Blog Archives

His Power toward Us — Those who Believe

“giving light to the eyes of your heart to know the hope of his calling, which is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and  which is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us, those who believe, according to the outworking of his power and might.”

(Ephesians 1:18-19)

Okay, time to make some people grumpy. What a way to start off. Here’s the problem, people in the west have bought into the idea that human beings are all part of a “brotherhood of man” and that as such, we are all children of God. And in that myth, our problem lies. While there is but one race (the human race), which makes the prejudices that we might have a foolish proposition, within that one race, there are two lines of people. There are some who are children of God and others who are children of the devil (1 John 3:9-10). What distinguishes between the two lines? God’s seed abides in his children and the seed of the devil abides in his. 

This, beloved, is what we call election, plain and simple. God has chosen some as his own and places his seed in them. We do not deserve this privilege nor did we earn it or choose it (Romans 9:16). It is a work of God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). And why might such an idea make people mad? It is plainly taught in the Scripture? It makes people mad because they have bought into a wrong side — a wrong paradigm that makes God responsive to the desires of man — and changing paradigms is often a difficult process. In addition, this very principle means that the blessings of God of which Paul is speaking in this text, only belong to the believer. They do not belong to those outside of the faith. 

And thus, Paul writes, that all of these things which we have been speaking, through the power of God, have been “toward us, those who believe.” The unbeliever is not adopted into God’s household and thus cannot address God as “Father.” The children of the devil can have no assurance of glory and eternal life in heaven. The reprobate do not have light for their eyes that would give them spiritual sight — they are left blind so that they will not turn from their wicked ways and repent (remember Isaiah’s language that we cited above). And yes, people often get testy when confronted with ideas such as these. 

Yet, if you are a believer, then these promises do belong to you. What makes one a believer? We talked a little about assurance above, but it is worth going back to Paul’s language of Romans 10:9-13. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Indeed, there is much that can be said as we unpackaged these verses, but on the most basic level, there must be faith in the historical bodily resurrection of Christ. That does not mean you believe that he spiritually rose and “lives in your heart,” but that he physically rose and ascended into heaven where now he sits at the right hand of God as King over his Church and over his creation. 

Yet salvation is not just a matter of belief; it is a matter of confession that Jesus is Lord. That is simply another way of saying that Jesus is not just a King, but that he is your King and that you live your life in submission to him. That, of course, sends us back to John’s language which speaks of practicing righteousness or practicing sin. You cannot confess Jesus as Lord with any sense of integrity or meaning if you do not seek to live in obedience to His Law. No, we are not saved by our obedience; our obedience is the testimony that we are saved. If someone seeks to live life however they wish and cares not for what the Word of God commands of him, that person cannot be said to be a Christian and thus these promises do not belong to him. Sobering, isn’t it?

Being one of “those who believe” is not something that only requires church attendance from you — a couple hours on Sunday mornings. No, being “those who believe” is something that demands a lifestyle from you — one that is in submission to the Word of God in every way possible. No, we won’t get it right all of the time, but that is not the call. Our call is to strive in that direction so that our King is honored by the actions of those who profess Him. 

The Riches of His Inheritance

“giving light to the eyes of your heart to know the hope of his calling, which is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and  which is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us, those who believe, according to the outworking of his power and might.”

(Ephesians 1:18-19)

Following the line of logic that this spiritual sight gives us assurance of our salvation, how is this assurance the “riches of the glory of his inheritance”? Usually when we think of “riches,” we think of wealth and gold and things that bring us physical comfort and pleasure. Or maybe, we might put it more succinctly, riches refer to those things of value in our lives.

Yet, beloved, what could be more valuable than the assurance of your salvation? Truly, there is nothing. The snakes that offer you a prosperity gospel think that worldly wealth is what is in sight here, but worldly wealth is not extolled in Paul’s writings especially. There may be places in the Old Testament where such is extolled but those Old Testament statements and pictures are shadows of a spiritual reality that is more fully revealed in Christ in the New Testament. And Jesus clearly teaches us that heaven is the only place where our treasures should be stored up.

So, indeed, our assurance is of the greatest value of all. And in that we find the riches and glory (think, “weightiness” or “importance”) of our eternal inheritance. And, to those who point you to wealth on earth, remind them that God only gives wealth on earth to be used for the building up of His Kingdom, pointing men and women toward Christ.

Assurance of Salvation

“giving light to the eyes of your heart to know the hope of his calling, which is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and  which is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us, those who believe, according to the outworking of his power and might.”

(Ephesians 1:18-19)

And thus, when there is light in the eyes of your heart — when the Holy Spirit has opened your eyes so that you may see with eyes of faith and not with natural sight — what is the end goal? It is that we may know the hope of God’s calling. This is a matter of both confidence and assurance.

