Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 17
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Paul’s desire for the Ephesian believers is that they have a deeper understanding “not just of the Word of God, but of the God of the Word.” Dr. Barber explains in this sermon on Ephesians 1:16-17.|
- 1 A Prayer for Deeper Understanding – Part 1
- 2 First of all, we want to see to whom he’s praying.
- 3 Secondly, let’s look at the main focus of his prayer.
A Prayer for Deeper Understanding – Part 1
Today we’re going to be looking at Ephesians 1:16-17. We’re going to be talking about a prayer for deeper understanding. Paul is going to pray for these Ephesian believers. He’s going to pray that they might have a deeper understanding, not just of the Word of God, but of the God of the Word.
If you were to come to me and say, “Wayne, if you had one chapter in the Bible that a new believer should be studying and should understand, what chapter would it be?” I would have to say the first chapter of Ephesians because in that chapter everything that God has done for us is very carefully outlined. It shows us His grace. It shows us His love.
Verses 3 through 14 tell the wonderful story. I won’t read all the verses. I’ll just pull out what we’ve been studying now for several months. He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. He’s already done that. They’re not material blessings. “Well, now why wouldn’t He put material blessings in there?” Because they don’t last. He gave us what is eternal and what is internal and what we really need in Christ. He chose us before the foundation of the world in Christ Jesus. He predestined us to adoption as sons in Christ Jesus. That’s a work of grace. We lost our right of relationship. By grace He has come back to redeem us. That’s the next thing. He redeemed us through the blood of Jesus Christ. He forgave us of our sin. In fact, the Scripture says He lavished forgiveness upon us. So often in life we forget this. We cannot live a life of lawlessness. His Spirit lives within us. However, when we do sin, we never sin beyond His ability, His desire and His capacity to forgive us. He has lavished forgiveness upon us. He made known to us the mystery of His will, how everything is summed up under the headship of Christ. The world thinks it’s falling apart. Oh no! It’s coming together, and it’s all up under the headship of Jesus Christ. He let us in on that mystery. The world can’t understand it, but we can. He sealed us with the Holy Spirit so that we might be kept until the day of redemption, absolutely, totally, eternally secure in our salvation. He gave us the Spirit as an earnest of our coming inheritance. Every victory we have as a result of the Spirit of God living in us is nothing more than the earnest of the full payment that’s coming later on. I don’t know about you but that tells me something good is on its way.
Well, what else could He have done to show us how much He loved us and how much He wanted to show grace to us. The new believer should spend hours and hours and hours asking God the Holy Spirit to help him understand these truths in a deeper way. Paul’s focus is totally on God, not on what man has done, but what God has done. That’s the uniqueness of our salvation. It’s not of our works lest any man should boast. But it’s by grace that we are saved through faith. Well, in verse 15 and 16 Paul is encouraged when he hears about these Ephesians.
Now why would he be encouraged? He says in verse 15, “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you.” Remember, Paul spent over three years of his life with these precious Ephesian believers. He planted the seeds of real faith and of love for one another that are now blossoming in their lives. He’s in prison. He hears about them, and it encourages his heart. He thanks the Lord for those believers that are willing to live faithfully for the Lord Jesus. He says, “…while making mention of you in my prayers.”
Now he’s going to pray for them, and in his prayer he brings out things that I think we need to really take time to look at, things we need to understand. His prayer, if you put it in a simple way, is a prayer for a deeper understanding for these Ephesian believers. They know all about what God has done, but now they need to know God in a deeper, more intimate way. What Paul is praying here is that these Ephesian believers will get to know God in their walk.
Knowing God and fearing God is very crucial to the Christian life. So many of us can whip out our spiritual knowledge. Oh man, we’ve studied this book, we’ve studied that book, we’ve got facts in our heads, but we haven’t got a clue about the God of the Word. What he’s praying for here is that they might have a deeper understanding of God Himself and some of His attributes that will come later on in his prayer.
The main focus for us now is verse 17: “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” That’s what he’s praying for these Ephesian believers.
Let’s look at it, take it apart, and see how far we can get with it.
First of all, we want to see to whom he’s praying.
