Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Study in Ephesians: Pt. 9, Ephesians 1:15-23

At the end of Ephesians 1:19 (HCSB), there is the phrase "according to the working of His vast strength." I was wondering what specifically was according to God's strength or power. As I mentioned in part 8 on Ephesians, verses 15-21 are one sentence in the Greek. Since the ESV translates this passage as one sentence, I thought it would be useful to consider the section as a whole to try and discover the meaning of the "according to" phrase. One note before I proceed with that, though. The ESV's rendering of verse 15 could almost be read as stating that the only reason Paul is giving unceasing thanks for the Ephesians is because of their faith and love. Based on the structure of the Greek words themselves, I don't think the translators chose the best wording for that first part of verse 15, but I include the whole passage here for context.

Similar to diagramming sentences in high school English class, I sectioned this passage off in a way that I believe identifies the various side clauses that Paul is famous for using. I think that will help in discerning what the "according to" phrase is referring to.

15 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 
        • 20 that he worked in Christ 
          • when he raised him from the dead 
          • and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 
            • 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, 
            • and above every name that is named, 
            • not only in this age but also in the one to come. 
  • 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
This tabbed outline is obviously just my interpretation of the structure of the passage, but I feel it is an accurate representation of Paul's thought process. What it illustrates is that I see the "according to" passage as referring to verses 17-18a. In other words, it is according to the work of His great might that the Father will give us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

Paul is praying for God to give the Ephesians the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation specifically according to the working of His great might. This stands in stark contrast to where the world looks to find wisdom and understanding (e.g. science, internal enlightenment). And it is so easy to believe that what we as disciples know and understand about God and the Word is borne out of our own minds. But the Word is filled with admonitions to not rely on human wisdom and understanding. Here are just two:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Proverbs 3

1 Corinthians 1:25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Wherever you are in life right now, whatever decisions you may face, you should be daily asking God for wisdom and understanding. And you must recognize that only the wisdom that comes from God is worth having and depending on. If the understanding you have is not "according to the working of His vast strength," then it is nothing more than human foolishness.