Lesson 14: The Prayer for the Ephesians
(15) Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all the saints(16)do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of 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 revelation in the knowledge of Him, (18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of your calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (20) which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead
Someone has said that there are three steps in our new life in Christ. Step one is hearing and believing the good news of salvation. Then step two is beginning to understand some of the things that come to us with our salvation. And then step three is to begin experiencing some of the results of our salvation: walking closely with the Lord, claiming His promises and seeing answers to prayer, having victory over temptation and sin, and so forth.
The Old Testament prophet Obadiah encouraged the Israelites to “possess their possessions” as they stood on the border of the Promised Land. And that is really what we are to be doing as Believers, to learn of the blessings God has promised us as a part of our salvation and to begin to believe and experience them.
For example: in Ephesians one, verses 1 and 2 The Apostle Paul addresses his letter to those who are “saints in Ephesus” and “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” – those who have become believers. Then, beginning at verse 3 and going on through verse 14 he elaborates in great detail about it. It is the longest sentence in the New Testament, and interestingly enough, it is all about salvation. In our past ten studies we have been working our way through the details of that most important information in the history of the world.
Paul outlines salvation as the work of all three members of the trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I have outlined that material by referring to the Father giving the blueprint of salvation leading ultimately to a great climactic expression of praise “to the glory of His grace, when He puts everything back together again as His plan reaches its grand conclusion; the curse on the earth brought about by Adam’s sin (and all of our sin following after it,) the complete destruction of this present earth and its replacement with “the new heaven and new earth;” in effect returning the earth to its original Garden of Eden conditions to be enjoyed throughout eternity by all of us who have accepted His gracious invitation of salvation. Then he summarizes the work of God the Son as “the basis of our salvation” and the work of the God the Holy Spirit as “the badge of our salvation.” And we have looked in great detail at each of these areas of our salvation in our previous lessons.
So now, in verses 15 through 23 he prays that the Ephesians (and we) will come to a full understanding of these things we have been seeing in the first two sections of the chapter. Many, we might even say most Christians, don’t fully understand all of these details – and we shouldn’t question their salvation if they don’t. Many, perhaps most, Christians, seem to think that if we are saved, that is really all that is important, because they are sure to get to heaven, and therefore to be saved is the only thing that really matters. The late Dallas Theological Seminary professor Dr. S. Lewis Johnson used to refer to that kind of thinking as “spiritual fire insurance.”
But interestingly enough, when you consider the Bible as a whole you will see that it has more to say about the life that we have after salvation than it does about how we come to know Christ. So the question becomes, “why is it that so few of Christians get beyond the “fire insurance” stage of their spiritual life? Some pastors and Bible teachers have said that it is because they don’t understand the scriptures.” But we should ask, “Why don’t they understand the scriptures?” Others have said, “Well it is because of the lives that we live.” Our society is so full of sin and temptations that we often grieve the Holy Spirit by conforming to the standards of this world.” And no doubt there is some truth to that as well. So these are important things for us to think about in terms of our own spiritual lives. We need to pray constantly that we would not be indifferent to the things of God, and to the things found in the scriptures, and that we not grieve nor quench .the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Jeremiah made an interesting comment about this very thing when he says in chapter 9, verse 23 of his Old Testament book:
Thus says the Lord. Let not the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the rich man glory in his riches, but let him that glories glory in this: that he knows and understands me. That I am the Lord that exercises judgement and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight.”
You see, one of the greatest things that could happen to us is to understand and know the Lord. Because it is our understanding these things about Him in which He takes delight. And for that same reason the Apostle Paul also wanted that for the Christians at Ephesus.
So let’s look now at this expression of supplication (or prayer) with which Paul concludes this first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (16) do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.
Now remember again, when you are reading the Bible, and you see words like “wherefore,” or “for this cause” and “therefore” you should ask yourself “what is the connection with the context of what I am reading?” Well, he has been talking about the fact that we have believed, and we have been “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. Let’s read those verses again, verses 13 and 14:
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom you also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.”
So, we heard the word of truth, we trusted in Christ, and then we were sealed with the Holy Spirit – He came to live within us as the sign that we belonged to the Lord. Romans 8:9 stresses this also: If any one does not have the spirit of Christ he is not his.”
And Galatians 4:6 says, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, “Abba, Father.”
The one ultimate test of whether or not we are Christians is this: “do you have the Holy Spirit?” Is there any evidence of His presence in your life?” Now there are a number of those evidences, such as that you love the Bible, you love other Christians, you enjoy Christian activities, you are interested in the progress of Christian ministries, you are interested in the unsaved, concerned about unsaved members of your family, or friends, or relatives, – all of these are evidences that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life.
“Now,” says Paul, “because of this kind of evidence that you are a believer, I continue to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.
But there was another reason for the supplication brought out in verse 15 “: . . . and your love for all the saints” You see, their faith led to love. And that love was demonstrated in service to other believers. And that should be true of every believer. Our faith in Christ ought to show itself in Christian love.
Now “love” is one of the most misunderstood words in the entire Christian vocabulary. Most people think, at least subconsciously, that it is a matter of being friendly to everybody and being especially careful never to criticize anyone, especially another Christian. But look how the Gospel of John describes love in 1st John 3:16-18:
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (17) But whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart of compassion from him, how does the love of god abide in him?” (18) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Those verses tell us that if you see a brother who has a need that you can do somethings about and you don’t do anything about it, the love of God does not dwell in you. So that is God’s definition of love! Sometimes we see people who say they have believed in Jesus Christ but they don’t have any Christian love. Well, we can’t they aren’t Christians, because we can’t see into their hearts as God can see, but we can say “there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of faith, Biblically speaking. But there is something else here that is important to notice. Paul has said “you have faith, and your faith is seen in love shown to other Christians, but even though that is true, I still have still another specific prayer for you in verse 17:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
In other words, faith led to love, but love is not enough. There are people who think that if we have love, then that’s the epitome of the Christian life. But Paul says, “You have faith, and you’ve shown love to other Christians but I am praying that you will exercise that love “in the way god wants you to exercise it.” So it isn’t enough to simply have love. Love must be “in the knowledge of Him.” In other words, true love is always consistent with the standards and principles of the Word of God. And that kind of love may sometimes be what Dr. James Dobson has called “tough love.” Just to give one example, it is not true Christian love to tell a husband or a wife that the divorce they want to inflict upon their family is all right, even though the Bible says the very opposite.
Hebrews 12:5 -11 gives a perfect example of love “in the knowledge of Him” and it makes a good conclusion for this lesson: It is the example of God Himself.
Have you forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have
loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.