bible prophecy, particularly what we now refer to as the Rapture. Though Paul addresses their concerns beginning in First Thessalonians chapter 4, I would like you to turn at this time to chapter 5, and begin reading with me from verse 1:

 

1      But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

2      For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

3      For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

4      But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

5      Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

6      Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

7      For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

8      But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

9      For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

10     Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

11     Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

12     And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13     And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

14     Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

15     See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

16     Rejoice evermore.

17     Pray without ceasing.

18     In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19     Quench not the Spirit.

20     Despise not prophesyings.

21     Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22     Abstain from all appearance of evil.

23     And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24     Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

 

If you study this fifth chapter carefully you will notice that these are instructions that provide directions for living the Christian life until Jesus comes. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again, and it will sometimes be rough on Christians until He arrives on the scene. So, what are we to do until Jesus comes? A number of things, including giving thanks for everything.

Focusing our attention on in everything giving thanks, what can be said about our situation as compared to the context of those Thessalonian Christians? To be sure, there are a number of things we have in common with them to be thankful about. We worship the same God, who sent for us the same Son, and gives to us the same Spirit. We have the same hope, the same expectations, and the same promises they did. However, we are not experiencing the persecution they faced, do not live under the same oppressive regime they did, and do not face the same extremes of hunger, deprivation, and ravages of health and well-being they had little relief from. Thus, we seem to have all the reasons they had to be thankful, without hardly any of the discouragements to a thankful attitude that they faced on a daily basis. When we look back in our nation’s history to the first Thanksgiving of our Pilgrim ancestors, we must keep in mind that they traveled to the New World and suffered great hardships and loss of life as a result of decisions they voluntarily made. No one forced them to come here, they came to serve God. However you look at it, our situations in life are markedly easier than either the Thessalonian Christians Paul directed to give thanks, or the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth rock and offered thanks to God despite great hardship and loss of life. Therefore, expressing thanks to God is something we certainly can do.

 

Next, THE CONDUCT OF OUR THANKSGIVING

 

Paul uses the Greek verb eucaristeite in our text, which is an imperative, meaning it is a command, to direct his readers to express their appreciation for benefits or blessings.[2],[3] But how are we to give thanks? What, precisely, is thanksgiving?

In Psalm 69.30, David declared, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Yet the Hebrew word David used very definitely refers to thanksgiving in songs.[4] Therefore, one way to express thanks to God is by singing songs and hymns of thankfulness to Him.

As well, we know that the Lord Jesus Christ very publicly offered up thanks to God just before He fed the multitudes, and just before He raised Lazarus from the dead.[5] On both occasions the Savior told His Father, in a very straightforward way, that He was thankful for blessings He had received. However, keep also in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ expressed thanks to His Father while experiencing great agony of the soul in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26.27, as He was sweating as it were great drops of blood.[6]

Therefore, we know that there are at least two ways of expressing thanks to God, while experiencing joy as well as great suffering, either by means of singing or stating your gratitude openly in either a public or private setting. Is there yet another way of praising God with thanks? As a matter of fact there is. Leviticus 7.11-12:

 

11     And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD.

12     If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.

 

So, thankful believers exhibit gratitude to God by singing hymns of thanksgiving, by both publicly and privately declaring their gratitude to Him, and by giving Him a valued offering. Keep also in mind that since the phrase, “in every thing” translates the Greek phrase en panti, which simply means “in all,” Paul could just as easily have meant that we are to give thanks to God in all ways as to give thanks to God in all situations and circumstances.

In Ephesians 5.20, Paul writes, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father.”

Psalm 136.1 begins, “O give thanks unto the LORD.”

Psalm 136.2 begins, “O give thanks unto the God of gods.”

Psalm 136.3 begins, “O give thanks to the Lord of lords.”

Psalm 136.26 begins, “O give thanks unto the God of heaven.”

Finally, Psalm 140.13 begins, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name.”

 

Finally, THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR THANKSGIVING

 

What happens when you offer up thanks to God, by means of singing and extolling His praises in music, by lifting up your voice to Him with gratitude, or perhaps by giving an offering as an expression of gratitude? Consider the various possibilities in turn:

First, with respect to God. Since it is obviously God’s will for you to express gratitude to Him, according to our text, God will be pleased with your obedience. However, that is not all. Psalm 69.30 reads, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Thus, when you offer thanks to God, by the various means that you express your gratitude, you do magnify Him.

