Presented at Trinity Fellowhip on 2/8/1998
Paul prays that "The eyes of your hearts may be enlightened that you may know what is the hope of his calling, the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of his power to us who believe."
Some nineteen and one half ceturies ago Paul sat in a Roman prison with an uncertain future and a great concern for the disciples of Jesus Christ around the world. There were truths about the greatness of God's eternal purpose and the excellence of the Christian's calling that he wanted to share with you, but he did not know if he would ever get our of jail to come and do it personally. So he did two thing for you: he wrote you a letter which is now in your Bible as Ephesians; and he prayed for you. He thanked God that his Holy Spirit had brought you to faith in Christ and he prayed that He might be in you a spirit of wisdom and revelation so you could come to know Christ better. And, in keeping with the theme of the letter, he went on to specify three particular things about God that he wanted you to know: the hope of his calling, the riches of the glory of his inheritance, and the greatness of his power. What are these things, and how do they relate to the theme of the book?
There is nothing you need more than hope. Our need for it is absolute. It is the one thing (after oxygen, food, and water) that you cannot live without. Paul says that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love, and so this must be true: love is the greatest of them to have, but hope is the worst one to be without. You can live with all kinds of pain if you have hope that someday it will get better. You can live without love if you have the hope that someday you may find it. You can even live without purpose if you have any hope that someday you will discover it. But you cannot live without hope. The one common denominator of every suicide I've ever known about was the absence of hope. Its total absence leads to death, but its weakness in one area of life can lead to paralysis in that area. The one common denominator in every divorce I've ever known about was the loss of hope that any other expedient would suffice.
If hope is that important, we'd better be clear about what it is. The biblical concept of hope is not wishful thinking but rather a confident expectation, based on solid evidence, that in the long run God's goodness will have the final word. You see it in Heb. 6:19--hope is an anchor of the soul, steadfast and sure, which enables it to "enter within the veil," that is to grasp as real the access to God's presence and purposes which we have in Christ. The role hope plays in Ephesians is that if we are going to walk worthily of our calling, if we are going to be victorious in the spiritual warfare coming in chp. 6--all of which is necessary if we are to fulfill our purpose to glorify God as living stones in the Temple--then we had better have souls solidly anchored in an ability to hold onto the reality of God's promises. Hope in that sense is the practical application of faith to God's word considered as the Promise of his good intentions toward us and his ability to bring them to fruition. It is the ability faith gives us to live effectively in the present in spite of its difficulties because of the reality of the future joy that is set before us.
The source of our hope is his Calling us. How so? Because those whom he foreknew he predestined . . . called . . . justified . . . and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). Because "faithful is he who called you, who will also bring it to pass" (1 Thes. 5:24). Therefore if God has indeed called you to faith in Christ, this fact gives you a solid hope that all his promises in Christ will be fulfilled in your life. To call it the hope of his calling, in other words, is to remind us that the basis of our hope lies in God, not in ourselves. Only this can give us the anchor we need, the solid ground that we must stand on. Therefore, take your stand there and nothing can move you. I pray that you may know what is the hope of his calling.
The first point tells us Whom we hope in; this one tells us what we hope for. Do you know what is the riches of the glory of this inheritance? To be a part of the manifold wisdom of God being made known through the Church to principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:19). To be a part of the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things upon the earth (Eph. 1:10). This is not something we can grasp ever in its fullness, which is why Paul, piling superlative upon superlative, calls it the riches of the glory of his inheritance. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened that you may know the hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of this inheritance which is ours in Christ.
Why this? It is made necessary by the first two. It is demanded in the first place by the magnitude of the task he has undertaken. It is to take men who are by nature fickle and changeable and bring them to share in his eternal purpose. It is to take men who are by nature corrupt and sinful and bring them to share in his holy purpose. It is to take men who are by nature weak and impotent and bring them to defeat the malevolent power and purposes of Satan. It is to take men who are by nature dead in trespasses and sins and bring them to share in his eternal life. These tasks will require power indeed.
It is also demanded by the nature of the comitments he has made. If he is going to say, "faithful is he who called us, who will also bring it to pass" (1 Thes. 5:24); if his promise is going to be to us an anchor of the soul, steadfast and sure (Heb. 6:19); if he is going to bring us to the rich and glorious inheritance described in Ephesians--then there are two conditions which must be met, and we must be able to be sure that they are met. He must be faithful, so that his purpose will not change; and he must be able, so that his efforts will not fail.
And are these conditions met? Is his power really sufficient to make dead men live? YES! He has already done it in Christ. He laid on him the iniquities of us all, and they brought him low, even to the death of a cross. Then when he had lain dead for three days, God exerted his power. God exerted his power and those cells, three days cold and lifeless, began to glow again with energy and warmth. God exerted his power and that blood, three days dried and separated into its constituent parts, began to flow again. God exerted his power and that heart, which for three days had lain as dormant as a stone, began to beat again--to beat so strongly that it burst the bonds of Death asunder forever. And not only did God make that dead man live, he exalted him from the pit of hell to the pinnacle of heaven. So if you belong to Christ, it is as good as already done for you as well.
Now do you understand why Paul said "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ?" Now do you begin to know--with the eyes of your hearts enlightened--something of the hope of his calling, the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of his power to us who believe? I pray that you do, and I pray that you will, with every day that passes, know more of these things until we see him face to face. Amen.
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams