************ Sermon on Ephesians 1:17-19a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 6, 2005
"Three Things Paul Wants You to Know"
For 30 years students of history wondered, "Who was Deep Throat?" Who was Washington's most celebrated secret source? Who helped uncover the web of internal spies, secret surveillance, dirty tricks and coverups that led to President Nixon's resignation and to prison sentences for some of Nixon's aides?
Thanks to Nixon, the American people came to realize that politicians do not necessarily tells us the truth, that they try to hide things from the people, that they do cover up the facts. We have come to realize politicians do not want us to know some things.
The Apostle Paul is not this way at all. He does not want the Ephesian Christians to be kept in the dark or to remain ignorant. In the prayer in front of us, the Apostle Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians may be given "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation" so that they – and we too – come to know three things.
I A Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation
A Paul starts his prayer with, "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." Pious Christians, like pious Jews, apparently had a time set aside for prayer each day. Many pious Jews prayed several hours a day, and if Paul continued such a custom we can understand how he could pray for all his churches.
We need to observe that Paul begins all but one of his letters with an expression of thanks. The mere fact that Gentiles call upon the Lord is sufficient for Paul to give thanks to God – even though their knowledge, conduct, and faith are imperfect. Unlike those grim teachers and preachers who combine their zeal for God with flaming accusations of their congregation, the Apostle Paul expresses both thanks and love for those assembled by God.
We need to also observe that Paul attaches intercession to most of his thanksgivings. Paul realizes that God's work is in process and is not yet completed. So, even when Paul thanks God for the riches of His mercy, he is not ashamed to also speak as a prayer-beggar. For Paul, prayer always involves thanksgiving and asking.
B So, what does Paul ask for even as he gives thanks to God? "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation ..." (Eph 1:17). Paul is praying that God might so work in the lives of the Ephesian saints that they will have the spiritual wisdom and revelation that is the result of the Holy Spirit's work. Paul is praying for a wisdom, a revelation, an inspiration, an insight, that is equal to that given to revered prophets like Moses, Elijah, Amos, and Isaiah in the Old Testament. Paul is praying for a wisdom, a revelation, an inspiration, an insight, that is equal to that given to men like Paul, Peter, and John the Baptist in the New Testament.
What Paul asks for is often mentioned in the Old Testament as the "Spirit of wisdom and understanding." God's Messiah is given this Spirit by God (Is 11:2). Joshua and Daniel received the "Spirit of understanding" (Deut 34:9). Bezalel, the craftsman, was filled with "the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts" (Ex 31:3; 35:31).
Paul prays for the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation." What Paul asks for does not come from man or from within man or by the strength and ability of man. What Paul asks for comes only in and by and through the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
C Now, I need to remind you that God's revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle. There is no new Word from God today.
A couple of years ago a visitor came up to me after the worship service and asked, "Do you have a Word from God for me today?" I looked at him in amazement – for I just finished preaching an entire sermon. I finally said, "God speaks to you and me today through the Bible."
He insisted that I give him more. Using Paul's words, I finally told him to pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
We need to recognize that the Spirit gives illumination rather than inspiration; insight, rather than revelation; understanding, rather than vision. The Spirit, in other words, works in and through and with the Bible – what Paul calls "the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph 1:13). So Paul is asking that the Spirit uses the revelation we already have and give us illumination, insight, and understanding; that by the Spirit "the eyes of your heart may be enlightened" (Eph 1:18).
D Now, you need to also realize that the "wisdom and revelation" imparted by the Spirit through the Word are not limited to perception, learning, knowledge, and theoretical insight. They are also and especially intended to show the wise man how to live. "Wisdom and revelation" do not make man passive; they make him anything but passive. They activate the man who was formerly blind so that he not only walks in the light but is "light in the Lord" (Eph 5:8b).
II Know God Better
A Why does Paul pray for the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation?" As I already mentioned, Paul wants us to know three things.
