Wisdom & Revelation: Ephesians 1.15-23

Some time ago I found myself in a four-day-long meeting of ministry leaders in suburban Chicago. That’s not the cool downtown area; that’s the part that’s like suburban Dallas, Atlanta or Houston. You can sit in traffic in any of those places.

On about the third day, as I sat soaking in the dopamine  of the florescent lights, I received a texted picture from my wife and three-year-old daughter. They were on the beach, soaking in the sun, and without me!

What do I really want? I asked myself. How can I change things, so that next year I am with them, which is far better? 

That’s not a bad question to ask ourselves as we gather with our church families this Sunday. What do we want and expect from the Christian life? And, what do we want for each other? And, how are we praying for one another to that end? 

After greeting his Ephesian recipients, and offering praise to God for all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, Paul gives thanksgiving for his Ephesian brothers and informs them of the content of his prayers for them.

Ephesians 1.15-23 is a good passage to guide us in our prayers for one another. Here’s a few takeaways to guide us toward that end:

Don’t cease to pray for one another (:15-16a). This is Paul’s offer of thanksgiving for them, and there’s tension here. Having really trusted in Christ ( … I’ve heard of your faith … your love toward all the saints), they now need Paul to intercede for them. Apparently, there’s more in the Christian life that they might not get; there’s a present struggle, an outcome that’s not yet decided. There’s tension here.

Pray that we would each know God, as He’s revealed in Jesus (:16b-18a). This is the content of Paul’s prayer. The core idea is found in verse 17, … making remembrance at the time of my prayers, so that God may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him …

“Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, who has sealed them at the time of their faith in Christ. He already indwells them. What Paul is praying for is specific manifestations of characteristic qualities of the Spirit’s work to be known increasingly in the lives of the Ephesians. What are these?

“Wisdom,” for one. When used to describe an art, like carpentry, wisdom describes an unusual ability in practical skill. But, when describing the intellect, wisdom describes the ability to discern the true nature of things. Wisdom from the Spirit shows us what God is all about in our lives.

“Revelation,” for another. This word describes what is unveiled or disclosed having been previously hidden. Revelation operates in the knowledge of Him (:17) and helps believers discern the Spirit’s work, especially since the Ephesians have had the “eyes of their hearts enlightened” (:18).

It’s like Paul is saying to the Ephesians: “When you trusted Christ and were sealed by the Spirit you saw life in a totally new way. You saw into the nature of spiritual things. You knew the difference between right and wrong. You had a conscience before God. You began to learn God’s will. Now, I’m praying MORE of that discernment for you, so that you can know God better!

Are we praying this for one another? Are we praying that God will use the events of our lives to help us know Him better?

Pray that we would each know God’s hope, God’s riches and God’s power (:18b-23). This is Paul’s purpose for his prayer, the result of wisdom and revelation.

He wants them to know the hope of his calling. God’s calling took place in the past, and understanding this results in hope. He wants them to know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. This is Christ’s inheritance, earned at the cross, but not yet possessed by Jesus in the fullest sense. Understanding that we share in the possession earned by our big brother, Jesus, and have this in store for us likewise brings us security in our relationship with God.

And, Paul wants us to know … the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (:19).

There’s four words for “power” here, translated “power” (potential power); “working” (power in operation); “might” (dominion); and, “great” (power that can be expressed).

This reminds me of the tiger I once saw at the Henry Doorley Zoo in Omaha. Standing two feet away from the great beast (on the other side of the glass, of course), I sensed the potential power of the great cat, who paced back and forth restlessly. I shuddered at the thought of his active power that might be displayed, if ever I stepped on the other side of the glass. I recognized his majesty of the domain that included everything in the area, exception the zookeeper, I suppose. And, I recognized the transitive nature of the power that could be expressed (thus, the glass).

Verses 20-23 give us three examples of God’s power in action. First, God raised Jesus from the dead (:20). This took Jesus from being dead to the right hand of the Father … far above all rule and authority and power and dominion … (:21) Second, God put all things under the feet of Christ. This is dueling language that describes the victor who has his enemy under his foot and is yet to make the fatal sword plunge. And, finally, God gave Jesus to the Church to be its head. In many ways, verse 22b introduces the rest of the letter. The power of God in the life of the believer is not the power to change circumstances, but the power for a changed life!

So, what should be our prayer for one another, in light of God’s spiritual blessing? 

