Hello, TYM! With this lesson, we will conclude the first chapter of Ephesians.
Teaching Text: Ephesians 1:15-23
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering 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 of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:15–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
With this passage, we have the first of two prayers in the letter to the Ephesians. There are similarities between this one and the one that comes later in chapter 3, but we will reserve comparisons for when we get to the latter prayer.
Now, because of the displayed faith and love, Paul is so very thankful for these believers in Ephesus. It’s worth noting that Paul’s prayer for them does not stop with a thanks. It’s not simply “thank you God for these great Christians.” No, he continues and prays for greater depth in their walk with God. Let’s take a look at what Paul is asking God for.
Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him
In the last lesson we looked just at verse 15 and talked about what a faith and love on display looks like. We talked about how Paul had heard of their faith and love which meant they must be putting that faith and love into action. And while those actions are vital to our spiritual journey, Paul’s prayer enlightens us that mere action is not enough.
Paul asks for “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” to be given to the Ephesians by God. But if Paul had already spent time in Ephesus preaching to them and they had been acting in faith and love, why would Paul be asking for them to have knowledge of him? Wouldn’t they already know God?
What Paul is seeking for them is a deeper knowledge than just “book knowledge.” Rather a knowledge that enlightens them.
A theologian from the 1700s, Jonathan Edwards, used an analogy to honey that is still employed by modern Christian thought leaders.
Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. There is a wide difference between mere speculative rational judging any thing to be excellent, and having a sense of its sweetness and beauty. The former rests only in the head, speculation only is concerned in it; but the heart is concerned in the latter. When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension. It is implied in a person’s being heartily sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is sweet and pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.
You can know that honey is sweet based on someone telling you, but until you try it and use your senses, you do not truly know that it is sweet. You can extrapolate this to other situations.
I lived in New York City for a short time many years ago. My wife had never visited New York City so she only had head knowledge for NYC. I could tell her stories, she could see pictures, or she could see the city in movies or TV shows, but none of that was the same as having been there. So when she finally went with me two years ago, she now had experiential knowledge. She hadn’t just seen a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, she had walked on it. She hadn’t just seen footage of Times Square, she had been there.
Paul is praying that the Ephesians not just have the head knowledge that he had imparted to them years before, but that they have a deeper knowledge of God. A knowledge imparted by a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation. This is not a knowledge we can attain through our own understanding and learning. It takes a supernatural encounter to give us that experience.
What can we do to gain this knowledge that Paul is talking about? Chapter 4 of the book of James sheds some insight on what we can do to prepare ourselves for a spiritual encounter.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jas 4:1–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
We need to walk away from our friendship with the world (v4) and move toward God (v8). We need to perform the actions of faith and love, like what was talked about in the last lesson, to ready ourselves for a spiritual encounter.
Eyes of our hearts
So then what happens as a result of that experiential knowledge of God? Let’s go back to the example of my wife and her visit to New York City. Before her visit, she might see the city on a TV show, but it doesn’t really mean anything to her. But after her visit, she watched a TV show where scenes were filmed at Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. Having visited that location in person, it changed how she saw that TV show. It had a different meaning to her.
Additionally, having visited NYC changes her viewpoint about hearing the devastation caused by COVID-19 in the city. She has a greater understanding of what that means to the people living there because she spent some time there.
With an experiential knowledge of God, comes a new perspective. The eyes of our hearts open so we see life, people and world differently. We begin to align our perspective with God’s. We are able to see spiritual riches and power working in our lives and the lives of others with this new vision. We no longer have to fear because we see who is in charge.
J.D. Greear says this:
“Spiritual sight is how we perceive God. Without spiritual sight you miss out on the most glorious display in the universe. And the tragedy is that if you are spiritually blind you have no idea that you’re missing anything at all.”
Greear, J. (2011). Gospel. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.
This new sight that we have should change us. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 3 for further study. In particular, look at the idea of transformation that the chapter ends with.
As supplemental content, I invite you to watch this lesson by Skye Jethani. Skye’s content has had a huge influence in my life. This particular lesson that he gave offers a great message that talks about experiencing God and obtaining a new point of view. Though it isn’t built on this passage of Ephesians, it corresponds nicely with it.
This prayer by Paul, the one coming up in chapter 3 and a similar one in Colossians 1 are all great passages to sit with and pray for yourself. Ask God to give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart.