Unceasing Gratitude to God
Ephesians Lesson #039
August 18, 2019
“Our Father, we are thankful today. We’re thankful that You have provided a salvation for us that is free, a salvation that was not free to You, for it cost Your Son—the Second Person of the Trinity—entering into human history to become sin for us, as He hung on the cross to bear in His own body on the tree our sin. That He paid that sin penalty for us in untold suffering, misery that came upon Him, the perfectly righteous eternal Person, Second Person of the Trinity, as He was identified with our sin and paid its penalty.
“Father, we’re thankful for that. We’re thankful for the rich life that we have in Christ, and as we studied in Ephesians 1:3–14, the rich blessings that we have in Christ. That we have been appointed to a mission, to a task, to a destiny in Him: to serve Him, to glorify You that we have been redeemed, we have been forgiven of our sins, we have a relationship with You that is eternal and constantly becomes deeper as we come to know You through a study of Your Word, coming to understand that we have a mark upon us.
“We have been sealed—a mark of identification and ownership, that we are Yours for a destiny that includes an inheritance that is to be revealed when we are face-to-face with You, and that inheritance has everything to do with how we will rule and reign with You in the future. Father, we thank You for all of these things.
“We ask that as we study Your Word and come to be enriched by it under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit that we will be strengthened in the inner man, and that we will have great confidence in Your care and Your love for us, as You are our Ebenezer who constantly rescues us from all danger as the hymn says. And we thank You for this. In Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles this morning to Ephesians 1:16, which emphasizes gratitude, emphasizes the fact that we are to be grateful. It emphasizes Paul’s prayer of gratitude, but this is a prayer of gratitude that is not only the expression of his gratitude to God for the Ephesian believers, but each of these prayers that we have in Scripture are patterns for us. They give us ideas and concepts, they relate to what is important: what should be the priorities in our prayer life, what we should pray for, the kinds of things we pray for.
So often, in terms of our prayers, we focus on that which immediately concerns us: needs related to those near and dear to us, our family our friends, and our nation. We pray for things like this, but that is not the focus of these prayers that we see that Paul prays. That is not always the focus of the prayers that we read in the psalms. There is something more significant about which we should pray and be thankful for. We need to look at this and think our way through the emphasis in Scripture on being grateful.
We live in a world today that’s just become strident. I have quit watching many new shows simply because I’m tired of listening to people yell at each other. I’ve had such glorious peaceful mornings for the last, I think it’s been four or five years now. I get up in the morning, I go in and turn the TV on; I have DVR so it’s recording on a local channel. I go in and make my breakfast and get my coffee, and I come in and I sit down, and I rewind it to the weather forecast. I watch the weather forecast and I turn it off.
After I eat, I open my Bible and read through the Bible. It’s just a glorious way to start the day every day, not to get caught up in all the stuff that is going on around us that just distracts us. It gives you time to think about what we have that is of real significance, and that we are given by the grace of God. That is where we are focusing this morning in these two verses, what we covered last time and this time.
Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
As we look at this, we see Paul says, “Therefore,” which means he’s reaching a conclusion. He’s coming to sort of a summary that on the basis of what I have said I am going to express this prayer.
“Therefore I also …” The first thing we see that prompts this prayer of Paul’s in Ephesians 1:15–23 is what he has just said, as he is focused on what we have been given, what we have been blessed with from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is the first thing he expresses.
The second thing that he gives as a reason for his prayer is what he has heard: the report that has been given to him about the spiritual condition of the church in Ephesus. I think that is something that we don’t spend a lot of time on.
I’m not going to have anybody raise hands, but how many times are you just thankful for the people who sit around you who are constantly here at church on Sunday and at Bible class, and their growth in the Lord. Do we think about those people?
Sometimes you don’t even know those people. If we’re to pray for one another, how can you pray for people you don’t know? “I’ll just pray for all those people who are at West Houston Bible Church.” But we should at least know the people who sit around us, be aware of who they are, and that we should be able to pray for them.
That’s what Paul is doing. He’s grateful for how God is working in their lives. That’s why he can say “I’ve heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus …” That’s not just a general statement. He’s heard some specifics about what is taking place in the church in Ephesus, in the lives of the individuals and how they are growing spiritually and how they are learning to trust the Lord in situations that they have faced in an extremely pagan environment.