Paul guides us here: Our prayer for one another should be that each would know God (personally … increasingly … intimately), as God has revealed Himself in Christ. 


Here’s a few questions to help us think more about the Wisdom and Revelation from God that we must desire for one another:

What is your impression of this passage? What about it is still unclear or requires more explanation? 

When you pray for another believer, how do you usually pray? Do you pray only the problems would be solved and circumstances addressed? Or, do you pray that your fellow believer might really know God, in the midst of circumstances? 

What do you think about the suggestion that the Ephesians (and, us!) only MIGHT receive this enabling form the Spirit? Is there potential power from God that we sometimes don’t receive? 

Where do you need to see the power of God in your life?  (We remember here that this is the power to know God in Christ and to see our lives change). 



Spiritual Blessing, in Christ: Ephesians 1.3-14

Some time ago I was asked to serve in the wedding of a dear friend. In the wedding, the bride’s father was asked to pray. While those in attendance stood, dressed uncomfortably and in the August heat of Texas, the bride’s father began in eternity past with the communal counsel of the Godhead, then moved to the election of Christ’s church before the foundation of the world, then entered created time through the redemptive work of Christ, then came to the birth of the bride, then her effectual calling by the Spirit, then the preaching of the Gospel, then her trust in Jesus and baptism in the Spirit, and finally, the groom.

That was quite the prayer for those standing there. We were one blessed, but exhausted, wedding party that day! …

The Apostle Paul does something like that in Ephesians 1.3-14. Only here, we get to reflect, in a more contemplative way, on the basis for our blessing in Christ. Why should we praise God for every spiritual blessing in Christ? In this great, Trinitarian eulogy of redemption, Paul gives us three reasons:

The elective choice of the Father (:3-6). Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. 

“Blessed” means “deserving praise, appreciation, honor.” This is not a wish, but a declaration! God IS blessed, and He turns around and shares this blessing with us, in Christ!

We get a very important little phrase here. “In Christ” is used (with its variants) 39 times in Ephesians. Ever played tag, kids? You know how there’s a base that operates like a special place? You stand in the “sphere” (the place) of base, and you can’t be tagged. That’s what’s its like, “in Christ”. God has moved you into the sphere of Christ, if you’ve trusted in Jesus. Your struggles take place in the material world, but the source of our power is in the heavenly places where Christ is.

The redemptive work of the Son (:7-12). This is the second reason Paul gives for our praise of God for every spiritual blessing in Christ.

In verses 7-12 I’ve circled three words in my Bible. REDEMPTION means “to set free on the basis of a ransom paid to God by Christ.” This is what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus’ cross-work results in forgiveness of sin, because the Father accepts Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of Himself. The sacrifice takes places through the blood of Christ. In other words, the life. In the Bible, blood always indicates life. Pour it out, and you have death. All this is in accordance with God’s riches which He shares with us.

MYSTERY means “something in ages past, hidden in God, but now revealed.” This is what the work of Christ makes clear. It reveals what God was about all long, how rumors and prophecies of a redeemer told over long ages are true, and how God’s plan was set in motion by Christ. This included the bringing together of things in heaven and earth under the Lordship of Jesus through a new creation.

INHERITANCE … This tells of how believers enter into God’s plan. Our inheritance is by the purpose of God, because He wants to do it … To the praise of His glory!

The sealing of the Spirit (:13-14). The Spirit enters the life of the believer to demonstrate ownership by God. The picture is of a seal that functions like a signature. His seal, His ownership. We are His.

Notice what has happened here. The Father’s choice took place before the world began. The Son’s work took place in time, but before our birth. The Spirit’s sealing took place at the time we trusted in Jesus, … when you heard the word of truth and believed … . The Spirit assures us that we are “in Christ,” until Jesus comes for us.

Ephesians 1.3-14—really three messages in one, it seems to me—doesn’t strike me as a particularly difficult passage. But, there are things here that I find particularly difficult.

In my student days my group of friends knew a family who owned a lake house, and we’d sometimes retire to the country for a restful afternoon. Dr. Deibler, long-time professor of church history at Dallas Seminary, lived in the community. Long since with the Lord now, he must have been in his eighties then. One afternoon, we were lounging in the front room with Dr. Deibler in his recliner who was holding court. This all delighted him, so I threw him a question I knew he would enjoy.

“Dr. Deibler,” I said. “How does it work: God’s sovereignty and man’s free will?” His answer stayed with me and satisfies my mind to this day.

