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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Thanksgiving

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The true ideal of human life, as interpreted in the NT, is to make it a great service of thanksgiving. The thanksgivings of our Lord, culminating in His institution of the Eucharist, which was typified in His thanksgiving prayers at the feeding of the crowds, prepared the Church for this thought, linking worship with work.

It has been finely said: ‘As prayer is a recognition of our dependence upon God amid the darkness and uncertainties of the future, so thankfulness is a recognition of our indebtedness to Him for the blessings of the past.’* [Note: P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, London, 1892, p. 217.] St. Paul’s Epistles are full of a deep spirit of joy which is the constant reward of a truly thankful spirit. All his letters addressed to churches, with the exception of the Epistle to the Galatians, begin with words of thanksgiving. We note this especially in 2 Corinthians 1:11, when the dark cloud of grief over the backsliders at Corinth is passing (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:15).

He regards unbroken and universal thanksgiving as ‘the will of God in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He traces one root of the degradation of the heathen world to lack of thanksgiving (Romans 1:21). In Romans 14:6 he demands that the scrupulous man no less than the Christian who is indifferent to ordinances about meats or days should show thankfulness.

The great collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem is to be motived by thanksgiving, and will produce results beyond the material offering in the recipients as in the givers: ‘Ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality which maketh through us thanksgiving to God’ (2 Corinthians 9:11-12). In Ephesians 5:20 he teaches that thanksgiving is the inspiration of Christian poetry and music, in which it found its most characteristic expression.

That St. Paul feels that it cannot be carried too far is proved by such strong expressions as Colossians 2:7, ‘abounding in thanksgiving,’ for the glory of the faith in Christ. His main line of thought is always ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17). He expects that the universality of our intercessions will be matched by equal universality in our thanksgivings (1 Timothy 2:1).

Finally, we note that, when writing to the Philippians, whose unwavering loyalty was a constant solace to him in many trials, his thanksgiving (Philippians 1:3-5) was ‘more than usually earnest. The Apostle dwells long and fondly on the subject. He repeats words and accumulates clauses in the intensity of his feeling’ (Lightfoot, ad loc.).

In Revelation 11:17-18 ‘the Elders represent the Church in her great function of εὐχαριστία’ (Swete, ad loc.) and respond to the great voices of the living creatures in stirring strains.

The Apostolic Fathers strike the same note, e.g. Clement of Rome (Ep. ad Cor. i, xxxviii): ‘Seeing therefore that we have all these things from Him, we ought in all things to give thanks to Him, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.’ The Ignatian Epistles are redolent of the spirit of thanksgiving, especially for the Revelation in Christ and ‘the love of the churches’ (Romans 9) (see Epistle of Barnabas, 7, quoted under Praise). See also article Prayer.

Literature.-E. von Dobschütz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church, London, 1904; W. H. Frere and A. L. Illingworth, Sursum Corda. do., 1911; W. Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, do., 1899; A. J. Worlledge, Prayer, do., 1902, pp. 219-228.

A. E. Burn.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Thanksgiving'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/t/thanksgiving.html. 1906-1918.

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