Eph. 1:10 Introduction
Our text briefly states the over-riding theme of Ephesians, yea, of the whole Bible. God’s grand purpose and ultimate design, is to “gather together in one all things in Christ.” This supreme objective encompasses all other plans of God. The foreordination of believers is part of a larger, predetermined destiny for the whole Universe. Someday Jesus will be the universally acknowledged, undisputed ruler of a united, harmonious creation.
Eph. 1:10a “That in the dispensation. . .”
“Dispensation,” used here in the sense of “dispensing,” refers to stewardship or management. God is Administrator of the ages, the Lord of time. History is truly “His story.”
Macbeth depicts history as a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Bible differs, giving a better and more accurate view. “History belongs to God, not to the puny plans of man or the perverse power of Satan. History is written and directed by its Creator, who will see it through to the fulfillment of His own ultimate purpose” (MacArthur).
On the eve of Napoleon’s departure for his Russian campaign, he blustered with a cocky boastfulness verging on the brink of arrogance and blasphemy. A noble lady tried to soften his bravado, “Sire, man proposes, but God disposes.” The emperor haughtily replied, “Madame, I propose and dispose also.” Months later, bogged down in Russian snow and mud, with half a million of his soldiers left behind dead, Napoleon had learned who “disposes.”
Our Lord is fully in charge. Events are not allowed to drift by themselves through time, nor does man dictate affairs.
We must show proper worship to God by not boasting as if we control time. “Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15). In thought, word, and deed, let us live as if God is the dispenser of history, for He is.
Eph. 1:10b “. . .of the fullness of times. . .”
This phrase refers to the time chosen by God for the coming of Jesus (GL 4:4). His incarnation occurred in the “fullness of times,” when the time was ripe, at the fit and proper moment. It was God’s prerogative to determine when the old epoch would end, when the new and final one would begin, and when He will climax this final epoch, thereby accomplishing His ultimate purpose.
Eph. 1:10c “. . .he might gather together in one. . .”
”Gather together in one” implies things are now scattered in many fragments. In our divided and dispersed world, chaos and confusion abound. Earth is still reeling from an ancient conflict, the “war in heaven” (RV 12:7). Imagine! War in paradise.
Lucifer and his evil angels struck at the heart of God. When expelled from God’s presence, they carried Heaven’s Civil War to Eden. When Adam and Eve yielded, and joined the ranks of these rebels, harmony submitted everywhere to discord. Disintegration enveloped the world and became our portion.
Earth’s story ever since has been “Nature red in tooth and claw,” but Jesus came to unite creation’s splintered fragments. “Gather together” translates a mathematical term. “The Greek practice was to add up a column of figures and put the sum at the top, and this name was given to the process” (Foulkes). Everything will be summed up someday in Jesus. Eventually all will be brought into harmonious columns, and regimented under Him.
Eph. 1:10d “. . .all things. . .”
Paul’s vision included the whole universe. He foresaw Jesus as all in all to all things. Only One, our Lord Jesus, could ever accomplish this feat. Our precious Christ is great indeed. Paul loved Jesus, and fell all over himself verbally, making every effort to exalt Jesus as high as possible.
Christ is the essence of our faith. Christianity is not primarily duty and doctrine. It is Christ. He is everything, and someday “all things” will see this. “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (PR 16:4), and will someday rule all things.
Our own predetermined, individual salvations are but a fragment of a vast and glorious plan for the entire cosmos. This is not to say our role as believers is unimportant. In fact, the opposite is true. Christ is already “head over all things to the Church” (1:22). Oneness is to be visible in the Church as a picture, a foretaste, of what all the Universe will someday be like.
“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). The Church must be breaking down barriers of race, color, culture, and politics. Christian homes and churches should be examples of Heaven on earth. The world should see in us what all the creation will be like someday. This truth shames me.
Eph. 1:10e “. . .in Christ. . .”
Verse ten is the keystone of Universalism, which wrongly believes all men and angels shall be saved in the end. Scripture never gives one shred of evidence to indicate fallen angels, or men who die without Christ, will ever be reclaimed. All shall be under Christ’s authority, but not all under His salvation. Hell and Heaven are under His rule, but only Heaven under His mercy.
The glory shall be shared only by those “in Christ.” Men and angels outside Christ endure everlasting destruction. When Satan and his supporters revolted against God, a special place of torment was prepared specifically for them. People who reject Christ are also sent there (MT 25:41). Satan, demons, and lost men will be forever secluded in a place where they can never disturb God’s harmony again. When God re-creates the creation, it will never be undone again. Once the key of the bottomless pit (RV 20:1) is used for the last time, it will be thrown away, never to be retrieved again.
Eph. 1:10f “. . .both which are in heaven. . .”
The good angels, the ones who have ministered to the saints through the ages, will gladly share this jubilee with us. They will tell us of ancient days, the time before sin cast its ugly shadow on the Universe. Maybe they will explain to us the lust in Lucifer’s heart which caused him to be discontent with heaven.
Eph. 1:10g “. . .and which are on earth. . .”
On earth, also? Yes, even on earth. Isaiah (11:6-9) envisioned the golden age. He saw wild beasts tamed, he visualized carnivorous animals coddling appetizers, he saw violent dispositions restrained. The wolf was with the lamb, the leopard lying with the goat, a lion and a calf walked together, following a child. A baby young enough to suck a mother’s breast crawled to play by the cobra’s hole. A weaned child, a toddler, put his hand in the viper’s nest and played with it. (Even the ugly crow in my back yard will someday be kind to the pretty birds he keeps running off from my new bird bath.) How can this be? Isaiah said, “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Paul explained it this way. . .
Eph. 1:10h “. . .even in him. . .”
How shall these things be? Because, finally, all eyes shall be fixed on Jesus. When Jesus is Earth’s supreme obsession, all will be well. Every look will be love. Gratitude will glow in every breast. Praise shall fill every song.
Christ’s resurrection was the pledge, the surety, of Jesus’ eventual and inevitable dominion over everything. In light of Christ’s victory over death, Paul could see clearly what God was up to. All history had become clear to the Apostle. Jesus entered the creation in order to take over the creation.
