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.