Sermon: A Praiseworthy Faith and Love that Comes from Growing in Christ

Ephesians 1:15-17

20130609FBCAM

 

15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 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: 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

As we continue our look at Ephesians, we are reminded that this was originally a letter to a group of Christians in an ancient city. They were real people, struggling to live for Christ just as we do today.

 

Paul gets personal in the verses that follow. He praises, for instance, their faith and their love.

 

He also has a prayer for them, a prayer for wisdom and revelation that leads to a growing personal knowledge of Jesus.

 

If the Bible was still being written today, and Paul was writing a letter to you, to our church—what would he praise, and what would he pray for?


 

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also,

after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus,

and love unto all the saints,

15 Διὰ τοῦτο κἀγώ ἀκούσας τὴν καθ͂ ὑμᾶς πίστιν ἐν τῷ Κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ

καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τὴν εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους,

Ephesians 1:16a Cease not to give thanks for you,

16 οὐ παύομαι εὐχαριστῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν,

 

I. PRAISE FOR THE BELIEVERS

 

In this verse, Paul praises the believers in the church at Ephesus. First, he gives them…

 

A. PRAISE FOR THEIR FAITH

 

He says, “I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus.” Paul is praising them for both their saving faith and their practical day-to-day faith.

 

(1) Saving faith is, of course, the faith that saved them. 

 

It’s not that Paul is giving them credit for their salvation, they were saved by grace through faith and not by works. So, in this case, his praise is to God for them.

 

Do you have a saving faith in the Lord Jesus? 

 

Have you recognized that, even though you may have been a nice person, that you were a sinner who was in rebellion against God?

 

Did you realize that your sinful rebellion had a high price tag? That it carried a sentence of death (Romans 6:23) and without some help, you would never be able to overcome it? That you were doomed to an eternity in Hell?

 

And have you rejoiced in that God so loved us that he sent his Son Jesus to pay the penalty for us? All we have to do is place our faith in Christ alone.

 

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

 

Do you have a living, true, saving faith in the Lord Jesus right now?

 

(2) But Paul is also praising them for their practical, day-to-day faith. 

 

So often, I see this sad situation: a person, professes to be a Christian, and well may be, and can articulate everything about the gospel. But in their day-to-day lives, their faith is in everything but Christ. 

 

They have faith in their money; they have faith in their strength and their talents; their insurance companies, and so on. They live in fear, worrying about each little issue or problem they encounter. They don’t turn to Christ in prayer for anything. They have no practical faith. Are you that type of person?

 

R. Kent Hughes describes this sort of person:

 

[There was a] man who was attempting to cross the frozen St. Lawrence River in Canada. Unsure whether the ice would hold, the man first tested it by laying one hand on it. Then he got down on his knees and gingerly began making his way across. 

 

When he got to the middle of the frozen river trembling with fear, he heard a noise behind him. Looking back, to his horror he saw a team of horses pulling a carriage down the road toward the river. 

 

And upon reaching the river they didn’t stop, but bolted right onto the ice and past him, while he crouched there on all fours, turning a deep crimson. If only he had known how firm the ice really was that day! (R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990], 48–50)

 

Many Christians are like that. They are afraid to trust Jesus with their day-to-day lives, even while claiming to have trusted him with their eternal lives! The Ephesian Christians were not like that at all. They rested their faith in Jesus both for their salvation and for day-to-day matters.

 

Do you have a practical, day-to-day faith in the Lord Jesus?

 

B. PRAISE FOR THEIR LOVE

 

Paul also praises them for their “love unto all the saints.” Saints here refers to other Christians. He is commending them for loving one another.

 

Throughout the New Testament, we find commands and warnings to love one another.

 

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14)

 

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34–35)

 

Once in awhile, you hear a Christian say, “I love him in the Lord.” What they usually mean is that they can’t stand the guy! But, they know Christians are supposed to love one another, so they say, “I love him in the Lord,” as if they have a more spiritual kind of love.

 

Love, folks, is love. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t love another person as the Lord loves him—sacrificially and from your heart—then you can’t say that you love the person. 

 

Listen to what John says:

 

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

 

The person who says, “I love him in the Lord,” but does not love in deeds and in truth because they really just hate the other person, is not loving them at all, and certainly not loving them in the Lord.

