WE NEED THE ENLIGHTENING WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO FULLY UNDERSTAND AND RELATE TO GOD
When a baby is born, his eyes are opened to a whole new world, a different dimension than anything he has ever known. He is very limited as to what he can see at birth. As the baby develops his eyes start to focus in on more things and he also starts to see not just what is close up, but things that are farther away. Still there is a growing process in terms of how much he can really understand and how well he can relate to what he sees — this growing process can be described as enlightenment.
Just being alive would be abnormal as time goes by. However, many Christians seem content with just being alive, with having their eyes opened to some of the blessings of this new spiritual dimension, but never really growing in any depth in their personal knowledge of God and ability to relate to Him.
We need to catch the vision for our opportunity to know God better. We want to be able to see things that are far off, not just those things that are up close. We don’t want our vision clouded by our own indifference, our persistence in sin, our love for the world, etc. We need to be open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our heart.
CONTEXT: Verses 3-14 presented a fantastic account of how God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Now Paul is switching gears and praying that God will give us spiritual insight to understand, appreciate, and appropriate these blessings.
It is important to keep the balance between:
1) Praise for what God has given us, and
2) Petition for what we realize we need for spiritual growth
The danger of being lopsided here:
1) Some people are complacent with their limited understanding of God and have no appetite to go deeper
2) Some people are always praying for new spiritual blessings while seemingly ignorant of what they already have
- Yes, we have the Holy Spirit who has sealed us. Praise God!
- Yes, we need the Holy Spirit in His ministry of enlightening us. Petition God for His grace in this area.
Frank Thielman: Among the Pauline Letters, only Ephesians begins with a benediction, a thanksgiving prayer report, and an intercessory prayer report. . . As is common with Paul’s letters, it is difficult to tell in Ephesians precisely where the thanksgiving prayer report ends and the intercessory prayer report begins. Paul says he does not cease giving thanks for the letters’ recipients when he remembers them in prayer (1:16), but when he describes his prayers in the following subordinate clause, they turn out to be prayers not of thanksgiving but of intercession (1:17–19).
Clinton Arnold: (:15-23) — In this prayer of thanksgiving and intercession, Paul expresses gratitude to God upon hearing of the spiritual vitality of the readers. This leads him to pray intensively that the Spirit will reveal to them their hope and their great value to God, and especially that they will gain an expanded awareness of the extraordinary and unsurpassed power of God manifested on their behalf.
Klyne Snodgrass: Similar to the previous passage, the Greek text of 1:15–23 is one long sentence. The process of thought is clear:
- The report Paul has of their faith and love (1:15)
- Affirmation that he gives thanks and prays for them (1:16)
- Intercession for the gift of revelation (1:17–23)
- The primary request is that God will give his revealing Spirit (1:17)
- The goal of the prayer is that the revelation will bring a three-part knowledge of God (1:18–19)
- Description of the working of God’s power in Christ (1:20–23)
I. (:15-16) MOTIVATION FOR THE REQUEST = THE REALITY OF THEIR SPIRITUAL LIFE
(:15a) Transition — Reason for Thanksgiving
“For this reason I too“
These Gentile believers genuinely possessed the Holy Spirit who had sealed them and been the downpayment for their full inheritance.
Frank Thielman: Because his readers have heard and believed the gospel and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, Paul says, “I in particular” have reason to give unceasing thanks in my prayers.
Klyne Snodgrass: “For this reason” points back to the doxology, which affirms the foundational character of that passage. The theology of the doxology motivates everything else in the letter and should be reread in connection with each new section. The way God has worked to accomplish salvation motivates both Paul’s praise and his intercession. The intent of this prayer is that people will know in their own lives the benefits mentioned in the doxology. . .
Paul’s intent is clear—that God’s Spirit, already given to his readers, will continually give wisdom and revelation for life and understanding. The result is that the “inner eyes,” the instruments of sight and understanding for the inner being, will receive light by which to see. In other words, the apostle prays the lights will go on inside people so that they know God and understand the benefit of the gospel.
A. (:15b) Two Fundamental Qualities of Genuine Spiritual Life
Paul was in prison and had time to pray for these saints on a regular basis. He gave thanks for them and expressed his pastoral concern in praying for their growth.