Remember, there was a lot of hostility when Paul was there, from the silversmiths who in fact caused a riot against Paul because the gospel was having such an impact, it was beginning to hurt their business. They made the little figurines of the idol for Artemis of the Ephesians, so they made a lot of money from selling those, and now they were losing business and losing money because the people were responding to the gospel of Christ.
He hears about their faith and how that grows in the midst of a dark pagan environment. He also talks about their love for all the saints. This isn’t just some sort of generic love; that it’s not just a love that is at a distance, but it is a love where they are praying for one another, they are helping one another when they can, when there are situations that arise where they need help and assistance, and so they are involved in each other’s lives.
We saw at the conclusion last week of the importance of love in our life. Our love for God grows as we learn about Him, and as we learn more about Him, that also increases our love, our understanding of what love is and our love for one another.
This is a common theme in Paul’s openings in Colossians 1:4, which is a parallel statement he talks about with them.
He says, “… since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for the saints.”
This is a priority, and it’s not only a priority, it’s a priority that prompts him to pray more for that congregation. That is something that should be very much a part of our prayers and our prayer life, as we come to know each other and be involved in each other’s lives to one degree or another as we go through life.
At the opening of this prayer, he talks about the fact that he heard of their faith and of their love. If we look further down, he’s speaking about the hope of his calling in Ephesians 1:18.
Here we have the mention of three words that are central to everyone’s spiritual life. Some people call these “the three foundational virtues” for the Christian life: Faith, hope, and love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, we have a summary statement by the Apostle Paul. After his talk about the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, in 1 Corinthians 13 he describes the characteristics of love.
It’s very difficult to define love. Don’t look in your dictionary. That just tells you how love is understood among the masses, but it doesn’t define it in terms of how God understands love. A dictionary simply reflects usage, and it doesn’t reflect the usage in the Bible or the usage by Christians. The love that we have for God, the love that we have for one another is not an emotion. That’s what you read in any dictionary, but this is not an in emotional thing.
Emotions are swayed by all kinds of factors, some of which are beyond our control. We wake up in the morning and sometimes we have energy, sometimes we don’t have energy. Sometimes we feel up and we bounce out of bed, and other mornings we drag ourselves to the coffee pot and use all of our energy to turn it on and make coffee, so we can become alert.
All of that just changes every single day. The love of God and the love that we have been given as a fruit of the Spirit is a stable love. It is a love that doesn’t vacillate with circumstances. And it’s the only kind of love that is developed by the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Paul talks about this. Then in contrast, he breaks into that with this discussion about the impermanence of certain spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 13:8, which we’ll reference again later on, he says “love never fails, but knowledge will be abolished, tongues will cease”—which indicates a complete ending, and we will look at that word when we come back to it a little later in this passage—and then wisdom will be abolished.
Then he comes to the conclusion of this discussion about the temporary gifts. He says, but “now—“now” meaning in this apostolic age because of the word he uses for “now” in contrast to another word for “now” that he uses in the previous verse that indicates a more immediate now. This is a broader “now” in terms of the Church Age—but “now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
This isn’t the only place where we find these three connected. They’re connected in our passage in Ephesians 1 and in 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Also, just a reminder, that when we talk about faith, faith is trusting in something that is not tangible. It’s not based on empiricism, it’s not based on our rationalism. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith operates in this age; it operates as we are in the Church Age.
But when we either (a) die or (b) get raptured, we will be face-to-face with the Lord where we see Him. That is not faith; that is sight. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the evidence of things NOT seen.” Faith is not operative when we get face-to-face with the Lord.
Second, hope is not operative when we are face-to-face with the Lord. In Romans 8:24 Paul says, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope …”
When we’re face-to-face with the Lord, we realize that confident expectation that hope describes. That means when we’re face-to-face with the Lord, faith is not operative anymore because we see that reality. Hope is not operative anymore because we’re living in the realization of that expectation. But love is still operative because God is love. Love goes on for all eternity. That’s why Paul concludes by saying the greatest of these is love.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, we see a reference to these three virtues again. Paul praises them and he talks about remembering what God is doing in their life, and he says, “… remembering without ceasing your work of faith, your labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.”
He uses these three phrases that are connected with the genitive “work of faith.” Sometimes we might say, “Well, wait a minute! How can faith be a work? I thought faith was not a work. I thought faith was non-meritorious. That’s why you have to understand the grammar at times.
