A Grand Foundation for Prayer

I. “For this reason” – The reason is that they also, the Gentiles, had heard the word of truth and believed. We have looked at this as a circular letter that certainly went to the church at Ephesus but was designed also for churches that had not met Paul face to face. Paul wanted to fulfill his stewardship as an apostle to the Gentiles by giving a thick display of that which had been revealed to him for the sake of the Gentiles (3:1-6).

A. “Because I have heard of your faith” – This, along with 3:1, 2 clearly indicates that Paul expected this letter to be sent to a number of churches some of which he had never visited. He had “heard of their faith,” not personally witnessed the event in which the power of God was displayed in saving them as he had at Thessalonica. To them he wrote, “Our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power.”

B. “Your love toward all the saints” – An immediate bond of affection is established between believers all over the world. Cultural differences begin to vanish because believers are cast into the biblical world view of universal sin, the uniqueness of Christ, the exclusivity of salvation by him, and the transcendently joyful blessings of forgiveness and sonship. Whenever we meet Christians from other places, we have a set of beliefs and experiences that are in common and a bond that we know will last for eternity.

C.” I do not cease giving thanks for you.” Paul’s basic reflex as he reflected on the work of the gospel in the Gentile world and the establishment of churches among them was gratitude: the faith of the Gentiles was consistent verification of the reality of Paul’s call to preach to them, the truthfulness of the revelation of the gospel he had proclaimed, and the truly transformative character of his own call to faith (Galatians 1:14-16)

D. “Remembering you in my prayers” – The work among the Gentiles was consistently on Paul’s mind. Often, he gives insight into the specific content of his prayers for specific churches. The prayer recorded here has a breathtaking comprehensiveness to it as Paul revealed his desire for the experiential and doctrinal maturity of the Gentile churches as a whole.



II. The Content of Paul’s prayer

A. Whom Paul Addressed – As in verse 3, Paul mentioned the Father as the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and then added “the Father of glory.” At least four ideas are communicated to us in this address.

  1. There is no God apart from the one to whom Jesus prayed, whom Jesus loved, and to whom he submitted in accomplishing the work of redemption. Biblical revelation is clear, that any ideas of God that do not conform to his operation through the redemptive work of Christ are erroneous.
  2. This does not mean that Jesus is not God, but it secures the intratrinitarian arrangement of the covenant of redemption, that the Son would come to do the will of the Father, having received a charge from him in eternity, but also sharing in that very covenantal arrangement (John 10:14-19).
  3. As a man, Jesus perfectly loved, worshipped, and obeyed the Father. As the Son, he perfectly fulfilled his appointed arrangement in the covenant to redeem his people.
  4. In using the phrase the “Father of Glory,” Paul reminded his readers that in their redemption all the attributes of God as expressed in the grace of the Father were working for their salvation from their election in eternity past to the final arrival in heaven.

B. The manner in which they can receive the blessing for which Paul prayed: “may give you” – All progress, experience, and knowledge of God’s purpose is bound up in the Father’s desire for his people to know his Son, experience the power of his Spirit, and find satisfaction in his love for them. He is the one who gives this knowledge.

  1. “spirit” – On this occasion the word probably refers, not to the Holy Spirit, but to an attitude, an expectation, a sense of dependence on the part of those who are to receive these blessings. If one chooses to see this reference as to the Holy Spirit, the point still remains that his working grants us the receptive attitude we need for right knowledge of God.
  2. “wisdom” – wisdom refers to the godly use of knowledge. Those who were to receive knowledge from God’s revelation of truth must receive it with the attitude of using that knowledge for advancement in all kinds of “good works” (See 2:10 and Titus 3:8).
  3. In addition, they must realize that all knowledge of God is a matter of revelation. The “things that are freely given to us from God” are revealed in Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:9-13). Some things are clearly and necessarily revealed through creation and conscience (Romans 1:19-21) and may be discerned by senses and reason. These forms of knowledge, however, are so distorted by sin that they do not lead us to worship the God who has established this perpetual witness in the world. Only the work of special revelation grants redemption, explains the character of that redemption, and establishes the terms upon which it saves sinners. The spirit of revelation means that we receive with gratitude and without resistance all that God reveals and place it as a higher authority than any other source of knowledge.
  4. “in the knowledge of him” – Again, we know God through his revelation. If we are to know him in a way that overcomes our innate resistance to that knowledge, it must be given by him, received with wisdom, in submission to his revelation, for the purpose of knowing him in love, fear, worship, forgiveness, dependence, and hope.

C. What Paul wants the Gentile Christians to know. Though Paul was certainly more, he was never any less than a doctrinal preacher. While he wanted them to know in the sense of a heart-changing experience, he also knew that such change was the direct consequence of knowledge of the truth (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). He labored incessantly that the content of divine revelation he received as an apostle would be ever in the consciousness of his churches (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5; Galatians 1:6-9).

