As Christians, we seem to know certain truths but at the same time we don’t seem to know them. For example, we know that God has glory, but what does that really mean? What kind of image do we have when we talk about God’s glory. Does a bright light or a halo come to our mind? Have we seen the glory of God? Has seeing the glory of God changed our lives?
Questions like these are difficult to answer. We can answer yes on one hand, but we can answer no as well, on the other hand.
Or take our hope in Christ. The Bible says that we have the hope of Glory, or the glorious hope (Col 1:27). What is this hope of glory? Do we or do we not know about it? Will a study on this verse or this word help us see the hope? A study will surely help in the understanding of a passage, but is that understanding what Paul considers seeing it with the eyes of our heart? Truly seeing the hope is indeed part of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians.
Let us now look at a more detailed outline of Paul’s prayer in verses 15 to 23:1
I have not stopped praying for you
giving thanks for your faith in Jesus and your love toward the saints
praying that the Holy Spirit may help you to know God better, that you may know
what is the hope of his calling2
what is the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people
what is his incomparably great power for us
Paul prays that his readers know God better and see the hope of God’s calling, but he does not describe the hope any further. Given that Paul has taught them for over 3 years, sometimes day and night (Acts 20:31), we assume that his readers are familiar with his teaching on hope even though he does not get into any detail here. Therefore, it is reasonable if we take at least a quick look at Paul’s mention of hope in his letters.
Aside from casual use of the word in statements like “I hope to visit you,” Paul’s teachings on hope are mainly about God and concerning the future. Below is a representative sampling:3
hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2)
hope of resurrection (1 Cor 15)
hope for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Tit 2:13)
hope of eternal life (Tit 1:2; 3:7)
People holding such hope are often criticized as being impractical, escaping, indifference toward real-world problems and pains, cowardly, otherworldly, or pessimistic; but that is certainly not the Biblical description of people having hope in the future. In fact, the Bible teaches that future hope empowers Christians to live strongly in present life: going through suffering without despair (Rom 8:18; Cor 4:16-18), enduring hardship (1 Th 1:3), living with joy and peace (Rom. 12:12; 15:13), encouraging one another (Heb 10:23-25), standing firm and serving the Lord diligently (1 Cor 15:58). The teaching on future hope is almost always presented with a reminder on how to live our present life.
Yet we must admit that many Christians are not interested in the topic of hope, especially future hope. We know it, but we are not really that enthusiastic about it. I believe that is why Paul is offering a prayer and not giving another lecture on hope in this passage. He knows what his readers knows. He knows what they do not. And his prayer is that the eyes of their heart may be opened and that they may truly know what the hope of God’s calling is.
Shouldn’t we pray for the same?
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:15-23 TNIV)
- Again, this is one sentence in the original Greek. ↩
- This is a literal translation. Same for the next two statements. ↩
- There are plenty of other teachings on hope in the Bible, of course; but I am showing only those from Paul because we are studying his letter, so we are trying to understand him and his readers so that we can interprete him hopefully more accurately. ↩