Last week we summarized Ephesians 1:3-14 and introduced Paul's prayer for the believers in Asia Minor, starting with Verse 15. The problem was that Paul packed so much challenge in verse 15 by praising the believers for their obvious and visible faith in Jesus and their obvious love for all the other believers, that I'm not so sure Paul would say the same for us today. Remember, such faith and love are not a work, but the natural result of having the love of Jesus.
Last week I touched on the idea that how we love fellow believers is not a matter of emotion, but a decision, a choice. Psychologists tell us that emotion is not a dependable guide. Emotion is emotional; it is a reaction; it is not something on which humans can reliably depend on for guidance.
As Wayne told us last week, emotion is the caboose, not the engine. Studies
have shown that if we act in a certain way, if we behave in a certain way
toward another person, the emotion will follow the action. If you treat
someone with love, over time you will develop love for them. You will
end up having the emotion that relates to how you treat another
person. Act with distaste and you will grow to dislike him or her. Act
as if you appreciate him, or love him and you will gradually take on the
corresponding emotion. If you were half as convicted about verse 15 as I was,
then Paul did not waste his words on us.
Today's Lesson: Jesus is the Head, We are His Body; No Backup Plan
So now let's boldly strike forward.
Omitting the faith and love clauses to focus on the basic structure of the sentence, it reads:
Paul says he continues to pray for them, not in general, but specifically. Clearly Paul is saying much more than he merely thinks about them; no, he asks God to strengthen, support and protect them. He asks God to intervene in the world around them.
Paul was a prayer warrior. Not just here, but in several other places he says that he prays for people in the new churches.
Does this remind you of what he told the churches in Ephesians? Faith and love for all the believers?
As you know, we have some real prayer warriors in this class. Remember what Wayne said last week: He had an elderly bedridden lady in his congregation in Chattanooga who said she could not do anything for the good of Jesus and his church, since she was bedridden. His comment was something like "If she prayed for me to die, I would run and jump into the coffin", she was that powerful a prayer warrior.
This is another area where all of us who are not prayer warriors could take the hint from Paul. For some of us it is easier to hear the Word, study it and try to understand it, but the prayer side of our life is limited. Someone said that a church or an individual Christian who gets a steady diet of teaching and study but has little or no prayer life, is like a beautiful sports car without oil in the engine. It may look and sound good for a while, but sooner or later it will break down. Prayer is the oil that keeps us running. I think that our individual prayer life unleashes his power in us and through us. I think it helps unlock that living grace that Wayne is trying to get us to understand.
Paul's Prayer for the Ephesian Christians:
Now let's see what he prays for them:
This is the wisdom and understanding that Paul said believers get when they accept Jesus, but it appears here as if he acknowledges that wisdom and understanding grow, develop and mature as we grow and mature as Christians. But note, that Paul is praying that they will have a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
The Greek word translated as "revelation" here is: apokalupsis which means disclosure, or the ability to understand. Paul says that as we get to know God, we will grow in wisdom, the understanding of God's big picture and that we will grow in the ability to apply it, how to use it in our lives. Specifically, Paul prays for them and us to have a spirit that seeks to know God and understand his will and how to live our lives based on that knowledge of God.
For you prayer warriors, I could use prayer for more of that spirit.
Let's see what else he prayed for them and us:
"That the eyes of your heart be enlightened".
When the Bible uses the word heart, or the eyes of your heart, what does it mean?
So Paul prays that our entire being be enlightened, so that we will comprehend the hope that is in the belief in Jesus. He wants us to be able to see the true reality of our future as a result of accepting Jesus. And the Greek word translated "enlightened" is in the perfect tense, which means that it was enlightened in the past and it is continuing to be enlightened.
He also prays that we can comprehend the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. This is the second of six times Paul uses the word riches in this book. This time he is referring to the unfathomable inheritance which God has already given us as a result of our acceptance of Jesus. Here he says that when he brings us to him as his inheritance, our hope will be fulfilled and the riches realized. He prays that in our core, we could comprehend and appreciate what that means. And he prays that in our heart we could comprehend and appreciate the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe ... that we could comprehend how great and how powerful God really is, and that all of his power is for us.
Paul is saying, if you could just really, really understand what God is willing to do for you, how powerful, how great he is and that he is willing to use that power for us...
