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6. Paul’s Prayer For the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:15-19a)

Introduction

I wonder how we would feel if the content of our prayers was published for all to read about. Do you think we would qualify, like Paul, to make the pages of the Scriptures, or would our prayers be better printed in the National Inquirer?

Paul does not hesitate to tell his readers that he is praying for them, nor is he reluctant to tell them what he is praying for. The prayer of Paul in Ephesians chapter 1 is but the first of two of his recorded prayers in the epistle.34 It establishes a standard for prayer which few of our prayers meet. If taken seriously as a model for our prayers, our prayer life would have to be radically transformed. This lesson will be a study of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, and its implications for the church today.

Our text has a great deal to offer to us. It also instructs us concerning the vital link between the Word of God and prayer. In the early days of the New Testament church, the apostles determined that their priority was the “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Our text helps to clarify the relationship between the two.

Finally, our text identifies three vital elements of the Christian faith and doctrine. These are truths which are taught only in the Word of God, which are foundational to our daily Christian walk.

As we come to our text, let us do so with the same prayer which the apostle prayed. Let us look to the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,” that He might give to us “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him,” so that “the eyes of our heart may be opened, and we might know what is the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”

The Context of our Text

Paul has just summarized the purpose of God for history and the blessings which God has provided for the believer in Christ (verses 3-14). He has spoken of the activity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has spoken of God’s purpose in eternity past, in history, and in eternity future. If verses 3-14 focus on the eternal purposes of God as they relate to Christ, the church, and His glory, verses 19-23 will concentrate on the power of God in Christ, toward His church.

In the middle of these two texts, Paul records the content of his prayers for the church at Ephesus. Viewed as a whole, chapter one contains three summaries:

(1) Paul’s summary of the purpose of God for His church.

(2) Paul’s summary of His prayers for the Ephesian church.

(3) Paul’s summary of the power of God directed toward the church.

I believe that it would be safe to say that Paul’s prayers for the church at Ephesus were based upon his understanding of God’s purposes for the church and His power directed to the church.

While there would be considerable merit in seeking to interpret verses 15-23 as a whole, time will simply not permit it. In this lesson we must focus on the prayer of Paul, and in the next we will give attention to the power of God. Let us not forget, however, that God has placed these together is such a way as to remind us that one cannot be understood rightly apart from the other.

The Reason For Paul’s Prayers

Paul informs his readers that he constantly prays for them. He “does not cease” (verse 16) to do so. He begins by telling them the reasons for his prayers. As I understand this text, there are two primary motivating factors for Paul’s persistence in praying for this church.35

The first reason is not stated because Paul assumes that we will readily understand it. He prays for the Ephesian church “for this reason” (verse 15). In verses 3-14, Paul has stressed the sovereign purposes of God for His church. It is clear from these verses that the church is “from Him,” “through him,” and “unto him” (see Romans 11:36; Colossians 1). Paul gives thanks to God because He has given birth to all who are members of His church. Paul makes his petitions to God because God is sovereignly working in and through His church. God gives life to the church, directs its growth, and controls its destiny. And so Paul prays to God on behalf of the church.

The second reason that Paul gives for his prayers is stated in verse 15 as well. He prays for the Ephesian church because there are genuine saints there. The lives of the members of the Ephesian church bear witness to the genuine faith which they have in Jesus Christ. The evidence is two-fold: (1) they have faith in the Lord Jesus; and, (2) they have a love for all36 the saints. Loving God and loving others are the marks of the true Christian. What Paul has recently heard37 concerning the Ephesian church convinces him that there are genuine believers there. Since God has purposed and provided for the blessing of true believers, and since the Ephesian saints are true believers, Paul prays on their behalf.

There are those who would argue that the doctrine of the sovereignty of God undermines the doctrine of human responsibility of man. Ephesians 1:3-14 emphasizes divine sovereignty (God’s eternal plan). Verses 15-19 demonstrate human responsibility (Paul’s prayers). For Paul, as for every Christian, the sovereignty of God is the reason for human responsibility. What better motive for my obedience than to know that God not only commanded my obedience, but He also purposed it, along with the results He would accomplish through it:38

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that you fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you” (John 15:16).

