That We May Know God
Ephesians Lesson #040
August 25, 2019
“Father, as we study Your Word this morning, we’re reminded that You have breathed this out to us. The origin of what we read is not in the mind of Paul, but is in Your mind. You breathed this out through the Apostle Paul, and in a way we can’t quite comprehend.
“You did this in such a way that without obliterating his personality, You could guarantee that that which he wrote was without error. It is designed for the purpose of teaching us. It’s designed to reprove us where we are wrong and to give us correction to put us on the right path and to instruct us in righteousness.
“As we study Your Word, there are so many different aspects and features that as we read it, we are continually impressed with how it all fits together: how one section complements and expands another. And Father, all of it focuses our attention upon You and all that You provided for us.
“As we study this prayer of Paul’s in Ephesians 1:15 and following, we pray that You would help us to understand that which we read because we have been illuminated at regeneration—because of the new birth, our ability to understand Scripture because we’re no longer spiritually dead.
“Yet we still need to come to an understanding, be enlightened as to what this passage is saying, and what Your Word says to us. We pray that we would be responsive to what we learn today and that we would be responsive to Your Word, that we may grow and mature as believers.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians. Today we’re going to start looking at Ephesians 1:16–18: starting briefly at the end of 16, which we covered last time and going down through 18.
The purpose for this is what is clearly stated in Ephesians 1:17, which is that we may increase in our knowledge of God. That is the title for what we’re studying today That We May Know God, not simply to know about God, but to know God. It has to do with deepening our personal intimacy, our rapport, our relationship, our walk with the Lord, that while it is based on the knowledge of facts and information which is critical, it moves beyond that as we walk with the Lord to understand a level of intimacy with the God who created us and the God who redeemed us.
We are in this second large section of Ephesians 1. We have a salutation, and then there is this extended statement related to the blessing of the way in which God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing involving the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And this has led Paul into a prayer, which is similar to our responsive reading this morning, Colossians 1; and this prayer extends down to the end of the chapter.
What’s interesting about the prayers of Scripture is that a study of them can be incredibly extensive because there are just hundreds prayers in Scripture. Some are short, some are long. All of the psalms are in one sense prayers, and as we read them, they teach us how to pray. They teach us what to pray for. They teach us what the priorities in prayer should be.
That is really a focus of these next few verses as we get into this section in Ephesians 1. These verses tell us the reasons for Paul’s prayer, and they tell us what our focus should be in our own prayers.
In Ephesians 1:15–16, we have an emphasis on the situation that prompted Paul’s prayer. He had, first of all, stated all of these blessings that he covered in Ephesians 1:3–14, which emphasized our new position in Christ—the blessings that we have in Christ.
And that by being part of this new entity—the body of Christ—that we have been appointed to a mission. We have been appointed to that mission, and that we have been given various assets, various tools; various spiritual blessings in order to be able to pursue that mission and to accomplish that mission.
Failure to do so doesn’t mean that we can lose our salvation. It simply means that we miss out on the privileges of being involved in God’s plan and purpose in this Church Age, and it also impacts negatively our inheritance in the future Kingdom.
Having gone over all of those things, Paul reaches a conclusion. He thinks through these things. He’s focused on them, and it moves him to prayer. That’s why he begins with “therefore.” But also he is responding to a report from the church at Ephesus related to their spiritual growth and their love for one another.
It is faith first. Faith is always related to learning the Word, believing it, and then applying it. Love without a doctrinal foundation easily slips into just sentimentality, it slips into superficiality. Unfortunately, this is often how people think of love in our culture. Because love in our culture is reduced mostly to physical attraction, and it has little to do with in-depth appreciation and attraction of a soul—of another person—and building that relationship.
The love that we have for all the saints is not to be confused with the love we experience on a day-to-day basis, but an understanding of that love which was demonstrated at the Cross. As Jesus said to His disciples, John 13:34, “A new command I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” That becomes the foundation.
Paul is pleased that they are growing, that they are becoming spiritually mature, and as a result of that, he gives thanks. He is grateful. Last week we looked at the importance of gratitude as one barometer of our own spiritual growth: learning to focus on being grateful for what we have.
