Ephesians 1:15-18a

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 22, 2006

Learning the language

A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn’t understand a whole lot of what was going on. Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place. Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row. So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary recruit stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord’s Supper, he held the cup and bread. During the preaching, the recruit didn’t understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew. Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too. Then the preacher said some words that he didn’t understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down. After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: “I take it you don’t speak Spanish.” The missionary recruit replied: “No I don’t. It’s that obvious?” “Well yes,” said the preacher, “I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up.”

For some of us, going to church is like learning that missionary learning a new language. It seems like we try to get by with just imitating those around us. But it’s important that we too pick up on the language itself. It’s important that we too learn to speak like genuine Christians.

:15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus

Paul has been talking about how the Ephesians learned to trust in Jesus:

(Eph 1:13 NKJV) In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

What do you have to do to become a Christian? Where do you sign up? Is there a list of things you’re supposed to do?

Do you remember what we talked about last week – what the “gospel” is?

The problem, the solution, the application

To become a Christian, You have to trust Jesus to pay for your sins.

:15 and your love for all the saints,

loveagape – brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence


The language of Love

Faith is what makes a Christian, but love is what validates a Christian.
Once you’ve become a Christian, the chief mark that shows whether or not you really are a Christian is whether or not you love others, and specifically, whether or not you love other Christians.
Jesus said,
(John 13:34-35 NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. {35} "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
We have printed in our bulletin: We believe worship of God is Fruitful, therefore we look for His love in our lives as the supreme manifestation that we have truly been worshipping Him.
It isn’t just love for the saints you get along with. It’s a love for ALL the saints.
The sad truth is that some Christians as a lot easier to love than others. Some Christians are just plain difficult to love.

(Mat 5:43-48 NKJV) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

It’s sad, but to be honest, sometimes you will find that the people in your personal category marked “enemies” are people that go to church with you. And God’s desire is that we love them, even when they’re unlovable.

What is “love”?
When Paul is writing to the Corinthians, he addresses some of the issues of their bickering and clique-ish-ness. In 1Cor. 12, he tries to tell them that everyone’s different and that we all need each other, just as the body needs each body part to be able to function. But in 1Cor. 13, Paul stops to talk about a better way of getting along with each other in the church:
(1 Cor 13:1-8 NKJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. {2} And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. {3} And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

At church we do “religious” things like speaking in tongues, understanding mysteries, though I don’t know of may who give their bodies to be burned. But if I do these religious things without love, then they’re worthless. Then Paul goes on to describe what love is all about.

{4} Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; {5} does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; {6} does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; {7} bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. {8} Love never fails.

This is how we are to treat one another. This is supposed to be the thing that people see and say, “Look, there goes a Christian!”

:16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

mentionmneia – remembrance, memory, mention


The language of prayer

Just what are you praying for?
When it comes to “prayer requests”, we generally think of asking people to pray for things like a person who is ill, a situation at work, things like that.
Don’t take me wrong here. Those are good things to pray for. And in group settings perhaps those are a little safer to ask for.
When I think of how I pray for other people, sometimes I find myself praying things like, “Help them not to be so mean”, “Take away that annoying habit”, or even sometimes, “God, make them pay!”
And at times, I don’t think that those are all bad things to pray for.
But I’ve been wondering lately if maybe there’s an aspect of prayer requests that I’ve been missing out on.
Next month we’ll be hearing a lot more about the Olympics and the Olympic athletes as the Winter Games begin in Turin, Italy. If you were interested in becoming a champion bobsledder, you might find yourself getting lots of advice. You might hear people telling you to not do drugs. You might be hearing people telling you to not stay up late partying. You might hear people telling you to eat less ice-cream. But there’s more to being a champion bobsledder than just “not” doing certain things. You have to build certain things into your life as well. You have to build training regimens. You need to eat the right kinds of foods. You need to learn bobsled driving skills. You need a decent bobsled. And it wouldn’t hurt to have some runners from Jamaica on your team!
It’s not just what you keep out of your life, but what you add into your life.
In your prayer life, are you praying just for the “negatives”, or are you asking for the “positives” as well?
People that do these “Twelve-step” programs learn that they just can’t “stop” drinking, they need to put something into their life, like reaching out and helping others.
I’ve heard Pastor Chuck say many times, “Instead of trying to drive the darkness out, just turn on the light”.
In my own prayer life, I’ve been praying for a couple of months for myself, that I’d be less “critical” of others. I’ve even labeled it, I call it “Rule 3”. Rule 1 is loving God. Rule 2 is loving others. For me, Rule 3 is not being critical of others. But as I’ve been praying that for myself, it hit me earlier this week that perhaps I’m praying for the wrong thing. Instead of being less critical of others, I think I’m going to start praying that God would simply make me more “gracious” towards others. Do you see the difference? I don’t think God just wants to chop a hole in my life by removing my critical spirit, I think He wants to build an entire new addition on my life, by helping me to be more gracious towards others.
Look at this verse with me:
(Gal 5:22-23 NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Here’s a list of things that the Spirit of God wants to produce in our lives. As you look at this list, is there something on the list that you wouldn’t mind having a little more of?

