How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

What Are the Benefits of Believing? [Ephesians 1: 15-21]

A Study in Ephesians 1: 15-21 – Part 6

How do you know God?  Some people say they encounter God in nature, some through meditation.  Others say they know God through the teachings of a pastor or a Bible study teacher.  Yet others say they know God from what their parents taught them or from a class in college.  What does the Bible say?

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better {or ‘in the knowledge of him’ [RSV]}.”  [Ephesians 1: 17.  NIV]

To know God, then, that knowledge must come from God as he reveals (“revelation”) himself to us through his Spirit.  The methods of knowing God recited in the first paragraph are self-initiated efforts on our part to try to understand God.  However, the bottom line is that any true knowledge of God must come from God as he reveals himself to us. Notice in verse 16 that Paul persistently asks God to give the readers of his letter that wisdom and revelation.  It must be important then, right? Please note that this wisdom that Paul mentions “does not come by human ingenuity and cleverness . . . .”1  Instead, even the wisdom of understanding the world and human relationships comes from God as he is the source.

If we were to know God in a more profound manner as we grow in him, what would Paul have us know beyond the relational knowledge of faith in God?  Let’s look at verses 18-20 (the underlines are mine).

“. . . having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;”  [Ephesians 1: 18-21.  RSV]

Hope.  We humans speak a lot about hope.  “I hope the dress I’m making turns out okay.”  “I hope the baked turkey comes out tasting moist and good.”  “I hope my spouse returns home from their trip safely.”  “I hope [name of family, relative or friend] pulls through their surgery.”  These are thoughts that are more in the way of wishes, of what we would like to see happen.  However, we don’t know if the outcome will be as we want.

“Hope” in the Bible is different than what we often think of as hope.  Hope in the Bible denotes an occurrence or a concept that has yet to happen but that is absolutely expected to happen.  When God calls you to be his through your faith in him, you hope you are his.  You hope God will be with you through the triumphs and pains of life.  You hope God will take you to live with him forever upon your passing.  These are all things that God has promised and that you can expect.  You can COUNT on it.  That is hope in the Bible.

Riches.   Conceptually, this is more profound than what one would understand by a light reading through this passage.  “Riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”.  We too often think of the riches from God a believer has through their faith.  That too often makes us silly as we get too wrapped up in the physical riches of the standards of this earth.  But God does have riches – and not just because he is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-12).  Those who are believers, who have set aside their lives for his purpose in love and service to him (the actual meaning of “saints”) are themselves God’s inheritance.  WE are God’s riches.  WE are God’s inheritance.  Isn’t that something?  Let’s go over some things:

1.  We’ve been adopted as children of God.  God’s predestined plan is that he reaches out to us to come to know him through Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:16).  And as Christ is the heir of all God has, we are adopted brothers and sisters of Christ and co-heirs of all that God has planned in Christ (Romans 8: 14-17)

2.  We become saints.  This merely means that we are set aside for a certain purpose, and in this case, it is in service to God through our faith and actions.

3.  We are to enjoy the inheritance in which we have hope (we can count on it) that we will enjoy through our relationship to God through Christ (again, reference Romans 8: 14-17).

4.  And we ourselves are God’s inheritance.  You know, there is an implication here.  If we and fellow believers are God’s inheritance, don’t we then have some commonality?  I have pastored two churches right after church splits (that is when members in a church find themselves not getting along with each other or their perceived differences become too great in their minds.  The result is that a group of people leave the church to perhaps start another church – or worse – just leave the church altogether without becoming part of another.  A group of people leaving a church due to strife or differences is called a “split.”).  The people lost the big view that they are God’s inheritance and his children.

I debated about sharing the following.  I want to illustrate many different aspects of being a church member but losing sight of who Jesus Christ is and what he expects from us.  Readers in other countries will be able to recognize what went on in this incident as the issues between diverse groups of people are fairly common throughout the world:

In 1970, I was attending college in East Texas for a whole semester (too hot to stay!).  This was just six years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted into law, and this part of Texas was considered to be culturally part of the Deep South with all that it implies.  The private church-related college was racially integrated, but the community didn’t share in that integration.  I attended church at a large Baptist church as they were one of many that sent buses onto the campus to pick up students for church.  I just picked a bus.  The worship auditorium (aka “sanctuary”) was large, so I sat in the seventh row without wanting to appear “holier than thou” by sitting closer.  When the service started, I was the farthest forward of anyone – by quite a bit.  Everyone sat toward the back.  “Does the preacher spit or something?,” I wondered.

A couple of months later, I discovered the backstory of this church.  There was so much space, because the church had undergone a church split about two years before my arrival.  This was an all-white church (skin color, not the paint on the building).  There had been a foreign student from Nigeria who started to attend church.  Well, that was okay, but he had to wear his traditional African robes when he attended.  I guess they wanted to differentiate African Black (where they sent missionaries and money to reach out to the “African pagan unbelievers”) from the American Blacks living in town.  He wore his formal clothing, so that hurdle was crossed.  But as any good Baptist believer, he later wanted to become a member of that church to become a part of its family and engage in its ministries.  That’s where it got really stinky.  Half the people in the church wanted to let him join and half did not.  The church split.  I discovered that the people I was with in the church were the ones who voted to deny him membership due to the color of his skin.  The other people left and started their own church – I assume, including the young man from Nigeria.  I cried on the way back to my dorm – and back then, I didn’t cry for anything.  My gut hurts even as I write this memory.  These are supposedly the people of God, but they have no idea about being the inheritance of God and adopted co-heirs with Christ – and so are those of another skin shade or culture.

I’m going to stop there.  I’m trying to shorten my blogs, but the incident above had to be said.  The next one will be on the power for us who believe in Ephesians 1: 19-20, and then the church, which is his body – and what that means.  After I get out of Ephesians 1, there is so much encouragement and teaching for us in Ephesians.  I’m really looking forward to it.  Ephesians: “The Church, of Which Christ Is the Head.”

Stay safe. Wear masks – for others, because you care.  I’ll post again toward the end of the week.

1[The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 11.  Nashville: Broadman Press. 1971.  “Ephesians” by Ralph P. Martin.] 

Photo by George Becker on

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