This is a genitive of source. The work comes from the source of faith. We serve the Lord because we believe Him, and we are walking in faith. So it’s not saying faith is a work. It is saying that when we are walking by faith, then the result of that is that we serve the Lord. That is the first aspect.
Then he uses a synonym for work in the second phrase, “labor of love.” It’s the labor that love produces. When we love someone, we will labor for them. If you’re a mother or father and you have a child, then you have a great idea of what that means. You love that child and you put forth great efforts to do things for that child or for your children. Labor that is produced by love.
Third, hope, that confident expectation, produces for us patience. I don’t care for this translation of this Greek word HUPOMONE. It really means persistence or endurance in times of difficulty.
We can endure things because we see a light at the end of the tunnel. The light at the end of the tunnel is our being face-to-face with the Lord, realizing that hope that we have, that confident expectation. That’s what hope means.
It’s not this wishy-washy optimism, that wishful optimism, that, “Well, I want to go out and do some things this afternoon. I hope it doesn’t rain. There’s 30% chance of rain, so maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but we don’t know.” That’s not how the Bible uses the word “hope.” Hope is a confident expectation. It is a future certainty, a reality.
When we’re living today in light of eternity, we can face whatever comes our way: whatever the circumstances may be, whatever positive, wonderful things we experience in life or whatever difficult things we face in life. Because we know that God is working all things together for good. Because we know that there is a meaning and a purpose for whatever adversity, whatever suffering, there might be.
We can endure, we can persist in obedience to God—HUPOMONE—because of that hope. That hope produces endurance—that hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the sight of God and Father.
1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul comes back and mentions these three again, “But let us who are of the day be sober …”
That doesn’t mean to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages and getting drunk. The word “sober” has to do with clear thinking, thinking that is not going to be muddied up with wrong ideas, false beliefs, being distracted by the cares of the world. It is objective thinking that is based on the reality of God’s Word. So, to be able to think soberly, you have to know the Word of God and think in terms of God’s plans and purposes.
We are “of the day;” that is, the day is when the sun’s out and there’s light, so this is used as a figure of speech for the fact that we have been enlightened. That’s the phrase that Paul’s uses when we get to Ephesians 1:18. We’ll talk about the eyes of your understanding having been enlightened. It’s a perfect tense.
Here he is using that imagery of day because we are of the day: we have been enlightened at regeneration. We received the Holy Spirit. We have been enlightened to the truth. We “who are of the day.” We have been enlightened, we are believers; we’re to do something: we are to put on the breastplate of faith and love.
This is not talking about positional here. Being in the light, we are sons of the light. That’s what Paul will say in Ephesians 5: we are of the light, we are sons of the light. Then he says walk in the light.
That’s what he’s talking about here. You have a position: that is who you are as a member of God’s family. Then you have your behavior, which is how you’re supposed to live as a member of God’s family. As a member of God’s family, to realize the benefits and blessing of being of the day, we have to put on the breastplate of faith and love.
How do you do that you do that? First of all, you have to spend some time in the Word because faith is not something that is just, “Well, I just believe it.” We live in a world today when there are lot of people who talk about the importance of faith, but it’s just faith in faith. It’s faith in something rather than something specific.
In the New Age, it was very common to talk about this, and you have various false teachers in the church who will talk about the importance of faith, but they never define it. In Scripture faith always has Scripture as its object. Now you may say, “Well, wait a minute! My object of my faith is in God or in the Son or in the Spirit.”
Yes, but how do you know about the Father, Son, and Spirit? You don’t know them any other way except through the Word. So, it is the Word that is the focal point of our faith, and because of the Word we know that we have faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Everything is always mediated for us through the Word of God.
We put on the breastplate of faith, which is the faith-rest drill: trusting in the promises and the provision of God, which means we need to be memorizing Scripture. As David says in the psalms, we need to hide God’s Word in our heart. We need to memorize Scripture so that God the Holy Spirit can bring those Scriptures to mind, as we go through our lives, living our lives, on a day-to-day basis.
That is how we put on the breastplate of faith. Now a breastplate is a piece of armor that protects all of the important organs in the torso, and that’s what faith does. It is something God provides to protect us when we are going through times of adversity, times of temptation, times of testing. We put on the breastplate of faith, and it’s also the breastplate of love.
