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Knowing God better by more fully understanding what we have in Christ

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Ephesians 1:15-23

Introduction

Last week Pastor Philip started our new series in the book of Ephesians and showed us through Ephesians 1:1-14 just what believers in Christ have, what God has done for us in Christ. This week as we look at the second half of the first chapter of Ephesians Paul not only thanks God for the faith of the Ephesian believers in light of what God has done in Christ, but he shares that his prayer is that they would know it more. Understand it more. Paul speaks to the body of believers in this letter, to the church, and very much in a corporate sense. Paul’s prayer is that they and indeed us reading this letter this morning would have a deeper understanding of God and his power at work for his children in Christ.

Paul’s explains what he prays for the Ephesians

It is not unusual for Paul to share that he prays and a brief explanation of what he prays for. Here though Paul gives a somewhat detailed explanation of his regular prayers for the Ephesians. There is a real sense here that in sharing his prayer he is also instructing the believers.

#1 This section of Chapter one that I am preaching on today is completely bound or tied to what Paul has already said in chapter 1 and specifically verses 3-14. As is often the case the first part of this next section makes sure that you can’t miss the tie in. Paul starts with This is why….

Let’s read verses 15-16

15 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

Paul has just spent the preceding 12 verses spelling out exactly what God has given those who trust in Jesus. A quick recap. We were Blessed with every spiritual blessing. The full compliment. Chosen in Christ to be Holy and Blameless. Adopted as God’s children through Jesus Christ. Redeemed through Christ’s blood, and sealed with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing our eternal inheritance.

So, Paul is giving praise to God for the believers in Ephesus in light of their faith, for he understands what they have received. Not only this, Paul also sees that not only have they put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, but this can be seen in there love for one another. This is an outworking of this faith. As Jesus had said in John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” For Paul had not only heard about their faith in Jesus, but also their love for all the saints. So, because of this Paul is able to give thanks as he remembers them in his prayers. Now this phrase “I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers,” does not mean that Paul is praying non-stop. It is that as he prays, he always remembers them and gives thanks for them. Paul gives thanks for them often is how I would word this.

Now I know that we are only two verses in. But I want to ask you. When was the last time we gave thanks for the faithful brothers and sisters here at Chatswood Baptist Church. When was the last time we thanked God for their salvation, their being fellow heirs of the Father, their Faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for one another. And I ask this question because if we are giving thanks for our brothers and sisters here and of course those outside of CBC as well, then as Paul does it is right and fitting that we launch into prayer for them.

#2 Paul prays for the believers’ growth in knowledge of God. Now remember v16 tells us that Paul give thanks for them as he remembers them in his prayers. He doesn’t just thank God for their faith, he prays for their faith.

17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. 

Paul prays specifically that they would grow in their wisdom and understanding of God and what he has done for them in Christ. This to me is clearly the central message of today’s passage.  It is very plausible to think that Paul has reminded the saints in Ephesus of just what God has done for them in Christ so that they wouldn’t become complacent. That they wouldn’t think, I’m saved, so let’s just move on with something else. Paul wants the Ephesian believers to grow, know and experience the fullness of what God has blessed them with in Christ.

Paul makes it clear by his words and his actions that the message he wants us to hear is twofold. Firstly, give God praise always and often for what he has done for us in Christ. Secondly, don’t be content. Keep praying that we would know more and more the fulness of what God has given us in Christ. That we would grow in our knowledge of God.

In verse 17 Paul prays that God the Father would give the believers ‘The Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.’ I agree with Peter O’Brien that this is most likely a reference to the Holy Spirit. For it is the Holy Spirit who gives us understanding and revelation. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12

10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God.

The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the wisdom and revelation of God.

Paul prays that the believers would have a true knowledge of God. The great news is that Paul doesn’t leave it there. He goes on to explain what he means by this phrase. He gives three key ways in which he prays that his readers would increase their spiritual understanding and knowledge of God.

1. The Hope of His Calling

Read verse 18a with me. Paul continues: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling,”

Now the ‘eyes of your heart’ is not an expression that we would really use. We might say listen to your heart, but this is not really the same thing. The heart in the Old Testament is commonly understood as the idea of core of our being, that encompasses the spiritual, physical, and mental self. In other words our total being. What do the eyes of our heart need to see, be reminded of. Perhaps even see more clearly, for that is what Paul asks for.

It seems that every year there is a new TV that comes to the market that promises a clearer and more vibrant picture. We are told that by the advertising companies that watching on their new TV is as good as being there because the picture is so clear. In a sense that is a helpful picture as Paul wants us to know, to see with clear eyes, with any darkness or anything stopping the light being taken away and that having happened may you see and know the hope of God’s calling.

