I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you might grow in your perfect and thorough knowledge of God. (Ephesians 1:17)
This verse is a suitable case for dissection and analysis. Paul lived and breathed in the realm of Holy Spirit revelation. What he was writing has been received and been declared as divine revelation for two millennia. The context of the prayer he discusses from verse seventeen through to the end of the first chapter explains a lot about His motivation and drive in the area of prayer and his logic that perceives what needs to be prayed for. This is indeed revelation of the dynamics of things in the spiritual realm. So; I suggest some sermonic bullet points and relevant explanations for the headings.
Hey! Hold on! Just a few verses earlier in this chapter, verse eight to be precise, Paul had said that God had already abounded toward them (and, as fellow Christians it means that God has also abounded to us) in all wisdom and prudence and that He had actually made known to them and to us the mystery of His will. Now he is praying that the recipients of his letter would receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” It is for this observation that many have asked; “Doesn’t that make this statement of verse 17 somewhat contradictory of what has gone before?” Not at all!
It is true that all true born again Christians already have the wisdom and prudence of God seeded in our spirits. These things came as part of our package deal of salvation when the Christian repented of his or her sin and exercised faith towards Jesus Christ. Here, Paul is praying that what has already been seeded and planted in our spirits will become the dominating and ruling factor in our mental and attitudinal disposition as that seed is cultivated by the washing of water by the word and the renewing of the mind as the Christian positively engages with the word. The apostle is praying for a release and manifestation into the realm of the visible, temporal and physical world what is already present and alive in our spirit. It is that “Deep, Deeper and Deepest” principle raising its head again. There are degrees of growth, measurable levels of development that differ in us all, yet the seeding in the human heart of the Spirit of God makes a level playing field for us all to journey in. In plain English, there is no variableness in what God gives the believing heart, but there are huge variations on the hearts of believing humanity when considering hunger and desire for more of God. What God does to and for man is absolute and uniform. Man’s response to His word however has as many degrees and variations as there are Christians who have ever lived.
So the apostle is asking God for something. This is interaction with God. This is a fervent seeking of a personal Divine transaction. This is a one to one, face to face exchange with the Almighty. This is the occupation in which Christians should by rights be world leaders. Those who say they love God and believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that the Holy Spirit dwells within them should be effortlessly proving to a watching world how alive and personal God is by their dialogue with Him, the answers to prayer that they enjoy and the radiance of the light of Christ in their entire demeanour.
Notice that Paul does not pray that God will give them more and more temporal “things” such as affluence, physical strength, and all things visible. That is without doubt the ultimate manifestation, of the gospel in a person’s life, and indeed these things were lavishly seen in the life of the apostle Paul. There is, however, the incredibly sure and solid foundation that needs to be placed in a person’s life and faith in order to bring out such fruit, i.e. a spirit of revelation and wisdom in the knowledge of God Himself. What Christians have received in their hearts from God when they were converted needs deepening, chewing over, meditating on and absorbing. Paul is asking that these people will have an ever-deepening experience of understanding more of their relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.
It should be made plain. The Christian life is not a continuous life long struggle to get more faith or more anointing, or to get closer to the Lord. We already have these things in their glorious fullness as per Romans 12:3. We just need a fuller and more comprehensive revelation of what is already ours. If we could only see clearly what we have in Christ there would be no holding any of us back. But what we have in Christ is infinite and widespread in one’s spiritual vision and constantly needs to be expanding.
Understanding this aspect of biblical truth takes a lot of frustration and doubt away from the hungry heart. It is much easier to release within us something we already have than to try and attain something we don’t have. Through Christ, we are already blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. All we have to do is appropriate what is already ours through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-3 ). Peter also tells us the same thing when he stated that God has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. We have it absolutely, but we need more of it. It is a paradox most glorious!
