Study Notes:

Ephesians 1:15-23

Please open your Bible with me to Ephesians 1 where we read Paul’s prayer for the church. We’ve already noticed the theme of his prayer: that God would make Himself even more known to the Christians in Ephesus, this morning we’re going to wrap up our examination of exactly how Paul prayed that might happen.

Eph 1:15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;

So that’s his general request, and now he asks that this might happen in three specific ways, number one:

that you may know what is the hope of His calling,

We looked at that last week, so now Number Two:

what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Paul wants God to help Christians understand what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

So, what does that mean? Well, you can take it one of two ways. Either Paul is praying that we would know what we receive as an inheritance in God, or that we would know what God receives as an inheritance in us. So, the question is: who is getting what here? And the answer is: it depends on who you ask, because commentators and theologians are split on the answer.

But it’s not too big of a deal because ultimately both are true. We are His and He is ours. So let’s think for a moment about each of those approaches and what they might mean to us.

First of all, as Christians, God is our inheritance. This is a pretty easy case to make, right? Through Christ we enter a different relationship with God, we know Him, we are able to call Him Abba, Father. And we most certainly receive an inheritance from Him. Jesus told us that in His Father’s house there are many rooms and He was going away to prepare a place for us.

He even told how the inheritance is going to be distributed. Shortly before His death, Jesus told the disciples he would come again:

Matt 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world

This side of things is pretty easy to understand. And we need to understand it, we know that is what lies ahead of those who are in Christ. As you face the door of death, and wonder what lies beyond, Jesus says, if you are mine, I’ll you: it’s a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Christians have nothing to fear in death – you might be afraid of the way you go, but there is no fear in where we go. Cling to that hope, for yourself, for those you love, it is the clear, crystal clear, instruction of Scripture. This is the Christian inheritance.

But it’s also possible to interpret this passage from the side that says we are His inheritance.

God has always had specially chosen people through whom He was going to reach others. At first it was the family of Abraham, specifically through his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob whose name was changed to Israel, and who had children of his own which grew into an entire nation. Time and again through the Old Testament the nation of Israel is referred to as God’s inheritance.[1] But this claim was always made with the intent to expand, so that now people from every tribe, nation, culture, and ethnic group on earth, any one who comes to God through Christ, also belongs to God as His special inheritance.

And that kind of rolls right past you until you stop and consider what else it means. You see, God could have any thing He wants in the universe, and yet He chooses to want people. Not rainforests, not majestic mountains, not birds in flight, or sunsets in the tropics, or raging waterfalls. God made all of them, but what He wants most of all, is us.

J. Sidlow Baxter, a famous pastor from the last century, once marveled over God’s choice. In the middle of 1950s and 60s, time when the United States and the Soviet Union were in a “space race,” seeing who could get to space and the moon first, and people were thinking about rockets and stars and moons regularly, Baxter wondered about God’s choice to value human souls over something like the spectacular beauty of stars. He wrote:

“What are greatest values in God’s universe? Are they stars or souls? The biggest of the stars is blind. It can be seen but cannot see. It can be weighed and analyzed, but it cannot know or feel. It may be admired, but it cannot love. What are the most immense stellar systems compared with a soul which has the capacity for God, for holiness and fellowship and worship and service and adoration and love? And are there any intelligent beings throughout the universe who can mean more to God by way of gratitude, adoration, love and fellowship, than those whom He has redeemed by the precious blood of His own Son, whom He has sanctified and glorified and lifted up into the highest of all intimacies with Himself?”[2]

In other words, Baxter says, a star may be beautiful to look at, but it can’t respond to you. It can’t interact with you. And that is what God desires, not just to receive from us, but to give to us, He wants us to know Him, and nothing else in this universe is capable of that, because nothing else has a soul.

Now, in order to reach space, some problems have to be solved, the problem of gravity for one. It’s kind of basic, but then there are hundreds or thousands of other additional problems involved with getting there and getting back.

In order to reach God, there are other problems that have to be solved, but Paul prays that we would know the strength and power that God has and that He is able to overcome them.

So, the next thing he prays is that we would know

Eph 1:19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,

We said that God has always had a special people, an inheritance. And we said that the first people to receive that recognition were the people of Israel. And we discover that we can go back and look at their history and observe what it looks like for God to demonstrate the exceeding greatness of His power toward His people.

Specifically, we think of His deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. God’s inheritance was being oppressed, so He flexed and we read of that whole clash between Moses as God’s ambassador and Pharaoh in the court of Egypt.

There were ten plagues, each of which showed the power of the God of the Israelites over the gods worshipped by the Egyptians, including the final plague which showed God’s power over the pharaoh himself. And after all of that, you continue to read about the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea so the Israelites can escape, and all the miracles they experience as they travel through the desert.

All throughout the OT this event, when God showed His power by delivering the Jews from Egypt and bringing them to the land they would inherit from Him, is seen as a pivotal moment in history. And it was. Clearly. Headlines are still being made today over Israel’s claims to it’s right to be in the land, the land they maintain, and the Bible maintains, was given to them by God in part, as a demonstration of His power.

But all of that was also a precursor to something which was to come, and that is, the day when God would show His even greater power by delivering people from captivity in sin to an eternal inheritance in Heaven.