Then Paul goes on to amplify on what kind of power God has:
Earlier in this study I made the case that the greatest work of God was the salvation of man. I supported this thesis by the amount of time the Bible spent on that work and what it cost God, his Son. But from the perspective of man, the most awesome power that God exhibited, that they could comprehend, was when he raised Jesus from death. Only God could overcome death. From man's perspective, that was the ultimate proof of the power of God. But then Paul continues to show the exalted status of Jesus after the resurrection:
He is also showing the power of God, because it was God who put
Jesus over everything else, past present and future, at the right
hand of God. Everything is under the dominion of Jesus.
Note that Paul says that Jesus is far above, not just vertically,
but in authority over:
...rule and authority and power and dominion.
These names are the names of the spiritual powers that were worshipped by the Gnostics. Remember the Gnostics from our study of the history of the Bible? They tried to blend Greek mythology with Christianity and ended up cutting out the parts of the New Testament that were in their way, which led to the weaker source documents for the New Testaments which most of the modern translations fell victim to.
The spiritual powers are referenced in
Most scholars consider that Paul is listing these spiritual names as various grades or classes of angels. But just in case someone wanted to claim that he left out some class of spiritual being, he threw in the clause "and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come". Even if he left out a title, or name, or class of spirit, either in the past or in the future, Jesus has power, dominion over it too.
Paul is amplifying that Jesus is in charge of everything in the physical world and everything in the spirit world. He is trying to get his audience and us to realize how awesome, how powerful Jesus is; how complete is his reign, on earth and in heaven.
Jesus -- the Head over the Church:
Then Paul tells us something that still blows our mind:
Paul says that Jesus is the head of the church. Since he is over all things, has authority over all things in heaven and on earth, in the past and in the future, physical or spiritual, that is no big surprise.
But the concept that we have trouble is the analogy of Jesus as the head and of us as the church, his body. He guides, directs, controls, but we are an extension of him. We are his arms and legs here on earth. Paul says that the Church is the fullness of him. That is probably better interpreted as "the church is filled by him, who fills everything".
The point here is that the church is empowered, enabled by Jesus. If the Church takes off on its own agenda, expect failure. The Church is merely a human extension of Jesus and its sole effective power is from Jesus.
Let's try an analogy to try to get our minds around this concept. Remember from the beginning of this letter, Paul has acknowledged the divisions of the world: Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian. He sets the premise that the world is broken into parts -- conflicting parts. But he says that Jesus came to unify all the factions, to create one entity of believers, without division. Jesus is the cure that God sent.
Let's assume that a small group of research doctors discover a cure for cancer. But they cannot treat all the cancer patients in the world. The cure for cancer is a combination of the discovery of what will cure it and the process and implementation of the rollout to get it to all the patients in the world, now and in the future. Of course this rollout would be the distribution of the knowledge and the medicines to all the oncologists and other related physicians in the world, who can in turn treat the millions of patients. Without the rollout to the treating physicians, the cure is not complete.
God designed the cure for the broken and dysfunctional disease of man called sin and separation from God. The cure is Jesus. But the rollout of the cure is via the Church. The Church is the corps of treating physicians in my analogy. Without the Church, the cure does not get to the people of the world. We are God's assigned treating physicians to bring the cure (Jesus) to those not already cured.
We as the Church are literally his body to deliver the cure. We are the hands to do the work of Jesus on earth; we are the feet to run his errands; and the voice to speak his words.
Let me cap this concept with an old story to make the point.
After Jesus had been crucified and went to Heaven, the angels were sitting around one day visiting with him. Gabriel asked Jesus, "You really suffered for men down on earth didn't you?" Jesus said, "Yes I did." Gabriel said "Do they understand how much you love them to have done that for them?" Jesus said, "Not many do. Right now only a few in Palestine, Peter and James and John and a few others. I have asked them to make it the purpose of their lives to tell others, and for the others to tell still others, and so on until every man on earth knows what I did for them." Gabriel looked a little skeptical, knowing what weak beings men are. "What if Peter and James and John get tired? What if the others tire or forget? What if way in the future, in the 21st century, people just don't tell people about you and what you did for them? What is the backup plan?"
Jesus answered confidently, " There is no backup plan. I am counting on them."
When Paul says that the Church is the body and Jesus is the head, Paul is saying that Jesus is counting on us. There is no backup plan.
...we will start with Chapter 2, dealing with the Past, present and future of Christians. Read through the Chapter in preparation for next week.