“of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you“
Bruce Hurt: Faith (4102) (pistis) means a firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth. Refers not only to their initial act of saving faith, but the day by day exercise of their faith in the Lord Jesus for daily living. The same faith that saved is the faith needed to live daily. Faith is the expression of the believer’s trust in God (vertical relationship) whereas love is the evidence of one’s proper relationship with others (horizontal relationship). Faith is not something a sinful soul can conger up from their depraved heart but is the God-allotted ability or capacity to trust Him. True faith is not based on empirical evidence, but on divine assurance, a gift of God. Real faith is shown to be authentic by real obedience. As Spurgeon said “Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments (ED: Enabled by the Spirit).”
William Barclay: Faith begins with receptivity. It begins when a man is at least willing to listen to the message of the truth. It goes on to mental assent. A man first hears and then agrees that this is true. But mental assent need not issue in action. Many a man knows very well that something is true, but does not change his actions to meet that knowledge. The final stage is when this mental assent becomes total surrender. In full-fledged faith, a man hears the Christian message, agrees that it is true, and then casts himself upon it in a life of total yieldedness.
“and your love for all the saints“
Frank Thielman: Paul also gives thanks for “the love” his readers have “for all the saints” (ἡ ἀγάπη ἡ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους, hē agapē hē eis pantas tous hagious). Ἅγιοι (hagioi, saints) here, as usual in Ephesians, refers to all Christians (1:18; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18), and love is a theme of particular interest to Paul in this letter: God’s love for believers (2:4; 3:17; 6:23), Christ’s love for believers (3:19), the love of believers for Christ (6:24), and especially the love of believers for each other (1:4; 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2, 25, 28, 33). Just as he does elsewhere in his opening thanksgiving prayer reports, therefore, Paul congratulates his readers for displaying precisely the quality that he will urge them later in the letter to cultivate.
Grant Osborne: Paul is thrilled with their spiritual state, both in its vertical (faith in Jesus) and horizontal (love for the saints) aspects. They are growing spiritually in every area of their Christian walk, and this moves Paul to prayer. It had been five to six years since Paul had last seen the Ephesian Christians (a time period including his trip to Jerusalem, arrest, two-year stint in Caesarea, and at least a year so far on trial in Rome), so such good news would have been very heartening to Paul.
John MacArthur: A second mark of genuine salvation is love for all the saints, and because of such love Paul offers thanks for the Ephesian believers. Christian love is indiscriminate; it does not pick and choose which believers it will love. Christ loves all believers, and they are precious to Him. By definition, therefore, Christian love extends to all Christians. To the extent that it does not, it is less than Christian. Paul calls for believers to be “maintaining the same love” (Phil. 2:2+), which is to love all believers the same. Sometimes we hear Christians say, “I love him in the Lord,” which seems to imply that they have no personal affection for nor commitment to the needs of the individual. They extend a certain spiritualized kind of love only because the other person is a fellow believer. But that is not genuine love. To truly love a person in the Lord is to love him as the Lord loves him—genuinely and sacrificially….Important as it is, sound theology is no substitute for love. Without love the best doctrine is like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1+). True salvation goes from the head and heart of the believer out to other believers and out to the world to touch unbelievers in Christ’s name. True salvation produces true love, and true love does “not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18+). Always in the New Testament true spiritual love is defined as an attitude of selfless sacrifice that results in generous acts of kindness done to others. It is far more than a feeling, an attraction or emotion. When the Lord had washed the feet of the proud and self-seeking disciples, He told them that what He had done for them was the example of how they were to love each other (John 13:34).
B. (:16) Thanksgiving and Intercession
“do not cease giving thanks for you,”
“while making mention of you in my prayers”
II. (:17) MAIN REQUEST = THE GIFT OF THE ENLIGHTENING WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
A. Flows out of the Identity of God
- Identified in Relationship to Jesus
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ“
If our Lord, the object of our faith and our all-sufficient one for
deliverance in every respect willingly submitted to God the Father here
on this earth and needed insight, etc. how much more we do.
Clinton Arnold: In his description of God, Paul closely associates the one God with Jesus of Nazareth, whom he terms Lord and Messiah. This is a reiteration of a similar designation for God at the beginning of the blessing at the outset of the letter (for more discussion, see on 1:3). It is in and through Jesus of Nazareth that God has fulfilled his promises and brings his redemptive plan to the world.
- Identified in Relationship to His Preeminence
“the Father of glory“
His characteristic quality is glory. He is the one that deserves the preeminence in every respect. If the one we have the opportunity to get
to know is the Father of glory, how can we be diverted by lesser pursuits?
