Special Note: skip down and read the Reflection section. It will change your life, I promise. Then you can read all the other stuff if you want.
15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
- I pray: here begins Paul’s request. Remember that all the things through v.23 are things Paul is praying they would understand, not things He is drilling into them with convincing rhetoric or scholarly solid teaching.
- We have eyes on our heart. Our inner self which is our truer self, has some organ of perception.
- The eyes of our hearts are naturally closed and blind.
- Paul is convinced that God will supernaturally open the eyes of our hearts, in response to prayer.
- When the eyes of our hearts are opened, knowledge comes. “So that you may KNOW”. So much for the whole idea that merely “knowing” is no good, you have to “do”. How do you “do” what he goes on to describe?
- He describes knowledge of three things: hope of His calling, riches of His inheritance, His great power.
- The inner revelation he is praying for is described as a transition from darkness to light. It is enlightenment.
- His calling is a thing of hope. That is, the voice we hear that gathers us is a message about a future but as yet unseen glory. If we strip the Christian walk of future hope, we deny an important part of revelation and wisdom, and of the animus to walk right (Ephesians 4:1).
- Paul doesn’t pray for “these things” to become God’s reality towards us. He doesn’t have pray for that – they already are God’s reality towards us. He prays for us to recognize that they are there.
- The first thing he prays for them to become enlightened about is “the hope of His calling.” So as believers, we have a “calling”, and it is a hopeful one. And, we can by default be believers and yet be quite unaware of this great hope.
- A “calling” is a vocation or summons or strong inner inclination toward some kind of work or position. Since this is a “hopeful” calling, it can be assumed that it is as yet unfulfilled, and that it is also an extremely pleasant calling. You don’t “hope” to be a janitor. You hope to be an astronaut or a famous musician.
- So the implication is that if you are not supernaturally enlightened, you will have a hopeful calling, but you won’t know it. There are clearly implications to this – how can you “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1) if you don’t know what your hopeful calling is? If you skip this part, you are doing everything in Ephesians 4-6 without the inspiration of the revelation of this great hope.
- The genesis or source of this hope, this bright expected future, according to the scripture, is our calling! It is an understanding of our place in the scope of God’s plans and agenda. It isn’t just God’s glory, but our position in relation to it, which is so hopeful and awesome. God can be glorious quite apart from us, but when we understand our part in His glory (Ephesians 1:12), that we have a calling within His glory, that we develop a powerful hope.
- Secondly, God has an inheritance in us as believers. That’s what it says. It doesn’t say that God or Christ is our inheritance. It says something quite the opposite. It says that He has an inheritance, and that it is in the saints.
- By saying “in the saints” it doesn’t mean that here are the saints, and as a separate ingredient from the saints but hidden within them somehow, is His inheritance. It means that “in the saints” He has His inheritance – the saints are the inheritance.
- According to this, He already has this inheritance in us, and the prayer is for us to become aware of it. So it can be quite true that we are this great rich glorious thing, that God hopes for, that He considers a treasure, and we can be quite unaware of it. It takes prayer and supernatural revelation for this to become clear.
- No one thinks of receiving a huge rich glorious inheritance as a burden or a hindrance or a duty. It is a windfall. It is extremely joyful. And, this is what we are to God. We are glorious, we are riches, we are His inheritance. He is thrilled to redeem us, to forgive us, to adopt us, to marry us. He is very excited about us! According to this, we are naturally (even as believers) unaware of this, but it is something that He wants to reveal to us. He doesn’t want to hide it from us.
- We are God’s glorious inheritance. He is looking forward to receiving a windfall in us that is glorious, beautiful, extremely pleasing. We are somehow entirely aesthetically wonderful in God’s eyes.
- We are inherently unaware of this without supernatural intervention. That means that by default, we consider ourselves to be ugly and repellant in God’s sight. When this prayer is answered and we receive supernatural revelation in the eyes of our heart, we come to know that we are not repellant and horrid in His sight. We are glorious, we are extremely valuable, we are His longed for inheritance.
- Holy crap, that is good stuff!
- We see here as well that when Paul talks about “the saints”, he is really talking about “us who believe.” He uses them here as synonymous terms.
- There is surpassingly great power toward us who believe. Not “there will be” or “there could be”. There is. It is presently a reality.
