Paul recalls, in verse 13, how they “trusted” after hearing the gospel.
Faith does come by hearing, says Paul to the Romans, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). So, it is not totally surprising that these faithful saint trusted after hearing the gospel. But was it Paul’s ability to preach that made them believe in the first place? Let it not be. One is saved, according to Paul, “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). Without the Holy Spirit’s preparatory work in the sinner, he will be unable to respond to the preaching.
And “having believed”, they were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”.
We must understand that the Holy Spirit is God, and He does not do the bidding of men. He does not come into or upon any one, much less seal him for an inheritance, unless He is convinced that the person’s faith is genuine. While God can see the hearts of men, Paul had to rely on external evidences.
Some time has passed since Paul had been with them, and now he is receiving reports about their “faith in the Lord Jesus”. This is good news. But since “faith without works is dead,” this wasn’t good enough (James 2:20, 22). It is not accidental, but deliberate, that Paul added “and your love for all the saints”. This was the clincher, so to speak. This confirmed that their faith was indeed genuine and ample justification to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.
This news, as you can imagine, was a big deal for Paul. It would be a big deal for any pastor today to hear that his flock is doing well. It would evoke heartfelt thanksgiving as it did in Paul. Paul ceaselessly gives thanks to God for them, and prays for them too.
His prayer, found in verses 17-19, is really built upon what he had previously written from verses 3-12, about the spiritual blessing. Paul knows that it is one thing to KNOW about the blessing but another thing to UNDERSTAND it. Adam Clarke says that, “The understanding is that power or faculty in the soul by which knowledge or information is received”. And here, Paul calls it the “eyes of the heart”. As Philo expresses it: “What the eye is to the body, the understanding is to the soul; and that as the eye is not light in itself, and can discern nothing but by the means of light shining, not only on the objects to be viewed, but into the eye itself; so the understanding of man can discern no sacred thing of or by itself, but sees by the influence of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; for without the influence of God’s Holy Spirit no man ever became wise unto salvation, no more than a man ever discerned an object, (no matter how perfect soever his eye might have been,) without the instrumentality of light.”
Paul wanted the faithful to know that they have been blessed more than they know. So he prays for them that God would give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” by whom the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened.
This prayer has become somewhat redundant because modern Christianity has elevated EDUCATION over REVELATION. This is not to say that Christians no longer believe in Divine Revelation. But it is not their primary, or preferred, mode of receiving knowledge or wisdom from God.
“We have the Bible,” some will say. The Bible contains the Written Word of God. As important as it is, we also need the Rhema Word of God – the Word of God relevant for the specific situation you are in. The Rhema word could be a verse of Scripture that you read during your daily devotional time. It does not matter. Truth is, it was the Holy Spirit who highlighted that verse to you and turned your spirit (and your eyes) to it.
The job of the Holy Spirit, as seen here, is to help believers know God. I would even venture to say that the Spirit not only gives us the knowledge OF God, but also the knowledge IN God. What do I mean?
In post-modernism, truth has become relative because Man has rejected God. When God is taken out of, say, science, history, and literature, Mankind, no matter how knowledgeable, becomes self-centered and deluded. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22).
The first thing Paul wants them to know is “the hope to which they are called”.
Hope is something the faithful did not have previously. In fact, Paul says that they were “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But all that changed when God called them out and gave them the means to respond.
Hope empowers. Hopeless people have only one thing to look forward to: death. Hopeful people, on the other hand, have many things to look forward to. A small glimmer of hope is enough to rouse a battle-worn army to their feet, ready to fight again.
Before God called them, these Gentiles had no hope and no reason to be hopeful. Death was they only certain destiny. But when they heard and responded to God’s call, they were suddenly enlightened and energized to live for God.
Mankind, since Eve, has always wanted to be like God. Here’s their chance. Those who God calls have also been predestined to be conformed into the image of the Son. They have the chance of becoming like Christ.
Riches of glory
Paul also wanted the faithful to know the “riches of glory of the inheritance”. The kingdom of God, I have said earlier, is the inheritance Paul speaks of here. It is rich, glorious, even opulent.
Why is the understanding of the riches of glory of the kingdom of God so important to a Christian?
Well, look at Jesus when He was being tempted in the wilderness. He was able to resist Satan’s offer of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” because He knows that He is the heir of a far greater kingdom – the kingdom of God. What’s more, all the kingdoms of this world will eventually be His (Rev 11:15). In earthly terms, for Jesus to accept Satan’s offer would be like giving up a BMW in exchange for a Lada (a Russian-made car).
It is exactly because many Christians do not have this revelation of the “riches of glory” of their inheritance that they have accepted Satan’s offer and in the process sold their souls.
Every Christian possesses power. But not just power. Paul adds these two words, “immeasurable greatness”, to distinguish it from all other forms of power. Indeed, what earthly power do you know of that is able to raise the dead. God’s power not only raised Jesus from the dead but also “seated him 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 the one to come.”
Knowing that He would be given this authority, Jesus therefore said to His disciples – and to us – “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As a result of this, every Christian, by default, has overcome the world because He who is greater lives in them (1 John 4:4). By having faith in Christ, they have overcome the world (1 John 5:4). Its as simple as that.