He makes a statement here that some religions love to pick up on and say that Jesus is really not God. He says, “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,…” Now that statement can throw you if you don’t understand a little bit about the terminology in that phrase that makes it look like Jesus is less than God. When you speak of “Jesus” you are speaking of the earthly name of the Son of God. When you speak of “Christ” you’re speaking of His resurrected name, the anointed name, the role He came to fulfill in our life and on this earth. When you speak of “Lord,” you’re speaking of His authority and benevolent authority as ruler over all. That authority was given to Him because of what He did on the cross for us on this earth. So, you’re not speaking of someone who is not equal with God. You’re signifying with that statement the role that Jesus played in our redemption. So, it says, “…the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,…” Who is this “God of our Lord Jesus Christ?” Well, it’s Christ Himself.
Let me show you four ways we know that.
First of all, He’s the God whose work Christ came to do.
Now maybe we can put it this way and somebody’s mind will turn on to finally understanding these phrases. Look over in Colossians 1:19. Now Jesus is the fulness of the Godhead bodily. If you want to see God, look at Jesus. That’s what He’s saying. Christ came to reveal Him and to do a work for Him. He is God, but He came down to take upon Himself a body. Now He is not only uniquely God, but He is also the God-Man. Alright? Look in verse 19. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him.”
Look at Colossians 2:9. It explains it more fully. “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Had it not been for our Lord Jesus Christ we would have never known God. God said, “I want the world to understand who I am. I want them to know I love them. Therefore, I’m going to come down.” So He came down in the person of Jesus Christ who, as the God-Man, walked in complete submission to His Father while He was on this earth. There’s a tremendous picture here, but it’s hard for the mind to grasp it, isn’t it? You see, the prayer that Paul’s going to pray even has to be prayed when we mention phrases like this. God has just got to help us understand that unique relationship with the Father and the Son.
Second, He’s the God by whom Christ was sent.
Christ is God, but He was sent by God. Look in John 4:34. I’m telling you, the Word of God to me is like a well that has no bottom. If anybody says to you that he’s absolutely got it all down pat, you had better back off and pray for that individual. It’s like a well. Oh, it’s unsearchable. It’s impossible to search out all the riches of God’s Word. I’m grateful for the work of the Spirit. Look at verse 34. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.’” Although He is God He came to accomplish that work on this earth. He came to die for our sins. That was the visible expression of the love of God.
Third, He is the God of whom Christ testifies.
Now the world did not know the nature of God. They did not know that God was a benevolent God, a God that was like a Father, until Jesus came. Jesus came to reveal the heart of God. It’s because of Jesus’ coming that we know God to be a Father. That automatically softens our understanding of who He is. Yes, He is a heavenly Father, but He gives us an understanding of His care and concern for His creation.
Look at John 6:44. It picks up both ideas, the fact that He’s sent and the fact that He came to reveal the Father. He says, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” So we see He is also sent to reveal the Father.
In John 5 verse 18 it says, “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” So we see the fact He is God, but He came to reveal the nature of God which is God the Father. He’s the one whom God sent to this earth.
Fourth, He’s the God to whom Christ has returned.
Who is this “God of our Lord Jesus Christ?” He’s the God to whom Christ has returned. Look in Hebrews 1:1-3. They pick up the whole thought. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” That tells you about His preexistence. Christ created everything. Then He came as the God-man. Verse 3 says, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Where did He go? Right back to where He came from. Who is He? He’s God. “Wait a minute, Wayne. I thought you said He was Christ.” He is. “I don’t understand that.” I don’t either. If we could understand it all, He would be no bigger than our brain, and He wouldn’t be much of a God.
The first point is that He came. Paul is praying to a God that was so concerned about us that He sent His own Son to this world to die for us. He’s concerned for you. He cares about you. He’s the Father of glory, Paul said. In other words, He’s the One to whom glory belongs. The same nature and glory that goes to the Father goes to the Son for they are equal. They care. They’re compassionate. This is the heart of the One that you come to when you pray.
We could just pick up right there and go on, couldn’t we? I have a heavenly Father who cares about me. How do I know He cares about me? He sent His Son into the world. He’s already manifested His care and His grace for me. Now He bids me to come to Him in the name of His Son.
