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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
More From This Series
Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians chapter 1. We’re in a series on Ephesians. If you’re joining with us this morning, we trust you’ll keep coming back and join us on our journey through this wonderful book. We looked at verses 1–2, and then we looked at verses 3–14. And this morning we’re going to look at verses 15–23, a message I’ve called “Full Appreciation.” You see, in verses 3–14, Paul has outlined for them all that they are and all that they have in Jesus Christ. He has helped them understand the sweep of God’s saving purpose in Christ toward them. The Father chose them. The Father has adopted them. The Son redeemed them and has shown them that in the dispensation of the fullness of time, they’re going to be part of a glory story that never finishes.
The Spirit then indwells the believer and seals them and guarantees that someday they will find their feet in heaven itself. The Father administers salvation, the Son accomplishes salvation, and the Spirit applies salvation. Paul now, in these verses, is praying that they would come to comprehend that ever so deeply. So, let’s listen to God’s Word. Why don’t we stand in honor of God’s Word? Take your copy of God’s Word and open it to Ephesians 1:15. I’m reading from the New King James translation of inherent, holy, sufficient, eternal, authoritative Word of God.
“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
So reads God’s word, and you may be seated.
If you’ve visited Hearst Castle in beautiful California, you know something of the story of William Randolph Hearst. He was a newspaper magnet, businessman, politician—very wealthy, very well hailed. And the story is told that one particular day he was reading an art magazine or an art catalog, and he saw some art valuables that he wanted to add to his art collection. And so, he tasked one of his team to go and find these pieces of art and pay whatever price necessary to add them to his collection. After several weeks, this particular man came back and told him that he had located the collectibles. He had found them in one of William Randolph Hearst’s own warehouses. He already had it. He already owned those pieces. Can you imagine? Here was a man who failed to appreciate all that he already had. Here was a man who hadn’t yet possessed all that he possessed. William Randolph Hearst already owned what his heart desired. And, in fact, what he wanted and what he desired was unjustified and unwarranted since he owned the very things he desired.
Like Hearst, many Christians fail to appreciate all that they are and all that they have in union with Jesus Christ. They fail to comprehend this magnificent passage in Ephesians 1:3–14. They fail to appreciate and fail to give thanks to God on a regular basis. They fail to be bowled over by the thought that God the Father has blessed them with every conceivable blessing in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have a blind spot, even as a Christian, just to how wealthy they are. They have a blind spot, even as a Christian, in recognizing their exalted spiritual status in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. And, sadly, their thinking is impoverished. Sadly, their confidence in God becomes bankrupt. Sadly, their prayers are poor and lacking in confidence and boldness. Their sense of self is diminished, and their hope for the future is threadbare.
That should not be so, because when you and I understand all that we are and all that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope should be expansive. Our prayers should be bold. Our living by faith should be marked by courage and confidence. You realize this morning that your spiritual bank balance is fabulous. Paul, in this letter, talks about the riches of God’s grace, and he talks about the riches of God’s glory and how that in union with Jesus Christ, you and I enjoy incomparable riches. We have the Father choosing and adopting us. We have the Son redeeming us. We have the Spirit of God guaranteeing our future. We are fabulously rich—richer than William Randolph Hearst, richer than Elon Musk, richer than Bill Gates. You and I are fabulously rich.
I like the story that is told of a husband who said to his wife one day, “One day we will be rich, and we’ll be able to buy a lot of things.” To which she replied, from a faith perspective, “We’re already rich. Maybe someday we’ll have money, and we’ll be able to buy a lot of things.” My friend, you and I are rich this morning. We are rich in the things that matter because we are rich in the things that death cannot steal and money cannot buy.
We’re fabulously wealthy. We have joy unspeakable. Don’t we? We have peace that passes all understanding. Not only is our joy unspeakable; it’s full of the thought of a glorious future, which brings about the joy. And yet, the problem with so many of us is we don’t realize our status and our wealth. Too many Christians today are on an endless quest for more, and they’re failing to appreciate that they are already complete in Christ. God can’t give you anything more because He’s given you Christ, who is all in all, and you are complete in Christ. Now, you can come into a greater understanding of that, and that’s what these verses are all about.
