Eccentric? Crazy? She was so foolish that she hastened her own death by bringing on a heart attack while arguing over the value of drinking skimmed milk.... But Hetty Green is an illustration of too many Christian believers today. We have limitless wealth at our disposal, and yet so often we live like paupers. It was to this kind of Christian that Paul wrote the letter to. Although Paul was on trial for his life, he was concerned about the spiritual needs of the churches he had founded.
He describes the Christians at Ephesus as "saints". In the Bible "saint" is simply one of the NT words used to describe the living believer not the holy dead. It is related to the word "sanctified" which means "set apart". How did these people become "saints"?
Through faith = trust in Jesus Christ 1:1
Through Grace = God's kindness to undeserving people 1:2
Grace and faith always go together.
The only way to experience God's grace is to receive it by faith in Christ Jesus. In fact so important is this concept the phrase "in Christ Jesus" appears 27x in this short letter. In the opening verses Paul is concerned to show
1. The Source of our blessing.
"Blessed be the God and Father" has made us rich in Jesus Christ." When you were born into God's family you were born rich.
2. The Scope of our blessing.
God has blessed us with "every spiritual blessing." You have the lot. Nothing held back.
3. The Sphere of our blessing.
"In the heavenly realms" We tend to think that the physical world is the real and most important one, the spiritual less real. The truth is the opposite. Have you ever seen a film of a flower speeded up. So that the growing, blossoming and dying occur in seconds. That's what our lives must appear in eternity. The unsaved person is interested only in earthly realities. Its all he has. The Christian's life is centred in heaven, because that is where Christ rules from. When we become Christians we are born again, born into the spiritual realm, and we begin to live in two different dimensions. When you think about God's heavenly blessings and they seem remote, remember the child's description of getting into a lift. "I got into this small room and the upstairs came down." We may not understand the mechanism of spiritual reality either, but we can experience the reality without necessarily understanding it. Read 1:15. Its because of the great truths in verses 1:1-14, that Paul prays the following prayer 1:15-23.
On January 6th 1822, the wife of a poor German pastor had a son. Heinrich Schliemann was seven years old when he first saw a fictional impression of ancient Troy in flames. Contrary to what many people believed, Heinrich was sure that Homer's great poems, the Iliad and the Odessey were based on historical facts and he set out to prove it. Finally in 1873, aged 51 he uncovered the site of the ancient city of Troy, and discovered fabulous trasures hidden there for 1000's of years. Heinrich became wealthy because he dared to believe an ancient record and acted upon his faith. In your hands is an ancient record. It is accurate and true. It contains incredible promises for you, if you are willing to act upon them.
Paul says quite unashamedly that we are rich. Re-read 1:3. But that is not enough. We must grow in our understanding of those riches, so that we can use them for the glory of God. Reading this passage and not allowing it to influence your belief and behaviour is like having a cheque book to a bank account with fabulous wealth in it, and never writing a cheque. Paul prays here that the Ephesians understand the great wealth they have through Jesus Christ, and share the benefit of it. I've always fancied an American Express card. They often send me an application form but my stipend is not enough to meet their minimum income level. So I cannot qualify.
What I find attractive, even tempting about its philosophy is that once you are a member, there is no spending limit. The only condition is that you pay immediately on the due date. Would you like an account that had no spending limit? You already do. These verses are like a cheque signed by the Lord Jesus Christ, drawn on the bank of heaven, whose resources are limitless.
Paul prays specifically that our eyes be opened to three great spiritual realities concerning our resources in heaven. Knowing God, knowing God's Calling, knowing God's Power.
1. THAT WE MIGHT KNOW GOD 1:17b
This is the highest knowledge possible. This spiritual wisdom and understanding is ours if we seek it. The atheist says "there is no God". The agnostic says "if there is a God He cannot be known." But Paul had met the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who said. "Who ever has seen me has seen the Father" John 14:9. "This is eternal Life, that men may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." John 17:3. The atheist is arrogant, the agnostic foolish, both are blind because God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. When we first become a Christian we know very little about God, but we have met Him in Jesus. We have begun a relationship that grows and deepens through time until we get to the point of realisation that ultimately what matters is not that I know Him but that He knows me and that I desire only to serve and please my Father. Paul prays that we might know God.
2. THAT WE MIGHT KNOW GOD'S CALLING 1:18a
The word "called" is an important one used to describe the Christian. The word "Church" is simply made up of two words which mean "called out" God has called us out of the world to be with Him, and enjoy Him, to share Him. "hope" does not mean "hope so", like I hope I get a train set for Christmas. Christian hope carries with it "the assurance of the future". When you read a novel, I wonder whether you read the last page first to see how it will turn out? As Christians, we know what's going to happen, because we've read the book. Jesus is coming back, and we will share His inheritance in eternity. The amazing thing is that not only is He our inheritance, we are His inheritance. Knowing the hope of our calling helps us have a right perspective on the upside down values of the world, where fame and fortune are more important than compassion and generosity. Paul prays that we might know God and know the hope of his calling.
3. THAT WE MIGHT KNOW GOD'S POWER 1:19-23
By making us His inheritance, God has shown us His love. By promising us an incredible future, He has encouraged our hope. Now Paul explains how God will accomplish this change in our lives. Read 1:19
So tremendous is this truth, Paul has to use four different words to describe this great fact.
1. DUNAMIS = "power" = dynamo and dynamite
2. ENERGEIA = "working" = energy
3. KRATOS = "mighty"
4. ISCHUS = "power"
Sometimes science can give us the impression that with all our sophistication and powerful technological advances we don't need God because we can tame the universe. Then along comes an earthquake, a hurricane or volcanic eruption and we are made to realise our frailty and the awesomeness of His power.
Events such as this give us just a glimpse of the awesome
power inherent in God's creation. If this is a consequent sign of the destructive
effect of the fall, how much more powerful must be the redemptive power of God
which we see a foretaste of in the raising of Christ from the dead, in his ascension
and rule over all things now. Understanding God's Power.
3.2 EXPERIENCING GOD'S POWER
We need God's power in many ways. The problem is we often misunderstand it's purpose and we act like a 16 year old driving his parents car for the first time, driving it as fast as it will go to impress his friends. God's power is diamentrically opposite to the conceptions of power in the world around us. Lets just pick up two aspects of experiencing God's power.
3.2.1 EXPERIENCING GOD'S POWER TO TRANSFORM HUMAN WEAKNESS
No where does God promise power over weakness. What he promises is power in weakness.
3.2.2 EXPERIENCING GOD'S POWER TO OVERCOME THE POWERS OF EVIL
Read 1:21, and 6:11-12. We can never defeat these spiritual foes in our own power, but we can in God's strength. How do we appropriate this strength?
God's Strength is found in Believing the Truth of the Word of God
God's Strength is found in Trusting in the Character of God
God's Strength is found in Identification with the Son of God
Paul wants us to know the greatness of God's power so that we won't fail to use our wealth or allow the enemy to deprive us of it. It is only through our relationship to Jesus Christ the Head of the Body, the Church that we experience these great blessings.
The greatest power shortage in the world is not in our electric power stations, down the coal mines, or in the North Sea oil fields. It is in our personal lives. When we try and live the Christian life, failing to appreciate the resources and the power that is ours in Christ. Will Paul's prayer be answered in your life? These are your throne rights as a royal child of God. God's calling, God's riches, God's power. Why not read that prayer again and make it your own? Reread prayer of 1:18-23, slowly, silently.