Saturday, May 8, 2010

EPHESIANS: Paul's Powerful Prayer for the Body of Christ


In this concluding segment of chapter One of the book of Ephesians we receive a prayerful message from Paul the Apostle. Judging from the content of his prayer, I'd say he was one serious prayer warrior! Imagine what it would've been like attending prayer meeting with Paul the Apostle?

Wow! His prayers are as powerful as his teachings, and I think there is a connection here; let me explain: A Preacher of Power is also a Preacher of Prayer! Anyone who desires to be powerful in their preaching and, or teaching must spend time in prayer, closeted with the Author of the Book. One can have acquired all the schooling, and knowledge of the Biblical languages, and learned from the best of the biblical scholars; all of this is meaningless without Holy Unction, and Divine anointing. This can ONLY be cultivated by relationship with our precious LORD, and by a life consecrated to Him as our chief love and adoration. It's been said before: The LORD doesn't want to be number one on a list of ten. He wants to be number one on a list of ONE!

It was said of the apostles that they have "turned the world upside down" and all this, without so much as a doctorate degree in divinity or theology. All they had were the scriptures and the Holy Spirit! Poor, deprived fellows to have 'only' these resources! Of course, I'm being sarcastic!

Paul, on the other hand was very scholarly and well schooled; however, as he himself admits, he considers it all dung (PHIL 3:8) in favor of obtaining the knowledge of Christ. And this by the indwelling Spirit of God, not by seminary or scholastic means. While such things may be useful to some degree (no pun intended), we would do well to depend on the very same resources as the apostles themselves did! Again, where Paul was concerned, he used simple speech, rather than enticing words (1 COR. 2:4) and was focused on loving the LORD and His people.

Faith in Christ Jesus and love towards the saints are valuable to any follower of Jesus, as Paul declares in our opening verses:

EPH 1:15-16
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers
;


Faith in Christ of course is a requirement for salvation, and once obtained, salvation from sin and self(-ishness) enables us to love one another as Christ loves us.

Show me a church where the saints have such a love for one another, and I'll show you a church that Satan has a hard time infiltrating with fiery darts of envy, strife, contention, jealousy, pride, etc.

Paul declares that he "ceases not" to give thanks to God for the Ephesian saints, and I can't take that any way but literally. That he continually thanked God for the work done in these saints at Ephesus, that they were a blessed encouragement to Paul. As any pastor or lay minister will tell you, its a balm of comfort and the most effective of encouragement to them when they witness the work of Christ Jesus in the midst of the flock, and there is no greater work than their "love one for another".

Do you want to bless your pastor? Then love that saint sitting next to you this coming Sunday in whatever way the LORD leads you! Even if its a simple prayer over them, or an encouraging word, or even a willing, hearing heart that will listen to their problems.

He made mention of them in his prayers, and what we have before us is a sampling (if my suspicions of Paul are correct, what he wrote here was probably a Reader's Digest version!).

So let's get ready to dive in and examine the powerful prayer of Paul:

EPH 1:17-18
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints
,


In the knowledge of Jesus, supernaturally granted by the Holy Spirit, this will yield an abundant vein of wisdom and revelation, even as the apostle John declared:

1 JOHN 2:27
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

This anointing, that is, the Holy Spirit Himself, is our teacher, which the LORD Jesus promised He would send to us, the church (JOHN 15:26); through this Third Person of the Trinity, we are recipients of godly wisdom and divine revelation by which we come into deeper and greater understanding of the LORD.

Yet even so, the primary means of knowing the LORD in greater depth is by simple obedience to the Truth. When once we by faith, obey the truth, the LORD grants us more truth, and if we as faithful stewards keep this in our hearts and obey, He grants us further revelation, and so on. We receive these from the Father of glory who is our heavenly Father.

Such relationship between God the Father and His child will also yield revelation of God's Truth. Consider how many in the Bible were intimate friends and children of God, and to these who yearned for close communion, the LORD revealed His secrets to: men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Daniel, as well as the Apostles (who were His servants, but later became His friends, and later still, His brethren); consider John the Beloved, to whom was given the inspiration for the book of the Revelation!

This is not to say that God grants revelation that is extra-biblical, but He does give greater insights into the Word which He has already given us, and the measure of that insight must be compared to and verified by the whole counsel of God. Wisdom and revelation, by the Spirit of God!

"...the hope of His calling..." This is a joy beyond compare, to be called of God! There is no higher honor to be found anywhere inside or outside of this universe! For those of us, who are the called, there is that sublime promise and grand comfort found in the words . . .

ROM 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.

Being called of God to be a prophet, being called of God to be an apostle, pastor or a teacher, or an evangelist, these are certainly high and noble offices, but simply to be called of God, and set apart from this world, and for God Himself, reserved for Him in a special relationship, set apart for this very purpose is higher and more noble still. To such as we ourselves, members of the body of Christ, have been revealed things that the world knows nothing about. We know the course of this world and what is going to transpire; we know the end of all things, and how everything is going to turn out. The world doesn't as it is spiritually blind and unreceptive of God's Word of Truth.

If indeed you are called of God, then you have the greatest and most assured hope, for God calls no one without a plan in Mind, and that plan is in the eye of Him that sees eternity, and all that is contained within the confines of time. Thus, His plan for those He calls is something according to His foreknowledge. What He plans, He brings to actuality, and what He brings about in the life of the believer, He will complete, for its His work, not ours.

This hope of our calling is certainly not limited to the confines of this earthly domain either! The hope that we have is one of eternal dimensions and consequences. The hope that we have in Christ is that one day we shall "shuck off this mortal coil" as Shakespeare once said, and enter into eternity in liberation of this "body of death" that is, this carnal nature that is prone to sin and one that must constantly be "kept under" as Paul stated (1 COR. 9:27). This hope has glorious promise to it, for what we shall inherit through Christ Jesus is beyond imagining!