They had all that they needed, and Paul prays that they would understand all that they have so that they would stop feeling needy. I’ve used this quote before. I’m going to use it again here. It’s a perfect quote. It’s in his book Believe in Miracles, But Trust in Jesus. Adrian Rogers said this: “Sometimes people ask me [Adrian], . . . Do you have the second blessing? I say, Yes.” Then, they want him to explain and tell them all about it. And he says, “The second blessing is discovering what I got in the first one.” And he says not only has he experienced a second blessing, but he has experienced a third blessing, which “is discovering I didn’t discover it all in the second blessing.” That’s where Paul is at. That’s the heartbeat that’s driving him to put down his pen and pray.
So, let’s come and look at these wonderful, wonderful verses. As Paul prays that they might fully appreciate all that they have and are in Jesus Christ, Paul longs that they might know the hope that’s found in Christ, grasp the riches that are ours by grace, and live by the power that is ours in the Holy Spirit who indwells. Let’s put this text in its context just quickly. It’s one long sentence in the Greek New Testament, 169 words. Paul was with them for three years, and he writes this about five years later.
The word “therefore”—maybe you’ve got a translation that puts it “for this reason”—verse 15. And Paul is kind of going, “Okay, I finished talking about the Holy Spirit who makes the Father’s choice and the Son’s redemption real in your life. He applies the saving benefits of Christ’s work to you. And that which the Holy Spirit makes real I pray will become more real.” Paul gives thanks for them, but he prays for a full appreciation of what they have in the Lord Jesus Christ. The report of their faith in God and their love for the saints ignites this prayer.
By the way, I love that symmetry. Don’t you love that description? For this reason, “after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for the saints,” I didn’t cease to give thanks, and I began to pray that God would indeed help you appreciate all that you have in Christ. I love that symmetry. Faith in God; love for the saints. Don’t miss that. Verse 15: faith in God or “faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.” It’s two axes of relationships. There’s the vertical relationship between you and God, or you and the Lord Jesus Christ, with faith being the connection. And then, there’s the horizontal relationship between you and the believing community. And the one affects the other. If you’re in a vertical relationship with God, it will define and show up and manifest itself in the horizontal. If you’ve truly put your faith in Jesus Christ, you’ll know it, and you’ll show it by loving the saints. You can’t come to know the love of God and not be a loving person. That’s the whole argument of 1 John 4, isn’t it?
I think my friend Mark Hitchcock told me that he heard Stanley Toussaint—the wonderful old theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary, now with the Lord—say this: “You can measure a man’s love for God by how he treats others.” It’s a good statement. I’ve heard about your faith in Jesus Christ and your love for the saints. I’ve heard how that vertical relationship has intersected with that horizontal relationship and defined it.
So, there’s three things I want us to see from the text. I think there’s three things in the text. Paul’s saying, hey, what I’ve heard about your relationship with Christ has brought me to renewed thanks for the work of the gospel in Ephesus, and I want you to know I’m praying for you. And here’s what I’m praying. I’m praying that you would have a greater knowledge of God’s person; verse 17, right there at the end: “the knowledge of Him.” I’m praying that you’d have a greater knowledge of God’s plan, that with an enlightened heart, verse 18, you might know the hope that’s being produced by your calling. And in verse 19: I’m praying that you would come to know “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
So, let’s jump right in. This is Paul’s prayer for them, and this is a prayer that we should pray for each and every one of us. Let’s pray for a greater knowledge of God’s person. That’s verse 17: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
See, Paul himself has a passion for a knowledge of the holy. You get that in his autobiographical statement in Philippians 3, where he tells us, “Hey, I want you to know I count everything but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord. I’m giving up anything and everything that gets in the way of knowing Him, being closer to Him, being more intimate with Him.” In fact, he tells in his own prayer in verse 10 of that same chapter, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,” and I want to enter into fellowship, a sharing with Him in suffering.