The Nature of Paul’s Prayer

Paul describes his prayer in general terms, so that while we do not have the exact words of his prayers, we are able to discern the essence of them. Consider these characteristics of Paul’s prayers, as described in our text:

(1) Paul’s prayer was addressed to God the Father. His prayer is to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (verse 17).

(2) Paul’s prayer was continual. Paul says here and elsewhere that his prayers were made “without ceasing” (verse 16, see also Romans 1:8-10; Colossians 1:9-12).

(3) Paul was not alone in praying for the church at Ephesus. Note the little word “too” in verse 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.

We learn from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians that there were others who, like Paul, prayed for the saints in certain cities:

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:12-13).

(4) Paul’s prayer included thanksgiving for the saints at Ephesus. This may not sound like a very significant statement, but it is. Paul was a Jew, and the Jews as a nation were not eager to see the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles, even though it was a part of the eternal plan and purpose of God.

The people of Jesus’ home town were transformed from enthusiastic approval to an angry murderous mob when Jesus made it clear to the people of Nazareth that His coming as Messiah included the blessing of the Gentiles (see Luke 4:16-30). The Jews of Jerusalem listened quietly to Paul’s personal testimony of his conversion to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, until he added that God had called him to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 22:1-23). The Jewish saints at Jerusalem only reluctantly granted that God had purposed to save Gentiles as well as Jews, but after having done so, kept on preaching the gospel to Jews alone (Acts 11:1-19).

Paul was called as an apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 1:5). He, like his co-worker of previous days (Acts 11:22-24), rejoiced when Gentiles came to faith. Like John the Baptist, he rejoiced in seeing the fulfillment of his calling (compare John 3:22-33).

(5) Paul’s prayer was a petition that the Ephesian saints would come to a deeper and fuller grasp of the truth of God as revealed in Scripture. He prays,

… 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. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:17-19).

Paul’s prayer of petition moves from the general to the specific:

  • Prayer for a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation” (verse 17)
  • Prayer that the “eyes of their heart may be enlightened” (verse 18).
  • Prayer that the Ephesian saints may come to grasp …

… the hope of His calling
… the glory of His inheritance in the saints
… the surpassing greatness of His power

Paul generally prays that the Ephesian saints may be given a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation” (verse 17). The first question we must answer is whether or not to capitalize the word “spirit.” I believe that we must. Repeatedly, wisdom and revelation are described as the result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit:

“But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task” (Acts 6:3).

And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:10).

And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26).39

For to us God revealed {them} through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10).

Which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit (Ephesians 3:5).

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12).

It is my understanding, then, that Paul is praying for a particular ministry of the Holy Spirit. What, then, is this ministry? Several lines of evidence tend to make this clear.

Some might think that Paul is praying for the Holy Spirit to give the church wisdom and revelation which is beyond that found in Scripture. I think this is both unnecessary. The Word of God is sufficient for all of our spiritual needs:

14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Hebrews 2:3-4).

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:2-4).

It is true that the Scriptures produce wisdom:

O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, For Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Thy precepts (Psalm 119:97-100).

And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).

Nevertheless, I do not think that this is what Paul prayed for. There are several reasons for this. First, there is the order of the terms “wisdom” and “revelation.” Paul prayed for a “Spirit of wisdom and of revelation,” not for a “Spirit of revelation and of wisdom.” It would seem as though “wisdom” was meant to be understood as preceding “revelation.”

Second, I understand the first words of verse 18—“that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”—are an amplification, an explanation of the words of verse 17—“a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation.” Other texts of Scripture reveal a strong emphasis on the fact that divine “wisdom” is necessary to understand God’s inspired “revelation” in Scripture. In the Old Testament, the psalmist prayed for the wisdom required to understand the Law of God:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law (Psalm 119:18).

Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, So I will meditate on Thy wonders (Psalm 119:27).

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, And I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, And keep it with all my heart (Psalm 119:33-34).

Thy hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments (Psalm 119:73).

Solomon indicated at the beginning of the Book of Proverbs that wisdom was necessary to understand difficult truth:

To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles (Proverbs 1:1-6).