Take a piece of paper, put your first name on it, and write that quality down next to your name. Trade slips of paper with someone else in the church.

Pray for them silently.


The language of persistence

The words Paul uses speak of continual prayer.
“Not ceasing”, “giving thanks”, “making mention”, are all in the present tense. That means that there is a sense of continual praying going on.
Paul could simply be referring to what we think of as “praying without ceasing” (1Th. 5:17), but I wonder if he isn’t talking about the content of his continual prayers for the Ephesians. The things we are going to be looking at over the next couple of weeks constitute a peek into Paul’s prayer life for these people. These are the things that he continually prays for them.
(Luke 11:5-10 NKJV) And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; {6} 'for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; {7} "and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? {8} "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
The point of this story is the value of persistence. The sleeping fellow was a friend, it’s not an issue of whether or not God likes you. The issue is whether or not you will be faithful to pray persistently, continually.
And don’t think that God is “bothered” by you praying all the time. He loves to hear His children praying. And He loves persistent prayers.
{9} "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. {10} "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
The words “ask”, “seek”, and “knock” are all present tenses, meaning that they are continuous actions taking place. They are not one-time actions.
Remember that word you just wrote down on the paper and exchanged with the other person? What if you prayed for that thing for yourself every day this week? Do you think God might begin to move in that area of your life?
What if you committed to pray just for the members of your family every day this week, but instead of praying critical prayers, you asked God to give you some positive thing to pray for them about?
What if you prayed longer than a week for them?

:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,

Prayer is addressed to the Father. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father …”


Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers when the youngest one began praying at the top of his lungs. “I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE... I PRAY FOR A NEW NINTENDO... I PRAY FOR A NEW VCR...” His older brother leaned over and nudged the younger brother and said, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.” To which the little brother replied, “No, but Gramma is!”

We don’t pray to Grandma.  We pray to the Father.

:17 may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

This is where we get into the specifics of how Paul has been praying for the Ephesians.

spirit – Paul could be using this word to describe the “attitude” of wisdom and revelation, but it also could carry the idea of the Holy Spirit, who gives wisdom and revelation. Jesus said,

(John 14:26 NKJV) "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

wisdomsophia – wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters; It denotes mental excellence in the highest and fullest sense, expressing an attitude as well as an act of the mind. It comprehends knowledge and implies goodness, including the striving after the highest ends, as well as the using of the best means for their attainment.

revelationapokalupsis – laying bear, making naked; a disclosure of truth, instruction; concerning things before unknown; used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all

knowledgeepignosis – precise and correct knowledge; it is a fuller, clearer, more thorough knowledge, knowledge by experience.

The idea is that God gives us spiritual wisdom and revelation through our knowledge and experience of God.

Another way to put it: The more I am growing in my knowledge and experience of God, the more I will grow in spiritual wisdom and revelation.

Do I need wisdom and revelation? Do I need direction and answers in my life? Then I need to keep growing in my relationship and experience with God.

:18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know …

being enlightenedphotizo – to give light, to shine; to enlighten, light up, illumine; to bring to light, render evident; to cause something to exist and thus come to light and become clear to all; to instruct, to inform, teach; to give understanding to

Perfect tense – having been done in the past with results continuing into the present.

understandingdianoia – the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring


Keep growing – you haven’t arrived yet …

Paul’s going to pray for their understanding to grow in three areas (which we’ll look at next week), but the point here is that he’s praying for them to grow in their understanding of the things of God.
Grow or die. Progress or stagnate.
There are different kinds of growth goals we can get to as a Christian, places where we can tell ourselves that we’ve arrived.

Perhaps it’s when we finally see victory over some troubling sin.

Perhaps it’s when we actually finish reading the Bible for the first time.

Perhaps it’s when we start serving, perhaps teaching a Sunday School class.

And the danger at these times is to think that you’ve reached the top.

When we were watching the first of the Lord of the Rings movies, Frodo and his friends would get through some difficult circumstance and finally turn a corner, and I kept expecting them to reach the dreaded end of their journey, Mordor. But they’d turn the corner and Mordor was still just a faint distant sight. And the movie would go on, and on, and on. I didn’t realize at the time it would take three very long movies to get to Mordor!

We’ve all still got a long way to go. And we’re not going to the dreaded Mordor, we’re going to heaven!