Well, Paul shows us then that God is concerned with us. He loves us, and has shown His grace towards us. This is the one He addresses, “…the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,…”
Secondly, let’s look at the main focus of his prayer.
There are three ingredients to his prayer. The main focus of His prayer is that the Ephesians come to a deeper understanding of God. Again look at verse 17, “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Now folks this is not an easy Scripture. Please understand that. As a matter of fact I think chapter 1 is one of the most difficult chapters that I’ve ever studied.
What does he mean by “a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of revelation?” Many, many conservative scholars think that he refers here to the Holy Spirit. I don’t agree with that, directly. Certainly he’s including Him in his thought, but he’s not speaking directly of Him because it says God will give you a spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. Secondly, there’s no definite article here. It’s not “the spirit”. It’s “a spirit” as the New American Standard brings it out. He prays that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation. They already have the Holy Spirit.
Look back in verse 13. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” They already had the Holy Spirit. That word pneuma, without the definite article, can refer to several things. One of the things it can refer to is a special work of the Holy Spirit in the spirit of men that have been redeemed, that have the attitude and the willingness to let God do a work.
Now there are two things implied in that. He’s asking God the Holy Spirit to give a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of revelation concerning the knowledge of God to the Ephesian believers. Included and implied in that is a heart that has been made tender and is willing to let that happen. In other words, God does it, yes, but we make the choice. All of life is just saying “Yes” to God. When we’re willing to say “Yes” to Him, the Spirit, as another work of grace, can give us a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of revelation concerning the knowledge of God.
The word for knowledge is the word epignosis, which means more than just fact. He’s already given them facts. He says, “Now I want something deeper for you. I want you to know God. I want you to have a deeper understanding of God.” That word epignosis means “the fullness of knowledge.” It means to not only know it but to understand it and literally, if you please, to experience God. In other words, it means to be drawn into God Himself and not just the facts about Him.
How many people do you know who come to church and quote verses 3 through 14 and never miss a word, but do not have the deep understanding of what that means in their life? That’s not something a man can get on his own. It’s a work of God’s grace as I bow down to Him, as I surrender to Him. Then the Holy Spirit, who is God, gives me a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of revelation so that I might grow in that knowledge, not of His Word so much, yes, that’s important, but of Him, the God of the Word.
To me the whole key of the Christian life is what Paul is praying here because we need to know God and fear God. When a man begins to know God he begins to see himself.
He knows Him through His Word. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives that wisdom and revelation.
The word for wisdom there refers to the practical knowledge that only comes from above. James says all wisdom of God comes from above. The Holy Spirit’s got to give it. That teaches a man how he can relate to God, how he can experience God. That’s wisdom.
I hear people all the time telling me, “You know, the Word just doesn’t meet my problem. I mean, God doesn’t understand me. I pick up the Word of God, and it’s like a newspaper.” Oh yes, it does meet your problems. If God gives you wisdom He takes that same Word that you thought didn’t apply and supernaturally shows you how the Word meets every need of your life. Not only that, it leads you into a deep, deep understanding of that by letting you experience what God’s saying in that Word. That’s what the Holy Spirit does.
You see, wisdom is very important. How is this wisdom received? By revelation. This to me is one of the real keys of Paul’s prayer. These Ephesian believers are not that old in the faith. These Ephesian believers were influenced by the Greek thinking of that day that said everything you do you have to do yourself. You have to intellectualize. You have to figure it out yourself. As a result, Paul is praying, “Oh no, you can’t do it that way. I’m praying that God will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation concerning the knowledge of God.”
To me it’s very similar to what goes on in Colossians chapter 1, if you’ll look there with me. You know, Colossians is really a commentary on Ephesians. I really saw a connection here in Colossians 1:9-11. There’s a very similar thought. Paul is praying for the Colossian believers just like he’s now praying for the Ephesian believers. He has the same heartbeat. Look what he says in Colossians 1:9: “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Only the Holy Spirit of God can take the Word of God and make you wise as to your salvation and give you understanding as to what God wants to do, of who He is and of how to relate to Him.
