Date: July 24, 2022
Speaker: Russ Allen
Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23
Series: Praying For Your Church
Good morning. My name is Russ Allen. I’m the student ministries pastor here at West Shore, I just continue to be blown away that I have the opportunity to get up and preach God’s word. I just count, it’s such a privilege to be able to do that. We’re going to be in Ephesians 1 this morning. So if you have your Bibles, you can go ahead and turn there. As you’re turning there, I want to tell you just a quick story. So when I was eight, I think eight years old, my family and I took a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. Who has been to Williamsburg, Virginia, out there? I was really into the Revolutionary War and Revolutionary War soldiers, and just had a great time there. At the end of the trip, there was actually a parade through the town. So the soldiers were marching through the town. I was there with my dad, my mom, my sister, and my grandma. I was just so preoccupied with observing these soldiers that I was walking along with them. My dad was walking with me. Just was, was loving it. Then I remember, remember very distinctly that there was a sound of a siren, all of a sudden. Then it got closer and there was actually an ambulance that had to come, they actually had to stop the parade. Because something had happened. I remember looking back, and realizing that my mom, my sister, and my grandma, were not behind me. Has anyone ever had that kind of that sick feeling in your stomach, when you just kind of know that something bad happened, kind of had that feeling in my stomach. So I started to walk back and was looking for them. As it turns out, all the commotion had been actually about my grandma, who had stepped off the side of the road, and was just walk walking, looking at the parade, and tripped over a cigarette stand, and had actually gotten knocked out. So we were obviously very afraid. My mom and my sister were right there with her very afraid of what was happening. We didn’t know she was okay. I remember that there was a man just in the crowd, who had probably been walking along next to my my mom and sister. All of a sudden he stepped out of the crowd and knelt down by my grandma. He said, I’m a doctor, I’m actually an ER doctor. Yur grandma is okay. She has a pulse. She’s breathing. She’s okay. So, the title of my message today is seeing, knowing, hoping, and the same way that we had that revelation that this this man revealed himself, knowing that he was a doctor and that knowing, leading to hoping, because as soon as we found out that he was an ER doctor, our hopes rose, we knew that she was going to be okay. So let’s look at Ephesians 1. Verses 15 through 23. Follow along, 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. If you’d like to write in your Bibles, you can, but double underlines under that hope to which he has called you. What are the riches of His glorious inheritance and the saints? What is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the working of his great mind, 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. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for this passage of Scripture you’ve given to us to learn from. Father, we pray that your spirit would be at work and this time of teaching, or would you convict us where we need to be convicted and encourage us where we need to be encouraged? Pray that the that my words would be clear, or that it is your power from which I speak. Father, most importantly, help us to fall more in love with who you are. And pray this in Jesus name. Amen. Amen.
Well, today we are continuing our series called praying for your church. We’re going to see how the apostle Paul was praying for the churches in Ephesus. As we better understand Paul’s prayer for these churches, we can better understand why we should be praying the same for our church. So we hear the power. In these words, written by Paul, there’s a lot there. It’s very heavy and theologically rich. But I think that these words become even more impactful when we understand the context in which they were written. This letter was written in 60 ad to the Christian churches in the region near the city of Ephesus, which today we would call Asia Minor. Paul had visited emphasis in the past, and so he was personally acquainted with the way of life in that region. As an area with great diversity, there was hostility between those of different ethnicities and backgrounds. In fact, this hostility was present even in the churches. As new believers struggled to understand how Jews and Gentiles were intended to function together. Jews were thought to be God’s chosen people, and had deep roots in the word and Law of God. Gentiles, came from a pagan background. They were uncircumcised, and we’re not accustomed to worshipping with Jews. So exclusion and animosity were the result. In the larger society, the Greek goddess Artemis was worshipped as the Queen of Heaven. Almost everyone in the region was devoted to her and relied upon her blessing for their daily needs. Because of the people’s strong devotion to a pagan god, Paul’s previous visit to Ephesus resulted in a riot. In Acts 19, verses 28 through 29. It says that the people will began shouting at Paul great is Artemus of the Ephesians. Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The Temple of Artemis, which we have a rendering of on the screen, was just outside the city of Ephesus. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And those who saw it and lived in the surrounding region were constantly reminded of not only the goddess Artemis, but perhaps more importantly, the power and might of Greece and Rome, and all the influence that they possessed. At this time, Ephesus, once part of Greece was now part of the expanding Roman empire, an empire that encompassed in saturated the entirety of the known world. At its head was Nero. An emperor characterized in modern history books as tyrannical, self indulgent, and the boss. On several occasions, he publicly scapegoated Christians for the ills of society. We read in history books that he sometimes had them fed to wild beasts, and burned alive These are the circumstances surrounding the Christians that Paul is writing this letter to. By the way, Paul himself is writing from jail. hostility, animosity, false religion, worldly power, intimidation, persecution. So Paul tells them that he is praying that they would see God, no God, and live in hope. When I think about this, I can’t help but recall the wise words of Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, what has been is what will be in what has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun. In the last 2000 years, the world has changed at a rapid pace. But human nature remains the same. The things that characterize the area of emphasis are the same as what Christians face around the world today. Increasingly here at home, hostility, animosity, false religion, worldly power, intimidation, persecution, we feel the weight of these things. Too often we experience their influence on our body. So our prayer to must be, Father, help us to see you know you to live in hope. Seeing, knowing, hoping. We’re going to spend our time today unpacking these three things that are described by Paul here and Ephesians 1. We will realize that seeing, knowing and hoping are a logical and necessary progression, things that fit together. They are things that we, as believers must earnestly pray for, as we experience the chaos and hopelessness of the world around us. For those who are not in Christ, my prayer is that you too, would see no, and hope. This is the beginning of the Christian life. That is the pattern of the Christian life, from new birth, through your spiritual life unto perfection. We never stopped this process. Seeing, knowing and hoping is the first step in our faith. But it is also the next step as well as the last.