And you’ve got this heart on display here for them. What Paul desires for himself, he desires for them. He desires that they might know God of the Lord Jesus, the God who has revealed Himself in Christ, the God to whom belongs glory. He desires that they might know that God ever so more and ever so intimately.
You notice that the New King James has translated the word “spirit” in the lowercase, and I think that’s proper. There’s a debate. If you’ve got an NIV, it’s in the uppercase. Is he asking God to give them the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation? I think it’s “no.” He’s asking God to give them a spirit, a mindset, a disposition, an orientation of the heart, marked by insight and an unveiling of the character and glory and person and works of God, that they might know Him and continue to know Him.
He prays that the God of our Lord Jesus who has revealed and unveiled Himself in Christ would open them up to what the incarnation of Christ has opened up. In fact, it’s interesting. This word “revelation” is apokalypsis. It’s the word used in the book of Revelation. It means the unveiling of Christ.
And, in many ways—I think one commentator puts it like this—here’s what he’s praying for. He’s praying for apocalyptic moments, eureka experiences, that as they look into God’s Word through the spectacles of the Holy Spirit and come to see the glory of the gospel through Jesus Christ and the love of God and the grace of our Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, they would have eureka experiences of God. He’s praying that it would dawn on them just how much God loves them and what it cost Him and the glory of that whole thought. It might come as you’re driving your car. It might happen in the shower. It might happen just by the side of your bed on your knees with an open Bible. But he’s praying that your eyes would be open and your heart would be open to that reality.
Now, quickly, there’s three things about knowing God: the priority, the picture, and the process or the path. This is a priority. Now, you won’t find the word “priority,” our first point, in our text. But since this is the first thing he mentions about what he’s mentioning to God for them, we see it’s a priority, his priority.
The first thing he prays for them is that they would know Him. It’s top of the list. If you go to another of Paul’s prayers in Philippians 1:9 or you go to Colossians 1:9–10, you’ll get that same thought. He says in his prayer for the Colossians, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask”—listen—“that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” This is a passion of Paul’s, and it’s a priority.
Let me ask a question this morning. Listen. Is there anything, can you think of anything, can you come up with anything that rivals the glorious possibility of you knowing the Creator? Nothing can rival with that, because everything else is but an expression of His creative power. But you and I can know the Creator of all living things. That’s a priority, and it’s a possibility. God has made Himself known so that you might know Him. He’s the God of the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus made the Father known, declared Him. There’s no greater priority in your life this day than to get to know God more.
I got another question. Is there anything crueler than to live life within the creation in ignorance of Him? Would you do that to yourself? Would you have this self-inflicted wound where you would hurt yourself by going through life without knowing the God who has made Himself known because He wants you to know Him? He wants you to walk and talk with Him along life’s narrow way. Is there anything more glorious than knowing Him? Is there anything crueler than not knowing Him?
Listen to these words by J. I. Packer, famous for his book Knowing God. Here’s what he says: “We are cruel to ourselves.” Metaphorically, you might as well shoot yourself in both feet. “We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it is a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God.”
That’s true, and that’s why it’s a priority that you come to know Him. Listen to the words of Jeremiah. This is a good admonition, as you think about your life and your dreams and your aspirations. And I filter all of that through these verses:
Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Let not the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me.”
That’s the first thing you would want others to know about you as they get to know you. You want to know about me? You want to know what makes me get up in the morning, what makes me tick, that drives me forward? I know the God who made Himself known in Jesus Christ, and that’s the path I’m on. That’s the adventure I’m taking, and I want to know Him more and more and more. That’s the priority of knowing God. What a tragedy not to know Him.
