Do you like writing letters to people you love? Since the mid-90s, we have much digital communication format to send written messages. First, it was the pager, then fax, email and SMS text. After that, it was AOL, MSN and ICQ chat, to the rise of social media and group chats to Instagram, WhatsApp and WeChat today.
But even all these digital communication are ever-evolving, the good old personal letter with handwriting is still in use today in various degrees. My wife enjoys writing a letter with pen and paper to communicate with her loved ones. The written letter was a significant form of distant communication in the Roman world in the 1st Century. Apostle Paul used to travel around the ancient world to advance the Gospel. He also made good uses of written letters to communicate with the churches of the time. These public letters are often addressed to all the church groups in a city or region, and Paul uses his letters to encourage the Church of Christ. His letters are usually copied and circulated to other churches as well. Biblical scholars concluded that the Letter to Ephesus was probably delivered by Tychicus, a friend and fellow-worker of Apostle Paul. As he was mentioned in the Book of Acts chapter 20, and Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:12 that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
Interestingly, even Paul’s letter was written to the Christians in Ephesus 2000 years ago, its powerful words still have meaning to us, the Christians in the 21st Century. The Bible says the Scripture is God-breathed, that means when Paul first wrote this ancient letter, the Holy Spirit has inspired his writing. Essentially, it is God’s Word with the Word of truth for every Christians of all ages.
Now, let us open this book, and see what God is saying to us today.
1) Praying for enlightenment
In verse 15 of the letter to Ephesians, Paul praises God for the evidence of faith and love for all God’s people in the church of Ephesus. You know, our faith and our love for other Christians are interconnected: While our saving faith is a gift from God that God gives to all who believes, that we believe in Jesus. We know God’s love for us by sending Jesus to die for our sins. Because of this, we should also reflect His love to each other in our everyday life practically.
As Apostle John declared, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:10-12)
During Apostle Paul’s time in ministry, Christians in Ephesus believe in the Gospel that he preached, and they love God’s people, so Paul begins his letter with thanksgiving and prayers. He wrote in verse 16, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16)
Apostle Paul prays that the believers might have a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of revelation, so that they may know him better. This revelation is God letting us experience himself and his truth, that we will be guided into God’s truth and his way of life. This spiritual wisdom involves the practical ability to act on what we know and believe. So Paul referred to the wisdom here as guiding us into God’s truth and God’s way of life. For us, it also involves God’s authoritative revelation in the Scripture. God reveals himself and manifests his life to us through his Word. Wisdom then becomes the practical ability to understand Scripture and apply its truth to daily living. Majority of us who are sitting here at church are literate. We know how to read the Bible out loud, but not all of us can quickly turn the biblical truth into practical applications, applying it in everyday life. Remember the Bible is the living Word of God. Paul is praying that God will grant us the spirit of wisdom so that we can apply God’s Word in practical ways. As the followers of Christ, we are not just listening to God’s Word, but to act out the Word so that we will be transformed. Renewing our thoughts and behaviours to be the light of Christ in this fallen world.
It is like a theoretical physicist might understand or memorise lots of mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalise and predict natural phenomena. Still, if you ask the theoretical physicist to turn these mathematical models into practical use in machinery, he might just tell you to go to find an engineer. Similarly, we might be so good at memorising or retelling the truth from the Bible through all the years in Sunday School or theology classes in religious institutions. But what we need is the spiritual wisdom and God’s revelation to turn all these treasures of spiritual truth into everyday practice. True Christianity is not just another day of Bible study in the church. It is something very practical in what we do and lives it out to reveal our love in Christ in front of non-believers. This is what Paul was praying for each of the believers.
2) God’s power in Christ’s exaltation
What’s more, Paul writes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Paul prays in specific terms that we might understand (1) our hope, (2), our riches, and (3), God’s power.
First, Our hope is built on the promises in Christ Jesus. It is not a false hope but something that will definitely happen in the future. We need to know our future and eternal life is based on the promises of God and find strength and courage in that hope to live in the present. The Christian hope lies in God’s Promises to His people. And no matter there are ups and downs in life, our hope is secured on the day Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
Secondly, Paul also wants us to know our future riches in Christ. I know, it is tempting to focus on our present need and problems we face each day. Instead, Paul challenges us to focus on what God has promised in the coming age. These riches may refer to our current, spiritual riches in Christ in being freed from sin and death, and made ready for fellowship with God. Look forward our lives beyond what we see, but wait patiently for the heavenly possession of the riches, grace and glories of God. They are part of our spiritual inheritance as the children of God.
