I Pray You Believe It

Ephesians, Volume 1

After studying Ephesians 1:3-14 for several weeks, we now look at verses 15-23, where Paul prays that followers of Christ would believe the truths found in verses 3-14. By acting on them, we will prove that we truly believe them. There is no place for terminal infancy in the Christian life: Action must follow belief.

Todd WagnerAug 6, 1995Ephesians 1:15-23

Father, thank you for an opportunity to study your Word, to be encouraged again with the great riches you have for us, the hope the that is in our calling, and the surpassing greatness of your power toward us in Christ Jesus. I pray that we would receive the truth of those things and in all wisdom and revelation be full of the Spirit of truth and knowledge. We thank you for that opportunity tonight. In Christ's name, amen.

We've looked for a number of weeks at what I told you was the longest sentence in your Bible. Now we're going to cover in one night probably the second longest sentence. It starts in verse 15 of chapter 1 of the book of Ephesians and goes all the way down to verse 23. This is also one sentence. It is punctuated and broken up probably in your English Bible, but you need to know that Paul went on and on about how wonderful God's love was toward you. He could not stop; he ran on and on about it in a sentence run-on.

As soon as he gets done preaching, he right away begins praying that you'll believe what he just said. Not a bad thing to do, because Paul knew that it doesn't matter what he said, if God didn't do a work in your life by his gracious Spirit, it wasn't going to take root and take hold. I went through again and scribbled down (others have done it before me) just some things he mentioned in those first 12 verses that we looked at.

He talked about the fact that you've been chosen. We've been freed; we've been marked by the Spirit. We've been set apart by election, predestination, adoption, grace, revelation, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, the knowledge of the mystery of his will. We've been sealed, we said, by his Holy Spirit. We've been given an inheritance.

Those are all of the things that Paul just went through and told us in verses 3-14 that we've received. Right away now, in verse 15, he's going to move from preaching to praying, and he's going to say, "I pray that you would have the wisdom to take this ancient text and to believe the account and the record in it and to act on it as faith and to receive the riches that are there."

There was a guy named Heinrich Schliemann. Nice name, isn't it? How would you like that? Heinrich Schliemann was born to a poor German pastor in 1822. Heinrich was a kid who, when he was about 7 years old in about 1829 or 1830, was given the Odyssey of Homer and the Iliad of Homer. He was infatuated and captivated by a vision of the burning city of Troy.

You guys remember that, right? You read it in your humanities class. You probably read it in the condensed version that Mr. Cliff did some work on it for you. Remember that? That is the particular version of the Iliad that I read, all right? But old Heinrich, he was so infatuated by this city, Troy, that he was convinced unlike anybody else of the day that this poetry, this story, was based on history, was based on fact.

He made it his life's purpose to take an ancient text, an ancient manuscript and to believe it, the record that was there, to act on his faith, and to seek it. For 51 years, he did that in the Turkish country, the Turkish hillside. All of a sudden in 1873, lo and behold, he came across an ancient city, the ruins of Troy. Much to the chagrin of the Turkish government, he took some of those ancient treasures with him back to Germany. He told everybody, "I have now found Troy, and here are the riches to prove it." Heinrich Schliemann became an extremely wealthy man.

There's a reason. It's like I said: because he took an ancient text, he believed the record of it, and he acted on his faith. It is Paul's prayer that you will take what, at the time for the Ephesian church, was not such an ancient text, but that you would take the truth that had been predestined before the foundation of the world, and that you would believe it and act on it in faith, and then you would become richer and more prosperous in ways that Heinrich Schliemann never was, this poor German pastor's son.

It's interesting, by the way as a little aside, that the Iliad has some 615, maybe to 700 or 800, manuscripts, which means reliable copies of the original text of Homer, and nobody doubts of the historical accuracy of the battle of Troy. The Bible, the New Testament and Old Testament you have, is the most reliable of all ancient historical documents. There are some 25,000 to 30,000 manuscripts that show this Bible we have is accurate and a correct representation of the original, inerrant autographs that we have.

You don't find anybody attacking Homer's record of what happened at the battle of the Troy, but you find all kinds of people attacking this record that there are masses upon masses of manuscripts that validate it. Let me tell you why. Troy doesn't invade your life; this book does. This book calls you to respond to it. It doesn't only say that if you don't respond rightly to the historical record that's written in it, you'll forsake a blessing, but you'll also receive a curse. You'll also invite judgment unto yourself. No one is going to force-feed this stuff to you.