- God has POWER towards us.
- By “His inheritance in the saints”, does he really mean, He considers believers themselves to be His inheritance?
The apostle’s second prayer to God is that we may know what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (verse 18b). The Greek expression, like the English, could mean either God’s inheritance or ours, that is, either the inheritance he receives or the inheritance he bestows. Some commentators take it in the former sense and understand it to refer to the inheritance which God possesses among his people. Certainly the Old Testament authors taught consistently that God’s people were his ‘inheritance’ or ‘possession’, and in the last chapter we found a reference to this truth in verses 12 and 14. But the parallel passage in Colossians 1: 12 strongly suggests the other interpretation here, namely that ‘God’s inheritance’ refers to what he will give us, for we are to give thanks to the Father, ‘who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light’. In this case, if God’s ‘call’ points back to the beginning of our Christian life, God’s ‘inheritance’ points on to its end, to that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (verse 14) and which Peter describes as ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you’. 4 For God’s children are God’s heirs, in fact ‘fellow heirs with Christ’, 5 and one day by his grace the inheritance will be ours. Exactly what it will be like is beyond our capacity to imagine. So we shall be wise not to be too dogmatic about it.
Stott, John (2014-04-02). The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today Series) (Kindle Locations 749-760). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
I must add that on reflection I don’t completely agree with his take on these other passages. I think rather that God has His inheritance in us, and we have our inheritance in Him. But the consensus is true that the saints are indded directly His possession or inheritance. We are His people.
If you think about it, when Paul says that he prays that we would know that we have a hopeful calling, and that we are God’s beautiful and valuable hoped-for windfall, and that God has great power towards us, it means that we don’t know these things inherently. Our flesh resists these things. By default we think that our calling is to be rejected and judged and hated. Our flesh tells us that we are nothing and that we have no good future, no honor going forward. Our unenlightened mind believes that we are the opposite of a rich glorious inheritance. Without the supernatural intervention that Paul prays for, we think God sees us as repellant and ugly and as worthless trash, and we are stuck trying to prove Him wrong and to convince Him otherwise. This is the essence of our life under the law – this kind of unbelief. We think he dreads the future with us, because that is what our unenlightened heart believes. Our sinful flesh thinks that God is weak and absent and limp towards us. When the revelation of lavish grace comes to us, we see that He finds us beautiful and invaluable and much longed for. Walking in the light of this knowledge is a complete game-changer. We are truly beloved. We expect power and answers and grinning happy dancing joy on the receiving end of our prayers.
Without supernatural revelation, we are stuck in the old dynamic of trying to prove to God that we are better than what we think He thinks of us. This is the true animus and dynamic of legalism. It is the way of the unenlightened heart. We spend all our time and energy trying to change God’s attitude towards us. Or else we try to find an alternative “God” that will accept us and hope for us and count us as beautiful. But grace is this: God thinks we are worth dying for. God thinks we are the pearl worth selling everything He has to obtain. God thinks we are a beautiful and extremely valuable inheritance. If you inherited $10,000,000 from a forgotten uncle somewhere, you know what? You would be dancing around thrilled and set free! You would hoot and holler. You would celebrate! You would call everyone you could think of and tell them! Unbelievably, this is how God feels about us!
If you have not received this revelation, you are stuck in the default fleshly mode of the heart, thinking that God judges you and hates you and dreads you. You think the redemption in His blood is all a sham. You are left trying to prove yourself to God. You come saying “Lord Lord didn’t I…” (Matthew 7:22) instead of in trust that He knows you. But you do His will when you believe His very great love towards you. “Sanctification” is living as one loved, not living to prove you should be loved. If you think you have to prove your lovability, you have not had this revelation – the eyes of your heart are yet closed. Square one is this: know how greatly God loves you in Christ. We can’t walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1) if we don’t know the worthiness and hope of our calling!
But here is the truth: it doesn’t matter if you know it or not. You don’t control God. The message of Ephesians is that He has immense kindness and love towards you, and He considers you His beautiful valuable inheritance, whether you know it or not. It just makes for a much more joyful walk if you do come to know it and carry on your life in the light of it. So believe it – God considers you to be His riches, His beautiful inheritance. He is dancing a joy dance over the thought of you. This is what the scripture is saying. Pray to have it revealed to your HEART and rejoice!