Welcome back to the first ever Messy Coffee Table Bible study. Last week we started our journey through scripture in Ephesians chapter one. Today is Part 2 of this chapter, so if you’re just diving in with us, be sure to check out Part 1 as well!
I’ll give the same disclaimer as before: I’m not a pastor with a seminary degree nor am I any sort of advanced Bible scholar. I’m simply a believer with her own journey with the Bible, and so the thoughts expressed here come mostly from my own study and experience. Some ideas come from further research into the passage I’ve done on my own, and I’ll note those sources as we go. Other than that, let’s feel the freedom for this to open up more conversation as we engage God’s word together.
Let’s dive back in! Open up your Bible, or you can read Ephesians 1:15-23 here.
What Do These Verses Say About God and Ourselves?
The first 14 verses, as mentioned last week, Paul is praising God for the faith of the Ephesians, and really fleshes out what it means that they came to faith…how it happens by God’s good pleasure and will, all to the praise of His glory. For Him the Ephesians (and all believers in Christ) are made heirs to an inheritance in Heaven, marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit assuring us that we will be united together and with God under Christ (Ephesians 1:1-14).
“For this reason,” Paul begins in verse 15 (the reason being the God-glorifying faith of the Ephesians), “…I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (verse 16). Paul has been encouraged by their faith and desires to continue to encourage them towards a life that is fixed on God and his will. He tells them specific things that he has prayed for them, things that tell us a lot about God and his character, and what that means for us as His church. As a reminder, we learned in Part 1 that we are identified as God’s heirs under Christ. As His heirs, Paul prays for the believers to know these things:
1. God gives us wisdom and revelation. Paul refers to this as “the Spirit” of wisdom and revelation. This refers to the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of believers to give them insight into God’s word and the “message of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (v.13) (ESV Study Bible, 2263).
- What does this mean for us?: We are given the Spirit to know God better. By the power of the Spirit we can read God’s word and understand things in a way we could not before we came to Christ and believed in Him. That’s not to say we will understand everything…but the Holy Spirit is indeed the vehicle through which we can hear from and understand God better. The Spirit is often referred to as an advocate, a promised gift from the Father, providing power and knowledge of Truth (John 14:15-29; Acts 1:4-5). When we are feeling frustrated that we can’t understand Scripture or are struggling to hear from God and know what He desires, let’s not forget this extremely powerful resource is given to us the moment we believe and stays with us forever. By relying on this resource and not just our own abilities/knowledge, we may begin to know God better as we engage in prayer and the reading of God’s Word.
2. God alone has the power to open our eyes/the eyes of our heart. He alone gives us what we need to see Him as He is (remember last week when we discovered coming to faith as a miracle, not a decision) and all that He desires to be for us: hope, a rich inheritance, great power. And this is not an earthly inheritance…the language Paul uses here is clearly pointing to something in the future, something eternal. He takes the focus off of what is seen and tangible and directs their gaze toward heaven, a life with God forever.
- What does this mean for us?: This is part of our inheritance, the blessings that are ours in Christ (ESV Study Bible, 2263). How precious we must be to Him that His glorious inheritance is to be united with Him forever! When He opens our eyes to who He is, He wants us to know just how big and powerful and loving and great He is. This should drive us to our knees in worship…that someone so great and powerful would love us in such a way and call us to a hope beyond this world.
3. The power God uses to bring us to faith is the same power used to raise Christ from the dead and exalt Him. This kind of power trumps all competing authority, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (v.21, ESV Study Bible, 2263). Part of Paul’s message in Ephesians is that God is in the business of bringing new life to everything under Christ, bringing everything back to where it belongs, with Him. This requires a power to surpass all power under heaven, one that is everlasting. God’s power displayed in the work of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus continues in the lives of believers today, because God is never-changing and ever-present.
- What does this mean for us?: That we too are brought from death to life in Christ. Like unity, this is a theme that will come up a few times in Ephesians. Frequently, Scripture connects the moment a person comes to faith to the resurrection of Jesus, who made our spiritual resurrection and reconciliation to the Father possible (John 5:24; Romans 6:4-13; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Colossians 2:13). You may have heard the words of the tune Amazing Grace: “was blind, but now I see.” This is true of a new believer, yes, but it is a symptom of an even deeper change. What Paul is saying to the Ephesians is much more dramatic: we were spiritually DEAD, but now we are ALIVE in Christ. This is as true for us today as it was for the Ephesians.
4. The exalted Christ is now the head of the church. Paul does not shy away from making much of Christ in these verses. First, we are reminded of his all-surpassing power (v.19-20). Now we are given the image of the resurrected Christ seated on a THRONE (v.20-21). He is King above all kings. He is named “head” of the church, much like the “head” of a government (ESV Study Bible, 2264). Everything is “under is feet” (v.22) giving Christ authority and exalting Him as our Lord.
- What does this mean for us?: As the church under the head of Christ, we are now the body and the fullness of God. Much like Adam described Eve in the garden of Eden (“this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” Genesis 2:23), Christ is identified as united with us (believers) in one body. We are incomplete without Him; we are His bride, and He our groom (Isaiah 62:5; Revelation 19:7). The church “fills” the world as representatives of Christ (“who fills everything in every way,” v. 23), as His body. So when we are living in the world, we are literal pieces of Christ’s body, living breathing representations and images of Himself. By the power of our greatest resource, the Holy Spirit, we are called to spread the message of the gospel and walk in the light with Him (Acts 1:8). Though this is not a charge to be taken lightly, is it is important to recognize the ways we do and will fall short in representing Christ to the world. We are sinful and will not always represent Him well. But as we walk with Him…as we rely on His power, in the saving work of the cross, and wisdom and understanding from the Holy Spirit…daily we will be sanctified. In other words, we will gradually be made more and more like Christ.
Making Much of Christ and Eternity
Our hearts are slowly aligned with the Lord’s the more we fix our eyes beyond earthly things and more on Jesus. A worship leader named Zac Hicks says that the charge of worship leaders in the church is to continually “make much of Jesus” and towards eternity (Hicks, The Worship Pastor, pg 14, 38, 71, 85, 126, 135-136). Paul truly is a worship leader to the Ephesians in this passage. He makes much of Christ all through the lens of eternity—eternal rewards, eternal God, eternal life with Him (v. 20-23). Through the revelation of God’s character, up against what we know to be true of ourselves, we can begin to understand the depth of His love for us, and be brought to our knees in worship. If our aim is to glorify Him, we must first have seen Him, and know who He is. This is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians…may it be a prayer for us as we continue to walk with the Lord!
Questions for Reflection
- What’s most frustrating to you in your efforts to try and know God better? What are the things that make it difficult to be reading His Word regularly? What’s difficult or frustrating about prayer?
- How does the fact that coming to faith is a miracle rather than a decision change your perception of how God relates to you?
- How do you see God’s power at work in your life? In what ways have you been “raised from the dead”? What evidence do you see of this (i.e. in what ways are you being changed by the power of the Gospel)?
- In what ways are you drawn into worship of God? What kinds of images does Paul use to lead the Ephesians into worship of Him? Do these things have the same effect on you when you think about God in this way?
For God’s glory,