The Divine Pattern: Thanksgiving (4:3-5)

Paul refutes only the food asceticism (his endorsement of marriage is implied elsewhere in the letter—2:15; 3:2, 12; 5:11). To do this he draws on what had become traditional logic in the church—all food is clean because of its Creator (Lk 11:40-41; Mk 7:15; Acts 10:15; 11:9; 1 Cor 10:25-31). The foods they reject God created to be received. . . . For everything God created is good (vv. 3-4). The only stipulation is that these foods be received with thanksgiving (v. 4)—that is, with a response of genuine gratitude as (probably) expressed in prayer. This was the custom of Jesus (Mk 6:41; 8:6; 14:22-23; Lk 24:30) and in Judaism in general. In the expression of gratitude to God came also the believer's acknowledgment of the created status of the food. Verse 5's additional rationale for the use of all foods (because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer) suggests that all a believer need do to sanctify any food is to make a prayer of thanksgiving to recognize the One who has provided the gift. In this context the word of God probably implies the use of biblical expressions in the saying of grace, as was common in Judaism.

It does not take much imagination to see that the Creator's act of giving and the believer's act of receiving (and enjoying) the gifts of creation are both part of a conscious communication process meant to strengthen the bond between Father and child. Furthermore, the communication is intimate, for only believers (v. 3) can enter fully into it. There are undoubtedly implications here that go beyond the dinner table to include the Christian's appreciation of the environment in general, but the starting point for developing this kind of understanding is the recognition through prayers of thanksgiving of God's gracious provisions. Neither the true gospel nor the life of salvation in this present age calls for ascetic denial. Rather, they encourage responsible use and enjoyment of God's creation.

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