Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul’s Prayer For The Church’s Growth in Knowledge

Ephesians 1:15-23

Paul’s Prayer For the Church’s Growth in Knowledge

There are two prayers in Ephesians: (1) “that you might know,” 1:15–23; and (2) “that you might be,” 3:14–21. The first is for enlightenment, the second for enablement. – Warren Wiersbe

The idea that knowing is a mind thing or simply the gathering of information is a false one. Biblically, knowing implies action. That one would know implies that one would act upon what they know. This is true. If one truly knows then one must act or it will drive them nuts.

Jesus taught us to pray like this.

“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

For Father to hallow or make his name great is for us to know and act upon the Father’s name being made great. For the kingdom to come and for his will to be done we must know the kingdom and his will and then act on it. There has to be some action done as a result of the learning of the greatness of Father and his purposes on earth.

Paul wants these Ephesians to know more because in the knowing there will be more being and doing.

Why do people not worship Jesus? It’s because they don’t know him. They may be able to say the name Jesus and correctly state some facts about Jesus, but they don’t know him or they would worship him. Their state is 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 in that they are blinded by the evil one and they can’t see and thus know.

So, to know is to do and to be.

We can never get enough of knowing. Let me be clear. We’ve said in the past that you don’t need more bible studies. Many of us have more than enough outlets for bible study. We said that we need to act on some of what we have learned. This is true. However, don’t hear that you need to stop learning and knowing. That is not what we are saying. 

Often, social bugs can attend multiple bible studies and learn nothing and just be hanging out with no outlet for ministry. Often, people can do that thing that seems to be a symptom of the fallen state where we divorce knowing from acting and we become walking encyclopedias of information that just seeks to correct everyone for every nuance of difference in what they have adopted as personal orthodoxy (ex. their personal eschatology, etc.).

We want what Paul prays for here. We want to know more and we want that knowledge of Jesus Christ to increase. We want to sound the very depths of the glory of God in the study of Scripture and the tasting of grace by the Holy Spirit and we want that knowing to produce fruit that lasts!

So, lets dive into the prayer for the church to know Jesus more, and lets make this our prayer.

1. Paul prays that they may grow in their knowledge of the Father v. 15-17

Paul’s reason for praying is their salvation and their love for each other. Because they are in Christ Paul prays that they may grow in the understanding of what it means to be in Christ.

We have been blessed in Christ with wisdom and insight (1:8) to know the mystery of his will.

Here Paul is using the future tense. The implication is that we know and we will continue to need to know and grow in our knowing.

1. We must continue to grow in our knowledge of Father, Son and Spirit. No one has arrived.

2. Scripture understood and applied by the Spirit in our gathered and private lives must be central in our growth

Spiritual truths must be spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:9–16), and this understanding can come only from the Spirit. He wrote the Word; He alone can teach us what it says. – Warren Wiersbe

3. We must be discerning in who and what we listen to and apply

4. We must be discerning about our experiences and evaluate them according to Scripture

2. Paul prays that the church may know the hope they have in being Jesus’ inheritance v. 18

In order to know the riches of this glorious hope, we must have our heart’s eyes enlightened through knowing more of Jesus.

The connection to verse 17 is crucial here because it is how verse 18 happens. “…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened..” is a complex set of words in verse 18. Enlightened is the key word in that it is the participle and describes what is happening to the eyes of the heart due to the knowledge gained by the illumination of the Holy Spirit’s ministry by the word.

Some implications here are big. The idea that my heart has eyes is vital. The idea is that sight is more than physical. The idea is that there is discernment to be had and the heart (biblically the seat of emotions, volition, thinking etc.) needs to see.

The idea that I can’t see as well as I need to now as a Christian is big. None of us see or discern completely clear. We are in need of constant learning and revealing that we may see and know and do.

The reality is that we are in great need of constant illumination to see and know more of the glory of the kingdom that is and is to come in full.

We have the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and insight, but we are being continually transformed by the ministry of the Spirit and we need constant growth to make us aware of the magnitude of the glories of who we are (identity) and what we are a part of (mission). These things are always muddled due to the fallen nature of our physical existence and the spiritual air around us is in constant turmoil as we fight the spiritual battle around us. It is always a fight to make sense of these two glories we have.

Note two vital observations here:

1. The one in v. 18 receiving the inheritance is “his”. And the “his” in verse 18 is Jesus. This is vital to our hope. 

We learned in verse 11-14 that we receive an inheritance of face to face communion with Father, Son and Spirit, and each other together in Christ in the new heaven and the new earth. But here in verse 18 we discover that we are not the recipients of this inheritance.

Paul prays that we may have the eyes of our hearts enlightened that we may know the hope we are called to.

Our calling into Christ is stated clearly in the rest of the verse. That calling is that we belong to Jesus as his riches as his inheritance.

