(Because this week’s passage is longer, I have chosen to give it to you in complete form first, with the topical points highlighted.)
“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 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 age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
In Paul’s day, just like today, truth was subjective. The ancient Greeks debated the meaning of truth and its origin, and its relevance. Then, just as today, there were many voices of opinion and viewpoints, and many “roads” to enlightenment. However, when Jesus Christ came, He made a claim that no other religious leader had made. He claimed to be God and to be The Truth. Not only that, when He made this claim as recorded by the Gospel of John, He declared Himself to be “before” Abraham, saying that He was preexistent before creation.
Last week I spoke of the eternal plan of God and that, it existed with God prior to creation. That God the Father had a great loving intent in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for us, in this plan of redemption. In this passage, Ephesians 1:13-23, details of the plan begin to unfold for us. They are, in fact, details of truth. In this passage, truth passes from subjectivity to objectivity. Truth becomes a surety. Here is how.
First, a list of the important words, in their sequence of the text: Hear; believe; sealed by the Spirit; pledge, wisdom, revelation, knowledge, enlightenment of the heart, hope, believe (yep, again); fullness. Check it out, from hearing to fullness. That is a leap of faith, but not in the ordinary televangelist simplistic way! This process that Paul is showing us. The plan of God is a process, and we get from hearing to fullness by all other things that happen in between. Let’s break it down some more. I will not belabor the hearing to believing part, because I think most of us get that. Except one thing, we do not stop coming to a newness of believing. That is why there is a 2nd “believe” in the sequence.
The first believe is when we accepted Jesus Christ initially. It is our first awakening. At that point, the Holy Spirit (called of promise here because He is promised to us), SEALED us. Now, there is nothing really hokey-pokey going on here. This is a contractual term understood in Paul’s day. It has to do with inheritance. Remember, we are children of the King, with an inheritance. The Holy Spirit is God’s “Down Payment” on that inheritance, (verse 14) and is His mark of promise to pay in full. At the point of our enlightenment to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the only son of God, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, and continues the work of this process called redemption, that is ongoing.
Verse 15 will give us a brief flash back to the first part of this series. Remember the word Love and the cross reference to John’s Revelation of Jesus to the Ephesians in AD 90? “Thou have left thy first love…” he told them. Here, years before the book of Revelation was written, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and states that he has heard of their love! So they must have had it at some point, huh?
The series of words continues with wisdom, revelation, and knowledge. (Verse 17) So far, in this process we have traveled from hearing to belief to new birth (sealed by the spirit). We then begin to understand that it is by God’s grace that He gives us His pledge. This pledge is described in many passages, such as John 14-16, Isaiah 32.15, Isaiah 59.21, Joel 2:28, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Ezekiel 39:29, and many more. Now, I hope you will find time to actually read these verses, meditate upon them and digest them in your spirit. It would be great if you did it at this point, because it will help me make the next one.
The Holy Spirit is described in the Bible in many ways. One of them is the spirit of wisdom. I believe that wisdom is far more important than knowledge, because wisdom is the learning of knowledge experientially and applicably. In other words; “try and try again.” One man calls it the “University of Hard Knocks.” I remember being younger, note I said “younger”, and such an idealist.
I had an answer for everything, so I thought. The reality is the knowledge I had was only based on what I thought and solely on my opinion. There was not any wisdom there. Even though I read from the philosophical “greats” and used quotations to sound good, there still was no real wisdom there because the True Holy Spirit of Wisdom was someone I had not really experienced. I believe this is why Paul lists Wisdom ahead of revelation. He is suggesting that we lend ourselves to some good old experiential learning. In life it helps to be teachable, because in learning with an open heart comes wisdom, which takes us back to the beginning of the process again, many times. Sometimes the first thing wisdom teaches us is how to hear. Moreover, when we truly begin to listen to God, then the real revelation begins!
That Revelation is not just any ole kind of knowledge either. Verse 17b tells us specifically, that “as we come to know Him” it must be a process of relational growth. Wow! God already knew us, we found out early on in the chapter. Now, in His awesome grace He shows us that He wants us to know Him. This knowledge is a relational knowledge. It is an active and interactive knowledge, compliments of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Verse 18 then caps this passage off with unbelievable goodness.
First, this relational knowledge will focus our spiritual attention on matters of the heart more than just matters of the head. We can get over just being idealist with empty philosophies of humans. The awakening we experience with-in us turns on the illumination of the powerful Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and give our hearts “eyes”. What a metaphor! We begin to look at the world with our hearts and minds, not just our minds. There is another benefit to point out here, among the many within this passage.
When these things begin to happen to us, we come to know hope. There is a vast difference between hoping with our natural minds and knowing hope. I have a relative with cancer right now and I hope that she recovers. In my hoping, I am acting mentally and emotionally that her situation, which is not good, will change. You see, I am not assured that her situation will change. There are certain things in the natural world over which I have no control. However, in Jesus Christ and with the Indwelling presence of the Spirit, there is an inner knowledge about life one can have. I have come to know the hope of eternal life. In this truth, there is assurance, because the eternal one dwells within me. The closer one comes to God in wisdom and revelation within, the more one comes to know hope. The more we come to know hope, in each area of our lives, the more we come to belief for God to control other circumstances. We release more to Him. The more frequent we come back to belief for God to work new works in us, the greater the fullness in life we have. The greater the fullness in life we experience, the more we understand “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Vs 19-20
There is much more about this chapter. To be truthful with you, every time I read the Bible and meditate on it, I find something new and rich, even though I have read the same passage before. I am always baffled by those who tell me “I have read the bible once, and have had enough of it; the liturgy is all I need.” I realize there are plenty of great books to read out there, and I read many books, but the number one place to dine for me is at the banquet table of God’s wisdom as revealed in the Holy Bible. In it I can:
Receive (the Spirit and promise)
Open-up (enlightened heart)
Activate inactive Hope
Renew (fullness of life)