Not being entitled, not thinking that we have what we have because somehow we’re good enough or great enough or nice enough or attractive enough, that of course God has provided all these things for me. He’s given me an IQ, and He’s given me an education where I can go out and achieve the things that I’ve done, and so we put the focus on us.
It was interesting today, as I was perusing quickly any news items to see if there was something significant. I ran across a little human interest story about a mother who had a problem with an ungrateful daughter. I thought, “My, I’ve got to look at that. That fits with what I taught last week.”
This is a young girl who’s going to elementary school, sounds like kindergarten or first grade, and her mother was buying all of her school supplies. And this little girl had really wanted this one pencil case, doesn’t describe it or anything, but it was very special and she really wanted it. Eventually the mother bought that for her, she was buying all the different things. And when she gave it to her little girl, the little girl got mad and huffy and threw it in the trash, “I don’t want that anymore. Everybody else has one.” So, the mother decided she needed to teach a little girl lesson about gratitude.
So she waited a while, because the mother said she needed to simmer down a little bit, which is always a good idea, before she began to apply a lesson to the daughter. The first thing she did was that she went into the kitchen and reached into the drawer we all have with all that stuff in there that we use to save and store things, and she pulled out a Ziploc bag and wrote the little girl’s name on it.
And she went in and said, “Well, since you didn’t like that really nice pencil case, this is your new pencil case (just a Ziploc bag).” Then she said, “Now that cost some money to buy that other pencil case, so I took it out of the trash, and what we’re going to find is some girl whose family cannot afford such a nice pencil case, who doesn’t have anything like that, and you’re going to give it to her.”
That was the beginning of a lesson in gratitude. Something we all need to pay attention to. We need to be grateful, Scripture says, in all things and for all things.
I closed the last time just talking about the basic elements of prayer, using the acronym of CATS:
- Confession, where we admit or acknowledge our sin to the Lord, so that we are restored to a position of walking by the Spirit.
- Adoration and praise is the “A,” so we focus on the Lord and think through His essence, His attributes, His character, and how that has impacted our lives.
- That leads to the “T” for Thanksgiving and focusing on those attributes.
- Then the “S” is for supplication, where we intercede for others and we have petitions for ourselves. Too often we probably focus on the last one, rather than all of the others. But we need to focus on who God is. That brings everything else into perspective.
So we come to our opening section here in Ephesians 1:16–19. I want to read this passage and give us a little bit of an overview here because it’s important. This is all one sentence in the Greek. Just like Ephesians 1:3–14 was one sentence in the Greek, Ephesians 1:15–23 is another sentence.
It’s easy to get lost in all of the dependent clauses and relative clauses and causal clauses and things like that, and lose sight of what is going on here. But what Paul is expressing here, the content of the prayer comes across in Ephesians 1:17 where he prays in relation to our understanding and increase in the knowledge of God. I think everything else is subordinate to that and explains that.
We saw last time in Ephesians 1:16 he doesn’t “cease to give thanks for you all,” and that as a result he makes mention of them in his prayers.
Now what is he saying? What is the content of his prayer? That begins in Ephesians 1:17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”
We’re going to stop there, but the prayer goes on.
If I were wanting to kind of tweak everybody a little bit this morning, I would ask you how many times you have prayed for those three things mentioned in Ephesians 1:18:
- What is the hope of His calling,
- What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance of His saints, and
- What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us.
I dare say not many of us have ever prayed those three specific categories in application to our spiritual life, and yet that’s what Paul is outlining here.
When we look at this section, this is not an easy set of verses to understand, by the way. We think we do. You can read through that and you think you have a pretty good idea of what’s there. And I have thought in the past that I have a pretty good idea of what’s there, but maybe we’re just a little bit mistaken when we think that.
The “that” at the beginning of Ephesians 1:17 expresses his purpose. The “that” in Ephesians 1:18 is not the same word. It is a different word, but it still expresses purpose. It is the broader purpose as stated in Ephesians 1:17 down to the first part of verse 18. Then the specifics in relation to this prayer are outlined in the second part of Ephesians 1:18 and on into 19. We probably won’t get there this morning.
