Ephesians:1:15-23,  “Paul’s Prayer For The Ephesians


Jim Bomkamp

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1.     INTRO:


1.1.                     In our last study, we looked at verses 7-14 of chapter 1. 


1.1.1.  We saw that Paul discussed the redemption provided for mankind by the blood of Christ shed upon Calvary’s cross.


1.1.2.  We then looked in depth at the predestination of believers by the Lord.


1.1.3.  Paul also talked about the sealing of the Holy Spirit that believers have in Christ which is a guarantee of their eternal salvation.


1.2.                     In our study today, we are going to look at verses 15-23 of chapter 1 and Paul’s incredible prayer for the Ephesian believers.


1.2.1.  The prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians is a representative prayer that corresponds to the greatest spiritual needs of God’s people of all eras in time.  Thus, we need to study this prayer carefully to see how it applies our life.


1.2.2.  The prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians is mostly a prayer that they should come to know the Lord more intimately.


2.     VS 1:15-16  - 15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; -  Paul tells the Ephesians that he has continually given thanks for them since he heard about their faith in the Lord Jesus


2.1.                     In our previous two studies we covered the overview, introduction and salutations for this letter, and then from verse 3 of chapter 1 through verse 14 we saw Paul speak at great length about what things believers have as part of the inheritance they possess because they are “in Christ.”  In the Greek, verses 3 through verse 14 was really one very long sentence, the longest sentence in the New Testament.  Again, it covers all that we have as our inheritance “in Christ.” During that study, we looked at some of the following things which believers in Christ inherit:


2.1.1.  We were chosen and predestined from all eternity to come to faith in Christ.


2.1.2.  We have been adopted into God’s family, yet as adopted sons and daughters we are not unwanted step children but rather are beloved and blessed greatly.


2.1.3.  We have inherited “every spiritual blessing” because we are in Christ (verse 3).  We saw that this speaks of “the sufficiency of Christ” in our lives to meet every one of our needs, which is what the New Testament teaches us in many verses.


2.1.4.  We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, bought with the price of His precious blood, and thereby loosed from all of our sins and rescued from sin, Satan, and this world that is in rebellion against the Lord.


2.1.5.  We have received God’s grace (“undeserved merit”) through Jesus Christ, and this grace is manifold (multi-faceted) and has not been given to us in a miserly way but rather has been “lavished” upon us through Christ.  We saw that God’s grace is “infinite” and will provide for us exceedingly above all that we need in this life to live for Christ and have victory over all of our enemies:  sin, hell, death, the grave, and the Devil.


2.1.6.  God has made known to us the “mystery of His will” in many areas of doctrine and life, which speaks of the revelation made known to us through the scriptures.  The non-Christian cannot understand these mysteries, only the believer because of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit can understand them.


2.1.7.  We looked at the inheritance that we have in Christ and saw that the scripture tells us clearly something that is incredible, namely, that we are equal heirs with Jesus Christ of all that He possesses.  We observed that the Lord has placed Jesus Christ far above all rule and authority for eternity and that it is God’s purpose that “all things will be summed up in Christ, things in the heavens and upon the earth.”


2.1.8.  We have the Holy Spirit given to us as both an official seal as well as a personal guarantee of our salvation.  The Holy Spirit is a present witness to us of our salvation.


2.2.                     Now, beginning in these verses Paul begins to pray for the Ephesians, and what he prays for them is primarily that their eyes and heart will be opened up to truly understand these great truths which he has already expounded upon, for their own life. 


2.2.1.  I guess this prayer for the Ephesians should lead us to the conclusion that it is one thing to hear or read great spiritual truths and quite another to see with spiritual eyes of faith how they apply to you and how you need to set your hope upon these truths.


2.3.                     Here in these verses, Paul first of all praises the Ephesians for the good things that he has heard about them.  Paul had pastored this church this church in Ephesus for two years during his third missionary journey and yet here he mentions only the things he has “heard” about their faith.  This is perhaps another inference that this letter was really meant to be a circular to all of the churches located in the Asia Minor region, as we have already discussed.