In His incarnation, Christ began to subdue all aspects of the Universe. Christ’s coming to earth was not only an incarnation, it was an invasion. His enfleshment was more than merely a visit, it was a conquest. Jesus came to defeat Satan, sin, and death, to begin the process of their complete dissolution.
How appropriate that He who entered the creation will one day rule the creation absolutely. He who made it, walked in it, and died in it, will someday govern it. The government, instead of a cross, will rest upon His shoulders. A crown of jewels, not thorns, shall adorn His brow. Men will cheer, not jeer; salute, not spit; bow, not mock.
Jesus will fill Earth’s vanity with His own purpose and fill emptiness with His own fullness. He will gladden each heart with his own delight and quicken every creature with His own life. He will beautify each corner with His own glory, sustain all with His own life, and heal all with His health.
Eph. 1:11a “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance. . .”
God’s masterplan is to “gather together in one all things in Christ” (v. 10). All things will someday be summed up in regimented columns under Jesus. Some columns will be cursed and secluded, but God has incorporated believers in His plan in a wonderful way, as the firstfruits of the blessed columns.
In Jesus believers “have obtained an inheritance.” An inheritance is neither earned nor merited, but received due to a parent/child relationship. God not only adopts us, and calls us sons and daughters, He treats us as if we truly are His children.
As full-fledged family members, our honor and glory is not one whit inferior to that possessed by angels who never rebelled. Grace totally reverses the disgrace affixed to us by the Fall.
Eph. 1:11b “. . .being predestinated. . .”
Paul was not afraid of controversial concepts. He did not fear debate or arguments when presenting truth. His spirit is needed today. We have no right to avoid Bible truths because we deem them controversial. When teaching Scripture, we neither go out of our way to seek controversy, nor go out of our way to avoid it. We must lovingly preach the Word, not piecemeal it.
Do not shun the word “predestination.” It assures us God not only had a plan, but also included us in it. Were it not for predestination, no man would ever be saved. “By reason of the Fall, (man’s) will has naturally a bias to that which is evil, and would, therefore, in every case, without a Divine influence, reject Christ” (Raffles, in B.I.). No man can on his own choose holiness, or decide to receive Christ. Only God can call men to Himself, and He does so because He decided ages ago to do so.
Eph. 1:11c “. . .according to the purpose of him who worketh
all things. . .”
“Worketh” is “energeo,” the root of our words energy, energetic, and energize. God devised a masterplan, included believers in it, and “worketh all things.” God energizes His plan to achieve His purpose. What He foreordains He accomplishes. God’s masterplan shall be enacted. Neither Satan, demons, Hell, sin, nor unbelievers will thwart the ultimate exaltation of Christ.
Eph. 1:11d “. . .after the counsel of his own will. . .”
”Counsel” denotes deliberation. God moves according to a logical plan of action, securing ends infinitely worthy of Himself. His purpose is Sovereign, but never arbitrary. He does not work at random or blindly. God has legitimate, coherent reasons for what He does. We cannot see or understand all now, but “by and by” we shall see how logical everything was.
Eph. 1:12a “That we should be to the praise of his glory. . .”
We retain no praise unto ourselves. Glory belongs only to God. All we are or have is of Him. This confessed humility is a reason the Gospel can bring peace between men. It strips away the pride which produces enmity and division. None feels superior to others. All are “together grovelling in the dust in utter failure” (Lloyd-Jones). Arrogance is crushed to the ground.
God’s ultimate goal in predestination is not to give us a sense of haughty privilege, as the Jews often erroneously concluded. God’s purpose is the manifestation of His own glory, in order that more and more people might be drawn to enjoy Him.
Voice abroad “the praise of his glory.” In the Song of Solomon, the lady-lover praised the beauty of her spouse so loudly that she awakened others. Let us do the same. Praise Him with a voice loud enough to awaken others to inquire of Him.
Eph. 1:12b “. . .who first trusted in Christ.”
This refers to the Jews, who for centuries longed for Messiah to come. Though the Jews held to the promise, a majority of them rejected the Promised One when He came (JN 1:11). Nevertheless, a minority believed, and became Christ’s first followers.
Eph. 1:13a “In whom ye also trusted. . .”
“We” (v. 12) refers to Jews, “ye” (v. 13) to Gentiles. Gentiles have been incorporated along with Jewish believers as members of the body of Christ. Jews and Gentiles have been set on equal footing. There are no second-class believers.
When Jesus came, the Gentiles were in the throes of wickedness. Mired in a squalor, our race was no better than cobblestones, not worth picking up, but God took us into His laboratory of grace, and by the chemistry of atoning grace He processed us, and turned us into His precious jewels (Strauss).
This inclusion of Gentiles repulsed many Jews, and turned them from the Gospel. We often criticize first century Jews for being clannish and exclusive, but have we done any better at extending the kingdom? Our meetinghouse today is filled with the “we’s,” but where are the “ye’s”? I fear we are guilty of the same exclusivism for which we condemn the Jews of Jesus’ day.
“We-to-ye” is still the ongoing dynamic of the Gospel. “We” who know should carry the message to the “ye” who need to know.
Eph. 1:13b “. . .after that ye heard the word of truth, the
gospel of your salvation. . .”
Fortunately, certain “We converted Jews” witnessed to “ye lost Gentiles.” The only way men can be saved is for the message to be told and received. Salvation cannot be the result of mere musing or creative speculation. The Gospel is a scheme too excellent for the human mind to invent. Its truths are too majestic to be concocted by human intellect.
Telling is God’s ordained way of spreading His word, and it is definitely a word worth telling. “The word of truth” we tell is “the gospel of your salvation,” the good news whereby men are delivered from sin, death, and Hell.
Salvation is not in church membership, sacraments, ordinances, traditions, or good works. “Your salvation” is in “the gospel,” the good news about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. One must hear “the word of truth,” and respond to it with faith.
Satan tries to dilute the Christian message by tempting men to doubt, despise, or silence it. We refute the Devil on all three counts. First, doubt not “the word of truth.” As truth indeed, it should never be questioned. The Christian message comes from the God of truth and conveys the highest truth He has to reveal. The word revealed in Jesus, and recorded in holy writ, is emphatically and entirely true. Scripture is fact, not fiction; realism, not romance; a history, not a novel. Our Bible is “The” Book, above all other books. It is the “Holy” Bible, unique, distinct, set apart unto God like no other writing.
