Let me read this passage to you while you’re preparing your thoughts for our study. Ephesians 1:15: “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; 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, And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us 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 heavenlies, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come:
“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 fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” Well, that Scripture is so loaded with great truth that we’re not going to be able, by any means, to exhaust its content this time, next time, or for that matter, probably ever, in our thinking. But it introduces to us a very important portion of the first chapter. This is a prayer by the apostle Paul; it is a prayer in response to the great statement of theology in verses 3 to 14.
Now, if you’ve been with us, you know that from verse 3 through 14 is one long sentence. And it is a sentence designed to tell us what it is that God has done for us in Christ. In other words, what we possess in Christ. It discusses the great concept of election, the great concept of redemption, and the great truth of inheritance. In the past God elected us, He redeems us, and in the future, gives us an inheritance. Now, the truths in verses 3 to 14 are really beyond the possibility of the human mind to grasp.
Frankly, our human mind cannot reach that deep into the truth of God. That is something we cannot do. We cannot mine that kind of truth out of our humanness. In 1 Corinthians, there is a very important text in this regard, chapter 2, verse 10 - verse 9, we could start with. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” In other words, empiricism or experiment can’t see it, eye or ear, and intuition and rationalism can’t see it, neither has it entered into the heart of man.
It can’t be known externally, it can’t be really known internally, the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. “But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things” - watch the next line - “yes, even the deep things of God.” You see, in order for us to even understand this incredible legacy that’s ours in Christ, we must depend upon the Holy Spirit. “For what” - says Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:11 - “For what knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”
In other words, we must depend upon the Spirit of God for an understanding of the deep things of God. And believe me, Ephesians 1:3 to 14 are the deep things of God; tremendous truths, deep truths, that our human mind cannot conceive. So, having delineated something of these truths that are ours in Christ, Paul then moves to pray for us, that we would understand these truths. It doesn’t do any good to know them if we don’t understand them, because if we don’t understand them, we can’t live them, see.
So, in chapter 1, Paul begins with describing our position in Christ, then he prays that we’ll understand it. In chapter 2, Paul describes our position in Christ, then in chapter 3, again he prays that we’ll understand it. Finally, in chapter 4, he says, “Now that you’ve got it, and you understand it, here’s how to live it.” So twice, he describes the believers position: chapter 1, chapter 2; twice, he prays that we’ll understand it: chapter 1 and chapter 3; finally, in chapter 4, he says, “Now that you’ve got a grip on it, live it.”
Now, the point is this, people: you cannot live what you do not what? Understand; understand. You can’t live it. You cannot function on principles you don’t know. No Christian has ever yet lived the Christian life who didn’t know what it was. You’ve got to have it. You Christians all over the place are frustrated no end, trying to live a life that’s never been defined for them. And Paul knows, as a man of God, that it is not just a case of telling people; you’ve got to pray that God will energize the information.
Now, I believe that that’s why, in Acts 6, the Bible says that the apostles said, “We will give ourselves continually to the ministry of the Word and prayer.” Why? Because the ministry of the Word must be energized by the Spirit of God, and that is sought in intercessory prayer on behalf of the people. I don’t think that the man of God’s job is just to pray for the broken legs, and the broken arms, and the bad backs, and the diseases of his people.
I think he is to pray that they, as it says in verse 17, would receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened; that they would know what is the hope of their calling. It’s not enough just to teach; it must be taught, and then prayed in, as it were, by the energy of the Spirit of God, released as a response to intercessory prayer. Now, what really is going on here is simply this, then. Paul is describing our position, and praying we’ll understand it, before he tells us how to live it, in chapter 4.
Now, knowing your position is important. You know, if you take a new job, usually, at some point, they give you a description of what you’re supposed to do. Sometimes it’s called a portfolio, if you’re an executive. If you’re on an assembly line, they tell you what to do. You don’t have to know everything; you just need to know what you do, and you can’t start the process until you know, and some time, you have to be trained for a job. Well, the same thing is true in athletics. As an athlete - as an ex-athlete, better correct that; getting old.