Mark Twain was on a trip through Europe that was a triumphal tour. During it, he met all the nobles of Europe. He met the wealthy and the famous, those in political power, kings and queens, princes and princesses. And toward the end of the tour, his little daughter spoke up, and she said this: “Daddy, you know most everybody in the whole world, don’t you, accept God.” That’s a tragedy. It doesn’t matter what you know, and it doesn’t matter who you know if He doesn’t know you and you don’t know Him. It’s a priority.
Number two, the picture in knowing God. Let’s come back to our text. Look at the end of verse 17. Look at the word “knowledge.” He says, I pray that God would give you a mindset, a disposition of wisdom “and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” That’s a word that doesn’t just speak of something factual but something intimate. And that would point to the fact that when Paul writes this, he’s thinking more as a Hebrew than a Greek, because in Hebraic thinking, the word “knowledge” spoke of intimacy.
One writer says this: “Throughout the Old Testament, the verb know and the noun knowledge refer to intimacy and relationship, not simply a cognitive understanding of the facts. This is obvious when the writer of Genesis says that Adam “knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (Gen. 4:1 ESV, emphasis added). This is also apparent when 1 Samuel 2:12 says that Eli’s sons were wicked men who did not know Yahweh. As priests, these sons certainly understood the facts about God, but they did not have a relationship with Him.” That’s our word. God wants you to know Him intimately. I hope you’re not settling for facts about God. I hope that you know Him and you’re drawing closer to Him each and every day, that you and God are on speaking terms, that there’s a developing love relationship between you and the Almighty based on the love that He has displayed for you in His Son.
There’s an old quote by that old preacher Vance Havner. He was asked once, “Does God play favorites?” To which he replied, “God doesn’t have favorites, but he does have intimates.” Are you intimate with the God of the universe? It’s possible. Abraham was called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). What do we read about Enoch? “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). One of the old preachers said, here’s what you need to imagine. God and Enoch were out for a walk one day, and they were in conversation, and it went on and it went on. The sun began to set, and God said, “Hey, we’re nearer my home than your home. Why don’t you come home with me?” Enoch walked with God and was not, for God took him. That’s the way life ought to be: just one long walk with God until you just go walking right into His presence. There’s almost no change because you know Him and He knows you.
The priority. The picture. Finally, the path. The path to knowing God. I told you there’s a debate among the commentators. Is this the lowercase, or should it be in uppercase? Is it a spirit or a disposition of wisdom and revelation, or is it the Spirit, capital S, of wisdom and knowledge?
In some ways, it becomes a moot point. I take it to be disposition. All right? So, Paul is praying, I pray that you would have a mindset, a disposition, a spirit of insight and an unveiling of continued understanding of God. But, look, we know that won’t happen without the Holy Spirit. So, in that sense, it’s a bit mute. And it’s interesting. In Isaiah 11:2, that’s exactly how the Holy Spirit is described. He’s the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge.
So, this is the path to knowing God. We’re invited to know Him. Paul is praying that they would know Him. And, you know what? The path to knowing God is through the insight and illumination of the Holy Spirit. That’s another one of His ministries. He regenerates us, brings us to faith and a state of aliveness in Jesus Christ. He indwells us. He gifts us. He seals us. And the other thing He does is He illuminates. The natural man doesn’t understand the things of God because they are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:14). But you and I have the Spirit, and our eyes are opened. How does that old hymn describe salvation? I saw the light. I saw the light. And that’s what the Spirit of God does. He switches the light on, and we begin to see the Bible differently. We can understand it. We begin to see ourselves in the story of God’s unfolding redemption in Jesus Christ, and it’s a marvelous thing.
So, the Spirit of God is the path to knowing God, and the tool He uses is Scripture. It’s a combination of the Word and the Spirit, the Spirit and the Word. Psalm 19:7–11 talks about the law of the Lord being perfect and sufficient and how it enlightens the mind. The word of God enlightens us as the Spirit of God illuminates our understanding of it. What does the psalmist pray in Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may see / Wondrous things from Your law.”
That’s our prayer every day. The day is being wasted if you don’t get there as you handle God’s Word or meditate on it in your mind because you’ve stored it in your heart.