It has been well said that in eternity, there will be two kinds of people: Those to whom will say to God, "Excuse me, thy will be done." In other words, those who would come to him in the full knowledge of his love for them. And those to whom God will say, "Thy will be done. You want nothing to do with me? So you shall have it. I will put you in a place where there is nothing that will ever remind you of me again. Thy will be done."

I want to be one of those people who takes the ancient manuscript that is now the book of Ephesians and acts on it by faith. I want to believe the things that are there, and I want to say to God, "Thy will be done. I want to experience the true hope of your calling. I want to experience the true inheritance I have as a saint. I want to experience and know the surpassing greatness of your love toward me." That's what he prays right here.

Look at verse 15 with me. He says, "For this reason, too…" What reason? For all the reasons I just went through, and specifically, probably, what he just got through in verses 13 and 14. "…having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers…"

I could go through and show you that when Paul comes across a body of believing people who are full of faith and who act on that faith in love… By the way, that's a nice little symbol of what it is to fulfill the two great commandments and have a right relationship with God in faith and then to the horizontal is to express that right relationship with God as he tells us to which is, "If you love me, you'll love my people," and to do it in love.

Whenever Paul comes across people who have responded in orthodoxy, who have rightly responded to the truth that is revealed in the ancient text, he is moved to pray. You could go and look at the number of pastoral epistles that Paul has written, and you'll see again and again his being moved to pray for these folks.

Even as a group of us gathered in here last night for one reason and one reason only: just to pray. I do it on a regular basis for this people. I pray that God would allow us to respond to the truth of this Bible that we've become so familiar with, that we carry with us, that we wear out, that we would take the truth that we hear preached about all the time and that we would practice it.

So Paul is moved to pray. Paul was never satisfied with somebody that just simply agreed with a conversion. He always wanted to see… There was never a time for terminal infancy in the faith. He said, "Now that you've believed it, good. We need to go on." I want to make another mention here about the idea that Paul refers some nine times to us in this little book of Ephesians as saints.

Today, if you want to be a saint, it's not really easy. The first thing you usually have to do is die. Then you have to go before a governing board of some sanctifying body which will then typically look at your life and see if your character and your conduct match up to that of a saint. If you pass that, if you are a person who is dead so you can't mess up the character and conduct they just studied, and they can verify that you've performed at least two miracles, they will then make you a saint.

That's not what Paul says it takes to make a saint. It is true that you're dead. It says you're dead to your trespasses, dead to your former self. You're dead to sin. As I said before at the very beginning, when the Bible addresses us, it addresses us as saints. That is the word which we get holy from, the same root. It is literally holy ones.

In fact, if you look it up in the dictionary today, it describes it more like the term I just talked about where you go canonize through a governing body and it makes you a saint. Webster's definition is those who through their life have accomplished works that are worthy of being dignified as one who lived a holy life.

That's not the Bible's definition. The Bible's definition is one who has taken an ancient record, believed on it and acted in faith, and then you are a saint. As we said before, you are either a saint, or you're an ain't, and there is no in-between. So none of this humble stuff where you say, "Well, I'm no saint." If you're no saint, then it's because you have not responded to the promise that God offers you to become holy, to be redeemed by his blood. I don't feel like a saint, but by faith, I agree with the Scriptures that I am a saint.

I have to keep sharing this because it's the part of Ephesians 1 that has encouraged me the most so far. It is when it says in the Scriptures that we are to be holy and blameless before him, in chapter 1, that is his promise. It is a statement of truth that you will be holy and blameless before him, before his deep and penetrating gaze.

Do you guys get that? I keep pounding it into your heads because I know that all week long what's pounded into your head is what's pounded into mind, and that is that you are not worthy, that you are not lovable, that you are not accepted, and that he will never let you into his kingdom and call you his blessed son or daughter.

I understand why you think like that, but that is where our battle is not against flesh and blood. It's against the powers, the principalities, the world forces of darkness. We've said it before, and Jesus said it's the truth which will set you free. It is the truth which will make you significant. It is the truth which will deliver you from being an ain't to being a saint before him.

Look what he prays, you saints. He says this: "… [I] do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." I want to say this right here: Paul does not ask that anybody receive something they do not have.

He's not looking at the Ephesian church and saying, "You know, if they just had a good organist, that church could really do some things and make a big difference. I pray, God, that you will give them not just an organist but one of the most fabulous pipe organs that will ever be in the world."

He doesn't pray that he'll give them a great preacher. By the way, they don't need a preacher. Do you need a great preacher? A preacher should not be a substitute; a preacher should be a supplement. You have been given enough already to know the fullness of the riches of the glory he has given you.