“…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

We referenced this a few weeks ago when I footnoted for you a bunch of passages in the gospel of John. John 6:37, 39; 10:22-30; 17:2, 6, 9, 12 are some glorious passages. John records Jesus talking about his mission to rescue and sustain and save those that the Father has given him.

The church is the precious possession of Jesus and he is calling his church to himself from all nations through the proclamation of the gospel and Jesus keeps them all and loses none of them. He died to secure them and keeps them through is powerful work on their behalf.

“Paul prays here that his readers will appreciate the value which God places on them, his plan to accomplish his eternal purpose through them as the first fruits of the reconciled  universe of the future, in order that their lives may be in keeping with the high calling and that they may accept in grateful humility the grace and glory thus lavished on them.”

“Think of it: he owns all the heavens and numberless worlds, but we are his treasures. The redeemed are worth more than the universe. We ought to be delirious with this truth! Paul prays that we will see this with our heart’s eyes.”

1. Remember, through all of the muddled vision on this side of the fall and on the other side of kingdom fully come, we are his possession and kept and cared for and loved.

2. Remember, pray for the discernment to see and know who you belong to and to grow in the knowledge of such glory.

The second vital observation:

2. The church’s hope is that we will be his people and be brought into the kingdom

Hope is the opposite of despair. Hope creates great optimism. Our great hope lies in not what we achieve but in being Jesus’ people and his treasured possession. This means we have great reason for hope filled optimism.

If you are a despairing person because of our current political and social climate, let me invite you to lift your eyes from the broken morass to the glorious reality of our real kingdom and our real king and our real citizenship. Our great hope lies not in a broken system’s broken solutions, but in the rule of Jesus Christ, his mission and powerful kingdom that is already working through the world like yeast through dough.

Side note: this does not mean we are to disengage from our culture, rather we are to view it through the lens of Jesus’ rule and Jesus’ kingdom and engage it a such with clear hope that Jesus will correct it either through us or when he comes, but either way, it is hopeful and not lost or wasted work.

We have deep and great optimism due to our great and deep hope in being his people.

3. Paul prays that the church may know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward the church v. 19-20a

Paul here uses three words to describe the great power of Father toward his people.

Power – “dunamis” – dynamic and living power

Working – “energia” – energetic power

Might – “kratous” – power that overcomes resistance

Paul prays that we would grow in our knowing of Jesus and be enlightened by the Spirit to know the incredible power that is exercised toward his people.

This is the same power that was at work in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

I suppose we will taste that power in the resurrection of our bodies one day, but the assertion here is that this power is being exercised toward us now.


Dynamic – constant change, activity, progress

We are being sanctified and grown in the knowledge of God even when we are unaware of it. Father wastes nothing in his work in us. He works all things for our good in knowing him and advancing his kingdom.

Energetic – vibrant

Father’s work toward us is vibrant and full of energy. There is strength to follow Jesus and stay on the grind when we are tired and weary. His work is never tired and weary. He can fill us and give life to our body and soul and keep us in the fight.

Overcoming Resistance – defeating the enemy and the enemy’s resistance to the gospel

There is no resistance that can win the war. No weapon formed against the people of God can work to its conclusion.  Jesus is caring for his church and will complete her. (See Ephesians 5:22-33)

4. Paul prays that the church may know the glorious position of Jesus v. 20b-23

1. Jesus rules as authority over all the heavenly powers v. 20b-21

Jesus currently sits enthroned above every name and rule. Name signifies purpose and rule signifies power. Every spiritual power whose resistance against the rule of Father now has an enemy that has been unleashed on them and Jesus won’t relinquish that power now or in the coming kingdom.

The understanding is that the church has nothing to fear in the spiritual realm now and never. Jesus rules over his people in his kingdom well and he rules over the rebellious forces of evil he subjected to his created place of torment called hell. Jesus never relinquishes rule.

The end product for us is that we have absolutely nothing to fear!

2. Jesus rules as the head of the church v. 22-23

Not only do we have nothing to fear, we have every reason to be comforted. Jesus has been given to his people, the church, as our shepherd who will lead us well.

Jesus is the Senior Pastor!

The church is never leading itself. As long as the church stays faithful to the gospel and doing the mission Jesus is shepherding his church and raising up leaders and making disciples.

Pastors never have to worry about being “alone” in ministry. Jesus is always present and leading well. Ours is to be about the work, but not fret over it.

We have a powerful and exalted Senior Pastor, Jesus.

David, inspired by the Holy Spirit looked ahead and saw the church’s day when he wrote Psalm 23.


Ephesians 1:11-14 The Blessing of our Sure Inheritance to the Praise of his Glory

Ephesians 1:11-14

The blessing of our sure inheritance to the praise of his glory

Remember, chapters 1-3 will remind us who we are in Christ.