And you’re going, “Lord, open my eyes that I might see something wonderful today about You in the Word, and I pray that the Spirit would confirm that and make that real to me so that in my worship and in my praying and in my conversation with You, we’re growing and growing deeper and deeper and closer and closer.” I want to challenge the theologues out there this morning. I love the fact that you love theology. We’ve got to worship God with all of our mind. We’ve got to be workmen in the Word that need not be ashamed. But let me say this. You’ve got to make sure you know the difference between gathering biblical facts about God and living the gospel.
We love that God has spoken—spoken sufficiently, spoken authoritatively, spoken inherently. We love the fact that God has spoken, and He has spoken His love to us in Jesus Christ. So, we love the fact that God has spoken, but we love the God who has spoken. And, through the means of that Word and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we come to know God personally—not just about Him but Him.
That’s why I love the posture of George Whitfield when he died. Do you know that George Whitfield was found dead beside his bed, on his knees, with an open Bible on the mattress? That’s the way you want to die, and that’s the way you want to live—on your knees before an open Bible—because that’s the path to knowing God.
And the fact that he was on his knees meant he was praying. He was talking to God. He was intimate with the Almighty. And the fact that he had an open Bible: he believed it was a living Word of the living God, and God would speak through the text of Scripture through the Holy Spirit. So, George Whitfield on his knees before an open Bible is showing us that he wasn’t just learning facts. He was in a conversation with a person. Listen to me. Knowledge of God comes through lingering in His presence with an open Bible, with an open heart, where you allow God through the Spirit of God to mold your thoughts around His thoughts. And you start thinking thoughts after God. And when you better know Him, you’re better placed to love Him more deeply and draw closer to Him.
There is a studying of God, says John Piper, apart from savoring God, and that’s dangerous. You and I can traffic an unfelt truth. God has made Himself known in creation. God has shown Himself in providence. God has spoken in Scripture. God has unveiled Himself in Jesus Christ. God has made Himself known so that you might know Him. And Paul catches that.
Secondly, Paul prays that they might not only know God’s person, that they might know God’s plan. Look at verse 18: “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling.” Or that could be translated, and I like this translation, “the hope that comes through the calling” or “the hope that’s produced in the calling.” And I think that hope is expressed in the inheritance that you and I will enjoy because of God’s rich grace in the life to come.
It’s interesting, this word “enlightened.” You’ll notice in your English text, it does give the impression it’s in the past tense or it’s a reality. This isn’t a new sentence, so let’s not miss something between 17 and 18. Paul has prayed that they might have a disposition of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that they would come to know God more. This isn’t a new sentence; it’s kind of parenthetical. So, here’s what Paul is kind of saying at the beginning of verse 18: I’m expressing a prayer for you to know God more, and it’s legitimate because your hearts have already been enlightened. You’ve already got the apparatus, a regenerate heart and a renewed mind, to come to know God more.
It’s a perfect tense in the Greek; that indicates past action with continuing results. Second Corinthians 4:6: The light of the gospel “has shone” into their hearts. The word “heart” in the Western world speaks of the seat of emotions, but in the Eastern mind it spoke of intellect and will. So, Paul is praying that your whole inner person—your mind, your heart, and your soul—would be enlightened. Enlightened to this end, that you might know the hope of your calling, that you might more fully appreciate the hope that was produced when you were called to faith in Jesus Christ.
This inheritance that he talks about at the end of verse 18—an inheritance that he talked about in verses 10 and 11 of chapter 1 and verse 14 and also in chapter 3 in verse 6 . . . He’s speaking about hope here. Now, remember, hope in the Bible is not a “wish upon a star” kind of thing. It’s not, “I’m hoping against hope that this happens, but I’m not sure. I have really no reason, but I’m hoping.” No, it’s not the way we think. Hope in the Bible is a sure expectation. It’s coming; it’s going to happen. Because of the things that have already happened, we’ve been born again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why do we have hope? Because we can go to an empty tomb.
