Isaiah 51:1-6; Ephesians 1:15-23
This morning we continue our study looking at one of the most remarkable prayers in the Bible. It is one of two prayers Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus and they are found in Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21. The two prayers give us a glimpse of how important prayer was for the apostle Paul and how important it should be for us today. The last couple Sundays we saw Paul praying for “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation” to be given to the Ephesians so that they may think and ponder the mystery of their faith.
One great thing Paul asked the Ephesians to ponder was the truth that in Christ God chose them before the creation of this world. Ephesians 1:4 states, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Yes, you heard it right. God has chosen YOU before the creation of this world. Before you even existed, God loved you so much. We neither earned nor deserved God’s love. This “choosing” is based on God’s sovereign pleasure and good will.
Often times we tend to think that we are the ones who chose God, but in reality, it is the opposite. God is the one who has chosen us. In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” You belong to God. You don’t belong to anyone or anything else but God. God has chosen us with a purpose in mind ~ I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.
We also talked about another magnificent truth, another important component of our faith and that is “God’s calling.” God has called us to great things. In 1 Corinthians 1:9 we read, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26, Paul invites the Corinthians to consider their calling. “Consider your calling, brothers and sisters.” Believe me, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that the God of this universe has chosen YOU and has called YOU to be in fellowship with Him.
As Paul continues his prayer for the Ephesians in today’s passage, he adds that he is praying for the Lord to give them knowledge of the “HOPE” to which He has called us. Ephesians 1:17-18, “ I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Paul prays for God’s people to know the hope to which God called you.
What is Hope?
2 But what is that “hope to which God called us”? “Hope” is a much-misunderstood word. For some, hope denotes a lack of certainty, or a lack of assurance. Often, hope is mistaken for wishful thinking. But hope, in the Biblical and theological sense of the word, is not any of these things. The more I read the Bible, the more I see that hope is not a passion for the possible, but it is a passion for the impossible. Two important features or characteristics of Biblical hope:
First: Hope is Built on Trust in God
Hope isn’t built on what we have seen. We do not believe in heaven because God has given us a walk through heaven to see what it will be like when we get there. If we already saw what we are hoping for it wouldn’t be hope any longer. Hope is built on trust in God that all that He promised He will fulfill. It depends entirely on our ability to trust God and His ability. Hope is not built on our circumstances, rather, on the “One who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” Romans 4:17.
Abraham wasn’t just a great example of faith in the Lord, he exemplified what hope does for a person. In Romans 4:18-22 we read, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s faith resulted in hope which kept him faithful to the Lord. It is the same hope that will keep us trusting God all along.
Second: Hope is an Anchor of the Soul
The writer of Hebrews says that hope serves as an anchor of the soul. In Hebrews 6:19 we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” For Paul, hope is what keeps him fighting the good fight. Hope is what keeps him praying and praising even while in prison. Hope is what gives Paul the boldness to declare that the gathering of a few believers of Jews and Gentiles in the port city of Ephesus is no mere sociological fact but a new humanity in Christ.
As ridiculous as it might sound, God called the Christian community at Ephesus to be a sign of the age to come ~ a sign of God’s Kingdom on earth. By eating together in friendship, they actively participated in the unfolding of God’s purpose for creation. By joining together in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, this small band of disciples witnessed that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. In short, God called the little flock at Ephesus to be a sacrament of Christ’s work of cosmic reconciliation.
The point I am trying to make is an important one: hope will motivate us to keep growing in faith and commitment to God even when things seem to be going wrong. There isn’t anything that destroys us more than the feeling that “Hope is lost.” Friends, there is power in the hope of our calling. There is power in the name above every name; power to enlighten the eyes of our hearts; power to wake those who are asleep; power to wake those who are pretending to be asleep. Let’s claim that power. Hope abides. God is not finished with us yet. “And now these 3 three remain: faith, hope and love” 1 Corinthians 13:13. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street Blackwood, NJ 08012
(Sunday, February 3, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris Yousef, Pastor