Look at verse 10: “…so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.” Then Paul uses some present passive participles. Present tense means while you’re working on it God’s doing something else. It’s going on at the same time. While I’m walking worthy, filled with knowledge that I could not get with my own mental faculties, but that God the Holy Spirit using my mind transforms it to understand, God turns on and begins to do something in my life. I begin to bear fruit in every good work it says there in verse 10.
Look at the second thing it says. It’s another present passive participle. I’m not doing it, God’s doing it. It says, you start what? “…increasing in the knowledge of God;…” How am I going to get this knowledge of God? You don’t get it by your own personal pursuit. You get it as you bow before Him, cooperating with Him and surrendering to what His word says. The Holy Spirit of God imparts wisdom by revealing it to you as He wills and in His own time and in His own way. It’s by revelation. Man cannot discover on his own what God has hidden. What God has hidden only God can reveal. Man can discover what is hidden by man, but man cannot discover what is hidden by God. To me this is one of the real root thoughts of Paul’s prayer. He’s leading them to a deeper understanding of God, but he’s trying to show them that it doesn’t come by their own intellect. It comes by the revelation of the Spirit of God. Yes, the intellect is needed because God gives understanding, but it’s the Holy Spirit doing it in a person’s life.
As a matter of fact, let me show you that. How would a natural man without the Spirit of God, go about doing it if he wanted to know God? Well, he would do it the way he has done everything else in his life. Man learns things by research. That’s the way we’re programmed. You find all the facts that you can. You compile all the facts, and then you draw a line and come to a conclusion. That’s the way a natural man would want to find out about God. He would get into the Word and stack up all the verses he could find about Him. That doesn’t mean he understands, but at least he can find facts out about God. He would seek by his own natural ability to discover God.
I remember when I was in Chemistry class in school. I used to love lab because you got to fool around with stuff. I remember all the things they told us not to do. I used to always have that little mischievous something in me that I had to try it and see why they told us not to do it. I have burned holes as big as a quarter in my textbook with acid.
There are several other stories I could tell you, but I’d rather not. I remember one morning, when I almost blew up the Chemistry lab, the teacher suggested that I might go into the ministry. The world might be a little safer if I went that direction.
That’s the way man goes about anything. We would always use the trial and error approach. We find a hypothesis. We get our facts. We put them down, draw a line and come up with a conclusion. When it comes to knowing God man can’t do that, because he doesn’t have a transformed intellect. He doesn’t have a saved intellect. He doesn’t have a saved mind. The Spirit is not in there.
Let me show you that in I Corinthians 2:11. This is one of the greatest chapters I think of knowing God in the entire Bible. You’ve got to have the right correspondence if you’re going to know something. God is Spirit. We’ve got to have that which is spiritual to correspond with Him as Spirit. In verse 11 it says, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?” In other words, I’m a human being. You’re a human being. I know some things about you.
Look in verse 12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” You see, you’ve got to have the right thing within you to correspond with God so you can know God. I think what Paul is saying is, “Don’t fall into the trap that a lot of people fall into. You come out of a Greek mentality. You come out of a Greek culture. Now that you know God, and you’ve been saved, don’t try to grow in Him by your own mental faculties. You’ve got to have that renewed mind. Then the Holy Spirit of God will give you wisdom by revealing to you the deep things about God.” That’s the way you know Him. It’s through the Word, yes, but it’s not just the Word of God. It’s the God of the Word.
Sometimes the more I do know about the Word the more confused I get. I look at a verse, and I’m thinking, “I know that’s what it says, but what does it say?” Then God brings me to that realization of frustration. I can’t learn it. I can’t even remember it if the Holy Spirit hasn’t taught it. As I bow down before what it is that I’m confused over, God with His Holy Spirit reveals it with the spirit of wisdom, teaches me how to use it, how it’s practical, how to relate to Him, and who He is in light of it. That’s what Paul is praying. A deeper, deeper understanding of just knowing God. That’s the key.
Paul says, “I’m praying that you know Him, and in that knowledge of Him I pray that He grows deeper and deeper and deeper.” It never will until your spirit has a brand new disposition and attitude of openness to God’s Spirit about it so that He can rule and reign the truth in your life. Then He turns it on, and that light clears up. There it is. It’s been there all the time. Man cannot learn this apart from what God does.