[Remember the refrain: “to the praise of the glory of His grace“]
Andrew Lincoln: “Glory” denotes the splendor of the divine presence and power. In fact, in Paul “glory” and “power” can be synonymous in terms of God’s activity (cf. Rom 6:4 and 1 Cor 6:14 with reference to his activity in raising Christ). Here in 1:17, as well as focusing on the radiance of God’s being, glory may also be linked with the notion of enlightenment in 1:18 as the power to illuminate (cf. the connection between the glory of God and the light of knowledge in 2 Cor 4:4, 6).
Kenneth Wuest: He is the Father of the glory in the sense that He is the Father to Whom glory belongs.
Bruce Hurt: Doxa relates to inherent value (real weight) and hence used of the glory of God, i.e. His substance (the essence of His eternal, infinite being). God’s glory encompasses all of His attributes. Glory (doxa) speaks of a manifestation of God’s true nature, presence, or likeness. He is glorified when He is allowed to be seen as He really is. To be where God is will be glory. To be what God intended will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory. The basic idea in the word doxa is that of manifestation. The glory of God is the manifestation of His Being, His character and His acts. The glory of God is what He is essentially. Glory, therefore, is the true apprehension of God. God’s being (glory) is the only measure (ultimately) to weigh anything. Only the Lord has meaning in and of Himself; people derive their meaning by knowing Him – like the moon draws its light (reflects) the sun (Son).
B. Focuses on the Work of the Holy Spirit
“may give to you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation“
Why do I think this refers to the Holy Spirit and not just a capacity or disposition in our human spirit?
1) the two are closely related anyway since the Holy Spirit would have to produce such a capacity
2) emphasis on the work of the Trinity
3) prominence of the Holy Spirit in the entire epistle
4) context in 1:13-14 dealt specifically with the Holy Spirit
5) concept of “revelation” is better connected with Holy Spirit
6) parallel verse from OT —
Isaiah 11:2 “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on
Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and
strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord“
- “Wisdom“ — intellectual insight into things as they really are
not just wisdom in understanding the Word of God, but wisdom in our
trials — in how to face all the pressures of our daily lives
- “Revelation“ — the unveiling of something previously hidden or unknown
Could be some confusion here. In our technical doctrinal classifications we tend to label this as the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit (helping us to understand what God has already revealed) since we do not believe God is revealing new truth today (through dreams, prophecies, etc.). But in a non-technical sense the Holy Spirit is constantly revealing new insights to us.
Andrew Lincoln: God’s wisdom can never be totally possessed, since it is inexhaustible.
Ligonier Ministry: At regeneration, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes so that we can see who God is and who we are for the very first time. But after conversion, He continues to work to give us insight into His revealed Word and to deepen our personal relationship with Him (John 16:13; Gal. 5:16).
C. Fixes Attention on the Full Experiential Knowledge of God
“in the knowledge of him“
Frank Thielman: Paul makes explicit the theocentric aspect of both the wisdom and the revelation that he prays God would give his readers with the phrase ἐν ἐπιγνώσει αὐτοῦ (en epignōsei autou, in the knowledge of him). Some interpreters have thought this clause gives the means “by” which the wisdom and revelation come (e.g., Haupt 1902a: 36), and others have attached it to the first part of verse 18 so that Paul prays for the enlightenment of his readers “in the knowledge of him” (e.g., Abbott 1897: 28). The most natural reading grammatically and contextually, however, takes it as a description of the sphere of knowledge with which Paul’s prayers are concerned (e.g., Ellicott 1859: 23–24; Hoehner 2002: 259). He prays not for knowledge generally but that God’s Spirit, who reveals wisdom and understanding to God’s people, might reveal the knowledge of God to the believers who read this letter.
III. (:18-19a) MANIFOLD REQUEST FOR HEIGHTENED AWARENESS
A. Repetition of Request for Enlightenment
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”
Best translation of this Perfect tense in Greek here:
“since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened” — Refers to the present possession of something received or experienced in the past. It was at salvation that the eyes of our heart were opened by God’s grace through faith. Now we need these eyes focused by God’s grace through faith. This prayer for spiritual enlightenment regarding the full knowledge of God can only apply to those who already have spiritual vision. That is why the reality of spiritual life in others should motivate us to pray in this way for them.
