The Spirit of Wisdom And Revelation: Part I
Key Verse 1:18
“I pray also 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 the saints.”
This prayer which Paul prays for the Ephesians is a prayer mostly for revelation. As we come to know God more personally, we will come to realize many things about him, especially how glorious his plan and purpose have been since eternity. In this letter to the Ephesians Paul prays two specific prayers for the Ephesian church, one in chapter 1, and the other in chapter 3. The 1st prayer— the one we will be looking at this time— is for us to build a foundation into some awesome truths, while the 2nd prayer is for the purpose of building us up as individual Christians and as a church.
Paul begins his first prayer with these words: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” (17) Why does he want them to have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation? He says that they may know the following three things. First, “that you may know him better” (17b) or as another version might say: “the knowledge of him”. What he means is that they might know God himself. Second, “That you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (18) That is, that they might know God’s eternal plan and it’s fulfillment. God’s calling is a calling of us to be his sons and daughters; but that is not all— that these sons and daughters will be God’s own inheritance. And here’s something we need to keep in mind. God’s call was predetermined before the foundation of the world, while “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” is something that will be realized in the eternity to come. In eternity past, God willed (desired) that we be called to be his sons and daughters; and in the eternity to come, God will finally have us as his inheritance, his possession. And when we think about these two things, God’s predetermined call to be his children, as well as our final destiny to become his possession and inheritance, we can fully see God’s eternal purpose and plan. The plan God had willed to do, the plan he has done, and the plan he yet wills to accomplish are all from eternity to eternity. In a sense, then, what Paul prays for us to know is God’s eternal plan. And third, “His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (19a) This statement shows us what kind of power God is using and wants to use today in order to achieve his great and glorious purpose and to fulfill his eternal plan. Therefore, this prayer has something to do with our relationship with him, and our relationship with his purpose in eternity. These are the three things we need to consider and pray to have a revelation about. And we need to think about each of them.
First, Truly Knowing God! The very first thing that Paul asks God to grant us is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may know several things. And the very first thing he wants us to know is “the knowledge of God” or “to know him better”. How amazing this is to know the God who created the universe! There was an instance when Paul passed through the city of Athens and saw an altar with this inscription “to an unknown God.” (Acts 17:23) Among the civilized people of the world, God was considered as being unknowable— that they could not know him by searching their minds. Even with their philosophies, they still couldn’t understand him. With all their cultural sophistication, with their imagination and many theories, these people still could not know the One True God. They were not very different from people today who may think that they know God, but do not really know him. In John 17 Jesus boldly declared these words in his prayer to God— he said: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Jesus shows us what eternal life is: simply put, eternal life is knowing God. Now, as we know the Christian believers in Ephesus had already come to know God. No one could say that they didn’t. They had come to know him and already possessed eternal life. But here we also see that Paul prayed a prayer for them where he asks God to give them “The Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that [they] might know him better.” (17) How can we but conclude that while the people of Athens plainly didn’t know God at all, Christians who had come to know God and possessed eternal life still needed to know him better— or more!
When we have come to believe in the Lord Jesus for the first time, or for some years now, we cannot say that we do not know God, for the truth is that we do know him. Yet, there are many times when we think that we still need to verify or affirm or maintain our knowledge of God with our own reasoning and our own feelings. We know God, but we still think that in addition to this knowledge that we have, we still need the help of many ideas, reasoning, doctrines and such because we think that the knowledge we have of God is not enough. Often, this results in us using our ideas and/or feelings as something that maintains our Christian life and faith. Without these mental and emotional aids, we find it very hard to convince ourselves of the truth of what we believe. We seek the warm, fuzzy, joyful and moving feelings to help us in our Christian walk. But the day may come when God gives us the spirit of wisdom and revelation to reveal Himself to us in a fresh, special and deeper way, such that we now know without a shred of doubt that we do know him. At that time, we will be ready to declare: “I now understand. I now see clearly. I no longer need the help of ideas, human arguments, proofs, or even feelings. I now really know God.” That will be a glorious day in our lives. What happened? Did we not know God before? No, we did. But God gave us a revelation of himself that supersedes anything that we earlier relied on to help our faith. We now know him better, and we yearn to him even more.