Paul writes, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better" (Eph 1:17). Did you catch the first thing Paul wants us to know. He wants us to know God better. Paul's supreme desire for the Ephesian Christians is that they know God more and more. "I keep asking ... that you may know him better" (cf Col 1:9-10).
Paul's first request for the Ephesians, then, is that they know God better. He could have prayed, first, for their unity (Eph 2:11f). Or, for growth in numbers (Acts 19:1f). Or, for no persecution (cf Acts 19:23f). Or, for protection against the Devil's schemes (Eph 6:10f). Instead, he prays that the Ephesian Christians may come to know God better (cf Jer 9:23-24). In praying this, Paul is telling us that what should be most important to us is knowledge of God.
B According to the Westminster Catechism, man's chief end is to know God and to enjoy Him forever. Paul knew and taught this most basic of truths years before the Catechism was written. "I keep asking ... that you may know him better" (Eph 1:17).
Knowing God is vital and important in this life and on this earth:
(Prov 9:10) "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."There is no wisdom or understanding apart from knowing God. Furthermore, knowing God is what eternal life is all about. Remember what Jesus said:
(Jn 17:3) Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.Knowing God, experiencing God, is also the main feature revealed to us about life in the new heaven and new earth:
(Rev 21:3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."
Let me ask, what is the most important thing in your life? Is it to know God? Can you, as a real Christian, be content with only a casual knowledge of God? Can you, as a real Christian, be content to have a shallow relationship with God?
C "I keep asking ... that you may know him better." Do you pray this way for yourself? Do you pray that you may hunger and thirst for God?
"I keep asking ... that you may know him better." Do you pray this way for others? Do you pray for the spiritual growth and well-being of another Christian? I hope every parent prays this way for their children. I hope every grandparent prays this way for their grandchildren. I hope every teacher prays this way for their students. I hope every elder prays this way for the people in their district. I hope every husband prays this way for his wife and every wife prays this way for her husband. I hope you pray this way for me. And, I pray for you that you will all have an ever greater hunger for the Lord and His Word.
III Know Your Hope and Inheritance
A Why does Paul pray for the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation?" The second thing Paul wants you to know has to do with your hope, your inheritance:
(Eph 1:18) I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ...
Columnist L.M. Boyd describes the amazing good fortune of a man named Jack Wurm.
Topic: RichesAnd yet 6 million dollars doesn't even begin to compare with our spiritual inheritance!
In 1949, Mr. Wurm was broke and out of a job. One day he was walking along a San Francisco beach when he came across a bottle with a piece of paper in it. As he read the note, he discovered that it was the last will and testament of Daisy Singer Alexander, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. The note read, "To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle and to my attorney, Barry Cohen, share and share alike." According to Boyd, the courts accepted the theory that the heiress had written the note 12 years earlier, and had thrown the bottle into the Thames River in London, from where it had drifted across the oceans to the feet of a penniless and jobless Jack Wurm. His chance discovery netted him over 6 million dollars in cash and Singer stock. How would you like to have been making Mr. Wurm's footprints on that San Francisco beach? What a find!
B "I pray ... that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ..." Paul knows how easy it is to get so wrapped up in this life and this body and this earth that you lose sight of the future and the future life. So many people live for this life and work for this life and put all their energy into this life. I love how Calvin Miller puts this. He says, "The world is poor because her fortune is buried in the sky and all her treasure maps are of the earth" (Calvin Miller, "The Finale." Leadership, Vo. 4, no.4).
Topic: GospelOur riches lie in the Gospel and not in the things of this earth. Paul prays that we may know that.
Title: The Pearl of Great Price
An inquisitor of the 14th century has left us a lively account of a Waldensian preacher who went about in the guise of a traveling salesman. It seems that upon his arrival at the local manor all the townspeople, including masters and servants, would gather around while he showed his various goods--fabrics, jewelry, and artifacts. ...
But even as he sold he would make allusion to more precious goods in his possession, to jewels of inestimable value he was in a position to offer. The curiosity of his audience kindled, the Waldensian would then speak of the Gospel of Jesus.
