Paul’s Prayer For the Church’s Growth in Knowledge
There are two prayers in Ephesians: (1) “that you might know,” 1:15–23; and (2) “that you might be,” 3:14–21. The first is for enlightenment, the second for enablement. – Warren Wiersbe
The idea that knowing is a mind thing or simply the gathering of information is a false one. Biblically, knowing implies action. That one would know implies that one would act upon what they know. This is true. If one truly knows then one must act or it will drive them nuts.
Jesus taught us to pray like this.
“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)
For Father to hallow or make his name great is for us to know and act upon the Father’s name being made great. For the kingdom to come and for his will to be done we must know the kingdom and his will and then act on it. There has to be some action done as a result of the learning of the greatness of Father and his purposes on earth.
Paul wants these Ephesians to know more because in the knowing there will be more being and doing.
Why do people not worship Jesus? It’s because they don’t know him. They may be able to say the name Jesus and correctly state some facts about Jesus, but they don’t know him or they would worship him. Their state is 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 in that they are blinded by the evil one and they can’t see and thus know.
So, to know is to do and to be.
We can never get enough of knowing. Let me be clear. We’ve said in the past that you don’t need more bible studies. Many of us have more than enough outlets for bible study. We said that we need to act on some of what we have learned. This is true. However, don’t hear that you need to stop learning and knowing. That is not what we are saying.
Often, social bugs can attend multiple bible studies and learn nothing and just be hanging out with no outlet for ministry. Often, people can do that thing that seems to be a symptom of the fallen state where we divorce knowing from acting and we become walking encyclopedias of information that just seeks to correct everyone for every nuance of difference in what they have adopted as personal orthodoxy (ex. their personal eschatology, etc.).
We want what Paul prays for here. We want to know more and we want that knowledge of Jesus Christ to increase. We want to sound the very depths of the glory of God in the study of Scripture and the tasting of grace by the Holy Spirit and we want that knowing to produce fruit that lasts!
So, lets dive into the prayer for the church to know Jesus more, and lets make this our prayer.
1. Paul prays that they may grow in their knowledge of the Father v. 15-17
Paul’s reason for praying is their salvation and their love for each other. Because they are in Christ Paul prays that they may grow in the understanding of what it means to be in Christ.
We have been blessed in Christ with wisdom and insight (1:8) to know the mystery of his will.
Here Paul is using the future tense. The implication is that we know and we will continue to need to know and grow in our knowing.
1. We must continue to grow in our knowledge of Father, Son and Spirit. No one has arrived.
2. Scripture understood and applied by the Spirit in our gathered and private lives must be central in our growth
Spiritual truths must be spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:9–16), and this understanding can come only from the Spirit. He wrote the Word; He alone can teach us what it says. – Warren Wiersbe
3. We must be discerning in who and what we listen to and apply
4. We must be discerning about our experiences and evaluate them according to Scripture
2. Paul prays that the church may know the hope they have in being Jesus’ inheritance v. 18
In order to know the riches of this glorious hope, we must have our heart’s eyes enlightened through knowing more of Jesus.
The connection to verse 17 is crucial here because it is how verse 18 happens. “…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened..” is a complex set of words in verse 18. Enlightened is the key word in that it is the participle and describes what is happening to the eyes of the heart due to the knowledge gained by the illumination of the Holy Spirit’s ministry by the word.
Some implications here are big. The idea that my heart has eyes is vital. The idea is that sight is more than physical. The idea is that there is discernment to be had and the heart (biblically the seat of emotions, volition, thinking etc.) needs to see.
The idea that I can’t see as well as I need to now as a Christian is big. None of us see or discern completely clear. We are in need of constant learning and revealing that we may see and know and do.
The reality is that we are in great need of constant illumination to see and know more of the glory of the kingdom that is and is to come in full.
We have the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and insight, but we are being continually transformed by the ministry of the Spirit and we need constant growth to make us aware of the magnitude of the glories of who we are (identity) and what we are a part of (mission). These things are always muddled due to the fallen nature of our physical existence and the spiritual air around us is in constant turmoil as we fight the spiritual battle around us. It is always a fight to make sense of these two glories we have.
Note two vital observations here:
1. The one in v. 18 receiving the inheritance is “his”. And the “his” in verse 18 is Jesus. This is vital to our hope.
We learned in verse 11-14 that we receive an inheritance of face to face communion with Father, Son and Spirit, and each other together in Christ in the new heaven and the new earth. But here in verse 18 we discover that we are not the recipients of this inheritance.
Paul prays that we may have the eyes of our hearts enlightened that we may know the hope we are called to.
