Paul's Prayer For the Ephesians
William Randolph Hearst, the publishing magnate, was a prolific art collector. Once, as he was perusing a catalog of great works, he called his staff and said, "I must have these pieces. Get them for me at any cost." The pieces of art were circled in the catalog, and the staff members went to work to aquire them for Mr. Hearst. Later that week, the staff reassembled for their report to Mr. Hearst. "Mr. Hearst," they said, "you already own these pieces. They are in your European vault." Mr. Hearst owned the great pieces of art but didn't know it. He therefore received no enjoyment from them.
Likewise, Ephesians reveals to us the great spiritual riches we have in Christ. Sadly, however, many Christians are ignorant of those great riches. Chapter one lists the gifts of the Trinity to the church. Verses 3-6 list our gifts from the Father; verse 7-12 tell about our gifts from the Son; verses 13-14 explain our gifts from the Spirit.
Unknown riches do the owner no good. We must understand and perceive the great riches we have in Christ if those riches are to positively affect us. In our text, Paul prays that the Ephesian church would understand and appreciate all of the spiritual blessings that God has given them. The church today has this same need. We are sometimes ignorant of the wondrous and splendid place God has reserved for His church.
15 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;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
A worthy study for the serious bible student would be the prison prayers of Paul. They are Col. 1:9-12, Phil 1:9-11, Eph. 3:14-21 and our present text. All of these passages have much in common. Each of them asks God to increase the understanding and knowledge of the saints concerning Christ. They all emphasize the Christian's perception and character. Paul does not pray for God to give His people something new, but to help us realize what we already have in Him.
1. A Revealing Testimony (v. 15) Paul commends the Ephesian believer's faith and love. These are two abiding evidences of a biblical salvation. The faith mentioned could be "saving" faith or "serving" faith. Both are active in the believer. We should notice also that the text says love unto all the saints... A great preacher once said that many of us have just enough religion to cause us to hate, but not enough to cause us to love. May such a statement never be true of us.
2. A Respectful Thanksgiving (v. 16) Paul says he "ceases not" to give thanks for the Ephesian believers. It literally means that he never comes to a place where he is not stirred at the thoughts of them. When he thinks of them, he prays for them. How Paul must have loved the Ephesians. They were no doubt special to him.
3. A Required Thought (v. 17) In verse 17, Paul tells us what he prays for concerning the Ephesians. He prays that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. Man has no desire for the knowledge of God within himself. God places it there. The Holy Spirit that indwells every believer yearns for a deeper intimacy with Christ. God gives us wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. The word knowledge is the Greek word epignosis, meaning full and complete knowledge. Someone has rightly said, "Sin begins with a refusal to know God in a deeper and more meaningful way."
II. THE PERCEPTION DEFINED v. 18-19
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what
is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance
in the saints,
The great blessings that God has bestowed on His people must be known by those people to be appreciated. Paul prays for God to give us this knowledge. How many Christians have the idea that serious bible study is for the preacher or teacher only? The only way to become more intimately acquainted with Christ is through the scripture. God's ministers must teach their hearers that the bible is not learned as an operation manual. We are not dependent on our own mental ability. We learn spiritual things through and by the Spirit, not ourselves.
1. A Perception of Heart (v. 18a) The eyes of your understanding is not physical eyesight, but spiritual insight. It is the eyes of the inner man, or the heart. This spiritual sight enlightens, or illuminates, shines on. This perception of heart is mandatory in learning about Christ. I Cor. 2:14 says But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
2. A Perception of Hope (v. 18b) Paul prays that the saints will know, or discern, discover. How many Christians are concerned with discovering God's truth? Paul wants the Ephesians to know what is the hope of his calling. Hope means the expectation, the confidence of the Christian life. The new testament has much to say about our hope as Christians. An outline of some of those hopes could be: The Hope of Full Redemption; the Hope of Future Riches; The Hope of Family Restoration (we will be like him); The Hope of Fascinating Responsibilities (rule and reign with him)
3. A Perception of Honor (v. 18c) The saints of God HAVE an inheritance in Christ, but we also ARE the inheritance of Christ. What a special blessing to consider that Christ counts the church as His inheritance! The church may not look like much on this earth today, but one day we will be adorned with the riches of His glory! What an honor to be a member of the Body of Christ!
4. A Perception of Help (v. 19) The power of God cannot be gainsayed by the honest bible reader. But this verse not only extolls the exceeding greatness of his power, but that it is to us-ward who believe. We need to perceive and understand that God is willing and ready to help us with every need. The the working of his mighty power is available to God's people. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can find grace to help in the time of need. Are you constantly aware of the willingness of the sovereign God of Heaven to intervene in the affairs of your life?
III. THE POWER DISPLAYED
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him
at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
The power of God is revealed in Christ. God the Father wrought His power in Christ, meaning He activated it in Christ. There are four aspects of this power in these verses.
1. Resurrection Power v. 20a This great power was conferred to Christ at His resurrection. We Christians many times fail to consider the significance of Jesus' resurrection. This raising was different than that of Lazarus or the widow's son. We were represented in Him when He was raised from the dead. He was raised to life eternal, never to die again and we partake of this power.
2. Ruling Power v. 20b-21 This power raised Christ, then set Him at the right hand of the Father. The right hand is the place of glory and authority. Christ is seated there and helps His people from this place of power. The same ruling power is the power that is available to us. This power rules over all all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name... These words typify the national power of governments, moral power, and all human rule and dominion.
3. Reigning Power v. 22 The power of Christ that we are partakers is reigning power. The verse says that he hath put all things under his feet. In the eastern cultures, the leader of the defeated must allow the victors to place their foot on their prostrate body. This is symbolic of complete and utter victory. Further, the Father gave him to be the head over all things to the church. Christ represents the church in His reigning power.
4. Royal Power v. 23 The church is the body, that which carries out the will of the head, which is Christ. We come now to the wonderful phrase, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. This tells us that Christ, even in all His perfection, is completed by the church. This is the church's finest hour. Christ reckons Himself somehow imperfect unless united to the Church.
Conclusion: The prayer of Paul for the Ephesians enlightens us to our needs today. We must understand the blessings and and spiritual gifts that are ours in Christ. We need to perceive the power that is ours in Him. May we allow God to enlighten and enrich us in His word.
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