As a former athlete, one of the things that I can remember coach after coach talking to me about was - was my position, I started out in high school playing shortstop on the baseball team, when I was in the ninth grade, and so the coach said, “Now, I’ve got to explain to you how to play the position properly.” In basketball, it was playing guard. In football, it was a - it was a quarterback, and I had to learn my position before I could play it. I remember when I was in college, we had a great athlete on our football team.
The guy was just physically super - quick, fast, tremendously strong, really could pump weights - and very, very, very aggressive. You know, the kind of a guy that you could get, in the locker room, to go full blast and put his head into a locker, you know. Just that kind of a guy, just - you know. Oh yeah, that used to be a big thing when I was in college; see if you could find the space between the two-by-fours on the plaster wall and put your head through it, you know. Those were not the Phi Beta Kappa athletes, incidentally.
But anyway, that was part of it, see? Well, so Kurt was this guy’s name, and I mean, he was tough as nails. And they - they decided to make him a middle linebacker; that’s what he’d been in high school, and of course, he was all over the place. And when you get to college, it gets a little more sophisticated, and you can’t run amuck. And so they tried to design for Kurt some limitations to what he could do. Now, the idea was, “You’ve got this much territory, this is your position; now stay there, because when you leave there we’re in trouble.”
But invariably, what would happen was that the quarterback would make a fake somewhere, and Kurt would be long gone after the first fake. The counter would come back, and good-bye, because nobody was home where Kurt was supposed to be. Well, this went on for about four games, and finally this guy - who was probably the best athlete we had on the team - wound up on the bench, because he couldn’t play his position. Now, this is just part of it, in anything you do; you’re given an assignment, the parameters are defined, and you’re asked to fulfill those.
Number one: you must hear the definition of it; number two: you must understand it; then you can do it. But you can’t do it without the first two. The same thing is true with a Christian. You can’t just try to get people to behave in a certain manner, unless they understand the parameters and definition of what it is that they’re asked to do. And yet, you know, it’s a sad thing, but it’s true. Church after church after church after church, people will get up, and they’ll tell people what to do, but they never give them the parameters or an understanding of what it is that they’re really doing.
You know, you get up, and you exhort people to live the Christian life, and do what’s right, and live for God, and get dedicated, consecrated, irrigated - whatever it is, you know, it goes on and on - and try to get them to live it. And you - you really are - you’re working on them from the standpoint of sort of a half-time pep talk every Sunday, to try to jack them up again and get them rolling, see? Or else you put them under a guilt trip, and they begin to feel like they’re just really - they got to do this, or God is going to be right on them, see?
And so, they get to feel guilty. Or you intimidate them, or there’s a certain peer pressure exerted on them, and if they don’t function, they’re not one of the in group, see? And all of this bypasses the real motive for living the Christian life. The real guts of it, the real heart of it, the real base of it, is simply understanding who you are in Christ. That’s the base, knowing your position. I remember as a little kid that people were always reminding me who I was, because my father was a preacher.
And my father was one who was also always reminding me who I was, because he felt that I should live in a certain manner, so that it wouldn’t reflect on his ministry. And I had some trouble with that, ’cause I was kind of a rambunctious little guy, and I remember – well, there’s a lot of things I remember. I’m not going to go into all of them, but I can think of a couple things. When I was a real little kid, I used to tell stories sometimes. I remember one thing my dad - I bit for a while, when I was little.
I bit other little kids, and - I don’t know what I was lashing out at, but my father finally put a sign around my neck, “Do not play with me. I bite.” And I had to - I wore that sign every day for a week, and never bit another kid. It worked. And I remember when I was a little kid, my dad also tied me to the clothesline for a week, so I wouldn’t cross the street when I was told not to. But he was very concerned that I live up to the standard that he had set. See, I’m just like the rest of you, right?
