A PRAYER IN LIGHT OF THE RESURRECTION
April 16, 2006
Think for a moment about how sometimes in our lives we think about those that we love, those that we care deeply about, and as we think of them, we are moved to thanksgiving and we rejoice in the way these individuals bless our lives and where they fit in our lives.† But at the same time while we are giving thanks, we also are concerned.† There are things because we care about people that make us anxious.† That is a little bit of the situation in Ephesians 1 in the passage that we are about to read.† Paul started out in Ephesians 1:3 by just thinking for a moment of how God has blessed us in Christ, and that thought of praise to God took him all the way from verse 3 through verse 14 in one long sentence.† When he thought about what the Father has done for us in the Son through the Spirit, he could not help but give thanks for the riches of Godís grace.† And now, having considered God, he turns his attention to his brothers and sisters in Christ at Ephesus to whom he is writing.† When he thinks of them, he starts giving thanks, and it takes him in one long sentence all the way from verse 15 through 23, 169 words in the original.† In this reading, this prayer of the apostle Paul, there are statements made that are as helpful as any other statements in scripture in enabling the church to understand itself and in preparing us to be what God intends for us to be.† Scott will read the prayer of the apostle Paul this morning.
ďFor this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 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, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that 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 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.† And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.Ē
Notice in verse 18 that the leading object of Paulís prayer is that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened.† Isnít that an interesting statement?† The heart has to do with the inner man, with the very core of our being as humans.† The heart has to do with the part of us which not only understands but the part of us which wills, decides, feels and moves us through life.† Paulís prayer is that for people who are already Christians, their eyes of their hearts might be enlightened.† When one becomes a Christian, according to Acts 26:18, he turns from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, and he receives forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified through faith in Christ.†
But there are things that can happen to one whose heart has been enlightened that seem to dim his spiritual side, to dull his hearing, and to cause him to take for granted the wealth of things which have been done for him.† If you think about what it means to have the eyes of the heart enlightened, you might remember the statements made by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 6:4.† It talks there about those who have been once enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and of the powers of the age to come.† That is giving us a way of understanding that he is talking about being able to recognize and to appreciate the spiritual blessings that are provided for us in Jesus Christ.†
Paul enumerates three particular goals of having the eyes of the heart enlightened.† He says first, ďI am asking this so that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.Ē† Here hope is used in an objective sense.† It is not our hoping that he is talking about as much as it is what he has called us to.† In Ephesians 2:12 we were reminded of what it means to be living but to have no hope.† It doesnít mean that these individuals no longer longed for something secure beyond the here and now.† It is not saying that there are certain human beings who donít want for things to be better even than they are now.† It is just saying that there is no objective reason for expecting those dreams and desires to be fulfilled.† Christians are people who have an objective reason for expecting their hopes to be made genuine some day.† And our reason is what God has done in Christ.† In Ephesians 4:4, Paul refers to the fact that there is one hope that belongs to our call as Christians.† What he is saying here is that he wants Christians to be able to grasp that hope and know it and to finally have it be made real in their individual case.† Peter talked about the fact that God who has begotten us again to a ďliving hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the deadĒ (I Peter 1:3).† That living hope is what Paul is talking about here.† In Titus 2 he calls it the ďblessed hopeĒ of the Lordís appearing.† In II Thess. 2:16 he calls it ďeternal comfort and good hopeĒ which have been given to us through grace.† It is as if the inspired writers use all the adjectives human beings are capable of taking in in order to describe for us the grandeur of our hope.
Then notice in the second place he is asking that they might be able to recognize what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.† That is at the end of verse 18.† This glorious inheritance is, of course, one aspect of our hope.† This inheritance is what God shares in his people who are joint heirs with Christ, according to Romans 8:17.† This inheritance is described as being imperishable, undefiled and unfading in I Peter 1:4.† Again, Paul is saying in every way he knows how that there is an inheritance, something that God wants to provide for his children which is just as certain as God himself is.† In Colossians 2:12-13, Paul recounts how through forgiveness of our sins the Lord has qualified us to be partakers or sharers in the inheritance of the saints in life, and that he has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his dear Son.† That is where that inheritance is.† It belongs to the Lordís people.
Thirdly, notice that Paul wants the eyes of enlightened hearts to be able to see what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might.† There are four words in the original that are used in that verse just to talk about Godís power.† They are translated here: power, working, great or strength, and might.† If you gather up all of the energy and all the ability and all the mighty power there is, it has been displayed, he says, by our glorious Father as Paul calls him in verse 17.† The thought of Godís power or his might is a great theme in the book of Ephesians.† But when Paul uses it, he seems to always remind Christians that this is what is behind our existence, this is what is at work as you and I act as the Lord wants us to act in this world today.† Over in Ephesians 3 at the end of the chapter, Paul makes the statement in verse 20, ďNow to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.Ē† There is the ability.† Then he says, ďaccording to the power at work in us.Ē† Think of that ability and then the statement ďthat power is at work in us.Ē† That is what calls for belief on our part.