God has demonstrated His ability to do things, and Jesus Christ’s resurrection is the first fruits of something greater and more. So, here’s Paul: “Hey, I’m praying that this sure expectation of coming future glory, you’ll come to understand it more, that the hope produced in your calling would become a greater reality in your life.”
If you haven’t listened to my series Take the Call, which I preached at our men’s breakfast, listen to it. Ladies, do yourself a favor and listen to it if you weren’t part of the breakfast. And we went through a whole bunch of calls, right? First Peter 2:9: God called us out of darkness into the marvelous light of His Son. First Corinthians 1:9: called into fellowship. Romans 1:6: called to belong to Jesus Christ. First Peter 1:15: called to holiness. Colossians 3:15: called to peace. First Peter 2:21: called to suffer. And here we are in Ephesians 1:18 and 4:4: called to hope. Do you realize that God had all of those things in mind for you when He called you? So, the Christian life is about discovering your calling and what the calling in Jesus Christ wants to produce, and one of the things it wants to produce is unending hope.
Now, I’ve already alluded to this. There’s a breadth of meaning and understanding with regards to the word “hope.” But, generally speaking, broadly speaking, when you find that word in the New Testament, you’ll find it attached to either the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the return of Jesus Christ for His church.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Write these down. Titus 2:13. Paul talks about “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, he says we do not sorrow as those without hope. Our loved ones will someday be resurrected at the rapture. “The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be [changed and] caught up together with them . . . to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Isn’t that great news? It’s part of our hope. Death might hide, but it doesn’t divide. We’ll see our loved ones who died in Christ someday soon.
Remember, I’ve told you before of Eddie McClusky, an old elder of mine at Carr Baptist. I was at a funeral with him. His brother had died, and it was an open casket in a Baptist church in Northern Ireland. Eddie went up to do the eulogy, and before he went up, he went over and kissed his brother’s brow. And we all heard him say, “It’s not goodbye. It’s only goodnight. We’ll see you in the morning.” That’s the hope based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
First John 3:1–3 talks about the second coming of Christ, and what does it say? “Everyone who has this hope . . . purifies himself.” First Peter 1:3, we have been born again unto a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” to be made manifest when Jesus is unveiled at the second coming. So, when we read this word “hope,” I want you to be thinking “resurrection.” I want you to be thinking “rapture.” I want you to be thinking “reunion.” I want you to be thinking “eternal reward,” reigning with Christ and the renewal of everything at the end.
Now, that’s our hope, and when you and I were called in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel produces that hope. And Paul prays that you and I won’t lose it, that we won’t allow circumstances or moods to diminish it, and that we’ll live in the good of it. You realize that Martin Luther, the Reformer, said, “Everything that is done . . . is done by hope.” Unless you’ve given up on life. Everything you do, you do in hope. You date in the hope someday to get married. You diet in the hope of losing weight and being healthier. You don’t break the law and speed in the hope that that’s good for your insurance and your premiums. You’re willing to pay the price of service for Jesus Christ at a cost because you know that God is no man’s debtor. Those are just a few simple examples.
Think about this. For the most part, everything you do in life, you do in hope of an outcome. We live in hope, and we as Christians have the best of hope. That’s why we should never crumple under the circumstances. That’s why we should never buckle under the pressure. That’s why we should never endlessly grieve. That’s why we should get up in the morning with purpose and passion, because our hope is living. We’ve got living to do because we’ve got hope to accompany our living. And, you know what, whatever comes, the resurrection is coming, the rapture is coming, and seeing our loved one is just around the corner. Being with Jesus is just over the hill.
John Bunyan, a Baptist pastor of the Puritan age, was put in prison for 12 years because he refused not to preach the gospel. He wasn’t licensed. He lived in a state-church environment. Thank God for the founding of this nation and the wisdom of our founders to separate the church and the state. He lived under that tyranny, and the state and the government told him when he could preach and what to preach, and he refused. And they put him in prison in Bedford for 12 years.
