He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but every now and then our music team gives us all an eye exam. It’s either that or a desperate attempt at subliminal messaging. For those of you who have never managed to read font size 2 on an overhead projector, I don’t want you to be discouraged. There’s only an elite group of us here who can do it. So if you’re in any doubt as to who of us has this spiritual gift, be sure to listen up next time the mumbling begins in one of the choruses - you’ll recognise this group by their strong vocals.
What do you think about this?
So this got me thinking. How well can I see? I’ve never had to use glasses. You know, I can spot a ZRP officer from about 800m. Which Charles Darwin would probably say had something to do with natural selection and adaptation.
Here’s the thing...
So I downloaded and printed off one of those Snellen charts last night and Ruth and I did some eye tests. From 20 feet, the only line I couldn’t read was the last one on the sheet. So it turns out that I have 20/10 vision which apparently is twice as good as someone with 20/20 vision.
Once upon a time. He was in the world, and the He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
But here’s a humbling thought, if you could swap your eyes for an eagle's, you would be able to see a rat from 3.2km away or an ant crawling on the ground from the roof of a 10-story building.
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Have you ever wondered how much your life would change if you could see twice as far as you see today? Would anyone here ever choose to see less? I doubt it. I remember my gran coming back from having her cataracts removed and telling me that she could see the leaves on trees again. For months she had got used to seeing a green haze instead.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. 5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Yet, although we rely on the eyes in our heads, there is another organ within us which has eyes to see. What am I talking about?
Just as the eyes of our heads were made to see the physical world, the eyes of our hearts were made to see the spiritual world. So here’s the question, if you had to sit an eye test for your heart this morning, what score would get?
We are going to be looking at a prayer this morning that reminds us of how precious it is to see with the eyes of our hearts.
Let’s pray… “open the eyes of our hearts that we might know how much there is to be seen with the eyes of our hearts”
The first chapter of this letter, as we learned last week, can be seen in two parts:
A passage of praise followed by a passage of prayer.
And what we need to realise as we transition from Paul’s praise to Paul’s prayer is that the praise is what inspires and provides the basis for his prayer.
The things he prays for the saints in Ephesus are because of the things he praises God for in heaven.
How do we know this, because Paul begins in verse 15 with these words...
“For this reason...”
By way of reminder, perhaps we ask, by what reason Paul?
What reasons have you set before us to inspire this prayer?
Well, if we look back to verse 3, here are at least nine reasons...
God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
God had chosen us in him before the foundation of the world
God has predestined us to be holy and blameless
God has adopted us into his family
God has redeemed us and forgiven us
God has lavished upon us the riches of his grace
God has made known to us the mystery of his will
God has given us an inheritance
God has sealed us with his Holy Spirit
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,
=> blessed, chosen, predestined, adopted, redeemed, sealed
Next time you’re looking for reasons to praise and thank God, spend a little time in Ephesians 1!
But if you look carefully - and this is a little confusing in some of our English translations - you’ll notice that Paul’s prayer is also inspired by two things he has heard about the Ephesian church.
For this reason I too, having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you
Their faith and their love.
Two things for which Paul cannot stop thanking God.
I’d like to pause here for a moment and ask two questions:
When was the last time, in your prayers, that you thanked God for the faith and love of other Christians?
How important to you is the faith and love of your brothers and sisters in Christ?
For Paul, to hear that his Ephesian friends are continuing in the faith and loving the church is sufficient grounds for him to be thanking God without ceasing.
Paul’s happiness and joy is tied up in the spiritual state of his fellow believers. He is not a man who only gives passing thought to his brothers and sisters in Christ. He is not indifferent to how they are growing in grace. To him it matters deeply.
And it matters deeply for the same reasons he has given us already in verses 3 through to 14. Notice that this isn’t a cause to praise the Ephesian church. It is not as if, after praising God for 12 verses, Paul goes on to praise the Ephesians. God forbid. No, for Paul, the news from Ephesus provides him with even more grounds to continue to praise and thank God. For it is God who has brought it about.