If I am your diet, it is like living on Flintstones vitamins; that is not enough. They are to supplement your diet. If you are living on Wilma, Barney, and Betty and that's all you're getting, you do not have a good diet. It is there to supplement you. It is never meant to be a substitute. Do you remember that? Your little Chocks… I had Chocks chewables when I was a kid; not nearly as fun as Dino and Bamm-Bamm. Those are supplements.

What does it say? It says… In fact, flip with me over, I'll let you read it, circle it, underline in your Bible. Turn to your right to 1 John. Look what it says. Look at chapter 2, verse 27. This is what he says: "And as for you, the anointing which you received…" It's a done deal. Do you remember what it said back in Ephesians? This Holy Spirit which you were sealed in, the Holy Spirit of promise which was given to you all the way back there in Joel 2:28 and way before in Ezekiel 36 and way before that in Jeremiah 33, it was given to you as a promise.

You were sealed in him, and it's a pledge. It is the engagement ring that God has made a deposit and earnest in you that one day he will pay in full, that his Spirit which indwells you will one day surround you, smother you, and deliver you from the very presence of sin. John agrees with the apostle Paul.

He says in verse 27, "And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." In other words, go and find a good teacher. Make sure that he supplements your diet, but do not let him be a substitute for the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

A little passage in the book of Acts says that the Bereans heard the teachings of Paul, and they studied and searched the Scriptures to see if it was so. That's exactly what you ought to do. It is my responsibility and privilege to hopefully stand up before you and teach you things that are true, but if you take it on my word and do not check it off with the Holy Spirit God has given you, (It is a done deal. He indwells you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are sealed in the promise which is his pledge toward you), then you are missing out on the finest instructor you have.

You have no need for anyone to instruct you, he says, because you have already received this anointing. What Paul is praying for right here is not that they would receive something else. This is not a call for a second blessing, all right? I think the NIV here is one of the places they make a mistake. You probably have Spirit...capitalized. Is it not? I would encourage you to draw a little s through that. Use your little editing marks you learned in your journalism class in tenth grade.

That probably is better understood not as a Spirit as in Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, but as a disposition or an attitude that God would give you. I'll tell you why it makes sense. Why would Paul pray for them to receive what they've already been given? He just got through saying, "Listen, when you believed in Jesus, you received the forgiveness of your sins by the washing of his blood. You were redeemed before him. You were sealed in the Spirit, given the promise which is his pledge toward you."

"You have no need; you lack in nothing," Paul tells us. When he comes back and he says right here, "I pray that God would give you a spirit, a disposition, an attitude of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him." Now what does this mean? I'll tell you that standing up here from this vantage point, I get to see folks who are out there, and there are some of you that have a spirit of wisdom. There are those of you out there who think with a spiritual mind, who are spiritually appraised, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, and you're attentive.

I see some of you out there, you have pens and you're taking notes. Others of you are just listening attentively. You have a spirit of wisdom, an attitude that is desiring the ultimate truths of God. You have a desire for his revelation. Paul says, "I pray that you would crave the revelation God has given to you." At this time, it was the books of the Old Testament and the writings of Paul that were beginning to circulate, but for us, it's the canonized Bible, the 66 books, that he would give us a spirit that longs for the revelation of God, to understand the ultimate truths of him.

Turn with me, I want to show you something, back to 1 Corinthians 2. Flip there with me. I want to tell you that as you think about knowledge… Knowledge is something we do have a lot of. If you took all of the knowledge that had been accumulated and on a graph charted it from the beginning of time to the year 1845, it would add up to one inch. If you took that same knowledge that we gathered from 1845 to the year 1945, it would gather up to three inches on your little graph.

Remember that book Future Shock? If you took the knowledge that we have received from 1945 to present, it would be much taller than the Washington Monument. See, our problem in this society is not a problem of knowledge. We do not lack knowledge, but knowledge can never cure us from sin. It can only sharpen the tool that allows us to drift further and further away from God. "Professing to be wise," the Scripture says, "they became fools."

We have all kinds of knowledge, but Paul says, "I pray that you would have a spirit, an attitude of wisdom, of love for ultimate and true things, and of revelation of God's Word so that you might come to the true knowledge of him." That word true knowledge back there in Ephesians is the idea of relationship experienced, acknowledged, and realized.

There are those, the Scripture says in Timothy, who will always be striving for knowledge and attaining to knowledge but never able to come to truth. We can have knowledge that goes off the charts in our little graph, higher than the Washington Monument, probably twice as high to this day, but it cannot cure sin unless you get the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, unless you receive the promise of his hope.

