Introduction: this section is a prayer that we might know the power and privilege we have as followers of Christ.
It is spring and youth sports are in full swing. It is always fun to watch kids learning a sport especially if you are with someone who knows the game. A good coach can spot real potential and you might hear one say “she doesn’t know how good she is.” This coach can see ability in the player that she does even know she has and the hope is that someone will help that young athlete understand her abilities and reach her potential.
You can hear similar comments from teachers. They love all the kids in their class but occasionally they will see one who has great natural gifts in something like leadership. They understand that one their jobs as a teacher is to help that student realize the way others follow him so he can grow into a leader.
This is the attitude Paul has in the second part of Ephesians 1. In the first part of the chapter he said “let me show you what is yours with this new life.” Now he shares a prayer that we who have faith in God and love for God’s people would know just how good we are. He wants us to know the possibilities.
They are believers full of love and faith but he prays that “you may know him better.”
Paul is speaking to believers. He characterizes them as those who have faith in the Lord Jesus and love for God’s people. These are the basic building blocks of your spiritual journey, the first things you believe in your journey of believing and becoming. But he prays we will move further down the road. He wants us to know God better. This profound notion comes from Paul’s Hebrew background not the Greek culture of Ephesus. For Greeks, knowledge of God was something hidden, discovered and available only to a few. For Jews, “knowing” is relational. Paul prays that they will deepen in their relationship with God the Father.
Illustration: sometimes when I do pre-marital counseling I tell the couple, “you just don’t know each other that well.” This does not mean they shouldn’t get married, it just means that they will know each other in a much more intimate and personal level down the road. ”You need time.”
The same could be said about our relationship with God. It should grow and Paul prays that it will through a the Spirit and through wisdom and revelation. One way to understand these words is to see wisdom as concrete knowledge – stuff you need to know about God to keep growing. This comes through reading scripture and other works about God. Revelation is more experiential and intuitive, the kind of knowing that comes through prayer and meditating on his word. Both of these are necessary for our growth.
Paul prays that this knowledge of God will come in three specific areas. He prays for hope, for inheritance and for power.
Know the hope – so that you have assurance
Paul prays that the church in Ephesus (and indeed all Christians) might know the hope to which he has called you.
Hope is about the future but here it is also about the past. Last week when we talked about God’s part in your salvation we saw that God was working in you before you came to him. That is his calling– His work in your life to bring you to himself, and it gives you hope. It reminds you that he has carried you this far and he will carry you into the future.
Inheritance of the saints – so that you have community
My first thought when I read about Paul’s prayer for inheritance is that it is the same as hope. He wants us to know what we will inherit in the future. But that is not the case. This is God’s inheritance in his people – the saints, or God’s holy people. Indeed this prayer is for our belonging which is why we say that this series on Ephesians is about Believing Becoming and Belonging
Paul want us to understand that there are no barriers, cultural or otherwise, to being part of God’s family. It is glorious because God’s people are trophies of his grace. Each has a story; every new person has a story that tells something about God. We were not meant to live the Christian life alone. It is tempting to think that the church is passé and that it is filled with hypocrites. This is all too often true. But the church is like democracy: the answer for bad democracy and bad laws is not lawlessness but better laws and better democracy. The answer for bad church is better community, more honest, more accepting, more godly and above all more loving. Paul would say “I pray that you find it.”
Know the power – live without fear and through failure
The last thing Paul prays for is that we might know the great “power for us who believe.” He spends the rest of this chapter describing this power. Notice that he does not pray that we might gain more power or have a new anointing. He prays only that we know the power we already have through the Holy Spirit. It is the same power exerted when God raised Christ from the dead, when he conquered death.
It is not only the power exerted in Christ through the resurrection, it is power that raised him to the highest place of authority in the universe. Paul is piling up terms here to express that Jesus now has authority equal to the father (at the right hand) over all the created world. This point seems to be very important to him. Why? Paul is writing to the Christians in and around Ephesus which was a center of magic and the occult. Many of these believers spent the early part of their lives placating evil spirits. In short, they lived in fear. Paul wanted them to know that the one who was in them was greater than any evil power that would come against them.
We do not live in a world intimidated by occultists. But most of us still live in fear. We fear failure, sickness, rejection, loneliness, violence, aging and the loss of our dreams. We fear for ourselves, for future generations, for our country. Many of these fears are not irrational. We live in an unpredictable and unstable world. But the
message to the early church is the same one for us. God has given you power and you do not need to be afraid. He will give you the strength to handle whatever you are called to face. He has given you resurrection power, which means real change is possible. He has chosen you and carried you. He will do so in the future.
Many times when we drill down to the basis of our fears we find that at their heart there is some bad theology. We fear that God does not want the best for us, or that he will reject us or is not able to sustain us. Paul’s words are meant to remind us of who Jesus is and what power is available for you his child.
God wants you to know all the blessings that are yours as his child. He calls you to know him more through wisdom and revelation. He calls you to hope so that you might have assurance; He calls you to God’s people that you might have community; he calls you to know his power that you might live without fear.