The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
May 27, 2012


1) Ephesians 1:15-23 (Tom Edwards)


Ephesians 1:15-23
by Tom Edwards

As this chapter comes to a close, we see of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians.  Notice how he begins that: "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers" (Eph. 1:15,16).  

As we noted in a previous lesson, Paul had spent 3 years in Ephesus; and it was about A.D. 57 when he left there, during his third missionary journey.  Now, five years later, he is writing this epistle to them.  So, obviously, he had been informed of the Ephesians during this time; and how joyful he must have felt to have heard of their faith, their love, and their continual dedication to the Lord.  

Though many people today think of faith as merely an intangible quality that exists only in one's mind, James shows that faith is something that should become obvious to the naked eye -- because true saving faith will manifest itself through specific actions (cf. James 2:14-18).  Consider, for instance, Noah working on the ark, which probably required many years for him to complete.  For it was not just a small boat that he was building; but, rather, a large ark that was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall with 3 levels -- and there were no "power tools" in that day!  During that time, Noah also preached (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5).  But, alas, God's message went unheeded by all outside of Noah's own family.  But even to the disobedient, could they not see his faith in what he did?  For instance, "By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb. 11:7).  So Noah's faith was manifest in action: "By faith Noah...prepared an ark."  And notice his disposition toward doing so:  It was with "reverence" unto God.  So as Noah believed and obeyed, his righteous life -- even without verbalization -- was also sending a message to the disobedient (whether they believed it or not) that they stood condemned before the Lord.   They could see that their lives were a stark contrast to that of Noah's.  For while he was a faithful doer, they were the unfaithful and rebellious who would not harken to God's word.

Unlike the disobedient of Noah's day, the Ephesians were those whom Paul could joyfully give thanks unto the Lord for (because of their faith and love) and to remember them in prayer, which he had been doing continually (Eph. 1:16).  For their remaining true to God would be a reason for Paul to rejoice (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 3 Jn. 1:4).  

Paul then mentions specifically what he had prayed for the Ephesians: "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints..." (Eph. 1:17-19a).  

For those today who do not believe in the three persons of the Godhead -- but, rather, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same person -- notice the phrase in Ephesians 1:17: "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Does that not indicate more than one person?  Consider also a couple of Jesus' utterances from the cross: "But Jesus was saying, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'..." (Luke 23:34).  Was Jesus praying to Himself or to someone else?  And if to Himself, what would be the need for that?  Also, Luke 23:46: "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.'  Having said this, He breathed His last."  Was Jesus committing His Spirit to Himself or to someone else?  Note, too, what the Lord says to Mary after His resurrection in John 20:17:  "...'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God."'"  Was Jesus going to ascend to Himself?  And speaking of the Lord's ascension, consider the prophecy of it in Daniel 7:13,14, where it is said of Jesus that "with the clouds of heaven...He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him...."  Was the Lord presented before Himself?  Obviously, there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead; and that is actually seen in the very first verse of the Bible:  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1).  "God," in this verse, is from the Hebrew word "Elohim," which is the plural form of God.  Going along with that, God states in Genesis 1:26, "...'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'"   The Bible shows all three persons of the Godhead being involved in the great work of creation (cf. Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:15,16; Psa. 104:30).

Paul prayed that the Ephesians might have a "spirit of wisdom" and "revelation."  In the days of miraculous gifts, "wisdom" and "revelation" were gifts of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:8, 14:26); but today that spirit of wisdom is to be obtained through a study of God's word, which is His revelation to us.  

Paul prayed that "the eyes" of their "heart may be enlightened."  "The heart," as David Lipscomb writes, "is the innermost center of man.  It is the seat of the understanding and the source of thoughts, desires, emotions, words, and actions.  It is the motive power of human life.  Whatever is in the heart rules the conduct."  The "eyes" of the heart, of course, are figurative.  It's been said that "What the eye is to the natural body the mind is to the soul...."  And going along with this is the Lord's remark of those who did not understand His parables "because while seeing, they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand" (Matt. 13:13).  And why is that so?  "FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART..." (v. 15).  In other words, these parables had no spiritual meaning to these people because they were not concerned about spiritual things; and, therefore, the eyes of their hearts saw nothing but the physical, earthly story in the parables.  But for those who were concerned, such as the Ephesians, Paul could impart the illumination of God's word and also pray that "the eyes" of their "heart may be enlightened," to help them see as God would have them to.

Paul also prayed a similar prayer for the Colossians that they would "...be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9); and he goes on to show the reason: "so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light" (vv. 10-12).  This also indicates the need for continual spiritual development, even after the time one becomes a Christian and is sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.  And that is brought about by increasing our knowledge in the word of God and applying it (cf. 2 Pet. 3:17,18).  

Paul also prayed that the Ephesians could know the "hope" of God's "calling" and "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe..." (Eph. 1:18,19).  The hope of God's calling is toward eternal life itself.  For we have that as a hope, according to Titus 1:2.  Paul had also expressed his thankfulness unto God to the Colossians "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven..." (Col. 1:5).  A hope based on faith that has been instilled through God's word can give much assurance and motivation.  For example:  "In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:17-20).  The hope of heaven enabled the apostle Paul to endure -- with great perseverance -- some very difficult times (cf. Phil. 3:7-14).  

Notice also to whom is the surpassing greatness of God's power:  It is to "us who believe."  Paul says that it is the gospel that is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Rom. 1:16); but he also points out that "...the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).  Consider also 1 Thessalonians 2:13: "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."

