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That you may know

May 20, 2018, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev Enoch Keong (Ephesians 1:15-23) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Ephesians
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: Ephesians 以弗所书

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Title:That you may know
Date: 27 May 2018
Preacher: Rev Enoch Keong

One question came to mind when reading the passage, “Is Paul living in his own world or are we missing out on something in our understanding concerning faith and life?”

The question came to mind because in the passage, We don’t quite see Paul doing what Christians are doing these days in term of prayer. Contemporary Christians like to pray for fresh spiritual blessings. Examples of fresh spiritual blessings would include the receiving of spiritual gifts or a heightened zealousness for God and to do his will. The other kind of prayer that contemporary Christians enjoy praying would be for earthly blessings. Tangible objects, abilities and opportunities can all be regarded as earthly or material blessings. We like to pray for fresh spiritual blessings and earthy blessings because we find them meaningful, and even necessary. But we don’t see Paul doing the same in his prayer report, which is from verse 17 till the end of chapter.

Paul, by the way, was the pastor of the Ephesians Christians. He lived with them in the same city for 3 years. He saw the needs and struggles of those city dwellers. Pastor Paul must have perceived the felt needs of those urban Christians. But Pastor Paul did not pray along the line of their felt needs. He prayed–and repeatedly so–for other things, of which are somewhat unexpected. Shouldn’t Pastor Paul be a little more caring, practical and down to earth?

Instead of felt needs, Pastor Paul reports that his prayer is that the Ephesians Christians may know the hope of God’s call, the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power. In short, he prays that they may know the spiritual blessings they have in Christ. That’s fine actually. And the things he prays for are wonderful blessings.

Yet, it’s a little odd for him to give his prayer report at this point in the letter. What do we mean? Paul begins his letter with a greeting. He then went on to talk about every spiritual blessings granted to the saints. Next, he gives thanks to God that Ephesians Christians are now living by faith and are showing love to fellow believers. In other words, the spiritual blessings that he wrote about have been translated into godly actions; the content of gospel has become a reality in the lives of these folks, which is why he gives thanks to God. What comes up next is the prayer report, in which he reports himself praying that they may know – know about what - their spiritual blessings. Isn’t this a little odd? Immediately after Pastor Paul has described to them their spiritual blessings in Christ, and thanked God that the folks have translated their spiritual blessings into acts of faith and love, he went on prayed that they may know their spiritual blessings. If our reading of the passage is correct, then there is indeed this interesting thought flow. And when there is such an emphasis on knowing the spiritual blessings in Christ, we would have to say at least that it is something of great important for Christians.

What else can we say? We would have to know to whom Pastor Paul wrote these things, before we can know what else to say. Well, they are saints (1:1), says Pastor Paul. The word ‘saints’ conjures images of people who are very spiritual. But for Pastor Paul, ‘saints’ is just the term he uses to refer to all who are under grace. So, ‘saints’ simply means God’s people. Next, the recipients of the letter are faithful (1:1), as in they are people who actively trusted in Jesus. They are also a group who knows how to show godly love (1:15). Better still, they are those whom God chose before the foundation of the world (1:4,) to be viewed as holy and blameless at the end of time.

Yet, though praiseworthy, they are also far from being perfect.

Not too long after Paul had moved on from Ephesus, it was known that there were people in the church who failed to understand the gospel correctly and had wanted to force into others their distorted understandings (1 Tim 1:6-7). We can picture in this case a church where there was a decrease in terms of love in action, and in its place an increase of empty talks and worthless debates. Next, there were those who were attracted to certain myths (1 Tim 4:7), and who regarded these myths to be more worthy of their time and effort compared to gaining a deeper understanding of the gospel. And sadly, towards the end of the century, the Lord has this to say to these saints, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first (Rev 2:4).”

Could Paul have imagined such downturn of events? Could Pastor Paul be thinking that things can either turnout for the good or the bad even when a church that is filled with saints, the faithful and the elect? Could this ‘either or’ be his reason for describing to his church about every spiritual blessing, and then rub it in by reporting that he prayed for them to know to the fullest extent their spiritual blessings? The answer is actually quite obvious.

And how about our church?

Does our church possess the good elements that the church of Ephesus had? Yes. We all are saints. We are a spiritual community that is actively trusting in the Lord. We are a church that does pass around and pass on love. We see these through the ministries focusing on member care and the ministries working on outreach. We also know full well that we, who are in Christ, are the elect.

