The Holy Spirit & the Disciple, Part 2Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Ephesians, Exegesis, Grace, Hermeneutics, Holy Spirit, Prayer, Preaching
Here I continue my reflections on Ephesians 1 and the Spirit as prayed for by Paul. Part 1 of Holy Spirit & the Disciple is located HERE on my blog …
In bringing his thanksgiving to a close Paul informs the “Ephesians” of his continued prayers on their behalf. This prayer text is one of two in Ephesians (the other being in 3.14-21 and should be read carefully as well). The text itself is another long, single sentence with only a minor break in v.21. The main verb, “I do not stop giving thanks,” comes in v.16; vv. 17-19a give the content of the prayer on behalf of the those who read the letter, and vv. 19b-21 are an extended circumstantial clause modifying “the exceeding greatness of his power” (of v.19a).
The Meaning of “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”
It is not just any thing that Paul prays for. He prays explicitly and specifically that God “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation . . .” The “Spirit” is the object of the verb “give/grant” so it does not take long to recognize the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in this prayer (as he does in 3.14-21 too). The prayer is for God to grant the Spirit, characterized by the terms “wisdom and revelation.” Through the Spirit’s wisdom and revelation they will come to have a deeper knowledge of God and through the Spirit’s enlightenment of the heart Christians can have insight into their eschatological hope and God’s power for in their/our behalf.
This seems pretty straightforward to me. BUT there a few “word only” brethren who want to deny that “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” refers to the Holy Spirit. They often give a potpourri of reasons why this cannot be: 1) the Spirit only indwells through the word; 2) they claim that because there is no article in front of “pneuma” that this simply means “a wise spirit.”
My response to this is:
#1) denying the indwelling, or claiming only through the word, flies in the face of what has been said in 1.13-14. Paul has already made a factual statement that Christians are “sealed” in the Holy Spirit and that he is deposited in us as a first installment on our inheritance (cf. 4.30 where Paul makes this statement again).
#2) My response to number the article argument is that those who make it know nothing about Greek syntax. Syntactically the absence of the article is not a valid objection to this being a reference to the Holy Spirit. There are in fact number of cases where the Spirit is anarthrous (i.e. with no article). Here are a some: Mt. 12.28; Mk. 1.8; Lk. 1.15, 35, 41, 67; Rom. 1.4; 1 Pet. 1.2. Further, there is a grammatical reason for the absence of the article and that is its absence from the two nouns in the genitive as well. Paul would ordinarily write either “THE Spirit of THE wisdom and THE revelation” or “Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” both of which mean the same exactly the same thing. That is, in these kinds of constructions Paul almost always uses the article with both the accusative and its qualifying genitive, or he uses it with neither.
Further the phrase “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” is a semitism derived from Isaiah 11.2. Here the Spirit that rests upon the Messiah is described as “pneuma sophias kai suneseus” (= the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” One should note also the anarthrous usage in Isa. 11.2, LXX too).
The alternative understanding of this phrase is, to me, pure nonsense. I’ll grant the possibility that one could make sense out of “a wise spirit” or “a wise disposition.” But to speak that way about revelation is pure nonsense. What, one wonders, can “a spirit of revelation” possibly mean in ANY sense in English?
What is the Spirit to Do?
Paul prays for God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to “grant you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is not that they simply be indwelled by the Holy Spirit but that he be ACTIVE in their/our lives. Paul asks that God grant the Spirit “so that you may know him better.”
What? These people have already heard the gospel and obeyed the message being sealed in the Spirit — surely they know God!! And why not just tell them to read and reread the Letter? Paul’s use of the word “epignosis” (“know,” see BDAG, p. 369) here does not refer to more facts or doctrinal knowledge. Paul prays that they “epignosis” HIM (that is God himself). It is experiential knowledge.
One of our great Restoration fathers, Robert Richardson, wrote that we do not have a relationship with a book but with a God who longs for relationship with his creation — he was right. That is what Paul is discussing here. It is not enough to have memorized Ephesians (though there is nothing wrong with that).
