Gospel as promise, faith as thanksgiving

According to the Apostle Paul, the life of a Christian should be characterized by an abounding in thanksgiving (Col. 2:6-7). If we consider that Christian life is fundamentally a response to the Gospel, and that the character of Christian life is therefore shaped and informed by the content of the Gospel, then we can say that Christian life is fundamentally a continuous thanksgiving to God for the promises about our salvation that are communicated to us in the Gospel. In fact, we can be even more radical and say that to give thanks to God for what He promises us in the Gospel is the very essence and proper act of faith.

In the Gospel we are told that we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, for the ultimate purpose of being presented before Him as holy, blameless, and irreproachable (Col. 1:21-22). It is important to recognize that there are two aspects to the message, one that has to do with the past and one that has to do with the future. As regards the past, we are told that God has accomplished our reconciliation with Him in the person of His Son, specifically through Christ’s death. As regards the future, we are told that God’s purpose is to transform us and save us from the deleterious effects of sin, and that He will accomplish this. There is, therefore, at one and the same time, the assurance of our reconciliation and the promise of our transformation and liberation. This is the Gospel message which Paul preached wherever he would go.

Now, it would be a mistake to think that God will save everyone, regardless of whether or not they believe. Paul himself specifies that there is one thing that can prevent the fulfillment of this Gospel promise — namely, our unbelief (Col. 1:23). But we have to understand this very carefully. It is not as if faith is a condition we must satisfy in order to be on God’s good side, so to speak, so that in the end faith is something we do in order to save ourselves. On the contrary, it is not possible for us to save ourselves. But we can, through a refusal to believe the promise of our salvation that is communicated to us in the Gospel, close ourselves off to God’s grace. Paul says that our unbelief is a turning from the hope promised in Gospel; our unfaith is a refusal to believe that God will do what He promises. If we do this, then we will be lost — not because God does not want to save us, nor because we do not meet some conditions He has established for our salvation, but rather because we have closed ourselves to His saving influence through our refusal to believe the promise of our salvation in the Gospel.

But if instead of closing ourselves off, we take the Gospel word as it is preached to us; if we believe that in Christ we are reconciled to God the Father and that God will present us before Him as holy and blameless and irreproachable — if we believe this word, then the whole of our lives as Christians consists in nothing else but a joyful, lively thanksgiving to God. Generally speaking, thankfulness is the proper and natural response we give in the face of a person who promises to do us some good. Therefore, if the Gospel is itself the promise of our salvation on the basis of the perfect work of Christ, then our faith in this Gospel — since this is what makes us Christians, at the end of the day — is a continual thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us and what He has promised to do for us.

For this reason, we should always be thanking God for what He has given us and what He will give us: we thank Him for everything we’ve received from Him, for forgiving us, for giving us life, for receiving us on the basis of Christ’s merits and not for our own merits, for adopting us and becoming our Father, for giving us every spiritual blessing in Christ, for promising to be with us everywhere and at all times, for sending us the Holy Spirit, for reminding us of Him when we turn away from Him through sin, for the fact that He will raise us from the dead, for the fact that not even death can separate us from His love for us in Christ Jesus, for the fact that He will give us eternal life and wipe away every tear from eyes.