Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 1:18c-19a Introduction
We come to Scripture, first and foremost, to know God better (v. 17). When this is our primary motive for Bible study, we reap other benefits, also. We are illuminated (v. 18a-b), enabled to grasp more fully Biblical truths, including a better knowledge of three significant concepts: “hope” (v. 18c), “riches” (v. 18d), and “power” (v. 19a).
Eph. 1:18c “That ye may know what is the hope of his calling,”
New Testament “hope” embraces four essentials: 1) time, hope looks to the future; 2) anticipation, the time span has a definite goal; 3) confidence, the goal will occur; 4) desire, the goal is highly valued (C. Haas). All who respond to God’s call possess a precious “hope,” a confident yearning for the fulfillment of all God’s promises. With a sense of certainty, we anticipate an ultimate consummation, a day when God’s purpose will be achieved.
Paul wants us to “know” this hope fully. He is not thinking of grasping facts intellectually. The Apostle wants the staggering magnitude of our hope to be driven deep within our psyche.
Every believer should look to the future without doubt. Our hope is sure. It is firmly anchored in God’s infallible promises, and moored to the very throne of God (HB 6:19). A part of our birthright as a believer, as one who has responded to God’s “calling,” is the right to have “hope,” a firm conviction about future events. We do not wish or dream, we know.
Every believer should look to the future without despair. The agnostic Professor Clifford died saying, “My researches have revealed to me a soulless universe, looked down upon by a godless heaven.” The believer possesses a hope which rejects such cynicism and skepticism.
H. G. Wells once wrote in gloom, “Man, who began in a cave behind a windbreak, will end in the disease-soaked ruins of a slum.” No, no, a thousand times no. Man, who began in a Garden with God will, upon response to God’s “calling,” end in the glory-basked pinnacles of Paradise.
Every believer should look to the future without dread. Fear is disallowed. For the believer, the best is always yet to come. “His hope leaps over the grave, and lands him in a glorious resurrection” (Spurgeon). Believers should no longer fear the grave, because our Savior knocked the bottom out of one. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?. . . .thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 C 15:55,57).
The Day of Judgment will dawn, the solemn assize shall convene. The worldling dreads these thoughts, but believers write songs about them. Before the bar of God, we will be dressed in robes of Christ’s righteousness. We will then be perfect, every sin taken out of us, every desire for evil gone, every possibility of sin removed. Satan will no longer find tinder in us for his sparks, nor corruption in which to sow his diabolic seed.
Eph. 1:18d “. . .and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance
in the saints,. . .”
“Riches” refers to our joyful experience of God’s abundance. “Glory” refers to God manifesting Himself. “His inheritance in the saints” is the salvation He implants within believers.
Our text, difficult to interpret with dogmatism, seems to mean that in the salvation of sinners, God gets “glory,” and believers get “riches.” God manifests Himself through us, and allows us to enjoy the benefits of it.
Through saints, sinners saved by grace, God reveals to the world His wisdom, tenderness, patience, faithfulness, strength, and love. We are monuments to His grace, showing forth the glory of God, and in the process, we enjoy a blessed side benefit. We have the delight of enjoying God’s “riches.”
Do you “know” this benefit? Is the world seeing God in you? Is “glory” passing through you, allowing you to enjoy “riches” along the way?
Eph. 1:19a “. . .and what is the exceeding greatness of his power
to us-ward who believe,. . .”
Read this text carefully. Paul is not praying for the Ephesians to receive power. He prays they will know “the exceeding greatness” of a power which is theirs now, a power already available to them.
The Old English word “us-ward,” in my estimation a master-stroke of translation, combines in one term two powerful thoughts. “Us” places the eminent Apostle alongside the readers. He identifies with us. All Paul’s gifts and power came from a source common to all believers. He had no advantage. What mighty Paul had, we have–an idea worth contemplating.
Us-“ward” denotes movement toward believers. “Forward” is movement toward the fore; “backward” is movement toward the back; “us-ward” emphasizes the never-ending movement of God’s power toward us, believers.
God’s power never ceases to flow toward believers. It comes wave upon wave, in a relentless surge, “like the blows of the billows that succeed one another on the beach” (Maclaren).
Paul believed Christians should know “the exceeding greatness of his power.” How do you know a power? By sensing its surge within, and seeing outward results produced by it. A power is known, perceived, by actual experience. Paul would desire us to experience God’s power in such a way that we never again doubt its existence and its “exceeding greatness.”
Christian living is the incarnation of God’s power, nothing less, nothing else. A Christian life is the demonstration of God’s power in us. Believers who live in despair and defeat have never grasped this first, fundamental principle. In any struggle against evil, our starting point must be, “I have power available to me.” Always begin from the premise of victory. We have “the exceeding greatness of His power.” Let’s use it.
Never forget we have an unlimited power source available to us. “Christians are not storage batteries” (Ironside). Believers often say, “Give me more power” when we ought to be saying, “God, help me harness the power I have.” We see ourselves as ever-ready flashlight batteries when we ought to see ourselves as attached to an immense nuclear reactor.
Knowing “the exceeding greatness of his power” is our only hope for a vigorous, fulfilling Christian life. Without this knowledge, we have no refuge from pessimism, despair, and fatalism, “for no man will long seek to be better, if he is convinced that the effort is hopeless” (Maclaren).
This is why Paul prays we will know the “exceeding greatness” of God’s power avail-able to us. We must have a firm belief in the sufficiency of God’s power in order to have a steady walk before God.
If we are obsessed with a disheartening view of our weakness and unworthiness, we will soon be cast down. We must recognize our frailty, but at the same time keep our thoughts ever focused on the power of God.
Concentrate! Think on this! Power is flowing to “us-ward.” It has been flowing unabated in our directions since the moment of our conversions. God’s power has worked at times in us when we did not recognize it. We have often been defeated and crushed to the ground spiritually, but why have we been unable to quit altogether? God’s power upholds us.
Each time we have been ready to chuck it all, why have we been unable to actually do it? Because we are connected to a never-ending power source. It will not let us utterly and completely fall.
Ah, you might say to me, “Pastor, you do not understand. Your message hurts more than helps. It makes me embarrassed at myself–so much power available, yet so little progress in my life.”
I know. I truly know. “Our paths are strewn with battlefields, where we were defeated; how should we expect the victor’s wreath?” (Maclaren). Nevertheless, despite our disappointment with ourselves, “the exceeding greatness of his power” will not let us quit.
Are your dreams shattered, your plans crushed? Obviously, they were not the dreams and plans God meant for you. The power will not let you give up. Claim it and start again with a new set of dreams and plans.
Sin has knocked you to your knees. Bless God! this is the position of prayer. The power will not let you sink any lower.
We are poor, weak, full of sin, ashamed of ourselves every day, but we do not give up, because a power surges within us. “It comes surging and rejoicing into our aching emptiness, and lifts us buoyant above our temptations and weakness” (Maclaren).
The better we “know” this power, the more we deem our possibilities to be. As we take our eyes off self, and contemplate more and more God’s power, we sense a surge of confidence within. We can go higher. Despite our flesh and weakness, we can mount up with wings as eagles. We can experience a power which can be known, that is, seen and realized. Such knowledge will stimulate us to vigorous and victorious action.
Eph. 1:18-19a Conclusion
Armitage Robinson, a Bible scholar, said Paul’s spiritual vision made him the foremost of apostles. He was able to see what was his, to perceive the possibilities available to him. We, too, need to have our eyes fully enlightened to realize the “hope” (certainty), the “riches” (enjoyment), and the “power” (victory).