02 January 2008

Verse-by-verse through Ephesians (1:15-1:23)

Ephesians 1:15-22—

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Paul begins this paragraph by expressing his joy over hearing that these Ephesians had heard the gospel of Christ, and had been saved by this gospel. This is the reaction of all the angels in Heaven. Luke 15:10"Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." We rejoice when a friend, whom we have not seen for a very long time, comes to visit. We are happy when a great player joins our favorite team. We express glee when our favorite musical group enlists the aid of a talented musician. Should we not be even more joyful when someone we know commits their life to following our Lord Jesus Christ? For salvation is about more than just "our team" against "their team." Salvation is about a person whose eyes have been opened to the truth, a person who has been given eternal life, and a person who will spend the rest of their days glorifying God through their life or their death.

However—there's always a "however" when you hear good news—however, we should be on guard for a false conversion. For there are many who hear the good news, and live a godly life, and read their Bible, and who sing hymns, and who are very pious and devout in their attendance at church and their religious duties—and yet when some trial comes along, and something happens—they lose a job, or someone they love dies—they are quick to abandon their newfound faith, thinking God to be unjust, uncaring, and unloving. Matthew 13:20-21"But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended." This is why it is so important to come along side new believers. So that they can become rooted and grounded in the truth, they can partake of the gifts the Holy Spirit has given to those around them (encouragement, mercy, teaching, etc), and can share in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance. By doing this, we can alleviate their woes, and help them stay closer to (if not still on) the paths of righteousness.

Now, this "love" mentioned in the passage in Galatians, should first extend to the saints. For love is the greatest of all things. 1st Corinthians 13:13—And now faith, hope, and charity—these three remain; but the greatest of these is love. If we do not have love, we are not God's. If we do not love one another, we are committing the most serious violation against the will of God.

1st John 4:8—He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
John 15:12"This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you."
Galatians 5:6—For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Therefore, let us love one another, that the love of Christ be made known to all.

Not only does Paul commend these saints for their love, but he takes that love—and his thanks for it—to Almighty God. Therefore I also, after I heard of…your love for the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers… And why should we not thank God for new saints being added? After all, is it not God who adds them Himself? We will see at the outset of chapter 2 that we were quickened by the Holy Spirit. Do you think otherwise? Was it some work you did, apart from the Holy Spirit, which made your spirit alive to God? Did you come to some understanding, in your own mind, and on your own terms, that you needed to be saved? I think not. For the spirit that is dead to God is dead to God indeed.

But what does it mean that our spirit is "dead to God?" Does it mean that God does not know we exist? Or does it mean that we do not feel the need to be reconciled to God? I believe that the spirit of man thinks that he is righteous in his own merits. Why else do so many religions teach that in order to get to the "next level" we need to DO so many things in order to achieve that perfection? Now, you may be saying, "Hold on a minute! Doesn’t a Christian need good works? If they do not have them, is their faith not dead?" Ah, but friend, this is the mystery. It is true enough that faith without works is dead (James 2:20). However, it is better said that "faith without works is useless." For James says, in the same passage, that even the demons "believe" in God--not that they have Christian faith in Him, but they believe He exists, that Jesus died for the sins of His people, &c (James 2:19). Plus, let us also look at the words of the apostle Paul. Romans 14:23—Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. And the words from Solomon. Proverbs 21:4 says that …the plowing of the wicked [is] sin. The Pharisees had many good works—they gave alms, they fasted, they prayed. But did these works bring about their salvation? No. Why not? Because they did not proceed from faith.

You see, faith must precede the good works. Otherwise they are not good works—they are sin. Now, you may rightly ask, "Why is doing good deeds a sin? Doesn't God want us to do good deeds?" Yes He does. But they must be done from a right heart. You see, if someone is doing good works, thinking it is the works that make him righteous before God, then he is doing them out of a selfish heart. He is only doing them in order to make himself look good before God (and, perhaps, man), and those works are, as recorded by Isaiah, filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). This is why we are not saved by our works, …lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith does not come from works. But good works come from faith. And this faith comes from God. Which is why we, as Paul, should never cease to mention one another in our prayers.

And that God may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him… What is wisdom? There are many in this world who claim to be wise. Philosophers and scientists and debaters and all types of people who claim to have so much wisdom. But is it really wisdom? Can it be? No. Unless the wisdom they have comes from the Lord. Because only those who fear Him can be truly wise. Now, you may be saying, "Well, what about those who have unlocked the secrets of the atom? Who have plumbed the depths of the stars? Are you saying these are not wise?" That is exactly what I am saying. Proverbs 9:10—The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. True wisdom begins with a fear of God. Without it, no man can be truly wise. Now, one can learn the wisdom of this world. So be it. But his wisdom will be limited to things physical. His wisdom will not go past what he can see with his own eyes. For any wisdom more than that, one must go to God.

James 1:5—If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask the Lord, who giveth abundantly and upbraideth not, and it shall be given to him.
1st Corinthians 2:14—But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.


This is the purpose of the spirit of wisdom that we should pray for. That when someone confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that God would reveal to that person His wisdom, so that person would not be drawn into irrational and fruitless discussions and disputes. And that they would not see the wisdom of this world as being greater than the wisdom of God. 1st Corinthians 1:20—Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

…and revelation… Oh my. So many people have a revelation these days. You can't turn on your TV set without running across someone claiming to have a "new revelation" from God. And look at the many religions—false religions—that claim to receive first-hand "revelations" from God Himself. Why if all these were to be believed, God would have to be regarded as the most senile, most confused, most idiotic being in the history of…well, history. And it is because of these "revelators" that the world looks at us and scoffs. Because many of these "revelations" contradict what He has already—truly—revealed to us through His written word. And it is through knowing this word that we are made known, to the world, as being children of God, set apart and sanctified unto Him. John 17:17—"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." The Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God "…so far as it is correctly translated." The Muslims believe the word of God has been twisted and manipulated to make Ishmael evil and to make Jesus more than a prophet. Both of these groups are wrong.