Assurance is a question with which many Christians struggle. “How can I know that I am saved?” people often ask. Arguably the two most poignant passages that can be pointed to are in Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 8:16. In the first, the prophet makes the very clear statement that the righteous shall live by faith. This passage, of course, is quoted by Paul in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and then in Hebrews 10:38. The second passage mentioned above speaks of the Holy Spirit testifying to our spirit that we are children of God. Since only those who are elect to salvation are God’s children, if the Holy Spirit so testifies to us that we are God’s children, then that is a mark of the faith we have.

True, these two passages are somewhat subjective. Nevertheless, they give you a clear starting point. Look at your life. Do you live righteously? Or, at least, do you try to do so to the best of your ability? And, when a Christian brother or sister points out sin in your life, do you seek to reform that sin because you want to honor Jesus by the way you live? If this describes you, it is a pretty good indication that you are a true Christian. And, if the testimony of the Holy Spirit affirms with your spirit that you are a born again believer — a child of God — then again, you should take this as assurance.

In a more objective sense, 1 John also offers us a very clear indicator of the mark of a Christian versus the mark of a non-Christian. There are various questions about what one believes regarding sin, regarding the person of Christ, and how one lives out their faith. One of the most striking questions that John asks is whether you love your brothers and sisters in faith. John goes as far as to say that if you see a fellow believer in need and you close your heart to him when you have the ability to help, then God’s love does not abide in you (1 John 3:17). In the verses that lead up to this statement, John addresses things from the other perspective and states that everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and eternal life does not dwell in him (1 John 3:15). So, more objectively, perhaps, you can ask yourself, have you hardened your heart against a fellow Christian and are refusing to help him or her when they have need? If so, you are not a believer according to the Apostle John. Repent and sin against your brother no more.

Faith gives assurance, but that faith needs to be a genuine faith — one that affects not just the perception you have of yourself but also the way you live. And that is where the boldness of hope comes into play. Part of the reason that the Christian does not live in the same way the world lives is because we have a hope of something better. What is the world to us when we are promised both heaven and a new creation? Why would we even want to build our treasure here where it can be spoiled or taxed away from us? No, as Christians we store up our treasures in heaven. We do not allow our churches to function as businesses; we function like military outposts in enemy territory, laboring to tear down every stronghold that raises itself up against the knowledge of God. We have the boldness or confidence to live in that way because we hav the hope of glory. Beloved, if you are a true Christian, you will seek to store your treasure in heaven and not on earth. Be at work building the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Light to the Eyes, not a Fat Heart, That must be Our Prayer

“giving light to the eyes of your heart to know the hope of his calling, which is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and  which is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us, those who believe, according to the outworking of his power and might.”

(Ephesians 1:18-19)

As we have noted already, the density of ideas that are found in these verses is immense and profound. To begin with, we need to tackle this idea of giving light to the eyes of your heart, which is really little more than a continuation of the previous thought. Verse 17 closes with the language of Paul’s prayer for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God to be instilled in the people of these churches. Having such a spirit, then, produces light for the eyes of the heart.

When Moses stands before the people on the plains of Moab to renew God’s covenant with them, he makes a profound statement. Here he reminds them again of the mighty works of deliverance that God has done. He reminds them of the plagues in Egypt and of the defeat of their enemies in the wilderness. He reminds them that their shoes did not wear out and of God’s provision. And further, Moses reminds the people that they have been stubborn and rebellious despite seeing these mighty works. How does Moses explain this? Notice his words:

“But Yahweh did not give to you a heart to know nor eyes to see nor ears to hear, even to this day.”

(Deuteronomy 29:3 — verse 4 in English translations)

Do you see Moses’ point? The people of Israel witnessed these great events with their human eyes. They heard the great sermons on the Law with their human ears. They understood what they heard with a human heart. Yet, at the same time, God did not give them ears or eyes or a heart so that they might hear and respond in faith.

As is written in the prophet Isaiah:

“And he said, ‘Go and say to this people, ‘You shall surely hear yet you will not understand and you shall surely see yet you will not know. The heart of this people will be made to grow fat and his ears will be heavy and his eyes will be blind — lest he see with his eyes and hear with his ears and understand with his heart and turn and he be healed.’’”

(Isaiah 6:9-10)

These words of God to Isaiah are devastating indeed. God has every intent on keeping Israel dull and unrepentant as a form of judgment upon them. What is even more disconcerting is that Jesus uses these words himself when he explains to the disciples why he teaches in parables (Matthew 13:14-15).

As we look back to Ephesians, the opposite of this language of judgment is what Paul has in sight. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that this church has eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. Further, it will be by a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God that the church will grow in their understanding and that they will live lives in accordance to God’s Word.

At the same time, there is a warning that remains. Those who reject the Word of God and who reject the one who brings that Word will have their ears grow heavy. Or, to borrow from Paul’s letter to Timothy, their ears will grow “itchy” (2 Timothy 4:3). And in turn, their hearts will grow fatty and calloused so as they will not abide with truth but only with those things that suit their sensibilities and passions. Such is the judgment of God and are there not countless illustrations of this all around us today?