The faith and love seen in Ephesus are evidence of the fact that God has blessed and chosen and predestined and adopted and redeemed and sealed the Ephesians too. Therefore it is God - and not the Ephesians - that he thanks.
And he thanks God because - for Paul - God’s mission has become his. God does all things according to the purpose of his wil, to the praise of his glorious grace, and as he creates a new people for himself - we join him in that glorious vision.
The evidence, therefore, that grace has really come home to our hearts - is when we seek it not only in our lives but in everyone else’s too. We show the marks of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit when our happiness and joy and prayers explode out of us whenever we see his grace at work around us.
So I ask you, as I ask myself, what do my prayers tell me about how much my heart is aligned to Christ’s?
For all the things that we have thanked God for over the last week, how often have we thanked God for the faith and love that we see amongst our brothers and sisters? We pray a lot for those who are sick and troubled and unemployed and bereaved and depressed - and when God answers these prayers there is great excitement and joy - and for good reason - but if you really want to know what gets God gets excited, if you really want to see what keeps Paul up at night in his prison cell - if we really want to know the signs of a healthy church - look at how the Holy Spirit wants us to pray here. Because this isn’t just Paul’s prayer - this is how God wants us to pray.
“because I have heard of you faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”
So if you’re anything like me - we know that we have a problem. I don’t pray like this. This kind of language is not a typical feature of my prayer life. To put it bluntly, I don’t overflow with thanks for what God is doing in your lives. I have every reason to, but i don’t.
And this is where Paul’s prayer reaches out to me. Look at what he prays for.
He says, when I remember you in my prayers, I pray (verse 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
Paul prays for a people whose faith and love is publically known. These are people whom Paul tells us in the first verse of this epistle are faithful to Christ. What do they need most? They need God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation. Wait a minute. Don’t they already have the Spirit. Yes they do. Paul has already told us this in verse 13.
So what is he praying for here? He’s praying for the Holy Spirit to strengthen and increase the work he has already started doing in them. He’s praying for the Holy Spirit to do the very thing the Holy Spirit does best: to give them wisdom and reveal to them a deeper knowledge of the Father of glory.
So Paul asks God to give his Spirit in a greater measure to the church so that they know God better.
We can never know enough of God.
Of all the things you pray for yourself and others, put this at the top of the list. If you ever pray for me, please please pray that I would know the Father of glory more. Everything else in our lives can fall apart - but if we know him more - we will drink and never be thirsty, we will eat and never go hungry - we will find peace that cannot be broken - a fulfilment of our deepest desires and and joy that knows no limitations.
We can never have enough chocolate
Of all of man’s pursuits, let him seek that which is greatest of all: to know God.
We have never
As our good Lord tells us in
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord. Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this? “I will take up weeping and wailing for the mountains, and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness, because they are laid waste so that no one passes through, and the lowing of cattle is not heard; both the birds of the air and the beasts have fled and are gone. I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals, and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.” Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the Lord spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? And the Lord says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them. Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider, and call for the mourning women to come; send for the skillful women to come; let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids flow with water. For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion: ‘How we are ruined! We are utterly shamed, because we have left the land, because they have cast down our dwellings.’ ” Hear, O women, the word of the Lord, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth; teach to your daughters a lament, and each to her neighbor a dirge. For death has come up into our windows; it has entered our palaces, cutting off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares. Speak: “Thus declares the Lord, ‘The dead bodies of men shall fall like dung upon the open field, like sheaves after the reaper, and none shall gather them.’ ” Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—
And so Paul prays:
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 the 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
How are we to know God unless the great and glorious ophthalmologist performs spiritual cardiology?
The eyes of our hearts are sick. We stand before a God whose glory shines out through the pages of this book as it does through every atom in the universe.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Yet we are so dull and dim-witted that even what we do see of his glory we see so poorly.
He is holy holy holy.
The eyes of our hearts need enlightening. If we are to share the happiness and joy and excitement of Paul, we need to see what he’s seeing.
Illustration: 3D stereogram
In order to know the Father of glory, Paul prays that the church would know 3 things in particular:
1. To know the hope to which God has called us
2. To know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints
3. To know the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe
3 things: hope, riches and power
Let’s look at each in turn.