Second, despise not “the word of truth.” Ours is not “a” word of truth; it is “the” word of truth. No other truth compares to it in eminence or importance. There are other truths, but none carries any significance in comparison to “the” word of truth which is “the gospel of your salvation.”
Do you deem the word of truth unimportant? Ask residents in Hell if they think it is of little value. Ask any of them, “If you could return to earth, would you despise the word of truth?”
Ask the saved in Heaven if they deem the word of truth unimportant. They love it and bless God continually for it. “The word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” is highly exalted.
Third, silence not “the word of truth.” A believer can talk with an unbeliever about many truths. There are truths of history, math, science, politics, etc., but the most important truth is the gospel whereby men can be saved.
Imagine yourself on a shore with a rope in your hand. Nearby a man is about to be swept over a waterfall. There are many truths you could shout to the man: “Sides of an equilateral triangle are congruent;” “Germs cause disease;” “Beta particles are electrons;” “Edison invented the light bulb.” To a man rushing headlong toward destruction, these truths are meaningless. Only one truth matters enough to be voiced, “Catch the rope!”
To snatch men from the raging sea of lostness, God cast down a rope, “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” The “we” who have clutched it and have been drawn to shore must now turn and toss the rope to the “ye” who have not yet been rescued.
Catch the rope, friend. It is suicidal to take time to debate whether or not the God who cast the rope is trustworthy. It means certain death if you refuse to take the rope because you fear God may not like you, and might throw you back in the water.
Whatever excuse one uses to go to Hell really does not matter. Hell will be Hell, for whatever reason one goes there. Do not be foolish. Catch the rope. Come safely to the shore.
Eph. 1:13c Introduction
Many of a believer’s most treasured words are found in the opening verses of Ephesians. When we think Paul’s vocabulary may have reached its limit, he produces yet another marvelous term, “sealed,” a word denoting assurance. Being sealed with the Holy Spirit is the essence of our security. God wants every Christian to be absolutely certain of their salvation. May God use this message to help us more fully enjoy the security which is ours.
Eph. 1:13c “. . .in whom. . .”
Based on Christ’s merit, believers are sealed by the Father with the Holy Spirit. Neither the Father nor the Spirit displaces the Son in our lives and affections. Jesus’ blood has made all our Divine blessings possible.
Eph. 1:13d “. . .also. . .”
Even Gentile believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and belong to God as truly and securely as Jewish believers ever did.
Eph. 1:13e “. . .after that ye believed. . .”
There can be no sealing, no assurance, without believing in Jesus as revealed in “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Faith must come first.
Denominations which teach salvation by works downplay assurance. A major flaw in much Protestant and Roman Catholic teaching is the absence of assurance. They believe a person can be true and loyal for a lifetime, work hard for the Master, and yet never be sure of Heaven. This is sad, but explainable. Where works are advocated for salvation, assurance is impossible to possess. One can never know when “enough” works have been done. Assurance is meant for every believer, but can be found only in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.
Eph. 1:13f “. . .ye were sealed. . .”
Seals were official marks of identification used on possessions, letters, contracts, bills of sale, and other important documents. A seal consisted of hot wax or soft clay which, after being placed on an object, was stamped with one’s own unique signet ring. Seals performed at least three significant functions.
First, seals authenticated a completed transaction. Treaties and contracts became operative once the seals of the agreeing parties were attached. When the document was sealed, there was no turning back. The transaction was finished, complete, impossible to nullify or reverse.
The indwelling Holy Spirit is the proof a great transaction has been completed in a believer’s life. God the Father predestinated the salvation of all believers, Jesus purchased our salvation at Calvary, the Holy Spirit is the seal which proves salvation has been applied to a particular person. Sealing personalizes God’s great cosmic plan, and applies it to lone, solitary individuals, one heart at a time.
‘Tis done, ’tis done,
The great transaction’s done.
for all–and for this one.
The Holy Spirit’s presence within us is the evidence, the proof, God has done a work in our behalf and in our lives, individually.
Second, seals marked ownership. Unique, personalized seals provided sufficient evidence of ownership, and settled all disputes. When Jeremiah bought the field at Anathoth, he sealed the title deed before witnesses, thereby becoming the land’s new and rightful owner (JR 32:18).
The Holy Spirit’s presence within believers is the proof we belong to God. By sealing us, God says loud and clear, “Mine!” The Spirit within you is God’s public assertion before Heaven, Earth, and Hell you are His. Dear believer, you are precious to God. Seals were applied only to things highly valued.
Third, seals provided security. They assured a package arrived intact, guaranteed a message arrived untampered with, or protected property. Darius sealed the stone which closed Daniel in the lions’ den (DN 6:17), and Pilate sealed the stone on Jesus’ tomb (MT 27:66). Any person who dared break or disturb a seal bearing the authority of Persia or Rome would quickly forfeit his life. The seal was a safeguard.
The Holy Spirit within us is God’s seal of everlasting security. The bond between God and a believer can not be broken. God’s royal seal is inviolable. In Revelation (5:1), no one–including angels and saints–dared tamper with the seven seals on the scroll of God. Being God’s seals, they were sacrosanct, and untouchable by all except the worthy Lamb.
Worry not, dear believer. You are sealed, and the very purpose of a seal is to remove doubt and provide security. You will reach your ultimate destination. No one can break God’s seal. Satan will try to tempt and trip us, but can not undo God’s seal.
Eph. 1:13g “. . .with that holy Spirit. . .”
The Spirit indwelling us is holy in himself and the source of all our holiness. Being a living seal, He not only achieves for us what legal seals picture, but is also active within us. As the signet ring imparts its likeness to the hot wax, even so the Spirit seeks to impress His image more and more clearly upon soft, impressionable hearts. God’s seal can not be broken, but the Holy Spirit’s image can be faint within us. Callousness retards the ongoing work of the Spirit within us. Always be asking God to turn our inner iron of nature into the soft wax of grace.
Eph. 1:13h “. . .of promise. . .”