But I remember one time I was - I got into a situation where I was prone to tell fibs, and - and I could – I - I could make up some really good ones. And I remember in the second grade, I told my teacher that my dad was chopping wood and he chopped off his legs, and in fact, I carried it on, day after day. I had the teacher really concerned, and so forth, and so on. I was giving him a day-by-day description of the hospital, and how everything was going. And we had an open house at the end of the week, which I had forgotten about, and my father came.
The teacher looked at my father, and said, “Oh, Reverend MacArthur, you’re doing so well.” He said, “Huh?” And I was taken home, and soundly thrashed. And I - there were several things in my life. I remember one time when I did something very bad, and I wound up in deep, deep trouble, and my mother said to me, “Don’t you know who you are? don’t you know who you are? Don’t you know what that does to your father, and his ministry,” and so forth and so on. Well, you know, in a sense, that was okay.
I mean, you say, “Well, you shouldn’t scold a kid on that basis.” Yeah, it’s all right to do that, I think. We do have a certain responsibility to honor our parents; that’s Biblical. But you know, I always think back on that, and I think about the fact - by the way, I don’t do those things anymore - just want you to know that. But I - but I just think back about the fact that, you know, that’s a great basis for a Christian life, you know. I am who I am in Christ; therefore, I behave the way I behave, see.
This is basic to Christianity. You must understand who you are in Christ. That and that alone is the foundation upon which you operate. And if all you do is just get in the pulpit, or all you do is just try to challenge yourself to live the Christian life, whimsically beating yourself sort of into it emotionally, you’re going to miss it. You’ve got to understand the foundation principles: this is who I am, this is my position, this is my understanding of it.
And Paul is praying, “Oh God, may they deeply understand who they are; may they get a grip on this incredible reality, that they are one with the eternal God through Christ; that all of the blessings of the heavenlies are theirs; that this is the standard of their existence forever, and may they live like it,” see? That’s what he’s after. And so, I tell pastors all the time, “Man, when you get into the pulpit, teach positional truth; teach people what their position in Christ is, then tell them how to act.
“If they don’t know who they are, they don’t know why they ought to act that way.” It’s so important. Position and practice; now, you have to make a distinction in all of your study of the Bible between those two things. People who don’t distinguish between those two things really get confused. If you don’t understand what statements in the Bible are positional, and what are practical, or what deal with your standing before God, and what deal with your experience, you’ll never interpret the Bible right.
For example, in one passage in the Bible it simply says this: “Now you are holy.” You say, “Me?” That’s right, you’re holy. In another verse, it says to the very same people, “Cleanse yourselves from all filthiness.” Now, wait a minute, you just said we’re holy, and now you say cleanse yourselves from filthiness. But you see, if you don’t know the difference, you’re going to go like this, and think at one minute you’re holy, and one minute you’re filthy. The fact of the matter is you’re holy in your position before God in Christ, and you’re not in your practice.
So that this is the way the Christian life goes; here is your position in Christ: perfect holiness, perfect righteousness, one with Christ, an eternal, unchanging, invariable reality. But your practice is down here, and the Christian life is making your practice equal your what? Your position. That’s it; that’s it. It’s making your practice equal your position. Now, the apostle Paul wants us to understand our position, because he knows that unless we do, we’re not going to have the right motive to live the life.
I’m a child of the King. I am one with Jesus Christ. He lives in me and through me. Now, that demands out of me a certain kind of behavior, right? That’s the essence of his thought. So, he has shared, in the first 14 verses, the great, deep, rich truths of what is ours in Christ, and now he prays that we would understand it; he prays that we would get a grip on it. And people, I want you to understand this. Christian growth has nothing - I’ll say it again - Christian growth has nothing to do with your position in Christ - nothing.
When you were saved, you were in Christ; how much of your sin was forgiven? All. You received eternal life. You were made perfect. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to you. God sees you as absolutely perfect and righteous. That’s your position - Christian growth has nothing to do with it. But your practice is where the growth comes. I’ve often said that the Christian life is the process - watch this - of becoming what you are, okay? Becoming what you are. Now, let me illustrate for a minute.
