PAUL’S PRAYER, Ephesians 1:15 to 23.
How wonderful it is to hear this prayer of the apostle, a prayer which was inspired by the very Spirit of God, not only for the saints to whom the epistle was written but for all the saints who are members of His Body, and it is therefore a record of permanent value to every sinner saved by grace. Oh, that we might all have Spirit opened eyes to appreciate our privileges “in Christ”.
This is Paul’s first prayer in this epistle, the second prayer is found at the close of the third chapter, and the greatest revelation in the Word of God is found between these two prayers, and is vitally connected with both.
FAITH AND LOVE. Ephesians 1:15.
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints”. It is this thought that leads him to the throne in thanksgiving. “Faith” and “love” stand in relation to each other as cause and effect or root and fruit. Notice the preposition “in” and “unto”, the one signifying location, the other direction, “faith” is “in the Lord Jesus”, and “love” is “unto all the saints.”
THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION. Ephesians 1:16.
“Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” Truly Paul was conscientious and consistent when he implored of the believers to “pray without ceasing”: “in everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:17 and 18). Note in the following passages how the apostle himself prayed without ceasing for the believers in Christ, II Timothy 1:3, “I thank God—that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.” Romans 1:9, “For God is my witness—that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” I Thessalonians 1:2 and 3. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith”—I Thessalonians 2:13, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing.” Now we come to this Ephesian passage, and we find that the thanksgiving is for the foundation already laid as given in the previous verse, but the intercession is for the future, the superstructure going up, and for these beloved converts among whom he lived and labored so long, the apostle pours out his heart in one of the mightiest prayers in the Word of God. God grant that we all may be given spiritual insight into the burden of the apostle’s prayer that it might be answered in us.
THE PETITION. Ephesians 1:17.
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
The prayer is addressed to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of GLORY. In II Corinthians 1:3, God is called the “Father of mercies”, and in James 1:17 “the Father of lights”. The context of these passages giving definite reason for such designation, so in Ephesians 1:17, God is the Father of GLORY, and the term “glory” is not without significance. Let us then refresh our minds in reference to the occasions when God has expressed His presence by His glory, and by progressive revelation come to the truth contained in Ephesians.
In Exodus 25:8, is the record that God instituted a tent meeting, a sanctuary for His presence, and the tabernacle was the first building designed by God and consecrated for His presence and glory. The structure had three enclosures, the outer court, the holy place, and holy of holies. Inside the most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant with its covering or mercy seat upon which rested the Shekinah light of glory, the outward symbol of God’s presence. That was true of the tabernacle was also true of the temple and His glory filled the house. (I Kings 8:1 to 11). When we turn to Ezekiel 9:3, Ezekiel 10:4, Ezekiel 10:18, and Ezekiel 11:23, we find a record of how the glory of God departed because of Israel’s sin and disobedience. When Jesus came to earth God again tabernacled among men and in the person of His only begotten Son displayed His glory (John 1:14 and II Corinthians 4:6). He is indeed the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of glory. A little later in this epistle we shall see how since Jesus Christ’s ascension God has been seeking to display His glory in the Church, the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 1:17, the three persons of the Godhead are revealed in Their relation and respective operations. The Father of Glory is the bestower of knowledge, the Lord Jesus Christ is the substance of it, and the Spirit of wisdom and revelation the communicator of it. The Spirit of revelation is twofold. First as the Spirit of “inspiration”, in the giving of the scriptures that are now complete, and as the Spirit of “interpretation” in revealing to the believer the meaning of the Word of God, bringing him to a full knowledge of Him. This kind of “revelation” means an unveiling or the removing of a veil, giving a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. Not merely mental, but experimental, not intellectual but spiritual, and such knowledge of Jesus Christ is to know Him who is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (I Corinthians 1:30), and Colossians 2:3 tells us that in Jesus Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
THE EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING (HEART) BEING ENLIGHTENED; THAT YE MAY KNOW Ephesians 1:18
Paul says of these believers “ye were once darkness” (Ephesians 5:8), and before their conversion they were darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18) but now with the eyes of the heart enlightened, they should be able to receive further illumination. The enlightenment is the condition of knowledge, and all that has been said up to this point is the preparation for what is to follow.
THE THREE “WHATS”.
A three-fold progression is clearly marked by the recurrence of the word “what”, unfolding the burden of the apostle’s prayer, Ephesians 1:18 and 19, “That ye may know WHAT is the hope of His calling, and WHAT the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and WHAT is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.” In this passage we have again the Trinity before us, revealing the Father’s calling, the Son’s inheritance, and the Spirit’s power.
WHAT IS THE HOPE OF HIS CALLING.
How few there are that know what is the hope of His calling, that is, the calling of the Church the object of God’s special dealing in this present dispensation and the subject of this epistle.
The “hope” is in harmony with the “calling”. We have already brought to your attention God’s calling of the nation Israel, how that by covenants made with Abraham, Genesis 12:1 to 3, Genesis 15:1 to 21, Genesis 17:1 to 9, Genesis 22:15 to 18, confirmed unto Isaac Genesis 26:1 to 5, and Jacob, Genesis 28:13 to 15. Israel has a calling given since the foundation of the world with a definite hope of inheriting the earth. (Matthew 24:34).
