That The Eyes Of Your Heart Be Opened
November 20, 2005
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
[I] Give Thanks Without Ceasing
1. In today's worship service the letter to the Ephesian disciples was read. This letter is one of those which is called a Pauline prison epistle because Paul wrote it from prison. The only means for Paul while in jail to know the condition of the churches was the reports from the friends who had come to visit him. Even the condition of the churches in Asia Minor where Ephesus played a leading role appears to have been communicated to Paul in this manner. News had reached him of the Ephesians standing steadfastly in the faith and living in a faith based love. The evangelist Paul must have [felt] a joy that couldn't get any greater.
2. But, when we read today's passage of scripture, Paul did not merely write, in the letter which he wrote to Ephesus, that he was joyous over their faith and love. He told [them] that "At prayer time, I recall you to mind and give thanks without ceasing [for you]." Of course, [to] "give thanks" means [to] "give thanks to God." In a word, it means to say that Paul is turning his thoughts to God himself as the source of the faith and the love of the Ephesian disciples. That's why it is not just "joy" but also "thanksgiving."
3. This fact comes across also in verse fifteen, that we read today, where the text begins with "For this reason." The phrase "for this reason" takes in the previous section. In that text words of praise to God are recorded. The text there speaks forth on the great works of God the Father, God the Son [as] the Christ, and God the Holy Spirit, and gives profuse praise unto [God for them]. [The text there] speaks forth the splendid work of a Trinitarian God leading to the completion of the deeds of salvation based on God's plan since the creation of the universe, and issues praise for it. So, "for that reason" -- Paul gives thanks. In a word, it means that Paul sees the church at Ephesus within the great and gracious deeds of God. He sees in God's deeds both their faith and their love. That's why he gives thanks to God.
4. First of all, the text speaks about God's works and gives praise for them. Let's keep that in mind. Our actions do not come before that. Our faith and love do not precede that. God's plan and deeds come first. Because of what God did, there is now a congregation here as well, which believes on the Lord. There is a church. There are people worshipping the Lord together. As we think of this, we will want to be able to say, "O Lord. we give thanks to you." When we are touched by a person of wonderful faith, when we are touched by the manifestation of a bountiful love that comes from faith, without even thinking, we want to dress ourselves up with the same feelings that Paul had, to be able to declare, "Oh, my Lord, I give you thanks."
5. Also, this is truly very important when we understand the words of the prayer that is written in verses seventeen and so forth and upon making them the words of our own prayer. Paul knew that faith and love come from the great work of God. Therefore, Paul knew that faith and love alone do not come from God but so does hope. I agree with that, everybody. This thing called hope comes from God. Therefore, Paul seeks in prayer for hope on behalf of the disciples at Ephesus.
6. But, no, to put it accurately, hope is already given. He is asking that their eyes be opened to this hope. As the text has it in verse eighteen, Paul prays that "[God] would open the eyes of your hearts." [He prayed] that they might start to see. As it is written here, [he prayed] that they might start to see "the kind of hope they have been given through God's call unto them."
A Wealth Of Glory
7. Then, Paul speaks on this hope another way, for starters, as follows: "That [God] would enlighten you to how [his] inheritance of the saints will scintillate in such abundantly rich glory," (verse eighteen).
8. In saying "saints" it doesn't [mean] what you might call some special holy man. When Paul says "saints" he is speaking about believers. The Bible is saying here that the believers are [God's] "inheritance." If we could put it in different words, it would be "the kingdom of God." Therefore, in a previous New Interconfessional Version [of the Bible] a free translation of it was given as "How rich in glory is the kingdom of God which [his] followers ought to inherit!" Because it is "the kingdom of God," this is a hope that is related to "the end times, the eschaton." It is a speech about "the world that is to come" and not a speech about "this temporary world." Thus, we see that when Paul speaks of "hope" what he has in mind first of all is the hope that has to do with the end, the hope that has to do with the world that is to come, the hope that has to do with the kingdom of God.
9. Also, when he speaks about "the kingdom of God," he is using the expression "how it will scintillate in abundant glory!" If translated literally, this would be the phrase "riches of glory." Since it is "riches" it is something "abundant." Thus, when Paul thinks of the end times, what comes to his mind right at the forefront is the image of something extravagantly, unbelievably rich awaiting [us].
10. In the church calendar today falls on the last Lord's day of the year. It is called "The Last Sunday [After Pentecost]." It is the day they literally think of as "the end." Even the passage of scripture that was read aloud today is given to us as a message for that kind of day. So, do any of you [think] that in society, "the end" and "riches" are typically related? I don't think anyone does. When one thinks of heading towards the end of life, generally, the image of it is probably "losing" and "wasting away." One wastes away, loses, and ends up gone. That is [more like] the typical image of death. Even the end of the world will be the same. Ultimately, all of the cosmos will collapse and come to destruction. Don't we only have that image of the end? Whether the end of human life or the end of the world, it is generally considered as heading toward the direct opposite of "riches or abundance." I mentioned "in society," but perhaps we in the church, too, might just be imagining "the end" with the very same image without even realizing it.