PAUL HAS HEARD OF THE LOVE AND FAITH OF THE PEOPLE TO WHOM HE IS WRITING
Paul is not praying blindly. “Somebody I know in Asia needs prayer, Paul. Could you pray please?” No! It is simply not that sort of general, blanket praying. Whether we are talking of small numbers or huge crowds that need prayer, the principle is the same. Whether it is a group of twelve meeting in the catacombs somewhere, or whether it is the Christian population of thousands worshipping in many churches in a widespread area, Paul has absorbed certain facts about the Asians (assuming it was not just the Christians in Ephesus). This facilitates and enables the apostle to pray intelligently, prosecuting their case before the throne of God. The apostle informs us that he has heard of their faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ and love towards all of God’s people. These facts, together with anecdotal accounts of how their love and faith were being expressed induced him to unceasing thanksgiving on their behalf. He thanked God for these people because he owned them as a father to their faith. He is excited at the fruit of the gospel in their lives that has birthed such practical love. For those reasons he continually makes mention of it in his interaction with the Almighty to the end that God might give these people more of what they already are experiencing.
PAUL KEEPS ON ASKING
Repetition and persistence are basic to a true life of prayer. Paul continually gives thanks for their testimony, and he also continually prays for them to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Some prayers can be uttered once and left in His almighty hand, but Jesus also encouraged us to ask and keep on asking, to knock and keep on knocking, and to seek and keep on seeking. Character is built through persistent prayer. I am not referring to vain repetitions. I am referring to diligent heartfelt faith filled prayer. Intimacy with God does not just happen, it is built. Power in prayer does not happen it is built by consistent perseverance.
PAUL KEEPS ON ASKING GOD
It is not that there is any virtue in the “saying of prayers”. There is a difference between “saying prayers” and “praying.” The point to be made here is that prayer is dialogue and engagement with God Himself. If it is not an exchange between God and the one praying, biblically speaking, it isn’t prayer. It isn’t the saying of a learned prayer per se. It may be a heartfelt cry of the heart that is read from a page, but it must be a confrontational eyeball to eyeball period of time with God Almighty Himself. This is how we are taught to pray in scripture. Whether it is spontaneous outbursts of words, or long rehearsed phrases, or even written prayers is a total irrelevancy. It needs to be the whole person meeting with God. The more fully we put our body, soul and spirit into engaging with him, the more fully we will see in the spirit and have things revealed.
PAUL ADDRESSES GOD THE FATHER IN THE NAME OF CHRIST
Prayer is approaching Heavenly Father through the mediation of Christ our Savior by the power and intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The biblical idea of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not something just to debate in the classroom or lecture hall. There are practical applications in the revealing of the Godhead. Nowhere does it impact more than in the approach of the believer to God Himself. Paul addresses his prayer to Him who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his prayer is for manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
PAUL KNOWS THAT HEAVENLY FATHER IS THE SOURCE AND INTRINSIC FOUNTAIN OF ALL GLORY
With this thought, we see something that is profound in Paul’s understanding of the nature of the Character and Being that is God Almighty. His descriptive language in verse 18 of God the Father is that He is the “Father of glory.” He is not merely “the glorious Father,” but the Father who is the origin and infinite fountain of all that is meant by “eternal glory.” Compare the words, “the Lord of glory,” in James 2:1 that are used concerning Christ. The verse suggests to me that the “glory” in this verse involves the thought of Christ being the true Shekinah presence of God, in whom the true glory of the Godhead shines forth and who is intrinsically within Himself the true “Glory of God.” However, no matter how beautiful and true that inference may be, its inference appears far-fetched to be applied here in Ephesians 1. Paul is referring to the Person of the Father rather than the Son. It is yet another component of the engaging issue of dividing the word correctly when considering One God yet three Persons.
The Father of glory, or better still “of the glory,” is a unique phrase. We have, indeed, other such phrases as “Father of Mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and “Father of Lights” (James 1:7). One does not necessarily need a degree in theology to unmistakably recognise that those verses are referring to our Father who is in heaven. On the other hand, “the King of Glory” in Psalm 28:5, “the God of Glory” in Acts 7:2, and, “the Lord of Glory” in 1 Corinthians 2:8 and James 2:1 are when studied phrases where “the glory” seems certainly to be the Shekinah of God’s manifested presence, and in all cases but this one, that glory is a direct reference to Christ the Son. Nevertheless “the Father of the glory,” seems a phrase different from all these phrases referred to above.