His first wife had died. He was now in his second marriage with a young wife, and they had four small children. I think one of the girls was blind. He was a tinker by trade. He made pots and pans. They scraped a living. Now he’s in prison, and they’re trying to live through that. But he never lost his hope. His wife never lost his hope. And he taught his children to hope. When he was in prison, he made socks and sold them. He took one leg of a stool and made it into a flute and played some music to himself. And he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. Here’s what he said about hope: “Hope has a thick skin and will endure many a blow; it will put on patience as a vestment, it will wade through a sea of blood, it will endure all things if it be of the right kind for the joy that is set before it. Hence patience is called ‘patience of hope,’ because it is hope that makes the soul exercise patience and long-suffering under the cross, until the time comes to enjoy the crown.”
Are you thin-skinned or thick-skinned? Well, hope is thick-skinned. Gospel hope is thick-skinned, and if you’re living in hope, you’re thick-skinned. You can take it on the chin and keep going. You wrestle with life triumphantly because you have so much to live for and so much to look forward to. That’s what Paul prays.
Now, we have got 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23. I’m going to collapse all these great verses into a couple of minutes. And, there’s so much stuff, but I think there’s a practical and a pastoral point we can get to pretty quickly. And it’ll bless you. So, just give me a couple more minutes. In verse 19, he prays for not only an increased knowledge of God’s person, an increased knowledge of God’s plan, but an increased knowledge of God’s power. Did you notice that? I’m “making mention of you” (v. 16) that you might know Him (v. 17)—that you might know the hope that was produced when you were called (v. 18) and that you might know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (vv. 19–20).
Now listen. This is so good. Having looked at their past (that’s their calling), having looked at their future inheritance, he now lets them know that they have power to live the Christian life in the in-between. While they wait for this inheritance, while they live in hope, there’s power, exceedingly great power, toward those who believe. They could be more than conquerors. Now, remember, Ephesus was a dark place. Not easy to be a Christian in Ephesus. We need to remind ourselves of that when we start moping about the West Coast. God has His people everywhere, and we can triumph wherever we are. Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world. And Paul wants them to know that because remember, the temple of Diana was there, and she was called the world ruler.
Think about that when you read Paul telling us that Christ has been raised and enthroned above every principality and every power, human and demonic, and it’s all been put under His feet. And He’s the head of the church, and He’s following the church with all the power they need to fulfill His Great Commission and remain steadfast in the evil day until Jesus comes back.
Remember, in Acts 19:18–19, many of these people came out of the occult, and they burned their spell and magic books. So, Tim Chester is right here. Power was a big thing in Ephesus, which was an occult center, and the Ephesians would’ve felt surrounded by alien forces. They would’ve felt weak and vulnerable.
So, Paul prays that they would realize the power that they have as Christians. Do you realize the exceedingly great power that’s at work in you who believe—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, the same power that enthroned Him at the right hand of God, the same power that has given Him authority and put everything under His feet? That is a reality right now. Jesus is reigning, but there will be a manifestation of that reign in a millennial kingdom for a thousand years at the end of history, when it will be proved that all things are under His feet. And every knee will bow and every tongue confess.
And Jesus Christ, right now, is the head of the church—the Christ who is full of fullness and therefore is able to fill us with everything we need. That’s Paul’s parting shot. Hey, I’m praying that you would recognize that God’s power—His power that triumphed over death, belittled cosmic forces, made the world His footstool, and fuels the church with unstoppable power—is yours. From 9 to 12 in the morning, from 12 to 6 in the afternoon, from 6 to 9 the next morning, it’s available to you. Look at all that God has conquered, and realize that He’s leading you in triumph.
Now, here’s what you don’t want to miss. Just quickly go to Colossians 1. I want you to eyeball this. Go to Colossians 1:11, because this is very interesting. This is where we’re going to stop. This is almost a parallel passage and a parallel prayer because remember, this is another prison epistle. So, what was on Paul’s heart for Ephesus was on his heart for Philippi and Colossi.