2.4.                     Notice here that the two things that Paul praises the Ephesians for are the very things that show the genuineness of their Christian faith and experience, things that are true of every genuine Christian:


2.4.1.  The faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you.’      The ‘faith’ that Paul mentions here is not mere sentiment, nor is it wishful thinking, nor is it merely faith in God (the demons believe in God and tremble (Ja. 2:19) and it does not do a lot of good to only have a general faith in God).      The Ephesian’s faith had an “object,” and that “object” is “The Lord Jesus.”           We saw in a previous study that the order of the titles for Jesus Christ are important.  This title “Lord Jesus” implies an understanding and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ which the Ephesians had for their salvation, which is indicated by:               Jesus is divine (that is what the word ‘Lord’ implies since it was the word that was used for the very Name of God in the Old Testament scriptures).  The word means “master” and implies absolute submission and obedience given to Jesus.               Jesus,’ the name given by the angel Gabriel to Mary for naming her baby, means “Yaweh saves.”               The Ephesians had a belief in Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord, or master.   


2.4.2.  Your love for all the saints.’      The epistle of 1 John was written primarily to describe the “marks of a true Christian,” and it contains many tests.  One of those “marks” mentioned in the letter often by John is that the true Christian “loves” as God loves, and specifically that he “loves his brothers in Christ” :           1 John 3:14, “14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.”           1 John 4:8, “8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”           1 John 4:20, “20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”.      When a person comes to have a true saving faith in Christ, he will have also have a genuine love for those who also know his heavenly Father in the same fashion.  Just as a love of family in our earthly life normally (in a healthy family) is instilled in family members, so also this type of love of family occurs in our spiritual life of faith in Christ in which all true believers in Christ are “brothers” or “sisters” in the Lord.


2.5.                     Paul is obsessed with praying for these fellow Christians living in Ephesus as he is himself constrained by the love of Christ and cannot ‘cease giving thanks’ for them.


3.     VS 1:17  - 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. -  Paul prays for the Ephesians that the ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ’ would give to them ‘a spirit of wisdom and revelation’ in the ‘knowledge of Him’


3.1.                     It is the case with us as Christians that for us to spiritually progress that we need to grow in our understanding and knowledge of the Lord.  This is our greatest need really, as this quote from James Montgomery Boice illustrates, “Some years ago I was in a question-and-answer session following a meeting of the post-college group at Tenth Presbyterian Church, and I was asked, “Dr. Boice, what do you think is the greatest lack among evangelical Christians in America today?”  It was the firs time I had been asked that question, but it was asked at a timely moment.  I had been doing work on the attributes of God and had this in mind.  So although at an earlier period in my ministry I might have said, “To be faithful to the teachings of Scripture, to show love for one another,” or some such thing, in this case I replied, “I think that the greatest need of the evangelical church today is for professing Christians really to know God.”


3.2.                     This prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesian church is primarily a prayer that they might come to have a greater knowledge and understanding of the Lord, as well as the things that He has and is doing through our lives “in Christ.”


3.3.                     The knowledge that the Lord desires for us as His children to have though is not mere intellectual knowledge, although intellectual knowledge is certainly involved.  This knowledge that Paul refers to is “heart knowledge” as opposed to mere head knowledge, and it involves a greater intimacy and intimate knowledge of the Lord.


3.4.                     Those who testify in a court case regarding the character of an individual that they know well testify of a knowledge of the person that only one who is especially close to the person could have, one who truly knows him/her well.  Merely testifying of knowledge about someone’s character from a superficial or second-hand source would not hold much sway with a jury.