I noticed in Paulís letter to the Philippians in 3:21, it describes Godís power as that which is able to subject all things to himself.† Paul is saying, ďI donít want you to be lulled by the darkness.† I donít want the sight of your hearts to be impaired.† I want you to be enlightened in your inward man so you can see this hope and this inheritance and this power.Ē† How do we know those things are there?† Are these just subjective thoughts or dreamy feelings that men have imagined?† Paul goes ahead to say, ďNo, these things have been put on display; they have been portrayed already.Ē† Our hope and our inheritance and our ability rest on the proof of what the Father has done through his Son.† The working that we expect him to do in us has already been done in his Son.† Look at verse 20.† This is the power which he worked in Christ.† And then Paul names four ways in which this has been worked.
First, this is the power that raised him from the dead.† Sometimes we talk of Jesusí resurrection.† We remember that he died and that he was raised up and that he conquered death.† And that is all true.† But in the New Testament when it speaks of Jesus being raised up, it almost without fail says that the Father raised him up.† It is the power of the Father as well as the purity of Jesus which is on display.† He is shown to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4), but it is Godís power, the Fatherís power, according to Colossians 2:12 that was on display there.† The Father had such power that he was able to take the worst that men could do and the darkest hour our enemy can bring and put those away and bring his Son from their clutches.† That is the great power that works in the Lordís people.†
Secondly, Paul says, this is the power which seated Jesus at his right hand in the heavenly places far above all these other powers that you can imagine.† Along with Jesus being raised up, the New Testament teaches that he was enthroned at Godís right hand, that he was seated in the place of the highest honor and dignity, a place where his sacrificial work is done, a place where he can intercede for those he loves, and a place where he can rule over his kingdom.† That is why we call him Lord because God seated him at that place.† And it is a place far above any other spiritual power that can be imagined or thought of or named.† Mystical teachers of Paulís day were fond of giving great significance to angels, both good and bad.† We would probably call them angels and demons.† But these people invented various strata of these spirit beings.† They gave them names, and then they superstitiously thought that all the destiny of man depended upon these spiritual forces.† Whether you had a good day or a bad day, which direction your life happened to go in was because of these spirits, these principalities and authorities and powers and dominions.† But Paul is claiming here that whichever ones of those might ever actually exist, Jesus has been placed far above them.† If you remember in Ephesians 6, these are the things you and I wrestle against.† Our battle is not against flesh and blood.† We deal with these kinds of spiritual forces.† When we put on the armor of God, we are able to stand against this.† Why?† Because our Lord rules over them, far above any of these spiritual realms.†
Thirdly, notice that Paul says in verse 22 that he put all things under his feet.† That little phrase may not impress us enough. Let me tell you why.† In Psalm 8 there is the psalm of the ideal man, the man for whom it says God has put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:6).† You can look at us and see how much dominion we may have over Godís created order.† There are sure a lot of things we donít have under our dominion.† There are illnesses, problems, tragedies and things that happen that we canít prevent or correct when they once have occurred.† The Hebrew writer in Hebrews 2:5-8 takes that very picture and says that everything may not be under our feet.† But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than angels for suffering the death and now all things are put under his feet.† He is not only the Son of God, he is the ideal man.† Here is the picture of what we were meant to be.
Fourth, he not only has been raised up and seated and had everything put under his feet, but notice that God gave him to be head over all things to the church.† Jesusí present position would be for practical purposes without recognizable significance in this world.† The evidence of it would not exist apart from his church.† God gave Jesus, when he seated him at his right hand and put everything under his feet, to be head over everything to his body.† The church has to understand itself in that way today.† It has its significance not because it is a spiritual club for people to belong to, not because it has the nice programs for people to be involved in, but because it is the body of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.† The power revolves not in the churchís skill and ability to think and to develop strategies marketing and otherwise that overcome the world around it or succeed in some way.† The power is invested in the one who feels all in all.† In this body, according to Ephesians 2:16, people from extremely different backgrounds can all be reconciled to God in one body.† This body in Ephesians 4 is said to be just as much one body as there is one spirit or one Lord or one God (Ephesians 4:5).† This body is the one for which Jesus gave himself (Ephesians 5:25), the one which he loves and rules over as its only head.† The head gives life and direction to the body.† The head fills up the body with that which it needs to be what it is supposed to be.† So here is Paul praying, ďI want the eyes of your heart to be enlightened.† I want you to see what you have been given, and I want you to understand that that rests on a good, solid foundation.Ē
God raised him up, seated him at his right hand, put everything under his feet and gave him to be head over everything to the church.† Letís this week be that body.† Letís look to our head.† Letís remember what he has done for us.† This passage calls for us to do three things.† It calls for us to have the faith to take the head of the body at his word and to submit to him and to trust him and to live for him.† It calls for us to have love for each other, recognizing that we are members of the body to start with because Jesus loved us enough to give himself up.† Letís have that kind of love toward each other and then third, this passage calls for us to hope.† We have been called to hope.† Let us therefore hope.† We are to endure; we are to wait; we are to be active in the Lordís service because of our hope.† If you are here today and you would like to answer the call of the gospel, to lay hold of the hope set before us, to allow God to reserve an inheritance for you his child, if you need to confess his name and be baptized into him, we can help you with that.† Or if you made that beginning and then you were overcome again by the darkness and you need to come back to the light, if we can help you with prayer, let it be known today while we stand and sing together.