When Jesus came to the earth as the promised Messiah, He came as God’s full and final revelation, God’s “last word” (see Hebrews 1:1-3). And yet He was not understood by men. He was not even understood by His disciples. Repeatedly in the gospels, the disciples and others failed to grasp the meaning of what Jesus was saying at that time (see John 2:17; 6:22-71; 7:37-40; 13:18-38; 14:1-5). Jesus understood this completely. They could not understand. Just before His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus spoke of His departure. He instructed them to abide in Him by abiding in His Word and keeping His commandments. And yet they did not understand His words. He assured them by promising the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would not only bring His words to their remembrance, but who would make their meaning clear to them as well (see John 14:25-26; 16:1-15). It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in communicating and clarifying the Word of God of which Jesus is speaking.

In the New Testament epistles, the Apostle Paul takes up this same theme. Paul contrasted the wisdom of God with the wisdom of men, showing that only by means of the illumination of the Holy Spirit could Christians grasp the meaning and application of God’s Word:

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 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, that we might 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 man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1-15).

In the light of this, I understand Paul’s general prayer of petition in Ephesians 1:17 and 18 to be his request for God to illuminate the minds of the saints in Ephesus, so that they could grasp the depth of the riches of God’s Word. This epistle to the Ephesians was, in part, an answer to Paul’s prayer. Paul prayed for a deeper insight into God’s plan and purpose for the saints, and the Epistle to the Ephesians takes us further into the “mysteries” of God’s working than any previous book of the Bible has done.

Specifically, Paul prays for a greater grasp of three avenues of biblical revelation. Paul has spoken of the first two already in verses 3-14, and he will expound upon the power of God in the final verses of chapter 1. These three truths are found only in the Scriptures. You may read the daily newspaper from the front page to the last, and you will never find these truths. You may read the secular writings of great minds, and you won’t hear a word about these foundational facts either. You will read of them often in the Bible. Let us pause to consider the truths which Paul believes to be so essential to the spiritual lives of these saints, and then to consider their importance to us as well.

The Hope of His Calling

The first fundamental truth is that of the hope of God’s calling. I understand the “calling” here to be one’s calling to faith in Jesus Christ.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity (2 Timothy 1:9).

And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

This “calling” to salvation was a calling to “blessing” and to “eternal glory:”

Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen {and} establish you (1 Peter 5:10).

Many of the benefits or blessings of our salvation are yet to be fulfilled. It is these benefits which make up the “hope” of which Paul speaks, and for which he prays. Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesian saints will begin to grasp all of the blessings which God has in store for them, blessing which are beyond the ability of the human mind to grasp, and thus the ministry of the Spirit is required in order for us to comprehend them:

9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

The Glory of Being God’s Inheritance

Paul has already spoken of our inheritance in Christ in verses 11 and 14. In these verses the emphasis falls on the fact of our inheritance in Christ. In verse 18, Paul reverses the emphasis. Now, what is in view is Christ’s inheritance in us. Those of us who are in Christ are the people of God, God’s inheritance. The glory of which Paul speaks is the glory of being God’s own possession:

“And I prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy Thy people, even Thine inheritance, whom Thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness, whom Thou hast brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (Deuteronomy 9:26).4041

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance (Psalm 33:12).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

The people of God’s inheritance are also the people of Christ’s inheritance:

“‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession’” (Psalm 2:8).

For Thou hast heard my vows, O God; Thou hast given me the inheritance of those who fear Thy name (Psalm 61:5).

The church is the glorious bride of Christ, which is now being prepared, and which will someday be presented to Him at the heavenly marriage feast (Revelation 19:7-9). What a glorious privilege, to be God’s own possession!

The Greatness of His Power, Directed Toward the Saints

The third and final unfathomable truth is that of the great power which God has directed toward His church. This is the subject of our next study, and so we shall only briefly seek to deal with it here.

The character of God assures us of the goodness of God’s plan:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:5).

The power of God is what assures us that the plan of God will be fulfilled, just as He has planned it and promised it to us. This power is summed up in Christ, demonstrated in His resurrection from the dead, and directed toward the well-being of His saints. This power is beyond human comprehension, and thus it requires divine illumination to grasp.

Conclusion

Here, then, are three fundamental and foundational truths, truths which should transform the perspective and the practice of the saints. They are truths which would not be known apart from the divine revelation of the Scriptures, and cannot be grasped apart from the wisdom which the Spirit of God grants to the believer, to comprehend the incomprehensible. And this is why Paul not only declares the truth to the Ephesian saints, he then prays that God would given his readers a comprehension of that truth through the ministry of His Holy Spirit.

