Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 1:13-23 Enhancing your spiritual sight
by I Gordon
Well, I've finally got to that age where my eyes are getting a bit blurry. A wee bit fuzzy. Well, I should have said eye (singular) as I lost the sight in one eye about 14 years back in a surfing accident... but that is another story! But, after half my life looking at computer screens, things are not as sharp anymore and I've finally had to wear glasses for reading. You can now officially call me four-eyes. Without the glasses, the 5's look like 8's and the P's like R's. And please don't ask me to read the fine print on any labels... I'd be taking 8 a day of whatever it is when it should be 2! While not there yet, I'm starting to relate to the the once blind man touched by Jesus who, when asked what he can see, replied that he saw 'men like trees, walking'. In other words, he had some type of sight but things were not clear. And this was after having received a healing touch from Jesus! So what was required? Well, another touch.
Mar 8:25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
It was after the second touch that he began to see things clearly. Now this story is in the Bible for a reason and it is more than just physical eyesight that is in view. It is certainly more than just physical eyesight that God is concerned with. This story points to what our spiritual lives can be like. We can believe in the Lord, be saved, yet still not see things clearly. We aren't blind anymore... we aren't in darkness, but you can't say that you have great spiritual vision either. Well that is what Paul wanted to address in the second half of Ephesians chapter 1. Having spoken about the amazing spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus in the first half of the chapter, he then prays for the Ephesians that they would have the spiritual eyesight to be able to see and comprehend these amazing blessings that were theirs!
So that is what we shall explore in this study. Specifically we'll look at...
- The remedy for poor eyesight
- The need to keep knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door
- The things that good spiritual eyesight can see
The Holy Spirit - Remedy for improving eyesight
Eph 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
So Paul reminds the Ephesians of the greatest gift of all... the promised Holy Spirit who is given to all true believers in Christ Jesus. This passage above tells us He is 'a seal', 'a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance' for those that are 'God's possession'. Concerning this 'seal' MacArthur writes:
God's own Spirit comes to indwell the believer and thus secures and preserves his eternal salvation. The sealing of which Paul speaks refers to an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document. That document was thereby officially under the authority of the person whose stamp was on the seal. Four primary truths are signified by the seal: (1) security (cf. Dan 6:17; Mat 27:62-66); (2) authenticity (cf. 1Ki 21:6-16); (3) ownership (cf. Jer 32:10); and (4) authority (cf. Est 8:8-12). The Holy Spirit is given by God as His pledge of the believer's future inheritance in glory.
In like manner Paul writes to the Corinthians saying how the Holy Spirit is a deposit, a down payment to stand as a guarantee of that which is to come.
2Co 1:21-22 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, (22) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
The Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. Can you remember when the children of Israel sent some men into the Promised Land to spy out the land and see if it was good? Numbers 13:23-24 tells us that they came back with a single cluster of grapes that was so large that two of them carried it on a pole between them. Mmm mmm... Now that is my type of grape... and land! This was a foretaste, a deposit if you like, of what 'the land flowing with milk and honey' would be like. That obviously is a picture for believers today. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing our full inheritance in our Promised Land still to come. Now there are many obvious benefits of having the Spirit's presence in our life1 but for the sake of this study I want to limit the focus to how the Holy Spirit is, according to Jesus, 'the Spirit of truth, who will guide you into all truth.' (John 16;13) I'm sure you remember that well known verse how 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those that love Him.' But note what it goes on to say as highlighted below:
1Co 2:9-12 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" -- (10) but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (11) For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (12) We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
It is God's Spirit that reveals truth to us. Even the deep things of God... and we are discussing deep things in Ephesians! But what specifically does 1 Cor 2 tell us about what the Spirit wants to show us? It says we have been given His Spirit so that we can understand what God has freely given us. That is, we can understand the depths of God's grace... as we are attempting to see in this study of Ephesians. Now you might say 'Ok, I'm a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit... What else do I need to do? How does this revelation from God's Spirit come about? I think I can see things quite well2 - but how could I improve my spiritual eyesight?' Good question! Let's proceed...
Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door
Eph 1:15-17 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (16) I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (17) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
There are two things that I want to focus on in this passage but they are directly related. The first is the repeated knock. The second is spiritual revelation. They go together like peas and carrots. Paul knew something about 20/20 spiritual sight. He knew that it doesn't come through natural wisdom or intelligence. It doesn't come through having a photographic memory or an Einstein IQ. It doesn't come from frequent trips to the library to consume books on theology. It takes the Spirit of God illuminating our darkened understanding. In other words, to truly know God, requires God. It isn't an intellectual pursuit so much as a God-pursuit. It requires a heart that truly desires to know Him better. Let me say that again - Spiritual understanding is a God-pursuit that requires a heart that truly wants to know Him. There is a 'Spirit of wisdom and revelation' that is required to know Him better' and this is available to even the simplest of saints. So you'll note from the passage above that Paul 'kept asking' that God would grant those in Ephesus 'the Spirit of wisdom and revelation'. It wasn't a one off thing! Without the Spirit's work in our lives we will remain like the man Jesus touched who could see, but like trees walking. I remember as a young believer praying often 'Lord, I want to know You,.. but how? If you don't reveal your truth and character to me, how can I see!' And I kept on asking because that was one of the things that stood out to me when I first read the Bible. I started in the book of Mathew and it wasn't long before I read:
Mat 7:7-11 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (9) Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (10) Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? (11) If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Or, as Luke's Gospel records 'If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luk 11:13)
Sadly, not all Christians want to press on and know God better. Some are content with blurry vision. They don't want to keep knocking and asking. Can you remember what Peter said about those that didn't press on and add to their faith? He said this:
2Pe 1:9 'For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.'
He says these people have two problems - Bad eyesight and bad memory! Neither is fun. Trust me! The bad eyesight mentioned here comes in the form of short-sightedness. That is, they can only see short distances. They can see the here and now, and live for that, but can't see the big picture and the life to come. And that really is short-sighted! Someone with good eyesight can see far into the distance and plan now for what is to come. The other issue those that don't go on have is bad memory. They have forgotten, Peter tells us, that they have been forgiven of their sins. They have forgotten the wonder of their salvation. What God has done for them is not foremost in their thoughts anymore but somewhere hidden in the back of their minds where it is seldom accessed. You don't want to be like that.
We want to be people that press on and keep knock, knock ,knocking on heaven's door! This is where spiritual sight comes from. We see this portrayed in John Bunyan's classic 'Pilgrims Progress'. Christian, on his journey from the city of destruction to the celestial city, is told that he will come to the house of the interpreter who will reveal much. We read:
“Christian then began to prepare himself for the journey. As he was getting ready, Good-Will told him that after he had gone a good distance from the gate he would come to the house of the Interpreter. He was told to knock at the door of that house, where he would be shown excellent things. Then Good-Will bid Christian Godspeed.
After Christian departed, he went on until he came to the house of the Interpreter, where he knocked over and over. At last a man came to the door and asked who was there. Christian told him, “Sir, I am a traveler who was told by an acquaintance of the good man of this house to come here for my profit; therefore I would like to speak with the master of the house.” So the man called for the master of the house who after a little time came to Christian, asking how He might assist him. “Sir,” said Christian, “I am a man who has come from the City of Destruction, and I am going to Mount Zion. I was told by the man who stands at the entrance gate to this way that if I called here, You would show me excellent things that would help me on my journey.” Then said the Interpreter, “Come in. I will show you those things that will be profitable to you.”
You will notice how John Bunyan portrayed Christian having to travel a good distance before he came to the house of the Interpreter. And there he had to knock over and over again on the door before someone came and answered. It is like that for us. God places before us a test. Do we really want to know Him? Are we willing to travel some distance patiently? Are we willing to knock and knock and not turn away even if the door is not opened initially?3
As the Holy Spirit, the Author of the Scriptures, alone can enlighten us rightly to understand them, we should constantly ask His teaching and His guidance unto all truth. When the prophet Daniel sought to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, what did he do? He set himself to earnest prayer that God would open up the vision. Therefore, if, for your own and others’ profiting, you desire to be ‘filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,’ remember that prayer is your best means of study. Like Daniel, you shall understand the dream, and its interpretation, when you have sought God. You may force your way through many barriers to understanding with the leverage of prayer. Thoughts and reasonings are like the steel wedges which give a hold on truth but prayer is the lever which open the treasure hidden within.”
