This Thursday our nation celebrates Thanksgiving. I really like Thanksgiving, because it's the least commercialized of all the national holidays. The stores cash in on Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter, but there's not much of a Thanksgiving windfall for retailers. As a result, we don't suffer from Thanksgiving overkill. We're not expected to buy Thanksgiving candy, or send Thanksgiving cards, or pass out Thanksgiving gifts. Thanksgiving is probably the most biblically based holiday that we celebrate in America, because being thankful is a major theme in the Bible. It is appropriate that we are looking at Colossians 1:12-14 this morning, because they deal with the subject of thanksgiving. But before we look at these verses, let's back up for a short review:
Colossians 1:9-11 (NKJV) For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
According to Scripture, the knowledge we take in - if it's truly understood and taken into the life - is to fill us. It is to control us. It is to shape our lives, our walk, our behavior. Paul prays for them to be filled with the knowledge of His will, "so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord."
Paul elaborates on what it means to walk in a manner worthy of God with four participles. The first is "being fruitful" in verse 10. The character of God is produced in the life of one who has been born into His family and is now seeking to live as a disciple of Christ. The fruit he is bearing is the fruit of the Spirit set forth in Galatians 5:22-23. The second participial phrase is that we are "increasing" in the knowledge of God. Again, that word knowledge comes into play. There is to be growth in our knowledge of God, and we grow by knowing God. So the Christian life is not a stagnant life. There is growth and development.
The third phrase is "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power..." It takes a power beyond your own to walk in a manner worthy of God and that is pleasing to Him in all respects, We are not able to live lives that are pleasing to God in our own strength. We are not able to live lives that accomplish God's purposes in our own strength. We must be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.
Paul is praying that they will be strengthened with all power according to God's glorious might "for all patience and longsuffering with joy..." When we are walking according to the strength that God provides, we will be able to endure the trials and difficulties that will come our way.
"With joy" is literally a prepositional phrase, and it can go either with what goes before or what goes after. So it can be "for all patience and longsuffering with joy..." , or it can be "with joy giving thanks." Both are true biblically. But it's a unique quality of a believer to have steadfastness and patience with joy. There is actual joy in the heart and life of that person during the most intense and unpleasant trials, because God is empowering them.
We see this fleshed out in Paul's life. Paul and Silas are at Philippi. They've been beaten. They've been cast into prison. They've been put in the stocks in the inner prison. It's midnight. They're in pain. Humanly speaking, everything has gone wrong. What are they doing? They are singing hymns of praise to God. They're showing that steadfastness, patience with joy. Notice also:
2 Corinthians 7:4 (NKJV) Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
That's remarkable! But this wasn't just the response of apostles. Look over in 2 Corinthians 8 where Paul is talking about the churches of Macedonia:
2 Corinthians 8:2 (NKJV) that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to affliction. When he said they were having a great trial of affliction, you can believe it was intense. But they still had an abundance of joy.
Hebrews 10:34 (NKJV) for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
Their houses were taken from them. Their earthy possessions were taken, yet they accepted it with joy. Now I wonder how we would respond if we went home and found out the government took our homes, because we were practicing Christians.
Paul is praying that they will be strengthened with all power according to God's glorious might "for all patience and longsuffering with joy..." Believers, when we are joyfully patient and longsuffering, God is honored by our life. But this is only possible as we depend upon His power. The dependant life is a joyful life.
The fourth participle and quality that pleases the Lord is: "giving thanks to the Father".
Colossians 1:12 (NKJV) giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
While grammatically co-ordinate with the other three, giving thanks to the Father is the crowning virtue of these four qualities. "Giving thanks" is the fourth product of a life that is growing by the knowledge of God in spiritual wisdom and understanding. Thankfulness is one of the outstanding characteristics of a disciple of Christ. There is nothing so contradictory as an unthankful Christian.
Thankfulness is an important subject to the apostle Paul and in the Word of God as a whole. Paul uses the concept over 40 times in his epistles and seven times in Colossians alone (cf. 1:2, 3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2).
Thankfulness is very important to our lives and especially to our lives in the home. Thankfulness enhances a marriage and relationships on the job. This is true because a thankful heart provides something within that enables people to more effectively live together, love one another, and fulfill their responsibilities to their mate, to their children, and to their friends on and off the job. This will become evident as we study the nature and essence of thanksgiving. Christians should be the most thankful people in the world. Our lives should be full of praise, thanksgiving, and joy.
We have so many reasons to be full of thanksgiving, even in the midst of adversity, but because of the world around and the attitudes of most, and because of our own bent toward self-centeredness, we are prone to be very unthankful.