After letting the question sink in for a minute, Dr. Deibler lifted himself (with some effort) from the recliner and moved slowly toward the bedroom door. Before entering, he lifted his hand to trace the words on the doorframe above: “Whosoever shall enter …” Then, he passed through the door, closing it behind him.

We were left, wondering if, like Elijah, he’d passed from this life. Finally, after this dramatic pause, Dr. Deibler appeared again, reentered the room, turned around to trace on the very same doorframe the words, ” … But, for the grace of God …”

The picture stands in my mind as the most satisfying explanation I’ve yet heard of my responsibility in God’s plan of redemption. When I trusted Christ it looked for all the world like I was making a free and independent choice to follow Christ. And so I was, according to my new nature. But, when I entered the room of the sphere of Christ and turned around to survey God’s plan of redemption, it became apparent that God knew me all along. He has been at work for my redemption since before the foundation of the world and through His coordinated work as Father, as Son and as Spirit.

The reason we should praise God for every spiritual blessing in Christ is the elective choice of the Father, the redemptive work of the Son, and the sealing of the Spirit … to the praise of His glory!


Here’s a few questions to help you process this amazing passage:

What about Eph 1.3-14 do you find most amazing, even mind-blowing? 

How does it make you feel to know that God was about your redemption even before you were born? 

Are there parts about God’s plan of redemption that you still struggle with? Why do you think this is so? 

How does this passage help you feel secure “in Christ”? 




Grace & Peace: Ephesians 1.1-2

This week I read, with some interest, a description of the Voyager Space Program. Voyager 2, the second of the two spacecraft, was launched in 1977 to study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and finished its work in our solar system in 1989 with a close flyby of Neptune. At this writing, Voyager 2 studies the outer heliosphere of our system and will soon (some think …) enter deep interstellar space.

My interest, however, as a word-loving liberal arts type, lies with the Golden Record that Voyager 2 carries. Complete with symbolic directions for operation, the record contains pictures of earth, recordings of nature sounds from our planet, a 90-minute recording of music from earth (including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny Be Good!”) and, my favorite, greetings from earth in 55 languages. These are supposed to be comprehensive, revealing who we are and what we’re all about as Earthlings.

“Hello, from the children of earth,” the English greetings goes. (Seems like we might have done better, but it was the work of a committee.)

My question as we come together in our churches on Sunday is simply this: If we were to leave the briefest of messages for another church in the future and far away, and that message were to describe who we are and what we’re all about, what would that message be?

The Apostle Paul knew something of this challenge in opening his Epistle to the Ephesians. In this (I would argue), the most comprehensive of all his letters, he greets the Ephesians (and us, by association as God’s people), with three words:

Grace … and peace

This comprehensive greeting captures the entire letter. “Grace” … God’s unmerited favor, to you. This is, if any word is, the Gospel in one word. And, Paul extends it to the Ephesians, and us, to describe God’s work in bringing us back to relationship with Himself through the active obedience of His Son, Jesus.

“Peace” … the Shalom, the well-being of God. Yours now, because of God’s grace.

These words taken together describe God’s part (the active cause) and our part (the reactive condition) of our new status in Christ and our new relationship with God and each other. In these words we have a microcosm of what Paul will lay out in the following six chapters: “Live together as God’s people (peace!) in the manner you’ve been called by God (grace!). … walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called … (4.1).

So, maybe our comprehensive greeting to our future selves in our Christ-following children and grandchildren is simply this: GRACE and PEACE. Maybe, that’s your greeting this week to any fellow, Christ-following, believing friend you meet.

So, say it! Find somebody, and greet them with GRACE and PEACE. Then, read the rest of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, beginning with Paul’s blessing in verses 3-14 that includes his magisterial description of our new position in Christ.



The following questions will be helpful as you get starting thinking about Ephesians:

Reflect a bit on Paul’s three-word greeting. How does GRACE and PEACE describe the Gospel? 

Read Eph 1.1-2. Paul also describes himself, as the sender of the letter, and the Ephesians, as its recipients. How does he describe both himself and the Ephesians, as those who are able to share grace and peace? 

Thinking ahead a bit, why do you speculate that you are able to share grace and peace with everyone else who is “in Christ”? 

Thinking personally and practically, are you really able to say “grace and peace” to every other professing believer in your life? If your not, how would further comprehension of God’s grace and peace change your relationship with that person or those people?