That day, when we, as God’s inheritance, receive our inheritance, is made possible because demonstrated His power again, not to save us from physical enslavement to people, but to save us from spiritual enslavement to sin. And so, Jesus went to the cross, as a sacrifice for us, an atonement for our sins. And that’s when God showed His eternal power, the power Paul wants us to know as Christians. He says he is praying that we would know:

Eph 1:19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,

according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

The Israelites were amazed by the power of God to work the miracles in Egypt, and so were their enemies, if you were here when we read through Joshua you remember – when sent out the spies and they showed up in Jericho, they met Rahab and what did she say? “We’ve heard about you and what your God has done and we’re scared.” Word got out about the power of God and it affected people.

Well, now even greater power is on display. God wants us to know “the exceeding greatness of His power” “mighty power” that not only raised Christ from the dead but elevated Him to a position of privilege and power at God’s right hand, far about any other source of power or authority in all of eternity. Everything has been placed under His feet in triumphant victory.

And it was all done in spite of the full weight and concentration of Satanic opposition and resistance. Everything Satan had was fixed on trying to disrupt the work of Christ on this earth, he was personally involved in the attacks, had marshaled all of his forces, this was the war of the ages, but God could not be stopped, He accomplished the outcome He desired.

Paul is praying that we would understand that nothing can stop our God, and that this undefeatable God is our God, Christ is our head and we are His body, and every thing that could ever consider opposing Him is under His feet, subjugated, trampled over in victory.

So what does that mean for us today? It means whatever you’re facing is under Christ’s feet. You may feel like you’re in over your head, but it’s still all under Christ’s feet. EVERYthing is. That’s where God has put it.

OK, but I don’t feel that way. So what’s going on?

Part of the answer is, you have to understand that Christians live in a future tense. We haven’t received the full inheritance yet, we know it’s coming – “a kingdom prepared for us since the foundation of the world” – we know we’re the heirs, but it’s not here yet.

You remember the other thing Paul prayed is that we would know the hope of God’s calling.

Hope, by it’s very nature is future facing. But here’s the problem, Jesus told His disciples, His inheritance, “in this world you will have trouble, you will suffer, but be encouraged: I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)”

This means our present circumstances might be difficult. We take a few knocks and dings along way. Jesus said not to be surprised if people hate you; they hated Him. And don’t be surprised if the circumstances of your life on earth suck the joy right out of you. We have both of the truths at the same time, a promise of power and a promise of difficulty and sometimes the difficulty seems so strong or so immense that we can’t feel the power.

But God is with you as walk through it all. The book of Hebrews tells us time and time again that Jesus knows what we’re going through, what we’re experiencing. He knows our frustrations, our sorrows, our pain and He identifies with us and walks with us through it, He prays for us, and He waits for us to join Him in Heaven one day. And yes, that’s ‘one day,’ and this is now, but again, He is in you. Christian, He is with you, and whatever you’re facing, is under His feet. God the Father has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body

So, whatever God has laid before you, what ever He is calling you to, He promises to give you the power and the presence in your life to get you through. Some of you have spiritual battles that you need to fight, there are addictions or habits you need to kill, or you have desires in your flesh, lusts or anger that rises up like a raging fire and it needs to be quenched, it needs to be quenched by living water.

Or some of you are facing incredible needs or weights – someone you love has overwhelming needs for prayer or care or both, you’re watching their life fall apart or slip away, and you don’t know how you can possibly keep up the pace of reaching out and caring for them because it takes too much.

Or some of you are being called into ministry, oh maybe not to stand behind a pulpit and pastor a church, but something, something God is calling you to and you keep putting it off and saying it’s too big, or it’s too much, and maybe you want God to send you a sign, well this is it: here’s your sign. Do it.

Because whether it’s something you need to be saved from, or helped through, or enabled to do, God is your help. And He wants you to know His exceedingly great power – the power that was able to overcome every sin and every Satanic power that is or was or ever will be. All things have been put under the feet of Christ, He is your head, your are His body, and He wants to fill you with a hope for the future because your are His inheritance and He is yours.

Do you believe that? Then will you act on that?

We’re about to celebrate communion, to remember the truth of the things we’ve just read and heard. To remember that Jesus Christ really did come to earth, live a perfect life, and die a physical death on a piece of real wood on a real hill outside the real city of Jerusalem in order to deliver you from your real sins and give you a real promise of a future and hope with Him.

And as the ushers pass out the elements, I want you to take these few moments and bring your heart before God, ask Him to speak to you, ask Him how He wants to drive these truths home to you. Ask Him how He wants to show you the difference all of this is going to make in whatever it is you’re facing or whatever it is you’ve been avoiding.

And then maybe you need to make a note in your Bible that this is what happened today. Make a note on your phone if you have to. But if God has met you in this place today, if He has given you an awareness or promise or insight, if you’ve received your sign, even if you don’t like what that means, write it down. Hold onto it. God is telling you today, He knows what’s going on, He knows what lies ahead, He knows what’s already happened, and in spite of it all, there is an

exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

This is the God you already serve Christian, Paul is just praying that we would know Him even more!

Let’s pray.

[1] Israel declared to be God’s inheritance: Deu 4:20; 1 Kings 8:53; Ps 33:12;

[2] J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, volume 6, 169.

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