Paul thanks God for the Ephesian Christians and prays that they would know God through His wisdom, revelation, and enlightenment. He also prays that they would know His hope, rich inheritance, and great power.
While studying this section I have been reminded that no matter how much I learn, there is much more to learn. When applied to God, this idea means that the more you learn about God the more there is to know. Paul is praying that the Ephesians would grow in their knowledge of God.
Over the years I have had the blessing of discipling people in their walk with Christ. As they grew in their understanding of the gospel and were changed in the process of sanctification, certain things started to become obvious. One of those things is a love for the saints. They developed love and commitment to those with whom they worshiped.
This love for the saints provides important strength to the body of Christ, the Church. As believers grow in their commitment to each other the body becomes stronger. This love for one another was taught by Jesus when He said,"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). This love constitutes something for which pastors should be thankful for in the lives of their people. Paul understood that as the Ephesians were walking faithfully in love, people could tell they were followers of Christ.
Paul is praying that they may gain recognition of who God is through an uncovering of His Word and learning how to put the Word into practice in their lives as they moved toward maturity. He is recognizing the love they have for the saints as a sign of Christ's work in their hearts and he wants it to grow into a deeper relationship with God/Christ.
After giving thanks for them, Paul requests of God that He give the Ephesian Christians wisdom and insight or revelation so they may grow in their knowledge of Him. Paul rightfully begins his prayer with thankfulness to God for all He is doing in the saints in Ephesus. His thankfulness expresses a desire for seeing more development in these Ephesian believers. He is asking God to reveal Himself to them. He wants them to understand God in His fullness and to think of God, meditate on His word, so the Word changes them into the image of Christ.
Paul wants them to have a deeper grasp of three areas: hope of His calling, glory of His inheritance, and the greatness of His power. Paul has these specific areas in mind for the believers to grow in knowledge.
First, is the hope of His calling. We have a future with Christ. He has our lives planned for our benefit, now. We can know we are forgiven and that He wants to build us into what He created us to be. The process will seem slow, but He will walk with us as we are transformed into His image. Calvin wrote, "Till the Lord opens them, the eyes of our heart are blind. Till the Spirit has become our instructor, all that we know is folly and ignorance. Till the Spirit of God has made it known to us by a secret revelation, the knowledge of our Divine calling exceeds the capacity of our minds" (212)1. We have no idea what we are capable of accomplishing through Christ. He has called us for His purposes, and those purposes will be glorious. He will reveal truth through scripture that will continue to change our lives until we die.
In the first part of the chapter, Paul talks about hope in connection to God's work of predestination. The hope we have in Christ is based on God's work on our behalf. Through God's choice we have an inheritance now and in the future based on Christ's finished work on the cross. Our hope is tied to our redemption in Christ. Paul does not pray that they would have hope, but that they would understand the hope they have in Christ. He is reminding them of what is needed to grow in the Lord. He prays that they would have a deeper understanding of what they enjoy in salvation.
He then prays that they would know the glory of the inheritance they have. Paul mentions the inheritance three times in this chapter; they have been given an inheritance, they have been given a pledge of our inheritance, and here he wants them to know the riches of the inheritance. So again it is a deeper understanding of what they have in their salvation. This is what is to come as they follow Christ until they are united with Him in eternity.
The final thing Paul prays for is for the Ephesians to grasp the greatness of God's power. This is something that he will move into describing in the final four verses in the chapter. The power Paul wants them to understand is the power that raised Christ from the dead. It is the same power of God that is active in their lives every day. It is this power that seals us, redeems us, grows us, and ultimately takes away the curse of sin.
How do these things work in our lives? We need to come to the Scripture looking for knowledge of God and seek His Spirit's work in us. He wants to change us into the image of Christ.
We also need to take seriously the hope we have in Christ. It is secured by the power of God on our behalf. We are in Him and He is in us. We are united to Him in unbreakable ways. This union is that on which our salvation is built.
1 Commentaries on The Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, John Calvin, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005, pg 212.