It’s pretty clear in the English, because in the English you have these three “whats”, and in the Greek you also have a relative pronoun there that’s translated as a “what” in English, so that gives you these three points that he’s going to focus on.
But before we get there, we really have to understand Ephesians 1:17 and the first part of verse 18. The difficult phrases that we have there are the ones I have underlined in this particular slide, and that is the phrase “the spirit of wisdom and revelation.”
“… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation …” Then we have a phrase that is connected to that, “… the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.”
These are the two major exegetical problems we have to understand as we go through this section. What does that mean?
I remember years ago, I think I was in my first year out of seminary, I was working for a Christian camp, but I was going to Tomball Bible Church where Harry Leafe was the pastor at the time. We would meet together for lunch or go play racquetball together about once a week, and that time I spent with Harry was much more profitable for getting an understanding of what it meant to be a pastor than my pastoral internship.
My pastoral internship was at a Southern Baptist Church, and the pastor couldn’t decide whether he believed in inerrancy and infallibility or not. That was back in the late 70s when that was a big battle, and it’s become a big battle now. That experience checked off the boxes so I could graduate, but it didn’t do a whole lot in terms of giving me any insight into a pastoral ministry, other than a negative example.
I remember just out of the blue one day, Harry asked me, he said what you think that means in Ephesians 1:18 that “the eyes of our understanding should be enlightened”. I looked at him and said, “I don’t have a clue!”
One reason I say that is because when we get out of seminary, a lot of people think that you have mastered something. You have. You’ve mastered your curriculum for the last four years, and you have a Masters in Theology. But all that a seminary education does is give you the seeds that you have to nourish and water and fertilize for the rest of your life, so it produces something of value.
The reason I say that is there are a lot of people who misunderstand a seminary education, think that when you get out of seminary, you’ve arrived. When you get out of seminary, you’ve basically gotten the basic training behind you, and you get the opportunity to go to the plate and bat, but you don’t have any experience hitting a ball yet or playing in a real baseball game. You just have the tools, and it takes time to develop those things.
I tell these young pastors that I’ve mentored that you may say a lot of wonderful things and teach a lot of good things the first ten years of your ministry, but when you’ve had forty years in, you will look back and realize that everything you did after that 10th year built on all the mistakes that you made in the first ten years.
The thing that you as a congregation need to recognize is that your responsibility is to suffer through young pastors during those first 10 years. Because the difficult thing is the only way we learn to grow spiritually is by failing. The only way we learn to grow and develop in our spiritual gifts and our understanding of God’s Word is by making mistakes, misinterpreting the Word, misapplying the Word, because it takes time.
In fact, we’re still going to be figuring things out and learning about God’s Word for all eternity. It’s not something that we stop with once the Rapture occurs and we’re face-to-face with the Lord. We never become omniscient. We will know more than we know now. But we will be face-to-face with the Lord, and we will know more, but not all.
The reason I say all of that is because this whole passage is focusing on the importance of knowledge and that we have to grow, and it’s a long-term process. It’s not accomplished in two or three years, although Paul treats the Corinthians as if they could reach spiritual maturity within two or three years.
Think about that. Most of us should be into spiritual maturity within two or three years. That’s the expectation of Scripture. That doesn’t mean we understand it all, or know it all, but the basics of applying the Word, trust and obey, should be part of our makeup, part of our character.
All that is going to play more into what I say here as we go through this passage and try to figure this out.
Jigsaw puzzles are wonderful things. I haven’t worked one in years, but when I was a kid, we would often do those. My parents would buy different jigsaw puzzles, and I think they are very important for developing kids’ problem-solving abilities.
It’s fun to work a jigsaw puzzle, but to do it you have to develop your logical machine. You have to think in terms of why you’re choosing to look for this piece or that piece, what approach you’re going to take to solving the problem of putting all the pieces together. And as they become more complicated, you can look out there, you’ve got these jigsaw puzzles with 1,000 or 3,000 or 5,000 pieces, and you realize that you have to have a strategy to figure out what it means. You can’t just go to that pile of pieces with a certain background of experience, look at the picture on the cover, and within two or three days put it all together. It’s a process.