But, there is another group out there today: those who claim that God speaks directly to them, giving them prophecies of things that will happen (which never do), and that God is "revealing" things about Himself that we don’t have in His word. In 1989, Benny Hinn claimed that "God revealed" that He would destroy all the homosexuals in the 1990's, and that there would be a huge earthquake and the east coast would be destroyed (Orlando Christian Center, 12/31/1989). I ain't even gonna get started on Kim Clement. Kenneth Copeland said that "God told him" that He was "…a being, around 6'2", couple hundred pounds…" (Kenneth Copeland, "Following the Faith of Abraham" tape # 01-3001), and that Jesus' work was not finished on the cross, but He had to go through three days and nights in Hell (Kenneth Copeland, "Jesus - Our Lord of Glory", Believer's Voice of Victory, April, 1982, p.3.)

So, what is the purpose of the "spirit of revelation?" The same as the purpose for the spirit of wisdom.

The knowledge of Him.
That the eyes of your understanding [be] enlightened.
That you may know the hope of His calling.
That you may know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.
That you may know the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.

You see, contrary to what these modern "revelators" would have you believe, the reason He gives us the "spirit of wisdom and revelation" is not so we can run about, puffing out our chest and making a mockery of His word. It is not so we can put on a show for the world, flopping aorund like a fish all over the pews, and rolling on the floor like wild beasts. It is not so that we can show others how they can be healthy, wealthy and prosperous. It is so that we might know God. After all, how can we know Him if He is always changing? I'll let you find Malachi 3:6.

You see, He has given us His word so that we may know Him, and glorify Him. How does it look to the world when we go around saying, "Well, I know He said that was a sin last week. But, well, He's changed His mind, and it's OK now." How could we ever trust Him? How could ever claim to know Him? We couldn’t. That's why He gave us—not just a word—His written word. He had men write it down. He spoke it to men, they wrote it down. And we can know that what He said 1000 years ago is what He still says today.

…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened… Remember 1st Corinthians 2:14? The natural man cannot know spiritual things. We hardly understand earthly things. And, as Jesus asked Nicodemus, "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (John 3:12). That's why we must look to Him for wisdom, for guidance, for understanding. We will never understand spiritual things by using our natural minds. That understanding must come from God.

…that you may know what is the hope of His calling… There's that word hope. That word that the world does not appreciate. Biblical hope means much more than just desiring that something will happen, not knowing if it actually will. It means "God said it, and that settles it." It means, here, that if we are called by God to be His child, that it is not something He will ever take away. We have so many promises in His word that those whom He saves are saved forever. It is not something we have to sit around wringing our hands about. "Oh, I think I've been saved for 10 years. But, I just don’t feeeel like it." Friend—brother, sister—if you have doubts, go through the book of 1st John. Apply those "if-then" statements to yourself. IF you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. IF you cannot stand sinful things. IF you do not love the things of this world.

IF…IF…IF…

THEN
you know that you belong to Him. This is another reason He gave us His written word. So that we may KNOW we have eternal life (1st John 5:13). And don’t let ANYBODY tell you that you can't have assurance of your salvation. Don’t let ANYBODY tell you, "Well, you know, you can't really be sure you're saved."

…the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints… OK, here we go again. That word "riches." DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN MATERIAL WEALTH! That wasn’t too ambiguous, was it? Let's keep things in context. Because that's what the wealth preachers like to do. They take that word "riches", they rip it off the page, and they shove it in your face so you don’t see the rest of the verse, and what it really means. The riches spoken of here are not necessarily for this life. They are the riches of His glory—the inheritance incorruptible that never perishes (1st Peter 1:4). The crown of life (James 1:12), the crown of glory (1st Peter 5:4), the reward of our inheritance (Colossians 3:24), If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven (Colossians 1:23). The riches of His glory is our inheritance—in heaven—which is in all saints.

…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power… That word "exceeding" is the Greek word huperballo (huperballo). We get the word "hyperbole" from it. It means, "To throw beyond the usual mark, that is, (figuratively) to surpass." It is nothing for a God of wrath to pour out that wrath upon those who despise and reject and blaspheme Him. But how great and mighty and powerful is that God when He restrains that power from destroying us! He could have destroyed us all, and He would have judged righteously. But He held back His wrath; He called some to be His children; He showed His power over death when He raised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8); He shows that same power to us who believe. Because we believe. Because we love Him. And we love Him because He first loved us (1st John 4:19). Thus we sing:

Oh how marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be.
Oh how marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!


Then there's:

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me.
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow.
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now
.

We, who are the body of Christ—His church—are compelled by our love for Him, that if He died for us, we should live for Him (2nd Corinthians 5:13-14). For He is our Head, our Life, and He is ruler over all. For God has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. We are bound by His word to let Him be the final arbiter of truth and authority in the church. Not a Pope. Not any man—save one (1st Timothy 2:5). All things--in heaven, on earth, and under the earth--are under His authority. All must one day call Him Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). For He is the Lord, the Creator of all things (John 1:3), the Sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:17), the Head over all things, and the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

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