C "I pray ... that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ..." According to Paul, the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing this inheritance (Eph 1:14). This reminds me of an IRS rule. The IRS allows you to give away your estate to your children and heirs before you die; you are allowed to give up to $10,000 per year without being penalized. The Spirit is this kind of down-payment on our future inheritance.
Think of the blessings that are ours in the Spirit: we are made born-again, it leads us to repentance and faith, we gain its fruits, we are gifted for work in the church and kingdom, it takes our prayers and makes them acceptable to God, it works in us to sanctify us and make us pure and holy, it illumines Scripture for us, it feeds us through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. And the list goes on. If this is what our inheritance is like now, just imagine what it will be like when we inherit the entire estate!
IV Know the Power of God
A Why does Paul pray for the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation?" The third thing Paul wants you to know is "his incomparably great power for us who believe" (Eph 1:19).
A daily Jewish prayer viewed God's ability to raise the dead in the future as the ultimate example of His power. Paul agrees:
(Eph 1:19-20) That power is like the working of his mighty strength, (20) which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms ...As far as Paul is concerned, this great and awesome power has already been displayed in the resurrection of Christ. As with our inheritance, the first installment has already taken place.
How great is the power of God that He could raise Jesus from the grave. Here is the complete record: Confucius' tomb – occupied. Buddha's tomb – occupied. Mohammed's tomb – occupied. Jesus' tomb – empty! Only the Lord God Almighty has the power to raise from the grave. Allah, the god of Mohammed, doesn't have this power; nor does the god of Confucius; nor does the god of Buddha. No doctor or scientist or religious leader has this power either.
The same power that raised Jesus from the grave was also used to bring Him into the "heavenly realms" (Eph 1:20). Neither Moses, nor David, nor John the Baptist ascended into the heavens; but Christ did. God brought Him up into His presence and seated Him at His right hand. Only the almighty God can do this.
B "I pray ... that you may know ... his incomparably great power" (Eph 1:19). Paul prays, congregation, that you come to know the immense greatness and power of God as seen in the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Why this prayer?
I want you to notice something. That great power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, that awesome power of God that brought Jesus into heaven, that wondrous power of God that seated Jesus at God's right hand, is "for us who believe" (Eph 1:19a). So God's great and awesome power displayed in Christ is "for us."
What does Paul mean when he says God's power in Christ is "for us who believe?" What he means is that Christ makes God's power – His immense power, His immeasurably great power – available to us to use in the Christian life.
"I pray ... that you may know ... his incomparably great power" (Eph 1:19). Paul prays that we be plugged into the power of God. Paul prays that we know and experience God's power as we fight Satan (Eph 6:10f), as we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21f), as we struggle against darkness (Eph 5:8f) and live as children of light (Eph 4:17f), as we strive to keep the unity of the body of Christ (Eph 4:1f).
Paul knows that without the power of God in Christ we are hopeless and helpless and defenseless, like sheep without a shepherd, like a city without walls and gates.
Topic: GodUnfortunately, this sounds like the way many Christians apply the power of God in their lives – on again and off again. They don't really know the power of God, do they?
Subtopic: Power of
The story is told of a Welsh woman who lived in a remote valley in Wales. She went to a great deal of trouble to have electrical power installed in her home. The power company noticed she didn't use very much electricity at all. In fact, her usage was minuscule. They sent a meter reader out to check on the matter. The man came to the door and said, "We've looked at the amount. Don't you use electricity?" "Oh yes" she said. "We turn it on every night to see how to light our lamps and then we switch it off again."
I read this past week that Americans spend well over $100 million a year on subliminal message tapes designed to help them do everything from improve their self-image to stop smoking. In September 1991 the National Research Council concluded that subliminal messages simply don't work. They don't deliver the life-transforming power they promise.
Do you know what does work? The power of God in Christ. Therefore, Paul says, "I pray ... that you may know ... his incomparably great power" (Eph 1:19).
Three requests prayed by Paul:
"I keep asking ... that you may know him better."
"I pray ... that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ..."
"I pray ... that you may know ... his incomparably great power for us ..."
Is this your prayer – for yourself and for those in your life?
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