Empowered in Christ
This passage follows on from Paul’s opening expression of praise, and now he turns to prayer and explains to the Ephesian church how he is praying for them (and by implication how he would pray for us and how we might pray for one another). First, he gives thanks for them because he has heard of their faith in Christ and love for the saints. Paul’s vision of Christianity is both vertical and horizontal and as he sees both aspects lived out in the Ephesian church he is full of thankfulness to God for it.
He then turns from thanksgiving to petition, and his big ask for the Ephesians is knowledge. By this he doesn’t mean head knowledge but true, deep-seated experiential awareness. In particular, he asks for knowledge of a few things:
Firstly, at the end of verse 17 is ‘knowledge of him’. Through the Holy Spirit he wants them to have an increasing revelation of Christ himself. At it’s heart, Christianity is about relationship with Jesus and this is something we should be constantly praying for, for ourselves and for others.
Next, in verse 18 he prays that their hearts are enlightened to know the hope to which they have been called. Often we can be weighed down by the pressures and difficulties of the moment, but having hearts filled with the future hope of glory can carry us through whatever challenges we may face.
After this is the prayer that we understand the power that is at work in, through and for us. Paul reminds us that that this is the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. Remembering this will make us quick to turn to prayer and confident in our expectation for God to move in our lives.
Finally, he prays that they know the authority of Christ. He is above all powers and authorities and God has appointed him as head over all things. The one we follow and worship is sovereign and so we can be confident that in him we will never be shaken and that he works all things for good according to his kingdom purposes.
`In preaching a sermon like this, it is important to keep the faith-filled hunger for Christ that comes through in Paul’s words. It is not a mere awareness of what these things are that Paul is praying for but he wants their hearts to truly ‘get it.’ Our desire for those we are preaching to should be the same.
Some Key Points:
- The Christian life is an experiential one that centres on knowing Christ.
- In Christ there is hope for the future and a glorious inheritance in the saints.
- Christ has all power and authority and uses it for the sake of his church. This gives us confidence in living for him.
- Thanksgiving for Other Believers – This passage starts with a prayer of thanksgiving for the work of God being demonstrated in the lives of other believers, and we too can (and should) be praising God as we see others living out the gospel hope.
- Know Christ – It is a simple point but and important one. At times we can define our faith around our actions or even our beliefs, but at the centre of it is relationship with Christ himself. To know him more deeply through his Spirit is something we should all long for and pursue.
- Have Confidence In the Midst of Challenge – When we understand the hope that we have in Christ and the power that he has, it changes how we approach difficulties in life and we can both expect Christ to work powerfully now in the circumstances and to bring us to a future inheritance that is full of glory.