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A meditation on Ephesians 1:17-19


Paul prayed that believers will know God better [1:17].

His prayers in the following verses are not, as implied in some translations, additional prayers, but rather an expansion or explanation of this first prayer, listing three distinct but inter-connected truths that Paul prays believers will know as a result of knowing God better.

Paul wants us to really understand, not superficially, but deep within us [1:18], three significant aspects of God's attitude and actions towards us.

He wants us to know:

[1] what the hope to which God has called us is [1:18];

[2] what the riches of God's glorious inheritance is [1:18], and

[3] what the greatness of God's power active for believers is [1:19].

This week we will look briefly at the hope to which God has called us.

In other parts of the New Testament we learn that this hope is: 

[1] a living hope grounded in the resurrection of Christ [1 Peter 1:3]

[2] a sure and firm anchor for our souls, taking us into the very presence of God [Hebrews 6:19; 7:19]

[3] grounded in the promise of God who cannot lie [Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18]

[4] generated by the Spirit of God and the Word of God [Romans 15:4,13]

[5] a source of joy and rejoicing [Romans 5:2; 12:12]

[6] the source of faith and love [Colossians 1:5]

[7] the motivation for godly living [1 John 3:3]

[8] the hope of salvation - eternal life, justification by faith [Gal 5:5; 1 Thess 5:8; Titus 1:2; 3:7]

[9] focused on and summed up in one person: Jesus Christ [1 Timothy 1:1].

Paul's prayer in Ephesians is that we will know what this hope is.

It is not a wishy-washy hope in which there is no certainty of the final outcome. It is not a human wish. It does not focus on or arise from human desires. Nor is it in the category of positive thinking, positive confession or creative visualization.

This hope is real irrespective of the quality or quantity of our personal exercise of hope. Its reality does not depend on our grasp of it, or on our confidence in it. It is focused and grounded in Christ himself. He himself is our hope. For this hope to fail in its outcome Christ himself would have to fail. For this hope to be proved false, Christ himself, and his resurrection, would have to be proved fake.

The Christian hope thus stands or falls on the integrity of the claims of Christ. If he is not who he said he was, and if he did not rise from the dead, then, as Paul points out powerfully in 1Corinthians 15:12-19, our hope is in vain, and we are to be pitied more than all men.

What Paul prays here concerning hope is not that we will have hope, but that we will know what our hope is. Knowing what our hope is is what will then give strength and confidence to our personal exercise of hope.

Here in Ephesians, as we will see in a week or two, Paul knows that an understanding the power of God active in the resurrection of Christ is critical for our understanding of God and of the salvation he has lavished upon us in Christ Jesus. The more we understand this incomparable greatness of the power of God the more confidence and joy we will have in the hope to which he has called us.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2010