Look what it says here in chapter 2. We're going to read chapter 2. Paul can preach better than I can even though he's going to make a disclaimer here at the very beginning. This is what he says: "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling."

I don't know if you guys have ever had the opportunity to speak in public, but the first couple of times you do it, it is a horrifying thing. In fact, to speak in public is known to be the greatest fear that Americans have. I have a friend who, the very first time he wanted to speak, he absolutely was shaking in his drawers. He went to the guy who was discipling him, and he said, "Hey, I'm supposed to go speak to all of these kids; what in the world am I supposed to say?" The guy said, "You tell a joke, and you run to Jesus. That's all you have to do."

So he stood up there, and he told a joke that bombed. The kids didn't laugh, so he ran to Jesus faster than he would have. He said he saw eight kids trust Christ; it changed his life. That guy went on to have a fairly influential ministry and now leads a little group called Metro on Monday nights here at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a guy named Tom Nelson. You can see he still does the exact same thing. He tells a joke, most of which bomb, and runs to Jesus. You can tell him I said that because I needed a laugh at this point in my talk. Now I need to run to Jesus.

Here we go. Look what it says in verse 4. It says, "And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…" In other words, "I didn't want you to be manipulated; I wanted you to have truth communicated to you. I didn't want to woo you into the kingdom by my impressive speech; I wanted to communicate to you truth that you might respond to it."

Look what he says, "…that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." In other words, "I wanted to express to you truth, not impress to you me." How many times do we think like the world thinks? Do you know what the world thought about five years ago? There was a little gentleman who wore number 32 for the Los Angeles Lakers; his name was Magic Johnson.

The world thought that now that Magic Johnson has AIDS, now we have a spokesman, and people will finally become more sympathetic toward AIDS. Now AIDS will become something about which public awareness will increase. In fact, it did in many ways. It makes sense, the Magic Johnson Syndrome, that we could get somebody impressive to speak for a cause and more credit would be brought to that cause.

How often do we fall into that trap in the church? How often do we think, "If God could get somebody truly impressive, if he could just really get Troy Aikman, just get Jason Kidd on fire for the Lord, so as soon as they were done playing on Sunday, they'd come up here and say, 'Todd, I have a word from the Lord; can I share tonight?' People would flock in here. They'd pack in here. They'd come to know God; there would be revival in Dallas like never before"?

Do you ever think like that? It's tempting to do, isn't it? But do you know what God did? He took a man who, in 2 Corinthians 10:10, says that he was accused of being weighty and haughty in his letters, but they said in his appearance he was unimpressive and poor of speech. Do you know who he was? The greatest missionary the world has ever known; his name was Paul.

A man who had trouble, who was embarrassed by his ability to communicate, and God said, "I don't need some great man. I'll take a terrorist. I'll take a murderer, and I'll use him to change the world because I don't want men manipulated. I don't want men impressed. I want men to have truth expressed. I want men to have truth communicated to them, and that, the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is what I am not ashamed of. It is the power of God for salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

Are you out there thinking that if God would just allow you to have a greater platform, if you were just a little prettier, if you were just a little smarter, if you just advanced a little further in your business a little quicker, that God could use you to do great things? That flies directly in the face of Scripture. We don't need Magic Johnson. We need faithful men.

We don't need a guy who can't stutter to lead us out of Egypt. We need somebody who will say, "Yes, God. Here I am; send me." He'll do it. We don't need a mighty warrior to pin Goliath. We need a little shepherd boy who will say, "Hey, that's the God of Israel that man scoffs at. Who is that uncircumcised Philistine who dares taunt the armies of a living God?"

Look what it says, verse 6: "Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory…" That is Ephesians 1 wrapped up right there.

Do you remember what it said? That you have had this mystery given to you, that God, in his kindness, has pulled back the blinders from you, and he has showed you what men could not understand. You would be redeemed, not through works, that men would be reconciled not through war, but through love and through the death of Jesus Christ who came and died for you.

Jump down with me to verse 10. It says, "For to us God revealed [these truths] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." That's why it's such a big deal that the Spirit of God dwells in you, because no one knows God but the Spirit of God, just like no on knows you, no one knows me.

My wife doesn't know me like I know me. My parents don't know me like I know me. No one knows you like you know yourself. Yes, there are those who will get closer than the vast majority who are out there, but the spirit of the man, he knows the man. That is why it says one of the greatest assurances you have of your salvation is that God's Spirit will testify to your inner man. His Spirit will bear witness with your spirit. It's not up to me to say, "Saved…not saved…saved…oh, definitely saved…yeah, that one looks good, saved." I don't really know.