Thirdly, Paul prays that we might be enlightened to comprehend the magnitude of God’s power, which he exercised in bringing us our salvation.
Paul writes, “That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:19b-20) This is God’s power in Christ’s resurrection. Jesus’ position now at God’s right hand in heavens is the highest place over everything, exalted in glory. So when Jesus ascended to his Father in heaven, the new age has begun: it is the age of the Holy Spirit, experienced by those who are in Christ.
The power God demonstrated in raising Christ from the dead and placing him above all creation is the same power he is exercising toward us to bring about the blessings, which he has promised us. Such power guarantees we will receive the hope and riches. That power is also available to us to make the hope and riches the focus of present life so that we live God’s way and not the way of the world, seeking God’s inheritance and not the world’s.
Through the work of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we have been given every necessary spiritual blessing from God. In the Holy Spirit, we have been sealed in Christ, made secure until our final redemption when we will see the Lord face-to-face. Apostle Paul prays for us that we, the followers of Christ, might comprehend the significance and magnitude of God’s blessings.
3) Everything under the rule of Christ
In principles, God’s sovereignty extends to us before the creation of the world, and every believer has complete salvation from God. What’s more, is that every believer has a great inheritance waiting for us in heaven, and all who believe in Christ have the Holy Spirit within us. All of these are done by the work of Jesus, who is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to the head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:21-23)
Do you know that Jesus is exalted above every possible intelligence – angelic, demonic, or human. He is above all that anywhere is, anywhere can be. He is above all grades of dignity, real or imagined, good or evil, present or future – the mighty power of God has exalted and enthroned Jesus Christ our Lord.
The heart application for all of us is this: If we want to know Jesus better and have the blessings that Paul prays in this passage, we must understand the glory of Christ’s exaltation, and believe it. Do you see who Jesus really is, and do you believe who Jesus really is: the exalted Messiah, the king of heavens and earth, seating at God’s right hand in the highest place?
2000 years ago, Jesus said to his Father, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24)
Jesus wants you and me to be with him, to see his glory, and to share in it (Romans 8:18-30). And what does this mean to us? It means that we, as humans, were made to have dominion over the earth. But humanity failed, except for one, and that was the last Adam, Jesus. But those of us who are in Christ will inherit this blessing to be with Christ in his Kingdom. We are going to reign with Jesus, rule the earth, and be all we are meant to be. Jesus Christ is absolute, sovereign Lord of the universe. God also appointed him to be head over everything for the church. (Ephesians 1:22). As Christ rules in our hearts, his Kingdom with all its sweetness, worthiness, power, serenity, holiness, righteousness, and grace, in and towards his people who believe in him and follow him. While at the same time, in God’s timing, judgment from Christ will come with all of the terror, vengeance, and certain destruction towards the rebellious angels and men. So that every knee shall bow before him, and all shall stand before his judgment-seat. This is the love of God in his mercy and the glory of God in his justice.
Paul writes that us, the beloved Church of Christ, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23) Jesus is our head, and a body needs a head, and a head does not function without a body. So in this metaphor, we, as the Body of Christ, are part of that which fills up Christ. We are to complement Christ as his body, as his bride, united as one.
This is the highest honour of the church that, unless Christ is united to us. He wants us to be with Him as one, complete in all parts with us as one body.
And how should we respond to God’s love and blessings? We should first rest in God’s love, joyfully receive His offer of complete salvation. As the body of Christ we need to love people who are not normally loved. By extending the love of Christ to those who are lonely, those who are sick, those who are in need, those who need a company, those who are desperate for love but find none in this harsh secular world. There, we as Christ’s body should reach and shine and fill up with his Spirit in everyway so that everyone can see Jesus is indeed alive in this church. We are not just a social club, the church is not just a gathering place of religious people, but let Christ be displayed and glorified in everything we do.
Secondly, because of all God has done for us, we should see ourselves as someone very significant in God’s eye, so keep ourselves us to be godly. We are His body. Our God is holy, so we are to be godly. Thirdly, enjoy the fact that we belong to God. We belong to the family of God, and when we get to heaven, we will belong there, too. We have to be grateful that God has forgiven our sin and given us eternal life. And finally, thank God always that he took the initiative in our relationship with Him.
So let us united in Christ together as one body, and give thanks to Him for what He has planned for us in Jesus.