Sermon August 23, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1457

August 23, 2020 Ephesians 1.15-23

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“What Shall We Pray?”

 

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.

 

  • Give Thanks and Remember

 

Paul begins this section of his letter with the phrase, “For this reason”. We should take a moment to ask for what reason? I think Paul is making a transition that builds on what he has written at the beginning, as well as what he is saying in verse fifteen. I would suggest two things: first reason – all that Christ has done which is given us in the first fourteen verses. Second reason – because of the faith of the saints in Ephesus (vs 15). In the first reason we have seen the benefits of what Christ has done and what it means for us to be in Christ. What Christ has done is bring redemption, forgiveness, chosen us, made known the mystery of God’s will, given an inheritance, we are sealed by the Spirit, and all the praise of God’s glory. The reason I think Paul has this in mind is partly because of the prayer he makes for the saints – to know what Christ has done. In the prayer he speaks of wisdom and revelation in knowledge. He prays for enlightenment, hope, and a glorious inheritance. He writes of God’s greatness of power and all the things worked in Christ.

In the second reason he has been moved by the church’s faith and love, obvious reflections of being in Christ. Paul is filled with gratitude for their response to all that Jesus has done for them and therefore, he remembers them in prayer. What he prays is that they would be given even more than what they already have.

 

  • Wisdom and Revelation in Knowledge

 

What I want us to center on today is the prayer, or subject of the prayer, that Paul lifts up. Look at verse seventeen… “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you...”

Paul prays for God to give them something, many things. This is common for prayer and for the work of God, to give us gifts. This is what we often do in prayer, asking God to give healing or comfort or faith. We sometimes ask to be given things ourselves...money, peace, direction. Everything Paul prays for here deals with our spiritual life. The first of the gifts is this: the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. Paul seeks for them the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom. With the Spirit we have the wisdom of God because we have God with us! With the Spirit we have Christ, that is, we are in Christ and Christ is in us, by the Spirit. We have all the wisdom of His Words and commandments. We have the mind of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the Words of Christ (1 Corinthians 2.16). Do we realize what that means? Think about having the Spirit of Jesus Christ in you and in us. We have in our being the very wisdom of God. Of course, we have to do certain things, like yield to that wisdom and follow that wisdom for it to guide us through our lives.

Paul prays for the Spirit of revelation. This is also what the Spirit brings into our hearts, an understanding of what God has revealed in Jesus, salvation, forgiveness, that is, all that Paul gives us in the beginning of this first chapter. God has opened the mystery and revealed His Son.

Now take that whole phrase together, the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. Wisdom and revelation are about Jesus Christ, knowing Him and knowing about what God has done in Him. This is the Christian life! Paul considered everything about his life as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3.8-11).

It is all about knowing Jesus and becoming like Him. This is Paul’s prayer for the church.

 

  • The Eyes of Your Heart

 

Paul then prays that the eyes of their hearts be enlightened. What could Paul mean by the eyes of the heart? I believe it means the capacity to imagine. We tend to lose our imagination as we grow older and become adults. When we were children we could imagine all kinds of wonderful things and amazing possibilities. We let our imaginations run wild! But time and life tends to dampen that gift and we become overly serious and unimaginative. Paul seeks that our imaginations become rekindled. To have our imagination enlightened is to bring light to what is possible with God. I think this is what Jesus was doing over and over when He spoke in parables. Imagine a man two sons...our imagination is kindled to visualize this man and his sons (Luke 15). Imagine the kingdom of God is like a net that is thrown into the sea (Matt 13)...when He tells these parables it sparks the imagination and what I think that does for us is open all kinds of possibilities for reshaping our lives and the life of our communities and nation, all of life in Jesus Christ. So we seek to imagine what life could be like if we trusted that God is our Shepherd, what life could be like if we prayed for those who persecute us, and this is how the eyes of the heart are enlightened.

 

  • To Know Hope

 

The purpose of enlightened eyes, of imagination, is to know what is our hope. And what is our hope? It is everything about Jesus. From the first fourteen verses of what He has done for us to these verses that speak of hope and riches of inheritance and immeasurable greatness of God. Hope takes imagination because hope, for all who believe in God and in Christ as Lord and Savior, hope is in that which is unseen. It is found in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in the testimony of the Gospel and the testimony of the Spirit within us in ways that are difficult to explain but we know that we know that Jesus is Lord. We know that Jesus gave His life to die on a cross that we might gain all the benefits of salvation and hope and love and grace and all these things that Scripture promises.

 

17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever...(Hebrews 6.17-20).

We hold fast to a hope. Our hope serves as an anchor of the soul. That hope is Jesus.

 

  • All Worked in Christ

 

Everything we read about here in Ephesians 1 is worked out in Christ. It has all been done already. That is the beauty of grace.

 

...according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

 

This is everything! God has worked all things in and through Jesus so that we might simply rest in His grace and give thanks for His forgiveness. It is guaranteed. It is a promised inheritance that we of which we already partake.

 

But, this does not end the story of our life in Christ. There are ways we seek to “work out our salvation”, to grow in Christ, to become sanctified in Christ, to walk by faith and not by sight.

Philippians 2.12-13 says this: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God has worked everything out in Jesus and we are thus called and redeemed and also called to live a life worthy of that call. And Paul has given us a great prayer for one another to help us grow in understanding and knowledge of the Christian life. So I want to suggest we take this passage read today and make it our prayer for one another and for ourselves, to pray that God would give us everything here, the Spirit, the hope, the imagination so that we might bring glory to God in our lives. We could memorize this prayer. We could write it out in our own words. We could simply read it as our prayer and place the names of people for whom we want to pray.

Such a prayer could also be imagined in new ways. I have been reading a book by Rankin Wilbourne titled Union with Christ. He suggests some things that are not new by any means, but I think about these steps as a way of praying Paul’s prayer in ways that reflect other things we read in Scripture. Three things to think about, three things we can do to lift up one another and ourselves to grow in Christ. 1) Keep in step with the Spirit, walk with God by faith. This is what Paul speaks of in many of his letters. 2) Repent, a step we take with every sin. Jesus calls us to repent from the very beginning of His preaching. 3) Take up your cross daily – day by day. This too is Jesus’ call on our lives.

These are some of the ways we place ourselves in position to receive the prayer Paul gives us in Ephesians and in position to walk day by day in Jesus Christ. These are the prayers of God’s people for God’s people. To pray that God will give us all these things so that we would walk with God, repent, and follow Jesus with our own cross to endure. In times like these we need to step up in prayer and walk in Christ. That will bring glory to God and bring the gospel to the world. Amen.

 

 

 
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