Jim Shaddix speaks on Ephesians 1:15-23
Series: Summer Preaching Series 2013
Spiritual illumination leads to our realization of Jesus’ exaltation.
When a prayer finds its way into the canon of inspired scripture, it becomes God’s will for all of us. In Ephesians, Paul is praying for the church in Ephesus, but also for all of us.
When I got to college, God let me fulfill a childhood dream to play college football. It was a far-fetched dream. I’m not very big, fast or strong, but I grew up loving the game. When I signed a scholarship with Northeast Alabama I began to live out this dream. They already had a great quarterback, so a few others and myself were scrambling for the second team spot. At the end of the day, I came out as the second team quarterback and I was pumped. I was having the time of my life.
Every spring our couch would have individual meetings with each player to discuss our goals for the summer and following fall. I will never forget the day I met with him. I had worked hard, watched films, given my everything. He asked me what my goals were and I told him everything, all that I had done. I said, “Coach, I’ve done all this stuff because I’m committed to this. I want you to know that when we go into the season next year, I will be the second team quarterback.” He wasn’t nearly as excited about that as I was. He responded, “Shaddix, I’m not interested in you being the second team quarterback. I’m interested in you being the first team quarterback.” When I walked out of his office, I realized something. In one short year, I had become satisfied with simply just being on the team. I had lost sight of what it meant to want to play the game.
It’s one thing to do this with something as trivial as a sport. It’s entirely different to do it with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is explicit in His word.
There are no second teamers. We’re all in this together.
Yet, it’s so easy to come into this thing called Christianity and quickly grow satisfied with just being a spectator; just glad you’re saved and going to heaven.
It’s easy to grow satisfied with just your name written in the Book of Life.
But then you look around and see other people actually playing the game, and you become unsure if you have a real part to play. Paul was writing to people like this.
Jewish & Gentile Christians
There were two kinds of Christians in Ephesus. Ones saved out of a Jewish background, the chosen people of God. Then there was everybody else, Gentile Christians. Some of the Jewish Christians hung this over the heads of the Gentile Christians. They were a little bit better, more gifted, more in God’s grace.
But in Ephesians 2:11, Paul said, “remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh,” talking about the wall of partition God had broken down. The Gentiles had come into the family.
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, Ephesians 3:1 (ESV)
Paul was writing to one of the two groups; to those who felt like second class Christians. Like second teamers. They were saved, but didn’t have everything the Jewish Christians had.
Paul fit into the first group, the Jewish Christians, saved out of a Jewish background. He was writing to Gentile believers, but as a Jewish believer. Notice all the personal pronouns that he uses.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:3-12 (ESV, emphasis added)
Then, in verse 13, everything changes.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV, emphasis added)
Paul was writing as a Jewish Christian, with all the privileges and blessings that came with being the chosen people, to a group of people who had been made to feel like second class Christians, who didn’t have the same giftedness and grace. They were just glad to be on the team, but never really got in the game. He explains all the blessings for the Jewish Christians so he could turn around and tell them God has done the same work in them also.
There are no second team Christians.
Paul prays these Gentile Christians would understand this. God didn’t leave them out. He brought them in on equal footing to be participants, not spectators. Players, not people who were buying a ticket to watch a game.
First, Paul prays for spiritual illumination. He knows our flesh and the attack of the enemy is going to do everything to get us to miss this. It’s going to take the work of the Spirit of God to break through the hardness that leads us to simply being glad to be on the team.
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, Ephesians 1:15-16 (ESV)
In both verses 17 and 18, you find the word that. These are progressive purpose clauses, which means, one follows from the other. Essentially, he’s saying he is praying this will happen, so that something else will happen. He was praying for spiritual illumination.
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, Ephesians 1:17 (ESV)
He uses the word knowledge at the end. There are three different words translated by the word know in our English text; one means “to beware of something”, the second means “to experience” and the third means, “to have the most intimate, thorough knowledge possible.” Paul was using the third.
There are going to be so many people deceived by this kind of knowing. It causes us to compare ourselves to others, making us think we can’t sing like that guy, or witness like that guy. When we look at all the players, we begin to think we just don’t have it what it takes.
Having the identity and understanding there are no second teamers is the work of the Spirit of God. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring us to a place of the most intimate, thorough knowledge possible of this whole deal.
18 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, Ephesians 1:18 (ESV)
Did you know your heart had spiritual eyes? You can have your physical eyes open, but still have your spiritual eyes, the eyes of your heart, closed. Paul was telling these Gentile Christians how huge it was for them to understand this.
How often does God look at the church thinking about all He’s invested; the riches, blessing and grace, yet so many of us think we are second teamers and have settled into just being spectators. Paul was praying against this, for spiritual illumination.
What Has Always Been There
The second progressive purpose clause is seen in the middle of verse 18. Paul wasn’t just interested in spiritual illumination. He also wanted that illumination to lead to something.
Spiritual illumination leads to our realization of certain things that God has done in our lives. He wanted spiritual illumination to take place so that you could see the things that have been there even before you were saved.
18 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, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might, Ephesians 1:18-19 (ESV, emphasis added)
• The Hope
Paul wanted them to know the hope that God had called them to. Hope in the Bible is a sure thing, it’s a certainty. Not like in the world where it’s used as a maybe. He was talking about the assurance and certainty of our future through our relationship with Christ, who will never leave us or forsake us. He’s coming back for us. We’ll spend eternity with Him in heaven. It’s a done deal.
• The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance
It doesn’t say what are the glorious riches of your inheritance. It says His inheritance. God’s inheritance. God has been waiting on receiving His inheritance, you and me. The only thing God has to look forward to in heaven that He doesn’t already have is you. That’s all He wants. Whatever your circumstance or what you’ve been through, know that God looks at you and says you’re all that He wants. You are His prized possession.
• The Immeasurable Greatness of His Power
God has given us big and powerful resources to live this Christian life. The word for immeasurable is from our word mega. The word for power is from our word dynamite. The word working is from our word for energy.
In other words, the mega power toward us who believe, according to the energy of His great might.
Don’t miss out on these things. God cherishes us dearly. He has given us what we need, to live it out the Christian life.
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:20 (ESV)
The same power that’s given to you to live the Christian life is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Spiritual illumination leads to our realization of all these things. Yet these things are not an end to themselves. God is not doing all of this so that we survive the Christian life. They are the means to Jesus’ exaltation.
21 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. Ephesians 1:21 (ESV)
God raised Jesus from the dead, seating Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. He made Jesus head over everybody and everything for all of eternity.
22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23 (ESV)
Then God gave Jesus to the church to unite all of His creation forever. In order to fully understand what this means, we need to go back to Paul’s introduction.
9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:9-10 (ESV)
This is God’s agenda, to take all of His creation, all which was intended for the glory and honor of His praise, through the person of Jesus Christ, and bring it to fruition for all of eternity. He’s been working on this since the beginning of time.
He chose a people through whom He would introduce a Messiah. He rose up a bride, the Church, to be the manifestation of bringing all of this together. Paul was telling the Gentile Christians they were part of all this. You are a part of this. Nobody is a second teamer. We’re in this with everything we need to advance His agenda and cause for the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
Pray that you will get this. Pray for others to get this. That’s what Paul was doing. Pray God will give you illumination of His Spirit.
• Get Involved.
Get involved in His mission in this world. Get off the sidelines. Find a place to serve, someone to share Jesus with. Leverage everything you’ve got; job, education, home, and ask God how you can use it for the advancement of the gospel among the nations.
• Live to Glorify God.
Live to glorify God in Jesus Christ. Look at every aspect of your life and ask how to live for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. This is His eternal mission.