Verses 15 through 23 are a prayer of Paul for the Ephesians. It begins with Paul telling the Ephesians that he continually gives thanks for them because he has heard about their faith in Jesus and their love for the saints, their fellow believers. Although he had been away from them for about 4 years, and was now in prison in Rome, word had gotten back to him about the Ephesian church.
These two things, faith in the Lord Jesus and love for the saints, are marks of true believers. Notice that Paul referred to the savior as the “Lord Jesus”. Jesus is our savior, but also our Lord, or master. We believe in him, but we also submit to him. We obey him and we honor him. You cannot say you love Jesus and believe in him as savior, but not as Lord to be obeyed. John wrote: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word [obeys him], in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way he [Jesus] walked.” (1 John 2:3-4)
This seems to be difficult for many. Human nature is such that we like to be with people like us. My mother used to say “birds of a feather flock together”. It is more difficult for us to accept and love those different from us in social stature, income, and appearance. People also used say they loved someone “in the Lord”, which apparently meant they really did not like them or want to fellowship with them, but they had what John MacArthur called a “spiritualized kind of love”.
That, however, is not authentic Christian love for Christian brothers and sisters. Again quoting MacArthur, “true spiritual love is defined as an attitude of selfless sacrifice that results in generous acts of kindness done to others.” John wrote: “we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”. (1 John 3:16-18) Paul also wrote a whole chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, describing the traits of Christian love. Jesus modeled love for the brothers for his disciples.
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at dinner. (John 13:1-17) This was a job normally done by servants, as it was a nasty job. The feet of these men, who walked on dirt roads in sandals, were filthy. None of the disciples volunteered to wash Jesus’ feet, much less those of the other disciples. Jesus said it was an example; we should do it for each other since he did it to his disciples.
The heart of every pastor and elder is gladdened when they see believers, especially believers in the church they are connected with, demonstrating their faith in Christ and their love for each other. It shows that they are genuinely converted and that they are growing, maturing, in their faith.
In contrast, believers who live contrary to faith and love discourage their elders because they seem to either be non-growing believers or even non-believers. That would mean the work of the pastor or elder (or missionary) has not been productive. The Bible often uses the term “in vain” for this idea.
For example, Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to refrain from grumbling and to continue in the faith so he would not consider his work among them to be in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Paul went on to pray for the Ephesian believers. He prayed for several things and mentioned several theological truths.
First, Paul prayed that God would give them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. (17) “Revelation” means God’s imparting knowledge to us. “Wisdom” refers to our ability to use that knowledge.
When Paul referred to the spirit of wisdom, Paul was not asking for the Ephesians to be given the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. As believers, they already have the Holy Spirit, as Paul stated in verse 13-14.
Rather, Paul was asking God to increase their wisdom and knowledge to understand God more. Jesus said “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. (John 17:3)
Knowing God includes knowing about him, but is not limited to that. Yes, we study the Bible to learn about God, his wonderful attributes, what he has done in the past, and what his purpose is. But, we come to know God more when we apply what we know as we talk to God in prayer, worship him, and seek his glory through our lives.
The most obvious comparison is to know your spouse. On the day you marry, you know many things about them. But, as you live together for years, observing them, doing things with them, and talking to them, you come to know them more and to have a deeper relationship with them.
The more time you spend with someone, the more you know them.
The same is true for knowing God.
Paul also wanted them to know and understand what God has done for them. He wanted them to more fully understand the the inheritance they have, their eternal life, so that they will know the hope God has called us to. He called this inheritance rich and glorious. (18)
Many Christians think about their salvation more in terms of not going to Hell than they do of their union with Christ or knowing God the Father. When they think of heaven, if they do, they think of it in earthly terms, wondering if they will be able to play golf all day, or will they live in a glorious mansion like rich people on earth.
They do not think about living for eternity in the presence of the Lord or living with fellow believers in relationships that are not marred by sin. Those are the things that give up our hope!
Paul also wanted the Ephesians to grow in understanding of God’s immeasurably great power toward believers. (19) He wrote that God’s great power has been displayed in the present exalted status of Christ.
It was displayed 3 ways:
1. in Christ’s resurrection
2. In Christ’s ascension and enthronement
3. In Christ’s headship over the church
This power helps us overcome the world, our own flesh, and the devil.
Christ is sovereign over the world that is in opposition to him.
Christ’s power helps us overcome our own flesh (sin nature) as he makes us a new creation transforms us by renewing our minds. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:2)
Christ is sovereign over the devil and helps us resist and defeat him. (James 4:7)
All of the displays of power in Christ were given for his glory, but also for the benefit of the church, his body.
Paul ended his prayer with a tribute to the Father and the Son. The Father raised the Son, who had died for our sins, and seated him in the place of honor at his right hand in heaven. He made the Son far above all others who claimed rule, authority, power or dominion.
The Father gave the Son a name above every other name in this age and in the age to come. I believe that name is “Lord”. Jesus is “Lord of All”. The Father also put all things under the feet of the Son. (22) These are all ways of saying that the Father exalted the Son above every created being. He highly exalted him. He is above, and has authority over, men and women, angels, demons, and even Satan.
Paul gave much the same description in Philippians 2. He said the Father highly exalted the Son and gave him a name above every other name. He also gave us the picture of the authority of the Son, saying that every knee should bow before him and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Not only did the Father give the Son authority over all things, he did so for our benefit. He gave the Son, as head over all things, to the church. He is the head of the church and the church is his body. And, he has chosen the church to display Christ’s incomparable glory and majesty and so be the fullness of Christ.