Ephesus was no small community it was the fourth largest city in the world at the time of Paul’s ministry with a population estimated at 250,000 people.
Last week as we began our study of Ephesians Paul began by listing some of the blessings God had given believers through their salvation.
· The Father had chosen them, adopting them into His own family. They did nothing to earn it; God had done this because of His unlimited grace.
· Jesus had redeemed them through His own blood, offering forgiveness, an inheritance, and wisdom for living.
· The Holy Spirit had sealed them, showing ownership and protection, and was the down payment promising God would finish what He started in them.
All of this was done to the praise of God’s glory. We learned that God had done all of this because of His great love for us—in fact He created us specifically to love us and have fellowship with us throughout eternity.
1. If you were to characterize the content of most of the prayers we voice to God, of what would they consist? (Health issues. Situations we are in. Family and friends in difficult circumstances. Deliverance from persecution. Etc.)
2. How often do we pray to know God more deeply and for wisdom to use the knowledge He gives us for His glory?
It isn’t wrong to pray for health and difficult situations (James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”) but that isn’t all we should pray for.
Our study today focuses on how God helps believers understand the riches and greatness of His calling on their lives. As we will see from Paul’s prayer in these verses, salvation through Christ has the effect of producing the knowledge of God, hope of God, and power of God in every believer’s life.
Knowledge of God! Read Ephesians 1:15-17
Paul had spent some three years at Ephesus, so he knew many of the believers there. Paul had received reports about their faith and love for others. Recall we stated last week that most likely this letter was meant for several churches in that region and the church at Ephesus was the mother church, so Paul was hearing reports about new believers since he had left the church.
1. What two important qualities characterized Paul’s prayer for the believers there? (Persistence and gratitude.)
2. What practical steps could believers take in our daily routines that would help us increase our focus on others for the purpose of praying for them? (Have a prayer list. As we see other believers pray for them. Pray for others as they cross your mind.)
3. Who needs prayer most, someone who is going through a very difficult period or someone who seems to be doing great? (Both groups of people need prayer equally. Those in difficult situations for obvious reasons. Those doing great need a hedge of protection around them because Satan will be on the attack.)
4. What did Paul desire for the Ephesians? (The believers were doing well spiritually. Their love for other believers demonstrated the genuineness of their faith in Christ. Paul wanted them to continually grow deeper in their relationship with God.)
God chose believers for Himself and wants us to know Him, not to just know about Him.
5. How does knowledge of God through revelation and wisdom relate to each other? (The truth of God is revealed to us though the Holy Spirit and wisdom is correctly using that truth in our daily lives to bring glory to God.)
6. How does Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers compare to most prayers voiced today?
7. How might prayer habits change if the main focus were on spiritual growth?
Paul’s prayer for his readers did not stop with their growing in the knowledge of God.
Hope of God! Read Ephesians 1:18-19
1. In everyday terms what was Paul’s prayer request in verse 18? (“That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” That the light bulb would come on.)
2. What three things did Paul pray they would be enlightened to see? (1- The hope of His calling—our future bodily resurrection and perfect conformity to the image of Christ. 2- The glorious riches of His inheritance—immortal body, heaven, glorification. 3- The immeasurable greatness of His power which is made available to all believers.)
3. What is the greatest demonstration of God’s immeasurable power? (The resurrection of Jesus from the dead.)
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to all believers today. The moment we receive Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts. He gives us supernatural power to overcome temptations; to smile through tears; to experience joy despite life’s burdens and trials. The Holy Spirit will raise you out of your spiritual lifelessness and transform you.
The Holy Spirit provides the power to live the Christian life. Read 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
4. How can understanding the hope we have in Christ, the value of our inheritance, and the scope of God’s power impact the way we live? (When we focus on our problems and selfish desires, we can’t see our way to move forward. When God enlightens our minds, we want to grow closer to Christ. We rejoice in troubles as tools for transformation. Our certain hope that God’s great power has secured our glorious future gives us the motivation and courage to live obediently in the present.)
In addition to the knowledge of God and the hope of God, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians included a third request, that they grow in understanding of God’s power.
Power of God! Read Ephesians 1:20-23
Here Paul mentioned three historical events: first, Christ’s resurrection; second, His enthronement; and third, His headship over all things, including the church.
1. Why is it important that believers come to understand the power of God at work in the resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of Jesus? (That same power is available to the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and live the victorious life in Christ. Satan has no power over us when we are obedient to the Spirit of God living within us.)
In that future age no power will be exempt from acknowledging Christ’s lordship and bowing before Him: “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11
2. What are the implications for believers of God’s demonstration of power in Jesus’ resurrection? (God wields His great power to bring about every spiritual blessing in our lives and to give us an unshakable assurance of our salvation. God’s immeasurably great power means transformation is possible.)
We defeat ourselves thinking of what we can’t do: I can’t forgive that person. I’m not good at witnessing. I don’t have enough to give generously. Paul prayed we would grasp what we can do because of God’s power that is active in us and for us.
3. Why did God make Jesus “head over everything”? (Jesus was the ultimate Sacrifice and the Father has made Him the Supreme Ruler over all things. He conquered sin, death and the grave!)
Christ’s power is at work in and through the church with the goal of bringing His salvation to the world.
Summarize and Challenge!
Paul’s prayer is urgently needed in today’s church. Many of us, as believers, live stagnant lives when we maintain a dim view of what we have in Christ. We must pray for spiritual enlightenment so we can experience the joy of spiritual growth.
We need to pray for one another’s physical and spiritual needs. Paul provided us a great model to pray for the spiritual growth of ourselves, our loved ones, and our church families.
1. Are you stagnating or moving forward in your faith?
2. What will you do to know God better?
“One gains such experiential knowledge by wide-awake attendance at public worship … by showing kindness to all, practicing the forgiving spirit, above all love; by learning to be thankful; by studying the Word of God both devotionally and studying so that it dwells in the heart; by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the glory of God, and continuing steadfastly in prayer; and thus by redeeming the time as a witness of Christ to all men.” –David Jeremiah, Turning toward Joy.
Challenge: this week focus on praying for spiritual growth for yourself, your family, and those in our Bible study group.