The eye of the heart – Saturday, 28th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 1:15-23
Paul began Chapter one by speaking to the Jews who had embraced Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Then in verse 13 he made it known that the Gentiles too were adopted and inheritors of the promise of salvation; stamped and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Verse 15-23 is the prayer of Paul for the community of Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus. It is a payer of thanksgiving for their faith and for the outpouring of spiritual gifts for these believers. It is a prayer that hopes for a purpose driven life and an understanding of the privilege that they share. But it is not just a prayer as much as it is also a catechesis (verse 20-23) on the working of God in Christ and the power given to Jesus. Let us now look at this text in detail and the prayer that Paul makes.
Paul has “heard” of their faith. This is a faith that he sowed when he visited Ephesus on his first missionary journey and then again when he stayed with them for three years (Acts 20:31) during his third missionary journey. Obviously, their teething problems now resolved (remember this book was written between 80-100 AD), news of their faith and unity has come to him. This faith is a belief in response to the message of Christ. And it is for “this reason” he gives thanks to God.
But Paul has not only heard of their faith (Greek: pistis) but also of their love (agape) for the saints. This love is more than just a feeling it is a love that pushes the whole of ones being to give freely of oneself. When we have faith and love it is always sign of our participation in God’s plan.
This love is given to the “saints” or “holy ones.” While Christians today usually think of saints as especially holy people (canonised by the church), Jesus calls all who follow him to be holy. The New Testament uses the words ho hagio is to refer to Jesus’ disciples, not just to a few exceptional disciples, but to all disciples. The saints are those who by virtue are associated with God, now are set apart to be different from the world; in this case it refers to the members of the Church in Ephesus. Faith and love must go together and Paul acknowledges that the Ephesians possess both a vertical and a horizontal dimension.
It was clear that the Ephesians were still “getting to know Christ.” If they were to receive any spiritual gift it must be those that would strengthen their faith. Paul’s first petition of his prayer is for the “spirit of wisdom and revelation”. Paul is not referring to the Holy Spirit when he speaks of spirit of wisdom but wisdom that comes from God and it is God who not only discloses but would help the Ephesians interpret what they fail to understand.
But the reliance of this wisdom and revelation is not a matter of the head but that of the heart. Paul invites them to search their heart concerning matters of the faith and not end up with heady discussions. The heart brings light to soul! Enlightenment (Greek photizo) is not a bright idea we had but the light of God shining through us drawing us to transformation not just information.
Paul reminds the Ephesians that theirs is a “calling” and invitation to experience adoption into God’s family and not an enlistment. The calling demands an understanding . Paul’s prayer for these Ephesian Christians, then, is that they might see clearly and understand fully the hope that is inherent in God’s invitation to be part of God’s family. This is the third time that Paul has mentioned inheritance in this first chapter of Ephesians. Now he calls these Christians to take note of “the riches of the glory of (their) inheritance.”
In verse 19, Paul used four power-words to describe God’s power. He then tells the Ephesians that God used this power to raise Christ from the dead (v. 20a),to seat Christ on a heavenly throne high above everything (v. 20b-21) and to “put all things in subjection under his feet” (v. 22).The actor in these events is God. Christ is the one acted upon. Paul doesn’t say that Jesus rose from the dead, but that God raised Christ from the dead. The resurrection was a manifestation of the power of God the Father.
To the four power packed words to speak of Godly power, Paul in verse 21 speaks of five powers that are in human hands that are often hostile to Godly power. But all these powers are placed under the feet of Christ an allusion to Psalm 8:6, which says, “You make him ruler over the works of your hands. You have put all things under his feet” and made him head over the Church.
Paul’s prayer draws to a close. His catechesis will continue.