Week Commencing 1stApril 2018 With a PDF found here
Notes for next Sunday’s sermons on Ephesians 1:15-23
Week 1: KNOWING GOD
Ephesians reveals Paul’s pastoral heart for the church. Through his passionate prayer that believers be grounded in Christ’s work on the cross, Paul reminds them that such a sacrifice calls for a radical response in their life together. Two major themes form the lens through which we can read the entire letter: 1. Christ has reconciled all creation to himself and to God, and 2. Christ has united people from all nations to himself and to one another in his church. Because of these two magnificent truths, we see how deeply God cares about how we relate to one another and to our world. In other words, Ephesians teaches us to lead lives of gratitude to our Lord for bringing us to himself and to each other for his purposes. We are invited to know God, not just about God, and we do that most often through his body, the church.
It is for this reason—to exhort the community of faith to grow experientially in their knowledge of God, together—that Paul writes this epistle. This is the big idea of this passage before us.
DAY 1: Read Ephesians 1:1-14
In January, we looked at these first verses in our series, “Every Spiritual Blessing”. The reading notes then helped us see Paul’s heart for the Ephesians, who likely wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome. Paul was not necessarily concerned that the church at Ephesus might be drifting; instead, he wanted to remind them that in, and because of, the glorious grace of Christ Jesus, we have been adopted into his family and given every spiritual blessing. We, too, must be reminded of such redemption if we are to live out the Good News of God’s love.
Remember that Ephesus was a port city at the time and its history included much diversity and fascination with magic and the occult (see Acts 19:19). This might be why Paul emphasized the power of God over all heavenly authorities and Christ’s place as head over the church and all things in this age and the next. Paul—who once persecuted Christians!—now enjoyed an entirely new identity as an apostle of our Lord, forgiven and sealed with the Holy Spirit. No wonder he wanted to remind Christians that the great God of the Universe, the Maker of our hearts, the Creator of all the Earth, “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
But what does that mean for us today? In our current age, many seek spirituality or blessings apart from the Gospel. But true spirituality and blessing are found only in Christ’s magnificent and personal work of reconciliation on the cross; it is his sacrifice alone that still brings flawed “spiritual” people into a life-giving relationship with their Maker, the Holy One. He chose us even before He made the world, and proved His love in Jesus so that we might be confident that we are His! We belong to Him. Our lives and meaning, then, are not found in an abstract view of the “universe” but in the person, life, death and resurrection of the historic Jesus of Nazareth. We know God by knowing Jesus.
DAY 2: Read Ephesians 1:15-17
In his classic book, Knowing God, J.I. Packer said, “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to KNOW GOD, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.” Paul was aware of how quickly believers can lose their focus, and so he let the Ephesians know that he was praying for them, that they would continue to reflect Christ’s character as his followers; that is, that they would continue to grow in their experiential, thorough, deep and full knowledge of God. Paul then reminded the church at Ephesus that this continued growth must take place together, that we are to glorify and enjoy God as reconciled members of his body.
Packer goes on to say that, “In Christian living, duty and delight go together . . . To give oneself to hallowing God’s name as one’s life-task means that living, though never a joy ride, will become increasingly a joy road. ‘Man’s chief end,’ says the Shorter Catechism, magnificently, ‘is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.’ End, not ends; for the two activities are one. God’s chief end, purposed in all that he does, is his glory (and what higher end could he have?), and he has so made us that we find our own deepest fulfillment and highest joy in hallowing his name by praise, submission, and service.”
Such delight, service and praise are exactly the response Paul calls us to together in verse 15-17. He gives thanks for the church body, the community of believers, remembering them in his prayers, because of their love for all the saints! What’s at the heart of his prayer? That the “glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Paul did not want his friends just to know about God and Jesus; he wanted them to know HIM personally, for from such intimate knowledge would come transformed lives that would transform the world. Pause to pray that God might give our church family wisdom and revelation so that we might know Jesus better together.
DAY 3: Read Ephesians 1:18-23
This first chapter of Ephesians is essentially divided into two parts: in the first part Paul blesses God for blessing us in Christ. And in the second, he prays that God will open our eyes to see the fullness of this blessing, as whole human beings, made in his image and fully devoted to him with all of our lives. We are not to seek after blessings or to pursue the idols of this culture, but we are to seek the Giver of all good gifts, the Father of glory.
Paul’s prayer, writes John Stott, is essentially that the “Ephesians may know both in understanding and in experience the hope of God’s call, the glory of his inheritance, and meanwhile the greatness of his power. It is on God’s power that Paul concentrates. He prays that the Ephesians may know the immeasurable greatness of his power. How? Because he has given a public demonstration of it in the resurrection, enthronement and coronation of Christ.” That power amazingly is available now for those who believe. Of course, it is not a power to lord over others, but a power and energy that allows us to serve, to give of our gifts out of the same compassion and comfort we ourselves have received through Jesus. Though so many in our society think position or status or power will give us what we think we want, Paul says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is what we need. And that power leads us and equips us daily to know God; from such knowledge we discern God’s call on our lives so that we can join the saints who have gone before us in proclaiming and living Christ’s hope to others. As God calls you to himself, ask him to show you what specific areas he has called you to serve our community and others.
DAY 4: Read Ephesians 1:15-23
God’s primary purpose for the church is that we will know him and make him known together. In other words, our experiential knowledge of God is in community. And as a community of faith grows together in our knowledge of God, we can also experience what the Lord revealed to Daniel: “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32). Or as the ESV translates, “shall stand firm and take action.” When a community of faith committed to Christ and one another grows together in the knowledge of God, we will persevere as hopeful heirs towards holiness. And, yes, we will happy together!
Paul prays, then, that believers will comprehend the blessings that are theirs in Christ, that is, our future hope, God’s inheritance in the saints and our collective power in Christ. The immeasurable greatness of his power and might in us equips us to honour one another above ourselves and to look for new ways to care for others. But that means each of us first must set aside time daily to get to know God personally through His word, prayer and daily acts of worship and service. We must endeavour to pray for one another that the eyes of our hearts might be enlightened so that we might be a blessing for others in Noosa and beyond. We cannot do this only as we come together on Sundays; each day of the week we are a part of Christ’s new body, empowered with the Resurrection power and equipped to be his hands and feet and voice to a world that needs his grace.
But as we do, we can be anchored in his hope, a hope for the present age and the one to come. That reality sustains us like it did Paul. What a marvellous thing to know that, “God placed all things under his (Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (v22,23).
Christ has so identified himself with his church that we are his body, making us representatives of Christ throughout all creation. How can we care for one another and those in Noosa in the same way Christ cares for us as his body? How can we know Christ better together so that we can make him known to those around us? Take a few minutes to pray for our church and for the church world wide that we might better know Christ and please him as his representatives to others.
Knowing God, J.I. Packer,
ESV Study Bible notes,
Through The Bible Through The Year, John Stott