5. Ephesians 1:18-23

Ephesians 1:18-23

You do not need to read much of the New Testament to soon realise that much of its writings are looking towards the future. We are told of Christ’s past works, providing salvation for his people, but we are also told he will also return in power to subject all things to God.

The next time that Paul prays for knowledge in Ephesians 1 (first time being Eph 1:17), he moves away from the knowledge of God, and moves to the knowledge of the elements of salvation that God has achieved for us along with the spiritual gifts that we have seen in the previous weeks, and he makes three requests in vs 18 - 19.

1.      The hope which he has called us. The words “hope” and “call” are linked here. In scripture, the word hope normally points to the last things, or the completion of all things. By linking the words “hope” and “call” Paul is saying that we have been called to something now, as well as in the future - at the completion of all things. God has called us to something at this point in time for a distinct purpose. Earlier we looked at vs 4, God chose us to be blameless, now and in the future. Vs 5, to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, now and in the future. And in vs 12 to be the praise of his glory, now, and in the future. The calling is both our hope for now, but also our hope of being taken into heaven.

2.      The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. The Greek translation of this phrase is open to two interpretations. Either God’s inheritance of us - we are his possessions, or rather, and more likely because of the context of the prayer, our inheritance of what has been given to us in salvation. One of the many glorious spiritual blessings that we are starting to enjoy now.

3.      His incomparably great power for us who believe. Paul wants to emphasise the extraordinary power, the divine power that raised Jesus from the dead, is the same power that is at work in us. This knowledge is not just factual, it includes the experience of “the power of his resurrection” (vs 17-20), of participation in his sufferings (Acts 9:16) and of being like him in death (2 Cor 4:7-12). Christians already share positionally in Christs death and resurrection. (Rom 6:2-13 & Eph 2:6). 

If we are to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection, we must first come to know God. This is exactly what Paul prays for first! (Vs17) If we are to know God, we must spend time with him in Bible study, meditation and prayer. You cannot get to know a person without spending time with that person. The same is true of God. That is the secret, it is not just intelligence, or outstanding instruction, or academic theological degrees. It is time spent with God. It is people who sit at the feet of Jesus that God opens his heart too.

So Paul prays for the “spirit of wisdom” (vs 17) for the Ephesians. We could easily conclude that Christianity is a religion of knowledge, it is for the head as well as the heart. But having said that, we must stress that Christianity is not just about head knowledge, it is not merely a religion of ideas or philosophy. Some Christians may treat the faith as if it were just knowing everything the Bible has to say, thinking that this is all they need to do. However, we need to avoid this mindset. Yes, a sound theological and doctrinal knowledge is important, however, consider the criminal on the cross next to Jesus. Salvation does not rely on knowledge.

Salvation only comes from the power of God, Jesus went through death and was resurrected by the power of God. The salvation of the soul is a resurrection, the recovery of a person from the dead. Without God’s power no-one would ever be able to triumph over sin, live a godly life, or come at last to the reward God has won for us in heaven. This is why Paul refers to the power of God. It is only by God’s power, displayed in Jesus Christ, that we are able to live as Christians.

When Paul thinks of the greatness of the display of God’s power in Christ, he looks first to the resurrection. Jesus had predicted that God would raise him from the dead. Read Mark 10:33-34. It would have seemed impossible, people have always lived and died, so far as anyone could see, death was the end. Yet Jesus said that after he died, he would return after 3 days. What power on earth could possibly accomplish this? Obviously no power on earth… only a heavenly power could - and did! On the third day God resurrected Jesus from the dead, just as he said he would.

We may speak of Christ’s resurrection being the forbearer to our own resurrection, and even the proof of it. Because he lives, so shall we live also. This is true enough, it is a glorious certainly. But it is not only through our resurrection that we will see His power at work in us. We also see it in our present victories over sin in this life. There are three victories to consider.

1)        Victory over worldliness. The world constantly bombards us with its own fallen values. We get them from TV, films, social media, the competitive world in we make our living, casual conversations. Through the the same power that God displayed at the resurrection of Jesus, our minds are renewed (Rom.12:2), it is what makes us part of the “new creation” (2Cor. 5:17)

2) Victory over flesh. This, in biblical terms, means the nature of a sinful man who has been untouched by the Holy Spirit. The flesh is a formidable enemy, to draws us into inactivity, when we should be reading the Bible, praying or performing good works. Consider Hebrews 12:1 - we are asked to throw off everything that hinders us from running the race of faith. Even if it isn’t sinful! How can we triumph over this? Only by the power of God that is also displayed in Christ’s resurrection.

3) Victory over the devil. When Satan met Adam and Eve, who were created perfectly with no disposition to evil, his power and cunning was such that after a short time he had brought about the fall of all creation. Therefore sin (and death which is the consequence of sin) passes into the human race. No wonder Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:8. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion”. And Paul writes in Ephesians 6:11 “ Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Nothing can enable us to stand up against the works of the devil. EXCEPT FOR the the power of God that is also displayed in the resurrection of Jesus.

With all these enemies, is Christ’s power adequate to overcome them? Of course! God did not “use up” all his mighty power in the resurrection of Christ.

Christ’s exaltation over “all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked” is absolute. His is the name above all names. The corrupt world system, the demonic powers that stand behind all evil on earth, and in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12), have all been made subject to Christ. So when we are told that Jesus is exalted over all and everything, we do not need to fear attacks from these forces, any more than from our flesh or the surrounding world. How are we to be victorious over these? James tells in James 4:7. We cannot resist these in our own strength. But if we submit ourselves to God, the devil will flee from us, as he did at the completion of his temptation in the wilderness.

God placed ALL things under Jesus feet, we shouldn’t for a moment think this means “all things, but not everything”, all means all! All creation, all existence, all humanity, all of time. Everything, including the Church.

Verses 22 and 23, have had many different interpretations, some great minds through history have put emphases on a different word and it can subtly change the meaning, and to go into detail on each opinion would take several sessions. However, I’m sure they would, just as we should, note, and agree, that Jesus is the head of the church. The Church (all Christians), just like the Holy Spirit, should exalt Him at all times. Jesus is the head of the body of the church, a body cannot service without a head, and only when a head and body are joined can they both be united in fullness.

Discussion Questions.

1)        We often talk and sing about hope, “Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness”. What does that mean? Hope in / on what? What are we hoping for?

2)        If a non-christian asked you about hope, how would you respond? Can it be summed up in one sentence? As a home group could you agree on a sentence?

3)        Consider the power of God, as we pray, do we fully and desperately expect God to use that power to do what we ask?

4)        God used His power to raise Jesus from the dead, how do you feel when we read that that same power lives in us?

5)        We know that the devil is cunning and has attacked, is attacking and will attack us in the future, both individually and as a Church. Can we overcome him and sin by our own willpower? Why not?

6)        How can the devil and sin be overcome?

7)        Do we pray enough?

Final thoughts for discussion.

We have read that Jesus has all things placed at his feet. We HAVE to remember this, ALL means everything, including the Devil. When we consider Jesus’s resurrection, there was no “war on death being raged” there was no heavenly battle for Jesus’s sole. Jesus has ALL power, he went through death, there is never a time when his victory was in doubt. He chose to go through death to save us, he knew completely what he was doing, and he did it for each and every one of us.

We should never fear the devil or his works, we should only ever fear God and give him all praise and worship and glory for what he has done for us, what he is doing for us, and what, through prayer, he will do for us.

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