A Christian may have believed for 10 years, and would confess his faith in the Lord and that he is forgiven and has eternal life. Yet in his heart, especially in trying times, he may often wonder if he truly believes. He would undergo an internal battle when it comes to whether God is truly there for him or not. Does he believe? Yes he does, but his knowledge of God is limited. So in difficult times, he searches for verses, looks up doctrines and teachings in order to confirm his faith and the sovereignty of God. Every difficulty sets him back in his faith such that he has to struggle to maintain the faith he has. But one day although he is severely tested and tried in his faith, he no longer has to frantically struggle to maintain his faith. He gracefully endures all things. His faith no longer needs assistance. His faith is now unshakable, even if the trial he is undergoing is killing him. What happened after 10 years of struggle? Simple! He came to know God better. Let me say this: If you truly know God, then whether the whole world believes or does not believe, would matter— nor could it shake your faith. Even if others had convincing proofs that the Bible is totally false; even if all their reasons for unbelief can be argued wisely and intellectually; no matter how many reasons men may give you, your faith will not be shaken. Instead, you will boldly say: “I have come to know God inwardly. My knowledge of God is deeper than thought and deeper than feeling. I know God inwardly, and nothing from outside can affect me.”
Many Christians live too much by reason or feeling. If they feel joy today, then they say God has blessed them. If, on the other hand, they feel cold and dull, then they would say “Where is God?” So many depend on their feelings, and when the feeling is missing, their faith crumbles. Others depend too much on their intellect. If they cannot reason out something in the Bible or about God, nor understand it with their mind, their faith suffers. They do not really know God! They need the Lord to bring them to a point in their Christian lives such that, in spite of joy or sorrow, whether cold or warm, logical or illogical, is really no problem at all— because they know God with a knowledge that is deeper than any reason or feeling. When we truly know God, we will not carry in our hearts the heavy burden of feeling or reason. People may think they can prove this or that, but we Christians can prove one very important thing— that we know God, and by knowing him, all problems are solved. Such knowledge does not depend on how logical the reasoning or how clear the doctrine is; it depends entirely on revelation. Revelation is essential to our Christian faith. That is why Paul asks God to give the Ephesians (and us) “The spirit of wisdom and revelation” that we might really know him— that we may know him better— that we may know him more and more. This kind of knowledge is foundational for us, and it is essential in our Christian pilgrimage, for it is then we can truly be used by God for his glory.
Second, Knowing God’s Call And Inheritance. Verse 18 says: “I pray also 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 the saints.” God not only wants us to know him, he also wants us to know what his calling and what his inheritance in the saints are. In other words, he wants us to know what he has been doing and continues to do from eternity past to future eternity. Actually he wants us to know what his eternal plan and purpose are. And he wants us to know the relationship that exists between our calling, his inheritance in us, and finally also his power for us who believe— the relationship between these things and God’s eternal plan. Paul figured that if we understand the relationship that exists between God’s calling us, and his inheritance in us, and the power we have in God, then we would also consider God’s eternal plan very seriously. Most Christians never think about God’s eternal plan, what God is doing and what he wants to do. They are only concerned with whether they are comfortable or not, or if they have what they want from God or not. But God’s eternal plan is very important and extremely significant. And we are all very closely related to it. His calling us, his inheritance in us, and his power for us are all very closely related to God’s eternal plan; they are all very personal matters to us in a practical way.
Let us think about God’s calling and inheritance first before we go on to discuss God’s power for us who believe. Look at verse 18a again. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you”. I wonder how many Christians actually know that they possess a hope. And for those who do know, I wonder how many can think of their hope beyond merely the hope of salvation or the hope of heaven! Praise God that we have the hope of salvation, and the hope of heaven. But many would be surprised to know that heaven is not the purpose of God’s calling us. And neither should heaven be the sole hope of his gracious call to us. If our hope is not solely in God’s calling us to give us heaven and eternal life, then what is this gracious hope of our calling? I will read to you Ephesians 1:4. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love,” This is God’s call. He calls us to be like him— to be holy— to be blameless. This is indeed a wonderful calling. If you have always considered yourself a perfect man or woman, having never been weak nor fallen, then you would truly have a hard time appreciating the greatness of this calling. But in case you know the depth of your weakness and uselessness before God, how refreshing this calling would be to you. You will most certainly say: “Thank you Lord that you call me to be holy, to be blameless, to be perfect like you.” Praise God that one day his purpose in choosing us will be realized. No matter how weak or useless and blameworthy we are today, one day we will stand before him holy and blameless just as he is. Here we know then, what a blessed hope we have, the hope to be like God. (cf. Romans 8:29) This is what God has chosen us for and called us to. And since this has been his holy desire, so it will surely be done. Amen.