Exegesis is a lot like that. Sometimes you have to approach it in different ways. One way to approach it is to look at this particular passage and realize that in order to understand what it is talking about, to avoid some mistakes that have been made in the past and some misunderstandings, we have to start at the end and work backwards. That’s really important, just because of the way Paul lays this thing out grammatically. It is just a careful process of working through this.
The last phrase here is the one we run into in Ephesians 1:18, “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.”
When you look at that in the King James Version, it is a little bit ambiguous of what that means in terms of being enlightened. Is that present tense? Is that past tense? Is that a process? Is it a one-time thing? “Being” is ambiguous. “Being enlightened.” What do we do with that?
I want to mention a couple of things here. One is that in the NIV, they totally missed the boat on this. Every now and then, I’ll do this. This is for pedagogical reason, not to pick apart NIV, although it’s not one of my favorite translations. It’s more of a commentary in places, which means it’s not a strict translation. You get the translators’ theology more than you do an understanding of what the original might say.
The way the NIV translates this is as an independent sentence. Now that’s not unusual in Bible translations. If you look at the King James Version, one of the things they tried to do is to make every verse an independent sentence, or at least an independent clause, just so that English readers would not get too confused by these really long sentences that the Apostle Paul would use.
So the NIV translated this as a total independent sentence. It says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.”
Notice that’s taking a more of an interpretive stance than the New King James, which just says “being enlightened.” “May be enlightened” indicates a possibility in the future. Hmm, that doesn’t reflect the Greek at all.
The phrase “being enlightened” is a translation of the Greek word PHOTIZO. We get our English word “photo” from this verb. PHOTOS is the word for light, so PHOTIZO is the verb “to be enlightened;” and grammatically, it is a perfect passive participle.
I use slides and copy in the grammar and everything, but I don’t always take the time to emphasize why each element there is of exegetical significance, but in this we need to at least look at the basic aspects of it.
It’s a participle, which means it’s not a finite verb. It is expressing something. If there is a finite verb somewhere in the passage that it applies to, which is the case here, then you have to decide what its nuance is.
It’s an adverbial participle of cause. That helps explain its relationship. He’s making this additional statement “because the eyes of your understanding,” and then it’s a perfect tense. A perfect tense means it’s referring to completed action.
Future tense talks about something that will happen in the future. Present tense indicates something that is happening now, either in a narrow sense of right now or in a more elongated sense of maybe now, during this week, or during this month, or during this year.
This is a perfect tense, which is more than simply a past tense, it is emphasizing a completed past action and focusing on the current results of that completed past action. This is like when Jesus is on the cross. The last thing He says is TETELESTAI. It has been completely paid for. It’s over and done with. It’s completed in the past, but the results go on.
This is what happens: in the past there’s a completed action that takes place on the part of every believer, that they are enlightened. That happens at salvation. When we look at 1 Corinthians 2:9–16, one of the most significant passages in the Scripture, the Apostle Paul is talking about what we gain through regeneration when we trust in Christ.
Before we trust in Christ we’re referred to as a soulless man in 1 Corinthians 2:14, a natural man. A soulless man is made up of body and soul, but he doesn’t have something that we call a human spirit; that is, that capacity to have a relationship with God and to understand His Word.
But once you trust in Christ, at the instant you trust in Christ, as you are born again, something new comes into existence, and that’s that human spirit. And that gives us the ability to understand and comprehend the Word of God.
That doesn’t mean you always get it right, but now you’re no longer in darkness, but now you are a son of light, a child of light, and you’re going to walk in the light, and you’re going to have illumination. This refers to the biblical teaching on illumination.
We are all given that capacity at the instant of salvation, but that doesn’t mean you just pick up the Bible and read it and you know what it means. There are a lot of people who make that mistake.
I hear people who make that mistake about people who have the gift of pastor-teacher. The gift of pastor-teacher is a communication gift. It is not a gift for immediately understanding the Word of God. It takes time to do so. And over the course of time, any pastor, any teacher, any professor is going to grow and increase in his knowledge and understanding of the Word.
Because we may get drilled down in one passage and understand to some degree what that means in context, but then when we get to a fuller, greater, more expansive understanding of passages that correlate, we may say. “I picked the wrong option there. I have to go with Option B instead of Option A.”
