28 Dec 2006

The Holy Spirit & the Disciple, Part 2

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Ephesians, Exegesis, Grace, Hermeneutics, Holy Spirit, Prayer, Preaching

HS 2The Holy Spirit and the Disciple, Part 2

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.

Part 3 is HERE: The Holy Spirit & the Disciple, Part 3

Bobby Valentine

15 Responses to “The Holy Spirit & the Disciple, Part 2”

  1. Gallagher Says:

    Another good post with some interesting thoughts I have never considered.

    Excellent job discussing the word “sealed” because of its importance throughout the book.


  2. brian Says:

    keep it coming. IMHO, denial and disrespect of the Spirit is the saddest thing about our heritage.
    here are just a few verses about either the Spirit being given or God dwelling in man in some way; for those who want to think more about the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian:

    Acts 2:38—“receive the gift…”
    Acts 5:32—“God gives to those who obey…”
    Romans 5:5—“whom He has given us”
    Romans 8:9—“in you”
    1 Cor 6:19—
    “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”
    “in you”
    “received from God”
    Gal 3:1-5-
    “received the Spirit”
    God gives the Spirit
    Gal 4:6—“God sent his Spirit into our hearts”
    Eph 1:13, 4:30—
    Spirit given as a pledge, seal
    1 Thess 4:8—“God, who gives you his Holy Spirit”
    2 Timothy 1:14—“lives in us”
    James 4:5—“Spirit he caused to live in us”
    1 John 4:12-13—“God in us”
    John 7:38—“flowing from within”
    Colossians 1:27—“Christ in you, the hope of glory”
    John 14:18-20
    John 17:23, 26

    This is not an obscure doctrine created by twisting an obscure passage. It is talked about often by various writers and we have to open our eyes.

  3. Alan Says:

    Almost nothing in the NT even hints of a figurative filling with the Holy Spirit. Choosing without support from the scripture itself what is figurative and what is literal carries with it great risks and errors.

    For example:

    1. It is easy to see what is figurative and what is literal here because John tells what is figurative and what is literal. The stream of living water flowing from within is figurative for the literal Spirit to be given to those who believe. Unless you conclude that John was using a figuyrative to describe another figurative:

    “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:38-39, NIV)

    2. This should be the easiest one of all. Why would we conclude that the gift of the Holy Spirit is figurative, yet insist that the repentence, baptism in the name of Jesus, and forgivenes of sins was literal? It is all spoken of as one package, so who are we to remove 1/4 of the passage as figurative? And if we do so, how dare we criticize those who take another 1/4 and also make it figurative.

    With regards to the 2nd verse quoted, are we to conclude that our obedience to God is only figurative since what God gives us is only figurtative?

    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39, NIV)

    “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32, NIV)

    3. Carrying the theme noted above, is our hope only figurative, and is the love of God pourted out on us only figurative, since some insist that the Holy Spirit given to us is only figurative?

    “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5, NIV)

    4. OK, here we can see a lot of of figures of speech, but Paul is just as equally clear as to what is the figure of speech and what is the reality. Did the Spirit of Him figuratively or literally raise Jesus from the dead? Did He literally or figuratively raise Jesus from the dead, and so will He also literally or figuratively give life to our mortal bodies (I certainly hope it is literal):

    “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9-11, NIV)

    5. I know of a lot of sinners who would love for this verse to be only figurative instead of literal. To make it figurative is almost Gnostic – flee immorality figuratively (but you don’t have to flee literally). Are we committing sins figuratively or literally? Are we committing the sins against our literal bodies or only committing them against a figurative body?

    “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NIV)

    6. Are we literally established by God in Christ or only figuratively established? Has God given us a real, literal pledge or only a figurative one?

    “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, NIV).

    7. Of course we cannot literally call God, “Father” but can only call Him figuratively.

    “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6, NIV).

    8. OK, how much is figurative here? Is it the message of truth, or the gospel of our salvation, or maybe it is the salvation itself that is figurative? Perhaps it is our belief that is figurative, or may God’s sealing of us that is figurative. Maybe we will not get a literal inheritance, we do not have a literal redemption, and God does not literally possess us.

    “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV).

    9. We do not have literal strength from literal power through the figurative Spirit. While we are at it, maybe every family in heaven and on earth only figuratively derives its name from the Father. Our faith is only figurative, and we are only figuratively rooted and grounded in figurative love. And the figurative saints will never be able to literally comprehend the figurative love of Christ.

    “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)

    Yes, I believe it is VERY risky for us to determine what is literal and what is figurative from clear teachings of God.

    Instead of analyzing, why not just believe?

    God bless,

  4. Laymond Says:

    Just to let you know I am reading.

  5. Ben Overby Says:

    Bobby, great study as usual. I appreciate the emphasis you place on historical context. If we’d all do that we’d stay out of some ugly ditches. I recently felt the rebuke of someone who thought me to be terribly wrong with reference to my teaching that women of the 1st century had liberties in worship that we don’t allow (to our shame!). However, we couldn’t even carry on a decent discussion of the issues because he has no sense of the historical context around 1 Ti. 2/Ephesus and the whole Diana/Artemis/Cybele worship. He doesn’t understand anything about Greek mythology, alternate and mythological creation stories, concepts surrounding Magna Mater, Amazon myths, Amazon protection in the Artemis temple, threats involving the syncing of Platonism and Christianity into gnosticism, etc., etc.