It is vital to remember who we are determines what we do. Our identity as “in Christ” affects everything. We are not our own. We have been bought at the cost of Jesus’ life. So, before we go rushing off into “what” to do (chapters 4-6) let’s drink deeply of our identity and bask in the glory of whose we are and ask for the power of the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to advance the kingdom through the work. Don’t look past the “why” to the “what”. Enjoy the “why” as the fuel of the “what”.

Paul begins verse 11 with “in him”. We’ve hit this quite a bit, but there is some more worth mentioning. “In Christ” is a central piece to Paul’s theology. We’ve counted 33 times in Ephesians Paul uses the phrase or it’s synonym. According to John Mackay Paul uses “In Christ” some 169 times in his writings in the New Testament.[1] This is huge.

What might this mean for the Ephesians and for us? There is so much more, but here are three quick items these Ephesians and we have as introductory items to help us enjoy being in Christ and to help us get ready for the remaining blessings Paul tells us of in Ephesians 1:1-14 we have as a result of being in Christ.

Radical transformation has taken place (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.

Dynamic unity is a reality (Galatians 3:28)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

We have union with Christ and with each other. Vigorous and purposeful unity. Imagine pursuing the type of racial unity of the body vigorously and purposefully like Paul wrote about. We have the capacity and power with which to do this in Christ.

Soul satisfaction (Matthew 11:29)

In Christ we are united with him, and Jesus tells us we find rest for our souls.

“In Christ” is the reality that seats us with Christ and defines who we are and what our role is as the community of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and determines our blessings in Christ.

Let’s finish unpacking Paul’s list of blessings we have in Christ.

  1. We are blessed with a sure inheritance v. 11, 14

In Christ we are blessed with an inheritance that is as sure as the day. This inheritance is sure because it is located in the very person of Jesus Christ.

The words in English “we have obtained an inheritance” is one word. It is passive in voice meaning that our obtaining of any inheritance is the work of Father not us. We did not actively obtain anything by our work. We have obtained, passive voice, an inheritance. It was given and given when we were not looking for it.

We’ll say more about this in a moment.


“…having been predestined” is also just one word. It also is passive in voice. This means that the grace of obtaining an inheritance is the glorious gift of Father and is connected to the other passive phrase in this sentence indicating that we have an inheritance because Father has also done the work to predestine us in rescue from our lost state.

The predestining work of Father is in no way connected to any sovereign act of humanity. Humans have no sovereignty. Humans have a sphere of unimpeded activity[2] in which they can operate, but they do not have the power of ultimates and ends (if you don’t believe me, then don’t ever sin again, be sovereign over sin and let me know how that works out). Only Father can rescue from the mess that Adam created before his fall into the slave market of sin that drug us with him.

The surety of our inheritance is based on the predestining work of Father, and therefore, Father has given us his blessing of the Holy Spirit who marks those he has blessed as his children and as those who are the heirs.

So, why all of Paul’s emphasis on Father’s choosing and predestining work in Ephesians 1? Other than this being a redemptive theme and act of grace since Cain and Abel and the means by which the Father rescues some from man’s choosing to rebel in the garden “…the emphasis would have been particularly appropriate for readers from the Ephesus area who were especially prone to fear the decisive influence of other powers.”[3]

This truth counteracts the power of and the lies of the evil forces in the heavenly places these Ephesians feared. Since Christ is seated there and we are seated with him through the sovereign grace of Father, we no longer have to fear our destiny being altered by these spiritual forces and our security on the journey is set.

So Paul reassures these Ephesians and us that we are secure in the predestining work of the Father.

But he has done more.

Holy Spirit

How are they and we to know that we will receive an inheritance through the predestining work of the Father in his kingdom? We received the promised Holy Spirit!

Jesus promised that we would receive the Holy Spirit when he ascended to the Father. As the church waited in obedience the Counselor / teacher / helper / gift giver / empowerer / very presence of Jesus was given to his church and he took up his post as the Third Person of the Trinity as Father and Son with us.

Holy Spirit is the mark of salvation. Holy Spirit is the litmus test on fellowship between believers. Holy Spirit is the reign of Christ among us. We, by his presence, can discern whose each other is and the fact that we are family.

But what does the Holy Spirit guarantee? What does the predestining work of Father guard? An inheritance!

Inheritance (passive voice)

The word means “to assign by lot” or “to make a mark”. The idea is that of one’s portion being partitioned off and marked.

No commentator I looked at touched at all on the question: What is our inheritance? Perhaps because its clear from the context. Perhaps it is because Paul does not explicitly answer that question. Either way we have to ask: what is our inheritance?

We could easily answer that with Jesus’ instruction in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). But Jesus’ instruction is not to be isolated from the metanarrative as though our reward were simply the gaining of things or locations isolated from the larger purpose of the things or locations.