We will get to that. All of this is leading to a couple of important things, but I’m slowly, gradually building your suspense here.
Ephesians 1:18, “The eyes of your understanding …” The way we should translate this is not unlike the NET version, which translates it with “since” instead of “because.” I prefer “because”, but in the NET they translated it “since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what is the wealth of His glorious inheritance …”
In other words, we’re given a potential at salvation, so that we can know and understand God’s Word. We have that enlightenment now. We are born again. We are a new creature in Christ. Part of that means that we can come to understand God’s Word, and the purpose of that is those three “what” clauses. They are “what” in the NKJV and are also “what” in the NET.
The way I translate this is more with the causal sense “because”.
Notice that this develops from what’s said in Ephesians 1:17. That’s why we’re starting at the end. We have to understand the role this plays in this thought structure before we can really understand what Ephesians 1:16 is talking about. Whatever it’s talking about, it is saying that we can know God—at the end of the verse—because the eyes of our heart have already been enlightened.
Now “eyes” is a metaphor. This is talking about just as physical eyes let light come into the nerves of our eyeballs, and that is transmitted into our brain, then as a result of that, we come to see things, and that means that we understand things. When we say, “Oh! I see now!” That’s just a figure of speech for I understand. We have been enlightened. “Our eyes have been opened”.
That’s what this figure of speech means, “the eyes of our heart.” The heart in Scripture mostly refers to the brain, our intellectual activity. It’s not talking about emotion. Heart usually refers to the very center of our being, and it emphasizes the thinking part at the center of our being. “Because the eyes of our heart have already been enlightened …” That takes us back to this new capacity that we have once we trust in Christ as Savior.
We put that together with Ephesians 1:17–18 and it reads, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, because the eyes of your heart have already been enlightened.”
I want you to notice the timeframe here. In the past your eyes have been enlightened, but now Paul is praying for additional insight to be given to us. That’s what’s referred to by “the spirit of wisdom and revelation,” but it is in or related to the knowledge of God. That’s the goal—to know God and know Him more intimately. The next phrase that we have to understand is this phrase “the spirit of wisdom and revelation.”
What’s interesting about this phrase grammatically is it’s not just the “spirit of wisdom”, STOP, and revelation, as if you’re talking about the spirit of wisdom and then secondarily revelation. Spirit here refers to both wisdom and revelation. Both of those nouns are in the genitive and they’re related to the word “spirit.”
But how do we understand that? You can tell from looking up here at the text that spirit is in the lowercase, and because it’s in the lowercase they are not translating it or interpreting it to be the Holy Spirit.
See anytime you see “spirit” with the lowercase “s” or an uppercase “S,” the translator has made an interpretive decision. And he’s made a decision whether this is talking about the Holy Spirit or maybe something else. So, we have to decide that as to exactly what this is talking about.
There are some that take this to refer to the human spirit. We have the word PNEUMA, which is the Greek word that is translated “spirit.” This is one of those words that has pages of nuances of meanings, and I just put some of them up here on the slide for you. It literally refers to air or it refers to breath or wind.
If you have pneumonia, the PNEU there relates to problems with your breathing, problems with your lungs. If you talk about something like a pneumatic drill, it is powered by air. That’s the literal meaning of PNEUMA. It can mean air, wind, or breath. But because you can’t see your breath, because you can’t touch it or capitalize on it, you can feel a little bit, but you can’t really capture it too well, it is often used to refer to that which is immaterial.
It is a term that is used to refer to the life spirit—that which brings life to someone. When they die they no longer have that spirit, they no longer breathe. So it can to refer to the life spirit. It can refer to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. It can refer to the human spirit, which is that capacity we acquire at the moment of regeneration.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There he mentions all three. There is a big debate, as I’ve taught you before, in theology as to whether we’re composed of two parts or three parts: two parts is dichotomy; three parts is trichotomy.
Dichotomy means that you’re just composed of an immaterial part and a material part, and all these different words that are used in the Scripture are basically synonymous, whether it is spirit or heart or kidneys or these other things that relate to the inner part of man, the immaterial part, that they’re all basically the same thing.
In some cases, they are interchangeable and they’re synonymous, but in two passages here and in Ephesians 4:12 they’re not, because the Bible makes it very clear that it’s talking about three parts.