 

It might be a good exercise for you the next time you are struggling to love some one to ask yourself, “How does the Lord love this person?” and “Would I want the Lord to love me the way that I pretend to love this person?”

 

The duty of a Christian could easily be summed up in a good balance of faith and love. The Ephesian Christians had both faith and love for one another. There are no perfect churches, but if you find one with people having steadfast faith and vibrant love for one another, don’t leave it!

 

Paul not only had praises for this church in Ephesus, he also had prayers for them as well.

 

Ephesians 1:16b making mention of you in my prayers;

μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου·

Ephesians 1:17 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 [ἐπιγνώσει] of him:

17 ἵνα ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης,

δώῃ ὑμῖν πνεῦμα σοφίας καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως,

ἐν ἐπιγνώσει αὐτοῦ·

 

II. PRAYER FOR THE BELIEVERS

 

A. THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION

 

(1) WHICH SPIRIT?

 

The first part of Paul’s request is that the Father of glory would give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation.” 

 

There is some debate on whether “spirit” here refers to the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. 

 

Both ways make biblical sense. Where do wisdom and revelation come from? You could certainly say that God the Father gives us wisdom and revelation through the Holy Spirit working in us to help us to better understand the Word of God.

 

However, the KJV translators seem to have thought it referred to the human spirit, because they don’t capitalize the word. If it refers to our human spirit, it would mean that our spirit would be filled with and ruled by the wisdom and revelation that comes from God the Father.

 

(2) WISDOM

 

What is the wisdom that Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians to have? We know that there’s a difference between being book smart and wise. Wisdom is being able to use the information you have learned to live a proper life.

 

While a lot of wisdom in the Bible can be classified as good old common sense, the biblical wisdom here goes further—this wisdom is the ability to understand God’s truth and how to apply it to our lives.

 

This isn’t a shortcut past the hard work of reading, studying and meditating on the Bible. It involves studying the Bible, because when you study the Bible, the Holy Spirit can work through the Word of God to give you wisdom.

 

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

 

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

 

A good practice before you open the Bible to read is to pray for insight and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians here, and just as David did long ago in the Psalms, “Open thou mine eyes, That I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18).

 

(3) REVELATION

 

Paul also prays for them to have revelation. This is not some secret knowledge or understanding; it’s not a new revelation from God either. It’s taking the Word of God and revealing to the believer more about Christ.

 

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of looking at a passage that you’ve read a dozen times before, when you see something that you’ve never seen before. When Jesus becomes just a little bit more clear to you. 

 

Often that experience happens when we are not in a rush to get through our Bible reading and are quiet before the Lord. 

 

The old preacher, Harry Ironside, related a story about when he learned the lesson of spending more time in the Word and waiting for the Spirit to reveal more about Jesus to him. Ironside wrote:

 

I remember years ago, while my dear mother was still living, I went home to visit the family, and found there a man of God from the north of Ireland. I was a young Christian at the time, engaged in gospel work. He was a much older man, an invalid, dying of what we then called “quick consumption.” He had come out to Southern California, hoping climatic conditions would be of some help to him. But it was evident that he was too far gone to be recovered to health again. 

 

He lived, by his own desire, in a small tent out under the olive trees a short distance away from our home. I went out to see him there. I can remember how my heart was touched as I looked down upon his thin worn face upon which I could see the peace of Heaven clearly manifested. 

 

His name was Andrew Fraser. He could barely speak above a whisper, for his lungs were almost gone, but I can recall yet how, after a few words of introduction, he said to me, “Young man, you are trying to preach Christ; are you not?” I replied, “Yes, I am.” “Well,” he whispered, “sit down a little, and let us talk together about the Word of God.” 

 

He opened his well-worn Bible, and until his strength was gone, simply, sweetly, and earnestly he opened up truth after truth as he turned from one passage to another, in a way that my own spirit had never entered into them. 

 

Before I realized it, tears were running down my face, and I asked, “Where did you get these things? Could you tell me where I could find a book that would open them up to me? Did you learn these things in some seminary or college?” 