And, do we exhibit to some extent the bad potentials seen in the church of Ephesus? Of course. As a matter of fact, it is a so hard to arrive at right teachings and doctrines, while it’s so easy to let church life slide into some form of static routine. What happened to Ephesus toward the end of the first century can easily happen to just any church.

And if that’s indeed the case, then we know by now what else to say. We need Pastor Paul to pray for us the same prayer, in that we may also know to the fullest extent our spiritual blessings in Christ. And in the final analysis, this knowing of the fullness of our spiritual blessings is something that Pastor Paul would have to pray for us rather than to teach us. Why? Because spiritual blessings such as hope, inheritance and power are after all not concepts and doctrines to be understood and remembered, but the good things that God has actually done for us and will still be doing for us because of Christ. Allow me to therefore suggest this to us, think of spiritual blessings less like a noun and more like a verb. Think of spiritual blessings as God’s hand in motion, doing the good and the impossible for his church. In a word, spiritual blessing is God acting in our past, future and present . So, to know our spiritual blessings is to experience the blessings. To know our spiritual blessings is to live life with the Trinitarian God, to experience God hand at work, to face the known and the unknown tomorrows with God’s help,

Question, anyone here thinks that we have already known all of God’s blessings? Well, that simply can’t be the case. Why? Because God wants to be our God. And as God, He is still gonna stretch out his hands to help us. He is still gonna stretch out his hands to mold and to discipline us so that we be more Christ-like. He is still gonna nudge us to intercede for and bless others. He is still at work in uniting us all in Christ. And that’s why for the Ephesians church which was already living out the content of the gospel and who knew about God’s blessings, Pastor Paul prays for the exact same things and nothing else. Because God is always at work, and there is just so much more that they can and need to grasp.

And since that’s the case, it is no wonder that Pastor Paul never prayed for them fresh Spiritual blessings or earthly blessings, because there’s no need to get into the specifics with a God who is looking and working so intently in the lives of his saints.

Having said so, do we have a part to play– even right now–in the process of knowing? I would think so.

Paul is giving herein a prayer report. He reports to the readers what he had prayed for them. He is not telling them to put in time and effort to work on the things he prayed for on their behalf. Or is he? Ephesians is probably a letter that was sent to a number of churches within a region to be read out publicly. To have the prayer items written down and read publicly, and to a number of churches, I like to think that Paul while giving a prayer report, is at the same time nudging them to give attention to the matter. So what should we be doing?

To say the least, we must be keen to know. And in order to know, we must be prepared for God to break-in into our daily life situations, much like how he breaks-in into our sinful world as Christ incarnate. To say the same thing but in a different manner, Christians are to live their lives prayerfully. I believe we still remember the sermon given by Sister Wanling 3 weeks back on seeking and praying, and how George Muller by doing so has fed over 10,000 children. Let’s not forget the important teaching on prayer, and let’s not stop short at just not forgetting what was being said. But let’s get into the act of praying.

And when his breaking-in takes place, we must be prepared to obey and to submit. We may be asking, Pastor Enoch, do you mean we just surrender every bit of our will when God points out a direction, even when we disagree, even when we do have good reasons for holding to our grounds? Well, that’s not what I am suggesting.

Most of us might be familiar with the wrestling match between God and Jacob recorded in Genesis 32. Jacob was at that time on his way home after running away from his estranged brother for 20 years. The brother whom he had offended heard of his homecoming, and was on the way to meet him with 400 men. Jacob was wondering how not be chopped into pieces, he was scared to death. In preparing for the meet-up, Jacob decided to spend the night alone, probably to make plans and to pray to God for help. But a strange man showed up and wrestled with him the whole night till daybreak. At the end of the match, Jacob realized that it was God whom he had struggled with, and he was given the new name Israel, which means, strive with God.

What I like draw our attention to is that in the story, it was God who break-in into Jacob’s situation to wrestle with him. And that should suggest to us that at times God comes precisely to put up a fight with us, and our part would be to fight with God.[1] But the outcome would not be one where we can’t help but simply admit defeat. But like Jacob, when we take God seriously and let him deal with our real selves, we will blessed with a new understanding of ourselves and of things around us, and we wil march on with faith and peace that we do not have previously.

So may we be people who seek and pray, and wrestle if we must, to know to the fullest extent, the blessings we have in Christ.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/will-you-wrestle-with-god

Ephesians 1:15–23 (Listen)

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

(ESV)