That You May Know (3)
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: hat the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling… Ephesians 1.15-18
Paul’s vision and ours
We have been urging the point that Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 encapsulates his vision for the Christian life. The vision you have of the Christian life – how you perceive and pursue your walk with the Lord – will determine the nature and impact of your life in Christ. As Paul put it, once we have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we begin learning how to show love for all the saints (v. 15). When Paul sees this, he rejoices, because this is what is supposed to happen in the Christian’s life. Those who believe in Jesus become epicenters of grace and truth in that part of the world field the Lord has assigned to them. Believing in Jesus and bearing the fruit of love is the heart and soul of being a Christian. (1 Tim. 1.5; cf. Heb. 6.9, 10).
But Paul wants us to think big about this calling – to think big, aspire big, and live big, so that, increasingly, we become filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3.19), and this fullness of God overflows from within us to fill every place we go with the Presence of Jesus Christ. Elsewhere, Paul makes this same point by describing believers as the fragrance or aroma of Christ in every place (2 Cor. 2.14-16). Wherever we go, whatever we’re doing, whomever we’re with, we waft and impart the Presence of Jesus.
We must not think of our lives as Christians only in terms of what we experience – freedom from guilt, the joy of forgiveness, the hope of eternal life, the peace that passes understanding, and so forth. We must also be concerned for what Jesus sends us to express as His followers. We are called to be His witnesses (Acts 1.8). And we are part of a larger movement of like-minded people who are becoming filled with the fullness of God, and whose objective is to put everything under the feet of King Jesus, and to fill all things in all things with the living Presence of our risen and beautiful Savior (Eph. 1.22, 23; 4.8-10).
So Paul prayed that we might have the Spirit of God to grant us His wisdom – the Wisdom which is our Lord Jesus Christ – by means of divine revelation. Wisdom is the goal; revelation is the means; the fullness of God is the result, when the Spirit of God is vitally at work within us (Phil. 2.13). This is what Paul wants for us as followers of Jesus. What could be more exciting or world-changing than to fulfill our part in a vast, worldwide movement of people who are filling all things in all things with Jesus Himself?
A heart-felt vision
For this to happen, for this to be our experience of following Jesus, certain things have to happen. We need to know certain things, and not just as cognitive categories or intellectual insights. We must know in a deeper, richer, more determinative way than can happen by our minds alone. If we are to know as a lived, exciting, transforming experience the hope of our calling and the riches of God’s glory (v. 18), and the greatness of God’s power – exceedingly abundantly beyond what we’ve ever dared to ask or think (Eph. 1.19; 3.20) – so that we are filled with the fullness of God and fill all things through the Body of Christ into the world, then something crucial needs to happen.
The eyes of our heart must be enlightened (v. 18).
What the NKJV translates as “the eyes of your understanding” is literally, “the eyes of your heart.” Paul could have said “understanding,” for he certainly had a word for that, if that is what he intended. But to accomplish the goal of his prayer, he needed something larger than understanding, something that includes understanding but goes beyond it to bring about lasting change in a person’s life.
Paul thus directed his prayers toward the hearts of disciples – the hearts of the Ephesians and our hearts as well. In Scripture, the heart is that part of the soul that harbors the affections. Primary among these are the affections of love, desire, longing, and intention. What we love, desire, long for, and intend is what shapes our thoughts and directs our actions. If we are to be filled with all the fullness of God and fill all things in all things with the living Presence of Jesus Christ, we must love such a notion, desire it above all else, long for it at all times, and incline all aspects of lives to the realization of it.
The heart is the heart of the matter in the life of faith. Both Solomon and Jesus affirm this (cf. Prov. 4.23; Matt. 12.34, 35; 15.19). Paul insisted that it is when our affections become wrongly focused that our walk with the Lord suffers (2 Cor. 6.12). The mind has an important role to play in the life of faith. The revelation of God that leads to wisdom and Christlikeness enters our minds, as the Spirit teaches us the things of Christ. But this information will be of no benefit unless it is coupled with the proper affections, affections which enliven and direct our thoughts, and move us in our bodies to love God and our neighbors. We can learn all the doctrines of Scripture, and all the outlines and themes of all the books of Scripture. But if our affections toward what we’re learning are not enlightened with the light of Jesus, we will be indifferent or complacent or smug about those ideas, at best, and opposed or hardened to or scornful of them at worst (1 Cor. 13.1-3).
Bible information, doctrine, Christian instruction, preaching – these are not the means to being filled with the fullness of God and filling your part of the world with Jesus. They are part of the way into the means, but they are not the means itself. If your heart is not enlightened by the light of Christ, all your reading and study will be of no benefit; it will bear no true fruit of faith in love for God and others.
Your heart must be enlightened before you can know as God wants you to know, and live as Jesus calls you to live.
What is this “enlightenment” that comes upon our affections so powerfully, that it engages them all in the direction of being filled with all the fullness of God and filling all things with Jesus Christ? “Enlightenment” is a term that has been used to describe the modern era’s liberation of itself from the constraints of “religion” so as to be led into true understanding of our lives through the ministrations of science.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And the record of the “Age of Enlightenment” does not demonstrate the achievement of a world filled with happy, generous, selfless, moral, and noble people. True enlightenment does not come from rejecting God and turning to science. Science is a wonderful discipline, and it holds great promise for contributing to the progress of Christ’s rule on earth as it is in heaven. But science, uncoupled from the light of Jesus Christ – the Treasury of all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2.3) – is a dead end. Only as the eyes of our hearts are enlightened by the light of Jesus Christ can we expect to realize Paul’s vision for the life of faith.
And the light of Jesus is nothing other than Jesus Himself, Who is the Light of the world, and Who must and can enlighten our love, desire, longing, and inclination so that we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and carry the fragrance of Him into everything we do. Only the Light of Jesus can enlighten our hearts so that we truly know what we must know.
1. Why do we say that preaching and study and reading are not the means to a rich life of discipleship? If they’re not the means, what are they?
2. How does the heart function in relation to the mind? Why do our hearts need the Light of Jesus?
3. Why is mere knowledge of doctrine and Scripture not sufficient to help us realize the goal of our discipleship?
Next steps – Preparation: Think about the people you meet throughout the week – the people to whom Jesus sends you as His witness and ambassador. For each person, how would you describe the attitude of your heart?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.