So, I believe in a trichotomous view, that man has only two parts before he’s saved, because in spiritual death he lost that human spirit, but when you’re saved, you regain that human spirit. This is one way in which this is understood, that this has something to do with the human spirit. Others will translate it to mean an attitude or a disposition.
Some people talk about the spirit of bitterness, about an attitude or disposition of bitterness or spirit of anger. You’ll hear people talk that way. So they look at this and they go, “This is a spirit of wisdom, so that’s an attitude or disposition toward wisdom.” Ah!
That may work for wisdom, but does it work for revelation? However you understand spirit, it has to work for both spirit and revelation. If you think this is a disposition of wisdom that can work, but when do we have a disposition of revelation? We don’t. So that becomes a problem.
Now there are ways that scholars try to work around that, and I ran into one. What’s interesting—and this goes back to the story about how we grow in our knowledge of the Word—is that for about 30 or 35 years, the head of the Greek Department of Dallas Seminary was a scholar by the name of Harold Hoehner. I had Hoehner for a couple of courses when I went through seminary.
He was a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer by background; that was the family he was born into. But he became quite a scholar, had his doctorate from Dallas Seminary, had a second doctorate from Cambridge, and wrote a book that’s still in print. That was his doctoral dissertation on Herod Antipas. He’s a well-known scholar, and for over 30 years he taught Ephesians at Dallas Seminary.
In the early 80s Dallas Theological Seminary printed an excellent—overall I would give it an excellent rating—excellent two-volume commentary set that’s really good for handling problems and is a good go-to resource called the Bible Knowledge Commentary. Volume 1 is the Old Testament; Volume 2 is the New Testament. Dr. Hoehner wrote the commentary on Ephesians in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, and I want to quote what he said it about this passage in 1982.
He said, “The content of Paul’s request is that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” (Notice the uppercase “the Spirit” there, but he’s going to change that.)
“Though the NIV translators …” (because when Dallas published this, they did it as a commentary on the NIV and they corrected a lot, the commentators do, but that’s the English version that they relate to.)
“Though the NIV translators interpret ‘Spirit’ as referring to the Holy Spirit, it is better to see it as a disposition or attitude because of the two genitives following it (of wisdom and of revelation).” Then he compares it to the use of “a gentle spirit” in 1 Corinthians 4:21.
“On the other hand one cannot obtain a spirit or attitude of wisdom and revelation apart from the Holy Spirit.” See he recognizes there that ultimately whatever is said here, everybody’s got to ultimately relate this back to the Holy Spirit,
“As Isaiah wrote, ‘The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him (talking about the Messiah) the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding. (Did it say revelation? No it did not.) “… the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear the Lord.”
That was in 1982. Twenty years later in 2002, Dr. Hoehner published what many consider one of the most comprehensive and exhaustive commentaries on Ephesians, after teaching this course for 30 years.
When I say things like that, I’m always reminded that there are some people who say, “Oh, I’m going to run out and buy that. Dr. Dean said that is a good book!” You have to figure out what good means and what best means. I learned this my first year in seminary.
I went to one professor who was much more Calvinistic then than I think he is now, but he was, what he would describe the time, a 4½-point Calvinist. I had him for Theology Proper, and I said, “What do you think is the best commentary on Romans?” And he said, “Well, it’s a commentary by John Murray in the New International Commentary series.”
John Murray was the head of the Theology Department at Westminster Theological Seminary, which is an amillennial covenant theology seminary, five-point Calvinist, so I thought, “Well, that’s interesting. I know that’s going to be very Calvinistic.”
So my next class period was with Zane Hodges in first-year Greek. Zane was not a Calvinist. Zane wasn’t an Arminian, but Zane wasn’t a Calvinist. He understood free grace, he wasn’t Lordship or any of those other things. I said, “Prof, what do you recommend is the best commentary on Romans?” He said, “John Murray’s commentary in the New International Commentary series”.
That was confusing because the theology that often was touted by Murray wasn’t what Hodges liked, but when you look at a commentary you want somebody to list most of the positions and be very thorough in his analysis and exposition. That doesn’t mean you’re going to agree with it, or when I recommend a commentary that doesn’t mean that I agree with every conclusion they say or that I even go with it.