(Study Luke 24:13-35) for a good example of spiritual enlightenment)
Frank Thielman: πεφωτισμένους modifies δώῃ adverbially and describes what will happen when God gives the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to Paul’s readers: the eyes of their heart will be enlightened. This enlightenment will, in turn, prepare them to know
- the hope of God’s calling (v. 18b),
- the immense glory of his inheritance among the saints (v. 18c),
- and the massive power he has used for the benefit of believers (v. 19).
B. Threefold Request for Heightened Awareness
“so that you will know”
Clinton Arnold: A threefold request flowing out of the illumination (1:18–19)
- For an awareness of their hope (1:18)
- For an awareness of their value to God (1:18)
- For an awareness of God’s power available to them (1:19)
- His Goal for Us
“what is the hope of His calling“
Primarily centers on holiness and being completely like the Lord Jesus Christ; includes our resurrection body and full inheritance
Frank Thielman: When Paul speaks of “the hope of [God’s] calling” here in 1:18b, therefore, he describes something that, although future and therefore invisible, arises from God’s call and is bound to happen (cf. Rom. 8:24–25). Paul’s readers have this hope (1:12), but Paul prays that the Spirit will illumine the eyes of their heart so that they might see it clearly.
Grant Osborne: This refers to the final hope in our eternal inheritance but also to the hope expressed in our present salvation and the Christian life that ensues. This must be understood in terms of what is called “inaugurated eschatology,” the tension between the already and the not yet. The already refers to our present blessings in Christ and to the fact that our future on earth will entail our walk in Christ and the glory and joy of knowing we are being “kept by his power” (1 Pet 1:5). The not yet refers to the culmination of all God’s promises in our final heavenly home. Moreover, it is a “living hope” (1 Pet 1:3), not a secular hope, which is an ephemeral and completely uncertain yearning for a future that is virtually unattainable. Ours is a Christian hope resulting from God having called us to be his own (see Eph 4:4)—the certainty of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1) and of the crown of life that awaits us (Jas 1:12; see also 2 Tim 4:8; 1 Pet 5:4). Our near future is secure, and our eternal future is guaranteed.
- His Gift for Himself
“what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints“
This refers to the inheritance that will belong to God, not the inheritance that will belong to the saints. Reasons:
1) Note the same two-sided emphasis in verse 14 — the Holy Spirit secures the saints’ future both for the saints and for God
2) The phrase “in the saints” only makes sense in this view
3) There are parallel verses like Titus 2:14.
We are valuable to God. This should improve our sense of worth.
Frank Thielman: Paul prays God would give his readers an understanding of their status as God’s very glorious inheritance. In the benediction Paul has already said that his readers, as God’s adopted children, are his heirs (1:5, 11) and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment of their coming inheritance (1:14). Now we learn that God too has an inheritance, and it is his people—οἱ ἅγιοι (hoi hagioi, the saints), as Paul calls them (cf. 1:1, 15; 2:19; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18). In a similar way, the benediction had emphasized the glory of God and of his grace (1:6, 12, 14), and Paul has just described God as the Father, or origin, of glory (1:17). Now we learn that believers too are glorious; indeed, they have a wealth of glory. Paul wants his readers to know, therefore, that they are of great value to God: they are rich in glory and they are his inheritance.
- (:19a) His Guarantee for Success = Resurrection Power
“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power
toward us who believe. “
Klyne Snodgrass: Significantly, the focus on God’s power here is not on God’s inherent power or on some cosmic display of force. Rather, it is on God’s life-giving power as it is specifically available for believers. In this way the prayer looks back to the emphasis in the doxology on God’s activity of planning and working for us and our salvation.
Stephen Fowl: Paul prepares for the emphasis on Christ’s relationship to the created powers and principalities in v. 21 by asserting that God’s power is unsurpassed and cannot be challenged by created forces. Thus, although the powers and principalities are not yet fully subjected to Christ (1 Cor 15:24–28), they cannot ultimately resist his power.
Walt Russell: We do not know wat was the short-term response of the church in Ephesus to Paul’s heart-felt prayer for them. We do have an insight into their response some 35 years later when the Apostle John recounted Jesus Christ’s assessment of the church in Rev 2:1-7. The particularly tragic part of that assessment is in verse 4: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” The eyes of their hearts had grown dull over the years. Instead of loving their wonderful God more and more each year, they lost even the early flush of love that they had felt toward Him. They lost the focus of the eyes of their heart.
There is no priority in life that is greater than the priority of coming to know God better. How does that fit in your priority scale?
1) Pray for the Holy Spirit to enable you to get to know God more fully each day.
2) Invest significant time this week getting to know God better.