Ephesians - Part 2: Chapter 1 vv 15-23
It is evident from verses 15-23 of chapter 1 that we find the apostle Paul in supplication, as he is ‘praying home’ the ministry that he has just revealed. The desire of Paul is that the believers will be able to comprehend these great truths, and he is seeking the help of God to make this a reality.
It is a common thing with Paul, though he knows the saints, to speak of them as he does here, saying ‘Since I heard of your faith . . . and love unto all the saints’, v. 15. As the servant of God who was instrumental in bringing the assembly into being, he obviously knew of the salvation that marked them. The present activity of the believers in Ephesus had now reached Paul’s ears, and it must have been an encouragement to know that his labours among them had not been in vain. The thought behind ‘heard’ is that of constantly hearing.
The verse begins with a ‘wherefore’; his writings often carry a ‘therefore’ or a ‘wherefore’. A ‘therefore’ looks back after contemplation to encourage saints to active Christian living, whereas a ‘wherefore’ is a word of continuance, looking forward to a further work of God among those who love His name.
He recalls their faith God-ward and their love man-ward, and, as a result, he prays incessantly for them, v. 16. How true it is that faith generates love toward the saints! One of the marks of a truly born-again believer is the desire to show a love to those who belong to the Lord, for as John writes, ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ 1 John 4. 20. This is the cause of his thanksgiving and prayer for them.
From verse 18 to 23 we have the content of his prayer. There are four basic facts that the apostle is praying for in these verses and I feel that all brethren who participate in the prayer meeting should look again at Paul’s prayers, and seek to follow the example that he has left us. His prayers are full of spiritual desires for the believers, that they will appreciate the ground to which the Lord has brought them.
As we survey the content of this first prayer in Ephesians, we see that it is like the stones on the high priest’s shoulders, for they were in the place of power, and this prayer speaks of power. The prayer of chapter 3 differs, and would correspond with the stones upon the high priests breast, which is the place of love. The prayer of chapter 3 would manifest the love that has brought us to God.
The four thoughts upon the apostle’s mind are that:
- We should be able to appreciate a person, God.
- We value the position into which we have been brought as sons.
- We are occupied with the prospect that is before us. It is that which occupies his thoughts in prayer when he anticipates a future reign with Christ.
- We will understand the power that is available to us daily, demonstrated by the place the Lord now occupies.
He begins with thoughts of receiving the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, v. 17. If we have been saved by His grace, and blessed abundantly by Him, then the first thing must be to get to know Him better, and that is in the ‘full knowledge’ of Him. God is introduced as ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ’. This would reveal to us that when speaking of what has been done for Christ in verses 19 to 23, it has been done to exalt the humanity of the Lord Jesus. We shall see how the true humanity of the Lord Jesus has been taken to the highest place of authority. Associated with the exaltation of the Lord is that glory will be brought to the Father; in this way God is ‘the Father of glory’.
The only way that we can come to evaluate the ‘God of our Lord Jesus’ is by being given the spirit of wisdom and revelation. These two things, wisdom and revelation, were among the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and all these gifts were temporary gifts. They were operational until the whole mind of God for this age was completed in the Epistles that were written later. Thus, there was a need for this kind of gift in the early church when they had no written record of the desires of God for them. But we are now told that the only way we can comprehend the God that blessed us is by being given these two features to unveil His person. The words of the Lord Jesus set forth the truth of this when He said, ‘It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God’, John 6. 45. Throughout this letter, I notice that God desires our appreciation of all we now enjoy in Christ, but He begins with a desire that we should appreciate God Himself, who has made it all possible.
As the prayer continues, Paul desires that we will appreciate all we have in Christ, and he sets before us three ‘whats’. His desire is that the eyes of our understanding, or heart as some translate this, should be enlightened. Mental appreciation is good, but for the affections to embrace it is better that we should know ‘what is the hope of his calling’. This would take us back to verses 3 to 5. Paul is ‘praying home’ his ministry and longs that all believers will value the blessing of God that has chosen us, with a desire that we should be before Him holy and without blame in love. Far more is included, as we have seen, for he desires that we will be there as sons and all will be to the praise of His glory.
He continues to pray that we might know what are ‘the riches of . . . his inheritance in the saints’. This would take us back to verses 10 to14. We see that it is not our calling or the riches of the glory of our inheritance, but it is that which is of and for God Himself. That God has determined the honour that will belong to the Lord Jesus in His coming reign in association with the saints is the theme of the expression. At that time, God will, according to Romans chapter 8 verses 18 to 22, come into all that is rightly His, as the saints return, and creation is recovered from the fall. In this way it is ‘the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints’, v. 18.
The closing verses introduce the power of God toward the believer, and these verses look to what is going to be done for us, as seen in chapter 2 verses 1 to 10.
This power is that which is demonstrated in the resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. But what has been done for Christ is now available to each one of the saints. God has gone far above what is usual, with the exceeding greatness of His power, and it is according to the working of His mighty power. It is a known and tested power, demonstrated in a glorified Saviour. Can we grasp something of what was involved in bringing the Lord Jesus from the grave, and for men to see Him ascend to heaven and then for God to give Him the place of authority He has? This is the power that is available to the saints to live for God as we ought. Power is needed in every aspect of our lives. In chapter 3 verse 7, it is power to serve; in verse 16, for the inner man to be strengthened; in verse 20, power to pray; and, in chapter 6 verse 10, to be strong against the devil’s attacks.
What has been done for the Lord Jesus is to make known the place of supremacy that now belongs to Him. It involves His resurrection, exaltation, the subjugation of all other powers, and the jurisdiction of the Lord Jesus, as He is made head of all things. The place given to God’s beloved Son exceeds anything known in the universe. None has ever been set at the right hand of God; this is the place of authority and power. The Lord has been placed ‘far above’ all other authorities, whoever they may be, v. 21. God put governmental authority into the creation from the beginning, but none can compare with the honour given to the Lord, as He takes His place as a man at God’s behest, in total sovereignty. This authority will compass not only this world but also the coming kingdom.
A little anatomy lesson can be drawn from these verses. In verse 18 Paul refers to the eyes, and longs for intelligence from the saints. He speaks of God’s hand, and this would reveal authority for Christ. All is put beneath the Lord’s feet in verse 22, speaking of the subjection of all to His authority. Then, the head is set forth to manifest the control the Lord will have over all things. Notice that this is to the church; he is not speaking of the headship of Christ over the church, that is reserved until later in the Epistle, but what He is to the church, that is, for the benefit of the church. As we know, the word ‘church’ speaks of a body of people, and not a building, and means ‘a called out company’. Thank God for this call that has linked us to Christ! We have not only been ‘called out’ from the world but we have also been linked to Christ as His body; in this way we are eternally joined to the Lord, and we are now seen as the fullness of Him. Here, it is not what Christ is to the church, but what the church is to Christ, and, as Adam would have been incomplete without Eve, so the Lord is seen as being only complete when the church is joined to Him.
If we are the fullness of Christ, He is the One who fills all things. The Lord Jesus stands supreme in the universe. What a glorious day is coming when this will be seen and acknowledged by all created beings.