11. But, [thinking that way as] we [do], Paul says to us, "That is not so." He says that something unbelievably rich is awaiting us there. We are heading for it. It is "'glorious' riches." When it says "glory" it is of course the glory of God. It is as the text says in verse seventeen, "the Father as the source of glory (translated literally 'the Father of glory')." In short, the riches mean the riches that are coming from a God of glory. It is the abundance that we will receive from God, it is the riches in our relationship with God.
12. In truth, if we are a believer, we should be experiencing these riches to some extent. We should be experiencing the riches in our fellowship with God who is filled with glory, the riches in knowing God. Isn't that true? We worship God, we pray to God, we receive the word of God, we are touched by the love of God, and to a certain extent we should be experiencing being satisfied through God's riches, which is totally different from being satisfied by the things of this world. That's what the faith life is, in fact.
13. Yet, everybody, we must not think that what we are experiencing now is it. No, in truth, it is no more than a very little part, it is no more than a particle, that we are tasting, that we are experiencing [now]. We are heading towards the last hour, towards the kingdom of God. There we await unbelievable riches. Paul prays that we may be able to perceive how much glorious wealth [it will be].
The Power Of God At Work In Believers
14. Thus, when Paul speaks on hope, things having to do with the end time are referred to first off in [his speech]. But, it's not over with that. Next, he goes on to pray even more as follows: "Also, that he might enlighten us to how great the power of God, who is doing a tremendous work for us believers, is," (verse nineteen). In other words, Paul is not just thinking about end time matters alone, but also the church that is along the way, and the current affairs of Christians in the world.
15. As long as we are living in the world, we will have battles. Ultimately, they will be be battles with the sins in society and our own sins. In those battles, when we turn only to ourselves, we have no hope there. Whenever it's all we have, we have no hope. For, the power to beat the power of sin and the power of death does not lie within humankind. The power necessary [for that] must come from the outside. It must come from God.
16. And it does come [from God], says Paul. There is [for us] "the power of God, who is doing a tremendous work for us believers." The text says "for [us] believers," but yet the phrase has the meaning of "within [us] believers." The power of God is working within us. In regard to that power, Paul made the following statement. "God put that power to work in Christ, and made Christ rise from the dead, had him sit on the seat to his right in heaven, and set [him] over every government, authority, power, and dominion, and set [him] above every name that can be uttered not only in this current world, but in the world that is to come," (verses twenty and twenty-one). That's the kind of power at work within us.
17. In this text we need to recall to mind the life of Jesus Christ. Humanity arrested, whipped, hung on the cross, and murdered the Christ, who was a manifestation of God's love. Love was clearly defeated. Sin won. The powers of darkness gulped down the light. Death swallowed up life. That happened to Christ. But, on the third day, God overturned that seeming reality. Love didn't stay defeated. Sin wasn't the final winner. Death was beaten down. God himself proved that. [He showed it in] the resurrection. The power of God truly brought about an upset victory.
18. That power is at work in us! Has [your] life been demolished by the power of sin? Do [you] have [any] relationships that have been so devastated to the point of non recovery? Are you looking at the destructive power of sin in this world going on its rampage? Yet, we have no need to be desperate. That's because the One who once had brought about the great upset victory in Christ is putting that power to work in us and is able to cause great reversals. The history of the church is full of testimonies of these great reversals. Paul prayed, "that he might enlighten us to how great the power of God, who is doing a tremendous work for us believers, is."
That The Eyes Of Your Heart Be Opened
19. Thus, in regard to the world that is to come or even in this world, we do need for the eyes of our hearts to be opened to the hope given to us. However, as we look carefully, Paul did not merely pray "that the eyes of our heart be opened." Before that he prayed, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father who is the source of glory, might give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation and that you might be able to know God deeply," (verse seventeen). -- Then, he continued to pray, "that the eyes of your hearts be open." Thus, this matter of the eyes of one's heart being opened to hope comes from "knowing God deeply."
20. In truth, I am mentioning just a slight detail, but in the original text, [the direct object], "God," in the sentence "knowing God" is not there. The text only has [the pronoun] "him." Of course, since [the masculine pronoun] "him" is for "God," it will be alright, but merely assuming it to mean "God" leaves it ambiguous and vague. The text here is speaking of "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, it is [speaking of the fact that he] is "the God who gave us Jesus Christ for our salvation," [he] is "the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ."
21. A lot was said and much praise was given about God already in verses three and following. Once again, we need to recall that Paul started to write today's passage of scripture with "For this reason." It stems from the fact that God has done it all for us. We are in God's tremendous plan and deeds. To know this fact deeply is the same as having our eyes opened to hope again. In that sense, when it comes to knowing God, we never "finish our course of study on it, and get it all." We want to seek the spirit of wisdom and revelation humbly and earnestly, and to seek to know God and his deeds, and to seek to become a person who lives in certain hope.