Now let us think about God’s inheritance in the saints. Once more let me read verse 18. “I pray also 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 the saints.” What is God’s inheritance in the saints? What this means is not that God will give an inheritance to the believing saints, but that the believing saints themselves would be God’s inheritance. Paul declares here that the inheritance which God himself receives in the saints is indeed richly glorious. In verses 5, Paul tells us that we were predestined to sonship, that is to become God’s sons and daughters. And in verse 11, Paul confirms that we were to become God’s inheritance in accordance with God’s plan. Thus, from eternity past to future eternity God has a plan and it has not changed, that is to say that God wants sons and daughters. Many Christians cannot comprehend this truth or the greatness of being sons and daughters. (cf. Galatians 4:6; Hebrews 2:10) But the Bible tells us that at the time when God’s purpose is finally realized and fulfilled, there will be many sons and daughters of God taken in glory, brought into glory by Jesus the Son of God. God’s purpose and plan is to obtain sons and daughters, and these sons and daughters in turn are to be his inheritance. For this reason, God reveals to us in Ephesians chapter 1 that he has predetermined, that on one hand he will gather to himself sons and daughters (5), and on the other hand, he will gain an inheritance in them (11).
What is meant by the inheritance of God? God’s inheritance means that something belongs to him. God has preordained us believers or saints to be his sons and daughters as well as his inherited possession. All the saints belong to God. If you are a saint, you belong to God. Paul wants our eyes to be enlightened to see the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints. What is this glory? Simply speaking, it is to be like God, and to be able to glorify him as God. And this is what God wants. He wants us to be like him that we might glorify him as God. For this reason he has called us and chosen us to be his possessions— to be his sons and daughters that we might be his inheritance. May God open our eyes to see how precious and truly glorious this is. The more we learn to pray in Jesus’ school of prayer, the more our eyes are open to see who we are and what we have really been called and chosen for. We were not only called to hope for heaven. We were called to hope to be like God, and to become his inheritance. If we pray for wisdom and revelation, God cannot but show us who we really are and what we are really chosen for. Then and only then can the Christians life be a beautiful journey into knowing God for who he really is, and knowing ourselves in God for who we really are. Then whatever happens to us in life is of no significance when we know that we are fulfilling God’s eternal plan and journeying towards that end.
God wants us to understand that not only he himself is what we must know, but his work, his plan and his purpose are also what we must come to know. Such knowledge requires vision. Without vision all that we see is temporary, patchy, disconnected and may really make no sense. For example, lets say we have a spiritual service we have to unto God, we are in the habit of fixing our eyes on the little piece of work we have in hand. We are happy when our little work seems to be going well; and we feel terrible when things are not going smoothly. Our view is often limited within a very small scope. We fail to see the greater things of God, what he is doing, what his plan entails, what he wants to accomplish. Oh how limited our understanding and how small our vision. It is like a child with a new toy in his hand. He feels great. He looks upon the toy as his entire inheritance. And such is our view of things oftentimes, as small and narrow as that child holding a toy in his hands. We fail to see the whole, the eternal, the larger picture of what God is doing. Therefore, we need to know God’s views, not only in the here and now, but from eternity to eternity. May the Lord open our eyes so that we may not be small people with a small vision of spiritual things.