Our precious, indwelling Holy Spirit is the One whom Jesus promised would come (JN 14:16), the One whose ministry would be a comfort and consolation to us. Jesus expected us to be blessed by the work of the Spirit. We should especially enjoy contemplating His role in “sealing.” Sealing with the Holy Spirit is meant to gladden believers. We ought to revel in it.
Let me ask you the question I ask everyone who seeks to join our church, “Are you sure Jesus lives in your heart?” Sealing with the Holy Spirit allows one to make an affirmative response.
It is possible to be sure of one’s having been sealed. The proof is in the ongoing ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As the Spirit’s image is pressed deeply within us, it manifests itself publicly by conforming our outward lives to the image of Christ. The evidence of sealing is your increased signs of sonship, those tokens which show you bear more and more the family likeness. You increasingly walk like a prince, talk like a princess, act like the King, and live as a person with a royal mark.
Test yourself. Examine your life. Seek to know you are sealed. One word of caution–be sure you use the correct test. James (1:22) says, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Take special notice of the phrase “of the word.” We do not determine the criteria for our self-evaluation. We judge our lives by God’s standard, His word, the Bible. When you search your life to find proofs of the Holy Spirit’s presence, examine yourself in light of the Holy Spirit’s book.
Jesus said the ones who endure to the end are the saved ones. Hebrews says believers remain faithful. John’s beautiful first epistle tells us faith, love, and obedience provide evidence of salvation. Peter’s first letter points to patience under suffering. The Bible gives us these, and other, tests. Apply them. Seek to know you are sealed.
Being sealed with the Spirit, and realizing it, is one of life’s most precious treasures. “To believe in Christ will save you from hell; to be assured of your interest in Christ will give you a heaven upon earth” (Spurgeon). It is good to be saved. It is better to know for sure you are saved now. Best of all is to know for sure you are saved forever.
Assurance is a wonderful gift, the manna in the golden pot, the nectar of paradise, honey from the Rock, a note escaped from the music of Heaven, a drop of water sprinkled from the river of the water of life, a ray from the Sun of righteousness.
With regard to assurance in salvation, to know is to glow. Do not walk to Heaven under a dark cloud. Walk in sunshine.
Eph. 1:14a “Which is the earnest. . .”
Being sealed with the Holy Spirit (v. 13) provides believers eternal security. Paul, continuing his emphasis on assurance, borrowed a business term, “the earnest,” to describe a role the Holy Spirit performs within us. An earnest, used to close a commercial transaction and bind a contract, was a down payment which guaranteed the remainder of the purchase price would be paid. We commonly express the concept in our phrase, “earnest money.”
“The earnest” conveys at least three thoughts regarding our salvation. First, the Holy Spirit within us is a pledge we will someday totally enjoy all of God’s blessings. Having unsteady and leaky cups, we now miss much of the fullness God showers upon us, but will someday catch it all. By depositing the Spirit in us, God has obligated Himself to let us eventually fully enjoy every blessing of salvation purchased by Jesus. The Spirit in us is God’s deposit, His down payment, a guarantee, “the earnest.” Heaven is as sure for believers as though we were already there.
Lest this truth lead to presumption, examine yourself. Is the Spirit’s ongoing work evident in your life? Growth in grace is our sure proof of future bliss. God gives the earnest, and we who accept it are obligated to live by the terms of the contract, the finished transaction sealed by the Spirit. If you have the Spirit, you are duty-bound to act like one indwelt by Him.
Second, the Holy Spirit within us is a portion of God’s blessings we will someday fully enjoy. An earnest is a pledge of payment to come, and also a portion of the full payment. An earnest is the same in kind as the portion yet to be paid.
A believer’s life on earth and his life in Heaven are of the same kind, differing only in degree. Our life in Heaven will merely be the life we enjoy now, intensified and increased. The essence of the glorified life will be spiritual, its main joys being the full enjoyment forever of God and His spiritual perfections. As saintly Dr. Preston was dying, he rejoiced, “Blessed be God, though I change my place I shall not change my company.”
Third, the Holy Spirit in us is a pre-taste of the blessings we will someday fully enjoy. One who receives a down payment can spend it, and immediately enjoy this first portion of the full purchase price. The Spirit in us allows us to savor Heaven now.
The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets,
Before we reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets. (Isaac Watts)
The Holy Spirit lets us taste enough to set us hungering and thirsting for more. He whets our appetites for larger portions.
The Spirit neither tantalizes nor frustrates us. He puts in us only those desires He will certainly satisfy. Spiritual longings in our heart are whispers of a Spirit omnipotent to fulfill the promises He utters. The expectations He puts within us are the dawning and assurance of their accomplishment.
The highest thrills we enjoy here faintly echo more wonderful delights to come. Our taste of Him in public worship is a foretaste of Heaven. His illumination of our minds is an earnest of eternal light. His sanctifying work is the firstfruits of a harvest of perfect holiness. His comforts presage everlasting joy. His presence is the pledge of unmarred fellowship.
Our vision of Him through a glass darkly is a harbinger of seeing Him face to face. Temptations which lie shattered at our feet foreshadow a time when the dragon himself will be bruised under our feet (RM 16:20). Our most treasured experiences of God are but the present tip of a future iceberg.
Eph. 1:14b “. . .of our inheritance. . .”
“Our” includes Jewish and Gentiles believers. Both groups have trusted in Christ (1:12b-13a), been sealed with the Spirit (1:13b), and enjoy Him as the earnest of their inheritance.
The word “inheritance” reminds us neither group can claim merit. Sinners by nature, by choice, and by habit, all Jews and Gentiles deserve shame, death, and Hell. God has bequeathed believing Jews and Gentiles an “inheritance,” something neither earned by works nor bought with money. “Our inheritance” is received solely because God adopted us as His children.
Eph. 1:14c “. . .until the redemption of the purchased
possession. . .”
While Earth abides, possession is incomplete for all participants in salvation. Saints do not totally partake of their inheritance. God does not fully enjoy His purchased possession.
God’s seal within believers is His proof of ownership, but His purchased people on Earth are strangers in a pilgrim land, a world whose god is Satan. Sin in our lives frustrates the Father’s full enjoyment of us.
