Enlightenment and Enlargement
We Could not doubt for a moment but that the beloved Apostle Paul was entirely within the mind of God when he prayed for the Christians at Ephesus. His two prayers on their behalf are recorded in chapters 1 and 2 of the epistle that he wrote to them, and these accord perfectly with the general theme of his letter, the heavenly places.
Five times over in this communication to them, he makes mention of this wonderful spiritual experience in which, even now, the Christian may live with enjoyment. In one of these references he declares, “God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6). How wonderful!
In His first prayer (chap. 1:16-23), Paul asks that the Holy Spirit would deeply exercise the hearts of God’s own people in that ancient city. That this prayer would embrace the saints of today, as well as the saints of the past, must be evident to all.
If our hearts were subdued and these prayers were answered in us what a change there would be in our behaviour and walk! Most certainly our profession would be in closer agreement with our heavenly calling, and this, after all, is the most important thing in Christian living.
Paul’s heart was moved to thanksgiving, as well as to prayer, because of the Ephesians’ “faith in Christ Jesus, and love unto all the saints” (chap. 1:15). What a beautiful combination! Little wonder that praise and gratitude arose to the Lord from the Apostle’s heart!
The difference between these two prayers should be noted. In chapter 1 it is a request for enlightenment, and in chapter 3 it is a request for enlargement, a maturing in Christian experience.
The Prayer For Enlightenment
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” It is ever the work of the Holy Spirit of God to take of the things of Christ and reveal them unto us.
Let us consider another of the requests of this prayer: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you may know what is the hope of His calling.” This is the hope of His calling, not our calling. It is mentioned elsewhere as, “The high calling of God in Christ Jesus, or upward calling.” (Phil 3:14. R.V.) What a wonderful prayer this is, and how wonderful the hope of His calling! The Apostle in this petition did not pray merely that they might assent to the truth of the Lord’s coming, but that their understanding might be enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God to take in all that was involved in that blessed hope. The Lord Jesus will never be satisfied until He sees the travail of His soul, until we have reached the full stature of the sons of God, and until we are with Him and like Him. What are these riches of glory in the inheritance in the saints to which Paul makes reference in this regard? One can understand their inheritance in Him much more easily than His inheritance in them. It has been suggested by certain that the Holy Spirit has something more in view in this passage than the saints; be that as it may, one’s heart is, nevertheless, melted in recalling what he was when God saved him, a guilty slave of sin and the devil, and in considering the heights of glory and the nearness to God unto which he has been brought.
As we read Paul’s prayer, naturally we wonder what he means by his next statement, “The exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” A word in Psalm 33:9 might cast some light upon the matter. “For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” God did manifest His wonderful power in creation, and we do well to stand in awe and wonder as we behold His mighty works in the great Universe; notwithstanding, the power He put forth when He raised His Son from among the dead exceeded His power displayed in creation. Now that infinite and exceedingly great power is to usward who believe. It is at our disposal, and the Holy Spirit of God has made this record in order that saints of today might know that this power is within their reach. We are not storage batteries that merely need to be recharged when run down, but we are souls living in communion with God, and our needs, therefore, are met moment by moment as they arise. It is thus that we become channels of blessing to others. Such we become, not because of our own strength, but because we are sustained by the same power that raised our blessed Lord from the dead.
The Prayer For Enlargement
We now turn to Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesian Christians; it is given us in chapter 3 of this Epistle. Let us remind our hearts again that these prayers for the saints at Ephesus were produced by the Holy Spirit of God. Not only so, but let us remind our hearts that these experiences Paul desired for those saints of long ago, should be coveted by all today.
Paul says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There was an intensity of exercise here on behalf of the beloved children of God, so he prays, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” There is much precious teaching in this epistle regarding the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. The Apostle did not have in mind the baptism of the Holy Spirit or a second blessing when he uttered this prayer. The saints on believing had been sealed with the Holy Spirit (chap. 1:13), and therefore indwelt by Him. It seems that he desired for them an enlargement of that which already existed. He longed that they might be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man. How can that strengthening be done except by a more complete yielding of the heart and life to the Holy Spirit of God?
In recent years there has been a great scarcity of living quarters in our large cities. Often an owner rents part of his dwelling, retaining only one or two rooms for his own use. The tenant has control of a portion of the house. This is an illustration of what is all too true in the spiritual experience of many of God’s people. Many have retained rooms in their own hearts, so to speak. The Spirit of God cannot occupy the whole heart and life because it has never been yielded to Him. He cannot, therefore, strengthen as He would the inner man.
Paul next prays, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” This is truly a high standard indeed, and is, doubtless, the normal New Testament Christian experience. Nevertheless, it is not the experience of many of God’s beloved children, for it results only from the enthroning of Christ in the heart. Needless to say, this is far more than merely knowing our sins forgiven, and of tasting now and again a little of the joy of heaven. It is, by no means, sinless perfection; however, we should not think of it as a continual up and down experience. The Holy Spirit not only should be resident in our hearts, but likewise president, today, tomorrow, and every day.
Another of His suggestions is worthy of note, “That ye, being rooted and grounded in love.” We are to be rooted as a tree drawing its nourishment from an unseen source, and grounded as a building on a solid foundation. In other words, we are to be established in the love of God. How beautiful!
If we are thus settled by this divine influence, the next request will be fulfilled in us, “May be able to comprehend with all saints.” That is, each according to his capacity will be able to understand the things of the Lord. Here the Apostle suggests that the Ephesians understand “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” There has been some difference of opinion as to what this means, but obviously it is not the love of God but His wonderful purposes in grace as unfolded to us in the previous chapters. As far as the complete fulfilment of these purposes is concerned we must wait a future day, but we ought to learn more and more of them now.
“To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” was a burning desire on Paul’s part for the people of God. His statement is a paradox, and sounds almost a contradiction. God’s love is divine, and therefore never can be fathomed, yet, we should constantly learn more and more about it. His love is so wonderful, and the Apostle sends forth the challenge, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
Paul reaches a climax and his whole soul seems to cry out for God’s people. Earnestly he prays, “That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
God grant that these prayers, in a large measure, may be fulfilled in our lives that He might be glorified and His people blessed.
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Forsaking God for worldly advantages and material prosperity will surely bring soul misery.
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Redeemed ones must be worshipping ones, and must only worship in God’s own appointed way.