God is Working in You
God is Working in You
HCC – 5.6.2007
Intro: We have all heard the axiom, “It’s not what you know it’s who you know.” Like all axioms this is not an absolute truth but it certainly has some truth to it.
- It’s true for the majority of voters. The political movers and shakers know that it’s the politician the voter feels they know the best that gets their vote.
- It’s true when you are lined up waiting to get in to a movie or a store and someone you know comes up and because they work there let you in through the side door.
- Its often true for people who find gainful employment, many times its based on the relationship rather than the data on ones resume.
This axiom is never more true than when it comes to ones eternal destiny, and the effectiveness of ones spiritual life.
(John 17:3) "“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
(Jeremiah 9:23-24) "Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord."
As we come to our text this morning in Ephesians 1:17-19 we find the Apostle Paul praying to the sovereign God on behalf of the Ephesian believers that God might give to them a deep knowledge of Himself.
Last week we focused on the first part of his prayer which was - Thanksgiving for the evidence of Sovereign Grace - vv. 15-16. We saw from vv. 15-16 that remarkable faith, remarkable love and remarkable prayers are the evidence of God’s sovereign grace and testify to the reality of true saving faith.
Today we will be looking at Paul’s: Intercession for the work of Sanctifying Grace - vv. 17-19a We will examine his passionate requests to God on behalf of these people. His requests are universal and essential for you and I if we are to be all that God has called us to be. Paul knows well another axiom, “Only what’s done by God will last everything else will soon be past.” Unless God is at work in your life transforming and molding you into His likeness you will simply be spinning your wheels and going nowhere. Paul knows ultimately that you need to know and be known by God so that you might maximize your life for Him.
READ: Eph 1:15-19.
PROPOSITION: Four Passionate Requests to know God [by sanctifying grace] so that by knowing Him we will truly know Who We Are. [Repeat]
The first passionate request Is that…
I. That You Might Know God Experientially v.17
The world with all its philosophies says, “Know yourself”, but Christianity says “Know God.” “The fool has said in his heart there is no God to know.” Yet he does this by suppressing the evidence of the invisible attributes of God which is evident in creation.” Paul in this verse prays that the believers might not just know about God but that they might know God experientially.
The word for know here is not just the common Greek word “gnosis” meaning knowledge about something or someone – it’s the word evpi,gnwsij and means full knowledge, it is a powerful, a strong term. It doesn’t convey a casual or flippant knowledge but rather deep personal knowledge of God in experience.
Now we tend to shy away from experience because we see the folly of living our Christian life based upon experience as if this is the measure of truth. As Christians we are not to be living our lives judging everything based on our experience and thus making our experience the basis for testing what is true or false. This is a dangerous thing to do! We are not to be settling in our Christian life for some mystical, emotional, superficial, religious experience and equate that with true spirituality. No! I understand that, that kind of life is an inch thick and mile wide. Yet this does not mean that our spiritual lives are to be cold and unfeeling, no we are to live our lives to know God both intellectually and emotionally or experientially.
In the context of this verse there is a definite link between being all that God wants us to be and all that He has called us to be in vv. 3-14. Paul prays that they might have a true knowledge of God. This means that to be this dynamic, distinguished community of people vv. 3-14 it is not enough to know some facts about our salvation but we need a personal, intimate, full, profound, experiential knowledge of God. This experiential knowledge reflects a growth towards maturity in the faith.
Have you ever tried to back a truck with a trailer hitched behind? This skill begins with someone instructing you as to what to do so that the trailer goes in the direction you want it to go. Then you get behind the steering wheel and try yourself. When you first try to do the task the knowledge from the instructions, although helpful, don’t make you good at the task straight away. However, as you grow experientially in your knowledge by practice, learning what happens when you turn the steering wheel a this way or that, it is not long before you can truly say, “I know (experientially) how to back a truck and trailer in a straight line.
Paul’s prayer is directed to: …the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father of glory, This is a designation of God that links Father and Son in essential nature as deity. That is they are both God. To know God is to know Jesus Christ. (cf. v. 3a; Rom. 1:5, 6; 1 Cor. 1:3; Phil 2:9–11; 1 Pet. 1:3; 2 John 3). The one to whom all glory belongs is the same in essence as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus speaking to His disciples said, " “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." (John 14:7-11)
The designation the Father of glory leaves us in no doubt as to whom Paul is praying to. Paul is not praying simply to a glorious Father but to the Father of all that is glorious.
Glory by definition is the reflection of the essential nature of ones being, the summation of all ones attributes. We sometimes say of a stunning sunset, “It was glorious” and we mean that by nature the Sun radiated it essential nature of light in such a way that it amazed us. In the same way God has revealed Himself in such a way that he displays splendor, power and radiance, and in the context of this letter Paul has just listed some of the glories of God in such amazing acts as election, predestination, redemption, revealing his will, and sealing us with the Holy Spirit. So if it is true that the Father is glorious by nature and the Son is of the same nature then it should also be true that the Son is glorious.