There are a lot of people who think that Christian growth - like when you grow and mature as a Christian and you develop - makes God like you better. Now, we’re kind of like this, we’re this way humanly. You know, we say to our kids now and then, “Well, Mommy won’t love you if you do that,” or “I’ll like you a lot better if you do this.” God is not like Mommy. What you do or don’t do has absolutely no effect on your position before God. You can’t do anything to make Him like you better, you can’t do anything to make Him like you less, because He loves you totally and perfectly in Christ, right?
You can’t do anything to make Him forgive you more or less; He forgave you already everything. You can’t do anything to earn more salvation or to give up some of it; you can’t do that because you already have it total and complete. There’s no more or no less. You see, positionally, it’s all yours. You are already accepted in the beloved one, verse 6 says, of chapter 1 - already. We’re already in God’s favor, we’re already in God’s grace, for Christ’s sake. Everything is settled. We are one with Christ.
He sees us just as He sees Jesus Christ. Nothing you do can increase you in God’s favor, nothing you do can decrease you in God’s favor, positionally; your standing is perfect. Colossians 2:10 says, “And you are complete in Him.” Hebrews 10 says, “and He has perfected you forever by the one offering of Jesus Christ.” Positionally perfect, positionally complete. Second Peter 1, he says that you have been made a partaker of the divine nature; perfection again. Positionally, you’re in Christ; He doesn’t see you anymore as an individual, in that sense.
He sees you in Christ, with His righteousness. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Peter says you have “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” You have received “great and precious promises.” But then Peter goes on, in 2 Peter 1, verse 4, to say - verse 5 – “Now that you have that position, here’s how to match up your practice.” “Add to your faith virtue; to your virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, patience; to patience” - so forth – “goodness; to goodness, brotherly love; to brotherly love, kindness” - et cetera.
In other words, he’s saying, “Now get your practice moving toward your position; this is who you are, this is how you act like it.” You know, it’s kind of like the difference between a baby and a polliwog. You know, when I was a little kid - and you were, too - used to collect polliwogs. And a polliwog was a little blob with a tail. And you’d get a little polliwog in a coffee can or something, or a jar, and you’d watch that little polliwog, and you’d drop in some grass or something, and pretty soon, that little polliwog would spoung, and a couple of legs would come out in the back, right?
And a little while later, you didn’t have a polliwog. Something else would pop out of the front, and pretty soon you had a frog. But babies aren’t like that. When a baby is born into the world, it’s not a blob with a tail, and you don’t wait three months and boing, boing, two legs pop out. A little later, oomp, little arms. “Oh Ethel, he’s growing an ear, finally.” No. Doesn’t happen. Now, the difference is this: when a baby comes into the world, it has all the parts; it’s perfect. It just needs to grow, right? The same thing is true of a Christian.
When you were born into the family of God, you were not a spiritual polliwog; you weren’t incomplete. You were complete. You were all there, all the parts; totally, completely there. It was simply a matter of maturing. And that’s the way it is spiritually. What the preacher says in Ecclesiastes 3:14 is dead right; he was right on center when he said it. He said, “I know this, that whatsoever God does, it shall be forever: nothing can be added to it, nor any thing taken from it.” He was dead right. When God does a work of salvation, it’s a total thing.
It’s complete, and you’re perfect before God, and it’s just a matter of growing to match your practice to your position. Just like that little baby learns to use all of those facilities and resources that are that baby’s at birth. So, instead of seeking more favor with God, instead of trying to make God like us better, instead of trying to be more fit for heaven, we should just thank God, who has already made us - Colossians 1:12, listen to this - “He has already made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
You are already fit for it. Nothing you do would make Him like you better. He loves you so much already, it’s impossible to love you more. So, Christian growth has nothing to do with your position, it has only to do with your practice; and you need to understand that. And you don’t want to run around trying to make God like you better. If you’re a Christian, He loves you totally; you couldn’t be any better positionally. But oh, man, when you understand positionally what you have in Christ, when you understand all these resources - that you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
That you were redeemed, and your sins were forgiven, and He has granted to you to be a part of His eternal plan, and to call you into that great unity with which the whole universe ultimately ends up. When you realize that this inheritance is planned for you – “incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” When you realize that all these things are yours in Christ - that you are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. When you realize that all of that is yours, and that’s who you are, that ought to do something about how you live; it really should.