I believe the inheritance is right under our nose and we’ve been talking about it for weeks. The inheritance is not a place absent for the full meaning of the place. Is Jesus right? Duh! Yes he is. But do we just get a new heaven and new earth with no plan or purpose for it? Negative! The new heaven and the new earth where those meek will dwell have a grand and glorious purpose.

That is point 2!

  1. We receive the blessing of an inheritance of a kingdom community united in Christ as the plan for the fullness of time v. 12, 13, 14; 1:10 (read 7-14 as a unit)

We are redeemed, forgiven and given wisdom and insight to know Father’s will wrapped up in his purpose that he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Christ!

We inherit a community of kingdom citizens as family all located in Christ together, with Christ together, in person with Christ together in the eternal kingdom where we will dwell with Father, Son and Spirit in eternity with no more division or sin or rebellion or any such thing to distort the people, place and relationship to and with Father, Son and Spirit.

Verse 12 uses “we”, indicating, according to most, Paul’s native people, the Jewish folks.

Verse 13 uses “you”, indicating the Gentiles who have also heard the gospel and been likewise sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Verse 14 uses “our”, indicating that Jew and Gentile have now been brought near together as one and together are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (2:11-22).

Our inheritance is a kingdom of family united together in Christ and will one day have Eden regained where we will again walk with Father, Son and Spirit in the garden in the cool of the day and there will no longer be the rebellion to contend with!

That is our inheritance and that is quite secure due to the predestining work of Father to secure this glorious end for us.

The mission is set.

The mission is secure.

The mission will be accomplished.

We will not and cannot fail.

We are the people of Jesus Christ united under one banner of Jesus Christ.

Unity in diversity is doable. Our fallen flesh prevents this work.

We wrestle with trying to take our “share” from this present world system and its values and we find all kinds of heart ache and distress and disillusionment because its broken and we just don’t want to admit that it is and we love it more than the coming kingdom. And part of the Spirit’s job in sanctifying us is to make us delight more in the kingdom to come than the one that is crumbling around us now. Spirit will get that done!

  1. We will be blessed with full face-to-face Trinitarian fellowship in the coming kingdom v. 14

“…until we acquire possession of it…”

Paul says here that we have the Holy Spirit to seal us as the people of God. But Paul says we have this gift “…until we acquire possession of it…” speaking about the inheritance.

In other words we will have the Holy Spirit as a seal until we get the inheritance.

So, when we get the inheritance we loose the Spirit?

No! We gain even more.

The grand metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption and restoration is how the plan of Father is working out at his direction. We are in the in between time of redemption and restoration. As a result we have transformed souls with broken and sin corrupted bodies that are going to be completely repaired.

We have Holy Spirit in these jars of clay that show the all-surpassing power is from Father and not from us. However, the Scriptures promise a day when these jars of clay will be transferred to the eternal kingdom.

Revelation 21 captures this event!

Revelation 20:11 begins the transition. Jesus is judging after he has conquered the rebellion for the final time. Earth and sky “fled away” and the judgment activity happens in this sort of suspended state.

Chapter 21 begins with, “Then I saw a new heave and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…”

Then John begins to describe the new heavens and earth.

Too much to deal with now, but we preached through Revelation a couple of years ago. The apocalyptic language John is using we are not familiar with enough to read well, so we need some exposition training. Go listen to the message on Revelation 21. I don’t have time to go over that now. But among the things Jesus gives John to give his church is verse 22-25

There is no temple anymore. Why? Because the Lord God (Father) and the Lamb (Jesus) are there face to face. There is no longer a separation of sin between God and man and no longer any need for Holy Spirit to sanctify and counsel and teach us because what we believed by faith will become sight.

I’m sure Holy Spirit is there. He’s an equal member of the Trinity, but the need to seal us as Father’s will be gone. We will be Father’s face to face! Our inheritance of realizing our “in Christ” and fully united with all in the kingdom will be completed and we will spend timeless eternity fulfilling the mandate to subdue the new earth and walk with Father, Son and Spirit.





  1. We have been blessed in Christ that we may praise Father, Son and Spirit v. 6, 12, 14

The word “to” indicates purpose. The blessing of being “in Christ” and the blessings resulting of being “in Christ” don’t end in themselves. Those graces are to move us to Romans 11:1 worship that moves us to Romans 11:2 sanctification.

We were made to be living sacrifices who sing of the excellencies of our king. And when we worship like that we will continue to be transformed in our thinking as the Spirit unites us all in one mind under Christ.

[1] John A. Mackay, God’s Order (New York: Macmillan, 1953), p. 97.

[2] The language of “unimpeded activity” is a summary of my reading of Jonathan Edwards on this subject. For a fuller treatment see “Freedom of the Will” by Jonathan Edwards.

[3] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1225.