While Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, it completely owes its origins to a deep Christian and Biblical understanding of God’s providence. This Christian understanding of God as a merciful and faithful Father came to our shores with the pilgrims in the early 1600’s. Long before it was an official holiday it was a way of life for those who knew and worshiped God.
While it is wholly fitting for each of us to pause and thank God for all the temporal gifts of food, shelter, family, friends, and freedom, we have an inheritance in Christ that is even more glorious than these!
Joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:12-13)
Giving thanks to God joyously, as Paul here describes, is the spontaneous result of understanding and experiencing the Gospel of grace. Joy is a good indicator of the level of our understanding and participation in this grace. Let me explain that a bit more.
In the verses above there are three main verbs relating to God’s activity and then a couple that pertain to our own actions.
God’s actions: qualified us; rescued us; transferred us.
The interesting thing is that all three of these verbs are in the “aorist” tense in Greek. This tense specifically refers to an action that occurred at a pivotal or particular point of time in the past. The aorist tense could accurately be described as, “a finished action in the past.”
I hope you see the implications of this. God’s finished work of qualifying us, rescuing us, and transferring us…all happened before we even knew it or Him. It happened in the glorious work of Christ on our behalf at the Cross!
Next we see our subsequent response: joyously giving thanks; share in the inheritance; we have redemption.
Interestingly, the tense of these verbs is all present tense. In the Greek this is what is referred to as “continuous present tense.” This sort of tense in English is often reflected in words that end in “ing” (participles). For example: giving, sharing, and having.
So here’s the amazing power of the Gospel: Christ decisively and powerfully in history paid our debt in His own blood to rescue us from the deserved wrath of God; thus, transferring us out of Satan’s clutches into Christ’s own glory and inheritance.
So it is very important to understand the direction and ordering of this salvation. Our having it, sharing in it, and giving thanks for it, is a product of something already fully completed. Oh glory to God. It’s not the other way around, beloved. And if we are confused and looking at this backwards, do you know what will be missing? JOY! In other words, God is not looking to my having, sharing, and giving thanks to determine if He will qualify, rescue, and transfer me. He has already done these things completely. And that before I even knew Him or it.
This is what we call grace. This is the finished work of Christ on our behalf. Our inheritance in Christ is as sure as His own finished work and present victory! Because He lives and reigns above…I now live and reign in Him and will do so forever. This is the wonderful inheritance that God has qualified every believer in Christ for.
Joyous thanksgiving is the result of an immense gift of pure grace. Not surprisingly, the actual Greek word for thanksgiving has grace at the center of it. Eucharisteo is the Greek word – and tells it all! Charis is Greek for grace. And grace is what secured our full and free salvation.
And that’s something worth being thankful about!