So seeing Paul uses two phrases to describe the process of seeing that we should pray for. The first that you can circle in your Bible is spirit of wisdom and revelation, spirit of wisdom and revelation in verse 17. The second thing you can circle is having the eyes of your hearts enlightened in verse 18. I’ll talk more about this later. But you should know that these are parallel ways of describing the same concept. The first thing we need to know about this seeing is that the spirit of wisdom and revelation that opens the eyes of the heart is not something that we can do on our own, or acquire for ourselves. Paul does not to pray, that you would enlighten your own hearts, or that you would use your wisdom. Rather, he emphasizes that it is given by the Father of glory. In fact, that is precisely why we must pray for it. Now as inherently imperfect people who have a natural propensity to sin and to hardness of heart, we need supernatural intervention in order to see know and understand who God is. I think that sometimes in our pride and arrogance, we tend to forget that we think that our knowledge of God is achieved by our own strength. If I just try harder, or if I just read more than my relationship with God will grow. But we neglect the necessity of seeing of having our eyes open and praying for it. But what is this seeing? How can we how can we understand it? It is, as Paul says, the, the given spirit of wisdom, and revelation. Let me show you how these things work together. On one side, we have revelation. For us today. This is the inerrant, completed, revelation of God in Scripture. This contains everything that God has told us about himself through the inspired work of the Holy Spirit. Man did not invent scripture, or discover it for himself. It was given and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, as II Timothy 316 tells us. So we have on this one side Spirit given information that is alive and active, but it must be met by a holy, spirit filled heart of wisdom, if it is to create the seeing, that we’re talking about. The Proverbs tell us about this spirit of wisdom, that it is a posture, a disposition, a disposition of teachable pneus, the willingness to accept correction, and the desire to discover more about God. When you think about physical sight, what makes it possible? Well, first, there must be a source of light. But it must be partnered with functioning eyes. You can’t have sight without both. In a similar way, the Spirit of Wisdom is the partner to the spirit of Revelation. Revelation Scripture teaches, corrects, and trains in the ways of God. Wisdom is a disposition of teachable illness, correction, and a desire for the ways of God. It is the same Holy Spirit that joins them together. This joining is the miraculous work of seeing. It is the eyes of your heart being enlightened. This is why it is possible for people to read the scriptures and not be moved by them. Or to even study them, but only achieve a mere academic understanding. As J I Packer notes in his classic book, Knowing God, which I highly recommend, truly seeing is the key difference between knowledge about God and knowledge of God.
The knowledge of God that Paul says we must pray for. So we must pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation for the Spirit given revelation of Scripture to meet the Spirit given posture of wisdom in us. So let me ask what if we started praying for that wisdom? What if we started praying for that wisdom? Every time that we read the scriptures. James 1:5, says, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. Hope that’s an encouragement to you. That if you lack wisdom, just pray for it and God will give it to you. So we must pray to see. But pray to see what the knowing. Paul tells us in verse 17, that what we behold from the opening of our eyes, is the knowledge of God. Part of this knowledge of God is an understanding of the gospel, which Paul describes I observed some of the preceding verses of chapter one which we did not read. But in verse seven, I want you to see, it says that in Christ, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. But in this prayer, from verse 18, to 23, Paul tells the Ephesians, there are two things to know about God that they should especially ask to understand the knowing. The first is God’s glorious inheritance in verse 18, you can underline that. The second is God’s great power in verse 19. And you can underline that as well. So God’s glorious inheritance. The first thing to know is that this inheritance is different than the inheritance mentioned in verse 11. In verse 11, Paul is talking about our inheritance, what we will receive from God. But in verse 18, he is actually talking about God’s inheritance. Now, when inheritance is the acquisition of a valuable possession, it signifies that this acquisition is due to a close usually family relationship. Here we’re told to pray that we would see and know the riches of God’s glorious inheritance. That what God is going to receive is in valuable and without measure. Of course, this is fitting for God, we would expect him to receive nothing less than the best possible inheritance. We know that everything is for God’s glory. So we can conclude that God’s inheritance is what brings him the most glory and the most pleasure. It is glorious, because he is glorious, the Father of glory, as Paul says. So we must have this knowledge of God, God’s glorious inheritance. God’s great power. God is the most powerful being in the universe. He spoke, and the world was created. He breathed and man came to life. All of history is like a vapor to him, here one second, and gone the next. Even death is rendered powerless in His presence. We cannot fathom Gods God’s power. We cannot measure God’s power. It is, as Paul says, immeasurable. This is our knowledge of God. His inheritance and his power. But as you may have noticed, the text doesn’t stop there. See with God, the knowing, always leads to hoping, hoping for verse 18, says that the riches of God’s glorious inheritance is in the saints. Verse 19, says that the immeasurable greatness of His power is towards us who believe. What does this mean for us? The first is, it means that God’s inheritance is here. Because we are here Deuteronomy 32 Nine says for the Lord’s portion is his people.