Love is a problem-solving spiritual skill. As we deal with people, it is often easy to get distracted and to get irritated, angry, bitter, resentful, and vindictive towards those who have done something to us or said things negatively about us, those who have mistreated us. The way to deal with that is, remember, that we are to love them, love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to love them as Christ loved them.
God the Father sent His Son to die on the Cross. The love of God was demonstrated by sending His Son to die on the Cross for those who had enmity with Him. Not for those who liked Him, but for those who are hostile to Him. That is the pattern for love.
As we grow in Scripture we grow in our knowledge of God, and that then converts to a love for God because we understand who He is and what He has done for us. Incidentally, that’s got to be related to gratitude.
When I talk about the spiritual skills, one of the basic spiritual skills is grace orientation. Grace orientation means that our thinking is going to be aligned to understanding that God’s grace permeates everything in our life. Grace is something that is not earned or deserved. Grace is that God has freely given to us everything that we need for the spiritual life.
When we come to understand grace, the English word from the Latin word is gratia, also the root for the word gratitude. As we come to understand God’s grace, we develop gratitude for God, and as we develop gratitude for God, that expands our love for Him. All of those things go together. Grace and gratitude form a foundation for the love for God. That is how we put on this breastplate of faith and love.
Then the helmet which protects the head: the brain, the source of where our soul is located—as a helmet the hope of salvation. Hope is that confident expectation. Salvation there is not Phase 1 salvation of justification. It is not Phase 2, which is our spiritual growth, where we are working out our salvation in fear and trembling.
But it is our future face-to-face salvation when we realize all of our salvation and we’re face-to-face with the Lord. Again, that ties back to what Paul said in Ephesians 1:3 about the endurance that hope produces. So that hope produces that which protects our soul as we live in light of eternity and our future deliverance and salvation.
1 Peter 1:21, “who through Him—that is Christ—believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are to be in God.”
He is the object of our faith and our hope. We may have faith in Christ for salvation, but ultimately we’re looking at faith and hope in God. Here I think God is not distinguishing the Father from the Son or the Holy Spirit but is talking about the whole Godhead as the object of our faith and our hope.
1 Peter 1:22 Peter writes, “Since you have purified your souls by obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love for the brethren, love one another constantly with a pure heart.”
So, since we have obeyed the truth: that is going to result in our growth in love for one another. As we do that he recognizes, among those he’s writing, that they have a love for one another.
He says on top of that, continue to increase, love one another constantly. This is to be a constant characteristic of our life with a pure heart. Not that we are living according to our sin nature, but we’re loving from a position of walking by the Spirit. Why?
1 Peter 1:23, “because you have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”
In our passage Paul builds this prayer—the reason for his prayer, and the prayer itself—around these three foundational virtues in the Christian life.
He says in Ephesians 1:16, “do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
What does he mean when he says, “I don’t cease?” The Greek word here is PAUO, and it means to see something, to stop something, something that you’re doing and you’re going to bring it to an end. But it’s an interesting word in the way it’s used, and we need to flesh it out just a little bit. I’m going to look at what it means positively. Here he uses it negatively, “I do not cease.” But first we have to understand what it means positively.
In these examples we see that “cease” indicates completely stopping something that is in progress. And it’s not going to start up in a couple hours or be repeated again soon. It’s something that is going to come to a complete halt.
That’s the significance in 1 Corinthians 13:8 when he says tongues will cease. It’s going to stop! It’s not going to start up again. It’s not going to come back. It’s over with.
We see it used in Luke 8:24. The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee. This huge storm comes up, and our Lord is just taking a nap. He’s asleep, He is very comfortable, and He knows what the situation is: that this is for the glory of God to demonstrate that He is in control of creation.
They come running to Him in panic, Lord, “Master, Master, we are perishing! Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased …” The storm’s over! Sun’s out! It ends. Doesn’t come back. That’s the idea of cessation. It just ends it.
Acts 21:32, the situation with the Apostle Paul, where he is at the center of a riot in the temple. The unsaved Jews have identified who he is, and they want to grab him and arrest him. So, the Roman centurion “took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they—that is, the Jews—saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.”
They didn’t start it up after they left. They didn’t start it up later on. It’s a complete ending of an activity, complete cessation of an activity. That’s the meaning of the word PAUO.
When we look at it when it’s used with a negative, not ceasing, we have a couple of other examples from Acts.