  1. The hope to which he has called you. This is a deeply doctrinal matter.
  • Objectively, it involves our final conformity to Christ when we “see him as he is,” and, on that basis live eternally in the presence of the triune God. Our hope is the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
  • Subjectively, hope is the lively expectation that these things are true and will indeed come to pass. Looking forward to the hope of Christ’s return generates that grace of hope in the heart. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). “Character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). “But if we hope for what we do not see (“adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”), we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25).
  1. The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints – Though we have an inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5), Paul here is talking about God’s inheritance in us. He has invested his faithfulness, his glory, his mercy, his justice and his beloved Son in us. All this he will receive back to himself when he receives us both in death, when our spirits come to him in joy and praise, and in the resurrection when we are made whole and incorruptible to enjoy him forever. Paul wanted to instruct these churches in such a way that they would realize what a rich and great salvation had been granted them by the grace of God. He wanted them to know that God would not be robbed of anything that he had invested in the redemption of his chosen people.
  2. The immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. In order for God to grant such hope, to invest so heavily in a future inheritance, He himself secures the reception of those blessings by those for whom it is given. We are brought to faith by the “exceeding greatness of his power.” Such an overwhelming arrangement of words does not exaggerate what is needed in our case, for we, in our natural state, are dead spiritually and must be granted, as it were, a victory over death for faith to arise (Ephesians 2:1). Paul will exhaust words and fitting analogies in impressing upon those to whom he wrote just how grand a transaction is this granting of spiritual life to the spiritually dead whose depraved life is under the power of Satan.



III. Paul described the effects of this infinitely dynamic power. Paul used four words immediately to give expression to this. He has used the word from which we derive both “dynamite” and “dynamo;” he used the word for energy; he used words that can be translated might and strength. In short God’s omnipotence was put into play for the existential aspect of bringing sinners to believe in his Son. “The exceeding greatness of his dynamic power toward us the believing ones according to the energy of his strength and might.”

A. Note that he is describing a power that brought both himself and the Gentiles to believe. When Paul wrote “toward us the believing ones,” he included himself the prototypical Jew with all the Gentiles, for indeed, “There is no difference” (Romans 3:22, 23).

B. This power is the same that raised Christ from the dead. Here he used again the word for energy, that is an effectual and active execution of his infinite reservoir of immediate and unfrustrable power: “which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” Such power it will take to bring us to faith.

C. This power seated Christ at his right hand in the heavenly places.

  1. The continuing operation of God’s effectual power not only brought Christ to the conquering and abolition of the penalty of sin, but brought him now as the Christ, God and Man in one person, to be seated at the place of power, “his right hand,” so that according to his victory he now shares this effectual operation upon sinners with his Father. This is not an impersonal emanation of power but is the personal activity of the Holy Spirit putting into execution all that has been decreed by the Father and gained through the victory of the Son. Indeed, the Spirit is sent by and proceeds eternally, from the Father and the Son.
  2. The blessings originally were granted in “heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (3).That eternally decree spiritually blessings have now been secured by legitimate means through the blood of Christ and all reside in him, the resurrected one, who is in the “heavenly places.” He is the embodiment of all those spiritual blessings, and in him believers will enjoy them for eternity.

D. This power lifted Christ above all other powers and placed them under his feet.

  1. Not any of the myriads of fallen angels in all their arrangements of power and execution of the plans of the great one, Lucifer, that old serpent, Satan himself, can inhibit the perfect execution of this premundane plan. Christ has been raised to the right hand of the Father “far above all rule and authority, and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.” All the forces that have real existence, and thus have a designated name, will find themselves powerless to diminish the victory of the Father’s power in raising Christ.
  2. And if, as the rebellion of angels happened in the past (2 Peter 2:4 Jude 6), some grand scheme were to be attempted in the future, it would come to nothing for the victory is secured and the power that has executed it is perfect, morally impeccable, and continually operative according to the will of the one who has created all things and sustains them in accordance with the counsel of his will (1:11).

E. This demonstration of power was done for the sake of the church.

  1. Paul cites Psalm 8:6 as having been fulfilled in this great display of power. The author of Hebrews also does this in chapter 2:4-9. This is cited as victory for man, under whose feet everything was placed at creation but lost dramatically and profoundly in the fall. Now, in his assignment as Messiah, working for the glory of God in the redemption of man, Christ has won that place again for God’s image bearers.
  2. Because Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God has won this victory in his work to claim his people, the church, as his bride, he has done it on their behalf and gives this victory over to them. So he is the “Head over everything to the church.” This use of “church” does not refer to a particular local assembly, though Jesus is head of each local assembly as well, but to the redeemed of all ages who are to be assembled as the assembly of the first born (Hebrews 12:23). For that great assembly Christ has been raised up with all things under his feet. He has made us a “kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Revelation 1:5).
  3. In some supernatural and mystical way, the church is the body of Christ and exists as the palpable evidence of his full victory. The church, in its manifestation of Christ’s faithful execution of his redemptive love in every age and among every people group shows that everything in all creation is governed by him according to his own eternal purpose. The church is “the fulness of him who fills all in all.”
Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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