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 holy 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 is 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.
Eph 1:18-23

Paul prays that we may have a kind of “spiritual eyesight” whereby we may know 1) the hope to which we are called in our salvation, 2) the inheritance that we have received in our call to salvation, and 3) the power to live out our call of salvation.

The last item is of immense practical import. The power that Paul mentions is God’s life-giving power available to all believers because of and through the resurrection of Christ. He claims God’s greatest display of power was Jesus’ resurrection (Eph 1:22 is an allusion to Ps 110:1, quoted more often in the NT than any other OT text, and Ps 8:6; see also 1 Cor 15:25-28 and Heb 1:13-2:9).

In this divine display of incomparable power, Paul goes so far as to claim that Jesus trumps not only all religious figures of his day, but also all those in the future (Eph 1:21). This is an exclusive claim that Jesus is greater than all other religious and political figures of all time! Whatever layers of authorities there are in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ sits above them all (Eph 1:21-22). He outranks and outflanks every human or angelic presence because of the resurrection. Moreover, Jesus Christ exercises universal and comprehensive lordship over the church and every member in it. He “fills everything in every way.”

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10 Comments

  1. I’m loving it.

    I think it is a concept that is lacking in the modern church – that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is what we have access to. We ought not be timid in our testimony and evangelizing. We ought not be ashamed of the Gospel (as Paul said). We ought not sit back quietly while skeptics raise all sorts of false ideas up against the knowledge of God. Yet the church is quiet, timid, ashamed (?), and unprepared.

    Discipleship is sorely missing – and I think we’ve had that conversation before. Helping to form a mature Christian is badly needed in the church and severely needed in the culture.

  2. Agree, Shawn. The power of Christ’s resurrection does indeed “empower” us to execute those things you list, yet, ironically, the church is often impotent in building warriors who engage culture for Christ. However, I think the problem is deeper. It less a matter of emphasizing apologetic programs and more a problem of not encouraging the spiritual disciplines (meditation, prayer, memorization, et al.). Note that Paul “prays” these manifestations would be in the Ephesian believers. Unless and until the church focuses on the inner life of discipleship, all the apologetic programs in the world will have little “power”.

  3. I agree. That’s why I said “discipleship is sorely missing.” I meant by that, more than just apologetic-focused training but also a return back to the spiritual disciples and spiritual formation. All those areas need to grow and mature in balance of one another.

    Head without heart is cold and clinical.
    Heart without head is directionless emoting.

  4. So…do you see any relationship between the two (spiritual formation and apologetics)? I see that one (apologetics) is energized and empowered by the other (spiritual formation). I’m unaware of many (or any?) books, articles, etc. that address this relationship directly. And, aside from some of what Moreland has written, I’ve not seen much from the apologists we know that address this (Craig, Licona, Geisler, Cowen, Groothuis, etc.).

  5. I do see a relationship between the two. It seems that if one has made a habit of being involved in prayer, solitude with God, meditative and contemplative bible reading and the like, that an apologetic would naturally grow out of that. You can’t defend (not adequately at least) what you believe if you haven’t taken the time to know what it is you believe to begin with. What better way to accomplish that primary goal than through engaging in spiritual formation via spiritual disciplines and allowing yourself to be discipled.

  6. Thanks, Shawn. I completely agree with you. The question now becomes, what kind of relationship between spiritual formation and apologetics? Is it causal? If so, then can we suggest that if our apologetic efforts are hardly (if at all) effective, then do we suffer from lack of spiritual formation? Of course, what constitutes “effective” is subjective, but I’ve observed that it’s easy for apologists to get into the habit of explaining their lack of “fruit” from notions like “I just the work; God provides the fruit.” or “I may not see results, but I am being faithful.”

    I would argue that if we really expect that our apologetic efforts are valuable, then we must look for, indeed expect, results and the preliminary work of spiritual formation is quintessential to that end.

    Thinking out loud here.

  7. Good questions and I’m sure I don’t have any good answers…

    You are right that “effective” is subjective and because of that I’m not confident in saying that the relationship is necessarily causal. I can think of scenarios where an individual might be a fairly mature Christian, yet, for whatever reason have a bad demeanor at one point in time when they are giving an apologetic and do it in a manner that is less than Christ-like. Just being mature and having a solid foundation does not seem to equate 1-to-1 to being “effective.”

    I also agree that at times people use those phrases as excuses for perhaps less than stellar theology and evangelistic efforts. God might honor your efforts due to ignorance, but if your efforts are lazy, are they really God honoring? I’m also thinking of differences between Jonah and any number of the less “effective” prophets who were very faithful to God yet didn’t see much fruit from their efforts.

    Do you see a connection between our apologetic being “effective” and our apologetic being “valuable?” You mention value at the end, but are those two concepts the same thing? I’m inclined to think they aren’t.

  8. Agree that effectiveness and value-add aren’t the same. I can effectively execute a sinful act that is not honoring to God, thus not adding any [moral] value.

    True that there were prophets (and many ancients) who saw little if any results. If Heb 11:39 tells us anything, it tells us that we may not see results of our God-honoring efforts (which includes apologetics). We are commended for our faithful efforts and not our results, which are God’s alone. Nevertheless, I think it prudent to expect results and look for them at every turn so we might know the effectiveness of our apologetic labors.

    The fuel that fans the flames is our love for God, which at least includes our acts of devotion to him in our inner lives.

  9. Absolutely!

    (I had a much longer reply but it was lost somewhere in the internet…)

  10. That’s okay Shawn. If our comments get much longer we’ll be indented into oblivion ‘-)

    Appreciate your thoughtful exchange here, brother.

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