Redemption began in our lives when Jesus freed us from the everlasting penalty of sin (1:7), but will not be completed until we are removed from the annoying presence of sin. Believers on Earth are in no danger of Hell. God paid too dear a price for us to let us slip away. He has purchased us with the precious blood of His most precious Son.
Our lives are secure in Jesus, but our bodies are subject to temptation. Our earthly temple is harassed by the world, hampered by the flesh, and harangued by a roaring lion. The divine seed sown in us is good, the eternal life imparted is perfect, but the spiritual plant in us is dwarfed by earth’s alien soil. Many competitors viciously vie for our allegiance. Motives other than love for God constantly assail us, but someday our divinely implanted plant will be transplanted to a higher house, and shall blossom and flourish (Maclaren). Here we grow spiritually by inches. In Heaven we will grow by leaps and bounds. We shall grow more in five minutes in Heaven than in a lifetime on Earth.
I look forward to bearing fruit and flowers which will bring to God unmingled bliss, “joy without alloy.” Love’s deepest wound is to hurt the Beloved. In Heaven we will do this no more.
Someday God will rescue entirely from alien hands those who are His own, for His own full pleasure. In glorification, the climactic phase of salvation, even our bodies will be removed from this sphere of evil, far “beyond the gunshot of the infernal fiend” (Spurgeon), beyond even the howlings of his infernal dogs. We yearn for our full release from all aspects of sin.
From the world let me be weaned,
My flesh please bring to an end,
Take me away from the howling fiend,
Take me away to the holy Friend.
Eph. 1:14d “. . .unto the praise of his glory.”
In this longest of sentences (1:3-14), Paul has thrice mentioned praise. That which is infinitely praiseworthy can not be mentioned too often. If we are bored by Paul’s words of praise, it is because we do not love Jesus as much as the Apostle did.
A lover enjoys talking about the beloved more than the ambivalent want to hear. When my cousin Rod fell in love with his wife-to-be, he talked of her incessantly. He drove me to distraction. The final blow came one night when I laid down on the bed and saw, glued to the ceiling above me in huge, red letters, “G-a-i-l G-a-m-b-i-l-l.” Love loves to speak of the beloved.
When we rightly consider everything our loving God has done for us in the past, is doing for us in the present, and will do for us in the future, we cannot find language adequate to express praise. Even our best words, and most prolific speeches, fall immeasurably below the vastness of the subject.
Someday, however, we will bring Him adequate praise and glory. Often on Earth, His praise is muted and His glory concealed by us, but in the hour of our final redemption, we will voice aloud His praise, and show forth His glory. For this moment we were created and re-created. On that glorious day we will fulfill the ultimate goal of our being and of our salvation.
God will someday receive all praise and glory. When ugly, vile sinners are made beautiful and clean, all creation will be agog, amazed at God’s redeeming ability.
When God removes us from Satan and sin, and decks us in white robes, even the lost will stand in awe. They will then see we truly were God’s purchased possession, and shall regret the times they scoffed us.
Even angels will gasp in astonishment when they see how well redeemed sinners “clean up.” The Universe will be enthralled, spellbound, when it sees sinners “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (EP 5:27).
Needless to say, no one will give us sinners credit for such a wonderful transformation. “The praise of His glory” shall encompass all in all.
Eph. 1:15a “Wherefore I also, after I heard. . .”
Paul had received a favorable dispatch from Ephesus. Though in jail, he was praising, not pouting; grateful, not grumbling.
The best news a minister hears is good news about his people’s spiritual condition. Paul “heard” this very type of joyous tidings while in jail. The blessings described in verses 3-14 were producing visible results in the lives of the Ephesian Christians, “wherefore” the Apostle will now give thanks to God.
Eph. 1:15b “. . .of your faith in the Lord Jesus. . .”
The Christians in Ephesus had trusted in Christ for justification, and were continuing to trust in Him for sanctification. Ongoing faith was so obvious in their lives that saints throughout the Roman world were talking about it.
A believer, by definition, is one whose life is characterized by belief. Our faith in Jesus is absolute. We place no trust in self. Believers have no confidence in the flesh, but are not dismayed. They instead exhibit a meek, child-like spirit, knowing sufficient power is found in God. We lean wholly on Him, staying constant in prayer.
This sense of absolute dependence upon God is ever a true mark of a Christian. Anticipating Ananias’ objection about being sent to Saul of Tarsus, the Lord provided evidence of Saul’s conversion by saying, “Behold, he prayeth” (AC 9:11). Earnest, fervent prayer was the token of a new birth, the proof of a heart leaning on God in faith.
Like newly converted Saul, the Ephesian believers also were not ashamed of confessing personal weakness. They were not embarrassed to admit reliance upon Jesus for strength.
In the midst of life’s howling storms, believers lean on Jesus with a spirit of quietude and repose. Some naturalists once wanted to study a type of wild flower which grew only on the side of a dangerous gorge in the Scottish Highlands. They offered a boy a generous sum to descend by rope, and gather a few specimen.
Pondering the money and the danger, he replied, “I will go if my father will hold the rope.” When his dad complied, the lad fearlessly descended the cliff and brought back the flowers.
This bespeaks the confidence we ought to display toward our Lord. Life looks treacherous, but we can face it with peace because we know “Father holds the rope.” We should have the calm displayed by a little bird beneath its parent’s wing, and by a baby at its mother’s breast. We need to exhibit a confidence which causes others to “sit up and take notice,” and prompts them to talk about it, thereby bringing glory to the Father.
Eph. 1:15c “. . .and love unto all the saints. . .”
As this epistle will later reveal, the Ephesian Christians were not perfect. They had faults, but loved each other anyway.
We are often too quick to censor and condemn one another. We forget we are to love “all the saints.” Christian love is indiscriminate. It does not pick and choose who it will love, but extends to all Christians always, however cantankerous they are.
In regeneration, we are armed with prejudice against vices and supplied with hatred for sins. Unfortunately, our Christian growth is sometimes stunted at this point. As Rev. Jonathan Swift said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
God expects better of us. We are to love one another with a love which is more than emotion, a love which manifests itself in a self-sacrificing spirit by deeds of kindness and lowly service.
In the kingdom, none is exalted higher in position than any other. The disciples tried to vaunt themselves above each other, but Jesus showed them the proper attitude to have by washing their feet. We are equals, brothers, sisters, a family.