God says, "Todd, I'll tell you what you can do. You can know a tree by the fruit it bears." So if somebody asks me, "Hey, what do you think? I profess to believe in the Scriptures. I profess to know God in a personal way," and I see the fruit that bears in your life, I would go, "Well, I would testify that I see you producing what the Bible says you as a believer should produce."

Ultimately, when you die, God's not going to say, "Hang on one second. What did Wagner…214-352-21…? Todd! What's the deal with Kurt? Should I let him in or not?" He has not asked me to sign off on salvation. He has not asked any of you. He says, "Don't worry about it. You let the Lord of the harvest separate the wheat from the tares."

You'll know in your man. There are three ways you have security: the Word of God, which promises you, the Spirit of God, which testifies to your inner man, and then your acts, your fruit that you bear. I would say that I need to see all three to grant you assurance. There's a big debate about what's called lordship salvation; how much does a person have to look like Jesus to know we're saved? I would say to you that if you would say that my assurance for you according to Jesus Christ is based on how you act, I would say I agree with that.

But you are secure not based on what I think; you are secure based on what he has done and your response to it. If you want to be a person who does not live in obedience to Jesus Christ, if you want to be a person who is not full of the spirit of wisdom and revelation and the true knowledge of him, who does not know the hope of his calling, who does not know the inheritance of his saints, who does not live according to the surpassing greatness of his power toward you in Jesus Christ, so be it.

But don't ask me to say, "You look saved to me." You don't have to worry if Todd Wagner signs off on you. That is the expectation. If you want to be the exception, I'll let you take that up with the Lord. There are three things which grant you security or assurance. You're secure because you've trusted in Jesus Christ and his provision is significant and sufficient for you.

You're secure because you were called by the Father, that you were chosen by the Father, that you were saved sacrificially by the Son, and that you were sealed by the Spirit. Assurance, I think, is different than security. Assurance comes based on the fact that your life testifies that you are indeed what you claim to be, that you bear fruit in keeping with repentance, but this is what he says. He says the Spirit of God knows God, that's why we have him. Verse 12:

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words."

The reason the words thoughts and words are in italics is because they are not in the original language, and that's the best effort that some men thought, "Probably what he's saying is they're combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." I like the margin of the NASB better. I think what Paul is really saying there is not so much emphasizing how this world was communicated but to who.

He says, "When I go out and preach, I don't worry about impressing you. I just worry about expressing truth. I communicate spiritual thoughts to spiritual people, and the people who reject it are people who do not have the Spirit of God in them." If you're out there tonight and you're just enduring what I'm going to say so we can stop and you can walk over to that person you're attracted to and ask them to have dinner with you tonight at Macaroni Grill, it will not offend me.

I take it as a personal challenge as best I can to communicate to you in a way that will hold your attention, but I realize that if the entire lot of you responded and you were lost before you came in, it would be because the Spirit of God did a work and not Todd Wagner. All I'm doing is trying to communicate spiritual thoughts to spiritual people so that you can respond.

Look what he says. You have four different kinds of men that he's going to lay out. Here's the first one. He says, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." In other words, there are some of you here tonight who do not have the Spirit of God in you, who have not responded to the offer of a right relationship with him. It doesn't really matter what I say; it's foolishness to you.

There's another kind of man. Look what he says: "But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man." In other words, he is not judged by men. He doesn't have to worry about what they say. I told you to the Jew, the idea of the cross is contemptible; it's a stumbling block. To the Greek, it's foolishness. They laugh at you and me, that we'd be right before God because we trust in the provision of man who was fully man and fully God who died for you and I. They scoff at that.

I'm not appraised by man. I'm appraised by him, who knows me perfectly, the Lord. You have two different types of people: natural man and Christian man. Now look, there's two more. Everybody in here is one of these four. Look at chapter 3, verse 1. "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able…"

Let me stop you right here and say this. When Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church, it's about a two- to three-year period from the initial time he visited them until he wrote this book which we call 1 Corinthians. Read this with me, and let me ask you a question: is there condemnation in his voice?

"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ." Is that condescending? Is he condemning them because they could not respond to Paul when he first got there? No, he's not. He's saying, "That's where you were. You were just men of flesh. You were babes in Christ, and you needed to receive what I gave you. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food. Why? For you were not yet able to receive it."

If you come to my house, you're going to watch my little daughter Kirby. When she sits and has dinner with us, we do not ridicule her and scoff at her because she doesn't digest steak. It is not yet hers to digest; she won't take it. She's still letting Gerber throw it in the blender and whip it up for her, that nasty stuff in the jar. We don't condemn Kirby for that. Now Ally, she's getting way up there. She's almost 3 years old so we expect her to be mature, have adult conversation, sit there still, and carve her meat. We have a high standard in our household.