Acts 5:42 is talking about the apostles continuing to teach in the temple, even when the Sanhedrin has ordered them to stop and to not preach in the name of Jesus anymore.
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Messiah.”
Now does that mean that’s all they did? Does that mean they did it every minute of every hour of every day? No. It meant that this was something that was continuous, it continuously characterized what they were doing, but it was not something that they did every moment of every day.
In Acts 20:31 Paul says, “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years—talking to the Ephesian elders—I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
Here “did not cease” is modified by “night and day.” That’s a merism, a figure of speech. He is not saying he did it every night. He’s not saying he did it every day. Night and day must be taken together as a figure of speech, which indicates a whole.
For example, in Genesis 1 “it’s morning and it’s evening, Day 1.” It’s talking about the two opposites. God creates the heavens and the earth. He created the whole universe. So, day and night here indicates that this was something that he did daily and that he did it continuously, but he’s not doing it every moment of every day. He’s getting a good night’s sleep, but he is involved in the ministry of the Word every single day.
We change to a slightly different word in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. At the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives these very quick staccato exhortations, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 he talks about prayer. I think “rejoicing always” is focusing on an aspect of prayer that we are doing something, actually, we have joy, and that is related to our walk with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always …” or always rejoice. The verb, CHAIRO, is from the noun for joy, and it’s a command. It’s a present active imperative, and it means to do this.
Joy is not is not an emotion. It is a mental attitude that you can respond to and engage volitionally. You have to make a decision, “I am going to be joyful whether I want to or not.” We’re not going to focus on the mutating circumstances, we’re going to focus on the Lord.
Jesus had unchanging joy even as He’s in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s focusing on what is about to occur and He is overwhelmed with sorrow and grief, as Matthew tells us, but at the same time, He has perfect joy.
I taught on this the other night. That this seems odd to a lot of people that we can have great joy at the same time we’re grieving and we have sorrow. That’s what Paul means when he says that we grieve at the time of the death of a loved one, but not like those who have no hope because we have a confident expectation of resurrection and being with the Lord eternally. We are to rejoice always.
1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing,” and the word translated there “without ceasing” is not the word PAUO. It’s a completely different word. It’s a synonym, and it means unceasingly or constantly, and it has this idea more of just sort of having a hacking cough.
Some of you have noticed that for the last two weeks, I’ve had this hacking cough. It’s gotten a little better. Some days I go all day and I never cough, and then I lie down at night, and within 10 minutes all of a sudden I’m coughing and I can’t sleep, and then after little while it goes away. It’s just been continuous for two weeks, but it’s not every moment of every day. I may not even cough for eight or nine hours, and then all of a sudden I have this little bout of coughing.
That’s the idea of ADIALEIPTOS: it’s just something continuous. It is something that is part of your life on a regular basis: that we are to pray without ceasing. Sometimes we are going to pray more frequently and more often. Sometimes you don’t have time because you’re focused on responsibilities at your employment, whatever that may be, or something else that you’re doing.
But when the time permits, then you’re praying, whether it’s a short bullet prayer or whether it’s a more lengthy prayer. This is what should characterize our lives is unceasing prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
This is interesting. We will look at a similar phrase in Ephesians where we’re to be thankful FOR all things. Not only IN all things or IN whatever circumstance we may find ourselves, but we’re to be thankful FOR everything. When things are good, when things are bad.
There’s a reason that God brings testing into our life, and that is to give us opportunities to trust Him and to grow as believers. So, we are to be thankful. We’re to face life with an attitude of joy and an attitude of gratefulness to God for all that He has given.
I find that if I begin my day focusing on just being thankful that I woke up that morning, thankful my name’s not in the obituaries yet, thankful that my wife wakes up in the morning, thankful that I have opportunity to serve the Lord another day, and to study His Word and to be a testimony for Him.
Focus on the fact that we have opportunities today that we can be thankful for that are going to give us an opportunity to claim promises and grow spiritually, and to put our focus on that which has eternal value and not on just the temporal things that bother us day in and day out.
We need to develop that. It will change our mentality throughout every day that we start focusing on just being grateful for the things that God has given us. Make a list. Write it down. You’ll be amazed how many things that we just take for granted, sometimes, from God. When we read the Scripture, we see how many of these become objects of gratitude for us.
