“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,” (Ephesians 1:16-20).
Have you ever studied the prayers of the apostle Paul? Paul was very much a man of prayer and his pleas to God in behalf of his brethren are wonderful in their depth, breadth and significance. They are a far cry from the trite, memorized, traditional cliches which so often pass for prayer like “guard, guide and direct us” and for the “sick of this congregation.” (Are we praying for sick members or those who are fed up with the local church?) When we repeat memorized prayers we are only going through a formality. There is not much difference in this and an automated radio station where you simply insert a prerecorded digital commercial at 10:27am and at set times throughout the broadcast day – day after day – at least as far as their effectiveness with God is concerned.
This prayer of the apostle in behalf of the Ephesian saints is a request that Christians today need to make for themselves and for each other. I do not know about the prayers Christians offer to God in private, but in our public prayers it is sad that we do not really give thought to and express the real, ongoing needs of both individuals and the whole group.
Paul prays here that God would give these brethren the “Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…” How many have ever heard anyone pray for anything like this? He didn’t pray that they might know the Bible – as we might pray and as important as that is. He prayed that God might give them, as many translations read, a spirit of wisdom and revelation. This seems not to be the Holy Spirit under consideration here, but the idea of an attitude on the part of individuals to be of such a mind as to desire to know God more fully that would lead them to have wisdom and to comprehend the revelation God has provided to the extent they would know him better.
When God granted them this spirit they would then“…[have] 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…” That is an interesting phrase – the eyes of your hearts.” We “see” experience, comprehend spiritual things with the eyes of our hearts, not our physical senses. Knowing God naturally enables us to comprehend the glory of what he desires for us to possess. His inheritance is not tawdry antiques nor temporal riches – it is spiritual and it is real. Knowing him brings to us a certain knowledge and insight into what he has promised – the things we hope for. What we hope for has to be exceedingly great because it is from God.
What in particular Paul wants the disciples to know is “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that has raised the Christian up from their death in sin and has “seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7). When we know the “immeasurable greatness of his power” we will also know the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Immeasurable power – immeasurable riches! Incomprehensible except through knowing God. What Paul is speaking of here are things that can only be done by God. No man can raise the dead, despite the claims of certain preachers who have made boasts to the contrary. They have never been witnessed raising anyone out of a casket at the funeral home. They will not meet a challenge to go into a cemetery and call dead people to rise from their graves. Therefore the hope they set forth is a false hope and the salvation they promise is likewise a fabrication of their fancy, not founded on the facts of faith. The posturing of pretenders has no power to save man. It takes the power of God to save sinners.
God demonstrates his power in different ways to bring about our salvation. It takes the power of the blood of Christ to effect our salvation. Even though money is power as some say, it has no power to save us. Good works can’t save us. Our family connections can’t save us. It takes the power of the precious blood of Jesus to save us. As the refrain of that familiar old hymn says,
“There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.”
“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
It takes the power of the gospel to save us. Paul wrote…
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16).
The word translated “power” here is the root from which we derive the English prefix “dyna” as in dynamic, dynamite, dynamo, etc. It means the ability to do something or to accomplish some task. The gospel is able to do what God designed it to do. It is not merely words, but the message of God about his love as shown in Jesus who gave himself on the cross for man’s redemption.
When a person hears that message and believes it it moves him to respond by turning his life around – turning from sin to God. It energizes him to confess his faith that Jesus is who he said he was – the Son of God, the one who came to save us from our sins. It also moves him to obey that Savior by being baptized into a relationship with him and with the Father. Obviously, the saving power is not in the water of baptism, but in the message of the cross that brings one to be baptized. When one by faith in the Son of God conforms his life to the demands of the gospel, God saves him.
It takes real power to get a sinner from point a. (his sin) to point b. (saved). Only the gospel can do that. That power is God’s power, operative through the message preached. It is the power to transform lives. Here is the confidence of the great apostle Paul in the gospel he preached…
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).