Summary: May 9, 2002 -- THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD Ephesians 1:15-23 Title: “Christ’s words.” Color: White
May 9, 2002 -- THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
Title: “Christ’s words.”
The message of this section of the letter is: continue to continue. After sketching the entire history of God’s dealings with humanity, really praising God for sending Christ and his Spirit, the author then reports how he ceaselessly thanks God for both Christ and for those who believe in him and then launches into petitionary prayer, asking God’s help that they may continue growing in the faith and reaping its rewards, even while still here on earth.
In verse seventeen, May God give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him: The author has just given thanks to God for those who are true disciples of Christ, those who have faith in Christ and love towards their fellow Christians. Now, he uses his own knowledge of the faith as the basis for petitionary prayer to God for the continuation of God’s grace and even more growth in its mystery, growth evidenced by more love. “Wisdom” here means “wisdom from God,” not human wisdom, a grace not a personal accomplishment, the kind of wisdom revealed by God through his Spirit. “Revelation” means “insight” into the mind and ways of God. “Knowledge” carries its biblical meaning of “personal” knowledge, more than factual knowledge. Thus, all three words mean essentially the same thing: the quality of life God himself enjoys. This is a prayer because this quality is a gift from God, without which no growth is possible.
In verses eighteen and nineteen, hope…riches…surpassing greatness: These verses, though put in petitionary form, and those that follow, are really more appropriate to contemplation than petition. The author has thought long and hard about the Christ event and has studied Paul’s writings both carefully and prayerfully. He contemplates the whole mystery of Christ and then turns it into a petitionary prayer to God on behalf of all Christians, members of Christ’s body. This is a prayer for growth in spiritual understanding, what is meant by “May your hearts be enlightened.” In the Bible the heart is the seat of understanding and will. It is also the seat of feelings, but feelings are to be moderated by will. “Inheritance” protects the truth that what a Christian receives, all the privileges are concomitant responsibilities, are given not earned, to be shared as gifts to others, and should evince humility not arrogance.
For us who believe: The just mentioned thoughts tally with what Jesus taught: “All things are possible to him who believes” in Mark 9: 2). Mark 6: 5-6 even goes so far as to say that Jesus “could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief.” God requires that human faith meet his grace with an open willingness or else it remains ineffective. Belief for Jesus did not mean belief in statements about God or about Jesus, but simple and unqualified trust that God and Jesus can do what they say they can do or will do and empowers the believer to do likewise. Nothing is too great for God.
In verse twenty, raising him from the dead: The greatest and clearest evidence of God’s power is what God did in raising Jesus from the dead, a unique occurrence in all of history. No other religion makes such a claim. In the Old Testament God’s greatest show of power was the Exodus event, deliverance of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. In the New Testament it is the Christ event, whose high point was the resurrection, deliverance of God’s people from the slavery of sin and death. This is the fundamental conviction of Christian faith, filling every book of the New Testament. Christians believe that, in spite of his death on the cross, Jesus is effectively present in the personal lives of his followers. He is alive in their midst, indeed within their very bodies. They do not think of him as one who belongs to the past. They speak of him as one who is present. He is the transforming factor in all-Christian experience. If God can do that, there is no limit to what he can do.
Seating him at his right hand in the heavens: On the one hand, Jesus is very much alive on earth among and within Christians. On the other hand, he is with God in heaven, directing the course of history and ruling over the universe or universes, whatever the case may be. The doctrine of the resurrection emphasizes Jesus’ presence here on earth and the doctrine of the ascension or exaltation, emphasizes his presence in heaven. Both truths must be kept in mind simultaneously; hence the reason for the author’s prayer for “wisdom and revelation” leading to knowledge of him. Luke is really the only New Testament writer who distinguishes between these two, really continuous, aspects of the Christ event, speaking of the ascension-exaltation as subsequent in time to the resurrection, doing so to clarify both the immanence and transcendence of Christ, though, in reality, they are simply different ways of expressing the same truth, using spatial language with all its limitations. This, “sitting at God’s right hand” sounds strange to students of science. However, it is merely an anthropomorphic way of speaking about God, as though he were an eastern potentate with his prime minister at his side, available for getting advice and ready to carry out orders. This metaphor is taken from Psalm 110: 1: “The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool’.” Thus, it means the highest place of honor and power.