Ephesians 1:15-23 – A Prayer for Knowledge
(NB – due to technical difficulties the audio for this sermon is not available)
‘God, ta for dinner, in Jesus name, Amen.’
That’s one of the first prayers we tried teaching the boys. Usually, Micah managed something like, ‘God, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Amen.’ It’s a clue into what we as thinking about isn’t it? But aren’t all our prayers? Who we pray for, and what we pray for, shows what we think is important. And it reveals something of what we think about God. Today’s passage is the first of Paul’s two prayers in Ephesians. It gives us an insight into his prayers and an example to follow.
Paul’s prayer is based on what he knows about God and the church. The words at the start of verse 15, ‘For this reason,’ point back to verses 3-14. If you were here last week, you’ll know that in those verses Paul’s outlined God’s majestic, eternal plan. He’s reminded us that God:
• Chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world
• Forgave, redeemed and adopted us in Christ Jesus
• And has given us a glorious inheritance in Christ
Paul’s prayer is a result of his understanding of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God plans to do for his people.
But Paul’s prayer also arises from what he knows about the Ephesians. They’ve heard the gospel and they’ve believed. Their faith in Jesus is obvious. So too is the evidence of their faith, which is shown in their love for all the saints. (By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another – John 13:35) And so Paul can’t help but to thank God for what he’s done in the Ephesians. In fact, Paul says he’s constantly thanking God for them. How often do you pray for people? Constantly, every time you think of them? How often do you thank God for the faith you see in your brothers and sisters?
Paul doesn’t just tell the Ephesians that he’s praying for them. He goes on to tell them what he’s been praying for them. Paul prays:
‘that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of their hearts enlightened, they may know…’
Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesian church might grow in knowledge. Despite what people today might say, Christianity isn’t a blind faith. We’re meant to have our eyes wide open and to grow in knowledge. One thing we can never say as Christians is that we know enough about God! In his second prayer in Ephesians, Paul does pray that we’ll be able to comprehend with all the saints the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love, but then straight away he admits that this love surpasses human knowledge! But we can grow in wisdom as we seek to comprehend the riches of God’s grace more and more.
That’s possible because it’s not just intellectual knowledge that Paul’s praying for, or that we’re to strive towards. It’s also a relational knowledge. Sarah and I have been married for five years now, and we’re still learning things about each other. I know there’s many here who’ve been married longer, and I hope that you’re still learning things about your loved ones. Paul prays that God might give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation, ‘as we come to know him.’ It’s about us growing in our relationship with God, as we come to know him, and love him, more and more.
Well, what specifically is it that Paul prays that the church might know? It’s three things, hope, riches and power. They’re great things to pray that the church should know.
The first is the hope to which we’ve been called. In the start of the chapter we saw that God’s plan stretches forwards, to the time when all things will be gathered up fully in Christ. That’s the hope to which we’ve been called, the consummation of our salvation in Christ. We look forward to the day when Christ returns and when we’ll dwell with him in heaven for eternity. It’s not a vain hope, but a sure and certain hope that we have in Christ. Paul wants us to dwell on that hope, to know it more and more. So how excited are you for the future? I don’t mean for tomorrow, or the next holiday that you’ve got planned. How much do you long for Jesus to return? When we say those words in communion, ‘Come Lord Jesus’ how much do you mean them?
The second thing Paul wants us to know is, ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.’ Last week we heard that the Holy Spirit is the sign, or seal, as a pledge of our inheritance. God has adopted us as his children and his plan is that we’ll share eternity with him. It’s a pretty good inheritance isn’t it?
Now it could be that’s what Paul is referring to here. But the passage allows for another translation – that we are God’s inheritance. On my best day, I might think I’m a pretty good catch. That Sarah’s lucky to have landed a guy like me. But it doesn’t take more than a moment for reality to kick in. I’m not the best husband in the world. Try as I might, I’m not the best father either. There are plenty of times when I disappoint, when I get angry with the boys for doing the wrong thing, when I’m not as communicative as I should be. It’s because I’m not much of a human being, I’m a sinful man. So I wouldn’t be much of an inheritance for God.
But the reality is when God looks at me on the last day he won’t see me at all. He’ll see Christ instead. For I’m now in Christ, and he’s in me. So, in that sense I’m the most precious person on the planet. But so are you, so are we, because we’re in Christ. We are a rich, glorious inheritance.
Knowing that we’re in Christ doesn’t mean that we can just sit back though. God desires us to be holy and blameless before him. We’re to strive towards this in our earthly life. Which is why the third thing that Paul prays for is that we might know God’s amazing power. In verse 19, Paul trips over himself trying to describe the immeasurable greatness of this great power. And he goes on in verses 20-23, to describe just how incredible this power is. The supreme demonstration of God’s power took place when:
“20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far 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 age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head of all things”
The power which defeated death, which raised Christ, which has exalted him above all, is the same power that’s at work in us! We’re in Christ and so we’re raised with him, seated with him in heaven. But more of that next week as we look at chapter 2.
Here, in his prayer, Paul reminds us that this power is exercised ‘for us who believe’ (v19). Paul wants us to know this power, to experience it in our lives and in our church. There are times in my life, in my walk with God, I feel weak and powerless. When I think of my inability to control my sinful nature, my failure to do what’s right, when I leave undone what ought to be done, I feel pretty helpless. Paul’s prayer is that I might feel the opposite. That I might see that God’s mighty power, exercised in raising Christ, is at work in me too. I’m in Christ now, we’re in Christ now, so we should know and experience God’s power.
Paul prays for the church because he knows what the Sovereign God has done for the church. He prays that we might grow up in this knowledge, that we might be transformed by it. He wants us to know the hope to which we have been called and which we are to long for. He wants us to know just how much God loves and values us. And because this knowledge is meant to be shape who we are in the present, as we strive to live for Christ, Paul also prays that we might know God’s power in us. This is the power that raises us from the dead, the power that enables us to conquer all spiritual enemies, the power that equips us to live for God. And Paul prays that we might know, and experience, this power in our lives.
I can’t think of a better way to finish, than to stand and to pray this for ourselves….
God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask that you would give us wisdom and understanding through your Holy Spirit, as we seek to know you more.
Help us to know the hope which you have chosen us to receive.
Help us to know how rich we are in Christ, how much you cherish and value us. Help us to be a worthy inheritance.
And help us to know your great, incomparable power. Thank you that you wielded your power in Christ, that you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand. Thank you for doing this all for the sake of your church, for our sake.
Help us to know, to live in, to call upon your power every day. In Jesus name, Amen