A proper understanding of this truth made possible the marriage of Matthew Henry’s parents. The great Commentator’s mother was of noble birth, but his father was a commoner. The young lady became a Christian and fell in love with fellow believer, Philip Henry.
Her parents opposed the romance, and demanded of her, “This man Philip Henry, where has he come from?”
She nobly replied, “I don’t know where he has come from, but I know where he is going.”
We love fellow saints because we know where they are going. We are marching to Zion together, side by side on equal footing. We share the same home, and belong to the same family. Having the same Father, we dare not refuse to accept one whom He has accepted.
God is love, and where He is, love is. When you love the saints, demonstrate self-sacrificing love for others, or love the unlovely, you see God in your own heart.
Eph. 1:16a “. . .cease not. . .”
Paul prayed regularly. His letters reveal a man constantly talking with Jesus. Every circumstance awakened prayer in him.
Never say you are too busy to pray. For a Christian, such an attitude is impossible. For a believer to claim to be too busy to pray is as irrational a statement as a natural man saying he is too busy to breathe. It is totally unacceptable, and reveals ignorance of the most elementary ABCs of being a Christian.
Jesus was the busiest of all men. People sought Him from sunrise to sunset, and sometimes even in the night. Time for prayer was hard to find, but Jesus created opportunities to pray. He often prayed at unusual times, including “a great while before day” (MK 1:35), and even “all night” (LK 6:12).
Pray! Never let this Holy of Holies in your heart collect spider webs. Prayer should be breath to your soul, an instinct.
When told he had less than thirty minutes to live, Dr. Bacchus, saintly President of Hamilton College, immediately thought of prayer, and said, “Take me out of my bed, and place me upon my knees; let me spend that time in calling upon God for the salvation of the world.” Like Livingstone, he died upon his knees in prayer. Would we have responded similarly? Do we deem prayer our lifeblood?
Eph. 1:16b “. . .to give thanks for you. . .”
Before interceding for the Ephesians, Paul gave thanks for them. This pattern regularly recurs in his prayers, reminding us we can truly intercede only for those for whom we are truly grateful. Envy destroys the ability to intercede effectively.
Let us search our hearts. Do we praise God when others are blessed? Are we glad when things go well with other brothers and sisters in Christ? May we never be numbered among the many who are made miserable by the good fortune of others.
Eph. 1:16c “. . .making mention of you in my prayers. . .”
Paul the Apostle was an intercessor. He prayed regularly for churches at Rome (RM 1:9), Corinth (1 C 1:4), Ephesus, Philippi (PH 1:4), Colossae (CL 1:3), and Thessalonica (1 TH 1:2).
Israel’s High Priest wore a breastplate upon which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes. When Paul knelt to pray, names of believers around the world were engraved on his heart.
It is difficult to say whether a minister does more good for his people by praying or preaching. A Shepherd must do both for the sheep. Samuel taught Israel, but also knew if he did not pray for them it would be counted unto him as sin (1 SM 12:23).
Intercede for one another. Offer thanks for each other and then plead with the Almighty for one another. Thank God for what He has done, and then ask Him to do more.
Thanksgiving and petition are both necessary. Thanksgiving looks to the past, to the foundation already laid. Supplication looks to the future, to the superstructure under construction.
The spiritual blessings God lays up for us in abundance have to be fetched in by prayer. Praying for strength and blessing is a never ending process.
Even the best of Christians need to be prayed for. When our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing well, pray for God to give them even more of His blessings.
Paul knew the Ephesians were on the right track, but did not become indifferent or lethargic. However high we see our fellow believers go, let us pray they will go even higher.
On earth, no believer ever “arrives.” Never think you or anyone else is immune to a terrible fall. Paul himself expressed concern about the possibility of becoming a castaway (1 C 9:27).
The Ephesians faltered. A generation later, when John wrote Revelation, Jesus said of the Ephesians, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (RV 2:4).
Let us never give Satan a victory by default. Intercede. Pray for one another. I beseech thee, pray for me.
Eph. 1:17 Introduction
Paul prayed for the Ephesians (v. 16), and had a specific purpose in mind. Verse 17, which reveals certain details of his intercessory prayers, is a profound petition, applicable to all believers, and worthy of imitation by all who wish to excel in the area of intercessory prayer.
Eph. 1:17a “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”
Let there never be any doubt as to which God we pray. We pray to the God whom Jesus acknowledged and revealed to us, the same God our Savior prayed to in His humanity. Jesus so emptied Himself in the incarnation that the One who had forever been His Father became His God.
In His darkest hours, Jesus looked to the Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (LK 22:42). His dying words were, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (LK 23:46). Jesus trusted the Father. We can, too.
Eph. 1:17b “. . .the Father of glory. . .”
God is the ultimate source of “glory,” perfect, manifest excellence. He dwells in unapproachable light. To see Him is to die, but to believers He is “Father,” One who gave His only begotten Son to prove His love for us, One who invites us to Himself, One whom we can approach in prayer.
Ruth and I have parents who never let us forget they are parents. Though our income exceeds theirs, they continue to give and give and give. Their love forbids them to be distant, stingy, or negligent toward us. They have helped us better understand the concept of God as a parent.
When approaching God, consider both “Father” and “glory.” Come with the freedom of a child approaching a parent. At the same time, revere God and expect Him to answer prayer with a revelation of His glory in some way. Expect things to happen when you pray.
Eph. 1:17c “. . .may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and
revelation. . .”
Paul prayed for nothing physical or material. He did not ask for them to be free from persecution, or to have honor and pleasure. The Apostle instead spoke of things which last forever. Always let the spiritual have priority in your prayers.
Paul wants God to give the Ephesians a right spirit, a proper attitude. The Apostle desires for them a suitable disposition, a state of mind which will correctly govern their lives. He prays they will have a desire for increased spiritual perception, and a desire to seek it in the right place.
“Wisdom” refers to seeing into the heart of things and being able to perceive them as they really are. Wisdom seeks to understand the ultimate realities of the cosmos.
“Revelation” is the realm in which wisdom finds its success. Revelation means to disclose, to uncover what has been veiled. In the spiritual realm, revelation refers to truth which is not discernable by ordinary human faculties, and thus has to be made known.