John 1:1-5, 9-14; Matt 17:1-2; Heb 1:1-4
O, my friend do you know this one who is glorious. You see if you are to know this glorious God experientially you must first know His glorious Son, the one whom He sent into this world to die in your place. You cannot know God without the Son. The one who rejects the Son rejects the Father who sent Him and the one who loves the Son loves the Father who sent Him.
Paul asks God, on behalf of these believers for a gift and it is not the gift of salvation, they already had that; they were already declared saints v.1, faithful v.1, in Christ Jesus v. 1, the called out by God v.4. No! The gift Paul is asking God for is two-fold firstly he asks on their behalf for the gift of a spirit of wisdom and of revelation and secondly, that the eyes of your [their] heart may be enlightened. Both of these requests are for the purpose that they might know God - in the knowledge of Him.
Paul asks for - Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord Prov 9:10 and is used here not of human knowledge but of divine knowledge which enables one to have insight into the true nature of things as they relate to Gods purposes in this world. Wisdom is not just the accumulation of knowledge (the devils have this and even tremble – James 2:19). Rather Paul prays for a knowledge that flows from a reverent fear of God and so is applied to life in such a way that pleases God.
Paul asks for - Revelation speaks to that which is uncovered, unveiled, and when this word is used in the NT it always has theological significance and refers to the unveiling of things which are hidden in God and unattainable to the human mind and natural investigation. For something to be revealed it has to be uncovered by God. For the believer the means of gaining this revelation is by the indwelling Spirit who illuminates God’s Word the Bible and God’s character and attributes to us.
Paul speaks of this sovereign work of revelation in 1 Cor 2:10 when he says, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10). The “them” refers to the things God has prepared for those that love Him – things which are hidden to the natural mind, to the rulers of this age.
## Back to our text - It is one thing to have in your head a list of all the great blessings that God has given you in Christ but can you say you know the giver?
Imagine that you had a secret admirer who kept sending you awesome gifts in the mail. You could tell others about these wonderful gifts, and the gifts would tell you something about this giver, but wouldn’t you more than anything else want to meet this person and get to know them experientially? In the same way as one who has experienced the wonderful gifts of mercy, the forgiveness of sins, and unmerited grace, isn’t it just natural that you would want to know the giver of all these good gifts. Well that’s what Paul is praying for! The Christian life is not just about being saved and entering into the gift of salvation, but it is about growing in a full, personal, intimate, experiential knowledge of God as you live your life.
This brings us to the next request of Paul, He prays…
II. That You Might Know Hope through God’s Calling v. 18a
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. - so that you will know what is the hope of His calling,
Now before we consider our Hope we must understand the phrase “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” The perfect tense of the verb enlightened means it should read, “since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened.” These people are no longer in spiritual darkness but have been bought from darkness to light, from blindness to sight.
When Paul refers to the heart he is not referring to the heart that pumps blood as if it has eyes. The heart here is used metaphorically and refers to the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking and wisdom. It is the seat of our mind, and will rather than our emotions. In Paul’s day feelings, emotions, were associated with the bowels and intestines. So Paul is praying for the enlightenment of their thinking and personal understanding which will lead to the right emotions.
For many who lived during biblical times the ancient world was a world without hope: It was said in that day, “Not to be born at all – that is far the best fortune; the second best is to die as soon as one is born.” These are hopeless words indeed. Yet all of this changed for the Ephesian believers. Speaking of the them Paul says in Ephesians 2:12-13
"remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:12-13)
It is the effectual calling of God that causes us to no only have a hope but to live in hope. The one who is called of God is saved from wrath to come, and saved to be conformed into the image of His Son.
Notice that Paul doesn’t pray that you will know the hope of YOUR CALLING but rather that you will know the hope of HIS CALLING. This is the hope produced by His calling of us to belong to Him. Because we are called by God into His family, we have hope. This hope produces a life time of purpose - a purpose that lasts for more than 40 days.
Dr. Kenneth Chafin, a well-known Baptist author, tells about the pastor and deacon who were visiting prospective members and drove up to a beautiful suburban home surrounded by a velvet lawn and gorgeous landscaping. Two expensive cars stood in the driveway, and through the picture window, the men saw their prospect, lounging in an easy chair and watching color TV. The deacon turned to his pastor and said, “What kind of good news do we have for him?”
How prone we are to confuse prices and values. Ephesus was a wealthy city. It boasted the temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Today, Ephesus is an archeologist’s paradise, but all of its wealth and splendor are gone. But the Christians who once lived there are today in heaven, enjoying the glories of God!”
There are two kinds of hope. There is objective hope which is the hope which is laid up in heaven for the believer :
"because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel" (Colossians 1:5)
"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?" (Romans 8:24),
And there is the subjective hope – This is the hope of an expectant attitude. Of course the subjective hope of all believers is based on the Christian’s objective hope that is ours by calling. Yet it is this subjective hope that that causes us to gladly embrace the promises of God in our everyday life because we know all of God’s promises are true and reliable. This subjective hope produces an inner response of confident trust in God as we think upon what God has accomplished for us in Christ.
