A Prayer for Spiritual Enlightenment: Ephesians 1:15-23

A Prayer for Spiritual Enlightenment: Ephesians 1:15-23

William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, was an art collector. It is said he was looking for a particular painting. He sent an agent to look for it in Europe but it could not be found. Sometime later, while going through a warehouse, a helper discovered it! He had the painting all the time and did not know it.

In 1995 a reclusive Anne Schreiber died at the age of 101. She had amassed through investments 22 million dollars. She lived very frugally not allowing herself to live in an extravagant way. When she died she left the 22 million to Yeshiva University.

One had wealth and didn’t know it; the other had wealth and didn’t use it! Every believer is wealthy in spiritual blessing. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (1:3) After describing our salvation from the Divine perspective in verse 3-14 the apostle Paul now gives thanks to God for the believers and prays that they will have spiritual insight.

It is worth noting that this prayer is not concerned with our health or our wealth! It, as all of Paul’s prayers, is spiritual in nature. Alexander MacLaren an English writer has helpfully pointing out that “A man’s prayers for others are a very fair thermometer of his own religious condition. What he asks for them are largely what he thinks is best for himself.”

Verses 15-16 is a reminder to us that the true marks of a spiritually prosperous local assembly is not the number of believers, not the material or physical assets, not its social status or multiplied activities. It is a growing faith and love among the saints.

The main lesson of this striking prayer is that spiritual understanding, insight and appreciation comes through fellowship with God. (Vv. 17-18)

Since the Holy Spirit is the illuminator of the Word, Paul is praying that the Holy Spirit will give us revelation (general illumination) and spiritual insight (specific enlightenment) into the great realities of verses 1-14. He wants them to perceive it for their personal experience. (V. 17b) The word “spirit” is translated differently in some versions. This would refer more to a disposition or attitude. But it is the Holy Spirit who gives this spirit of wisdom and revelation.

The Holy Spirit’s purpose for us is that we grow in our knowledge of God. This kind of knowledge is not so much intellectual knowledge but experiential knowledge. While we should be growing in knowledge about Him here Paul is concerned about our fellowship with Him. William Griffith Thomas suggests that this knowledge “refers to the deep, growing, ripening consciousness which comes from personal fellowship with Him.” Knowing and loving the Lord Jesus leads to a true appreciation of spiritual truth revealed in the Scriptures.

As we come to know Him better in fellowship the eyes of your hearts will be enlightened. (18a) The “heart” here refers to our understanding. The word “enlightened” means “to receive greater understanding.” cf Eph. 3:9; Heb. 6:4; 10:32; Rev. 22:5. As we walk obediently to Him our minds receives better understanding, our emotions are moved toward the truth and our will is enabled to obey.

The purpose of our spiritual enlightenment is so that we may know the hope of your calling. (V. 18b) We will grow in our appreciation and focus on what God has prepared for those in the future life to which He has called them. Col. 1:5. Fellowship with Him will strength our hope in what God has promised to us in our calling. We are to know, appreciate and live our lives influenced by this hope.

We will grow in our appreciation of the fact that God considers us to be His inheritance. (V. 18c) God’s inheritance on earth is not silver or gold but His people. Because of Calvary we are His possession. This could be a reference to our resurrection when we receive our final redemption from the presence of sin. His inheritance on earth will become His inheritance with Him! Paul describes this as “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

Our fellowship with Him will enable us to know better the exceeding (super abounding) greatness of His power. (Vv. 19-23) He wants us to know the power that is available to each believer in his walk here on earth. This is the same power can was demonstrated in the in the Resurrection, Exaltation and Dominion of the Lord Jesus. (20-23).

Some Lessons:

  1. Spiritual Understanding is a matter of the heart and not the intellect alone. (17b-18a) Our knowledge can be barren. Pascal said, “earthly things must be known to be loved; but spiritual things must be loved in order to be known.” “Proper understanding of spiritual realities is not dependent on our having a keen intellect but a tender heart. It is a matter of affections as well as the mind. God’s revelations (illuminations) are given to those who love Him.” – Wm. MacDonald “The seeing eye sees best by the light in the heart that lies.”
  2. Natural education and training does not in and of itself insure spiritual insight. This reinforces the first point. The NT clearly teaches we are to use our minds. But it is also true that spiritual perception is not in direct proportion to one’s education or knowledge. “Many whose natural education and intellectual opportunities have been slight have had this spiritual perception in an uncommon degree, and it always marks the spiritually ripe Christian. It is not the one who intellectual knowledge is critical, scholarly, and profound, but he whose spiritual insight is suffused with grace, love and fellowship. This does not mean that natural knowledge or culture is to be despised or avoided as evil, but the two kinds of knowledge should be carefully distinguished.” – W. Griffith Thomas .
  3. The Capacity to understand spiritual truth comes at conversion and deepening insight is dependent on personal fellowship with the Lord Jesus. We should give ourselves to meditation and study of God’s Word but do so out of love for our Savior. As we focus on Him, the Spirit of God illumines our mind and heart. cf. 2 Cor. 11:3.
  4. Fellowship with Christ enables us to gain a fresher appreciation and perception of truths that we know. We begin to “see” the truth as we walk in fellowship with Christ. “Wisdom” gives insight into the true nature of things. Cultivating our fellowship with Him involves at least three things: Time, Talking and Trust. Dealing with sin so that we walk in moral agreement with Him.
  5. Spiritual insight is one of the greatest safeguards against spiritual error. Many struggles in the Christian life are resolved. In the natural mind man cannot understand the existence of God, His eternal attributes, the miracle of the Resurrection, the Ascension of Christ, and His Work in heaven. “This illuminated heart is one of the choicest blessings of the spiritual life and one of the greatest safeguards against spiritual error.” I Jn. 2:20; 5:20. Many of the problems of the spiritual life are solved only in this way.

    I once read a story about a woman who began reading a book written by an author she had never heard of. She found the book rather boring and did not finish reading it. Sometime later she learned that this author was coming to her town and would be speaking at the local high school. Since she recognized his name, she decided to attend the lecture. Afterwards she was introduced to the author. A relationship was established and later they were married. Now she picked up the same book and began to read it again. But this time she found the book engaging. Why? Because she knew author.
    The greatest privilege for the believer is to walk in fellowship with Him. It results in the Lord becoming more “real” to us, gives us a Biblical viewpoint, results in a pattern of victory in our lives and gives us a growing appreciation of the hope awaiting the believer.

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