Once again, we need to pay attention to the words of scripture. Paul here is talking about God’s calling, the hope that God has called us to. God has chosen us from before the world’s foundation (1:4). Now yes this is the hope that we have, yet it is God who calls us. So the hope of his calling. The greater sense is on show here. What is the hope to which he has called all who believe in Jesus. All Christians.

The Hope of God’s calling in this verse is tied into verse 9&10.

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.

The hope to which God has called us is to be in Christ. So do we know that we are saved through faith in Christ, that we are therefore right before God, that we already have eternal life (John 3:16) and that we will be raised with Christ on that final day. As we read in 1 Corinthians 15:52

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 

The second way that Paul reminds us is in what we are to God.

2. Wealth of His glorious inheritance in the Saints

Lets read verse 18 together.

 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Now I don’t know about you, but straight away I am struck by the words, ‘his glorious inheritance in the saints.’ In verse 14 we had read about how the Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance. Yet here Paul is saying something different, and this is part of what Paul prays that we will understand. God’s people are his inheritance. We are his own possession.

At our annual kids club, there is a song that we sing that ties in so well what Paul is saying here. That song is called Precious. You may well know it. The song starts off, I am precious, and you are precious we all are precious to Jesus. We are God’s treasured possession. We are his inheritance. This is an incredible thought as it speaks to the value that God has placed on us because of Christ. Because of Christ when God looks at us, at believers in Christ, believers in the glorious Gospel, God sees Jesus. Do you know that this is how God looks at us? Does that not change how you think and want to live. We are God’s precious inheritance, as are all the saints.

So, Paul has prayed that Christians would firmly, deeply and completely know and experience the hope to which God has called them in Christ, and that Christians are God’s treasured possession. Now Paul prays that the Ephesians might know in mind and also in experience the immeasurable greatness of his power to believers. Let’s read v19

3. God’s amazing power at work for us

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.

Paul wants us to know, to remember that it is God’s power, which is of course beyond our comprehension, that’s what immeasurable means. Yet, it is only through God’s power that he has worked towards us that has enabled us to believe, and only believe, but to keep on believing till Christ returns.

God’s power and Gods’ might is effective for all who believe. Did you notice that Paul changes from the second person ‘for you’ to the first person ‘for us’. Paul is stating strongly the point that this incalculable, immeasurable great power of God is for all Christians. For all who trust in Jesus.

I reiterate that this prayer is linked to what Paul has written in verses 3-14. In fact the very first things that Paul says in verse three as he praises God is this.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.

How has God blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. He has done this through what Paul prays that we would know in verse 19. We have every spiritual blessing in Christ because of the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us who believe. Paul prays that we would know this. That in knowing this it would have an effect on us. That we would experience this.

It is worth pausing at this stage to ensure that we allow the context of the original hearers to be presented. We know from the book of ACTS chapter 19 that Ephesus had been heavily influenced by magic and the Artemis cult. Many of these former magicians of the dark arts were converted when they heard of the healings that Paul was doing in the name of Jesus and they repented and believed in Jesus.

Acts 19:18-20

18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread and prevailed.

For them hearing Paul now and what he is saying about the immeasurable great power of God would fill them with great confidence and remind them that it is only God who has immeasurable power and that as those who have faith in Jesus this power lives in us, it means that we can keep going.

This passage needs a response. We don’t just know these things. We are to live in light of our calling, our faith in Christ. Knowing that we are called by God, knowing that we are his glorious inheritance and that the incalculable greatness of God’s power is ours in Christ must change us. Paul will in chapter 4 of Ephesians calls for a response from the Ephesian Christians in light of this calling. Paul prays here that we would know deeply God’s calling of us and what this entails, not just for the sake of knowledge, but that by knowing it we may be compelled to live lives worthy of the Gospel, live lives worthy of what we have received in Christ from God.

The final four verses are so rich as they spell out how God exercised this power in Christ and what that means. It feels rather inadequate to try and cover them in the little time left, however let’s dive in.

20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

 This final section is actually a continuation of Paul’s thought in 19. Paul is still talking about the immeasurable power of God for us who believe (NIV). It is just that now Paul goes on to explain that this same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, and exalted him to the right hand side of the Father in heaven is the same power that works in us through his Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:11

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through[a] his Spirit who lives in you.

This same power of God the Father subjected everything, everywhere under his feet. Christ rules over all things. There is nothing outside of his reign. It is hard not to think of Philippians 2:6-11 here where we read that:

For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
11 and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Paul then in verse 22 says that not only is Jesus ruler over everything, he is also head of the church. Paul is showing the importance of the Christ’s church, his body. That this is how Jesus works in power, through the saints.

I bang on about reading the Bible. And I make no apologies for that. God speaks to us through his word. How do we know God better, by reading and obeying his word and by praying to him. Let’s be praying this prayer for ourselves and for our church.