No, when a child gets to be about 8, 9, or 10, you expect them to start to eat their meat. You expect them to start to be ready to take it. Ally can eat meat. She can ingest it. Her system should do it now. If all that Ally was on now was milk, there would be a problem. We'd say, "You have to get off that bottle." In fact, she's been off it for a long time. You need to eat meat.

Look what he says. I'll read it like I think Paul meant it. His tone changes. He says in verse 2, "I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not able to receive it. Indeed, you blockhead, even now, I cannot believe it, you are still though not yet able. For you are, dagnum you, still fleshly. For since there is jealously and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men, like babes when you should be adults?"

What he's saying right here is there are four different types of men. There's the natural man; there's the spiritual man. In that spiritual man, there are two other categories. There are babes in Christ who need to be appraised about the simple things. Justification… They need to understand about the resurrection of the dead. They need to be taught about the provision and atonement of the blood of Jesus Christ.

He's saying, "After a while, you ought to get beyond that and start to slide from what makes you right before God to how you respond to that. You should no longer be stuck in your sin, but you should be moving toward maturity in Christ. I should be able to teach you about things. I should be able to grow you in your faith. I should be able to begin to see the fruit in your life. But dagnum it, if I still don't still have to call you to repentance and get you to forsake sin and understand what the great works God has done in your life are so you'll respond rightly to them."

Paul is saying, "That was two, three ago, and you're still stuck in a rut of the four spiritual laws. All you know is that Christ died for your sins. You don't know how to respond to that. You don't know how to keep yourself pure before him, to hide God's Word in your heart. You don't understand theology. You don't understand how the body of Christ ought to work. You don't understand who Jesus Christ is and how it differentiates from other world religions."

Let me ask you a question. How many people in this room have been believers in Jesus Christ for less than three years? Raise your hand. Raise it good and high. Let's see. All right, thank you, a couple of you out there. I'll tell you what; we are a fat group. We are a people that Paul would write probably a pretty stern letter to.

He'd say, "Listen, before you were fleshy, but now you're acting fleshly. You are an impostor. You are no longer a baby; you're now Baby Herman." Do you remember that little cartoon character at the beginning of Roger Rabbit? A guy walking around in diapers, smoking a cigar… That's what you are if you have not yet grown.

Howard Hendricks said what we ought to do is dress people according to their spiritual maturity when they come to church. What would y'all be wearing? How many of y'all would be in Pampers? You say, "No, no, no. I don't like Pampers. I'd be wearing Luvs." Still the same problem. How many of y'all would be wearing jeans? Forget that; we have to go on from that. We can't say jeans. You get my point. Just messing with you.

If we did that, we might have some motivation. The expectation is that we would grow, that we'd have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we'd desire. There are four types of men; you are one of them. You are a natural man who cannot receive the Word of God, or you are a spiritual man who understands spiritual things.

You're hungry for the Word of God, and you seek out people who can teach it to you to supplement your own personal study of the Scriptures. Then there are some of you who are young, just babes in Christ. Then there are some of you who are maturing in your age that you've been a Christian and yet are still fleshly, even though you are not truly fleshy anymore, and that's a problem.

Flip back to Ephesians with me. Here's what Paul does. He says, "I pray that you would have this spirit of wisdom and revelation of knowledge." He says, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…" That's better said this way: "I pray that the eyes of your heart, having been enlightened…" In other words, because it's already happened. The heart in the Scripture is not the place of emotions. The heart in the Scripture is symbolic of the inner part of man which contains not only your emotions but your will, your mind. It is the part of you which responds.

Have you heard that illustration that there are going to be a lot of people who miss heaven by 18 inches? There are a lot of people who, when I stand up and talk about the gospel and how it makes sense that you are not in right standing before God and that because you're not perfect, you will never stand before a perfect God, will nod their head at that.

When I say to them that you need somebody to atone for you and to be the sacrifice for your sins, they might nod their head at that. I say to them that Jesus Christ is the provision that God has given for you. It is the bridge which God has built between fallen man and heaven, between fallen man and perfect God, the bridge by which you might walk across.

They go, "That makes sense that God has to build a bridge because there's no way that man, in his fallen state, could ever work his way to God in heaven." They might nod their head, but that person has never acted on their knowledge. See, it's up here, but it's never been in their heart. Paul says that there are going to be some of those folks who miss heaven by 18 inches because they've never let that knowledge slide down into their inner being. They've never acted on it; they've never personally responded to that truth.

