15: Understanding God’s Purpose

Lesson 15: “Understanding God’s Purpose

Ephesians 1:17,18

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

What kind of things do you pray about? Well, I’m sure you pray for those who are sick, and those who have various kinds of crises in their lives. And when you pray for yourself it is the same kind of thing, I would imagine. And that is perfectly legitimate.  Many scriptures talk about that kind of prayer. But it’s interesting to notice that there are other prayers recorded in Scripture, and other instructions about prayer that go beyond those kinds of things. And the passage in Ephesians at which we are looking right now is one of those. Because in this last third of Ephesians chapter one, Paul is praying for the Christians living in the ancient city of Ephesus.

And he doesn’t pray about their finances, of their health, important as those might be, but he prays about their spiritual life! Now interestingly enough, the verses that we looked at in our last study showed that these people were active, growing Christians. But Paul wanted God’s best for them. And he knew that that would only come through a full understanding of the things that are theirs because of their salvation.

In our last study we talked about “the reason” for this prayer. Now, in verses 17 through 23, we find the specific requests in the prayer. And the first thing that he prays is that God would give them an understanding of His purpose in verses 17 and the 18a.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling.

Notice first the word “revelation” there in verse 17. That is a word that has to do with the “unfolding” of truth. It is a translation of the Greek word “apokalupsis,” which is where the name of the book of Revelation comes from. And that book is an “unveiling” or “unfolding” of the truth about Jesus Christ and all of the events leading up to His return to the earth to take His place as “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

So when Paul speaks about “a spirit of wisdom and revelation,” he’s talking about a wise unfolding of truth to us by the Holy Spirit, not some mystical revelation of additional truth to the Bible. In our previous study Paul talked about how the Holy Spirit has come to indwell us permanently. So he prays now that the spirit may give us understanding of the truth of God. And this indwelling Holy Spirit is the means of understanding that God has for us. Now this ministry of the Holy Spirit is described in 1st Corinthians 2:9-12:

But as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (10) But God has revealed them to us by His spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God (11) For what man knows the things of a man but the spirit of man which is in him. Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God(12) Now we have received, not the spirit of world, but the Spirit who is from God  that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.


Paul says here that all of us who are believers have received the Holy Spirit that we can be able to know the things that are freely given to us by God. So he prays here that God will give them the knowledge of Him – the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Now look at that expression, “in the knowledge of Him.” He doesn’t pray that the Ephesians will be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge philosophy. Philosophy is the quest for truth. Jesus said, “Thy word is truth,” so philosophy has its place. He doesn’t say “may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of history;” History is very useful. And it is especially useful for Christians. It is encouraging to see the evidences of the working out of God’s plans as revealed in prophecy. But evidentially it is not the most important thing. He doesn’t say, in the knowledge of science,” science, too, is very helpful. It is helpful to Christians, there doesn’t have to be a conflict between the two. But the most important thing that we can have is the spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of Him.

A man who only knows history or science or philosophy and does not know Christ is not able really to “put it all together.” That is why the unbelieving world is constantly seeking, because they don’t know Him!

But there is something else to notice about this understanding that we are talking about: notice that he says, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.”  The Holy Spirit gives this enlightenment, but he does not give it “helter skelter.” For example, the Lord Jesus said, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said “because you are so focused on the things of this world you are not able to understand the “meat” of the Word of God; you are only able to take in the “milk,” or simpler, doctrines. So the unfolding of this knowledge and understanding of the truth of scripture is related to our spiritual condition. It may be that one of the reasons that we have such a difficult time in understanding the Bible is that our spiritual condition is not what it should be. We read the truths of scripture but we often don’t “get” them because we are not really interested in them to the extent of submitting to them.

So that is “the means of understanding” – the Holy Spirit living within us and a close relationship with Him so that we can hear Him as He speaks to us. But in the last part of verse 18 he gets specific about the matter needing understanding. And actually it is in two parts: from man’s standpoint and from God’s standpoint. Think about it first from man’s standpoint:

“. . . . That you may know what is the hope of your calling . . . “Now what is this “hope of their calling?” It’s not just salvation; it’s not just heaven; good as both of those are. He doesn’t pray simply, “I’d like for you to know that you’re saved.” (although it’s good to know that); or I’d like for you to know about heaven.”

Good and important as those things are, what he is really talking about is the things that he has already written to them about. Let’s look back at verses 3 through 6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (5) having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the beloved.” 

Think of all that God has prepared for us and made us a part of: blessed with every spiritual blessing, chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world, predestined to the adoption as sons, and all of this has made us accepted in the beloved! What a magnificent calling we have as Christians. And all of this was planned by God Himself. So Paul says “I want you to rejoice in the things that you have in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Paul is interested in, and that is what God is interested in. And when you and I reach the place of maturity that those are also the things that we are interested in, we will find that the problems of life are much easier to solve.

Now I said that “the matter to be understood” is in two parts: God’s and man’s. Man’s part is “the hope of our calling.” But God’s part is in the last part of verse 18:

“. . . .That you may know what the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

We have seen previously in several passages of scripture that we have a spiritual inheritance which God is planning to give us when we get to heaven. But Paul is not speaking of that here. Look at the wording of verse 18 carefully:

And what are the riches of His inheritance in the Saints!

We Christians are the inheritance of the Lord Jesus Christ! And this not the only place we are told of this. Philippians 2:5-11 elaborates on it more fully.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verse 6 tells us that Jesus Christ was in heaven with God the Father and he had every right to be there.  But verses 7 and 8 tell us that He willingly gave all of that up in order to come to earth and provide salvation for us. And therefore God has given Him this name that is above all names, at which every knee shall bow, verses 7 and 8 tell us.

And this has tremendous implications. The first, and in a way the most important, is the doctrine of eternal security. Most teachings of “eternal insecurity” are based on the fact that if we sin we don’t deserve to keep our salvation. And that is completely logical and true! But do you know why we get to keep it? Because Jesus Christ doesn’t deserve to lose even a part of his inheritance. The second implication of this truth is that we should think about what kind of inheritance we are for the Lord. Some of us are pretty tarnished!

What an amazing thing! God looks at us as His inheritance! But what kind of an inheritance are you? Are you tarnished and ugly because of your sin? Now that tarnish cannot cause you to lose your salvation. But it needs to be removed – for Christ’s sake. And that is as simple as claiming 1st John 1:9 which says:

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The word “confess” is the translation of a word that means “to say the same thing” about something; to be in agreement with something. In this particular instance it means something like, “God, I have done this or that thing (name the sin) and you have said in your word that that is a sin. And so I am calling it sin also.” And the promise of this verse is that God will forgive that sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness; putting everything back in its right relationship.

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