Look at what he says in verse 11 to the Colossians: I’m praying that you would be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.” Stop. Here’s what I’m praying. I’m praying that His glorious power will strengthen you. The word “glorious” would have us at the power put on display in six days of creation. That’s the power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the power that split the Red Sea. That’s the power that fed the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. That’s the power that made the sun stand still in Joshua’s day. That glorious power, it’s been given to you for . . . Did you notice “for”? Here’s the reason He gave you this glorious power. Now, at this point, I’m thinking it’s got to be big and it’s got to be bold. If this glorious power is available to me, I would expect God to have me live in the miraculous, something stupendous—where like I lead a 100,000 people to faith in Jesus Christ, something of that magnitude. But he doesn’t say that. What does he say? I pray that you’ll be “strengthened . . . according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering.”
That’s why He gives us power—not to live in the miraculous but actually to put His power on display in a lifetime of faithfulness and marriage and parenting, living on a street for a half a century, getting up and going to work, and building a resume of gospel testimony. The word “patience” means endurance in circumstances, and the word “longsuffering” means putting up with people who test your patience. So, that’s why the power is available. Just think about that. Meditate on that this afternoon. God raised Jesus, enthroned Jesus, put everything under His feet. That’s the kind of power that God has, and it’s available to you to endure the circumstances you’re in right now—bad marriage, bad job, bad health—to put up with people who get on your nerves, who drive you crazy, who hurt you, who disrespect you. That’s where the power of God’s going to show up, in contentment in all circumstances and even loving your enemies. That is a mighty demonstration of God’s power.
Let me finish with this story to do with Eric Alexander, wonderful Presbyterian pastor. He’s now with the Lord. He pastored in the Tron in Glasgow. June and I actually heard him several times when we were dating. And he tells a story of when he was a student in the Bible College in Glasgow. He went along with 2,000 other people to hear Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great English expositor, Welsh expositor. And after the service, he was standing not far from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, waiting on a ride back to the school. He couldn’t help but overhear several conversations with the doctor and the audience, and as this man finished every conversation, he would always say, “Keep on, brother. Keep on, sister. Keep on.” It turned out that on his ride home, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was in the same car back to the school, and Alexander said, “Forgive me for eavesdropping, but every time you talked to someone, you said, ‘Keep on,’ and that sounded as if it was very important to you.” Here’s what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “My dear man, there is nothing more important. The Christian life is not a sprint; it is a marathon, and that is why Jesus says, ‘He who endures to the end shall be saved.’” In telling the story, Alexander shared, “To my delight, he enlarged on the subject until I was reluctant to get out of the car.”
It’s going to take all the power of God to save you and keep you saved and to get through this world of demons filled and land you safe on heaven’s shore. Keep on. The exceeding great power of God will allow you to keep on and endure ugly circumstances and put up with ugly people until God changes this world and beautifies us all in a state of perfection. I finished first service, and immediately my phone went off. And a brother in the first service sent me this quote by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. You must say to yourself, “Whatever happens I’m going on.” Would you say that at the end of the service today?
Whatever happens, I’m going on, and I can because of the exceeding greatness of His power toward those who believe.
Father, we thank You for this morning. We’re a little bit over time, but it won’t mean anything when eternity comes. Thank You for this special prayer of Paul for the Ephesians, and we make it our prayer for ourselves, as he made it his prayer for them. Lord, help us to know You more. Help us to make a priority of that. Help us not to be cruel to ourselves and live in ignorance of God. Thank You for the Spirit of God who illuminates the people of God, allowing them to enjoy ever so more the Son of God.
Lord, as we look out, it’s chaotic, depressing, but we have a hope that our calling produces that’s unending and glorious. Help us to live it. And Lord, we need power just to go back today and live where we live and to love our enemies and to endure our circumstances and to keep on keeping on. Help us to say to ourselves that whatever happens, I’m going on, looking onto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. And everybody said, amen.