Thanking God For His People

Bible Book: Philippians  1 : 3
Subject: Thanksgiving; Thankful For God's People

H.G. Bosch shared the following story, “In 1765, John Fawcett was called to pastor a very small congregation at Wainsgate, England. He labored there diligently for 7 years, but his salary was so meager that he and his wife could scarcely obtain the necessities of life. Though the people were poor, they compensated for this lack by their faithfulness and warm fellowship.

“Then Dr. Fawcett received a call from a much larger church in London, and after lengthy consideration decided to accept the invitation. As his few possessions were being placed in a wagon for moving, many of his parishioners came to say good-bye. Once again they pleaded with him to reconsider.

“Touched by this great outpouring of love, he and his wife began to weep. Finally Mrs. Fawcett exclaimed, ‘O John, I just can’t bear this. They need us so badly here.’

“’God has spoken to my heart, too!’ he said. ‘Tell them to unload the wagon! We cannot break these wonderful ties of fellowship.’

“This experience inspired Fawcett to write a hymn. ‘Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love! The fellowship of kindred mind is like to that above.’” (From Paul Lee Tan’s “Encyclopedia Of 15,000 Illustrations” # 3772)

Like John Fawcett, we can be appreciative to God for His people. And that’s what I want to talk about this morning: “Thanking God For His People.”

Last week, we began a series of sermons dealing with the subject of “Thanking God.” And last Sunday morning, we looked at the situation of the ten lepers in Luke 17 who were healed by Jesus, and one came back “Thanking God For His Pardon” from the lifelong sentence of that dreaded disease. Then last Sunday night, we considered Psalm 136 where the psalmist was “Thanking God For His Pity” or His mercy.

There are repeated instances where the apostle Paul expressed thankfulness to God because of the friends and fellow-believers that God had brought into his life. And this morning, it’s on my heart to gather some of these gleanings of gratitude from the writings and ministry of this dear man of God in the New Testament. Again, we’re talking about “Thanking God For His People.”

Of course, even Paul recognized “that in the last days … men shall be … unthankful …” (2 Timothy 3:1-2). And sadly, a lack of thankfulness exists even in the context of the church. For example:

After church one Sunday morning, a mother commented, “The choir was awful this morning.”

The father commented, “The sermon was too long.”

Their 7-year-old daughter added, “You’ve got to admit it was a pretty good show for a dollar.” (As seen in the e-newsletter “You Make Me Laugh” for August 13, 2008 from”

Again though, there are many examples of Paul expressing his thanks to God. And a number of times, he expressed his thanks to God for the Christians to whom he wrote. That is the case in our “springboard” text where Paul said, in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,…”

The great commentator Matthew Henry said of this statement that…

Paul remembered them: he bore them much in his thoughts; and though they were out of sight, and he was at a distance from them, yet they were not out of his mind. … As he often thought of them, so he often spoke of them, and delighted to hear them spoken of. The very mention of them [brought gratitude to his heart].

But this word of appreciation was no isolated incident. No; Paul was very generous with his gratitude. And as we discover some of Paul’s thanksgiving texts, we’re reminded that…

I. We Can Thank God That His People Are A Saved People

Craig S. Keener explained that…

Thanksgivings were common in letters. As in speeches, letters might open with a proem praising the reader, which was designed to secure the reader’s favor for the rest of the letter. Moralists who gave rebuking speeches or wrote rebuking letters also mixed in praise to make their advice easier to accept.

(From the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

Nevertheless, Paul’s words of thanks are not mere “icebreakers” used to draw his readers in. But they are sincere expressions of his deep gratitude to God. And he was thankful, and…

A. We’re Thankful That His People Have Experienced Favor

1. God’s Grace Is A Marvelous Thing – Here We See The Advocate Of Grace

(1 Corinthians 1:4) I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

Julia Harriette Johnston wrote…

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! … Grace that is greater than all our sin.

It was A. T. Robertson who noted…

Even in the church in Corinth he finds something to thank God for, though in 2 Corinthians there is no expression of thanksgiving because of the acute crisis in Corinth nor is there any in Galatians. But Paul is gracious here and allows his general attitude concerning the Corinthians to override the specific causes of irritation.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary said…

By ... Christ – literally [indicates], IN Christ; given you as members in Christ.