3.5.                     Paul prays for the Ephesians here that they have a ‘spirit of wisdom,and this phrase has spawned a couple of different discussions amongst commentators:


3.5.1.  Does the ‘spirit’ here refer to the Holy Spirit?      The Holy Spirit is the agent who brings all spiritual understanding and wisdom to Christians and therefore this could be a direct reference to Him, the third person of the Trinity.  The word ‘spirit’ then in this sense should be capitalized.      There is some precedence in the scriptures though for using the word ‘spirit’ in a metaphorical sense referring to attitude or disposition, as when Jesus said in His Sermon On The Mount, “Blessed or the poor in spirit,” Matt. 5:3.  However, the Holy Spirit still could be referenced here in this phrase.


3.5.2.  Exactly what does Paul mean when he refers to ‘wisdom’ ?      This word does not refer so much to the proper and appropriate application of knowledge to one’s life, as ‘wisdom’ from God is usually thought to be.  Rather, it appears to be a word that refers to the general body of knowledge of the Lord that a Christian can have because of God’s revelation of Himself to us in His word. The word seems to refer here more to “knowledge” than ‘wisdom.’


3.6.                     It is not only wisdom that Paul prays here for the Ephesian church but also ‘revelation’ from God that occurs when coming to have understanding of spiritual things.  The Greek word “apocalupsis” is translated ‘revelation’ here and it is the same word used in the New Testament for the Book of Revelation, and it means “an unveiling.”  Paul prays for the Ephesians that they might have “an unveiling of the truth” given them from the Lord.  The book of Revelation is also meant to be “an unveiling” of the truth not an obscure non-intelligible work.


4.     VS 1:18-19  - 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.  These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might -  Paul prays for the enlightening of the eyes of the hearts of the Ephesians


4.1.                     This verses reveal many things about spiritual knowledge of the Lord, including:


4.1.1.  That we understand that the organ of understanding spiritual truth is not primarily the mind, but rather the ‘heart,’  and thus Paul prays for the Ephesians that the ‘eyes of your heart’ might be enlightened.      Jon MacArthur writes the following about what a person’s ‘heart’ referred to in Paul’s day, “…most ancients—Hebrews, Greeks, and many others—considered the heart (Greek kardia) to be the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom.  The New Testament also uses it in that way.  The heart was considered to be the seat of the mind and will, and it could be taught what the brain could never know.  Emotions and feelings were associated wit the intestines, or bowels.” 


4.1.2.  Spiritual understanding does not come about because of anyone’s intellect, cleverness, or natural inclination towards spiritual things (Often today we hear people in our secular world speaking of someone as being spiritual or having a sense of things spiritual, and yet we know that the person being referred to is not a Christian but rather approaches things spiritual from more of a metaphysical aspect.)  Rather, spiritual understanding comes to people only when the Holy Spirit reveals it, just as Paul taught the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 2:10-16 that a natural person (or non-Christian) cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God, “10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.


4.1.3.  Since spiritual understanding does not come about because of natural intellect or any other natural property of a person, but rather from revelation of the Lord, the most educated of men in our modern world is not going to be any more inclined to come to have spiritual understanding than the completely uneducated bush native in Africa.  Both are blind to the truth until the Lord brings the revelation to them.


4.2.                     Paul prays for the Ephesians that they might know the great and sublime truths that He had been telling them in verses 3-14 of this chapter concerning their inheritance in Christ, as he prays that they might know the ‘riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.


4.3.                     We must understand here concerning this prayer for the Ephesians that everything particular that Paul prays for them is actually something that is a present possession of their’s because they are “in Christ.”  Paul’s prayer for them is not that the Lord will give them something new that they do not presently possess but rather that they would come to know what is already their present possession “in Christ.”


4.3.1.  We Christians sometimes error when we pray that the Lord will give to us some of the things that we already possess in Christ.  I believe we should pray for all of the things that the Lord has promised to give us “in Christ” however our prayer should be that of asking for ourselves to trust in the things that He has already provided for us in Christ, or that of appropriating the things that He has already promised to give to us.      This reminds me of something that my wife’s aunt Elaine had told me one day after her retirement from living a lifetime in Africa as a missionary.  She told me that we don’t need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have been given all that we ever will need.  Instead, it is the case that He needs more of us in order for us to simply receive of His fullness, that which we have as our inheritance in Christ.


