Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Study in Ephesians: Pt. 8, Ephesians 1:15-19

Ephesians 1:15-19 (ESV) For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

Something that is lost in some English translations, or at the very least hidden to a certain extent, is that verses 17-19 is what Paul is actually praying for when he says in verse 16 that he remembers the Ephesians in his prayers. The ESV here correctly translates that sense of the Greek, and in reality verses 15-21 are a single sentence in the Greek.

So why that is that important to know? As I discussed last post, Paul is specifically thanking God for the Ephesians ultimately because He is demonstrating His glory through saving them and the love they show others. In these prayers, Paul not only thanks God for them, he prays that God will give something specific to them. In the same way that Paul's thanks for the Ephesians is because God has displayed His glory through them, the things Paul asks God for on behalf of them is also for the ultimate purpose of bringing glory to God. These aren't simply good things to have, and Paul isn't just mentioning them as an aside this one time. Every time he prays for the Ephesians, he is asking God to glorify Himself by giving the Ephesians the things he prays for listed in Verses 17-19. That should make us sit up and take notice. What is it that Paul is praying for?

What is most telling to me is what Paul is not asking for here. He is not asking for greater love, faithfulness, or obedience for the Ephesians. These are undoubtedly important, but it's not what Paul is asking for. He's not asking for greater boldness in sharing their faith. In fact, he's not asking for anything that requires any action on the part of the Ephesians whatsoever. What he asks for is this: that God would grant the Ephesians greater knowledge and understanding of Him through the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation. What I believe Paul is getting at, in essence, is this: "God, help them understand You and the glory You are revealing in them and through them."

Paul wants the Ephesians to understand three things in particular:
  1. The hope to which they have been called
  2. The richness of the inheritance waiting for them
  3. The greatness of God's power towards those who believe
Knowing how much Paul has to say elsewhere about the difficulties we will face as disciples of Christ (Philippians 1:29, Philippians 3:10, Romans 8:18), it seems to me that Paul is asking for these three things in light of that understanding, as if to say:

"The life God has called you to may be hard for now, but ultimately your calling is one of hope. God has prepared a glorious inheritance for you once your time on this earth is done. In the meantime, your God is powerful enough both to secure the hope of your calling and your inheritance and to carry you through the temporary trials of this life. And remember, ultimately, this is all for His glory, and God's glory is definitely worth it."

When you face the difficult times in your life, don't just pray for strength to make it through. Pray for wisdom and understanding that God may grant you a glimpse of how your trial brings glory to Him.