Thursday, September 20, 2012

Paul Prays For Christians To Know God

After Paul's long explosion of praise to God for his spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3-14), he begins to pray for the church at Ephesus. That's right; he's in prison, but he is full of praise and prayer! You can't put chains on that.

Faith and Love
Paul says he has heard about the Ephesians faith in Christ and love for the saints (1:15). These two things go together. No one has faith in Jesus who does not love his church (1 John 3:14). God’s people love God’s people. God’s people grow in their love for God’s people. This is a fruit of being born again.
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.                 Psalm 16:3, ESV
Prayer For Revelation: To Know God (v17).
So Paul has told the church that he is praying for them. Now he tells them what he is praying! “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…”

Notice first the God-centeredness of his prayer. Paul is praying to GOD! Prayer is not wishful thinking or listening to ourselves talk. We are speaking with the Creator God who has revealed himself to us in Scripture and in Christ! Paul also prays in a way that acknowledges the three Persons in the One God. He is praying to the Father, in reference to the Son, for blessings given by the Spirit (many commentators believe the ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ refers to the Holy Spirit himself).

Notice also the God-centeredness of his request. Paul is not only praying TO God, and speaking to God ABOUT God (Father, Son and Spirit), but his request is FOR God; He prays that God would show God to the Ephesians! What they need is God himself! And so Paul prays that God give them ‘knowledge’ of God. Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3).
The world does not know God (John 8:54-55; 1 Cor 1:21; Gal 4:8; 1 Thess 4:5; 2 Thess 1:8; Titus 1:16). God must reveal himself; we need the Holy Spirit to give us ‘wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.’ Even believers need the Spirit to continue to reveal God to us.

Prayer For Revelation: To Grasp the Spiritual Blessings (v18-23).
Paul has prayed that the Ephesians be given revelation in order to know God. But he continues to pray, that God may give more revelation to their hearts, so that they may understand the spiritual blessings given to them in Christ. “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know…” (18a). Paul prays for God to shine light on the inward eyes, revealing truth to the hearts of these believers!
Even believers can sometimes walk in dullness, unaware of the great truths of God, the glorious spiritual blessings we already have! We need to be reminded (Rom 15:15; 2 Pet 1:13; 3:1), by preaching the gospel to ourselves daily (Lk 9:23; Rom 6:11; Jude 1:21), hearing it from the other saints (Heb 3:13; 10:24-25), and receiving spiritual illumination from the Holy Spirit, which is what Paul asks for here.

Paul prays for spiritual illumination, “that you may know” three things:

1. The Hope of God’s Call (18b). “what is the hope to which he has called you…” Before coming to Christ through the gospel, the Ephesians were “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). Now they have hope. What made the difference? God’s call. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, God called the Ephesians out of darkness and into the kingdom of his Son. They now have HOPE (“confident expectation” – Mounce). Verses 3-14 have described the spiritual blessings lavished on the Ephesians (and all who are ‘in Christ’). Their hope is based on God’s gracious work on their behalf. He has chosen them, predestined them to adoption as sons, given Christ to redeem them from sins by his blood, and then called them through the work of the Spirit in the gospel call. What a solid foundation for hope!
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30, ESV
2. The Riches of God’s Saints (18c). “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…”
The word inheritance can either be translated as our inheritance or God’s inheritance. It is either speaking of the saints’ glorious inheritance waiting for us in heaven, or God’s inheritance of his chosen people. Both of these are biblically true statements, and so the point is this: Paul prays that we would understand the riches of the relationship between God and his people, the church, which will be enjoyed forever in glory. This is truly a lavish inheritance, for it is full of the love of God! We will be with him and enjoy his glorious grace forever; and he will bring to himself, for his own enjoyment, the people he has chosen and loved before the creation of the world!
Consider the value of the church in God’s sight. “The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Paul wants us to have illumination so that we will grasp the value of the church to God. This relationship between the Lord and his people is a wealthy inheritance full of glory! This verse should correct any of us who have a low view of the church. The church is the rich inheritance of God!

3. The Greatness of God’s Power (19-23).
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” Paul not only wants us to understand the hope of our call and the riches of God’s forever relationship with his church; the last thing he prays for us to ‘get’ is that God’s mighty, infinite, sovereign power – his power that is immeasurably great – is ‘toward us who believe!’ The Almighty One is exerting his unfathomable power for the benefit of the church (O’Brien)! What a thought! No wonder Paul prays that the Ephesians have insight into this!
Paul gives three examples of this mighty power of God that is working for the church:
  • Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead (20a). “according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead…” The power that is at work for our benefit is the same power that reversed the curse of death and brought Jesus Christ out of the grave, never to die again! This is proof to us that death will not destroy us; God’s mighty power will raise us, too! But Christ’s resurrection life and power are at work in us NOW: “We don’t just share in resurrection life at the last day, but in present victories over sin” (Boice).
  • Christ’s Exaltation over the Heavenly Powers (20b-21). “and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet…” Paul’s 2nd example of the kind of power that is working for our good is the power of God that exalted Jesus to the very right hand of God, declaring that every enemy of God is defeated and subject to King Jesus…forever! Paul uses language here from Psalm 110:1 (sit at my right hand) and Psalm 8:6 (put all things under his feet). Jesus is the Messiah King who fulfilled these prophecies and reigns over all! All must bow and recognize Christ’s Lordship (Phil 2:6-11). He outranks all! 
  • Christ’s Headship over the Church (22-23). “ and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” The last example of God’s power at work for us is God’s making Christ the Head of the church. Christ is risen, exalted over the powers, and supreme leader of the redeemed humanity, the church of God! The church is here called the body of Christ and the fullness of Christ. This means that Jesus fills the church, by his Spirit, and leads us and displays through us the glory of God! There is an ‘already/not-yet’ tension at work here as well. Jesus fills the church by his Spirit, but there is a fullness yet to come, therefore later on he prays for the church to be filled with the fullness of God (3:19).
What a prayer Paul has prayed! He asks God to shine light on the heart-eyes of the Christians in Ephesus, that they may KNOW GOD, and understand his blessings. Let us take up this prayer for the believers in our local churches.
“God aims to fill the universe with the glory of his Son, Jesus, by making the church the showcase of his perfections” (Piper).
So we have HOPE because of the call of God (Past), we look to the saints becoming God’s glorious INHERITANCE (Future), and until then we have the POWER of God at work in us (Present) [Stott].
CALL – know where you came from;
INHERITANCE – know where you’re going;
POWER – know how you live.

  • ESV Study Bible Notes; ©2008 Crossway Bibles; Wheaton, IL.
  • The Letter To The Ephesians; Peter T. O’Brien; ©1999; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI.
  • The Message Of Ephesians – God’s New Society; John R. W. Stott; ©1979; InterVarsity Press, USA. Downers Grove, IL.
  • Ephesians – An Expositional Commentary; James Montgomery Boice; ©1988, 1997; Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words; William D. Mounce; ©2006; Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament; Edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson. Ephesians commentary by Frank S. Thielman. ©2007. Baker Academic. Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Sermons by John Piper: and

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