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"God's Power for Living"
Ephesians 1:15-23

Our reading from the Epistle today gives some amazing insight into the heart of the apostle who saw Christianity spread beyond anything the disciples could have imagined. He is writing to the church at Ephesus when he opens his heart to them with affirmation and tells them exactly what he asks for them in prayer. In doing so, he sets out the primary prayer agenda for Christian leaders, teachers and parents.

I. The Apostle's Prayer

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.  [15-16]

Two powerful characteristics of a church are embedded in this introduction to Paul's prayer. The first is that this is a community of faith.  And secondly it is a community of love.

There is an interesting point in the translation of this verse. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) tends to stick to the literal translation of words. In verse 15 instead of your faith translates verse 15 this way:  "...having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints..."

What happens here is that the focus is not so much on the person who has the faith as it is on the faith which has come to the church by the power of God's spirit. Paul picks this up again later in the passage. It is clear that the faith which empowered the church at Ephesus was a gift of God and a work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the "tip off" to this is the end of the verse:  "...your love for all the saints."  Loving most of God's people would be a pretty good feat for most of us - but to love all of God's people is a supernatural gift of the Spirit of God.

"I never stop giving thanks for you," Paul says. The Ephesian church is a source of joy in the apostle's heart. It is very much like his statement to the Philippian church, "You are my joy and my crown."

A church which is alive with faith and living in the love of the Holy Spirit is the joy of God's heart!

The mark of an authentic faith, is not in the way a church worships, nor is it the way people talk about faith... the mark of a living faith is the ongoing transformation of lives. The mark of genuine love is not simply the way we appreciate each other and try to like each other. The love of God is something Paul said, "...has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." This is a divine love which binds us together, smashes barriers of separation and prejudice and brings the most unlikely people together.

II. Four Things The Apostle Wants Us To Know

1. In Christ we have hope: [vv.17-18]

"...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 may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints..."

In order to have any sense of spiritual growth in our lives, we need a knowledge of Christ that comes to us in a personal way. This is not the factual knowledge that we can obtain by taking a course in the life of Christ, but the knowledge that comes to us through the work of God's Spirit in our lives. This is the difference between knowing about" and knowing" by experience. I knew about being a father long before I ever had children. In a sense I had some knowledge of parenting. It was not until my own children were born, however, that I knew parenting in a personal way.

This is a really important issue when it comes to our desire to see people we love come to the experience of faith in God for themselves. Giving facts about God, or saying what we think Christ would want someone else to do never really gets the task done. We learn from the apostle Paul in this text that the way to start is to pray for people before we ever consider talking to people about the life of faith.

The question I would have for you here is - "How many people do you have on your personal prayer list that you pray regularly would come to know Christ and the life of faith?"  

2.  In Christ We Have Power [19-20]

"...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..."

It is difficult to overstate the phrase, "the surpassing greatness of His power..." We might try, "super mega power," but even that does not quite get it. This is the power, Paul says that God used in raising Christ from the dead and brought about the reality pointed to in the creed when it is affirmed that Christ is, "seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty."

One of the great issues in our world today is the sense in which people feel powerless. We have not really begun to understand what the real intent of faith for our lives and for our church is all about until we come together as a church in God's power to carry out our mission in the world around us. We are called to be salt and light, to give witness to God's mighty power to bring about justice, hope and love. Yet it is more than clear that none of this can take place within our own strength. It is when we are in touch with and energized by the power of God which is intended to work within us that we begin to sense the possibility of changing the world around us.

In some ways, Paul points to the fact that this power of God that can work within us is not something ordinary. He prays for the church continually that they will have the spiritual knowledge it takes to be the powerful church God desires us to be.

3. In Christ We Have Victory [21-22]

"...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..."

These thoughts take us back to one of the central themes in all of scripture namely: God's people live under the power of a divine promise that no matter how long the road may seem or how dark the night may appear to be, God's victory over all unrighteousness is certain.

We live under the promise of the resurrection, the power of God within the community of faith and the affirmation that "all things" have been put under the feet of Christ who is, "head over all {things} to the church."  

It is the certainty of God's victory in the long term that powers our life of faith in the short term.

4. In Christ We Have Fullness

"...which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

We need to untangle this a bit, but the heart of this short verse of scripture is that Jesus Christ brings fullness, that is completeness and full maturity to our lives as God intended them to be.

BUT - this is directed at the church, the family of faith, the people of God. This is not a "Jesus and me" kind of individualistic fulfillment that would imply God's greatest concern is that I live a happy and comfortable life.

The New Testament vision of a church that is healthy and whole, a church where people may discover the fullness of Christ, is a church that is self consciously bound together as the Body of Christ. This is a church where Christ is the head - not in name only - but is evidently the head of the church.

This is not something that comes about because we hang a mission statement in the halls of the church building or open with prayer at church board meeting. This is Christ as head of the church which is evidenced by our openness to God, to each other and to the cries of a broken world. It is something people know by experiencing our life together and not something they read in our newsletter.

One of the reasons we don't experience the fullness of Christ in the church these days is that we have too low a view of the church. It is seen as just another social grouping by too many. We will gain the power God has for us when we regain a very high sense of the Church as the Body of Christ and ourselves as intimately woven together in a fabric of faithful community. Perhaps it would help to re-center ourselves on Paul's words in Eph. 5:25, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." 

The Apostle Paul's prayer actually opens up God's design for the church. In Jesus Christ we have hope, in him we have power, in him we have victory and in him we have fullness.

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