Faithlife Sermons

The Church’s Resources in Christ (Eph. 1:15–23)

John: Life in Christ’s Name  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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How do we pray for the church? Here, Paul tells the Ephesians of his prayers for them, reminding them about God's power so they'll see resources available to them. I hope you’ll see how God works Christ’s resources in our church and how our prayers might be affected by it. Posted at

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Series: Ephesians: Building the ChurchText: Ephesians 1:15–23
By: Shaun Marksbury Date: January 15, 2023
Venue: Living Water Baptist ChurchOccasion: PM Service

Introduction

What do you pray for when you pray? The Lord calls us to bring our requests before Him and to pray with thanksgiving. We often see that in prayers, that we pray for our health or the wellbeing of others, all while thanking God for present provisions. That is a fine kind of prayer, but some Scriptures come along which challenge us to pray for deeper realities, such as the spiritual life of people and the church, as well as advancement in the kingdom of God itself.
We see an example of such a challenging prayer in these closing verses of Ephesians 1. To briefly review, we’ve finished the long sentence of though that ran from vv. 3–14. There, we saw how God blesses the church, moving them from their predestination by the Father to their redemption in Christ to their security in the Holy Spirit. The one message we should walk away with from those verses is that all that God is saves us, and all that God is keeps us secure. That message is essential as we struggle with sin in this life and creates the basis for our prayer lives.
Paul now moves from praising God for what He has done in salvation to what He is doing in the lives of believers. With this turn, Paul reflects on the praiseworthy testimony of the Ephesian church. As he encourages them, he naturally turns back to God and reflects upon the church in prayer. He expresses his thanksgiving for the testimony of the Ephesians while encouraging them to continue growing in Christ.
Here, he does so by informing them of his prayers for them and reminding them about the power of God wrought in Christ. This helps them to both see resources available to them as well as modeling prayer appropriate to these realities. As we study this, I hope you’ll see how God works Christ’s resources in our church and how our prayers might be affected by it. We’ll see God establishes a church (vv. 15–16a), enlightens a church (vv. 16b–19), and empowers a church (vv. 19–23).

God Can Establish a Church (vv. 15–16a)

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,
Many churches where we lived have an earned bad reputation in the community. Some pastors would sleep around their congregation or embezzle money. We’ve heard of abusive situations within churches as well as unloving behavior. These reputations pollute the community and brings a reproach on Christ’s name, and I’m sure these situations are everywhere.
However, not every church has a bad name, and the Ephesian church here, in fact, earned itself a good reputation — one strong enough that Paul had heard the good news from so many miles away. He had cause to worry about them, as it has been over a decade since he’s seen them last. Yet, their faith and love had flourished in his absence, sparking his understandable joy. He says this results from God’s work in them, so we can draw from this that God causes a church to trust in Christ and to love the saints.

God’s Church Will Trust in Christ (v. 15a)

Paul starts by saying, “For this reason,” translated “wherefore” (KJV) and “therefore” (NKJV). Anytime you come across this kind of language in Scripture, you should consider why. In this case, it seems to refer to what came before — when God blesses people, it leads to their faith in Christ. It’s this very fact that prompts Paul to prayer, a prayer that we will discuss in greater detail in a moment. He’s writing to let them know how pleased he is to hear of the report of their faith.
Let’s consider that faith for just a moment. The “faith” here is simply their active trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; it’s not their faithfulness, their commitment level. He’s talking about their faith “in the Lord Jesus,” emphasizing the Lordship of Christ in belief. They don’t have a contentless faith, a fidelism, a faith for faith’s sake. Rather, they recognize and believe that Jesus is the “Lord,” a term which refers back to the Old Testament name for God. Indeed, as we’ll see, Jesus is exalted since His resurrection (vv. 20–23).
This is a trust in the biblical Christ, and it comes only through the blessings of God this chapter has been discussing. As Paul notes in the next chapter, the Ephesians were dead in “trespasses and sins” (2:1), “indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (v. 3). If it weren’t for the grace of God, predestining and calling sinners from death into life, they could have no faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (and neither could we). As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:3, no “one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit,” and there could be no “faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you” without God’s gracious election.
People who believe or trust in the Lord Jesus are blessed by God to do so. As such, Paul can have great confidence in the work of God in this church. He can also see God at work in another way:

God’s Church Will Love the Saints (v. 15b)

They also had “love for all the saints.” Remember that love is rarely a mere feeling in Scripture. It’s almost always an action, and here, they exhibit Christian love for God’s people. This isn’t something we can always feel, but it is something we can always show by God’s grace.
We talked about “saints” previously, and we said that they are the holy ones that the Holy One set aside for His purpose. It should follow that Christians love one another, which is exactly what God’s Word says. In 1 John 4:16–19, we read,
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
This love starts with the love of God. The same God that creates faith within the faithless creates love within the loveless. Our desires change, and we begin to even enjoy the fellowship of the saints. We begin to care so much that we’ll even desire to see one another growing in holiness. We begin to pray for one another and work to see the church built up or edified in love. That doesn’t mean we do everything perfectly — but when someone sins and repents, we extend forgiveness because we love one another.
If these basic criteria be true of a church, then it will result in a good testimony, bringing us to the next point.

God’s Church Will Produce Thankfulness (v. 16a)

Paul says here he doesn’t cease giving thanks for them. Elsewhere, Paul revealed that “there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). As such, we can understand how pleased he was to hear of their testimony.
In the same way, if we seek the grace of the Lord in our lives and in the life of the church, we are also certain to be a blessing to each other and to those around us, prompting similar thanksgiving. Notice Paul gives thanks to God for them. Again, he doesn’t thank them for being so faithful and loving, which might seem natural. Rather, Paul sees that God is to be praised for the growth of believers, not Christians themselves. All sanctification that happens within a believer’s life comes by the grace of God alone, bringing us to the next point.
Not only does God establish a church…

God Can Enlighten a Church (vv. 16b–18)

while making mention of you in my prayers; 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. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Some of this is already clear, but Paul prays anyway. He seeks the Lord for them because the Lord’s both the catalyst of their initial growth as well as the cause for their continual growth. So, in addition to praising God for where they are, he prays that the Lord will continue the work He’s started in them.
You may have heard that the deists believe in a non-interfering god, one that wound up the universe like a watch and then only sits back to observe. This isn’t true of the cosmos nor of Christ’s church. That’s why it’s worth praying that God remains actively involved in our church.
Paul continually prays this because the Ephesians have an ongoing need for the grace of the Lord, just like we do. We see three specifics Paul prays here, and these will help us to see the particular manner of God’s blessing. We will see that God grants the people of His church a willing spirit, a hope, and a treasure. Let’s look at the first of these.

God Gives a Church a Willing Spirit (vv. 17–18a)

It’s tempting to stop here and spend the rest of our time together discussing Trinitarian theology. We know from Scripture that God is one and that there is no God beside Him. Here, we see God the Father listed as the God of Jesus, and it might be easy to conclude that Jesus is somehow not God. However, Paul has already elevated Christ to the level of God in this chapter, saying that He blesses us alongside the Father (v. 2) and calling Jesus “Lord” in v. 15. The Trinity, or Tri-Unity, is our attempt to explain how we have three Persons in Scripture clearly identified as God while also affirming His oneness — and two members of the Trinity appear here.
Jesus is the start of a New Covenant, and one of the promises there is that God will write His law upon the heart of His people (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10). The Father of glory lays the weight of heaven upon His saints, prompting them to desire His truth. Still, while this is a clear promise, and they’ve already shown signs of God’s blessing them in this way, Paul does not cease to pray this over the Ephesians.
Now, this isn’t exactly a reference to the Holy Spirit, which might seem tidy. Rather, the idea that God would give them “a spirit” (lower-case “s”) is that God would incline them or grant them a disposition of wisdom and revelation. To be clear, this revelation isn’t new prophetic words, but an understanding of the revelation they already have from God, while wisdom would grant them insight in how to apply it. They already have a saving knowledge of God, but they God’s grace so they can know Him better — just like we need continued growth in our knowledge of God.