Ephesians 1:16, Paul “does not cease to give thanks for you.” This is the Greek verb EUCHARISTEO, and it’s a present active participle, so he says, “I don’t cease giving thanks.”
What he means by that is thanking God for you; that is, the Ephesian believers—the Ephesian church.
As he gets into developing this, he then says in the next phrase, he says, “making mention of you in my prayers.”
This is an interesting idiom because when you look at it in the Greek, it uses the verb POIEO, which means to do or to work or to make something. It has a range of meanings related to production. It’s a participle, so it’s “I make” or “I do.”
The next word is a noun MNEIA, which means remembrance. But together it’s an idiom that means that I am remembering something, I’m not “making memories.” Literally, that might be the way somebody might want to translate this, but that’s not the idea.
It is the idea of remembering and focusing on things about them and mentioning them as he remembers what they have done, so he’s remembering and talking to God about them, “I make mention of you in my prayers.”
It’s interesting how the Apostle Paul does this over and over again. When he is writing letters to these different congregations that he has been instrumental in establishing, he writes about how frequently he prays for them.
We could spend a tremendous amount of time in prayer, we think, as we look at all the different prayer requests that come through. I find it helpful to divide things up. This is what I’m going to pray for on Monday, this is what I will pray for on Tuesday, this is what I’m going to pray for on Wednesday, this is what I’m going to pray for on Thursday. But even if I only pray for some of you every Monday, I continually pray for you. So that is an approach to this.
When we look back through the Epistles, and we see this pattern of gratitude in Paul’s prayers. He says to the Romans in Romans 1:8–9, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all.”
Why? Just because you’re nice and just because you are there? No, “… that your faith is spoken of throughout the world.”
You have a reputation. People know about you. People know about West Houston Bible Church. People know that those who are West Houston Bible Church are learning the Word. There is a reputation. We know that there is a similar reputation for other churches that we know about. We’re not exclusive to that.
Paul is saying this, and he thanks God. Notice, he thanks God, there it’s God the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our Intercessor. We don’t pray to Jesus Christ. He’s not saying, “I thank Jesus for you.” He thanks God the Father. God the Father is the Architect and the Overseer of His plan.
The role of the Son is to intercede for us, and the role of the Spirit is to intercede for us, and this is one reason we say that we are to pray to God the Father. You can’t find an example of Paul praying to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. He prays to the Father through the Son. The Son is the One who enables us, makes it possible by our salvation, to pray to God.
He prays to God, he thanks God “through Jesus Christ that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”
Romans 1:9, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing …” He doesn’t use PAUO, he uses ADIALEIPTOS “without ceasing”, so he’s practicing what he is giving instructions about in 1 Thessalonians, “that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.”
It’s that same idea. He constantly is praying, not every moment of every day, but when you look back over the year, day in day out he prays for different groups, different people, and he brings them to memory.
Romans 16:3–4, we find that he is thankful for Priscilla and Aquila because they “risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”
That’s another thing, he’s thankful for what other believers have done in helping him and providing for him, and in this case, protecting him.
1 Corinthians 1:4. The Corinthians, remember, were a pretty messed up group. They had more fun living on the basis of their sin nature than walking by the Spirit. They were divided, they fought with each other, they were involved in all sorts of sins and arrogance, and yet Paul says:
“I thank my God always—literally it says “I give thanks to my God”—“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.”
Notice he didn’t say, “I’m thankful for your reputation of faith.” He is not thankful for their application because there’s not much. But he’s thankful for the grace of God that was given to them, 1 Corinthians 1:5, that they “were enriched in everything by Him—and then I think it’s a little tongue-in-cheek here—in utterance—because they were abusing what they thought was the gift of tongues—and all knowledge.”
They were abusing knowledge as well, so there’s a little sarcasm going on here. He tells them that God has enriched them in all of these areas. He’s thankful for what the grace of God has given to them.
In Ephesians 5:20 Paul will return to this theme of thanksgiving and he says we’re “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father … ” Notice again he’s addressing his prayer to God the Father in the name or on the basis of who Jesus Christ is. We always take this to mean that we are going to close out our prayer “in the name of Jesus”.
Paul means something much more than that. He means that we recognize that the basis for which we come into the presence of God is the work of Christ on the Cross, and that we have trusted Him as our Savior, that that is what gives us access to the throne of grace.
We give thanks here not IN all things, as he said in 1 Thessalonians, but FOR all things: The good things, the bad things, the hard things, the easy things, the fun things.