And that’s the bottom line. You cannot exhort people to a certain behavior unless they understand who they are. And so, Paul here is praying that we and the Ephesians will understand. Constant exhortation without theology just brings people under guilt; it doesn’t motivate them. So, the mature Christian understands his privileges, his possessions, checks out his resources, lives consistent with who he is. In fact, over in chapter 4, verse 1, Paul says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you” – now, watch - “that you walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.”
He has spent three chapters – now, watch me - three chapters describing the calling, and now, he says, “Therefore, here is how you live.” Now, if you’ve been at Grace Church any time, you know that that’s a principle all through the New Testament; all through the New Testament. You go into the book of Romans, you’ve got eleven chapters of theology, and then in chapter 12, “Therefore, here is how you live.” In Galatians, you’ve got four chapters of theology, finally chapter 5, “Therefore, here is how you live.”
Colossians, the first section theology, “Therefore, here is how you live.” That’s the way it always is in the New Testament, because position is the predicate, the basis, on which practice is built. Now, let’s look at his prayer, then; we’ll look at the first part of it, verses 15 to 17, this morning. “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” - stop there.
Now, in this, he just introduces to us the idea that he is praying; wherefore takes us back: “On the basis of this tremendous inheritance that we have in Christ, I pray for you.” And he says, “I pray for you because I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all saints.” I - you say, “Well, what - what does that have to do with his prayer?” Just this: those two things are the indicators that their salvation was genuine. He says, “I hear you have the two things that prove true salvation, faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints.”
Now, how did Paul hear this? Well, it had been four years, about, since he had ministered in Ephesus, but sea travel was relatively easy in those days, because of the ships and so forth, and so there was great accessibly to that little small part of the world, around the north and west part of the Mediterranean. And additionally, there was a liberty that Paul enjoyed, even while he was a prisoner, and that was that they allowed people to come and visit him. So there was a constant flow of Christians, no doubt, coming in and out of Paul’s life, and they would be bringing him reports.
And as I told you when we first studied the beginning of Ephesians, this letter was not only written to Ephesians, but no doubt, all the churches of Asia Minor. And so, it’s probably that that he has in his mind. He says, “Of all of you churches in Asia Minor, I have been hearing about you.” People visiting, coming by ship, perhaps walking on some of the great Roman highways, that would give them access to Paul’s location. And so, Paul says, “I’ve been hearing good things. In fact, I hear two things. I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints.”
And those, beloved, are the cardinal things; those are the basic aspects of a true Christian. A true Christian is marked by faith in the Lord Jesus, which gives evidence of itself in love toward all saints. In fact, in 1 John, chapter 2, and verses 9 to 11, it says there if you claim to have saving faith and hate your brother, you’re a liar. Those two go together. “By this will all men know you’re My disciples” - John 13 says - “if you have love one for another.” And love, as we’ve defined it so many times, is sacrificial selflessness; serving others sacrificially, unselfishly. True faith always springs into love.
And so, he says, “I’ve heard about it. It’s genuine. I see it.” Now, I want you to see these two things, ’cause they’re very important. First of all, your faith in the Lord Jesus; the Lord Jesus. You see, salvation begins with believing Jesus is Lord; you see that? I was speaking in Miami this week, and a pastor came up to me afterwards, and he says, “Well,” he said - he was kind of, I don’t know what, kind of on edge, I think. He said, “Well,” he said, “I suppose you’re one of those Lordship salvationists.” I said, “What is that?”
