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)
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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