Philippians 1:3–5, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always—notice these words “every” and “always;” it’s continuous—always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.”
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, he’s an apostle! How can God expect that of me? This is his job!” Well, remember, Paul was a tent maker. He worked from sun up to sun down in some places, but even while he is working, he can take time in his mind to pray, so he is always in every prayer “making request for you all with joy for your fellowship.”
He is thankful for their application of the Word, their participation and partnership in his ministry. This letter that he wrote in Philippians is partially a thank you note for the way they have sent a contribution to him while he is in prison in Rome.
Remember in 2 Corinthians 8:1–3 he says that the Macedonians—that’s the Philippians—gave from their poverty, not from their wealth. They did not have much, but they still gave to support the Apostle Paul.
1 Thessalonians 1:2, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …”
We’ve already talked about this, but again, it’s emphasizing what he’s praying for. And what he’s grateful for is the way the Word of God is working its way out in your life.
He does the same thing in 2 Thessalonians 1:2–5, he says, “We are bound.” It’s an interesting word in the Greek. It means I’m obligated. That applies to every one of us. We have an obligation.
Some people think that obligation means legalism. But if you have a car, you have an obligation to take care of the car. It’s an inherent responsibility because you’re an owner. If you are renting someplace or owning someplace, you have an obligation to take care of it.
“We are obligated to thank God always for you …” That is part of our responsibility as believers to thank God for other believers and to pray for them.
“… because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds towards each other.”
He continues to pray because of the way they are growing in faith and their love for one another.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 starts off almost the same way, but then it changes, “But we are bound—that is, we’re obligated—to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
Going back to those foundational doctrines which we have studied.
We’ve seen in both 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20, we’re to give thanks for all things and in all things.
Gratitude should encompass our lives. If we’re self-centered, we’re not going to be grateful. Because when you’re grateful, you’re recognizing that what you have comes from God. But when we’re self-absorbed and living on our sin nature, it’s all about me.
When we pray, just a reminder, I use this acronym of CATS to talk about the elements of prayer. Now not every prayer has all these elements and sometimes we just take one element and that’s the whole prayer.
“C” is for confession.
“A” is for adoration or praise.
“T” is for thanksgiving.
“S” is for supplication.
Supplication involves two things: We are interceding or praying for others, and we are also petitioning God for ourselves. Sometimes we just focus on one or the other, or two or three, but those are the basic elements of prayer.
We see in Ephesians 1:16 that we should be like Paul in this, to pray without ceasing, to continuously give thanks and to focus on all that God has given us.
“Father we’re thankful for all that You’ve provided for us. We’re thankful for Your Word, we’re thankful that we have Your Word, we’re thankful that we have decent translations and that we have good teaching to help us understand Your Word.
“That You have not just given us Your Word so that we can be stimulated intellectually, but so that it will transform our lives. That we will recognize the error, the deceit, the lies that dominate in the world around us and the lies that also are generated by our own sin nature, and the deception that comes from our own arrogance.
“Father, we pray that You would expose these things to us in the light of Your Word, that we might be transformed by the renewing of our mind. And that in terms of renewing our mind, that’s not just in intellectual content, but it also involves being grateful, it involves being joyful, rejoicing always no matter what our circumstances may be.
“And that recognizing this isn’t some sort of giddy excitement. It is just a stable attitude of happiness, of joy, contentment because we know we’re in Your plan and there is a purpose for whatever is going on in our life, whether we understand it or not.
“Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here, anyone listening to this message online, that if there’s anyone who is unsure or uncertain of their eternal life, of what would happen if they were to die today, that they would come to grips with what the Scripture says.
“That it’s not by works of righteousness which we have done, that it doesn’t depend on anything that we’ve done, it’s not going to be canceled by some sin, some horrible thing that’s happened in the past, it’s not on the basis of anything that we do. It’s on the basis of what Jesus Christ did for us.
“Jesus went to the Cross, He paid for our sins, and that we either accept that or reject it. When we accept it, we believe on Him, we trust in Him and Him alone, and that is what secures us an eternal salvation. Instantly we are given new life, we are born again, we are in Him and we have a new destiny, we are part of a new royal family, your royal family. And we have a mission given to us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to serve You.
“Father, we pray You’d challenge us with all these things in Christ’s name, amen.”