ROM 1:7 and 1 COR. 1:2 both express the glory of God: "...called to be saints." Words fail to embrace the vital truth and express the importance of that expression. To think, that the Creator of the Universe, Who holds the world in His hand, Who holds all things together, He who dwells in eternity, thought on me, and called me . . . me!!! Who am I, that the LORD God should deign to even consider, let alone call, one such as I! Does this not well express the grace as well as the humility of God?

"...the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" As we stated before regarding inheritance, none of us can accurately imagine or estimate the incredible nature of this inheritance. We must simply know that this is something far grander than the expanse of our minds can comprehend, and that we must be humbly thankful to God for His insurmountable grace and love for us!

EPH 1:19-20
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places
,


This describes, not His power, nor the greatness of His power . . . but the exceeding greatness of His power: toward us!! Paul prayed that we would know of this power on a personal, practical level in our lives!

The word "exceeding" occurs three times in this book: chapter 1:19 here, also 2:7 and 3:20. Check out these last two verses -

EPH 2:7
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

EPH 3:20
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us
,


The Greek word for "exceeding" is huperballo, and it means - "to throw beyond the usual mark, to surpass or to be super-eminent." Remember that Superman Returns film where Brandon Routh played the Man of Steel, and that one scene when he's back home on the farm, visiting his Mom, and he tosses that ball for the dog? I think he pretty much sent that thing into orbit! The dog just turns, looks at him and whines in protest! THAT was an exceeding far throw well beyond the mark!

That's the sort of power God has invested in you as a believer! This is in accord to the working of His mighty power or in other words (based on the various Greek words used here): according to the energy of God's forceful abundance in miraculous power. It's what raised Christ from the dead, and brought Him to the heaven of heavens where He now sits on His Father's throne! As you read this, right now, there is a Man (the Word made flesh) sitting on the Throne of God!

That same power (dunamis, from which we get the word, dynamite) is in us! This is the sort of power required in order to live a life of spiritual power, to conduct oneself inwardly and outwardly in a manner of holiness, love, peace, etc. comparable in quality to the LORD Jesus!
(See ROM 8:11; 2 PET 1:4 [here "exceeding" is used again]; 1 JOHN 2:6)

You might doubt this, because after all, Jesus is God in the flesh! How could I possibly live a life of holiness compared to His? Granted, our walks are such that we will stumble on occasion, we will fall into sin, we will fail, only because we retain a sinful nature that hasn't been eradicated... yet (but will be at the rapture or upon our personal death)! Yet when we walk in the Spirit, it is the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us, and since its by His power we live these Christian lives (not ours) that same quality of holiness can be expected!

Being seated at the right hand of the Father, the LORD Jesus is now . . .

EPH 1:21
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come
:


The LORD Jesus, after His crucifixion, after His resurrection, but before His ascension declared to His disciples:

MATT 28:18
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost
:


He is glorified and exalted above ALL power, and ALL power is given to Him! There is not another who wields power that is even close to the power that our LORD Jesus Christ now wields! Because He in fact wields ALL power, He can say "Go ye therefore" and we can be assured that such power will follow us, as we yield and obey His command!

He never asks us to go it alone, He never expects us to do anything of worth apart from His empowering grace and His Spirit. Where the LORD will guide you in the work He has ordained for you, He will faithfully make provision in power to accomplish that which He intends in your life!

It reminds me of that verse in the Gospel of Mark, after the LORD ascended into heaven, having given His followers the Great Commission to go out among all the world and preach the Gospel, He co-labored together with each and every one of them, from His Father's Throne! Check it out -

MARK 16:20
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Every name and power is under His dominion, and each of these will declare His Name as above EVERY Name, in a day yet ahead, but is coming more surely than the sun will rise tomorrow (see PHIL. 2:9-11)! What a day that will be, when we all witness the glorification of the One Who is most exceedingly (I can use this word too!) worthy of such glory!

EPH 1:22-23
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.


Now since all things are under His feet, and the LORD Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, which is His body, then whoever the 'feet' of His body are, in the church: all things are under them too! Since they are feet, it stands to reason that the rest of the body is likewise over all those things.

Can we even begin to comprehend the sort of spiritual authority as believers we are invested with? This is the authority granted by God, and we can only use this authority in compliance to the will of God. To fail to do so, means that such authority will not be exercised in our lives. As it states in

1 JOHN 5:14
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

To pray anything in the "name of Jesus" requires that the thing prayed for must be in accordance to the very nature of Jesus, according to His heart and His will and His holy character of divine love and wisdom.

Is it the LORD's desire that souls get saved? Delivered from demonic oppression or possession? Set free from bondage to sin? Healed of maladies and heartache, misery and loneliness? YES! Its merely a question of faith and of wisdom.

Faith in God and His ability and His heart of love, and wisdom to know the timing: that He sometimes brings these answers to us while we are in the midst of this Earthly realm, and sometimes brings these answers to prayer as the one prayed for steps into eternity, and into His everlasting arms!

In any regard, the powerful prayer of Paul for the church is an all encompassing one that he relates to throughout the rest of this epistle, and it, in a sense, climaxes in chapter six when our spiritual authority is directed towards spiritual warfare, and we will get to all of that in due time.

For now, as the body of Christ, I pray that we conduct ourselves accordingly and in the manner of Jesus, by the Spirit of Jesus Christ that dwells in us and empowers us to do all His perfect will! The LORD Jesus bless each of us, WAY TOO MUCH!!

Next time - Chapter 2!

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