Saturday, June 04, 2016

This I pray for you - Ephesians 1:17-19

"that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." (Ephesians 1:17-19)
It is interesting to note what Paul prays for regarding the believers at Ephesus. Paul does not pray for any immediate need or benefit that they might desire, rather he prays for those things that will benefit them over a life time. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with praying for immediate needs and wants, such as, finances, healing, encouragement, joy, and the restoration of relationships. However, Paul understood that there are works of the Spirit that produce in us something more than immediate satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness. The work that the Spirit works is to change us so fundamentally that our life will never be the same. The change He works not only changes us now, but also changes our future. It is like the old adage, "Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you will feed him for a life time." There are those things that bring joy in the moment, but there are those works of the Spirit that produce in us a life style that that continually bears fruit unto God.

First, Paul prays that they would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God. When speaking of a spirit, Paul is not necessarily speaking of an actual spiritual being. The Greek word for "spirit" (as well as the Hebrew word) means both spirit and breath, and the breath can speak to the manor, mode, and character of the life we live. For example, to say that someone has a spirit of gentleness does not mean that they are possessed by such a spirit but rather that their entire life is characterized by gentleness towards others.

It is unclear if Paul is asking for a spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know God better, or if he is asking for a spirit of wisdom and revelation that comes from knowing God. I personally believe the later as, knowing God, produces in us a life that is characterized by wisdom and revelation. We cannot properly understand life and the world around us until we first come to know and understand God, for it is God who created this world, gave us life, and set all things to be according to His will and good pleasure. When we come to know God, we come to understand His love for us and all of mankind. When we come to know God, we come to understand His plan and purpose for us and for all of mankind. When we come to know God, then everything else comes into focus and begins to make since. When David was in a hard place, he tried to make since of all that was happening around him, especially how his enemies were thriving and growing stronger. However, David had a revelation. "When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction." (Psalms 73:16-18) It was only when David perceived God, when his knowledge of God came more fully into view, that he understood what was going on and the world began to make since to him again. It is the knowledge of God that brings about wisdom and revelation, not the other way around.

Secondly, Paul prays that God would illuminate our hearts. The idea from the Greek is that God would let light shine into our hearts and give us the light of illumination to know and understand what we previously could not known and understood. There are many things we know as truth, but that touch our lives very little. For example, there are many people who know that Jesus died on a cross, but that knowledge has little or no effect in their lives. They know the truth, but the truth is impotent within them. There are people who know that they have a Father in heaven, yet they continue to live as orphan here on Earth. They know the truth that God is their Father, but the mere knowledge of the truth has yet to transform their lives to the point where they actually live in the reality of that truth. Some things that we believe about the world and ourselves are so deeply rooted in our lives that mere truth is not enough to unseat them from our hearts. We know that God loves us but our heart still refuses to believe it and to give up its belief that we are unloved and unlovable. Sometimes we need more than truth, we need illumination; we need the pure rays of God's light and truth to shine into our hearts is such a way that it transforms all we have believed and thought about ourselves, the world around us, and God Himself. Only such illumination can change some of the darkest places of our hearts.

First, he prays that we would know the hope of His calling. The Greek word for "calling" can also be translated "invitation". This calling is not a ministerial calling, but a calling into our new life in Christ. Also, the Greek word for "hope" is not wishing but anticipating. The hope of our calling is not a wishing for great things, but the certainty, anticipation, and patient waiting for them. Great is our anticipation of the things that accompany our faith in God. We have the anticipation of salvation, righteousness, resurrection to life, and an eternal life with God in heaven. Such hope gives us courage to endure the difficulties of today. Minor difficulties and troubles cannot compare to the eternal hope we have in Christ.

Secondly, Paul prays that we would understand the riches of the glory of our inheritance in Christ. Paul did not pray that we would understand the riches of our inheritance, but that we would understand the riches of the glory of our inheritance. There was a story when, after the battle of the five kings, Abraham returned and was met by both Melchizedek, the priest of Salam, and the King of Sodom, both offering present to him for his victory. "Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand." (Genesis 14:17-20) Both offered gifts to Abraham, but the gifts of the King of Sodom were not to be compared to the gifts of Melchizedek. The world has its own inheritance to offer us just as God does, but the inheritance of this world pales in comparison to the inheritance of God. Knowing the riches of the glory of the inheritance of God, what could ever induce us to desire the inheritance of this world?

Finally, Paul prays that we would know the surpassing greatness of God's power towards us. Most religions, and even the Old Covenant Law, are based on man's ability and power to perform the requirements of their laws and codes. If a man (or woman) is able, in and of themselves, to keep the requirements, then they are accepted and approved by God. However, if they are not able, then they are rejected and cast aside. However, the proof of human history is that no one is able to keep all the requirements of religion. We are all sinners and sinning is what we do. However, Jesus brought about a new way to righteousness, one not based upon our own efforts and merit. Paul writes, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4) Now, instead of relying on our own strength and will, we relay on God's strength and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us to aid us in our daily walk. Now, weakness is not our condemnation, but our entry way to true strength. Paul wrote, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) It is God's power that works within us, "both to will and to do." (Philippians 2:13 NKJV) By ourselves, we are helpless, but with the power of God, nothing is impossible and all things are within reach. In Christ, our hope and confidence is not in our own strength, but in the power of God which is able to save, transform, keep, and finally resurrect us to new life.

David Robison

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