Revelation reached its zenith in the unveiling of God and His mysteries during the incarnation. All of Heaven, its mysteries, its wonders, its glory–all seemed to be profusely poured upon Earth in the coming of Jesus. Revelations abounded. Fortunately, these revelations were compressed into a product, recorded in a book, namely, the Bible. Holy Writ conveys to us the revelations of the incarnation era.
”The spirit of wisdom and revelation” is thus, for all practical purposes, a disposition to ever be seeking more wisdom, and to seek it in Scripture. Since all spiritual wisdom is found in the bounds of revelation, our desire should be for a spirit which makes us want to unlock the treasures of holy writ.
“The spirit of wisdom and revelation” requires profound humility. It requires us never to be content with what we know. “The knowledge of the godly is never so pure, but that some dimness or obscurity hangs over their spiritual vision” (Calvin).
Our humility is intensified by having to acknowledge spiritual wisdom is found not in self, our own ingenuity, human books, or man’s philosophy, but solely in “revelation.” We need a humility which forces us to admit our need of wisdom and forces us to seek it only in the Bible. Why?. . .
Eph. 1:17d “. . .in the knowledge of him.”
Here is the objective of our search for wisdom in revelation–that we might know God. The reference here is not to a knowledge of events, dates, things, or facts, but to a personal knowledge of God Himself. We are in pursuit of the Person. We seek direct contact with God.
Human philosophy, based on a worldly wisdom which has a consuming preoccupation with self, takes man for its center and says, “Know thyself.” Christianity, on the other hand, takes God for its center and says, “First and foremost, know God.”
This word in our text for “knowledge” is intensified. It means to know precisely, thoroughly, fully. Paul is not praying about casual acquaintance or superficial knowledge. His intent is profound intimacy with God.
The ultimate goal of seeking wisdom in revelation is the enjoyment of union with God. This is the sweetest knowledge of all. We have enjoyed this first chapter of Ephesians. We have reached dizzying heights. Can knowledge go any higher? Can anything be better than to know we are predestined to salvation, and to be sure we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and to know He is the earnest of our salvation? Yes! The summum bonum of Christian experience is knowing God.
“To know God” ought to be the exciting motivation for all we do–reading of Scripture, listening to sermons, exercises in religion. We should invite God to significantly share these things with us, to commune with us in them as Friend with friend. “Come, Lord, let us do this together, and in the doing of it be drawn closer to one another.”
Are you sensitive to God’s presence? When you pray, do you know God is there? When you read God’s holy writ, do you know God is speaking? Have you ever known the overwhelming awe Jacob experienced when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place” (GN 28:16)? He was in a field, outside, yet said, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven” (GN 28:17). His reference was not to a building, but to an all-encompassing, surrounding presence.
Your walk with God ought to be a partnership, a sharing of the same life, an extended, ongoing, intimate friendship. When washing dishes, doing laundry, completing ledgers, or handling clients, do you find yourself yearning for the next manifestation of God? Do you look forward to private time? Can you sing with meaning the words of Fanny Crosby,
O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend. . . .
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
When your spiritual life wanes, do you miss the intimacy of God? I am not speaking of losing your salvation–this is an impossibility. I am speaking of your absolute delight with God. When time goes by, and you have not enjoyed sweet fellowship with God for a while, do you miss Him?
I have recently moved a long distance away from my parents. I miss them. Have you ever felt the same way about God? Do you long for a closer walk? Do you yearn for deeper intimacy? Have you ever sighed with David, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (PS 42:2)?
Often I ask questions like this, and see a blank look on the faces of my listeners. At such times, I have to ask myself the question, “What are we doing as believers?” If our whole lives are not wrapped up in God, then what are we about? Religion without intimacy with God is Pharisaism.
Paul’s life exemplified his message. He practiced what he preached and what he prayed. Many years after his conversion, Paul still counted it as the goal of his life, “That I may know Him” (PH 3:10a).
Another example is Moses’ ultimate request for intimacy (EX 33). After the golden calf fiasco, Moses’ intercession stayed the executing hand of God. The Lord, however, said He would no longer lead the people personally, but would use an angel instead. Moses, a lonely man, asked God not to do this. Again the Lord yielded to the leader’s request. Moses, having spent forty days with God, sensing an extraordinary level of intimacy and familiarity in YHWH’s voice, made the boldest of requests, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” In other words, “Reveal yourself to my eyes.” It was the request of a man wanting to know God as no one had ever known Him before. Moses wanted all obscurity and distance removed.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Augustine. He desiringly prayed, “Lord, hast Thou declared that no man shall see Thy face and live? Then let me die, that I may see Thee!”
Let us follow the faith of Moses, Paul, and Augustine. Be suspect of a faith which wants no more of God today than it did yesterday. May God give unto us “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
Eph. 1:18 Introduction
If you investigate a man’s prayers, you see deep within his essence. Paul was a man intimate with God. The contents of his intercessory prayer for the Ephesians reveals what mattered most to this mighty man of God. First and foremost, he desired for his readers an humble spirit which would make them seek wisdom in God’s revelation, resulting in a closer walk with God. This must ever be the starting point in all our spiritual endeavors, because everything in Christianity emanates from relationship with God.
Our primary interest must always be intimacy with God. Is this your first concern when you read your Bible? Are you above all else seeking to be drawn nearer to His “precious, bleeding side”? We often come to Holy Writ primarily for personal comfort or encouragement. These are worthy reasons, but we must view them as secondary goals of our Bible reading.
If, in coming to Holy Writ, our first objective is something other than a closer walk with God, we find ourselves acting like the husband who calls home from his office and says to his wife, “Honey, I called for only one reason–to say I love you. By the way, remember to take out the garbage, and don’t forget to iron my shirt.” The man obviously did not call primarily for the sake of love. I fear we often approach Bible reading the same way. We have other motives than love for God at the forefront.
When we come to the Bible with the right motivation, when love for God is uppermost in our thoughts, many secondary benefits accrue to us from our reading. As we come seeking a closer walk with Jesus, something happens in addition to an improved relationship with Him. We not only know God better, but also begin to understand better various elements of the salvation He has provided. We gain a clearer understanding of Biblical truth and theology. In his intercessory prayer for the Ephesians, Paul now turns his attention to these “extra” benefits.
