{2}         Life of Prayer (Eph 1:15-23)

Introduction

PART I. CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. SECTION A. NEW LIFE.

So often we as individuals and we the church forget the supply line of our life. In fact we are guilty of attempting to provide the power to live this Christian life from within ourselves. Not so with Paul. Paul’s life and ministry were saturated in prayer. In fact all of Eph 1 is prayer. Paul is addressing God while thinking about the Ephesians. We have already looked at the great benediction in which he blesses God for having blessed us in Christ. Now we will consider the intercession that Paul makes for the Ephesians. It is vital that we not only maintain a high level of prayer in order to enjoy a healthy Christian life, but that we also preserve a balance of praise and prayer—as Paul models.

 

Question: In what ways do you struggle to maintain a consistent life of prayer and praise?

 

Outline:

1:15-18            The marks (attributes) of the Church: Paul prays that God will open our eyes to grasp the fullness of this blessing.

1:19-23            The manifestation of the great power of God.

 

        God the Father blesses us through the Son by the Holy Spirit. We approach Him in prayer through the Son by the Holy Spirit.

 

Explanation

1:15     Paul heard about the Ephesians’ faith in God and love for the saints. Hope is mentioned in v.12 and v.18.

Many of Paul’s letters mention faith, hope, and love at the beginning (1Co 13:13). These are exactly the qualities of a good church and the qualities of a strong Christian. Faith is like the engine of a car that symbolizes one’s spiritual life. Without it, the spiritual life will go nowhere; in fact, it is dead. Hope is like the gas of this car as it provides the power and the energy for a Christian to live the daily life (despite worldly troubles) and go forward towards the heavenly home. Without it, the spiritual life will grow only very slowly. Love is like the oil of the car as it provides lubrication so that the spiritual life can move forward smoothly. Without it, the spiritual life will be rough and is full of conflicts.

If you move to a new city, these are the qualities (faith, hope, love) that you should look for in a new church. Similarly, these are the qualities that a Christian should possess.

1:16     Paul gives thanks to God continuously for their faith and love, acknowledging God, not man, as the author of both qualities.

Besides seeking God’s guidance and protection, praying for each other also helps to build up love and concern for brothers and sisters in church. Eph 3:14-19 is another prayer by Paul for the Gentiles.

1:17     Paul is not satisfied with their faith and love so he prays that they may appreciate to the fullest possible extent the implications of the blessing they have already received. The essence of the prayer is “that you may know”. Growth in knowledge is indispensable to growth in holiness.

The first thing is to know God better. There is no higher knowledge than the knowledge of God Himself. Such knowledge is impossible without revelation. Therefore, the way to such knowledge is by the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation, not to receive Him as He already is in our hearts, but to open “the eyes of our hearts” for the enlighenment.

1:18     In Biblical usage, the heart means the whole inward self, comprising mind as well as emotion. Paul’s prayer continues with asking God to enlighten the saints about three great truths: [1] the hope of God’s call, [2] the glory of God’s inheritance, and [3] the greatness of God’s power.

[1]   With God’s call, we now have hope which is the expectation of what is to come. God has called us to belong to Jesus Christ and into the fellowship of Jesus Christ (Ro 1:6; 1Co 1:9), to be saints and be holy (Ro 1:7), to be free (Gal 5:13), to enjoy the peace of Christ (Col 3:15). It points back to the beginning of our Christian life [past].

[2]   God’s inheritance points on to the end of our earthly Christian life [future], to that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (v.14). Peter describes it as “imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for heirs with Christ” (1Pe 1:4). Exactly what this inheritance will be like is beyond our capacity to imagine. Based on the Bible, we shall “see” God and Christ and worship Him; we shall be like Him, not only in body but in character; we shall enjoy perfect fellowship with each other. Paul prays that we will know “the riches of the glory” of it.

1:19     [3]        God’s power spans the interim period between the beginning and the end of our Christian life [present]. Only God’s power can fulfil the expectation which belongs to His call and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us in heaven. This power is also “the working of His mighty strength”.

1:20     How shall we come to know the surpassing greateness of the power of God? Because He has given a public demonstration of it in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ (v.20-23). Paul refers to 3 successive events:

[1] Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (v.20a);

[2] Jesus Christ’s enthronement over evil (v.20b-22a);

[3] Jesus Christ’s headship of the church (22b-23).

