Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ephesians 1:18-19a

18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Paul asks for enlightened heart-eyes. It’s not “open” their eyes, but “enlighten” their eyes. Why? Ligon Duncan says, “The eyes are the vehicle, the instrument, through which the desires of our hearts are manifested. We look upon something and we desire it. The desire comes from our hearts, but it’s expressed even in our seeing, so that Jesus can say ‘What your eyes desire tells you a lot about your heart.’.” He goes on to recall the story of Samson:

“After Samson forsakes the Lord, after he betrays his faithfulness to the Lord, he explains his secret to Delilah, she betrays him into the hands of his enemies, the Philistines… What does the Lord have his enemies do to him? Put his eyes out. His eyes had almost been his undoing. He could not resist a beautiful woman. So what does the Lord do? The Lord takes his eyes, because the Lord loves Samson so much. Samson’s eyes could have taken him to hell, and the Lord in His love for him takes Samson’s eyes from him so that in the end, what happens? The eyes of Samson’s heart, instead of being set on these beautiful women, is set again on glorifying God, so that at the last he can say, ‘Show me the pillars of this temple, and Lord, give me the strength to bring it down on Your enemies so that You will be glorified, so that the children of Israel will be glorified. I want Your glory, God.’ … Paul is praying here for us that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened in this way; that we would know God, that we would know His truth, and that we would desire God and that truth above all the false offerings of this world; that we would not be swayed to love mammon; that we would not be swayed to love the world, and the flesh, and the devil; that we would have our hearts set on God. And so he’s saying, ‘Lord God, give them heart enlightenment. Let the deep desires of their hearts be set on You, on Your truth. Make them to have passion for You, long for You; for their hearts to love You above all else; with all their heart and soul and mind and strength to want Your glory; give them heart enlightenment. That’s what Paul is praying for the Ephesians, and that’s what we need to be praying for one another, friends.”
One of the Holy Spirit’s works is to give you an enlightenment of the “eyes of your heart,” so that your heart understands and desires God, His grace, and His blessings beyond anything else in this world. The heart of man is the mind of man. There is no mind/heart distinction (see Colossians 3:1-2); accordingly, the translation could also read, “I pray also that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened.” Therefore, “the eyes of your heart” is just another way of saying, “the understanding of your mind.” Paul is thus praying for his readers to receive an intellectual understanding about spiritual things. Therefore, we do not just pray “open my eyes,” but we pray, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law” (Psalm 119:18). Today there are many people who claim that they want to “know God,” but they are unwilling to use the God-ordained means to get to know Him, since many of them are really seeking feelings and experiences instead of real spiritual knowledge. Vincent Cheung suggests, “If a person truly wants to know God better, let him take up a systematic theology or a biblical commentary, and read it with prayer.”

Specifically, Paul wants us to be enlightened for three reasons: first, that we would know the hope to which God has called us; second, that we would know the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints; and third, that we would know His incomparably great power for us who believe. Ligon Duncan says, “To live the Christian life, we need a heart that knows God and is set on God, a heart which is comforted by a God-provided hope, a heart which is captivated by God-provided riches, and a heart which is confident in God-provided power.” Let’s break down those three elements of knowledge.

First is hope. Paul knows that there are hopeless people in this world, but he also knows that Christians ought to realize that they are filled with hope. No Christian need ever be in a hopeless circumstance, because God by His Holy Spirit grounds us in the hope of our calling. God has called us from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, and from the dominion of Satan into the glorious dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is every reason for us in that calling to be hopeful in this world. Christians are the called ones; we have a role in this world. And so we – now united to Christ – are never to be without hope, like we were before coming to faith (Ephesians 2:12). And we ought to be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ would know the hope of their calling (Ephesians 4:4) through the enlightenment of the eyes of their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Second is the riches of inheritance. Now this could be understood two different ways. It could be that we are God’s inheritance. Christians are His treasured possessions for all eternity. He gave everything to buy us; we are like His pearl of great price, His treasure in the field, and His lost coin that is found. And doesn’t that make you feel blessed, that God would think of us this way? Who am I that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name? Who am I to be loved this way? Amazing love! How can it be that God my King would die for me? Paul could be talking about this, that we are God’s inheritance. Or it could be that Paul is talking about our inheritance of God’s abundant riches. Either way, Paul wants us to see that we have been lavished with mercy and grace and riches from God beyond all comparison. We are God’s inheritance, and God has granted us a rich inheritance in Jesus Christ, but we won’t experience the fullness of that until kingdom come in all its glory. Ligon Duncan again recalls Samson, saying, “As Samson almost got himself eternally killed through his eyes’ desiring the things of this world, so we as believers can get ourselves messed up by desiring the things of this world. And here’s the Apostle Paul saying ‘I want the eyes of your heart to see the riches that God gives, which cannot be corrupted by moth and rust, which cannot be stolen by a thief, which cannot be destroyed by a storm. I want your eyes fixed on those riches, desiring those riches.’” Do you pray that prayer for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul did; and we should.

Third is the great power of God. Paul wants the eyes of our heart (our mind) to be enlightened to know the incomparable power of God. We live in a world full of sorrow and tribulation, but it’s the power of God that is at work within us, and Paul is saying that the same power at work in us for our sanctification is what raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God the Father. It’s a prayer for perseverance that is encouraging us. When we see and feel our weaknesses, Paul is saying, ‘You may find it hard to believe, but it is the same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead that is at work in you making you more like Christ. When you despair that you’ll never be like Christ, I want the eyes of your heart to be enlightened to know that it is the power that raised Christ from the dead that is conforming you to the image of God’s Son. This is what I pray for you, loved ones.’ Our lives, as believers, would be reoriented if we prayed for one another this way and if we understood and desired these things for ourselves.

See Jeremiah 9:24. God grants what He commands, just as Augustine declared long ago in his prayer, which was offensive to Pelagius. God commands us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and here, Paul prays that God would make that command be obeyed through the Holy Spirit. My prayer is this: O Lord, you command repentance from sin and faith in Jesus; grant what You command. Bring repentance from sin into my life and the lives of my family members; bestow saving faith, fruitful faith, into our hearts and minds and souls. Help us to love and serve You with all our strength – in Your strength, and for Your glory. Grant us what You command. Amen.

In this portion of Paul’s prayer, he’s wanting the very core of our being – our heart’s eyes (our minds) – to be enlightened, to come to a deeper knowledge of God and to desire Him will all that we are. J.I. Packer wrote Knowing God, and John Piper wrote Desiring God. Those books sum up and elaborate on what Paul prays in these two short verses of Ephesians.

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