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Commentary on Eph. 1:16-18 [the spirit of wisdom and revelation]

"Do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, (18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."

Synopsis: in Eph. 1:16-18 the apostle Paul prays that the Ephesians may achieve the knowledge of God - the complete Christian maturity, which consists of the 'spirit of wisdom' modelling our behaviour on the pattern of Jesus Christ, and the 'spirit of revelation' - the spirit of understanding of the deeper teachings of the Word of God. What one needs here is not only the heart understood as zeal towards God, but also the eyes of understanding so that we may see the goal of our calling and the heritage that is ahead of us. Because these things belong to the depths of God, their thorough understanding is a condition for achieving the goal that has been set for us.

Many different themes related to the topic of cognition appear in Eph. 1:16-18 - themes that perhaps do not require detailed analysis when seen in isolation, but it is worth seeing them in context and as interdependent. The apostle Paul writes in Eph. 1:16-18 about the content of his prayers, i.e. his special concern related to the spiritual development of believers in Ephesus: "... making mention of you in my prayers: (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him ..." (Eph. 1:16-18). Therefore, growth in the knowledge of God is the main goal here. However, it is worth taking a closer look at the concept of cognition because both the broader Biblical context and the terms appearing in the fragment under study say a lot about what this cognition is and what its components are.

The knowledge of God

The New Testament uses four terms in the context of cognition. Although included in this concept, they also have their own distinct meaning. To begin with, gnosis is the cognition which comes down to the knowledge of facts. In this way, we can know the content of the Scriptures - what was written, in which book and in which verse. Gnosis, however, doesn't mean we understand the meaning. In order to reach it, synesis is essential - the ability to interpret or combine these facts together. At this stage, however, we remain at the level of theoretical knowledge. Sofia, or wisdom, teaches how the teaching (synesis) applies to the practice of everyday life. Epignosis, on the other hand - one more level up - is the character shaped by continual conduct in wisdom (Jas. 1:22-25).

These four elements constitute what the apostle Paul calls "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). In Rom. 12:1 we read clearly that consecration understood as 'presenting your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God' takes place through 'reasonable service', the basis of which must be 1) gnosis, or the knowledge of the content of the Bible, 2) synesis, or the ability to interpret the Scriptures, and 3) sofia, that is, the ability to make real life decisions based on the teachings derived in this way. And this is what the New Testament teaches in many places, incl. 1 Cor. 2:1-6; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col 1:9-12,28; 2:1-3; 2 Pet. 1:5-9. In Eph. 1:18 the apostle Paul writes that the purpose of his prayers is epignosis, and therefore the complete development in the image of Jesus Christ, which Paul will also describe a little later in Eph. 4:13 as 'coming to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'.

The spirit of wisdom and revelation

In Eph. 1:17 Paul shows that achieving the epignosis, or knowledge to the level of "perfect man", consists in two basic elements: the spirit of wisdom and the spirit of revelation. The spirit of wisdom concerns what was mentioned in the previous section: the knowledge of Biblical doctrines (synesis) based on thorough knowledge of Biblical content (gnosis), which leads to proceedings in line with Biblical principles (Sofia). The spirit of wisdom encompasses very practical aspects of Biblical teachings, which allow us to judge and control our own behavior. However, the Bible does not only boil down to ethics and morality, but it also contains deeper doctrinal elements: types, prophecies, promises, covenants. It seems that it is in these aspects that the spirit of revelation is manifested. The apostle John writes that "the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding" (1 Jn. 5:20). It is the ability of the mind that allows one to reach deeper into the content of the Bible, understand and evaluate teachings which "the natural man does not receive ... because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).

Of course, it can be heard that the study of prophecies is not particularly important because in reality only 'the good heart' counts. The apostle Paul, however, shows in Eph. 1:17 that gaining complete knowledge of God includes not only 'good heart' - which comes under the term 'spirit of wisdom' - but also the spirit of revelation in understanding deeper truths. Only in this way can we grow to the maturity of Christ, to 'a perfect man' (Eph. 4:13). It is worth noting that two verses earlier, in Eph. 4:11, Paul writes that for the purpose of building maturity "He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers", and therefore people whose particular field of action is the interpretation and teaching of the Word of God. Without this service, our will not receive the required 'solid food' to increase to the fullness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 5:11-14).

Enlightened eyes of understanding

In further words of his prayer for the good of the Ephesians, the apostle Paul ask for "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened" (Eph. 1:18). This is not merely a metaphor aimed to sound nice and poetic. In Rom. 5:5 Paul writes that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Therefore, the heart is the habitat of God's love - the agape. What, in turn, is the essence of this love, we read in - "For the love of Christ compels us ... that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.". The new creation which we become by , has its origin in the love which God pours into the hearts of his elect, and which compels them to live for Christ. In other words, everything starts with zeal.

This experience of emotion of faith has anyone who has repented and converted to God by Jesus Christ. The person has no idea yet of what the Bible teaches but heard that salvation is in Jesus Christ and accepted this knowledge with whole heart. With the heart, and therefore with feelings, emotions, zeal. However, the apostle Paul teaches in Eph. 1:18 that the heart of the elect also has symbolic eyes. Because physical vision is associated with the perception of the external world, spiritual vision involves the perception of the teachings of the Scriptures. In this sense, we find the use of the sense of vision in a number of verses, including Is. 6:10; Jer. 5:21; Mt. 13:10-17; Mk. 8:17,18; Rom. 11:8; Rev. 3:17,18.

Paul's prayer expressed in Eph. 1:18 is therefore a request that the Ephesians' faith be not limited only to zeal. The apostle is criticized by people who "have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2). And here we come back to the meaning of knowledge and Christian maturity, which is not only based on blind zeal, but it is zeal based on understanding the Word of God. Both elements are extremely important. Our Lord stresses that point as a strong warning for the elect. Knowing that there will be numerous such zealots, our Lord warns that on the day of his return, many such will not only miss their prize for the lack of knowledge and performing the will of the Father, but they will also be accussed of 'practicing lawlessness' (Mt. 7:21-23 ). The final effect will therefore be completely different from the expected.

That you may know

Finishing this part of his letter, the apostle Paul in Eph. 1:17-19 provides reasons why the elect need the enlightened eyes of understanding: "that you may know 1) what is the hope of His calling, 2) what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and 3) what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power." The third of these reasons will be subject of a separate commentary on the basis of its connection with further verses. Currently, however, it is worth taking a look at the reasons stated in verse 18. Obviously, understanding of the teachings of the Word of God is needed for us to know what hope we have been called to and what our heritage is.

In 1 Pet. 1:3,4 the apostle Peter writes that God "has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." However, should there remain any ambiguities as to what this undefiled and unfading inheritance is, in 2 Pet. 1:4 the apostle speaks directly that our promised hope is to participate in the divine nature. This does not mean that every believer will receive this prize. It will be received by those who are the most faithful in reaching for it (1 Cor. 9:24-27). However, the thing is that to run and reach the goal, one needs to know what this goal is and how to reach it. And here zeal alone will not help - not only the spirit of wisdom, but also the spirit of revelation - the enlightened eyes of understanding so that we will see our destination well and understood it clearly.


Keywords: Eph. 1:16-18, the spirit of wisdom and revelation
 
If not stated otherwise, all Bible citations come from New King James Version.


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