But a lot of times I’ll recommend a book because it made me think a lot of good thoughts. I didn’t necessarily agree with the person I read. I just say that because I need a little corrective there, that too many people run out and read something that I mentioned, but overall this is a very good commentary. For seminary students and others who are at a certain level, it is a must-read.
I would not agree with him on a lot of the ways he handled the first part of Chapter 1, but he changed his view. That’s my point. Here is this guy who’s been studying now for 30 years and he’s in print. Now this is rare for a scholar of this caliber to change his view in print. They don’t do it.
They’ve committed themselves to that position, they’ve argued for it, probably taught it for a number of years, and then realized there are some problems with that view that I didn’t quite understand at the beginning, and the other view is better. That happens to every pastor I know.
I don’t know how many things I taught in the first 10 years I was a pastor that I would teach the opposite of today, simply because I grew in my understanding of Scripture, doctrine, and theology along the way. Nothing critical, nothing earth shattering, but just a passage here, a passage there, and you refine your view as you go along. You refine your understanding of Scripture. That’s just part of growth.
That’s how the Holy Spirit works. He doesn’t just zap you as a pastor-teacher and say, “Just pick up your Bible this morning, read those verses, you will be able to go and teach that with no problem.” You have to spend hours doing this. I have worked on this particular passage (I’m still working on it) for at least six weeks. And reading different views, listing the different arguments, the pros and cons and all of those different things.
In 2002 in his commentary Dr. Hoehner wrote, “Thus, this view (that is the view that he had held before) this view contends that in the present context it refers to the attitude or spiritual disposition toward insight and the openness to revelation. Those who think that it refers to the Holy Spirit do so because the qualities of wisdom and revelation cannot be generated by humans. This second view is preferred for seven reasons.”
That second view is not the view he took 20 years ago in the Bible Knowledge Commentary. He came to understand through more advanced study. In 1982 this is a guy with two PhDs and the head of the Greek department of Dallas Seminary. I say that because a lot of people say, “Oh, he knows Greek and Hebrew. He’ll know the answer.” Wrong! All it does when you learn Greek and Hebrew is create another batch of problems on top of the ones in terms of other translations.
When we translate this, we have to understand that the keyword—that’s why I’m working backwards as we look at this: “May God give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation …” We have to understand what revelation is. Revelation is from the Greek word APOKALUPSIS, which is where we get our English word “apocalypse”, and it means revelation or disclosure, the unveiling of new information.
What is the new information? This is related in Ephesians to the mystery—that is previously unrevealed information. So God is giving the information. God is the one Who is disclosing the information. So, that “S” cannot be a reference to the human spirit or to an attitude that is disposed to understanding revelation. That’s getting very, very awkward.
What we see here is that because revelation is the work of God and the Holy Spirit is the agent of revelation, then the “S” has to be uppercase “S,” and so it is “… the Spirit who gives wisdom and discloses divine truth.” We could translate it that way.
You might ask the question, “Well, why is Paul praying for God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation when they’re already saved and the Holy Spirit is already indwelling them? So, we have to understand that what is being said here, these genitive clauses: what does wisdom and revelation have to do with the Spirit?
They’re describing the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. This is the area of His work. God the Son had the area of work in terms of redemption and paying the penalty for sin. The area of the Spirit’s ministry towards us is He is the One who is working in us through the Word to produce wisdom and to help us understand what He has revealed. He’s the Spirit who has revealed this, 1 Peter 1:20–21.
This is the focal point here, that Paul is not praying that they be given the Holy Spirit, but that the Holy Spirit that they’ve been given—because they have been enlightened already—is going to help them understand the Word.
He is saying “that God may give to you the Spirit—the Holy Spirit—of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, because the eyes of your heart have already been enlightened.”
This isn’t a new fresh gift of the Holy Spirit. It is describing the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand his Word and grow more closely to God through the knowledge of Him.
The concept of wisdom in Scripture is not the Greek concept of wisdom, which is related to intellectual activities, such as philosophy. But it is the Old Testament Hebrew idea chokhmah which is skill, and in this case spiritual skill, skill for living.