How small is the human being. We are too small, and the works of our hands are too small. God wants us to come out of this miniscule scope and see and know and experience what the hope of his calling is and what the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints are. And even as we say this, we are not talking about something that we think we need. We have in mind something involving God’s own need. For example, why do we preach the gospel, why do we study the Bible, why do we serve God’s work? It is not only because people have a need to know the truth, to receive God’s grace, and to transition to life— but because God too has a need. We do these things in order to fulfill God’s needs as well. God wants sons and daughters; he wants many sons and daughters to glorify him. So that in preaching the gospel, in teaching Bible, in raising disciples, in doing the work of God, we also hope to gather people back to God, in order to fulfill God’s need and desire and will. We therefore, need a vision— we need that eternal vision. This vision will change our viewpoint and in so doing change our works and even the way we live our Christians lives. Once we have been enlightened, and have seen this vision, we can no longer stay within the limited boundary of our small ministry work, nor would we hold on to our own small views and ways. We will no longer be occupied with small gain here or a small loss there. We would actually begin to pray on a large scale that God’s eternal plan be fulfilled, and we would serve God’s eternal work to bring in many sons and daughters into his household.
How then can I join my spiritual labor with God’s plan? In other words, how can I make the work I serve God with a part of God’s eternal plan? I think that is difficult considering that more often than not, I am selfish and self serving in my desires even when I am serving God? As I am busily engaged in a work, I quickly lose sight of God’s eternal purpose. It gradually fades into the background until it is no longer even visible. I am often moved to have a larger vision when I study the word of God and pray; I am often moved to serve God’s eternal plan beyond my own daily spiritual work and responsibilities. But I so quickly forget and fall back into myself and my needs and my desires and my work of God. What can I do? Once again let me tell you that what we need is not practice or some memory course, or discipline, but what we need is to be enlightened by God that we may see the vision of God’s eternal plan in our hearts— and never let go. A teaching or a doctrine we may forget, but when the Lord enlightens our hearts and touches them deeply with his word, and makes his plan shine clearly in our souls, we cannot so easily forget. When you have been enlightened to see his calling with the eyes of your heart, when you have seen his inheritance in the saints, his eternal purpose and plan for eternity, then whatever work you do for the Lord, whether small or big, successful or not, easy or difficult, pleasant or unpleasant, will naturally be part of his great plan, because God will have impressed it upon your heart such that it becomes your very own.
We really need to have our hearts opened by God so that we may be enlightened and have God’s vision. This will be a great deliverance for us because it will free us from ourselves and from our narrow horizon. From then on, we will sense that as long as this eternal work is unfinished yet, neither God or I can have any rest. As long as God’s plan is unfilled, we will have no real satisfaction. What burdens we have for the work of God, and what our service is to God is indeed not as important as what God himself desires to have. When we have had that conviction, and we are enlightened at heart, then we would have no conflict in who we are and what we are doing, no conflict with what gifts we have whether big or small, we would not consider what we accomplish or don’t accomplish— but we would be glad even to move a stone from here to there as long as it serves God’s eternal plan. God may not appoint you and me to do great things, as great as what the apostles did or as great as what some have done in history. However, what he definitely does want from us is for the work he has given to us to do, to be joined into and included in his great and eternal work. However small the role or service the Lord assigns you to do, if it is what he calls you to do, then it is indeed a great work because it is part of the work of God from eternity past to future eternity— it is part of God’s eternal plan and purpose. And for that we must be enlightened and thankful. Some men are not content with what God had assigned for them to do. They aspire to higher roles, better works, greater service than what God had assigned them to, and in the process they become so engrossed in their own plans that they no longer serve God’s eternal plan. That must not happen to us. Let’s ask God for enlightenment, for a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Third, to know the power of God. Look at verse 19. “And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.” This is the third thing that Paul asks God to give us wisdom and revelation that we might know— the great power God has given to us who believe. We will talk about this next time. But briefly, the power God gives us as individuals and as a church is very much part of God’s eternal plan. As we said earlier, every one of these things Paul asks God to enlighten us with is directly related to God’s eternal plan. Even the power we are given is for God’s glorious purpose. The church has a great power given to us by God. We have power that we cannot comprehend, power that we may draw upon in prayer and through prayer so as to accomplish God’s eternal purpose. We need to know this more deeply and more fully, so that we might be able to serve God’s plan in our lives as individuals and as a church. I praise God that he has given us a calling, and within that calling the responsibility to bring the young people into God’s family. Praise God who has given us Triton as well as other campuses worldwide. So that we may be pioneers with the gospel, gathering sons and daughters from among all the students to God — sons and daughters who would be his inheritance. Let’s pray for ourselves and for our church to be used in God’s eternal plan to bring them to God.