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The Prayer that Paul Prayed
By David A. DePra
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all. (Eph 1:15-23)
According to the apostle Paul, what is contained in this passage is his unceasing prayer for the church. And since God saw to it that this prayer became part of the inspired Word of God, we can be sure that it reflects GOD’S desire for us – in other words, Paul was praying according to the will of God.
This is not the only recorded prayer of Paul in the epistles. There is another one in Colossians:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Col 1:9-13)
The similarities between these two prayers cannot be missed. Neither can the intended conclusion to which, I’m sure, the Holy Spirit would lead us once we read them. What is that conclusion? That we are reading the desire of God Himself for each of us, and consequently, we are reading descriptions of the work of the Holy Spirit.
So in brief, what do these prayers reveal would be the work of the Holy Spirit – the desire of God for His people?
THAT WE MIGHT SEE AND KNOW GOD IN AN INWARD WAY. "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened… (Ephesians)
THAT WE MIGHT KNOW THE WILL OF GOD FOR US. "That you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." (Colossians)
THAT WE MIGHT KNOW THE ETERNAL PURPOSES FOR WHICH GOD HAS CALLED US TO CHRIST. That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians)
THAT WE MIGHT KNOW THE POWER, VICTORY, AND MEANING, OF RESURRECTION LIFE. "And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." (Ephesians)
THAT ALL THAT CHRIST HAS DONE MIGHT RESULT IN A LIFE LIVED TO HIS GLORY. "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." (Colossians)
These things are what Paul prayed that God would make possible in His people through the work of the Holy Spirit. In you will notice, they are all about SEEING and KNOWING God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. They are all about SEEING and KNOWING the eternal purposes of God.
This work of the Holy Spirit is verified if we simply turn to John, chapters 14 through 16. In the narrative of the words of Jesus that we find there, we are given seven purposes for which the Holy Spirit would come. Of course, at the time Jesus spoke those words, the Comforter had NOT yet come. But the entire point of the discourse is that Jesus wanted us to know what the Comforter would do when come. Well, the Comforter HAS come. Thus, right now, the Holy Spirit IS DOING these works promised by Jesus.
Just briefly, what did Jesus promise the Holy Spirit would do? (KJV)
ABIDE IN US FOREVER. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells WITH you, and shall be IN you. (John 14:16-17)
TEACH YOU ALL THINGS AND APPLY WHAT HE TEACHES. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26)
REVEAL THE PERSON OF JESUS. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me." (John 15:26)
BRING CONVICTION AND ILLUMINATION OF THE TRUTH TO BOTH THE SAVED AND UNSAVED. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (John 16:7-8)
GUIDE US INTO ALL TRUTH – THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13)
REVEAL TO US THE ETERNAL THINGS OF GOD. "For he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13)
REVEAL ALL THAT IS FOUND IN CHRIST. "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John 16:14)
Now, having reviewed all of these passages, the question that MUST be asked is this: Are WE interested in that which God is interested? Do we pray what Paul prayed – for ourselves and others? In our church, are these things the goal? Do we hear messages on these matters? Do we preach messages on these matters? If not, then WHY NOT?
I would submit that God has these things recorded so that there can be no confusion or question as to what He wants to do in His church. God puts a MANDATE on them.
Not convinced? Let’s add one more passage from Ephesians:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Eph 4:11-13)
Here we are told the purpose for ALL ministry – the purposes for which the saints are to be equipped:
1. FOR THE EDIFICATION OR BUILDING UP OF PEOPLE IN JESUS CHRIST.
2. UNTO THE UNITY OF THE FAITH IN CHRIST.
3. UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST – UNTO KNOWING HIM.
4. UNTO SPIRITUAL MATURITY AND FULLNESS IN CHRIST.
Again, it is all about the Person of Christ. Sure. Christianity is CHRIST IN US, the hope of glory. Thus, the Christian life is a growing to know Him, and to fellowship with Him, and a matter of being formed together with Him.
When Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives, immediately prior to His ascension, He summarized all of these Truths into one purpose for which the Holy Spirit would be given: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) To BECOME a witness unto Christ is to be living evidence of Him. It is the result of Jesus Christ living through me, and seen through me, because of this very work of the Holy Spirit.
Complete in Christ
When we are given the Holy Spirit, we are given Christ. Period. This is vital to understand, because we must grasp it to see what Christianity, and what the new birth IS. Christianity is CHRIST IN US – but this is exactly the same as the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. There are NOT two Spirits. There are not two experiences or blessings. There are not two stages to salvation. There is not salvation first, and then, in addition to that, the baptism with the Holy Spirit. No. That is error. Rather, there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism. There is ONE salvation, which is the result of receiving Christ within THROUGH the baptism with, and INTO, the Holy Spirit.