In any event, Jesus Christ is God’s channel of grace.

2. God’s Grace Is A Manifested Thing – Here We See The Avenue Of Grace

(2 Thessalonians 2:13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

God has graciously saved us, and this journey has been made via the path of faith and it has involved the process of sanctification.

Albert Barnes said…

[Through sanctification of the Spirit] Being made holy by the Divine Spirit. … No one can have evidence that he is chosen to salvation except as he has evidence that he is sanctified by the Spirit;

Again, A. T. Robertson said that “salvation” here refers to “the ultimate goal, final salvation.” If that is the case, then the “sanctification” is making us “heaven ready.”

B. We’re Thankful That His People Have Exhibited Faith

1. Paul Mentioned The Reputation Of The Roman Believers’ Faith

(Romans 1:8) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

spoken of – Greek 2605. kataggello, kat-ang-gel'-lo; from G2596 and the base of G32; to proclaim, promulgate:--declare, preach, shew, speak of, teach.

Barnes said…

“Faith” is put here for the whole of religion, and means the same as your piety. Faith is one of the principal things of religion; one of its first requirements; and hence, it signifies religion itself. The readiness with which the Romans had embraced the gospel, the firmness with which they adhered to it, was so remarkable, that it was known and celebrated everywhere.

2. Paul Mentioned A Reflection Of The Roman Believers’ Faith

(Romans 6:17) But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

He is reflecting back upon the fact that they “were the servants of sin, but…”

Again, Barnes says…

The sense of this passage is plain. The ground of the thanksgiving was not that they had been the slaves of sin; but it is, that notwithstanding this, or although they had been thus, yet that they were now obedient. To give thanks to God that people were sinners, would contradict the whole spirit of this argument, and of the Bible. But to give thanks that although people had been sinners, yet that now they had become obedient; that is, that great sinners had become converted, is in entire accordance with the spirit of the Bible, and with propriety.

II. We Can Thank God That His People Are A Special People

A. They Are Special In That They Are Servants Of Goodness

1. The Realm Of Paul’s Thanksgiving Was Prayer

(1 Thessalonians 1:2-3) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; {3} Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

prayers – Greek 4335. proseuche, pros-yoo-khay'; from G4336; prayer (worship); by impl. an oratory (chapel):--X pray earnestly, prayer.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that…

Rather than being a source of grief these Christians evoked gratitude. In this they served as models for all Christians.

Matthew Henry wrote…

The apostle begins with thanksgiving to God … who is the author of all that good that comes to us, or is done by us, at any time. God is the object of all religious worship, of prayer and praise. … He joined prayer with his praise or thanksgiving. When we in every thing by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God, we should join thanksgiving therewith,

2. The Reason For Paul’s Thanksgiving Was Plain

(1 Thessalonians 1:2-3) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; {3} Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

Not that A. T. Robertson explained these remembered components of the Thessalonians Christian life…

Your work of faith

Ergou (“work”) is the general term for work or business, employment, task. This phrase suggests “the activity that faith inspires.”

Labour of love

Kopos (“labour”) is from koptoo, meaning to cut, to lash, to beat the bread, to toil. So here it is the labor that love prompts, assuming gladly the toil.

Patience of hope

It is patience marked by hope, “the endurance inspired by hope” (Frame), yes, and sustained by hope in spite of delays and set-backs.

(From Word Pictures in the New Testament)

B. They Are Special In That They Are Sources Of Gladness

(1 Thessalonians 3:9) For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

1. There Was An Inexpressible Aspect In His Thanksgiving

what thanks can we render to God

Adam Clarke wrote…

[What thanks can we render to God] The high satisfaction and uncommon joy which the apostle felt are strongly depicted in the language he uses.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary suggested that Paul is saying “what sufficient thanks” can we give?

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says…

The force of Paul’s rhetorical question is, “We cannot thank God enough for you because of all the joy you have brought to our hearts by your endurance in these trials.”

The gratitude that he felt went beyond words.

2. There Was An Inspirational Aspect In His Thanksgiving

He was thankful that they brought joy to his heart.