I see this terminology as having a dual meaning. Firstly, that Heavenly Father is glorious and magnificent in His own person. I do not mean that Christ and the Spirit of God are not glorious, God forbid, yet I do mean that the term “the Father of Glory,” refers to Heavenly Father’s personage. To this writer the term “glory” must mean something mysteriously visible in the “appearance” of the Father. The visible manifestation of God as a cloud, or as fire is referred to by the Hebrew word, “Shekinah.”
Secondly, I also see an inference of meaning that I do not insist upon, yet I confess it also dominates my mind as I read the verse. I see in Paul’s statement that, “the Father of glory,” is Heavenly Father being referred to as “the Father of the glory that is manifested in Christ.” I am suggesting that the “Father of Glory” means that He is the Father of the glory of the incarnate Deity in Jesus Christ (see John 1:14). This visible Shekinah and weight of the glory of God is, in 2 Corinthians 4:6 referred to as “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” I have noticed in reading Jewish commentaries and articles both old and new that they often identify God’s Word with the Shekinah glory of God. The prayer that continues through to the end of this chapter quite clearly connects the knowledge of the glory of God that is part of the believer’s inheritance with the exaltation of our Lord in glory.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all seen in initiating the activity within the human heart that bursts open with Paul’s prayer, and they would be seen to be active in the divine activity of deity when Paul’s prayer is answered. Paradoxically the desire and goals of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 are the same as the reason and ground for him making the prayer. The grounds and rationale for Paul to be bowing the knee and making the prayer is that the recipients of the letter have reportedly experienced God the Father enlightening their minds with his Holy Spirit. This has caused and motivated the people to embrace Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel message. This, in turn, leads towards a more solid understanding of their obtaining everlasting life, and the setting forth of God’s glory. Those grounds for prayer are identical to the goal and purpose of the apostle’s intercession. It’s a dynamic circle of logic.
PAUL KEEPS ASKING FOR THE INCREASE OF GOD’S BLESSINGS UPON OTHERS
Wherever the reader is in God – there must be more than what you have. There is always more. God is infinite, His love and power is infinite, and I read nowhere in the Bible of a limitation set upon humankind restricting what the grace of God can do in a person’s life. Whatever blessings one has received, even when referring to the most blessed person on the planet (whoever he or she may be) there is always more. Paul the apostle is driven to earnestly pray for more in the lives of the people to whom he wrote this letter.
PAUL ASKS THAT THEY MAY HAVE MORE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
There are gradations in the receiving of and utility within the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the desire of this writer that he may experience an ever increasing manifestation of the Holy Spirit in his life. There is always more of the Holy Spirit to explore, be guided by and thus to experience. The word of God and it’s revelation to the heart always has precedence over any experience.
PAUL ASKS FOR THEM TO RECEIVE A PARTICULAR MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We are talking of character building wisdom and revelation. Yes! There is natural growth and character development. There is natural understanding and insight. That is the sort of wisdom and understanding that comes to even the most Godless person with the passing of time. However, here we are talking of divinely imparted gifts and characteristics that are communicated by the Spirit of God. Whether this impartation of gifting comes chronologically before character, or vica verca, or whether they are both given and developed concurrently is something I will leave for the psychologists to conclude. There is one Holy Spirit, but there are many manifestations and ministrations of that Spirit. He is, after all, omniscient, omnipotent and infinite in the variety of His own operation. Paul asks that these people be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation. That is only a narrow choice of the awesome variety of Holy Spirit manifestations. It is what is needed to build character that would be fitted to face and cope with the onslaught of persecution and physical temptation similar to that which Paul endured whilst he was in the vicinity of the folks whom this letter was sent to.
PAUL ASKS FOR THEM EXACTLY WHAT ISAIAH 11:2 STATES RESTED UPON MESSIAH
Isaiah 11:1-3 is an amazing description of what facilitated Christ to meet all the satanic onslaughts and temptations that militated against Him in His life and during His passion. The NIV expresses it this way:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears (Emphasis mine)
It is these lines that teach us that when Paul states he is praying that the readers of the Ephesian letter will receive a “spirit of wisdom and revelation,” he is clearly referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul was using the same phrase that Isaiah used and it was clearly referring to the same person of the Holy Spirit that is referred to in the previous line. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him.” That line is self evidently referring to the Holy Spirit. The next line is dealing with an expansion of what has just been written; “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding.”
