Jesus was fully human. He never ceased being the fullness of the Godhead even when he was a microscopic egg fertilised by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary while she was still a virgin. However, from the moment of conception onwards He was – and still is – fully human. There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Yes indeed! There is a man in the glory. “This man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who has built the house has more honour than the house” (Hebrews 3:3). It is God that builds the house that Hebrews is talking about. The moment He ceases to be man, He ceases to be head of the church. “This man, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). He is a man who will never die again, and lives forever in the power of an indestructible life.
This man became flesh like all humankind, excepting that the egg in Mary’s womb was fertilised miraculously from the direct action of the Holy Spirit. The egg became a child in the womb just like the readers and the writer of this article. He went through the bloody mess of human childbirth, just like people do. He became a toddler. He learned how to talk, walk and make Himself understood. He grew. He developed. He learned things. Luke 2:51-52 educates us to Doctorate level about Christ’s humanity when it tells us about his growth from the age of 12 onward: “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued to be in subjection to Joseph and Mary, remaining always obedient to them. His mother was carefully storing, keeping and treasuring all these incidents and sayings in her heart. And Jesus grew and kept advancing and increasing in wisdom, grace and stature, becoming wiser and more mature, and in favour with God and all the children of men.” (My own translation cum paraphrase)
Jesus did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, yet he humbled Himself throughout His life as any man who submits to God would humble himself. He consciously and wilfully submitted to His mum and His supposed earthly father. He never leaned on or exercised His omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence throughout “the days of His flesh.” Even during and after His baptism in the Jordan and the descent of the Holy Spirit, He was human and fully identifying with fallen man. Many in the crowd who saw Him in the Jordan with the Baptist could not tell who He was because He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” That phrase simply means that He was not shining with glory and/or heavenly light. Outwardly He looked like any other person. John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Christ and remain on Him. Even the son of God, deity incarnate, could not and would not preach or heal any sick person without being endued with power by the Holy Spirit. But Luke 2:51-52 above, as well as the Gospel account of what happened after His enduement with the Holy Spirit reveals to us that His actions and responses are all those of a human being finding His way through life. There was no change made in the nature of Christ at the baptism. His entire existence since conception has never altered. He has always been and will always be totally human concurrent to Him being the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in a body. His enduement of power had the same dynamics and purpose as that of the redeemed 120 in the upper room in Acts 2. Throughout the pressures of the temptation in the wilderness, like all people, He had to bring to His mind the teachings of scripture and fight the devil armed with His faith in those inspired and inerrant words. Why would He who was God need to bring the scriptures into the fray if He was not fully human? All His quotes against Satan comprised of His own command for Satan to leave, with that command substantiated with the statement and logic of scripture. He was man, dependent on His practical knowledge of the Bible. In the gathering of many and the selection of the twelve disciples, He shows Himself as fully man in the process of decisionmaking. In the healing of the sick, as well as the wisdom He imparted to all He ministered to, the whole body of the biblical text showing His thoughts and actions leads us to conclude that His life was filled with the questions and challenges that is the lot of all humanity.
My point in all this is that the Lord Jesus, living in this time space world with a linear existence needed to understand and be motivated by a sure and certain knowledge of what He was doing “tabernacling” among men, and the full purpose for which He had come. He needed to know the full details of his relationship with God His Father, and the nature and extent of the power and grace that was granted Him in order to fulfil whatever the plan and purpose for His life was. These three issues are fundamental to all human life no matter what terminology we use. The why, what and how of life comprises everything.
And the personal “what, why and how of life” is exactly what Paul is praying for in the last verses of Ephesians 1. For these reasons the prayer of Ephesians 1 has to be one of the most powerful sequences of thought and spiritual logic in all of the epistles. The straightforward lucidity of its content and the goals for which the apostle prays seem to this writer also to have fitted the life and motivation of the Saviour.
Paul told the Ephesians that he was praying that they would see clearly three things.
- The “why” of their life in Christ. All Christians need to know and be aware of the certain hope of what they were called to be. I do not mean simply: “We live with God forever.” We cannot ignore that thought, but we need to have some vision of our destiny in time as well as in eternity. In plainer English, the prayer was that they would see their future destiny as plain as could be possible, both, in this life and the next, to the degree that would content and mobilise us. The clearer human beings are with their goals and their sense of destiny in this life and their reception in the embrace of Christ in the hereafter, the more productive they obviously become at whatever it is that they are called to. Paul prayed that the eyes of their understanding would be opened to see and grasp what was “the hope of their calling.” It is all about an understanding of life in Christ with a mature outlook and expectancy in the process of serving Him.
- The “what” of their life in Christ. The defining of who and what they are in Christ and the overall grasp of their relationship with God greatly pours action and strength into a person’s faith. Paul wanted the Ephesians to know what were “the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints.” Whether that phrase refers to the pleasure that God has in those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, or whether it refers to God Himself being the riches of the Christian’s inheritance, the overriding issue is that Paul wants them to be in tranquillity of heart and peace of mind as they revel in the rock solid relationship of love and acceptance with their heavenly Father.
