Sermon Notes

November 13th 2022

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson November 13th

Christ is Wisdom / Ephesians 1:15-23 (MSG)

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength! 20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised Him from death and set Him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from His rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the Church. The Church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the Church. The Church is Christ’s body, in which He speaks and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.

INTRODUCTION

It was conventional in ancient letters to add a thanksgiving and prayer on behalf of those to whom the letter was sent. The opening words here are typical of Paul and may indeed be modeled on other writings of his, including Philemon and Colossians. The thanks-giving emphasizes the two sidedness of the readers’ new relation-ships—faith in Jesus and love for all the saints.
But the prayer which follows surpasses anything else in Paul's letters, as rich as the preceding blessing and stretching the expec-tation of hope and the imagination of faith still further.
It is directed to God, not to Jesus. God is described as the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, with the recognition that Jesus, even in the fullness of His exalted lordship, still acknowledges God as His God. This Christian faith is still monotheistic through and through. It is God who has done the great work of salvation in Christ and in whom the hope is focused.

INTO THE VERSES

15-16 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.
Paul’s prayer was motivated both by doctrine and by what he had heard about these saints. He had heard of their faith in Christ. This represented both their embracing of Christian doctrine and their having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior. The true nature of their faith was that their lives were affected by what they professed to believe. Not only that, but their faith also affected those that were around them.
Paul had heard also of their love for the brethren. Compare I John 3:15-18 with this passage. Their faith had resulted in love for one another. The vitality of our relationship with God will always be manifested by the vitality of our relationship with our fellow man—this is the message of James. It was their correct doctrine, their faith relationship with Christ and their love for the brethren, which provoked Paul to pray for them.
*Focusing on gratitude for salvation will prevent desire for greater or more effective ministry from becoming an idola-trous focus in our lives.
17-19 But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!
Paul’s prayer essentially contains two requests of God. The first request is for knowledge, which is fundamental to well-being. Here most in view is the knowledge which comes through an experience of revelation, of eyes being opened, and through the experience of personal relationship with God. When knowledge is reduced to the gathering of facts or information which can be humanly discovered, it will always be deficient for living. Only in its richest form, depend-ent on divine inspiration, does knowledge become wisdom.
Here, however, the thought is directed more to the future: the hope to which God has called us. A calling both invitation and summons elaborated in the talk of the rich inheritance to be shared with the Saints. When hope is based on such knowledge it can indeed be firm and confident. Hope is not far from faith and love (I Corinth-ians 13:13).
20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised Him from death and set Him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to govern-ments, no name and no power exempt from His rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the Church. The Church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the Church. The Church is Christ’s body, in which He speaks and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.
The second petition reflects further on the working of this great might of God. Hope can be confident because the power at work in human experience is the same power which raised up Christ from the dead and exalted him as God’s means of providing our salvation.
The thought that Christ was set in the heavenly places is peculiar to this writing. The further thought that Jesus was already dominant over all powers, both present and future, takes up Psalm 110:1 combined with Psalm 8:6. The combination is powerful since it links the idea of Jesus as the man/son of man who fulfills God’s purpose for humanity as the climax of creation with that of Jesus as David's greater son given a share in God’s sovereign rule. The conviction obviously carries with it a psychological liberation from fear of the nameless forces which shape human existence. What a one was this Jesus that the note struck by his life, death, and re-surrection should have had such continuing resonance and deep-ening reverberations in the subsequent decades.
The climax of what God did in Christ was to establish Him as head over all things for the Church, which is His body. Paul also uses this metaphor in I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:4-8; it will later be elaborated with the idea of Christ as the head of the body (Ephesians 4:15, 16). But here the thought is of Christ as head of all reality, given by God to or for the Church.
Head can mean both “ruler” and “source.” Thus, Christ could be portrayed as embodying or epitomizing the rationale and pattern of divine creation. Given “to/for” the Church could then mean simply that the Church had, through its faith in Christ and the God who worked through Christ, been given the key to understanding reality and enabled to rise above all threatened human and social life. Christ now embodies the fullness of the Church. Christ’s body is the place where God’s presence and purpose for creation comes to its clearest expression.

CONCLUSION

Paul believed that an understanding of the power of Jesus Christ was essential to the believer’s spiritual walk. Because of this, he not only describes this power, but he prays that the Holy Spirit would give each of his readers (and the church) a deeper grasp of this power.
What practical difference should this knowledge make? How would a better understanding of the power and authority of Jesus Christ make? Paul has linked this power to the resurrection and ascen-sion of our Lord. When we look at the ways in which the resurrect-ion and ascension of Christ impacted the early church, we will begin to see how these truths also affect us.
Finally, prayer should not be viewed as an opportunity for us to bend the will and the power of God to serve our own selfish pur-poses, but as a time to submit our will to God’s will and to His pur-poses. How quickly we pervert and distort the truth of God’s word, especially in relation to God’s power and our prayers. We speak of “the power of prayer,” but that expression is neither found nor sanctioned in scripture. It is not our prayers which are powerful, but God. But God’s power is restricted to those things which accom-plish God’s purposes. To pray with confidence, we must pray for what God has purposed and promised, rather than for those things we might desire.

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