The church also is given a hope which is in harmony with the calling. Even as ye are called in one hope of your calling”, Ephesians 4:4. This is the calling of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, and has reference to the glorious position and destiny we have in the Lord Jesus. It is a calling into the “heavenlies”, the place of our present position in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 2:6) and our future manifestations, Ephesians 2:7, Ephesians 3:10. In Philippians 3:20, the apostle tells us our citizenship is in heaven and in Ephesians 1:21, we have the hope that we shall be called to be with Him there and be clothed with, the body of His Glory.
WHAT THE RICHES OF THE GLORY OF HIS INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS.
We must notice carefully that it is NOT “the saints inheritance in Christ”, that truth has already been brought to our attention in Ephesians 1:11 and 14, and it is easy to believe that our inheritance in Him will be rich in Glory (II Corinthians 8:9) but now we have the astounding declaration that unworthy sinners saved by grace become “Christ’s” inheritance. We are His “purchased possession” Ephesians 1:14. In Ephesians 1:7 through the redemption in His blood we have been made partakers of the riches of His grace and because of this we shall be partakers of His glory. When that day arrives this will not only be “glory for me” but “glory for Him”. Yes! we have an inheritance “in Him” and He has an inheritance “in us”. He is our inheritance, we are His. In Deuteronomy 4:20 and Deuteronomy 9:29, Israel is also called an inheritance, but don’t let us confuse this with the truth for the Body, but let us distinguish between things that differ.
WHAT IS THE EXCEEDING GREATNESS OF HIS POWER TO USWARD WHO BELIEVE. Ephesians 1:19-20.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the New Testament standard of power. It is a sample and pledge of what God can do for man. In the Old Testament the standard miracle was the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. From Moses to Malachi the appeal was to the Red Sea as the supreme demonstration of God’s power to help and save, and when the prophets sought to inspire courage and confidence they pointed aback to the deliverance from bondage. (Micah 7:15, Isaiah 11:16). But for us the Red Sea is superseded by the empty tomb; and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead stands as the greatest achievement of omnipotence; and the standard of what God can and will do for them that believe. The resurrection is God’s crowning testimony to His Son and the essential witness of the Christian church. If Christ be not raised, we have no gospel. Look at the expression in the text. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead reveals the might of God, working at the fulness of its strength, and this power is to usward who believe, the Spirit of life, power, and glory is in us, and on that day when the church is complete, that same Spirit that led Christ through the heavens will bring his completed church into the glory. God raised His Son from the dead, and this is the guarantee of our hope, the standard of this operation is the standard of our expectation.
CHRIST IS EXALTED TO BE HEAD OF THE CHURCH, VERSES 20 to 23.
And set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” In Acts 2:30 Christ is raised to take David’s throne and this is the hope of Israel that will surely take place when Christ comes as King. But during this day of Israel’s blindness, the ascended Lord has not the same relation to us that He had to the Jews, and today the ascended Lord is exalted to be the Head of the Church, and in God’s eternal purpose and by His grace we are included in the calling of that Church which will be in the glory before God turns His attention to Israel again.
The fulness of Christ is the Church, the Body in its completion with Christ the Head. The Body can never be complete without the Head. The word “fulness” from the Greek word “pleroma” is used in a definite sense in the prison epistle that is worthy of note, helping in the understanding of the present passage. The word itself is derived from a verb signifying first to “fill”, second and more frequently to “fulfill”, or “complete”. It is found in a physical sense; 1st, of the full contents of the baskets in Mark 6:43 and 8:20, of the earth; I Corinthians 10:26 to 28, and in Matthew 9:16, and Mark 2:21, it is applied to the patch of new cloth on an old garment. 2nd, It is used of fulness “of time” as in Galatians 4:4, of the fulness of the Jews; Romans 11:12, the fulness of the Gentiles; Romans 11:25, and times fulness, Ephesians 1:10. 3rd, It is also used of the fulness of love, Romans 13:10 and of the fulness of the blessings of the gospel of Christ. Romans 15:29.
4th, In the prison epistles it is applied to the Lord Jesus and also to the members of His Body in a striking way; first of all in Colossians 1:19 of the Lord Jesus it is said “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” In Colossians 2:9, “for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Then Paul’s desire for the saints is Ephesians 3:19, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God, and the astounding statement of Colossians 2:10 “ye are complete (filled full) in Him”. But in Ephesians 4:13, the reference is to the Head Jesus Christ and the Church which is His Body brought to completion and made one. Thus we see that Christ and His church make one multifold personality, making the perfect Man the stature of Christ’s fulness. Ephesians 4:13, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” This is “The fulness of Him that filleth all in all”.
Christ has been exalted above every name that is named (Ephesians 1:21) and to Him every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9 and 10). God the Father has ordained that in all things Christ shall have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18) and there is a day coming when Christ shall be Lord of all and all things shall be in subjection under His feet. Hebrews 2:8, Hebrews 10:13. This has not taken place yet. But in Christ’s resurrection and triumph over all principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15) and His ascension and exaltation “far above all” into the “heavenlies” at God’s right hand, we have a foretaste and a full guarantee that all things will eventually be brought to a final consummation according to the eternal purpose of our God. “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10).