Because there is that condition of obedient faith, then it also means that a weak, sinful person has the ability to shut the power of God out of his life.  This is because the Lord never forces Himself against anyone's will in this matter.  For instance, though the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, Jesus shows in Mark 7:13 that the scribes and Pharisees had invalidated, or made ineffectual or powerless, the word of God through their human traditions that they were adding to God's word and also used for replacing some of the Lord's commands.  We think, too, for example, of the power of the atonement that Jesus made at Calvary for every transgressor; yet for those who do not accept God's plan of salvation, it is as if Jesus died in vain for these particular individuals.  While they reject Him, the power of Christ's sacrifice is nothing more than an ineffectual or powerless thing to them.  And that will also become so for the Christian who ceases to continue in the faith (cf. Heb. 10:38,39).

Sometimes the phrase "power of God" is used with reference to the resurrection.  For instance, when the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, tried to entrap Jesus  (in Matt. 22:23-28) with their question about whose wife would this woman be in the resurrection who had been married to seven brothers, due to each one dying and leaving no offspring, notice how the Lord responds in verses 29 and 30: "But Jesus answered and said to them, 'You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."  What was it of the "power of God" that they had failed to realize?  The resurrection.  The Sadducees did not believe that they would live on in an afterlife.  And couldn't we say that it does take power for something to live?  For just as we need food and water to sustain our bodies, we also need the power of God to sustain our souls for all eternity.  But that is no problem for the Lord -- for He is eternal life and all powerful.  God's power can keep us alive forever.  Going along with this, consider 2 Corinthians 13:4: "For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you."

When we think of things that greatly demonstrate the power of God, we might think of the creation itself.  The size of many of the stars are much larger than that of our own sun, which is 99% of all the matter in our solar system; and there are so many bodies that fill the universe that they are actually innumerable.  We might, therefore, think of the universe as being the greatest demonstration of the power of God that will ever be.  But is that really the case?  Though every believer would agree, and rightfully so, that the creation demonstrates God's power as being truly awesome, what about the resurrection?  Does it not indicate an even more astounding greatness?  For the creation is temporary, but God's power in the future resurrection involves eternity: The soul that belongs to God will never die.  The redeemed will enjoy the bliss of heaven forevermore.  So which is a greater demonstration of God's power?  The creation of more than trillions and trillions of heavenly bodies for whatever time they will last?  Or in maintaining one soul with life for all eternity?   And even if that person had been deceased for 5,000 years or longer, in God's power in the resurrection, the Lord is still able to bring back that same unique individual.  How special and assuring the hope of the resurrection is.  One of Paul's desires was to truly know the Lord, "and the power of His resurrection..." (Phil. 3:10).  It appears that while on earth, Jesus did not want His followers declaring Him to be the Christ (Mark 8:30), nor the Son of God, until after His resurrection (Matt. 17:9).  The miracles Christ performed, however, would indicate that He was; but notice what the resurrection would do, according to Romans 1:4: "who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord."   In contrast to all other religious leaders who have passed on from this life, does not the Lord's empty tomb make a powerful declaration?   His very resurrection gives testimony toward His Deity!

In addition, the phrase "power of God" is sometimes used to refer to Jesus Himself, such as in 1 Corinthians 1:24: "but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."  Would it not be blasphemous to refer to anyone who would be less than God to be "the power of God and the wisdom of God"?  But this can be said about Jesus, for He is 100% Deity and, therefore, has the same power and wisdom as the Father (cf. Jn. 14:7-9; Heb. 1:3; Jn. 1:1-3,14).  

Paul  then concludes with the exultation of Jesus: "...These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:19b-23).  

Not only was Jesus resurrected; but, unlike others who had been resurrected in time's past, Jesus was resurrected never to die again: "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:9).  And since this is so, He is referred to as being "the first-born from the dead" (Col. 1:18).  

In addition, Jesus was not only raised from the dead, never to die again, but also He was exalted in heaven at the right hand of God and given supreme dominion over everything except the Father.  Is this not another indication of Christ's deity?  For how could just a man be exalted to such a degree as Jesus Christ has received?  The KJV speaks of Jesus being "Far above all principality..." (v. 21), which is translated in many other Bible versions as "rule."  This exaltation of the Christ above all is also seen in various other places of the Scriptures:  For instance, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'" (Matt. 28:19).  "...God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9).  "...and He is the head over all rule and authority" (Col. 2:10).  The phrase "first-born of all creation" (Col. 1:15)  means that Jesus is exalted above all creation.  For, here, the term "first-born" figuratively indicates "supremacy" or "preeminence" (cf. Psa. 89:27).  In both the Ephesian letter and the Colossian letter, we find Paul using the concept of the "head" and the "body," in referring to Christ's relationship to the church, respectively: "...and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body..." (Eph. 1:22,23).  "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body" (Eph. 5:23, cf. Col. 1:18).   Paul also refers to the church as being the "body of Christ" in other places as well (cf. Eph. 4:11,12, 15,16).   So just as a physical body is directed by its head, even so, the church is to be directed by Jesus Christ.  We need to, therefore, listen very intently to what the Lord commands and faithfully submit to that, lest we wander astray and be lost (cf. Col. 2:18,19).  What better head could there be for the church than Christ Himself?  For to have Jesus Christ (by abiding in His word) is to have God (2 Jn. 1:9).    

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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