With Joy, Give Thanks to God (Colossians 1:11c-12) ~ A Devotion for August 21, 2014

“With joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” ~ Colossians 1:11c-12

Explanation of the Text: There is much discussion about the phrase “with joy” found in verse 11. Some say that it is meant to modify both patience and endurance found in verse 11, while others say that it modifies giving thanks in verse 12. Between verses 10-12 there are four participles in the text (a participle is a form that expresses a state of a verb; usually you can see this with forms that end in -ing). Douglas Moo notes that the first three participles are each modified by a prepositional phrase (bearing fruit in every good work; growing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with power) and therefore it would make sense that this fourth participle, giving, would be modified with the prepositional phrase “with joy.”[1] I would tend to agree with this position, as would other scholars such as F.F. Bruce[2] and David Garland.[3] Therefore, with that understanding, Paul commands believers to give thanks and the character of being thankful is that of joy.

It stands to reason that if Paul is commanding individuals to be thankful, then this is more than a mere feeling, but rather it implies that there is a process that takes place in which the individual actively makes a decision to be thankful; therefore thankfulness is a spiritual discipline in which a person can grow in.[4] Having discussed walking worthy of the Lord, thanksgiving is part of the character one must develop as part of that walk. The act of thanksgiving should be habitual because it demonstrates that a person has a continual recognition of what God provided through salvation.[5] It is an acknowledgment of the act of God in the lives of the individual and that it is so great, praise and thanksgiving are given to God.

Not only is giving thanks with joy a character of walking worthy, but it is also a natural response to things that God has done. In this case, it is a response to the fact that God has qualified a person to take part in the inheritance of saints in the light. Saints would refer to believers, who have been set aside by God as His holy, chosen people and as such, they have an inheritance in the light. The language of inheritance evokes the imagery of the Exodus in which Israel was to inherit the Promised Land, an earthly inheritance. But unlike this earthly inheritance, the Saints have a spiritual inheritance. According to Psalm 119:130 and Ephesians 5:8-14, light represents both truth and purity. Therefore, the saints have an inheritance in the light, which would be in the spiritual realm of truth and purity, where God dwells.[6] There is also a key point to this inheritance. According to the verse, those who receive the inheritance do so because they were qualified, but it was not based on anything that they did themselves, but rather it is because God qualified them. “Though believers are unfit themselves, God has fitted them to share in the inheritance of His holy people.”[7] So not only is thankfulness the result of being able to participate in the inheritance, but it is a result for the work of God in one’s life in order to qualify them.

Examination & Application of the Text: Quite simply this text compels us to the need to be thankful to God. I would suggest that thankfulness would be exemplified through obedience to Him. The question that must first be considered is, “Am I giving thanks to God with joy?” The reality is that most of us are not. We forget the very nature of what God has done for us in that He qualified us to be part of the inheritance. Note that this act of qualification is past tense, meaning that the work was already done. However, the participation in the inheritance is ongoing. It is something that we participate in now and something with future consequences in that we have assurance today for the future of eternity with Him. Like the continual act of participation in the inheritance, thanksgiving should also be continual. Likewise, giving thanks is not simply an obligation or responsibility you do, kind of the way so many send on thank you cards simply because they ‘have to.’ Instead, it is supposed to be with joy, implying that it is something you want to do because you recognize the significance of what has taken place.

Exemplify Christlikeness to those around you because of the thanksgiving you have to God. Your thanksgiving should be reflected in a lifestyle that makes others want to participate with you, thus leading them to a relationship with Christ also.

[1] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 100.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 48.

[3] David E. Garland, Colossians/Philemon, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 77.

[4] David E. Garland, Colossians/Philemon, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 77.

[5] Homer A. Kent, Jr., Treasures of Wisdom: Studies in Colossians & Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 43.

[6] John MacArthur Jr., Colossians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 38.

[7] Norman Geisler, Colossians, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Ed. by John F. Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 2671.

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