We Believe (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Big Idea: Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives.
We’re beginning a series that will take us through the summer called Why Believe. We’re going to be looking at the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…
But today we need to back up and say, “Why would we even bother? Why is this important?”
It almost seems like this is geeky stuff. Pastors and theologians should be expected to know this stuff, just like doctors should know medicine and mechanics should know cars. But what does it have to do with the rest of us and real life?
Let me give you my thesis, and then let me show you why what we believe matters from the passage we just read.
Here’s my thesis. I didn’t write it. I stole it from J.I. Packer and his amazing book Knowing God. My thesis is:
Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.
That’s my thesis.
And now let me try to show you why what we believe matters from the passage we just read. In other words, let me show you why knowing God is crucially important for the living of our lives.
In the passage we just read, Paul teaches us two lessons about knowing God. First:
Knowing God is Essential
Paul’s writing to pretty ordinary people living with all the same kinds of pressures we face. Out of everything he could pray for them, what does he choose to pray for? That they would know God.
Focus on what Paul prays for:
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know… (Ephesians 1:17-18)
It’s interesting to compare with a similar prayer in chapter 3, where Paul prays:
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
What’s the prayer? Paul could have prayed for a lot of things for the Ephesians. For instance, he’s aware that persecution is coming for the church. He could have prayed about that. He knows that the division between Jew and Gentile was a major issue in the church. That would make a great prayer request. He knows that some in the church would struggle with their background in the occult practices of Asia Minor. There were all kinds of things he could have made the focus of his prayer.
Out of all of the things that Paul could have prayed for, he prays for this: that God the Father gives them the Spirit of revelation so that they may know God better.
Just yesterday I saw someone with a shirt that said, “Know yourself.” Not a bad shirt. Knowing yourself is fairly important. John Calvin said, “Our wisdom…consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” I’ve never seen anyone with a t-shirt that said, “Know God.” And yet it’s absolutely essential.
That’s why we’re beginning this series called “We Believe.” In a world of pressing concerns, we forget that one of the most important things we can pursue is knowing God better. Make it a matter of prayer like Paul does! Ask for the Spirit’s help. We need the Spirit if this is going to happen. We can’t do it by ourselves.
What is our greatest need? Think about this question for a minute. If you could pray for anything for this church, what would you pray for? A new building. Growth. For personal and practical needs. How about this: to know God better.
Our greatest need is to know God better. The more you get to know him, the more we want to know him. Knowing God is absolutely essential. It’s perhaps our greatest need.
Knowing God is Practical
Knowing God isn’t just essential, it’s also practical. Paul wants us to know three things in particular. All three will help us in every part of our lives. He wants you to know your hope, your worth, and your power.
“…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…” (Ephesians 1:18)
Paul wants them to understand the hope of what he’s just told them in verses 13 and 14 of this chapter.
Think about it. They face the same pressures that you and I do. Life has a way of grinding you down. They’re exhausted. They’re trying to make ends meet. They have health and family pressures. Some of them are lonely. Some of them are struggling with a weight of guilt. It’s hard to have hope sometimes in the middle of all of that. We wonder what there we can hope for.
We tend to place our hope in a certain set of things: the next vacation, our dreams, our net worth, our retirement plans. But no matter what, we still seem disappointed. What we hope for never really satisfies.
So Paul prays that the Ephesians will understand their hope. It’s a hope that doesn’t disappoint, that won’t let us down.
But Paul’s told them that they’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit. A seal was a mark of ownership back then. All of a person’s significant possessions would have been marked with a seal. If you have followed Christ, God has marked you as his own by giving you the Spirit.
But that’s not all. God has given you the Spirit as a downpayment on your inheritance. God so values you that he has put down a deposit and will complete the transaction in the future and give you the rest.
Whatever pain you are in, whatever difficulties you are facing right now, you can know that God has said that you are his. You can know that he is only getting started in your life, that you have a glorious future, that he will give you everything you need, that he’s making you into the person he wants you to be. Paul wants you to know and live in that hope.
“…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18)
I think I’ve misunderstood this one for years. What are the riches that he’s talking about here? I used to think that it was the riches that God has that he will give to us. But look carefully here. What are the riches? The riches are his glorious inheritance in the saints. In other words, we are God’s riches. One scholar explains:
Paul prays here that his readers will appreciate the value which God places on them, his plan to accomplish his eternal purpose through them as the first fruits of the reconciled universe of the future, in order that their lives may be in keeping with the high calling and that they may accept in grateful humility the grace and glory thus lavished on them. (F.F. Bruce)
“Think of it: he owns all the heavens and numberless worlds, but we are his treasures. The redeemed are worth more than the universe.” (R. Kent Hughes)
Paul prays that we comprehend this. Paul wants us to know how deeply God values and cherishes us.
Is this practical? You had better believe it! Imagine if we all came with warning labels like cigarette cartons. Or imagine there was a tab on our dating profile that contained all of our annoying habits and shortcomings. God knew all of that and saw all of that. Out of an abundance of love, God chose us anyway. Jesus died for us knowing all of that. His love for us is beyond limit and it is endless.
I know some churches that end every service by saying, “You are loved.” Imagine if we really got this — how much God truly loves us. It would change our lives. You’re worth a lot to God.
“…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 1:19-20)
Paul wants us to understand that the power working within us is the most powerful force going.
The most powerful force in the universe is a hypernova, a type of stellar explosion with a luminosity 10 or more times higher than that of standard supernovae. When stars 150 times the size of our sun explode, they produce the brightest light sources in the universe and release as much energy in a few seconds as our Sun will produce over its entire lifetime of 10 billion years. That’s about the same amount of energy in 10 trillion trillion billion megaton bombs! That’s power.
You want to know an even greater power? How about the power that brought Jesus back from the dead, defeated Satan, and enthroned Jesus at his rightful place in the universe. What about the power that brings every power on heaven and earth in submission to Jesus, that sets everything right that’s wrong with this world? That’s an even greater power.
And Paul says that this power is at work in your life. If you are a follower of Jesus, it’s already changed you from a child of hell to a child of God. It’s also at work in your life giving you victory over sin. One day that same power will resurrect your body. No created power in the universe can do that — but God can, and he is. That power is at work in your lives.
Paul’s prayer is that we would know this, that we would know God.
The creed that we’re studying this summer can seem to be just a dry piece of theology. It’s not. It’s essential. It’s practical. We need it.
I love how Josh Harris puts it:
I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life. Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.
Let me ask you: Do you know God? Do you know your source of hope, worth, and power? Do you know how much power is available to you?
We’re going to spend the next few weeks getting to know God better. Lean into this. You’re robbing yourself if you don’t. Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. Nothing is more essential. Nothing is more practical.