Key text:“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19a).
Lesson objective: To understand that all believers are called upon to increase their knowledge of God as he reveals himself, to understand the depth of God’s promise of glory, and to personally know the power of the risen Christ.
Introduction: As the Epistle to the Ephesians continues to unfold, the apostle Paul pauses to give thanks to God and to intercede in prayer on behalf of the addressees (1:15-23). In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, a line must be drawn and allegiances chosen. Paul knows all too well that believers can sometimes be lulled to sleep, let their guard down and take their faith in God for granted, which can lead to dire consequences. It is easy to fall into the trap of giving only lip service to God while our heart drifts away. The one sure antidote for this malady is to come to know God in Christ more fully in a personal and loving way (vv. 15-17).
Another related matter that also must be combated is the subtle philosophy of naturalism. This philosophy undergirds much of today’s scientific community and is often disguised as science in our public school system. Naturalism basically says, “What you see, is all there is.” All that really exists “out there” is matter in one form or another. The cosmos was an accident caused by chance, and life on earth is its blind product. When our sun burns out, as all stars eventually do, all that will remain is a burned-out sphere and a frozen lifeless earth. God is an invention (or fantasy) produced by the chemical processes of the human brain. There is no God, there is no afterlife, and there is no future! The logical conclusion of naturalism is the worldview of nihilism, which means “nothing.” Nothing matters.
For Paul and all believers in Christ, those vain philosophies could not be any further from the truth. There is a God who has revealed himself and has made himself known partially through the created world (Psalm 19:1) and ultimately in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). Also, there is a glorious future and inheritance awaiting all believers at the Second Coming. But believers do not have to wait until tomorrow to taste the future power of God’s kingdom! In the person and saving work of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God has already arrived (Luke 17:20-21). And, in his death, resurrection and “session” (seated at the right hand of the Father), he conquered death itself and all other powers (Ephesians 1:19-23).
To know the power of Christ is to know God! Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer is urgently needed in his church today. The knowledge of what God has done and is doing for us in Christ is vital for a correct Christian worldview. And there is no better way to get this knowledge than the Holy Spirit through Paul’s inspired Epistle to the Ephesians.
Questions for Bible Study
Read the following verses and respond to the questions:
1. Ephesians 1:15-17
a. What two reasons does Paul give for thanking God? v. 15. Explain why each of these reasons is important for the church.
b. How often does the apostle thank God for them? v. 16a. When does Paul remember them? v. 16b. What does this say of Paul’s prayer life? How can one better cultivate their own prayer life?
c. What does Paul keep asking? v. 17. What does the Holy Spirit give to believers? Is this similar to the concept of illumination? Explain.
d. Why does he ask this? v. 17d. Why do we need further understanding from the Holy Spirit? See 1 Corinthians 2:14-16.
e. What is the Trinity? Explain the Trinitarian presence in verse 17.
2. Ephesians 1:18
a. What else does the apostle Paul pray for? v. 18a. What is it that Paul wants the church to know?
b. What riches is Paul talking about? v. 18b.
c. Although our inheritance is a present experience in Christ, it is also a future glory. Read Romans 8:17-25 and describe our hope for a better tomorrow.
3. Ephesians 1:19-23
a. What is Paul’s third petition for believers to come to know? v. 19a. What is this power like? v. 19b.
b. What historical event is referred to in verse 20? See Acts 2:24-36.
c. Read Romans 8:9-11. What are the implications of this great power for believers?
d. Read Hebrews 1:1-3. Try to describe the awesome power of the One seated at the right hand.
e. What are the powers listed that are subject to Christ’s rule? v. 21. When is this to happen: now, or sometime in the future? Explain.
f. Philippians 2:5-11. To what height is Jesus’ exaltation? Why? Is it because of who he is, or of what he has done? Or both?
g. What two things has God conferred to Jesus as Messiah? v. 22. Who is the head of the church, and why? Can there be another head of the church, a representative or vicar of Christ on earth: bishop, anointed healer, TV-evangelist, pope, etc.?
h. What metaphor does Paul use to describe the church? v. 23. How appropriate is the metaphor in relation to the metaphor of Christ as the head of the church?
i. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. What further implications of the “body” metaphor are delineated in this classic passage?
Respond to the following questions:
1. How well do you know God: cognitive knowledge (the fact that God exists) and/or intimate knowledge in Christ (the experience of personal faith)? Explain.
2. What is your view of science and faith? Are they contrary to one another, or do they complement each other? Is there a difference between true science and scientific theories? Explain.
3. Do you believe that scientific knowledge is the measure of all truth within the sphere of reality, while faith or religious knowledge is subjective and exists only in the realm of the mind but not in reality?
4. How would you defend the faith against those who say your beliefs are only a product of your own mind and nothing else? Do you believe blindly, or are there objective reasons for what you believe to be true?
5. How does God’s revelation of himself in Scripture stand up as a pillar of objective truth for what we believe? How about the subjective illumination of the Holy Spirit to our mind? What about both?
Today there are all types of knowledge vying for dominance as the measure of all truth, for example: religious, scientific, philosophical, historical, medical, legal and so on. However, for the better part of the history of Christianity theology was thought of as the “Queen of the sciences.” And the reason for it should be obvious to all believers. Theology as "faith seeking understanding" is the pursuit of the knowledge of God in Christ! There is no more important truth than this.