Thanksgiving is an expression of an inner recognition and acknowledgment of the grace of God in every area of one's life. Principle: True thankfulness is something that proceeds out of the inner person, from the heart through the lips. If the heart is evil-- filled with greed, with preoccupation with the details of life, with problems such as unresolved feelings of anger and resentment, then thankfulness is basically impossible.
Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
The words "offer" and "sacrifice" are both priestly terms. This shows us that true thanksgiving is also a priestly response and act. It is a priestly sacrifice, an act of worship through which we offer up praise to God. "A sacrifice consisting of praise" is explained by the words, "the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Thanksgiving is an act of adoration and praise that calls attention to the grace of God.
Note the relationship in Psalm 100 between the command to give thanks and the reason:
Psalms 100 (NKJV) Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
We are to give thanks because "God is good." Thanksgiving is a matter of response to facts of revelation
William Law, in his Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life writes, "Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God willeth, who received everything as an instance of God's goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it."
HOW CAN WE GROW IN THANKFULNESS?
1. BIBLE STUDY. Thanksgiving is motivated by Bible doctrine:
Colossians 3:16-17 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
As you come to know God through His Word, you can always have a thankful heart.
2. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!
Focus on what you have. If you want to grow in gratitude, count your blessings. That is excellent counsel, but sometimes we have to recognize them first! A man who owned a small estate wished to sell it. Sending for a real estate agent, he asked him to write an advertisement describing the house and land. When the ad was ready, the agent took it to the owner and read it to him. "Read that again," said the owner. The agent read the description of the estate once more. "I don't think I will sell after all," said the owner. "I have been looking for an estate like that all my life, and I did not know that I owned it!"
Count your blessings - yes, but start by asking God to open your eyes to see your possessions in Christ. Begin by recognizing all that you have in Christ. That will change your entire perspective and enable you to praise God for what you have. Consumer culture would have us feel constantly unsatisfied. In response, we should practice gratitude as a kind of spiritual discipline. In difficult times, or times of temptation due to dissatisfaction, we should list simple, basic things we have enjoyed that day but have easily taken for granted: "Thank you for the roof over my head. Thank you for the warm bed I slept in last night. Thank you for the cup of coffee I had at breakfast. Thank you for my wife." As the list lengthens, we will find ourselves less desperately in need of things.
Being thankful requires a proper comprehension of the reasons why we should be thankful. Thankfulness cannot occur in a vacuum of ignorance. So Paul does not just tell his readers to be thankful, but points them to four awesome blessings that they possess through the mighty acts the Father has accomplished in the person and work of His Beloved Son.
These four objects of thanksgiving are only a partial listing of the blessings God gives us in Christ, but these four do give us a wonderful illustration of what God has done in the person of His Son and of what all believers possess in Christ. Through Christ, the Father has:
1. Qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light,
2. Delivered us from the power of darkness,
3. Conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
4. Redeemed us, providing the forgiveness of sins.
God's saving act on the behalf of mankind is spoken of here in terms of the Exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan. Jesus dying as a fulfilment of the Passover (I Cor 5:7) is necessarily imagery of a new Exodus, a fulfilment of the old which can be seen as a picture of the greater deliverance of all men and women by the blood of a better and more lasting sacrifice in Jesus.
So the reader can follow Paul's thought of being considered acceptable to receive the inheritance of all God's people (Col 1:12a) and of being brought out of the former place of residence and into the new (Col 1:13) by receiving redemption from the house of bondage (Col 1:14). Each of these are paralleled in the original Exodus, and of God's great work in taking a people out of slavery and into the freedom of serving the one true God.
In passing, note how this entire passage is reminiscent of Paul's words to Agrippa, where he quotes the commission that Paul received from the Savior Himself:
Acts 26:17-18 (NKJV) 'I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 'to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'
Why is it that we are to be thankful to God? Well, He "...has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light." "Qualified" is the Greek hikanoo, which means: "to make sufficient, qualify, enable, make fit," but it does not mean: "to make deserving." The blessings believers have in Christ are totally by the amazing grace and power of God. Only God, the Almighty Himself, is the Sufficient One who has the resources needed to qualify sinful man for an eternal relationship with Himself.
Jamison, Fausset, and Brown in their commentary on Colossians, write "'Which hath made us meet' - Greek, 'who made us meet.' Not 'is making us meet' by progressive growth in holiness; but once for all made us meet. It is not primarily the Spirit's work that is meant here, as the text is often used; but the Father's work in putting us by adoption, once for all, in a new standing, namely, that of children."