God Gives a Church a Hope (v. 18b)

Verse 18 begins by paralleling the previous thought; “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” What does that mean? He lists three items here, and we’ll consider the first one — that God would enlighten them to know the hope of His calling. Don’t think of “hope” in terms of a wish or desire; a child may wish for an expensive gift for Christmas, but God’s Word instructs believers to expect a coming salvation.
There may even be a sense here that the hope originates with God, something certainly true in other passages. As such, even the hope becomes a blessing. We are blessed in the present to know that our past belief in God results in future glorification.

God Gives a Church a Treasure (v. 18c)

God then enlightens the church to know its riches and inheritance. We talked about these terms before. For instance, in vv. 7–8, we saw that our redemption is tied to the fact that God lavished His riches upon us. In vv. 13–14, we saw that Holy Spirit seals us for the inheritance to come. Even today, we can begin to see the wealth, the treasure, of being heirs of the kingdom.
By the grace of God, we can begin to treasure the things of God more than anything this world has to offer. As Jesus said, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21), and our hearts should be on the riches found in His inheritance. What a wonderful state of the church when its people desire God’s kingdom more than man’s!
There is actually one other element that Paul prays here. In v. 18, we see he uses the same question word twice — “what is the hope … what are the riches.” He uses it a third time in the next verse: “what is the surpassing greatness of His power.” It’s to that power that we now turn.

God Can Empower a Church (vv. 19–23)

and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about 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 every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection 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.
If God can enlighten a church, then it follows that He can empower it. In fact, the concept of God’s surpassing greatness of power is an ongoing present reality. We see that this wonderful reality is “toward us who believe.” God loves us enough to not only command the right way but to give to us the strength to carry out His commands.
Don’t be confused by what we’re talking about here, for Paul doesn’t pray that they have the power of God but that they know “what is… His power (working) toward us.” It’s sad that we allow ourselves to become distracted with miracle and wonder-working ministries, believing falsehoods such as speaking realities into existence. False teachers try to tell people to decree and declare over sickness and needs, to name it and claim it. Yet, Paul says God is giving power that works in the lives of believers to help them to mature.
Because of this power, Christians can turn from the remaining sin in their lives. They can avoid giving into temptation. They can even overcome sin, the world, and the evil one. Incidentally, it always amazes me that some of these supposed power Christians who supposedly can just speak money into their pockets and banish cancer from their bodies get involved in some of the grossest scandals. Ironically, they are the true deniers of the power of God, turning it into something the Lord never promised while also failing to live godly lives.
Paul uses the comparison to Christ. The power of God lifted Him up to a place of honor, power, and blessing — the right hand of God. No one else is promised that honor, nor are we going to be elevated above “all rule and authority and power and dominion.” That privilege belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ, and His resurrection and exaltation gives us hope for eternal life, and that we can begin living according to His will even today.
When we look at the exalted Christ, we’re reminded of our place as a church. He’s the head, and we are the body that follows His instructions. He fills our local fellowship and fills all churches, a promise of His constant communion, but also a reminder of His authority over us. Yet, it’s this authority that is also at work within our members to bring about His will.

Conclusion

May we be a church that continually seeks God for grace as Paul does here. You are always in need of that grace on an individual level. If you lack footing in your life — a lack of trust for Christ or love for God’s people — then He can establish you. If you lack wisdom or understanding of God’s Word, ask Him for the enlightenment that He gives liberally. If your struggle against sin and temptation seems to be failing, find in Him the power to carry on and overcome.
Of course, your whole church is in need of that grace. Continue to pray that God will establish, enlighten, and empower the Living Water Baptist Church. As we seek His ongoing goodness, we’re simply praying according to His will, that He continue the good work that He has already begun.
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