There are two powers that man cannot control but which hold him in bondage: death and evil. Man is mortal; he cannot avoid death. Man is fallen; he cannot overcome evil. But God in Christ has conquered both, and therefore rescue us from both.

God has done what man cannot do. He arrested the natural process of decay, not allowing His Holy One to see corruption (Ac 2:27). Then God restored the dead Jesus to a new life that is immortal, glorious, and free. This is the first public display of His power.

God seated Jesus at His right hand in the heavenly realms. He promoted Jesus to the place of supreme honour and executive authority.

1:21     “Rule and authority, power and dominion” are demons, those “world rulers of this present darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12). “Every title that can be given” may refer to the angels but may also refer to humans in positions of authority. The “age to come” refers to the eternal kingdom of God.

1:22     In Ps 8:6-8, man was given the dominion of all things in this world: “You (God) made him (man) ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” Yet man’s dominion has been limited by the Fall. So the full dominion is now exercised by Christ Jesus.

God also made Jesus the “head over everything for the church, which is His body.” “All things” are mentioned twice in this verse as the whole universe and the church have in Jesus Christ the same Head. The Head (Christ) fills the body (church) with powers of movement and perception, and thereby inspires the whole body with life and direction.

1:23     The phrase “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” has 3 main alternative explanations, each one possible in Greek grammar. The first explanation refers “fullness” as being a description of Christ.

[1]   Christ is the fullness of God, who fills Christ as indeed God fills all things.

The other two explanations refers “fullness” as being a description of the church. The noun “fullness” (Gr. pleroma) can have either an active or passive meaning. Actively, it means “that which fills” or the “contents” of something; passively, it mans “that which is filled or full”, not the contents but the container.

[2]   In the active sense, the church is said to fill or to complete Christ. Thus, the church is the complement of Christ who is the Head and Christ is imperfect unless we are joined to Him. In other words, the Head finds completeness in the Body: the Church is the completion of the Christ. While the word “fullness” is used in the active sense in the rest of the Bible, such doctrine (Christ’s lack of completeness without the church) is not taught anywhere in the Bible.

[3]   In the passive sense, the church is the fullness of Christ not because it fills Him, but because He fills it. It can of course mean either that Christ who fills the church fills the universe also, or that Christ who fills the church is Himself filled by God. The former is more natural as God is not mentioned here. This alternative is the likely explanation because: [a] The Bible never explicitly describes the church as “filling” or “completing” Christ. [b] Paul’s emphasis throughout is on the lordship and the sovereignty of Jesus over all things. [c] The bracketing in v.23 of His “body” and His “fullness” are successive descriptions of the church. Both pictures are used to illustrate a similar truth, that Christ rules over His church.

 

Summary

        The thrust of Paul’s prayer is that his readers may have a thorough knowledge of God’s call, inheritance and power, especially the latter. But how do Christians grow in understanding? Some will reply that knowledge depends on the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. And they are right, at least in part. For Paul prays that “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” may increase their knowledge of God and enlighten the eyes of their hearts. Yet we must not infer from this that our responsibility is solely to pray and to wait for illumination, and not at all to think. Others make the opposite mistake: they use theie minds and think but leave little room for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

        Paul brings the two together. First he prays that the eyes of his readers’ hearts may be enlightened to know God’s power. Then he teaches that God has already supplied historical evidence of His power by raising and exalting Jesus. It is precisely as we use our minds to ponder what God has done in Christ that the Spirit will open our eyes to grasp its implications.

        Paul brings together enlightenment (by the Holy Spirit) and thought (by man). We are not to rely on one and neglect the other. God has revealed His power objectively in Jesus Christ, and now illumines our minds by His Spirit to grasp this revelation. As we ponder what God has done in Christ, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to grasp its implications.

        It is commonly assumed that faith and reason are incompatible. This kind of thinking is incorrect. The two are never contrasted in the Bible, as if we had to choose between the two. Faith goes beyond reason, but rests on it. Knowledge is the ladder by which faith climbs higher. Faith cannot grow without a firm basis of knowledge; yet knowledge is sterile if it does not bring forth faith.

 

Application

 

Prayer

        Pray that God can give us spiritual knowledge so that we can know God better. Pray that we can understand God’s call, God’s inheritance, and God’s power in our lives.