Paul is asking that there will be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the same manner as He was manifest in the life and dealings of Jesus Christ. This is deep and expansive praying, the results of which would have impacted the readers.
PAUL ASKS FOR A SPIRIT OF WISDOM
Paul desires that God would give to them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him. Despite my own explanation above that Isaiah 11:2 fully justifies Paul’s usage of the phrase as referring to the Holy Spirit, it is a fact of life that when properly received the wisdom and revelation that comes to people seems very much to become part and parcel of the warp and woof of their character. In other words, even though the phrase refers especially to the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that Paul refers to, in terms of its result in people’s hearts and understanding, I fully understand why many claim that the phrase refers to the human spirit being dominated by wisdom and revelation. The dominant usage in scripture of the word “spirit” is to refer to either the Spirit of God (as in Romans 8:10, or the spirit of man as referred to in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. However, the word spirit can also describe a mental disposition or a settled attitude of mind. This is the same kind of thing that we mean when we refer to “team spirit,” or to “School spirit,” or the “spirit of a game.” Although Isaiah 11:2 forces us to conclude that the term specifically refers to the Holy Spirit, the verse makes perfect sense with all three of the above meanings of the word.
PAUL ASKS FOR A SPIRIT OF REVELATION
It is illogical, and, dare I say,“Impossible” to receive a revelation of something that does not already exist. The Greek word that is translated “revelation” here is “Apocalupsis” which means “a disclosure.” It comes from a root word that means, “to remove the covering,” or “a revealing of something that was hidden” and “an opening of a curtain that previously hid something from view.” Paul is not praying for the Lord to give them something new, or anything that they did not, at that moment, already have in their possession. The apostle is praying for them to receive a revelation of what is already theirs in Christ. The presupposition is that they have received more than what they are aware of at that moment. A fortune of spiritual wealth has been deposited in their account, and even though their lives are plainly expressing love and faith, they are utilising pennies when God has developed a huge fortune.
For the recipients of Paul’s letter to receive “A spirit of revelation” meant that there would be an act of the Holy Spirit, as well as activity of the human spirit that would receive the God dispensed understanding, insights and ever deepening revelation that both opens up the true meaning of the scriptures, and facilitates the renewing of the mind for Godly living. The Spirit of God accomplishes this by the removing of the covering, or veil of natural ignorance (Psalm 119:18. Luke 24:45), shining into the receptive human mind, and allowing it to see what before it saw not. This process would be facilitating an understanding of what was previously non-perceptible. The Spirit of God continually wants to reveal what is sometimes new objects of spiritual value, sometimes new excellences in objects before known. Thus the Spirit works not only in the beginning of faith and spiritual knowledge, but in its further progress he lets in new light into the mind, and removes some remaining degree of natural darkness.
THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION WOULD BE THE MEANS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
The point of the letter and the prayers within the letter is, of course, ministry that would be a causative factor of growth in Christ. All ministry of the word, and all true ministry by men of God is first and foremost to bring the unsaved to faith in Christ, and to bring the converted person toa deeper understanding of God’s wisdom and revelation. When every other motive and purpose for preaching and teaching the gospel has been discovered and explained, these two purposes are the ultimate source of motivation for a person’s ministry of the word.
PAUL ASKS THAT THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM & REVELATION WILL LEAD TO A DEEPER KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
God can be known by man. God wants the whole of mankind to know Him. I do not mean to “know about God” like one knows “about the moon, or the sun.” I mean that one can know God in the same way that one knows their spouse, or their children or friends. It is an engagement of friendship, dialogue and purpose. This is what Paul is hungry for in the lives of the Christian people to whom he was writing. This knowledge of God is personal and intimate. It should be the desire if one who has their human spirit illumined by conversion to know God ever increasingly better.
Would that I could consistently pray with the insight power and wisdom of the Apostle Paul. Would that others would pray for me as Paul did for the Ephesians.