Sermon: A Prayer for the Church (Ephesians 1:15-23)

A Prayer for the Church

Ephesians 1:15-23

 

Ephes. 1:15-23 (ESV) 

    For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,  [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  [20] that he worked 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 above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  [22] And he put all things 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.

Introduction-

The Ephesian Church had a reputation. They were known for a few things. Paul had heard of their… faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.

Paul’s heart rejoiced as he learned that these believers were living out their faith in Christ. They were showing the fruit of true conversion.

John 13:34-35 (ESV) 

    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

They were showing their unwavering faith in Christ by their love for one another. The Scriptural truth surfaces here which is, Don’t say you love Jesus but have no real love for His church. Don’t say you want to spend an eternity with Jesus but don’t want to come an fellowship with Jesus’ people. Our love for Christ is always Scripturally measured by our love for the brethren.  

The Apostle John knew this truth. He wrote about it over and over in his Gospel and in his other letters.

1 John 2:9-11 (ESV) 

    Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  [10] Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  [11] But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 3:14 (ESV) 

    We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 

 1 John 3:23 (ESV) 

    And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 

1 John 4:20 (ESV) 

    If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 

For John, a person could claim anything he wanted but he wanted to see a person’s faith in action.

The Ephesians were showing the world they were Christians, not in word only but also in deed.

These early believers had a reputation of a strong faith and a strong love for each other. I wonder what sort of things Paul is referring to as he writes?

The early church was famous for unity and giving to one another as they had needs. If a fellow believer was fired from his job because of his beliefs the rest of the church helped until he found another job. They ate many meals together…almost daily. They shared burdens and shared blessings. Through all this the Holy Spirit was adding to the church everyday.

Paul’s heart is overflowing with joy as he hears of the faith and love of his beloved friends in Ephesus. As he thinks about them, he begins to pray for them.

It’s very important for us to see just what Paul prays for concerning these Ephesian believers. Paul’s prayer will help us pray more effectively for one another here in our church.

Follow Paul’s Example

1. Paul’s Prayer was Unceasing (Ephesians 1:16)

[16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

He shows us that on a regular basis he does two things. First, he thanks God for them. Second, he prays for them.

A great pattern for us here at our church would be to thank God for each person present. God, thank you for those folks who are here and who have been brought to life spiritually by You. Lord, thank you for opening their minds and hearts to believe.

I’m sure those were some of the prayers Paul prayed for his beloved friends in the church.

Also, as word came to him about various needs the believers had the Apostle remembered them in prayer. He prayed that the Lord would give them perseverance to hold up under the challenges they were facing.

Church Covenant…

We will fervently pray for one another. As we do, so we will rejoice at each other’s happiness and show sympathy as we bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.

When was the last time you thanked God for the people here? Let’s make it a priority to constantly thank God for the church family we have and pray for them. Most of the time in a church plant situation the folks can get so focused on growing that they forget to thank God for the people He has already given. Let’s seek the lost but not at the expense of overlooking God’s people here that He has given to us.

How did Paul pray for the church?

2. Prayer for Knowledge of Our Final Destination (Eph. 1:17-18)

[17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

We should see that God is called the Father of glory. Remember from the previous verses that Jews and Gentiles have been added to God’s Kingdom for His glory. This God who is glorified through our salvation is the Father of glory. May God the Father give His people a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

 Wisdom, Revelation, Knowledge, Understanding, Enlightenment… that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Paul prayed that these new believers would see with new eyes and understand with a new mind. What all new converts need, and old converts as far as that goes, is knowledge of him.

A. Proper Type of Knowledge

There is really two types of knowledge. There is a knowledge of facts and particulars that’s good and profitable in the right context but can also lead to pride and arrogance.

