EPHESIANS-SERIES NR 2
Theme: Enlightened eyes
Scripture: Ephesians 1: 15-23
How can one know that someone has become a true Christian?
How did Paul know that the Ephesians had become true Christians? (v 15).
There are 2 things that disclose a Christian‘s true identity – that cannot be hidden 1) A clearly visible shift-of-trust towards the Lord Jesus Christ, and 2) A sudden love and attachment to other people who are also in Christ.
When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in a person, then those two attributes are strongly brought to the fore by Him, and nobody who knows you need to wonder if you are truly a Christian.
That is how the Apostle knew that his readers are true Christians. He says it himself in verse 15!
And what is the first thing that he did when he heard that they have truly come to salvation in Christ? He prayed for them. Verse 16 onward.
Wonderful if someone prays for you, is it not so? That means he/she has your well-being at heart and brings it to the Lord in prayer – without expecting anything in return. That is what we should do for one another, and what we must do for people who have recently come to salvation in the Lord. Sincerely carry their welfare in your heart and bring it before the Lord.
What is Paul praying for the believers in Ephesus?
He is giving thanks to God. Because their salvation is due to HIM alone! When someone comes to faith and repentance and a discovery of the Gospel-message, he/she is not congratulated! The believer is not thanked! Remember the previous section: It is thanks to God that your eyes have been opened, because He chose you – even before creation. To Him all the gratitude and praise for it. If it depended upon a human’s decision, EVERYONE would have remained past redemption for all eternity! NOBODY is searching for the Lord (Ps 14:3).
Therefore, what Paul is doing is to thank the Lord for the believers in Ephesus! And although he was geographically far removed from them, he is building up their spiritual well-being by talking to the Lord about them.
The first way that they are spiritually nourished/fortified/supported, is not through Paul’s support for them or his letter to them, but his prayerful intercession from a distance. His prayers for them – even though they were not even aware of it – were more beneficial to them than anything else! How formidably effective is prayer!
What exactly is the Apostle praying for the Christ-believers in Ephesus?
It is completely different in content than what for example we would tend to pray for other people. We must learn from/imitate the Apostle!
Remember: What Paul – as Apostle – is praying, is what is really on the heart of the LORD. He is praying with Apostolic authority.
Now compare that with the kind of things that we would imagine are to be primarily important for new Christians. What do we think are primarily important for new Christians? Things such as: that they would find the right church, would grow spiritually by doing this and doing that, not do this any longer but rather do that, join a cell/bible study group, etc.
Look at this prayer of Paul’s, and you will discover what it is that is in his heart for the Christians in Ephesus:
Verse 17: Yes they already knew the Lord, but that they would get to know Him BETTER. That is the most important. Not experience, but KNOWLEDGE. Remember: The essence of the Christian Faith is to personally know God. Unique. The Christian Faith is not a philosophy (like Buddhism) or a set of rules that must be followed. It is a faith-relationship/ know/walk with the living God of heaven and earth. Spiritual growth means: KNOWING Him better and better. Knowledge/thinking/brain/intellect is of cardinal importance in the Christian Faith.
These days there are trends in the church that say that we must know the Lord by cutting out the brain in some way and rather make use of meditation/ contemplation/ silence/ repeating mantras. That is a definite move away from true Biblical Christianity.
Paul is not teaching the Ephesians to meditate or to sit cross-legged with soft music playing while focusing on God. He is also not telling them that they must know more truths. Also not know more about Him. But, they must get to know HIM better.
The way to get to know Him better is to get more and more wisdom/ understanding/ revelation-knowledge from the Truth in the written Word. We will soon see that there are especially TWO great truths that a Christian must understand/get hold of/see/grasp. You should see/understand it in such a way that you begin to love it, and that it becomes a conviction in your heart.
Spiritual growth comes from better insight/understanding of the Truth. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (through Scripture – because the Word is the Sword of the Spirit – Ephes 6:17) you begin to SEE. Your spiritual eyes become enlightened.
In the first place, the Spirit works through our brain/mind. He feeds that with the Truth as we consciously expose ourselves to the Word and sound teaching. You fill your mind with Scriptural Truths – the Spirit helps you to SEE it – and it becomes (progressively) deeply rooted convictions. And in that way you get to know the Lord better.
The role of the preacher is to give sound teaching. The responsibility of every Christian is to gobble it up. And to pray that the Spirit will use it to enlighten your spiritual eyes for you to SEE the Truth and it can become ingrained into your life and become fixed convictions. And of course also communicating it with others.
What are the 2 great truths that the spiritual eyes of a Christ-believer must be opened to? 1. You must see where you are heading to, and 2. You must understand what an incomparably great power is at work in your life.
Paul knows: Once a Christian can “see” these two things and it becomes convictions of his heart, nothing/nobody can take him down. You will remain standing as a Christian until the end. You will never throw in the towel. You must take these 2 truths into your brain and pray that the Spirit will enlighten your spiritual eyes to SEE until it takes root in your heart. Then you will grow spiritually and know the Lord better.