Next, with respect to your self. What happens to you when you express gratitude to God, when you thank God? I was watching the news on channel 7 yesterday afternoon when they reported the results of a study that showed the mental and physical health benefits that result from being thankful. Of course, they made no mention of who you are to thank, but the point to be made is that gratitude is a beneficial state of mind for everyone, even for those who are grateful to no one for nothing in particular. But beyond that, what results do you enjoy for gratitude expressed to God? Do you not remind yourself of God’s blessings when you habitually thank Him for them? Do you not see your life from the vantage point of God’s eternal perspective when you are finding reasons to express gratitude to Him? Do you not make yourself happier when you remind yourself of the benefits and blessings rained down on you from heaven, where every good and perfect gift comes from?

Third, with respect to other Christians. We Christians being such flawed and sinful creatures, is it not a wonderful opportunity to do something that you know is God’s will, thereby setting an example for others to follow? Is it not an encouragement to someone who is discouraged and disconsolate to see a fellow believer who is thankful, even in the midst of difficult circumstances? Keep in mind that what Paul is urging here is not that nasty and carnal counterfeit Christianity that stands up to piously praise God in such a way as to brag on self and to show others how worthy of God’s favor you are. Not at all. When the spirit of this command is obeyed the low child of God who witnesses it will be lifted up, will be helped to his feet so he can walk again. He will be challenged to be steadfast, since you will express your gratitude for the difficult as well as the easy, the hard as well as the soft, the lean times as well as the bountiful. Listen to Paul in Second Corinthians chapter one:

 

1      Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

2      Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

3      Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4      Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

5      For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

6      And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

7      And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

8      For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

9      But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

10     Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;

11     Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

12     For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

 

As well, Second Corinthians chapter twelve:

 

1      It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

2      I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

3      And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

4      How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

5      Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

6      For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

7      And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8      For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9      And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10     Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

 

Please forgive me for reading so much to you in this sermon, but the Apostle Paul is a wonderful example of what I seek to establish for you, that expressing gratitude to God (even for great difficulties) can have profound effects on Christians. Are we not wonderfully encouraged to discover that amidst the deep despondency he described in chapter one, and the terrible affliction mentioned in chapter twelve, he found God’s comfort and grace more than sufficient? As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews put it in Hebrews 12.4: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Therefore, if we see by the thanksgiving of others in worse situations than we are in that God is faithful in all things, surely He can be trusted to bless us as well. In this way are other Christians wonderfully blessed by your thanksgiving.

Finally, the consequences of our thanksgiving with respect to the lost. Can the lost man insist for long that there is no God, so long as he sees and hears you expressing gratitude to God? Can the lost man insist for long that God is not good and kind, so long as he sees and hears you expressing thanks to God for this, as well as for that? Can the lost man continue to persuade himself that what he sees is all there is to life, when he is around a Christian who thanks the invisible God for situations, for circumstances, and for experiences beyond his control?

 

As is obvious from the television newscast that I mentioned earlier, in which the benefits of gratitude were acknowledged, unsaved people do express gratitude and are known to give thanks. However, the lost typically isolate thankfulness from any connection with someone to thank, just as they disassociate faith from anyone to believe in. Thus, while it must be recognized that the unsaved are capable of expressing gratitude, they are typically thankful for the wrong things, and usually incapable of recognizing who they should thank for the blessings of life they enjoy. Most usually, however, the unsaved are characterized by ingratitude, as Paul writes in 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.” Obviously, this would refer to being ingrates with respect to God, even if they do express gratitude toward others.

Let me close by cautioning you concerning this matter of thanksgiving. Do not think that the propriety of being thankful overrules the importance of appropriate expressions of sadness and grief that anyone can and will experience. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not always joyful and thankful. As Psalms indicate, sadness and lament are legitimate and appropriate at times.[7] Therefore, knowing that you have good reason to do so, Christian, purpose to express gratitude and thanksgiving to God verbally, in private and in public, in song, and through offers of thanksgiving, in thick and in thin, through good times and bad, because it pleases God, greatly blesses you, is of benefit to other Christians, and is a powerful witness to the lost.



[1] Acts 17.2, 10

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 603.

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 214.

[4] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 392.

[5] Matthew 15.36; John 11.41

[6] Luke 22.44

[7] See footnote for 1 Thessalonians 5.18 in NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), page 1943.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org