1 Cor. 8:1 (ESV) 

    Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 

This knowledge is contrasted with a knowledge fueled by love. The more we learn of Christ, the more we should worship Him and love His church for which He died. This knowledge should always be coupled with humble service toward those in the church. As we love the brethren in tangible ways, we are showing our love for Christ. There may be some in the church that try your patience and may even rub you the wrong way. But if these folks are genuine converts, we are commanded to exercise love toward them. Not just saying to yourself, I love them but showing this love by serving them. There is no place in the body of Christ for sitting on your selfish butt wanting people to do things for you. The old adage, what’s in it for me? Has no place in the fellowship of the saints.

B. Knowledge of Our Calling

[18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Many of us have different and varied callings. Some are given the gift of teaching and God has called them to teach. Others seem to be gifted in doing service behind the scene and rather dislike the spotlight. Some love working with children. Others hosting home meetings gets them excited. While we may have different specific ministry callings, we all share the calling Paul speaks of here and we need God to work in order for us to realize this universal calling for the saints.

The Lord wants the church to be illumined to the fact that we are only on this earth for a short time and that Heaven is our real home.

As Saints, our calling is heavenward and we must have help consistently seeing this. So the Apostle prayed that the Ephesians would see by faith the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. If our eyes are illuminated by the glory of Christ, the dark things of this world will loose their attraction. Worldly things will loose their luster as we are literally blinded by the glory of Jesus.

The more we see the riches of Christ’s glorious inheritance the less appeal the world has. The stranglehold the world has on our affections is broken when we love Christ supremely.

We are all called to look in anticipation to our great inheritance which, in effect, is Jesus Christ.

Did you know that Jesus also is waiting for His inheritance?

Psalm 2:8 (ESV) 

    Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

        and the ends of the earth your possession.

In this Messianic Psalm we understand that the Lord is also waiting for His inheritance. God the Father has promised His Son the nations as an inheritance. We wait with anticipation for Jesus and He waits for us. What a glorious reunion that day will be when the heathen nations surround the throne of King Jesus and He welcomes us with open arms and He will be as excited as we are.

3. Prayer for Confidence in Our Final Destination (Eph. 1:19-23)

[19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  [20] that he worked 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 above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  [22] And he put all things 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.

To do these verses justice we need to see the logic of the Apostle Paul as he presents this argument as proof that the Church will reach her final destination.

He wants us to really see with the eyes of our heart that the same immeasurable  power that worked to raise Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, is, in fact, the same power that saved you as a sinner.

Now, Jesus is currently seated in authority over what?

above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  [22] And he put all things under his feet.

All things are placed in submission to Jesus Christ. King Jesus reigns over everything now and forevermore. Nothing can or ever will be able to rise up and usurp Jesus’ power. He rules the universe. He reigns as King over everything.

This Jesus who has everything under His feet, the Father gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Now, what’s going on here in this verse? Paul is giving the Church more confidence as they see with an illuminated mind that the Church has guarding her Jesus Christ. Jesus possesses all power and authority and has been given to the Church. The Church is the Lord’s body and He is our head. So when the eternal reunion takes place all will be completed. The Church completes Christ and He completes us.

Until all those who belong to Christ come to Him, He is incomplete. Until the day comes when the fullness of the nations has come to Christ, He is waiting. The Church is intended to be a full expression of Jesus Christ and someday she will be. One day when the last lost sinner repents and believes the gospel of Christ, the sky will split open and the trumpet will blast and our Lord will descend.

Until that day, we have work to do. Our Lord has given us the task of seeking out those who are His. We have the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 

    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

That same authority and power that saved us has also commanded us to go…

The Church’s main focus should be seeking out those who are not bringing glory to Christ and share the gospel with them. We must also be teaching believers of the great riches of Christ. I pray we do this until He returns.

A Prayer for the Church…

1. Paul’s Prayer was Unceasing (Ephesians 1:16)

[16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

2. Prayer for Knowledge of Our Final Destination (Eph. 1:17-18)

[17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

3. Prayer for Confidence in Our Final Destination (Eph. 1:18-23)

[19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  [20] that he worked 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 above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  [22] And he put all things 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.

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