By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Ephesians 1.15-23
Foundations for Expectations
We all have expectations. We expect to graduate High School. If you are male, you expect to have a good wife. If you are female, you expect to have a good husband. We all expect a good marriage, good kids, awesome grandchildren, a decent work life leading to a fantastic retirement, good health and a long life. We even expect our favorite sports team to always have great seasons, and to always win. We expect the economy to be good and things to remain unchanged. We expect much, and most, if not all, of these are wonderful. However, there is one specific area that is conspicuously absent from this list. It is spiritual expectations.
As we read Ephesians 1.15-23, Paul uses the thoughts in verses 15-16 to transition to spiritual expectations. Paul states that he continually prays a prayer of thanks for them, because of their faith in Jesus and the love they have demonstrated to the brethren. But Paul’s prayer does not cease by expressing appreciation for the brethren. Ephesians 1.17-19 records Paul telling the brethren that he is particularly praying that God will give them six specific blessings. And verses 20-23 records Paul expressing why he wants these blessings for them, because God demonstrated His power by resurrecting Jesus and having Him ascend; Jesus is the reason for the body (the assembly, the church) and it is Christ who completes everything.
The Six Blessings
Here are the six blessings that Paul wants the brethren to receive:
- 1.17 – That the brethren receive a spirit of wisdom
- 1.17 – That the brethren receive revelation [by having] knowledge of [God]
- 1.18 – That the brethren receive enlightened understanding
- 1.18 – That the brethren will know the hope of [God’s] calling
- 1.18 – That the brethren will know the riches of [God’s] inheritance
- 1.19 – That the brethren will know [God’s] exceeding greatness of power to believers
These six blessings have tremendous meaning. When you and I, individually, have a healthy spiritual wisdom, working spiritual knowledge and enlightened spiritual understanding of all of God’s truth, then we will be certain in the hope of being a disciple of Jesus, we will possess the expectation of our promised inheritance, and we will be unswervedly convinced of the power of God. Truly, perception leads to persuasion.
Blessings in Two Categories
As we just noticed, those blessings can be understood through two specific categories: Perception and Persuasion. I believe it is fair to claim that everything (from devotion to education, from occupation to recreation), everything a person does is (at least partially) based on perception: perception of possibility and impossibility; perception of truth and falsehood; perception of reality and fantasy. If I believe it is possible to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, then the truth of a successful ascent is reality, especially when others either have-one, seen it happen; or-two, achieved success themselves. Likewise, in a spiritual application, if I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, the truth is that He lives, and my eternal existence is reality, especially when others have-one, seen it happen; or-two, achieved eternal existence themselves.
As for persuasion, it becomes more difficult. The reason for this seems rather simplistic, but occurs frequently. Take for instance our perception in the marketplace. Many times our perception leads us to purchase something, perhaps an automobile. But our persuasion can be changed based upon our experience with that vehicle, or if others give negative reports. If you purchase Brand A automobile and have good success, you will be persuaded of its value. However, if you purchase Brand A automobile and your experience is not favorable, or you have received testimony from others that it is not good (perception) then you will no longer be persuaded of its promise and value. Similarly, the same may happen with our spiritual lives. We may have the perception and the experience that leads to complete persuasion, but then again, we may not. For instance, if a disciple’s persuasion does not match their perception, they may experience disillusion. Interestingly enough our persuasion can be hindered or even destroyed by the actions of others, for example: others may lack persuasion, or they may believe in another version of the Good News or Gospel (cf. Galatians 3.1).
Our spiritual expectations are derived from our spiritual perception and persuasion. Paul knew that faith in the Lord Jesus and love for the brethren are simply not enough to maintain one’s spiritual perception and to maintain a Christian’s spiritual persuasion. This is why Paul prayed that those disciples would be given full perception of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and a complete persuasion of hope, inheritance, and power. It is no different for us – we need these six blessings today in order to fully perceive and to be completely persuaded. Our adversary uses partial truths hoping to lure us away from our spiritual expectation. May God grant us these six blessings thereby enabling our spiritual expectation to rest solidly on true perception and true persuasion.