Eph. 1:18a “The eyes of your understanding. . .”
“Understanding” would be better translated “heart.” The word refers to man’s inmost self, the center of his personality. “The eyes of your heart” is a way of describing the ability to perceive the great truths of God. A marvelous part of conversion is the opening of one’s spiritual eyes.
This faculty of spiritual sight is totally lacking in the unregenerate. They are spiritually blind, powerless to perceive spiritual truths. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 C 2:14). A lost man is spiritually dead, and the only message a corpse can respond to is the command, “Live!” A man spiritually dead can be resurrected through the new birth, but until this happens, he is spiritually blind, unable to understand spiritual truths. Do not argue much with a lost man about Biblical truths. He is in no position to understand. Keep talking to him about Jesus and salvation. This is his only hope.
Only regeneration can open a person’s inner eyes. At Philippi, Paul shared the Gospel with a ladies prayer group which met on the Sabbath by the riverside. One of the listeners was a seller of purple, Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (AC 16:14). In the new birth, God opens the heart’s eyes.
Eph. 1:18b “. . .being enlightened. . .”
Once God opens “the eyes of your heart,” He ever continues to enlighten them. This precious work of the Holy Spirit is referred to as the doctrine of illumination. It is a teaching much neglected in many circles today.
Three things are essential for a believer to receive a significant truth from God–revelation, inspiration, and illumination. Revelation and inspiration are external testimonies of the Spirit, illumination is internal. Revelation and inspiration are past events, illumination is ongoing.
Revelation is the disclosure by God of realities men could not know otherwise. The incarnation was “the” era of abundant revelations. John, Jesus’ dear friend, wrote, “There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (JN 21:25).
Inspiration is the means the Holy Spirit used to preserve forever, in written form, those revelations all believers in all ages would need. While divinely kept from error, witnesses recorded select revelations, and properly interpreted them, for posterity. The product of this inspiration is the Bible.
Illumination, the object of our present text, describes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit which allows a believer to find the true spiritual meaning of a Bible passage. The Spirit helps us understand what He wrote. Illumination enables us to profit from the revelation recorded by inspiration.
After a person receives spiritual sight, he must continue to depend upon God, that the eyes of the heart may be more and more observant. Remember, Paul offered this prayer for believers, for people who already had faith in Jesus, and love for all the saints (1:15). We must never think we have “arrived.” At best we are little children paddling on the edge of a vast sea. Even those who see most clearly still need to have their vision improved, for oceans of God’s truth are yet to be beheld.
As long as we are on earth, we will need this work of the Holy Spirit. Our repeated backsliding and coldness in affection for Christ makes us ever need greater enlightenment. It is something we must ever have renewed within us. We can never live on a reserve we have accumulated. We must come to Holy Writ, ever acknowledging anew our need of the Holy Spirit.
Ever ask for more spiritual eye-salve, for better understanding of God’s truth. Pray with the Psalmist, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (119:18).
Our need for this ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit is perfectly illustrated in a story related by Martin Lloyd-Jones. One of history’s preeminent statesmen was William Wilberforce, a born again member of Parliament who pioneered the movement for the abolition of slavery. His dear friend William Pitt the younger was at best a nominal Christian who attended church only on special occasions. Wilberforce was worried about Pitt’s spiritual life and finally succeeded in getting his friend to accompany him to hear the powerful preacher, Richard Cecil. Wilberforce had heard Cecil preach many times, but felt the minister had never done a better job than the day on which Pitt came to hear him. Wilberforce felt he had been
raptured to heaven, and was left speechless by the message, but as they left, Pitt said, “You know, Wilberforce, I did my very best to concentrate with the whole of my power upon what that man was saying, but I have not the slightest idea as to what he has been talking about.” From the human standpoint, Pitt was a greater man than Wilberforce. Pitt had more ability, a keener mind and wit. But the truth of God was hidden to him.
It is possible for a Christian to hear the word of God proclaimed and not profit thereby. Believers sometimes read the Bible, but find nothing in it, and actually deem it boring. How are these tragedies possible? Sometimes it is because we come with the wrong motive, other times because we have forgotten to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s illumination.
The Spirit’s illumination has been an unspeakable blessing in my own life. I always believed sin was terrible, but can remember when the Holy Spirit illuminated my heart on this matter. He turned head-knowledge into truth which burned deep within me. I was preparing a sermon in my office at Gosnell. In studying James 2:10, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” I was overwhelmed by its truth. I had read or heard this verse scores of times, but on that day the Holy Spirit sensitized my heart to what it really meant. I had never in my life felt such a sense of the sinfulness of sin. I fell from my chair and prostrated myself face down on the floor, pouring out my soul to God.
I always believed in the victorious Christian life, but vividly remember when victory became a real, vibrant possibility in my life. After preaching through Romans 6, I never again viewed any particular sin in my life the same way. Since being illuminated by the Spirit, I have always approached my battles with sins from the position of strength and victory.
The doctrine of eternal security has always been precious to me, but a study of Romans 8:28-39 years ago drove the doctrine into the very warp and woof of my life. When the Spirit illuminated me on this matter, eternal security became a doctrine I not only believed, but also one so intertwined with my spirit that I could hardly live without it.
At one time, I did not believe in the resurrection of our physical bodies, but a decade ago the Spirit illuminated me from Daniel 12. The doctrine of imputation was driven into my soul in Romans 4. A proper understanding of faith came to me in Hebrews 10-11. On and on I could go.
As long as we live, let’s take advantage of this ministry of illumination the Holy Spirit provides. Allow Him to continue giving us fresh and new insights from His Word along our pilgrim way.
Let me summarize this matter in a very practical way. All the truth we need to know is contained in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to apprehend, appropriate, and apply this truth. We do not need more revelations or better truth (the latter is impossible). We simply need our spiritual eyes enlightened to the truths already recorded in Scripture.
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.
When Paul says he 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? If we revealed the “glory” more, we would likely enjoy more of the “riches.”
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 available 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, sinful, ashamed of ourselves each day, but we do not give up, for power “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).