What he's talking about here, though, is people who have. He's saying, "I pray that since the eyes of you heart have been enlightened… In other words, since you have seen truth, since you are now spiritual people and you appraise spiritual things, I pray three things. The first thing I pray is that you may know what is the hope of his calling."

The hope of his calling is simply this, that a Christian ought to be different. We ought to be people who, when the world watches us, there are going to be days that, yeah, your car gets dented in. The other day, my dad and I were up in Denton. We were playing golf together, and we came back to the car, and somebody had stolen some stuff out of my Jeep, had stolen my garage door opener. We were concerned they got the license plate so they'd come back when we're not there and just help themselves to the Wagner household.

Somebody ought to see you have your car stolen. Somebody ought to see you go to the doctor one day and say, "You know, that cough you have sounds really nasty." Somebody ought to see you if things are going well at your work, or if a relationship has started to go sour, and they say, "How are things going?"

A Christian could say, "You know, I've had some trouble. People have been stealing some stuff from me. I went to the doctor the other day, and I'm not real encouraged by the fact that he wants to run some tests. Things at work aren't going real good at work. In fact, my partner is stealing from me. I just had my heart broken by somebody I dearly loved who has turned their back on me.

I'm not doing real well. I'm kind of hurting, but you know what? Ultimately, deep down, I'm doing all right because my hope is not based on the circumstances that are around me. My hope is based on a calling that one day it will be all right. Do I hurt? Yeah, I hurt, but there ought to be a light in a Christian's eye no matter what the circumstances are."

That's what Paul meant when he wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things (literally, I can put up with all things) through Christ who strengthens me." I know there will be day that will make it right. I know there will be a day that he will cash it in. He'll say, "Todd, well done my good and faithful servant. I know you endured, I know it caused pain, but, the hope of your calling has been made sure."

I want to tell you that there are Christians all around the world who are cashing that in left and right. I have a good friend who is on a staff at a church in St. Louis that said there was a gentleman who was a pastor of this church who was making a difference in St. Louis that hadn't been made in a long time. This guy said, "You have to go hear this guy teach. Man, can he ever teach."

This guy has had some tragedy in his life. His father died when he was a young man. This guy, about a year ago in the summer, was on a fishing trip in up in Colorado and lost his leg in an accident. This man has three kids. His oldest one has intellectual disabilities, his youngest one is autistic, but this guy was full of hope for his people until he started to think with a mind that was not spiritually appraised anymore.

He started to let his mind drift away from the truths and the hope of his calling and knowing that he doesn't rejoice in the circumstances of this world, but he rejoices in the God who is behind the circumstances. That's what Romans 8:28 means when it says that all things work together to good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. God is behind it.

It's what Job said. "Listen, it's not the Chaldeans who came and took my property. It's not the Chaldeans who came and took my kid. It's God who has done this, and I don't understand it, but I know this: God is good, and all good things come from the Father. If this has passed through his hands, I can make it."

Boy, if the Darbys ever needed it, the hope of his calling… They have an opportunity to say, "You know, I'm hurting like I can't believe," but not to cash it in because they have a spirit of wisdom and of revelation, that there will be a day when the God of all comfort will comfort them. But this gentleman in St. Louis couldn't take it anymore, so he took his own life about two weeks ago, rocking his entire church.

What is the hope of your calling? Let me ask you this: is there anything that could happen to you which could shake the hope of your calling? I would recommend only one thing, and that is if Jesus Christ can sin. If Jesus Christ can sin, then I do not recommend that you have hope. But he can't, and so the hope of your calling is untouchable.

Woody Allen says it this way. He says we have two paths before us. One leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. I pray that we have the wisdom to choose wisely. Is that full of hope? That's where the world will take you. This book says, "I pray that you know the hope of his calling."

The second one, and we'll do it quickly, is this. He says, "I pray that you might know what the riches of glory of his inheritance in the saints are." There's a guy, his name is William Randolph Hearst, who spent great treasures on collecting art items. He went and found some items that he really wanted, so he sent out his agent and said, "You have to go find these items for me. You go and get them."

The guy looked for several months, and finally, he came back to William Randolph Hearst, and he said, "We found these items." He said, "Where are they?" He said, "They're in your warehouse." True story. There are a number of Christians, we go out and look for something to make us wealthy, to make us get by, to make us not impoverished, to make us not discouraged with life. What Paul says is, "I pray that you know what is the hope of your calling, and I pray that you might know the inheritance that you have as a saint."

It's what you own already. You don't need to go look for it. You just need to read the record of what you already have. You need to memorize Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 3 through 14, that you can go to your catalog and go, "I have that. I don't need to look for it; it's mine, and I can act on it." Paul says, "I pray that you get that."