Many of you probably know the story of the prodigal son. When a son demands his inheritance, seeking self pleasure, but without right relationship with the Father, those things were destructive, leading down the road to death. When the son returns to the Father, he is given the father’s robe and ring he is welcomed back back with open arms and joy. The son received his inheritance back. But I would have no today that the son was not the only one who received an inheritance that day the father did to the joy of the Father, embracing his son, and having him enjoy the blessings of right relationship with Him. It reminds us that the truest, richest and most glorious inheritance is not in material things, but in right relationship. That is God’s glorious inheritance in the saints. God’s plan, from before the beginning of time was to receive glory from his people and be an intimate relationship with them.
This should leave us dumbfounded and profoundly hopeful because I, I know that some of you have been hurt by the church. I’m sure that some of you have even been hurt by this church, or the people in this church. We all just experienced a very difficult year. There was animosity division, disagreements surrounding us, even some in our midst. But know that the Ephesian churches were no different when Paul wrote this letter to them. In fact, they were probably a lot worse. Jew and Gentile trying to come and worship together. Can you imagine the hurt that must have been felt by some of those individuals? The hope that we’re called to Paul’s words to these churches and ours is to recognize that we are God’s glorious inheritance. But what about the hurt that the church has caused in the past? Firstly, Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff. The true Church, from the imposters. Those who have done wrong will either be redeemed unto perfection, or face God’s judgment. Secondly, the gloriousness of the church now is not in its perfection. But in its perfecting, not in its strength, but in its strengthening, not in its works, but in it being worked on and through. See, God does not need us. But God chooses to use us in spite of us. Despite the church’s flaws and shortcomings, we will be God’s glorious inheritance. We will be received home one day with all the celebration of the Father embracing his prodigal son.
We are God’s inheritance. It’s the hope that we’re called to. The second is that God’s power is here. His inheritance is here. His power is here. If you remember, the Ephesian churches not only experienced hostility, animosity and division, but also the threats of false religion, worldly power, intimidation, and persecution. If you’ve watched the news over the past year, you will understand why I say there is nothing new under the sun. False religion, secularism on the rise, worshipping the God of self It’s deceptive, deceptive teachings, infiltrating the minds not just university students, but Now have children worldly power, Russia invading Ukraine. Nations flexing their muscles, global unrest, intimidation and persecution. The risk of being called a bigot for holding to traditional Christian doctrine, or losing your job, if you refuse to celebrate your company’s sinful social agenda. Nothing is new under the sun. I’m gonna invite the band to come out as we hear this story from Jesus. Matthew 16:11-18 says Now when Jesus came into the district of Cecil, Rhea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, are one of the prophets. And he said to them, But who do you say that I am? Who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father, who is in heaven, seeing, reveal, seeing, knowing Son of God. And he continues, and I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, meaning, this declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Hoping you might ask, What about Artemis, the great goddess of Heaven. The temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Destroyed. What of the Roman Empire? Disbanded. What of Nero? Dead What of all the great nations people and Gods through history? Dust Those we fear today? Dying. But what of Christ and his Church? Reigning. Do not bow to the people, nations and gods of this world and do not lose hope because of them. They are fading away.
That church may be persecuted. But it is not powerless. We are the church, the bride and Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who reigns as head over us now and unto eternity. Do not give up. Do not lose heart. Seeing, knowing, hoping. Let’s pray. Father thank You for this word to us this morning. Where we pray as a church together now. That we would see you know you live in hope, the hope that we are called to father to be your glorious inheritance with you as the head over us, empowering us where we know that things are not easy in this life. But we thank you. We can have hope in you and your wife in what you call us to. Lord, help us to worship you’re now moved by your spirit we love You thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. Take away our sins that we can be in right relationship with you, and one day be embraced by you as the father embraced his prodigal son. pray this in Jesus name, Amen.