1 Know where you are heading to:
The Lord God has called you to be His child. A divine call has gone out to you. Therefore you now have an enormous future. His call always produces results, it is effective, it produces something in your life. What? We are going to receive a glorious inheritance. We have hope for the future.
In the Bible “hope” does not mean something that you are insecurely longing for. No, it means: something you are absolutely sure of that you will most certainly receive, but that you do not have yet. It is waiting in the future.
What is this hope? An inheritance (v18)! It is the future world. New earth. No eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard, and no mind has ever conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him! (1 Cor 2:9).
Once the Lord has called you to be His child, you actually already HAVE the new earth/heavenly city. It is only a matter of time. Because the Lord Jesus will not lose one of His children along the way (John 6:39). Once He has called someone, it is irrevocable (Rom 11:29).
There is nothing that carries/encourages/nourishes/supports/fortifies a Christian like the assurance of where you are heading to! You never want to go back to your previous life. You do not want to return to the fodder of the world. Things like materialism cannot get a grip on your inner heart. If you know where you are going tomorrow, you stand firm today!
2 Know what the incomparably great power is that is at work in your life:
Verses 19-22 are most probably of the most astounding verses in the entire Bible. It is surely something that one’s spiritual eyes has to supernaturally be enlightened for to make it one’s own. Let me explain it this way from verses 19-22:
God the Father exerted enormously great power when He raised Jesus from the dead. Yes, more than at the time of the original creation! And He also exerted incomparably great power when He took Jesus up from the earth to Himself to be seated at His right hand (ascension).
Our Lord Jesus Christ now occupies the highest position imaginable. He is far ABOVE all rule/ authority/ power/ dominion – now in the present age, but also in the age to come. God the Father literally raised Jesus above everything. Also in the church He is the Head and the church/congregation is his earthly body. Incidentally, that is why Jesus told Paul on the road to Damascus: “When you persecute the Christians, you are in reality persecuting ME” (Acts 9:4).
The astonishing thing that the Apostle is saying now is that God the Father is exerting exactly the same power in the life of every believer as He did in Christ when He raised Him from the dead/ raised Him to sit at His right hand/ raised Him above all rule and authority 2000 years ago! It is as if God continues to exert that power – it did not end 2000 years ago – with the resurrection of Christ! But now He is exerting that power in the life of every child of God – not to be raised from the dead, but to keep the child of the Lord standing.
What Paul is actually saying here is that God has to work in a person’s life the exact power which He worked in Christ’s resurrection from the dead – in order to bring such a person to faith at all… and also to KEEP you there! Because remember, it is impossible for any person to come to faith and repentance by their own effort – and impossible to persevere as child of the Lord all their life by own effort. That is stated in Eph 2 (next week’s study).
AWAY with the unbiblical teaching that suggests that any person can very easily come to faith – you only have to choose and make a decision and then it’s done! As if faith is a simple little matter that any person can do anytime or day they feel like it or get the inclination for. It is only about getting the desire. No!!
The Bible teaches that man is by nature spiritually dead and powerless to turn to the Lord (cf 1 Cor 2:14/ John 8:43). If it depended on man’s ability/desire EVERYONE would consequently turn away from the Lord – not TO the Lord but AWAY from Him.
That which causes a person to turn around, is when by grace God works in you the same power as He worked in Christ at His resurrection from the dead. Exactly the same power. That is why a true Christian is always astounded that he/she is a Christian at all! A true Christian has the attitude of: “it cannot be that I could have been found by Christ!” Always amazement/ thankfulness/ praise for God’s mighty strength and His undeserved merciful choice in election.
It is important to see that God is constantly/continually busy working in every believer with the same power as when He raised Jesus from the grave. He is continuously/incessantly busy with it (present tense – v19). That is what preserves a true believer! That is what is helping a child of God not to give in to the enemy. Because Jesus is raised above all rule and authority, power and dominion. And the divine power that has placed Him there, is working in you and in me!
That power cancels out the powers that want to pull us down, and raises us over those down-pulling forces. Almost like a rocket that conquers gravity and soars into the sky without falling back to earth. God’s power conquers the powers that daily want to intrude into our lives and pull us down.
And remember verses 22-23: Jesus is the Head of the church (all true believers) that is His earthly body, and everything that is in the Head flows through to the body. If the Head is seated above all powers and dominions – then the body is also seated there!! If the Head’s foot is on the head of the snake, why should the body then give in to the snake? Think of a good headmaster: does his/her qualities/influence not flow through to the entire school?
Good news: We do not have to do anything to keep this power in place. God does it. We must believe it (trust upon it) and confess it out loud in all circumstances.
Learn a great truth this morning: When you are in a struggle, proclaim the Truth of the Word out loud. Speak the Word out loud. For example:
“According to Ephesians 1: 19-21 God is exerting the same power in me that He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. Christ is seated high above all rule/authority/power/dominion. God placed all things under His feet. This weakness/temptation/problem is also subjected to Him. I am more than a conqueror because God’s resurrection power is working in me also”.
Translated by Marthie Wilson