An Exposition of Ephesians 1:17-19
William Arnold III
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,] Now notice that as much as Paul distinguishes Jesus Christ from the Father, he also distinguishes Him from being God altogether. He has been developing this theme throughout this chapter. Over and over we read of "God" and "Christ." Now this is very significant church for we must do the same. In as much as Jesus Christ is completely human, God can rightfully be called His God. Now this is not the God of God. This is the God of man. It is only due to the genuineness of Christís humanity that he can in one sense be distinct from God. As I Timothy 2:5 puts it, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." Now this in no way compromises the deity of Christ. In as much as he is fully man he is also fully God as we read in other passages (John 8:58; 10:28; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8, etc.). Jesus uniquely possessed a dual nature by which He could be completely God and completely man all at the same time.
may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,] Now what is Paul talking about here? Is he praying that the Ephesians would receive "another Spirit?" Of course he wasnít. This no more refers to a literal spirit than does "a spirit of stupor" (Romans 11:8), "a spirit of gentleness" (I Corinthians 4:21) or "a gentle and quiet spirit" (I Peter 3:4). The word spirit is often used in scripture to refer to someoneís character or qualities. Paul is merely praying that they would receive wisdom and revelation.
18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;] Paul now completes knowledge and wisdom with understanding. He makes this same connection in Colossians 1:9 as does the writer of Proverbs 4:5-7. Here scripture tells us that wisdom is the principal or the basic, elementary thing. But it goes on to promote understanding as the ultimate to attain to. It seems that we need wisdom to start with. We use this wisdom to acquire facts, or knowledge. When we finally put the facts together then we arrive at understanding. This follows nicely with the meaning of the Greek word for understanding, sunesis which means, "to put together." Knowledge can just be facts but it is at the point of understanding that we say, "Ah, I get it."
Paul also seems to connect illumination with revelation, contrary to what modern scholars teach about these two terms. Now there may be nothing wrong with this connection biblically, but when people speak of receiving a revelation today we usually understand this to be referring to something extrabiblical. We relate this word to something contrary to or above and beyond what is taught in scripture, as the so called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints do. Now although I fully believe that God is still active in our lives today and that He does speak to His people regularly, I also recognize that everything that He thought we would need to teach church doctrine He left for us in the New Testament.
that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,] Now this is beautiful! The purpose of growing in knowledge, wisdom and understanding is not just for intellectual gain. Itís not so we can impress people with how much we know. But the more we learn about God the more we can grow in hope. This is to help us on our Christian walk. We learn so that we can apply this knowledge to our lives.
But God didnít just save us to help us live better in this world. He had given us hope of a better place, hope of a glorious place. We are looking for an inheritance that is incorruptible and does not fade away. Heaven is gong to be a wonderful place. As Paul said in another place, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." We are looking forward to something wonderful. If we can keep that in our minds then the struggles of this present life look a little more bearable. Just hold on! "Itís gonnaí be worth it all!"
19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,] God doesnít just have great power, He has exceeding great power. But notice that this is towards us who believe. God is in the business of using his great ability in the lives of His people. Remember that when you think that you can not make it. Peter tells us that we are, "kept by the power of God." No, on our own we canít make it. By ourselves we would fail. But by His power, by His ability, we can do it.
according to the working of His mighty power] Now this is not the same as the previous word translated "power," this is the word usually translated "strength" in the New Testament. It seems that in this context when relating these two words to God, Paul is both trying to demonstrate Godís supernatural ability and His mere might, or strength. We donít just serve a powerful God but we serve a strong God. And Heís not just a strong God; Heís a God of mighty strength.
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