The bottom line is this: When we receive Christ, we receive LIFE. And IN CHRIST we receive ALL THINGS that God has for us. Not some things. But ALL things. There is not some further experience or further, "filling," that we need. Rather, we are told that WE ARE COMPLETE IN CHRIST.
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Col 2:9-10)
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (Col 1:27-28)
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (Col 2:2-4)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (1 Cor 8:6)
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Eph 1:10)
Not only do these passages state clearly that God has wrapped up all that He has for us in His Son, but especially in Colossians 2 it WARNS us against anyone that would teach otherwise!
So where does the Holy Spirit fit in? Well, we’ve been seeing where. The Holy Spirit was given to reveal Jesus. In short, the work of Holy Spirit is to take all of Jesus, and all that He did, and make Him real TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us. The Holy Spirit has the job of pointing to Jesus.
It is a rather suspect teaching that would focus on the Holy Spirit instead of upon Jesus Christ. I say that because the Holy Spirit doesn’t focus on the Holy Spirit, but on Jesus, and therefore any teaching that is OF the Holy Spirit would hardly contradict this. Of course, I’m not saying that we ought never to teach about the place of the Holy Spirit, for I’m doing that right now. Jesus also did it. But there are many today that talk in terms of their intimate knowing of the Holy Spirit, and their relationship with the Holy Spirit, and experiences in the Holy Spirit. There is something wrong here. I cannot find a single verse in the Bible – including all of those that I have quoted above regarding God’s purposes – that tell me that I am supposed to know the Holy Spirit instead of Jesus. Rather, what I find is that the Holy Spirit will cause me to know Jesus.
Perhaps the worst error committed on this matter of the Holy Spirit is that of exalting experiences, supposedly OF the Holy Spirit, above our need to KNOW JESUS. I’ve known many people who think that to, "walk in the Spirit," means to have visions, trances, leadings, prophecy, and words of knowledge. But those same people don’t seem to know Jesus. Have we realized that to, "walk in the Spirit, "means, if it means NOTHING else, to walk in the TRUTH. And that means to know the Truth Himself? Didn’t Jesus call the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of TRUTH?" What do we think that means? The point is, no matter what experience I might think I have had in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is STILL the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do anything that fails to reflect the Truth – which means what is done MUST agree with the written Truth, the Bible. And the purpose of the Holy Spirit remains the same – as we have listed above. Thus, even if I have had a genuine spiritual experience, it is still unto the end that I might see the Truth, and grow in Christ. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do things for the fun of it. There is a purpose in God's spiritual work.
All of these questions, and all of the possible misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit are quickly resolved once we simply read what the Bible teaches – again, which we have laboriously listed above. The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal and build up believers IN CHRIST. Christianity is CHRIST IN US through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into Christ. The Spirit is given to guide us into all the Truth about CHRIST. But if we separate the Holy Spirit from Christ, and make the baptism with the Spirit a SEPARATE experience IN ADDITION to Christ, then what will emerge is a Christianity that is, at least in part, an series of experiences that are NOT about Christ, but which are about, well, the experiences themselves. And in the end, we will wind up deceived. Think not? Read again Colossians 2 – Paul warns us against this very error and tells us what will happen if we ignore his warning:
Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (Col 2:3-4)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. } And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:8-10)
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the reality is of Christ. (Col 2:16-17)
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God. (Col 2:18-19)
Paul is telling us that Christ must be our life – not just intellectually, or theologically, or academically, but as to fellowship and relationship. Again, Paul prayed that God might give us a spirit of wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of Himself. That the eyes of our understanding might be enlightened – to the hope of His calling. The Holy Spirit will do this. It is impossible, "to know the Holy Spirit," apart from knowing Jesus. Indeed, if you know the Son, it is because the Spirit has been given to reveal Him.
It should be abundantly clear at this point as to the purpose for which God sent the Holy Spirit – as the means of Christ in us. That we might KNOW HIM – and be set free back into a full relationship and experience with God. Everything else, including salvation, and the preaching of the gospel, falls within this purpose. Thus, if it is not the purpose and message of my church, there is a problem. In fact, how can any church, or person, whose purpose and goals are not the same as God’s, claim that they are in the will of God? No. In fact, if I have different purposes that those that we have seen stated over and over again from scripture, I am OUT of God’s will. Thankfully, God always leaves the door open to see the Truth and get back IN.
There are yet OTHER prayers recorded in the NT by the apostle Paul. You will note that in them we find much the SAME THEME and desire for the church:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19)
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Phil 1:9-12)
And then there is this prayer of Jesus Himself:
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:1-3)
If the body of Christ would drop all of the nonsense and heresy of this day and age and return to Jesus Christ – not to merely doctrines about Him – but to the Living Christ that dwells in us, the church would be back on the right path. We would not only begin to know the Truth, but we would be set free.
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