4.4.                     Paul prays for the Ephesians here that they might know what is the ‘hope’ of His calling of us.  Hope’ for us as Christians is not wishful thinking but rather “confident expectation.”  Paul is asking that the Lord would give the Ephesians “confident expectation” or “assurance” that they are saved through their faith in Christ and His completed work on Calvary and thus that they will spend eternity with the Lord.  He is asking that they might have “confident expectation” that if they choose to believe upon Christ for salvation that they will believe that they are one of those who have been chosen and predestined by the Lord from all eternity to be His child.  Paul is praying that the Ephesians will come to have “confident expectation” that the Lord will fulfill every promise that He has made to believers in His word, that they will trust in the faithfulness of the Lord to come through for them in every single situation in their life.  Etc., etc., etc.


4.5.                     The hope of their ‘calling’ is the confident expectation that they have personally been “called by the Lord” into their faith in Christ, position in the body of Christ, spiritual giftings they have received, offices in the church that they might fill, ministries in the church that they might occupy, etc.


4.6.                     Next, Paul prays for the Ephesians that they might come to have an understanding of the ‘surpassing greatness of His power’ on their behalf to do all of the things that He had promised to them that He would do.   How important it is for Christians to gain an appreciation of the greatness of God’s power and to know that nothing is too difficult for the Lord to accomplish.


4.6.1.  Right now in our church we have taken a step of faith in making an offer to purchase a piece of property as a place for our church to eventually hold our meetings.  There is a good size farm house on this property as well as a good size poll building, and the buildings sit on five acres.  There are many things that we are going to have to trust the Lord to accomplish in order for our church to begin to be blessed by having made this purchase.  Numerous tasks involving this purchase are a bit out of our ability to perform and many things are beyond our capability to predict as they involve things to occur that are yet future to us.  We have passed the first hurdle, the original offer to purchase the property was dropped and our offer to purchase has been accepted by the seller.  We will need to get financing with God’s help.  We will need to get the property rezoned with God’s help.  We will need to get the basement of the house remodeled quickly so that soon we will be able to meet as a church there.  We will need to trust God to provide the money for materials and wisdom to complete a sanctuary in time, whether we build out the poll building or build an addition to the back of the house.  We will need to trust God for laborers to help us with all of the construction work.  We will need to trust God for offerings to pay all of our expenses as we move our fellowship to this new site.  Does God have the power and ability to supply us for each of these tasks?  Of course He does!  I have to believe that the Lord wants us to reach this community we live in and that He has been leading and equipping us for this step, and, that He will indeed provide the resources and answers to each of these needs that we are going to have.  The issue we need to face I believe is really not whether or not God is able or willing to do these things, the issue is whether or not we are willing to trust Him to do all of these things?  Are we willing to have faith in the ‘surpassing greatness of His power’ on our behalf as His church?


4.6.2.  To say that Christ’s power is a ‘surpassing’ power is to say that His power is greater than all.  Jesus Christ has all power and might and there is no force or creature for whom His power does not give Him mastery.


4.7.                     Paul says here that all of these things are ‘in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.’  The ‘might’ of the Lord must be much greater than any force on earth we have ever seen or could imagine.


5.     VS 1:20-23  - 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” -  Paul tells the Ephesians how it came about that Jesus Christ received the surpassing power that He has


5.1.                     The power which Jesus Christ has was ‘brought about’ at Christ’s resurrection when God the Father, ‘raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.’  Jesus Christ is often spoken of as being seated at the ‘right hand’ of God, and this refers to His power and rule as God as well as the place of honor which He shares as God the Son with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Trinity.


5.2.                     Paul tells us that when Jesus Christ was raised up and seated at His right that He was also placed ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named.’  Paul implies clearly here that Jesus Christ is the sovereign ruler over all creation and every creature.