"My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him." (Psalm 62:5)
"For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth." (Psalm 71:5)
"But as for me, I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more." (Psalm 71:14)
(1 Peter 1:13)"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
The same subjective hope is used in Romans 5:2 "through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult [rejoice] in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:2).
"and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5)
It is a living hope – 1 Pet 1:3
It is a hope that causes us to be fully assured and steadfast – Heb 6:11-12, 18-20.
This hope helps us endure in the midst of trials – Why? Because we know that God works all things out for the good, and that the good purpose of trials is to perfect and mature us.
This hope bears us up in the face of death - We do not grieve as the unbeliever who has no hope. We are pained by the loss of a loved one but we are carried through the grief by the hope that we will be with them again one day.
The first passionate request is that we might know God experientially - The second passionate request is that we might know Hope through God’s calling and the third passionate request Paul makes is:
III. That You Might Know the Riches of the glory through God’s Inheritance v. 18b
what are the riches[wealth] of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
The wealth or riches of the glory of God’s inheritance according to this verse is you and me – the saints. But how can this be? We are weak, failures, jars of clay. Yet Because of His choosing, redeeming, adopting, and sealing us, we are His possession, secured by the blood of Christ. When God looks at us He doesn’t see our sinful, flesh He sees only the perfect righteousness of His Son. Jesus is our glory and together with all the saints we share in this glory, guaranteed by the finished work of Jesus Christ. God will fully gain His inheritance when the saints are removed from this earth and come into His presence. Therefore, not only do we have an inheritance as in verse 14, but God also has an inheritance in us. Paul’s prayer is that we might come to know the wealth or riches of His inheritance in the saints. Paul wants us to know how valued we really are in God’s sight, valued not because you are wonderful of have done anything wonderful, but valued because of His investment and purpose for us. We are God’s trophies of grace purchased with the precious blood of His Son. We have been taken by Him as an everlasting portion, an eternal display of His wisdom and glory.
Speaking of the church Paul said, "so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 3:10)
We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light; for once we were not a people but now we are the people of God, we had not received mercy but now we have received mercy (1 Pet 2:9-10).
Beloved we need to know who we are – not to try and build ourselves up, but that we might even now enter into all that God has accomplished for us through Christ. That we might tell forth to those around us the wonders of God’s inheritance in the saints.
So then Paul prayed that we might know God, and know hope though his calling, that we might know glory through God’s inheritance in the saints, and lastly He requests:
IV. That You Might Know Surpassing Greatness through God’s Power v. 19a -
and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
If our present experience of hope comes from a past calling of God, and our present experience of God’s wealth of glory comes from being His inheritance to be fully realized in the future, then this last request has to do with knowing a surpassing greatness through His power operating in the present.
This surpassing greatness is not found in us it is found in God. However this power is directed to the believer. It is channeled into our lives for God’s glory. It is a power that is limitless and available to the believer, even to you and me this day.
Blaike writes, “The whole energy of the divine Being is turned on to our feeble languid nature, vivifying, purifying, and transforming it, making it wonderfully active where all was feebleness before, as the turning on of the steam wakens up a whole mass of inert machinery.”
There is in Paul’s prayer a desire that you might know this operative power of God which is beyond our finite beings and will one day transform these mortal bodies into immortal bodies. The very power that saved us also keeps us from day to day serving God and being transformed from glory to glory in the inner man even thought the outer man is decaying.
Ephesians 1:19 can be translated, “What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the operation of the might of His strength.” He is talking about divine dynamic, eternal energy, available to us!
After all, what good is it to have wealth if you are too weak to use it? Or if you are so afraid of robbers that you cannot really enjoy it?
We Christians need power for several reasons. To begin with, by nature we are too weak to appreciate and appropriate this wealth, and to use it as it should be used. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). To turn this vast spiritual wealth over to a mere human being, living by human wisdom and strength, would be like handing an atomic bomb to a two-year-old. God’s power enables us to use God’s wealth.
But there is a second reason why we need God’s power. There are enemies who want to rob us of our wealth (Eph. 1:21; 6:11–12). We could never defeat these spiritual foes in our own power, but we can through the Spirit’s power. Paul wants us to know the greatness of God’s power so that we will not fail to use our wealth, and so that the enemy will not deprive us of our wealth.
This power is what enables us to do the works of God.
"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
This power of God is at work in us and will bring about the fulfillment of our hope and guarantees the full realization of our inheritance.
How great is this power? What is it like? To what can it be compared? The answers to these questions will be given in two weeks time when I return.
For now it is enough to meditate on these passionate requestd of a loving apostle, who longed that his people might know God experientially, might know hope through God’s calling on their lives, that that might know the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints, and finally that they might know the surpassing greatness of Gods power.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, "An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"--Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Eph 1:19.