He says, “You don’t know about Lordship salvationism?” I said, “No, I don’t.” He says, “Well, you probably believe that in order to be saved, you have to receive Jesus as Lord.” I said, “As a matter of fact, I don’t know any other way.” He said, “Yeah, I thought so.” I said, “You don’t -you’re not a Lordship salvationist?” Sounds like - he said, “No. No.” I said, “Let me ask you a question.” I said, “Is Jesus Lord?” Well, he didn’t really want to answer, I guess, ’cause he said, “Well, well, there is a sense in which He is.”
I said, “Well, is Jesus Lord; yes or no?” “Yes.” “Well, yes, that’s right; He’s Lord. So, if you receive Him, does He come as who He is?” “Yes; He - He’d have to.” “Right. Well, let me ask you this,” I said. “Does Philippians 2 say that ‘every knee should bow and confess Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God?’” And I said, “Does Romans 10 say, ‘That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, thou shalt be saved?’” “Well,” he says, “but it doesn’t appear in the Gospel of John.” I said, “What doesn’t appear in the Gospel of John, ‘Jesus is Lord?’”
“No,” he says, “the idea of Lordship salvationism.” I said, “I don’t know what you’re saying.” I said, “I don’t know - you just tell me what you’re going to do with Romans 10:9, that ‘if thou shalt confess Jesus as Lord, thou shalt be saved.’” And then he just said, “Yes, well you’re a Lordship salvationist,” and he walked off. I - I still don’t know where - where he was. How you get salvation minus the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a problem. I think what he was trying to say was that you can receive Him as just, as Jesus; just as the Savior, without acknowledging Him as Lord.
But he’d have a tough time handling a couple of passages in the New Testament. The point here is, Paul says, “I know you’re genuine, because your faith is in the” - what? – “the Lord Jesus.” You don’t receive Him as Savior, and then later as Lord, you get Him who He is. Now, whether you respond to His Lordship or not is another issue, but He’s Lord. Now, the second thing he says, not only is your salvation evident by the faith in the Lord Jesus, but “your love unto all the saints.” Do you notice that this love is indiscriminate? You notice that a true Christian doesn’t pick and choose?
He loves, and by virtue of that, whoever gets in front, gets loved. We used to say this little phrase: “Well, I love him in the Lord.” Which means personally, can’t stand him. Remember that one? “Well, I love him in the Lord.” As if you had a little pipe coming out of you, you could squirt him with God’s love, you know? You can’t un - you can’t unscramble the egg, folks; if you love him, you love him, and the Lord loves him, and if you don’t love him, then the Lord doesn’t love him, through your not loving him.
You love them, all the saints; you can’t be discriminate. The world picks and chooses. Paul says, in Philippians 2, “I pray that you would have the same love.” What that means is to love everybody what? The same. And in 1 John 3, he says, “Love in word - not in word and tongue, but in deed and in truth, anybody who has a need, and don’t shut up your heart of mercy when you see them with a need.” You can learn all the theology you want, and spin off all of the dogma you want, but if you don’t love, then you are nothing but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
And true salvation goes from the head to the heart, and reaches right out to touch other people. And he says, “I’m so thankful to God that I’ve heard about you; that you have faith in the Lord Jesus, and that you love the saints.” Now, you know something’s kind of sad. That Ephesian church, man, they started out right; but when you get to chapter 2 of Revelation, and verse 4, the Lord Jesus writes them a letter. And the Lord Jesus says to the church at Ephesus, “I have something against you, because you have left your” - what? – “first love.”
Sad to think about it, but the history of the Ephesian Church is, they left their first love, and they went out of existence as a church; they went out of existence. There’s got to be faith and love in balance. You know, the monks and the hermits had a loyalty to Christ which separated them from men, to live alone in a desert place, contemplating faith. It was loveless faith; it never touched anybody. The heresy hunters of the Spanish Inquisition and other ages had a loyalty to their faith, which caused them to literally persecute anybody with a difference; loveless faith.