    I’m not saying he has to know any of that, but that it’s my job to help make him aware of what he doesn’t know. And it would seem that those of us who are hired to teach the word and to actually do the exegesis ought to be heard in full, arguments fleshed out, and all the rest, before the accusations fly about “false teacher.”

    I guess this is a little venting, but there seems to be an attitude within an increasing small circle within our tradition which sees no virtue in the kind of study you’ve produced on the Spirit simply because methodologically you rely heavily on historical context to develop and test your hypothesis regarding appropriate interpretation. Frankly, I think the word for that sort of closed mindedness isn’t “sound” but its antithesis–“deaf.”

    Thanks again for a fruitful study!


  6. Paula Harrington Says:

    I appreciate your desire to learn and teach.

    Good posts.

  7. John Roberts Says:

    Bobby, excellent thoughts, great series – I’m looking forward to what is to come.

    One thought I had on your background to Ephesus was the context of Acts 19, where it was the Holy Spirit that was the issue at stake with those disciples from Ephesus who had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit, let alone received him. It was so important that they were re-baptized (of all the rebaptisms that I have done and witnessed over the years, I’ve never seen one done because someone didn’t have the Holy Spirit, have you?) (Try to fit that into a Word only theology.) So apparently, the Ephesian church needed some remedial teaching on the Holy Spirit.

    Keep it coming!

  8. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Bobby – Great stuff. I appreciate verymuch being able to share yourtime and depth of research.

    One observation/question –

    ISTM that while the spirit works outside the word — to “transform our attitudes” and fill us with the “fruits of the Spirit” and to thus help us KNOW (“experience”) God’s love –that in “revealing” the knowledge & facts about God and his work that the Spirit is limited to the Word.

    If we allow “new” personal revelation about who God is and how he wants us to live how do we decide whether this is just a delusion of a madman or a revelation of the Spirit?

    God Bless

  9. preacherman Says:

    Great post.
    Brian thanks for all the ref. brother.
    I think many in the restoration movement have been guilty of quinching the Holy Spiirt by denying the indwelling and certain gifts as well. Have we even as ministers using all the power and gifts to are full potental within the church ie 1 Cor 12:27-ff.
    I love what Paul says in Corithians in the first part of 14 verse 1 “Follow the way of love and eargerly desire spiritual gifts.” Do we do that in our churches today? Should it be something that we in the restoration movement talk about in the future?
    Bobby I really enjoy this subject.

  10. Laymond Says:

    Bobby- as you know I have been watching what is happining on AW’s blog. and I have a question pertaining to your blog that was brought to mind by reading his.

    You said: If the Apostle Paul (an inspired man) could be told to offer a sacrifice by James (an inspired man) and Luke (an inspired man) could tell us about it without the slightest indication that James or Paul were wrong …

    Question; If you are indwelled by the Holy Ghost; are you also an inspired man, and if not why not?
    And if you are an inspired man why should we not accept your word as the word of God?

  11. Laymond Says:

    Stoned-Have a save move God bless

  12. Kevin B. Says:

    A few years ago I read Leonard Allen’s, The Worldly Church. his main thrust was that the rejection of the Spirit by Churches of Christ was not as much exegetical as it was due to a creeping secularism in our fellowship.

    that had never occurred to me before, but now it seems rather clear that, as we embraced a post-enlightenment mentality, this only makes sense. We speak of miracles as “proofs” that were needed only once, and the Spirit as the same. Perhaps we have rejected any “working” of the Spirit today, not because we have clear biblical evidence, but because “faith” is easier to maintain if it is reduced to a mere exegesis and “obedience” of a “blueprint.”

    Allen’s book was seminal in my reevaluation of my roots.

    Good posts.

  13. Messianic Gentile Says:


    Happy New Year!

    I am trying to raise jet pack deficiency awareness on my blog this year, since it is almost 2008 and we still don’t have them. I invite you, and your readers, to stop by and lend your support.

    Thank you, and many blessings in 2007.

  14. Alan Says:

    Confusion alert: There are two “Alan” posters on this thread. Beware.

    OTOH I really like what the other Alan posted so maybe the confusion doesn’t matter much!

    It seems to me that the “scriptures only” indwelling notion is an invention of the Francis Bacon / Age of Enlightenment thinking that permeated the Restoration Movement in the 1800’s (particularly the portion that became the churches of Christ). That was humanistic folly. The all-sufficient human reasoning capacity has been demonstrated to be a myth. We need more than a book. Thank God he provided more.

    Has anyone found the “word only” indwelling theory anywhere other than in the Restoration Movement / churches of Christ? I haven’t.

  15. Russ Hicks Says:

    Not to be argumentative, couldn’t it be that some of the more supernatural aspects of Paul’s statements here apply only to the Ephesians and not really to us since we have what they didn’t, the complete word of God at once? The job of the indwelling Spirit isn’t to direct us in a supernatural way, is it?

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