A Commentary by John Stott

Ephesians 1:15-23. 2). A prayer for knowledge.

Although Paul is naturally thinking of his Asian readers to whom he is writing, yet throughout the first chapter of his letter he addresses himself rather to God than to them. He begins with a great benediction (1:3-14) and continues with a great intercession (1:15-23). Ephesians 1 is, in fact, divided into these two sections. First he blesses God for having blessed us in Christ; then he prays that God will open our eyes to grasp the fullness of this blessing.

For a healthy Christian life today it is of the utmost importance to follow Paul’s example and keep Christian praise and Christian prayer together. Yet many do not manage to preserve this balance. Some Christians seem to do little but pray for new spiritual blessings, apparently oblivious of the fact that God has already blessed them in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Others lay such emphasis on the undoubted truth that everything is already theirs in Christ, that they become complacent and appear to have no appetite to know or experience their Christian privileges more deeply. Both these groups must be declared unbalanced. They have created a polarisation which Scripture will not tolerate. What Paul does in Ephesians 1, and therefore encourages us to copy, is both to keep praising God that in Christ all spiritual blessings are ours and to keep praying that we may know the fullness of what he has given us. If we keep together praise and prayer, benediction and petition, we are unlikely to lose our spiritual equilibrium.

As we continue to compare the two halves of Ephesians 1, another feature of them strikes us: both are essentially trinitarian. For both are addressed to God the Father, the benediction to ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (verse 3) and the intercession to ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (verse 17), who is also called ‘the Father of glory’ or (NEB) ‘the all-glorious Father’. Next, both refer to specifically to God’s work in and through Christ, for on the one hand he ‘has blessed us in Christ’ (verse 3) and on the other he ‘accomplished in Christ’ a mighty act of power when he resurrected and enthroned him (verse 20). And thirdly both sections of the chapter allude – even if obliquely – to the work of the Holy Spirit, since the blessings God bestows on us in Christ are ‘spiritual’ blessings (verse 3), and it is only ‘by a spirit (or Spirit) of wisdom and of revelation’ that we can come to know them (verse 17). I do not think it is far-fetched to discern this trinitarian structure. Christian faith and Christian life are both fundamentally trinitarian. And the one is a response to the other. It is because the Father has approached us in blessing through the Son and by the Spirit that we approach him in prayer through the Son and by the Spirit also (cf. 2:18).

Tomorrow: Ephesians 1:15-23 2). A prayer for knowledge (continued).

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.