From the Word
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:3–6, RSV
Paul rejoices in the gospel with his inmost soul. He thanks God that others have come into its fellowship. His confidence is firm regarding certain beginners in the faith, and he is so interested in their salvation as to rejoice in it as much as in his own, apparently unable to thank God sufficiently for it. He prays unceasingly that he may live to see many come with him into such fellowship and be preserved therein until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall perfect and complete all the defects of this earthly life. He prays these beginners may go forth faultlessly in faith and hope until that joyful day.
Thus the apostle pours out the depths of his heart, filled with the real fruits of the Spirit and of faith. He burns with love and joy whenever he sees the gospel recognized, accepted and honored, and the Church flourishing. For the converts he can conceive of no loftier desire — can offer no greater petition for them than to implore God that they may increase and persevere in the gospel faith. Such is the inestimable value he places upon possessing and holding fast God’s Word.
Paul is here an example of gratitude for us. It behooves the Christian who recognizes the grace and goodness of God, expressed in the gospel, first of all to manifest his thankfulness toward God and then toward men. As Christians who have abandoned the false services and sacrifices that in our past heathenish blindness we zealously practiced, let us remember our obligation henceforth to be the more fervent in offering true service and right sacrifices to God. We can render him no better service than the thank-offering, as the Scriptures call it. That is, receiving and honoring the grace of God and the preaching and hearing of his Word, and furthering their operation, not only in word, but sincerely in our hearts and with all our physical and spiritual powers. This is the truest gratitude.
These words therefore give us an exact delineation of the Christian that believes in the holy gospel. Such hearts are rare in the world and especially difficult to find, unless it be among the beloved apostles or those who approach them in the likeness of Christ. Let us not be found unthankful, and forgetful of God’s infinite goodness.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 373–74.