Our calling into Christ is stated clearly in the rest of the verse. That calling is that we belong to Jesus as his riches as his inheritance.
“…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
We referenced this a few weeks ago when I footnoted for you a bunch of passages in the gospel of John. John 6:37, 39; 10:22-30; 17:2, 6, 9, 12 are some glorious passages. John records Jesus talking about his mission to rescue and sustain and save those that the Father has given him.
The church is the precious possession of Jesus and he is calling his church to himself from all nations through the proclamation of the gospel and Jesus keeps them all and loses none of them. He died to secure them and keeps them through is powerful work on their behalf.
“Paul prays here that his readers will appreciate the value which God places on them, his plan to accomplish his eternal purpose through them as the first fruits of the reconciled universe of the future, in order that their lives may be in keeping with the high calling and that they may accept in grateful humility the grace and glory thus lavished on them.”
“Think of it: he owns all the heavens and numberless worlds, but we are his treasures. The redeemed are worth more than the universe. We ought to be delirious with this truth! Paul prays that we will see this with our heart’s eyes.”
1. Remember, through all of the muddled vision on this side of the fall and on the other side of kingdom fully come, we are his possession and kept and cared for and loved.
2. Remember, pray for the discernment to see and know who you belong to and to grow in the knowledge of such glory.
The second vital observation:
2. The church’s hope is that we will be his people and be brought into the kingdom
Hope is the opposite of despair. Hope creates great optimism. Our great hope lies in not what we achieve but in being Jesus’ people and his treasured possession. This means we have great reason for hope filled optimism.
If you are a despairing person because of our current political and social climate, let me invite you to lift your eyes from the broken morass to the glorious reality of our real kingdom and our real king and our real citizenship. Our great hope lies not in a broken system’s broken solutions, but in the rule of Jesus Christ, his mission and powerful kingdom that is already working through the world like yeast through dough.
Side note: this does not mean we are to disengage from our culture, rather we are to view it through the lens of Jesus’ rule and Jesus’ kingdom and engage it a such with clear hope that Jesus will correct it either through us or when he comes, but either way, it is hopeful and not lost or wasted work.
We have deep and great optimism due to our great and deep hope in being his people.
3. Paul prays that the church may know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward the church v. 19-20a
Paul here uses three words to describe the great power of Father toward his people.
Power – “dunamis” – dynamic and living power
Working – “energia” – energetic power
Might – “kratous” – power that overcomes resistance
Paul prays that we would grow in our knowing of Jesus and be enlightened by the Spirit to know the incredible power that is exercised toward his people.
This is the same power that was at work in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
I suppose we will taste that power in the resurrection of our bodies one day, but the assertion here is that this power is being exercised toward us now.
Dynamic – constant change, activity, progress
We are being sanctified and grown in the knowledge of God even when we are unaware of it. Father wastes nothing in his work in us. He works all things for our good in knowing him and advancing his kingdom.
Energetic – vibrant
Father’s work toward us is vibrant and full of energy. There is strength to follow Jesus and stay on the grind when we are tired and weary. His work is never tired and weary. He can fill us and give life to our body and soul and keep us in the fight.
Overcoming Resistance – defeating the enemy and the enemy’s resistance to the gospel
There is no resistance that can win the war. No weapon formed against the people of God can work to its conclusion. Jesus is caring for his church and will complete her. (See Ephesians 5:22-33)
4. Paul prays that the church may know the glorious position of Jesus v. 20b-23
1. Jesus rules as authority over all the heavenly powers v. 20b-21
Jesus currently sits enthroned above every name and rule. Name signifies purpose and rule signifies power. Every spiritual power whose resistance against the rule of Father now has an enemy that has been unleashed on them and Jesus won’t relinquish that power now or in the coming kingdom.
The understanding is that the church has nothing to fear in the spiritual realm now and never. Jesus rules over his people in his kingdom well and he rules over the rebellious forces of evil he subjected to his created place of torment called hell. Jesus never relinquishes rule.
The end product for us is that we have absolutely nothing to fear!
2. Jesus rules as the head of the church v. 22-23
Not only do we have nothing to fear, we have every reason to be comforted. Jesus has been given to his people, the church, as our shepherd who will lead us well.
Jesus is the Senior Pastor!
The church is never leading itself. As long as the church stays faithful to the gospel and doing the mission Jesus is shepherding his church and raising up leaders and making disciples.
Pastors never have to worry about being “alone” in ministry. Jesus is always present and leading well. Ours is to be about the work, but not fret over it.
We have a powerful and exalted Senior Pastor, Jesus.
David, inspired by the Holy Spirit looked ahead and saw the church’s day when he wrote Psalm 23.