- C. H. Spurgeon
What can 20/20 spiritual sight see?
Eph 1:18-21 I 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, (19) and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, (20) which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (21) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
I really like that quote from Spurgeon above... 'prayer is the lever which opens the treasure hidden within.' And what is this treasure? Well some choice, large nuggets of gold as presented to us in Eph 1:18-21. We should take note of that which Paul thought were important enough to pray about for the Ephesians. Paul prayed that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that...
- 'You may know the hope to which you are called.' - Can you see your hope? As I mentioned in the first study (and you'll hear it quite a lot no doubt) these are becoming dark days. It seems, on a natural level, that good is being called evil and evil, good. Treachery and twisting abound. But can you look past this to see your hope in the Lord? I read recently that the Bible reading app 'YouVersion' reported on the most searched, shared and bookmarked verse worldwide in 2020. What do you think it was or was about? It was Isaiah 41:10: "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand". That speaks loudly to me. Do you see the hope in the Lord? Believers have 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Col 1:27) and 'the God of hope' (Rom 15:13) for all the days of this life. We have the 'blessed hope' (Titus 2:13) in His soon coming and the 'hope which is laid up for you in heaven' (Col 1:5) for the future. In these trying times live in, and never forgot, the hope we have! Good eyesight can see this hope.
- 'His glorious inheritance in the saints' - Paul also wanted us to see not only our inheritance, but the Lord's. What does the Lord get out of this? What does He want? Well, He wants what He has always wanted... People that will love Him and be His. He, ultimately, is our inheritance and we are His. Even from the days of old, His inheritance was His people. Deu 32:8-9 'When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.' I like what Chuck Smith says concerning this. And again, having good eyesight allows a believer to see this.
If you only knew how much God treasured you. I have never thought much of that. I have thought a lot about my treasures in God. But God treasures me? Do you remember Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is liken unto a man going through a field and discovering a treasure." ( Mat_13:44 ). Now when you attribute that parable, the treasure turns out to be you. And the person who gave everything to buy the field, the world, in order to obtain the treasure is Jesus. He values you so highly that He gave His life to redeem you, to purchase you. You are His treasure. Peter said, "We are His peculiar treasure," God's treasure. If you only knew how much God treasured you, you would never treat yourself cheaply again. You would never look down at yourself again. "Hey, I am God's treasure. I am God's inheritance. God values me. God treasures me, glory." Personally, I don't think He is getting much of a deal, but I like it that He likes it.
Pastor Chuck Smith
- His incomparably great power for we who believe - The word for power here is 'dunameos' from which we get our English word 'dynamite'. It is this power that saved us, keeps us, and will ultimately raise all believers from the dead - as it did Jesus. But it is also a power for now, in the difficulty that you are in. It is resurrection power that Paul asked to know in Phil 3:10 and one, if we are honest, we all need to know. While we like the sound of radical power, always remember that this is power that is required even in the 'normalcy' of life. This is power to keep believing when things are hard. It is the power to be patient when everything within screams otherwise. It is the power to love those that are not always loveable. Is is the power to speak up when the pressure is on to remain silent. Or the Power to forgive when you want to hold onto hurts. All of this requires God's power. Naturally we are any thing but powerful. Ray Stedman writes:
The apostle knows that these Ephesian Christians, like Christians everywhere, are oftentimes immobilized by the grip of fear. He knows their insecurity. He knows that they are afraid of their neighbors, afraid of failure, afraid of persecution and ridicule. There is a deep sense of inadequacy and of impotence in their lives. They don't think they can do anything...The answer to fear is power. The minute you feel a sense of adequate power, you lose fear, because power overcomes fear. Love overcomes fear. These forces are mighty, powerful forces. And so Paul prays that Christians will get their eyes open, in a practical way, to the power available to them...I am often distressed by the fact that so many Christians seem to give up. They feel that their struggles are just too much, that they just can't make it. It is because they have lost sight of the One who is giving them power. Paul develops this at some length here because it is so important to us.