And I’m afraid there are some Christians in the churches today who are hateful, and bitter, and resentful of other Christians, and its loveless faith, and I question in - as I would the cases I just illustrated - whether it’s even genuine, saving faith. The genuine is marked by love. In fact, I’ll tell you something, folks; you can’t love the Lord Jesus Christ, put your faith in Him, without loving the people that He loves. Did you get that? You can’t love the Lord Jesus without loving the people He loves.
I’ll never forget, my son, one time we were driving in a car, and he leaned over to me, and it was about a certain person. He said to me, “I love So-and-so.” And I did a double-take - I didn’t even know he knew him. I said to him, “What do you mean, you love So-and-so?” He says, “I love So-and-so.” I said, “Why do you love So-and-so?” He said, “Because I always hear you say you love him, and I love him too, then.” Well, that’s right. If I love the Lord Jesus Christ - 2 John 5:1 and 2 says if I love the Lord Jesus Christ, I will love those begotten by the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s part of it.
So, he says, “I commend you. And I pray for you” - verse 16 - “I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” And then, his prayer of thanks turns to a petition, and “I pray,” he says - verse 17 - “that 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” – now, stop right there. He says, “Man, I’m praying for you, that you’ll understand your riches in Christ.”
Warren Wiersbe’s Pastor of Moody Church; he’s written a little book called Be Rich, and in there, he gives an interesting illustration about William Randolph Hearst, who was the late newspaper publisher. Hearst, at one point in his life, decided to invest a veritable fortune in the collecting of great pieces of art. And he was collecting them all over the world, and storing them in warehouses, in different places.
And one day, he read a description - in one of his art books or magazines or whatever - a description of an incredibly valuable piece of art, and he determined that he had to have that piece of art. So, he got his agent, and he sent him all over the world to find it; no one knew where it was. That guy went all over the world to find that art treasure for William Randolph Hearst. Months and months went by, and finally the man came back, and reported, “Mr. Hearst, I found it.” And with great joy, he said, “Where? Where was it?” He said, “It was in your warehouse; you bought it years ago.”
Hmph - frantically searching for what he already possessed. Paul is praying here, “Lord, deliver those Christians from frantically searching for what they already possess. Give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, so that they will know what is theirs, and that they’ll be able to use it in the living of life,” see? Let’s face it, people, we do spend a lot of time messing around, chasing stuff we’ve got. We say, “Lord, I need strength,” and the Bible says you can do all things through Christ, who already strengthens you.
“Lord, I need love” - the love of Christ is shed abroad in your heart. “Lord, I need grace” - My grace is sufficient for you. “Lord, I need peace in this situation” - I already left you all My peace that passes understanding; what else is there? You see Christians scrambling around, begging for what they’ve got; what a waste. And the Bible says you should just ask for wisdom; if you lack wisdom, ask it, and wisdom is the sense not to keep asking for what you’ve got.
You see, the point is this: Paul says, “God, the human mind cannot conceive of the riches of our position in Christ, so please, God, grant them this understanding.” Only the Spirit can search the deep things and reveal them to us. Such understanding is beyond the human mind, and God must enable us to understand. So, he says, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” - I love those titles. “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ” - that identifies it with Him; after all, we’re in Christ, right? And if we’re in Christ, then He’s our God, too.
And He’s “the Father of glory” - that means the One who possesses all things; all glory is His. And so, he prays to that God, that He may give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Now, notice the word spirit. God grants us a spirit; it is an anarthrous construction in the Greek, no article, a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Now, people have discussed, what spirit is this. Some people say it’s the Holy Spirit, that God would grant us the Holy Spirit; but I don’t think that’s Paul’s prayer, because every Christian already has the Holy Spirit, right?
I don’t think that’s it, and besides that, it’s not the Holy Spirit, it’s a spirit. So, I don’t think it’s the Holy Spirit; we don’t need to ask for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6 says, and Romans 8:9 says that all Christians have the Holy Spirit, so that wouldn’t be it. And others have said, “No, it’s the human spirit; that He would give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and he’s talking about the human spirit.”
