“This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, the knowledge of him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance of the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.”
In this part of the letter, Paul starts by telling the church at Ephesus that he has not stopped giving thanks for them since he heard about their faith and their love for each other. Ephesus was a center for travel and commerce located on the Aegean Sea (in modern day Turkey). It was one of the greatest seaports in the ancient world because of its location. It was at the mouth of the Cayster River and major roads led away from it to major cities. BiblePlaces.org has some pictures and information on the various sites in Ephesus. Its main claim to fame was the temple of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. This was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This is the temple that is mentioned in in Acts 19. Paul had been doing miracles and many were becoming believers and turning from their old ways and idol worship. A silversmith named Demetrius who made silver shrines of Artemis gathered other workers together to start a riot to keep Paul from preaching in the amphitheater.
The reason I bring this up is because sometimes I think we lose perspective. We think that times are more difficult today than they ever have been. But times for Christians have always been hard. The Christians in Ephesus were most likely the minority, surrounded by worshipers of Artemis. Christians through the first three centuries were tortured, burned at the stake, and devoured by wild animals. Yet the church has persevered. And it will continue to do so until Christ’s return.
The first part of Ephesians is Paul blessing God. He is praising God. He then moves on in theses verses to pray for his readers. He has heard about their faith and love and he gives thanks for them. We see here another mention of the Trinity. Paul says, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” Paul is not praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit for the first time (we know that from the earlier verses) but that God would reveal, through the Holy Spirit, to the believers three things. As I was reading through John Stott’s commentary on this part, I especially loved the connection he made between knowledge and revelation. He emphasizes that we need to have growth in knowledge in order to have growth in holiness. And to have that, we need to have the Holy Spirit’s help. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, mind and strength. When we leave part of it out, we become lopsided. Some people want to know God only by revelation, not reading the Word. Others only have the head-knowledge. They know their Bible, but don’t have that personal relationship. Paul writes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know…” We need both. We need head and heart knowledge. Paul asks that the Spirit reveal three things to these believers. Let’s look at each one.
First is the hope of his calling. I read an excellent book by Clay Jones called “Why Does God Allow Evil?” In it, he addresses this passage. I marked it for when I came to these verses. He says that he finds seven hopes in scripture: the hope of adoption, the hope of Christ’s return, the hope of resurrection, the hope of bodily redemption, the hope of salvation, the hope of eternal life, and the hope of glory. This is in a chapter about how our earthly suffering relates to eternity. Our time on earth is just a tiny fraction of eternity. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”
Second is the wealth of his glorious inheritance of the saints. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” And Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if not, I would have told you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am you may also be” (John 14:2-3).
And lastly is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. Stott says in his book that God’s call looks back to the beginning, and the inheritance looks to the end. The power is for the period in-between. “It is on this that the apostle concentrates, for only God’s power can fulfil the expectation which belongs to his call and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance he will give us in heaven.”
We will continue with this thought when we finish up with the first chapter of Ephesians.
Grace be with you!