5.3.                     Jesus Christ’s right and authority to reign is seen here when Paul says that God the Father ‘put all things in subjection under His feet.’  Jesus Christ is the absolute ruling sovereign over all the universe and every created being. 


5.4.                     In verse 22 we see Paul’s first mention of ‘the church.’  We mentioned at the outset of this study of Ephesians that one of the great themes of this book is ‘the church.’  The Greek word translated ‘church’ in the New Testament is “ecclasia” and it means “assembly.”  The ‘church’ is not a “religious organization” but rather a living entity that has Jesus Christ as its “originator” (Remember He told Peter that “upon this rock I will build My church”) and sustainer. 


5.5.                     The church belongs not to men, not to committees, not to boards, not to pastors, but to Jesus Christ.  It is His church.  Jesus Christ as the ‘head’ of the church is to be the One who directs all of the activities of the church, and therefore more than anything else it is the church’s responsibility to look to and respond to Jesus Christ as its head. 


5.6.                     Jesus Christ is “not a figurative head,” but rather the literal head of the church.  It has been said that often today Christ rules over the church much like the king or queen rules over England.  In England there is a king or a queen who is always recognized to be the head of the nation, however the nation does not look much to their sovereign ruler for its leadership.  The king or queen of England is merely a figurehead with no real authority, power, or say in the nation.  However, this is not at all how it is supposed to be in the church regarding Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is not to be a mere figurehead with no authority or say in what goes on but rather He is to have full say and authority in all matters of the church.


5.7.                      This phrase ‘His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in alladmits of a few interpretations, and primarily two interpretations are worth considering:


5.7.1.  The body of Christ fills up the fullness of Jesus Christ who is its head.      Those who adhere to this view would state that Paul is implying that we in His body become Jesus’ Christ’s hands, arms, feet, legs, heart, etc.  We fill up all of the parts of Jesus Christ’s body because He is merely the head, though as the head He is to direct every part of the body.      I think that we as Christians ought to consider that we do have a great responsibility in this world to be that joint or toe, or whatever part we may be in the body, that which the Lord has called us to be.  It is also the case that we may also be the only Jesus that some people ever see.


5.7.2.  Christ is the one who fills up all of the body.      Those who hold to this view would see this statement right in the context of Paul’s message concerning the surpassing power, might, and ability of the Lord to do all things.  It would be the case in this interpretation that Paul is again showing another facet of Christ’s power, that of how He works in and through His church, ‘filling’ or “placing” each one into his/her calling and role in the body..      Both of these views are possible interpretations of this phrase but I am more inclined to lean towards this view.  It seems more natural in the context of Paul’s writing in this chapter.




6.1.                      As we consider this study and the ways in which we ought to apply it to our lives, I would have us consider foremost the fact that as Paul prayed primarily for the Ephesians that they might grow in their knowledge of the Lord, that we Christians need more than anything else to desire to know the Lord. 


6.2.                     We ought to pray to the Lord that we might have the great hunger that Paul had for Jesus Christ as he wrote of himself in Phil. 3:7-8, “.7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ  Do you truly hunger and thirst for the Lord as the dear pants for the water?  If you truly know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you should have this great hunger to know Him.


6.3.                     Do you spend quiet times with the Lord each day?  There is no way to know the Lord without spending those times alone with Him, and in His word, so that He can speak to your heart and also so that He can come to know you also.  Someone once told me something that I at first was kind of shocked to hear, he said, “Jim, did you know that the Lord wants to come to know you?”  I had thought previously that the Christian life was all about knowing Him because it was obvious that He knew all about us.  Well, God does know all about us but just as we need to come to have real heart knowledge of the Lord and know Him intimately, so also He cannot really come to know us intimately without us spending time to be alone with Him.  He desires your fellowship, He desires to spend time with You.  Commit yourself today to spending quiet times with God each and every day.


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