Paul appeals to the God who has granted all spiritual blessings to us in Christ to act again through his Spirit to enable us to KNOW HIM. Paul has this idea in mind in Philippians 3.15 where he writes “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too, God will make clear [literally, “will reveal”] to you.”
Only a person who has been walking with God, getting to know him through his Spirit, will grasp certain truths Paul says. Paul has already spoken of God grace being “lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (1.8), now he prays that God, through the Holy Spirit, will make this a living reality. The Today’s English Bible captures well the meaning of Paul:
“I remember you in my prayers and ask God . . . to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveal God to you, so that you will know him.”
Though the NIV makes it appear as though Paul is making a separate petition, v. 18 (cf. RSV, ESV) tells us how the Spirit will enable us to know God — by “enlightening the eyes.” Paul uses “photismos” here that means to “illuminate.” What specifically will the Spirit grant us insight or illuminate our heart in regard to (in this text):
#1) to understand the goal of our salvation that is the “hope to which he has called us.” This, as many other things in this prayer, relates back to the great thanksgiving in 3-14. Paul has told the Ephesians (and us) that God “chose” them in 1.4. We are not to simply see the fact of election in Christ but the significance of that calling into hope. Can we imagine the change that would take place in our churches today if Christians suddenly had their hearts ILLUMINED and grasped the significance of the hope into which they were called. We would live our lives in the shadow of the Second Coming. Not in arrogant smugness but in confident and joyful EXPECTATION of his appearing. Paul prays that the Spirit enlighten their hearts to understand this: he did not simply suggest rereading v.18 a million times — this type of knowledge needs the work of God’s Spirit and that is why Paul prays for it.
#2) to see the glorious riches of God’s inheritance among the saints. This is especially important in light of the unity theme in Ephesians (see part 1). How many Christians do not see the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints? The Jewish Christians didn’t see it in the Gentiles and the Gentiles failed to see it in the Jews. It is a spiritual (i.e. of the Spirit) insight from the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to one who has grasped the necessity of unity in the Body, who will not tolerate division over petty matters for the glory of God’s inheritance is to precious to that person for that.
#3) Paul also prays that the Spirit enlighten the eyes of the heart/mind to grasp the incredible resources given to live the Christian life. In particular Christians need to grasp the great “POWER” that is available to us. The power that created the universe, the power that raised Jesus from the dead (v.v. 19-20) is IN Christians. That power, that great “seal” is none other than the Spirit himself. You will recall the social context of magic and demonology in Ephesus. How are these Christians going to live in a manner that is worthy of the calling in face of the great Artemis? and Fate? and Hecate? How can they face the “powers” and principalities and thrones (all of which refer to spiritual realities and not city council persons). How will they be able to defeat their own selfish attitudes? How will they overcome the intense racial hatred between Jews and Gentiles? (blacks and whites?) Paul says God has given them/us more power than was necessary to raise the dead! The Spirit works in us “like a mighty strength.” In ch.3 Paul makes it even more explicit “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with POWER in your INNER BEING . . .”(3.16).
It seems pretty plain to me that Paul teaches in Ephesians the following about the Holy Spirit:
1) we are sealed by the Spirit as an act of ownership and protection
2) God, by giving the Spirit, has made a down-payment on our eternal future guaranteeing our inheritance in his Presence
3) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation is given so we may know GOD — so that we can “experience” God and have spiritual insight that we would not otherwise have
4) about the hope to which we were called
5) about the glorious inheritance God has among the saints from all walks of life
6) about the power God makes available to us in our inner being through the Spirit.
The Spirit is acting in Ephesians 1 outside of the written word. Paul is praying for him to do just that. We cannot make Ephesians 1 mean something it could not mean to them so we must admit that Paul does not tell them to go read the Bible — they are already reading it (at least part of it in the form of Ephesians) but that is not enough. They need spiritual power that comes from the Holy Spirit.