The next thing he says is, "I pray that you would know what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe." He says that the surpassing of greatness of his power toward us who believe is this. It is "…in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…"

How much is God's love for you available? How much can God do for you? The answer is you don't just have God's power; you have his great power. You have his surpassing great power. How great is that? He can take a dead man and make him alive. He can take a dead man who was beaten, spit on, scoffed at, hated by this world, and raise him from the grave, elevate him off the Mount of Olives, and seat him at the very right hand of God.

If there is a verse of Scripture that has encouraged me, it is Romans 8:32, which says this: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" In other words, if God, in his surpassing love for you, did not even hold back his Son in order that he might give you what he needs, what do you think he's holding back now? If he has written you a check for a billion dollars, won't he slip you a twenty? That's the argument.

Paul is saying, "Do you have power? You have power. You have the power that resurrected Jesus Christ from the grave." Can you defeat sin? The power is available to you, and Paul says, "If you would just know how to access it, and that you would believe it…" It is the power that raised Christ from the grave, it is the power that seated him at his right hand. Look at verse 21: "…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come."

In other words, there is no demon, there is no man that can separate from God and his love for you. There is no thing which can invade his power because he is above it. He is the strong man who can cast out the strong one that he talked about in Matthew, chapter 12. His power is great; there is nothing that can match it.

"And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church…" He is the pope. It says the church is his body. "…the fulness of Him who fills all in all." He's the one who gives us what we need. Christ is the one who gives us all our sufficiency. That's it, right there.

You take what God did for you, and you look at our forefather, Adam… This is the argument of Paul in Romans. He says, "The first Adam, who God had called to be a ruler over creation made himself subject to that creation." When Adam did what the Serpent told him to do, he had taken the command of God which is to rule over creation, to fill the earth and subdue it, and he said, "I don't think I want to rule; I think I want to serve."

Yet there is another one that God sent. Paul calls him the second Adam, which even as all men were condemned in the first Adam, now all men have the opportunity to reign with the second Adam by faith in him. The one who now no longer is subject to creation but one who reigns over all creation, that's your God, Jesus Christ.

I pray that tonight you'd know him. I pray that you'd know the hope of the calling that comes with accepting him as your Adam, as your federal head, as your one who you trust in, as your one who your lineage come from. I pray that you would know the riches which come with being the son of the King. I pray that you would know the surpassing power and this great love toward you as a saint, and that you would act on it, that you would take this ancient record, that you'd be touched by it, and you'd act on it in faith, and go out and be different. Pray with me.

Father, we do need men to pray for us. We do need your Spirit to intercede with groanings because too often, we find ourselves wanting to slip back into diapers when we should be men, when we should be women, when we should be adults, when we should be ingesting meat, when we should be being spurred on, away from the simple truths, the glorious grand truths of justification into Christlikeness and into being conformed to his image.

I pray that we as a people would never stop, would never settle, would never be content with just knowing the first layer of truth, but that we would be drawn deeper and deeper and deeper into the true knowledge of a relationship experienced and realized with Jesus Christ. God, we do ask for an attitude of wisdom, an attitude that seeks revelation.

I pray that you would not allow us to sleep until we delve into your Scriptures, until we get to know you. I pray that we would have a spiritual mind which would appraise spiritual things, and we would not care that natural man scoffs at us because we hope in the truths of Scripture, but God that we would hold on to the things that Paul was so excited as he took spiritual thoughts that you gave him and communicated them to spiritual people who would receive them.

As he talked about our election, our adoption… As he talked about the fact that the mystery of your Word would be revealed to us… As he talked about the fact that we would have full inheritance as sons, that we would respond to that. God help us. We pray even as that man did who you knew personally on this earth. We say, "Father, we believe. Help us in our unbelief."

We are a people who many of us have been greatly beaten up and greatly discouraged by the world that surrounds us, and yet we don't want to forsake the hope of our calling for momentary afflictions that do not even begin to compare to the great glory which awaits. May we be people like Job, who are full of faith, who hold on to the hope of our calling.

Because of that, whether in sickness or in health, whether in riches or whether poor, whether in great prosperity, God, or times of extreme depression, that we would not forsake our marriage vow to you, but that we would always say, "I do." I hold onto the hope of the day that you'll turn to us and bring us into your very presence. We thank you that that is going to come, and we look forward and we ask that you would hasten the day when the clouds would roll back and you would come for your people. In Jesus' name, amen.

About 'Ephesians, Volume 1'

Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ.  Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 2:22.