What exactly are we qualified for? We are qualified "to be partakers in the inheritance of the saints in light." The term "partaker" is the noun meris, which means: "a part, share, or portion of that which has been divided or apportioned." Then, the words "in the inheritance" point us to what has been divided out to the saints. "Inheritance" is the Greek kleros, which literally meant: "a lot, that which is cast or drawn, or obtained by casting lots"
Hebrews 9:15 (NKJV) And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Notice that it is the "called" who "...receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." "Promise" is a key word in Hebrews and is inseparably related to the authors concept of inheritance (9:15 and 4:1). Rest equals inheritance, and Hebrews constantly uses the idea of inheritance of something yet unrealized (to the first century believers). What is the promised inheritance? It is the New Covenant, the New Jerusalem. The inheritance of the land in the Old Covenant was temporary, it was but a type and picture of the believer's inheritance in the new age. So, the blessing which flows from the death of Christ is an eternal inheritance.
"Light" - the Light refers to God:
1 John 1:5 (NKJV) This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
1 Timothy 6:16 (NKJV) who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
Jesus' public ministry ended in chapter 12 of John. Chapter 13 begins with Jesus' last supper with His disciples. In verse 34 of chapter 12, Jesus speaks of His coming crucifixion, and the people are in confusion. They want to know how the Son of Man can be lifted up:
John 12:35-36 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, "A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.
"A little while longer the light is with you. ..." is a reference to Him. He is God. He is the One who reveals perfectly the Triune God. So we have the inheritance in the Light because we are sons of Light. He has qualified us by the salvation He has provided.
Believers, listen, we are as eternally fit for heaven at the moment of our salvation as we ever will be. No amount of spirituality or self-discipline will make us any more fit for heaven. Fitness for heaven depends upon the finished work of Christ, not on our work for Christ. Because of the incomparable work of Christ on the cross, the believing sinner stands perfect in the sight of God:
Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
God puts into the believer, the split second he comes to know Christ, God's own righteousness:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We cannot add to or subtract from our exalted, eternal, unalterable position in Christ. This is true of every believer, no matter the quality of his life.
So we are to be thankful because God has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, and He has delivered us from the power of darkness:
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
The words "delivered" and "conveyed" relate to the themes of the Old Testament. "Delivered," is from the Greek word rhuomai, which is also aorist and suggest that which is an accomplished event. We were delivered at a point in the past - our conversion. This deliverance is absolutely finished. There is no progress in this rescue. It is an event. The Greek word carries the idea of rescue. This is a spiritual rescue which is the anti-type of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
"Power" is the Greek exousia, and means: "authority, power, or ruling power." "Darkness" in Scripture is symbolic of ignorance, falsehood, delusion, sin, and Satan. Here darkness is seen as a kingdom which has power over us. This exact expression - power of darkness - is used another time in the New Testament. In Luke, chapter 22. This is when Jesus Christ was arrested in the garden. He challenged those who came out to arrest him that night and asked, "Why did you come out with swords and clubs? I've been around for a while. I've been in the temple. You could have arrested me at any time."
Luke 22:53 (NKJV) "When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."
They were acting on behalf of the power of darkness, as do all who oppose Christ.
Believers, we have been, past tense, delivered from the power of darkness! I don't think that most believers understand this. The misunderstanding of our day is expressed by one commentator who, writing on Colossians 1:13, says, "Satan's authority over us has been broken. But note that we have not been removed from the realm of darkness." The Bible seems to say the opposite. We have been conveyed into His kingdom:
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
At the time of the writing of Colossians Satan, was defeated but not destroyed, but his destruction was soon to follow.
This commentator goes on to say, "Satan is still the ruler of this world. He is still the god of this world, as Paul called him in 2 Corinthians 4:4. The whole world still lies in the power of the evil one. Although we are no longer under his authority, we have not yet been removed from this realm." Is Satan the "god of this world"?
2 Corinthians 4:4 (NKJV) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
"World" is a bad translation, it should be "age". Satan was the god of the Old Covenant age. That age ended in A.D. 70 and so did he. Notice what Paul told the Roman believers:
Romans 16:20 (NKJV) And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
The KJV uses the word "bruise" instead of "crush." The Greek word used here is suntribo, it means: "to crush completely, i.e. to shatter (lit. or fig.):--break (in pieces)."
When was Satan to be crushed completely? Shortly! Paul said here to the Roman Christians living in the first century that it would happen shortly. Remember, audience relevance. Do you think that the believers at Rome could have conceived of 2,000 plus years as shortly? If it was to be some 2,000 plus years, how could He crush him under "their" feet? The people to whom this was written are dust now, they have no feet.