- Then “how” of their life in Christ. The third thing Paul prayed for was that the Ephesian Christians would know and fully understand the greatness of God’s power that was available to the believer both within their mortal frame and in the surroundings of their circumstances and pressures in this fallen world. He goes on to explain clearly that all Christians are walking in and with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. The inference is, of course, that even though they were walking in love to all people and proving their faith to the point that the population could see Christ in them, nevertheless they were living beneath their full privilege in Christ as far as the resurrection power of God was concerned.
The wisdom of the prayer is startlingly perceptive. It is all about seeking the God initiated plan for each of us as individuals. It is a prayer that is asking that the joy both divine and human for all parties involved in this relationship is filled with the pleasure and long-term purpose of their mutual existence together. It is a prayer for them to see and understand the active and available resurrection power that is “running the show. It is the manifestation of the resurrection power that leads the Christian on in triumph. The power that has fallen on the Christian, just as the dove alighted on Christ at the Jordan River, reveals a comprehensive motivational and edifying series of factors that enables a Christian to walk with God and take authority over evil. It is all there in the substance of the prayer.
These three key motivational factors that need to fill the Christian’s life, whether they aware of it or not, are basic to human existence. Even though these three factors may not be seen as succinctly and as authoritatively as Paul sees them, nevertheless they are aspects of knowledge and understanding that are basic for all Christians. Every Christian who is truly born again should have some grasp of these three issues no matter how small. I think it is possibly because Paul understood how these three issues were vital for the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus that caused him to pray this way for the Asian church – and possibly for every Christian that he ever prayed for.
Jesus also made much of these three issues in His own life, and when they are mentioned they are not only motivational in the mind of Christ, but they comprise the very gospel that Christ preached.
The “Why?” of Christ’s life.
Jesus Christ plainly stated, and was heard to say, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). How’s that for knowing the equivalent of the hope of His calling. Some would say, “But it is Christ that does the calling!” Yes! But the Father’s will was His calling. Jesus was crystal clear and pointedly detailed in explaining why He was here. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 was asking Heavenly Father to open the eyes of the understanding of the Asian believers so that they could talk in such equally concrete language concerning the hope of their calling.
When it comes to knowing His own destiny and calling, Jesus said in the early days of His 3 years of activity, “Destroy this temple and in three days I shall raise it up.” He knew what He had come for and what He was to do. He was on a mission, the details and goal of which were clear to Him. Paul prayed for the same kind of revelation to come all Christians in Asia.
I don’t know whether it is right and sober to expect to see our future direction and mission as clear as Jesus did, but if I could see my own call and future with just a minimal of Christ’s own perception, I would consider myself blessed.
The overriding point is that Jesus knew by revelation where He was going. Do we? We can, by prayer have a taste of that kind of revelation, even if it is only a few crumbs that we taste.
He told the disciples plainly what His “end” was to be like. I put the word “end” in inverted commas simply because it is the world’s normal perception that death is the end. For the Christian, it is actually the beginning.
The resurrection was part of the intelligent revelation Jesus had to motivate His actions. He plainly said that He had power to lay His life down and then take it up again. He also said that He had to die and then return to the Father in resurrection power and that if He did not go through such experiences He would not have been free to send the Holy Spirit.
“I am come that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” Yes indeed! The Master knew exactly why He was amongst us and why He was sent. He definitely felt an imperative about His mission and purpose, for as a 12 year old He explained to Mary and Joseph that He had to be about His Father’s business.
Jesus Christ was enveloped and clothed with the sure and certain knowledge of who and what He was. “I and my Father are one,” He said. Around the table of the last supper He was recorded as saying, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” In John 17 Jesus talks of the glory He had with the Father previous to His incarnation. His food, He said, was just to do the will of He who sent Him. In the intimacy of His knowledge of His Heavenly Father, He was aware He had been sent. “As my Father sent me, so I send you,” is what He declared in the upper room discourse. He knew He was sent and absolutely so.
The “How?” of Christ’s life.
By what means was He to bring into being the hope of His calling out of the riches of His inheritance in the Father? After the descent of the Holy Spirit that remained upon Him, and immediately thereafter led Him into the wilderness to be tempted, Jesus later stood up at the synagogue in Capernaum, read the opening verses of Isaiah 61 about the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him, and definitely claimed that the verse referred to Him. His filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit was the how to the entire kingdom of God, and the entire ministry and life of Christ. Jesus said, “If I am casting out demons by the power of God, then know that the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Luke 11:20).
Jesus Christ was tempted in every way such as us. He never faced anybody’s crisis for healing, deliverance or the need for some prophetic guidance without having to trust in Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit to provide the means, the word, the healing and/or the insight. He never drew on His deity, that is, His pre-existent omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence as a man in the days of His flesh prior to His death. He was fully God, but came as a man. For that reason He came to identify with us, and live fully with all the restrictions that humanity lives with.
Christ Himself knew the hope of His calling. He knew fully all the whys and wherefores of His mission.
All this is to affirm that the the desire of the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1 is relevant to all believers today, and fascinatingly enough, was a prayer for factors of life that were also relevant to Jesus Christ Himself.