A History of Thanksgiving in the New Testament
Thanksgiving is upon us. It is a time to understand the history of Thanksgiving and express our gratitude for all we have been given.
It’s a time to be thankful not only for things, but for circumstances.
This post will look at the history of thanksgiving in the Pauline Epistles. We are far removed from the time when Jesus walked the earth. Our distance in time from his earthly ministry sometimes diminishes the impact of his acts.
We read about his miraculous works. But when we skim the Bible like we skim a news article or a blog post, we don’t feel the full effect of what He has done for us, for what He has done for the world.
But will we really feel it?
I know who really felt it: the Apostle Paul. Talk about a change of heart.
Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He watched the coats of the men who stoned Stephen (the first Christian martyr). Struck blind on the road to Damascus after an encounter with the risen Lord, his sight was eventually restored. He went on to pen thirteen books of the New Testament.
If anyone knows what to be thankful for, it’s Paul.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul talks about the light of the Gospel, and how God has given “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In verse 15, Paul tells how God’s grace is extended to more and more people so that it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (v.6 ESV)
Paul tell us we will be “enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” (v. 11). He goes on to say that charitable ministries are not just about provisions for the needy, but also in the thanksgivings to God.
In Philippians chapter 4, Paul tells us not to be anxious. Instead, we should let our requests be made known to God. We should do this with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving.
In Colossians chapter 2, Paul encourages to be abounding in thanksgiving. We should do this, he says, since we have received Christ. We should “walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as [we] were taught.” (v.6-7).
In Colossians chapter 4, Paul says we should be watchful in thanksgiving as we continue steadfastly in prayer (v.2).
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul is overjoyed after Timothy’s report of the burgeoning faith of their brothers in Christ in Thessalonica. Paul’s thanksgiving to God is from the reassurance of their faith.
“supplications, prayers, intercession, and thanksgivings be made for all people, all kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
And in the Book of Revelation, John describes how the angels fall on their faces before the throne of God and worship:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (7:12).
Whether you have much or little, give thanks for whatever provision God has made in your life.
Remember, Jesus did not promise an easy and happy life for those who follow Him. He promised joy and righteousness. The former will crumble during times of suffering, but that latter will endure.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Photo Credit: Eric Enstrom, 1918 / PD
Photo Credit: Marjory Collins, 1942 / PD
Photo Credit: FSA, 1936 / PD
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.