Pastor Ray Stedman
- His position, far above all rule and authority, that Christ has been exalted to - Paul also prays that we would see Jesus! High and exalted above all else! When we lose sight of that we lose the most important sight of all. He has conquered sin. He has conquered this world. He has conquered the enemy. He has conquered death itself. He rules from on high. Elisha was a man who was able to stay very calm in not so calm times. How? Because of what he could see. He could see things that others couldn't. He could see that God was the rule and authority and had all things in control. Do you remember the story? It comes when the whole army of Aram (Syria) came to capture Elisha. Elisha's servant was very scared by what he could see but Elisha saw something else that kept all fear at bay...
2Ki 6:15-17 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" (16) So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." (17) And Elisha prayed, and said, "Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Elisha's prayer here is the same as Paul's in Ephesians. Open their eyes that they may see! It makes all the difference and the believer should always be praying this.
Jesus is Head over Everything
Eph 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, (23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
God has placed all things under Jesus' feet. Can you see Him? Who He is? We, as believers, are part of His body. It is all about Him. He is Head over all things. There are many in this age that think they are the ones in control and all others are beneath their feet! And soon and very soon the whole world is going to have a close encounter with the King of kings and the Lord of lords - the One who truly is head over all. All those that think they are somebody today, all those the believe they have the position and power, all those that claim to be the rule and authority, will all have to bow the knee before Him! Today we have those in Government thinking they can just ignore the laws. We have those in 'Big Tech' like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon and the like thinking they they are the 'rule and authority'... that they are too big to fail. This world is on a collision course with the true King and, without repentance, all these so-called kings of this earth will end up hiding themselves in the rocks saying 'fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!'
As we look around the world we don't see everything placed under Jesus' feet yet (Heb 2:8) but it is so and will soon be demonstrated when the fullness of time reveals the fullness of Him. And that will be done through the Church - a glorious bride who shall reign with Him. Can you see Him? Can you see clearly? Or are you like the man that Jesus had to touch a second time? Being honest we are all like that man and require more that a second touch! We need a third and a fourth! But that is ok. Be honest with God and come knocking once more upon the throne of grace for it pleases His heart to see that desire and hear from you. Can you remember the story of the blind men who cried out to Jesus?
Mat 20:29-34 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. (30) Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" (31) The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" (32) Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. (33) Lord, they answered, "we want our sight." (34) Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
The same can be said of our spiritual sight. Having cried out to Jesus, He would ask us today - 'What do you want me to do for you?' And He still has compassion and touches eyes today. He is pleased when a believer, or anyone actually, desires to see, spiritually speaking.
Conclusion to Ephesians chapter 1
As we end chapter 1 of Ephesians, I want to close with an example from the Old Testament that sums up this chapter quite succinctly. This chapter has been about sitting and seeing once again what Jesus has done for us. It should bring encouragement, hope and definitely praise! The truth of this chapter can be seen hidden, somewhat strangely, in the birth of Leah's first four children.
In the last study we looked at the story of Leah who, because she was not chosen, was always trying to prove her worth to her husband Jacob. You may remember that she gave birth to Jacob's first four sons. Now what is interesting about this is their names for within them is a little spiritual message which relates to this topic of spiritual sight that we are exploring. Look at how Leah names her kids:
Reuben — (behold, a son) (Gen 29:32)
Simeon — (hearing) (Gen 29:33)
Levi — (joined) (Gen 29:34)
Judah — (praise) (Gen 29:35)
The Gospel for you and me is here. It is the same message preached in Ephesians 1. Do you see it?
Reuben (behold a son): Firstly we are to 'behold the Son'. All things are in Him. That is where you look to find all spiritual blessings. There are no spiritual blessings outside of Jesus as mentioned in the last study. Everything starts by siting, cease striving, and behold the Son of God. This is the key message of John the Baptist - 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.'
Simeon (hearing): Secondly we are to listen. We are to hear. Listen to what God has to say about His Son. Firstly look, then listen. What was God the Father's message to the disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration? 'This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!' (Luke 9:35). This command hasn't been overturned or rescinded.
Levi (joined): Thirdly, this leads to an understanding of our union with Him… That we are ‘joined’ to the Lord. This again is what Ephesians is all about. That the believer is 'in Him' and He is in the believer. There is a spiritual union from which all the blessings of God have flowed.
Judah (praise): Fourthly in all results in praise. As Ephesians 1:6,12,14 tells us. That should be the result in your life of all that we are studying in this great Epistle. Praise for all that He has done. Enter today into that which you will one day join in doing with all the angels and all the saints throughout all the ages!