What is this hope?
Paul says, we are to know the “hope to which he has called us.”
What is this calling? What have we been called to? A similar phrase occurs in Ephesians 4:4...
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
Of all the places we could begin to explore what we have been called to, the immediate context of our prayer is always a good place to start.
Because remember, Paul’s prayer has been inspired by his praise.
If we look earlier in chapter 1, and think back to last week’s sermon, what can we learn about our calling?
Why did God call us? Why did he choose us?
Can anyone see it? Clue: verse 4.
“that we should be holy and blameless before him”
Our destiny is to be holy and blameless before God. This is our great hope.
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
For those of us who have been redeemed from sin, who hate our sinful flesh, who pray to be made holy, to be rid of corruption forever - the great and glorious hope we have is that this is our destiny. God has called us to holiness. The scandal of this hope should not be lost on us. We who have been God’s enemies, children of Satan, dwellers in darkness, dead and rotting in our sins will receive his holiness.
we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
What an incredible destiny. What an incredible honour. What an incredible hope.
Secondly, we are to know the “riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”
We are to know that we are rich.
Rich in ways that cannot be fathomed.
Riches that cannot be measured or counted or valued or quantified.
Riches that defy description. Riches that defy comparison.
This is why Paul praises God in verse 11, adding to all the things God has done for us this extra benefit “In Christ we have obtained an inheritance”
Who’s inheritance is this? It’s Christ’s. Yet, because we are now united in him, it is considered ours.
Ask yourself, what does Christ deserve to inherit? He who is preeminent in everything he is and does. He who has the name above every name that is named, he who has all things under his feet, he who is seated at the right hand of the Father of glory. What does he deserve? Everything. And he gives it to us. The riches of his glorious inheritance is ours: “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
We ask, how is this even possible?
To which Paul prays, please Father let them know your immeasurable power.
When we contemplate the power of God towards us, we can know without any hesitation or doubt that nothing can frustrate the immutable plans of God from reaching their fulfilment. The hope of our calling and riches of his inheritance are ours by guarantee.
The Holy Spirit who seals the deal in verse 13, is the same God who raised Christ from the dead in verse 20 and seated him in the heavenly places, exalting him above everything known in and beyond this universe for all time. The power that is available for us is not a different power from that which achieved the resurrection, ascension and enthrownment of Christ. It is the same.
We ought to know, prays Paul, the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us. Don’t try to measure it, says Paul. You’ll be wasting your time.
In this life, we have known powerful people. People who could have us killed today. People who take away everything we own. People who are above the law. The elite of the elite. Yet, before God, they are dust.
In this life, we have known powerful storms, powerful fires, powerful floods: earthquakes, avalanches, volcanoes. All of man’s plans and dreams and monuments vaporised in seconds as the earth shrugs its shoulders and flattens another city. Yet, before God, even the mountains will melt like wax before his glory.
We have used every technological trick known to man to stare as far as we can into space and we still haven’t seen the edge of his universe: a universe he measures by the width of his hand.
Yet this doesn’t even begin to describe his power. And we’re told, that this power is there for us.
More than that, God has made the church his own body.
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.
The church is not an incidental appendage to God’s plans.
The church is the fulfillment of his plans.
Together, we are the body of Jesus, and we will always be the body of Jesus.
What an incredible reality. We are the body of God.
What difference does it make to know that we are part of Jesus’s body?
There’s a universe to be explored just in that concept.
And in case you find it frustrating that we have to wrap things up here, isn’t it exciting to know that Paul wrote the other 5 chapters of this letter to explain what he meant?
This is just the introduction.
So when you pray for those you love, what things do you pray for them first?
What do our hearts need to know?
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
What do our spiritual eyes need to see?
What do our spiritual eyes need to see?
We need to see Christ. To know him. To love him. To fear him.
And where’s a good place to start?
1. The hope to which he has called us
2. The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints
3. and the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe.
Know the hope
Know the hope
Know the riches
Know the riches
For 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 the 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.
For 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 the 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,
Know the power
Know the power