 

I shall never forget his answer. “My dear young man, I learned these things on my knees on the mud floor of a little sod cottage in the north of Ireland. There with my open Bible before me, I used to kneel for hours at a time, and ask the Spirit of God to reveal Christ to my soul and to open the Word to my heart, and He taught me more on my knees on that mud floor than I ever could have learned in all the seminaries or colleges in the world.” 

 

…Is it not true that most of us do not stay long enough in the presence of God? We do not get quiet enough to let Him talk to us and reveal His mind to us. (H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies : Practical Expository Addresses on the Epistle to the Ephesians. [Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1937], 86–87)

 

Our desire should be as we sing in the hymn:

 

More, more about Jesus,

More, more about Jesus;

More of His saving fullness see,

More of His love Who died for me.

 

B. THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM

 

Paul’s prayer is that this spirit of wisdom and revelation would be “in the knowledge of him [the Lord Jesus Christ].” The word for “knowledge” isn’t the regular Greek word for “to know,” which is γινωσκω, this one is ἐπίγνωσις…the ἐπί that is added to the front of the word makes it stronger. It could be translated, “the complete knowledge of him.” 

 

One commentator explained this:

 

Every believer to a certain extent has the knowledge of Christ, but the original word implies more than that. It is not merely knowledge as such; it is really super-knowledge, or full knowledge. (H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies : Practical Expository Addresses on the Epistle to the Ephesians. [Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1937], 88.)

 

A fuller way of saying what is in verse 17 would be that Paul was praying for them to have spiritual wisdom and revelation so that they would grow and have a more complete knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

If someone were to ask you why you are a Christian, what would you say? Would it be something like, “So that I can go to Heaven someday”? Let me show you how Paul would answer that question:

 

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: [here’s comes his goal for being saved] 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:8–10)

 

Christian, I pray that you are a Christian so that you can know Christ better each day! That that is your main goal in this life. 

 

(1) WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO KNOW CHRIST? 

 

It means knowing more than just the facts about Jesus Christ; it is knowing him personally. You can look up the facts about almost anyone on the Internet these days. But would knowing facts about John Smith or Jane Doe mean that you know them? Of course not.

 

It’s the same with Christ. If all you have is some facts about Jesus in your head, but no real personal relationship with him, you don’t really know Christ. 

 

There is a great many people in our churches today that are in exactly that situation. They know some facts about Jesus, but they don’t know him. Those people are in real danger, for one day they will stand before the Lord:

 

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22–23)

 

Is Christ some faraway flannel graph historical figure to you? Or is Christ a real person to you? The difference is the difference between being unsaved and saved.

 

But Paul was praying for Christians who already knew Christ personally. His prayer was not that they would come to know Christ, but that they would have a more complete knowledge of Christ. That they would grow in their knowledge of him.

 

(2) HOW DO WE GROW IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST?

 

Perhaps the most important thing is this: We must pray for, and cultivate a desire for the Lord in our hearts.

 

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1–2)

 

I suppose most of us might say, “I really wish I could desire the Lord more, but I don’t.” Listen, that is a desire for the Lord right there! Its just very small and weak. All what you need to do is pray for the Lord to increase and cultivate it so that it grows.

 

How do you cultivate a desire for the Lord?

Our desire for the Lord is like a plant in a garden. If you want a certain plant to grow, you have to nurture it and eliminate the weeds that it has to compete with. Every true Christian has a desire for the Lord, but there are so many competing desires and distractions that it gets drowned out.

 

How do you cultivate a desire for the Lord? Well, one thing is to find undistracted time with him. It might mean setting the alarm clock earlier; not checking email or turning on the television first thing after getting out of bed. 

 

The Devil loves this modern world with all its distractions that drown out a desire for the Lord.

 

So do some life cultivation. Find a time and dedicate it to the Lord. Weed out the competing desires and distraction from your garden. Then, your desire for the Lord will have the opportunity to grow stronger, and the other desires will become less of a distraction to you.

 

If you don’t find your desire for the Lord growing, then do what a gardener does—find the problem. It’s a sin or a distraction or a competing desire or a lack of water from the Word…just don’t give in.

 

CONCLUSION

 

May we desire to grow in our knowledge of Christ so that our faith and love will be worthy of praise, if not before men, then before the throne of God when we stand before him in glory.

 

 

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