The verses which we have been studying all pertain to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian saints. As I understand this text, Paul’s prayer is his response, not only to what he has recently heard concerning this church, but also to what he has just written to them. In other words, I find a close relationship between the Word of God and prayer. This should not be surprising in the light of the decision of the apostles, recorded in the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts:

1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3 “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-4).

The two priorities of the apostles were prayer and the ministry of the Word. These should surely be high priorities for those of us who serve as elders. The question which we have not answered is “Why?” Why does prayer play such a vital role in the church, in relation to the Word of God? As we conclude, I would like to suggest some of the reasons why the early church recognized the priority of prayer in relationship to the Word of God.

(1) The Scriptures not only prescribe the ideal, that God’s Word would richly dwell in us, and that we would walk in its truth.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

3 For I was very glad when brethren came and bore witness to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth (3 John 3-4)

(2) The Scriptures are one of the primary means, not only of our salvation, but also of our sanctification

18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures (James 1:18).

23 … for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, (1 Peter 2:1-2).

17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth (John 17:17).

14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Hebrews 2:1-4).

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:3-4).

(3) The Scriptures alone give us the promises and assurances of the future blessings which make up our hope.

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:3-4).

15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:15-19).

1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

(4) The Scriptures are not passive, but an active discerning force which reveals matters as they are in truth.

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:12-13).

21 Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:21-26).

(5) The Scriptures are one of the weapons the Christian is to employ in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged.

14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17).

(6) The unsaved are unable to understand and unwilling to accept what the Bible teaches.

25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. … 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, (Romans 1:25, 28).

1 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, …1 Corinthians 1:14).

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind (Ephesians 4:14-17).

(7) Satan actively seeks to blind men concerning the truth, or to distort it.

3 “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and it came about that as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up (Mark 4:3-4).

14 “The sower sows the word. 15 “And these are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them (Mark 4:14-15).

1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4).

(8) False teachers distort the message of Scripture, twisting its message to appeal to fleshly desires.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

17 These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:17-19).

3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:14-18).

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4).

(9) Paul’s refused to use the secular marketing methods of his day, which were thought to be persuasive and effective, dependent upon the Holy Spirit to convince men of the truth. Paul’s method of teaching and communicating the truth was dependent upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:17).

2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2).

(10) Even those who once held and taught the truth may distort it, for their own gain. Notice the warning that Paul previously gave the elders of the church at Ephesus in his final charge to them:

25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more. 26 “Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:25-32).

1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Colossians 2:1-6)

18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:18-22).

(11) Christians tend to forget what we have learned from the Scriptures, and need constant reminding of what they teach.

12 Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder (2 Peter 1:12-13).

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder (2 Peter 3:1).42

(12) Those who acknowledge the Bible to be the divinely revealed truth of God can lose their focus, concentrating on incidentals, rather than on fundamentals, on matters of debate and speculation, rather than on matters which are clearly, repeatedly, and emphatically revealed.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24).

20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you (1 Timothy 6:20-21; see 2 Timothy 2:14-18, 23; Titus 3:9).

(13) The Scriptures reveal the unseen things which faith is to lay hold of, while at the same time reminding us that the things which are seen are short-lived.

9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; 12 therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:9-16).

(14) The promises of the Word of God do not profit us unless we believe them and receive them by faith, just as the revelations of Scripture have no value to us unless we respond to them in obedience to the Word:

1 Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard (Hebrews 4:1-2).

21 Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does (James 1:21-25)..

(15) Prayer lays hold of the promises of God which the Scriptures declare. The Scriptures declare God’s purposes and promises to men. Faith believes these promises. Prayer lays hold of them.

In the light of the crucial contribution which the Scriptures make to the spiritual life and growth of the believer, and of the barriers and dangers to our correct assimilation, interpretation, and application of the revelation of the Bible, one can see why prayer is intimately linked with the Word of God.

Paul’s prayers strongly imply that Biblical truth is not the exclusive property of the preacher. Those who communicate the Word of God are to do so faithfully and accurately. But in the final analysis, we must study, meditate, pray, and conclude what God is saying to us. We are responsible for the truth which we have chosen to believe, and which we have decided to obey or ignore, protect and preserve or distort.