Most believers don't understand that we live in a different age than Paul and the recipients of the New Testament letters did. They lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"- they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Those "last days" began at Pentecost and ended at A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come", which is the New Covenant age. This forty year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the New Covenant had been inaugurated but not consummated. We now live in the fully consummated New Covenant age.
Look at what the New Testament says Christ accomplished:
Hebrews 2:14 (NKJV) Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
One of the aspects of Christ's earthly mission was to destroy the devil. The Greek word for destroy is katargeo: "to be (render) entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.:--abolish, cease, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void." Was Christ a failure in this mission??? Most Christians act like He was, they're still all worried about the devil. I think we want him to still be around so we have someone to blame for our sin.
1 John 3:8 (NKJV) He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
The Greek word for destroy is luo: to "loosen (lit. or fig.):--break (up), destroy, dissolve, (un-) loose, melt, put off". Christ is said to have destroyed the devil and his works. Do you believe the Bible? Or does your theology come from empiricism?
So we are to be thankful, because God has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, and He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and He has conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love:
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
"Conveyed" is from the Greek word methistemi that carries with it a very special significance. Barclay writes:
In the ancient world, when one empire won a victory over another, it was the custom to take the population of the defeated country and transfer it lock, stock and barrel to the conqueror's land. Thus the people of the northern kingdom were taken away to Assyria, and the people of the southern kingdom were taken away to Babylon. So Paul says that God has transferred the Christian to his own kingdom. That was not only a transference but a rescue (William Barclay, New Testament Words, SCM Press LTD, Bloomsbury Street, London, 1964), 133-134.)
Such transference means God's rule and personal care or provision for our lives.
So we are to be thankful, because God has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, and He has delivered us from the power of darkness, He has conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love and:
Colossians 1:14 (NKJV) in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
"In whom" points the readers to the sphere in which this redemption occurs. We might render it: "in union with whom" or "by whom we have redemption." Either way, the text stresses that it is through the Lord Jesus and the believer's relationship to Him that this deliverance occurs.
"Redemption" means: "deliverance at a cost" or "release by payment of a price." Imbedded in the word "redemption", in the original language apolutrosis, is the little word lutron: "ransom." In other words, the idea of redemption is deliverance or release by payment of a ransom. This concept is always in view even when the word redemption is used in passages such as Exodus 6:6; 15:13; Psalm 74:2; and 78:35. Even in these Old Testament passages, it is clear that redemption is based on some great expenditure of God. The price God paid is always in view. The New Testament terms for redemption always have in mind a price paid. In redemption, someone's release or deliverance is accomplished at the cost of a ransom payment. What's the ransom? What's the payment?
Mark 10:45 (NKJV) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The answer is that the life of the Son of Man is the ransom paid in redemption. That's what Paul means when he says, "The redemption which is in Christ Jesus." The redemption is in Christ Jesus, because Jesus is the ransom. He gave his life so that there could be release and deliverance.
So, here is the foundation of our justification: Christ gave his life as a ransom for many. He paid the price for our release from sin and guilt and condemnation. This is why God now, as a gift by his grace, justifies the ungodly. Everything is owing to the death of Christ. This is why you can't pay for it, and you can't work for it. It's all of Christ. The basis of your justification is not in yourself or anything you do; it is "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
Here and in Ephesians 1:7, after the word "redemption," Paul adds, "the forgiveness of sins." This is appositional (an explanatory equivalent) to the term "redemption." It tells us what redemption means in terms of its results for the believer. It means their "forgiveness." "Forgiveness" is aphesis, [af'-es-is] which means: "release" as from captivity, or "pardon, cancellation of an obligation, a punishment, guilt."
Forgiveness of sin. We read a statement like verse 14 that says we have forgiveness of sins, but do you really know what it means to be forgiven and cleansed? Most people do not realize that God forgives sins once for all. All our sins, whether past, present or future are forever forgiven. The slate is wiped clean. Every sin, no matter how vile or ugly, is forgiven. That's how great our God is. That's how wonderful His salvation is. Indeed, we are people who have much for which to thank our God.
Here in Colossians 1:12-14, the apostle has given us a brief glimpse of some of the wonderful accomplishments of what the Father has done for us in Christ. We are to be thankful, because God has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, and He has delivered us from the power of darkness, He has conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, and He has provided redemption, even the forgiveness of sins. This should cause us to always be thankful!
I'm convinced that the greatest singular act of personal worship that you can render to God is to have a thankful heart. Thanksgiving ultimately recognizes God as the source of everything. God created us, and we are to be thankful. Thanksgiving promotes contentment about our possessions, position, and providence by focusing our thoughts on the blessings God has already given to us.
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