I don’t think that’s right, either, because we already have a human spirit. The word pneuma - from which we get breath and air and pneumatic, pneumonia, it’s the Greek word - can be translated a lot of ways. And I think the way it should be translated here is as a disposition, an influence, or an attitude, which governs the soul of someone. Let me illustrate this. It doesn’t have to be the Holy Spirit or the human spirit; it can just be an attitude. For example Jesus, in the Sermon on The Mount, said, “Blessed are the poor in” - what? – “spirit.”
He wasn’t talking about the Holy Spirit or the human spirit, He was talking about an attitude. Those were humble people. Now, when we see somebody who’s sad, we say, “Aw, their spirit’s sad.” Or we see somebody really playing hard at some game, we say, “That is spirited play.” Or we see somebody really happy, and we say, “Boy, he’s in high spirits.” And all we mean is an attitude; an attitude, a disposition, an influence in thinking. And I believe that what Paul is saying is this: “Give them the fullness of an attitude of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
“Oh God,” he says, “let them know in their mind how much they possess in Christ. Give them a deep, rich, keen, strong, full understanding.” Now, I would add to that, that I think the Holy Spirit and the human spirit are also both implied. And what Paul is praying is this – watch – “God, send the Holy Spirit to work on the human spirit to create the right spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” because it’s the work of the Spirit. First Corinthians 2, I read you earlier, only the Spirit can search the deep things of God.
And by the way, the word revelation deals with the imparting of knowledge, and the word wisdom deals with the use of it. So, he’s saying, “God, I’m just praying that the Holy Spirit will work on the human spirit to produce the spirit of wisdom and revelation.” That is, “that they will know their position and their resource, and that they will use it,” see? Step out and use it. So, he wants the believer to have a full, deep knowledge of God, not intellectual, but something deeper than that, something far deeper.
And I’m telling you, people - I’ve said this for years and years, and I’ll say it till I drop over - the Christian life is predicated on what you know. It’s got to be here before you can live it; it’s got to be revelation before it can be wisdom; you’ve got to receive it before you can use it. And that’s why we spend our time teaching the Word of God. Pat O’Brien, that CBS reporter, said to me, “I think I’ve seen the difference between the true Christians and the false Christians.” He said, “The true Christians are those who are really heavy into studying the Bible.”
Well, what he was really seeing was that when somebody is heavy into studying the Bible, he gains the revelation of God that is applied in wisdom, and his life is what it ought to be, see? That’s what he sees. So, he prays that we would have the divine mind; that we would be able to do what he said to the Colossians, to set our affections on things above and not on things of the earth. To get our mind out of the gutter and on to the great, grandiose, marvelous, magnificencies of God. And so, Paul prays, “God, it’s not enough.
“It’s not enough that I just tell them the facts. I pray for them, that they would understand the imparting of truth, and the use of it, in the knowledge of Him.” You know, you have Christ; do you know Christ? If you know Christ, do you really have this - this attitude of wisdom and revelation; this deep sense of knowing God’s heart, and God’s mind? Now, Paul goes on to bring three specific things that he wants us to grasp, and we’ll study those next time. Let’s pray. It’s so great, Father, to know that all the resources that are in Christ are granted to us by faith.
Thank You, Father, for every person here; every one a special life, every one especially beloved of You, every one uniquely designed and made. And Father, for those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, for those who know and love Him, every one apart of your eternal plan, and some, Father, who haven’t yet said yes, but You’re calling them by Your Spirit. They’re part of the plan, too; they’re some of Your people, yet unborn; bring them to Yourself today.
For those who are in the family, Father, help us to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, a spirit produced as the Holy Spirit works on our human spirit to give us comprehension beyond what is possible in the normal human mind. To know the deep things of God, and knowing them, to be able to use them, that our position may be known, understood, and lived out. And we’ll thank You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.