Then we see that it is “in the knowledge of Him.” It is directed toward knowing God. This is the Greek word EPIGNOSIS. We discussed this just the other night, Thursday night, in our 1 Peter class, and these kind of dovetail together here, that GNOSIS and EPIGNOSIS are words that have been debated quite a bit as to how they relate to each other.
GNOSIS is knowledge, and then when you put this prepositional prefix in front of GNOSIS, it becomes EPIGNOSIS. How does that relate? EPIGNOSIS is really a subcategory of GNOSIS. Sometimes GNOSIS and EPIGNOSIS are interchangeable.
Other times, EPIGNOSIS emphasizes something of a little more significance. In this case it’s talking about that personal knowledge of God that is the result of our continued walking by means of God the Holy Spirit.
We have seen here that the prayer is that God might give to us the Spirit, Who produces wisdom and revelation and disclosure of who God is, in the knowledge of Him. This is all talking about increasing our rapport and knowledge, our intimacy, and what we refer to as fellowship. It’s just a more specific way of talking about what goes on in what we summarized by the word “fellowship”. We come to have a more intimate knowledge.
At the very beginning it’s talking about the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is referring to God the Father. This is not a passage here that’s talking about our God and Lord Jesus Christ, like we talked about in our passage in 2 Peter, but this is “… the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory …”
That phrase “Father of glory” is an important phrase. “Glory” in the Scripture emphasizes something that is weighty, something that is significant. The literal meaning of the word kabod in the Old Testament is “heavy,” physically heavy, so it came to be applied to things that were of significance in life.
They were weighty matters. They were things that had great significance and great importance. When that word is applied to God, God is the most important, the most significant of anything in the world. He is the Creator of all things.
So, the word “glory” then began to take on the idea of His essence. He is the glorious Father. This is emphasizing His importance and significance, and then it is that He is the One who’s going to give to us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in this more intimate knowledge of Him, because the eyes of our heart have already been opened.
As I close, I’m reminded of this passage in Jeremiah 9:23–24. The centerpiece of this passage is what God is speaking of here as a priority: that we understand and know Him.
If you take a look at Jeremiah, one of the criticisms that God has of Judah at this time is that they don’t know Him. They have not taken the time to know Him, and knowing Him is not just knowing facts about Him, although they’ve rejected that, they’ve been into extreme idolatry for generations. They have failed to know Him. The priority that God emphasizes here is laid out.
Jeremiah 9:23, “Let not the wise man glory—that is put importance on human wisdom—let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me that I am the Lord, exercising—chesed—lovingkindness, loyal, faithful love—judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight …”
“Father, as the Apostle Paul prayed that we might know You, that this is produced by the work of God the Holy Spirit in our lives Who is ministering to us in such a way that He is taking the potential that we gained at salvation to understand spiritual truth, and He is using that to expand our understanding of who You are through our study of the Scripture.
“That we may come to not only know facts and information about You, but that that will develop into an intimate relationship with You. That we may know You, not just know about You. And that as a result of that, we will have spiritual growth that increases our maturity and our understanding of our mission, our appointment in the body of Christ, that we may make that the priority of our life and not the things that we think are otherwise important.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone here today, anyone listening via the Internet or later on to this message, that if they’ve never trusted in Christ as Savior, that they would come to understand that the good news of Christianity is that we can have life, real life. Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly, and it is based not upon something we do, but upon what He did on the Cross where He died as our substitute.
He paid the penalty for sin that by believing in Him we might have everlasting life. It’s not on the basis of our morality. It’s not on the basis of church membership. It’s not on the basis of any human thing that we can do. It’s not on the basis of ritual.
“It is simply on the basis of understanding who Jesus is as the eternal Son of God who came into this life as the promised Messiah, and that He died on the Cross. He was that sacrificial Lamb who died in our place that we might have everlasting life by believing on Him.
“Father, we pray that You would make that clear to everyone here, and that as a result of believing, we have new life. The eyes of our heart have been enlightened at that instant, so that we can now have an understanding of Your Word, we have the potential of understanding Your Word, and the potential of an intimate relationship with You, and that that should be the highest driving priority in our lives.
“Father, we pray all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”