What do you pray for? What are you thankful about? Paul, after praising God for blessing his people with all the benefits of salvation, gave thanks to God for their response to his grace. He reports about their faith and love. After giving thanks, he continues asking several petitions. Paul requests for God to deepen their understanding and to increase their desire for Him. He provides a prayer pattern for us to follow: Praise, Thanksgiving, and Petitions.
The remaining verses ending chapter 1 reads quite plainly. Exegetically, almost all the terms used here were present in verses 1-14. Theologically, Paul extends the application of redemption down to the hearts desire of each individual members of the church. Practically, he models for us what it means to be united to Christ. How? By reporting the content of his prayer. He reveals to us the desires of his heart. He laid down for us his concerns for the church.
This morning, we will end our study of chapter 1 of Ephesians. We will hear them preached to us into two main sermon points: (1) From Praise to Thanksgiving; (2) From Thanksgiving to Petitions.
From Praise to Thanksgiving
verses 15-16a: For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you,
The phrase “for this reason” refers to everything Paul praised God for in verses 3-14. God elects and redeems his people. Because of it, Paul rejoices for their response. He thank God for their faith and love. Faith refers here the presence of saving faith with Christ as its object while love refers to the demonstration of saving faith with the saints as its recipients.
The exposition while short explains three important truths. First, God’s work of redemption is an end that comes to us through means of prayer. Second, the presence of saving faith comes with the demonstration of love. Third, we pray God provides both the root and fruit of redemption.
Prayer as a response and as a means of grace changes the one who prays. For we know God appoints the end as well as the means. He gifts us with the response of faith and includes prayer which he also provides to the elect. The Word and Spirit converts and effectual calling comes to us in a prayer.
It is the content of our prayer that motives us to pray. A regenerate heart, renewed mind, and restored will pray for the reconciliation and redemption of others. It expresses love to others by desiring their salvation. It intercedes for the saints and pray for continuing faith and love.
Brothers and Sisters at ZCRC(Imus), do we desire the salvation of our family, friends, and neighbors? Are we thankful to God when we see others come to faith? Are we gratefully serving each other in love and sacrifice? Is conversion of other to faith our utmost concern? This is what it means to love the saints. Let us intercede and pray for others. May God continue to save his people.
From Thanksgiving to Petitions
verses 16b-19: remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Paul transitions from thanksgiving to petition. He made one major petition then three sub petitions. In his prayer report, Paul desires for the Ephesian believers to grow in knowledge of God by the revelation of Christ and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Paul prays the eyes of their hearts get enlightened. Conceptually this idiom compares the eyes as the part of being which perceives while the heart is the center of our being while the eyes which understands. We understand in so far as we perceive so Paul wants our ability to perceive receive greater light. That light is the revelation of Christ, that is God’s Word and the illumination the Holy Spirit brings. They contain the enlightening knowledge of God that saves.
Knowledge (here) refers to intimate knowledge. It is the kind which not only informs the mind but affects the whole soul. It leads to Christian maturity. For spiritual maturity while it is not guaranteed when knowledge is acquired yet it does not settle with willful ignorance. So maturity comes when knowledge grows deeper. Paul prays the Ephesian congregation matures in Christ. Paul dug deep in his petition for knowledge. For him, knowledge of God deepens when we increase our understanding of God’s saving work. Specifically, Paul mentions three sub petitions: hope, inheritance, and power.
Hope of God’s calling refers the effectual means the Spirit applies to the elect in order for them to believe. It enables them to put their hope in God. Hope comes with faith and it is helps us persevere in faith. Riches of God’s glorious Inheritance given to elect we heard expounded last week so let us skip it over and proceed to the last petition is the power of his might. Paul grounds this regenerating working mighty power of God to Christ resurrection, ascension and rule over the church. He explains on these next verses.
Verses 20-23: that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Power means the ability to make things happen. Paul relates the power of God exerted in Christ’s exaltation (resurrection and ascension) to the elect’s regeneration and conversion. As Christians, it is hard for us to relate these events and experiences but God’s union makes it a reality with his people through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is God who provides the ability and strength. He feeds us with everything we will ever need in this life and the life to come.
Our conversion to faith and repentance were only made possible by God. Our ability to perform these conditions were supplied to us by God as well. As Christians, we need hear God’s Word to remind us of his regenerating power because so often we forget this sanctifying work, In moments of great strength we rely more on our flesh and as a result in times of trials and distress, we shamefully neglect the source of our spiritual strength. Unless we acknowledge our neglect and return to the graces of God that comes from his ordinary means, we will further regress into willful disobedience then finally apostasy.
Strength comes from Christ and flows directly to his body, the church. Christ heads the church and gives life to it. We commune to God through Christ in a saving and vital union. Like what John confirms to us in his gospel: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).” Self-dependency, self-reliance, and self-sufficient does not work. It is not even possible. As believers, we depend on Christ for all and in all.
ZCRC(Imus), God blesses us with grace and gives us peace. He elects, adopts, redeems, reveals and regenerates. God provides us the desire and the ability to perform everything we need for faith and repentance. He saves us effectually and completely. May the Lord continue to bless his people. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.