Left to ourselves, the Bible will mean whatever our fallen humanity (the flesh) wants it to mean. But when studied and applied through the wisdom which God supplies by His Spirit, we come to the truth which God conveyed by divine inspiration, and which He intends for us to believe and to obey. Just as God did not leave men to their own devices, to convey His truth to mankind, so He does not leave us to our own devices to determine the message and meaning He has revealed to us in His Word.

19 And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Paul’s words are not just relevant and applicable to preachers and teachers of the Word. They apply very directly to us. Just as Paul prayed that his readers would grasp the depth of meaning in his words,43 each of us must depend upon the ministry of the Spirit as we share our faith and biblical truths with others. It is not our ability to communicate, persuade, and convince which we are to depend upon, but the ministry of the Spirit, who will bring about God’s purpose for His Word:

6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:6-11).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come (John 16:7-13).

As Paul prayed for his readers, we should always approach our own study of the Word of God with prayer, asking Him to open our hearts and minds to the riches of His Word. This is what the psalmist of old did, which enabled him to discover in the Law the wonders of His word:

17 Deal bountifully with Thy servant, That I may live and keep Thy word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law. 19 I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Thy commandments from me (Psalm 119:17-19).

25 My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Thy word. 26 I have told of my ways, and Thou hast answered me; Teach me Thy statutes. 27 Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, So I will meditate on Thy wonders (Psalm 119:25-27).

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of Thy statutes, And I shall observe it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, And keep it with all my heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, For I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Thy testimonies, And not to dishonest gain. 37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Thy ways. 38 Establish Thy word to Thy servant, As that which produces reverence for Thee. 39 Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Thine ordinances are good. 40 Behold, I long for Thy precepts; Revive me through Thy righteousness (Psalm 119:33-40).

123 My eyes fail with longing for Thy salvation, And for Thy righteous word. 124 Deal with Thy servant according to Thy lovingkindness, And teach me Thy statutes. 125 I am Thy servant; give me understanding, That I may know Thy testimonies (Psalm 119:123-125).

May God give us His Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, so that we may gain from His holy Word a deeper and fuller grasp of the hope of our calling, the glory of His inheritance in us, and the mighty power which is at work for those who believe.


34 The second prayer is recorded in Ephesians 3:14-19, with the benediction of verses 20 and 21.

35 I cannot prove it, but it is my sense that Paul’s prayers are not so much for specific individuals here in Ephesians, but rather for the church as a whole. The two elements are closely related, but the focus of Ephesians seems to be broad, rather than narrow, corporate and collective, rather than individual.

36 It is contrary to the gospel to have a prejudicial “love” for some of the saints, as both James (chapter 2) and Paul (Galatians 2) declare.

37 Some contend that the fact that Paul speaks only of “having heard of” the faith of these saints requires us to conclude that Paul cannot be writing to the church at Ephesus, since Paul was there personally. They maintain that Paul is claiming only to have “heard of” these saints, and not to have known them personally.

Paul’s words are very natural for a man who was once in Ephesus, and has been absent from them for some time. They sound exactly like the words which we read from missionaries who are abroad, whom we have sent out from our church. Paul’s speaks of that encouraging information he has recently received, of their on-going faith and love, which is evidence of their genuine conversion.

It is one thing to say that Paul’s words leave room for his never having been physically present among those to whom he writes; it is quite another to conclude that his words must mean this. In my opinion, there is no compelling reason to reject the long-held belief that Paul was indeed writing to the Ephesian church, as indicated in the introduction by an overwhelming majority of the Greek manuscripts.

38 And, if I disobey, as Jonah (Jonah 1-4) and Israel (Romans 11), God will still use that to accomplish His sovereign will. The difference between my obedience and my disobedience is not the achievement or failure of God’s eternal purpose, but my joy or my dismay, my blessing or my chastening.

39 See also Luke 10:21.

40 See also Matt. 4:1-11.

41 See also 1 Kings 8:46-53.

42 See also Romans 15:5; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1; Jude 5.

43 I believe that Paul realized the meaning of his words in this epistle went far beyond his own grasp, as was the case with the Old Testament prophets before him (see 1 Peter 1:10-12).

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church), Prayer