Albert Barnes said…

What expression of thanksgiving can we render to God that shall be an equivalent for the joy which your holy walk has furnished, or which will suitably express our gratitude for it.

joy – Greek 5479. chara, khar-ah'; from G5463; cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight:--gladness, X greatly, (X be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous).

Paul indicated that he was rejoicing with gladness in God’s presence, and that the Thessalonian believers had inspired such glad rejoicing.

III. We Can Thank God That His People Are A Sharing People

A. God’s People Have Lifted Our Spirits

1. Some Have Been An Encouragement Through Their Presence

(Acts 28:15) And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

The Pulpit Commentary sheds light on the encouraging action of these believers at Rome…

The news of the arrival of the illustrious confessors reached the Church at Rome. The writer of that wonderful Epistle which they had received some three years before, and in which he had expressed his earnest desire to visit them, and his hope that he should come to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:11,12,15; 15:22,24,28-32), was now almost at their gates as a prisoner of state, and they would soon see him face to face. They naturally determined to go and meet him, to honor him as an apostle, and show their love to him as a brother. The younger and more active would go as far as Appii Forum, “a village on the Via Appia, forty-three miles from Rome” (Meyer). The rest only came as far as The Three Taverns, ten miles nearer to Rome.

Who has gone the extra mile in your life?

2. Some Have Been An Encouragement Through Their Protection

(Romans 16:3-4) Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: {4} Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that Priscilla and Aquila…

Risked their own lives to save that of the apostle. The occasion referred to was either that of his first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:1-10), or … what took place at Ephesus, as recorded in Acts 19:30-31; and cf. 1 Cor 15:32). They must by this time have returned from Ephesus – where we last find them in the History of the Acts – to Rome, whence the edict of Claudius had banished them (Acts 18:2); and if they were not the leading members of that Christian community, they wore at least the most endeared to our apostle.

B. God’s People Have Loved The Saints

(Ephesians 1:15-16) Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, {16} Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

1. Notice The Meaning Of This Love

(Ephesians 1:15-16) Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, {16} Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

love – Greek 26. agape, ag-ah'-pay; from G25; love, i.e. affection or benevolence; spec. (plur.) a love-feast:--(feast of) charity ([-ably]), dear, love.

We read that A. T. Robertson cited the following…

Agapee (“love”) is one of the great words of the New Testament. … “When Christianity first began to think and speak in Greek, it took up agapee and its group of terms more freely, investing them with the new glow with which the New Testament writings make us familiar, a content which is invariably religious” (Moffatt, Love in the New Testament, p. 40).

2. Notice The Magnitude Of This Love

(Ephesians 1:15-16) Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, {16} Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that…

Paul heard of the Ephesians’ faith in Christ, their vertical relationship, and their love for all the saints, their horizontal relationship. A proper relationship with God should lead to a proper relationship with other Christians.

Paul Bayne said…

The love of true believers is set on the saints, yea, on all the saints. Every creature likes to be with those who are united with it in communication of the same nature: so sanctified Christians cannot but love and like to be most with those who have received the like divine nature in which they are themselves partakers. (From The Biblical Illustrator)

Another writer said…

When a rosebud is formed, if the soil is soft and the sky is genial, it is not long before it bursts; for the life within is so abundant that it can no longer contain it all, but in blossomed brightness and swimming fragrance it must needs let forth its joy, and gladden all the air. And if, when thus ripe, it refused to expand, it would quickly rot at heart, and die. And Christian love is just piety with its petals fully spread, developing itself, and making it a happier world. The religion which fancies that it loves God, when it never evinces love to its brother, is not piety, but a poor mildewed theology, a dogma with a worm in the heart. (Dr. J. Hamilton from The Biblical Illustrator)


In 1970, Bill Gaither published a song called “The Family of God.” And the song says…


I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,

I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I’m part of the family,

The Family of God

Verse 1:

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ‘round here,

It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;

When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,

And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

Verse 2:

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,

No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;

From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,

I’m not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!

In my Christian experience, I’ve been part of churches where that song was sung. But there have been times that though I was in the church, the church was not in me. I didn’t love God’s people like I should have. I did not appreciate God’s people like I should have.

But the further I go in faith, and the closer I get to the Lord Jesus, the more I thank God for His people … a Saved People, a Special People, a Sharing People!