“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19a).
What is interesting to me about these verses is the Apostle’s audience. He is speaking to the Ephesians, whom he described just a few sentences before as having a faith and a love for all the saints of God worth thanking the Father over. And yet here he still prays that the eyes of their heart be enlightened, that they may know that to which God has called them in the Gospel. What can be said about this?
On the one hand, one would think that Ephesians already know that hope to which they have been called by God, that already know all about the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people. After all, what else would they believe in, as converts to Christianity, unless in their hope, the awaited riches of grace, and in God’s great power? On the other hand, there are certainly different “levels” or “grades” of knowledge.
Sometimes our knowledge of a thing is merely theoretical. There is a proposition or statement which we take to be true, for which we have good reasons to believe it, and in conformity with which we make decisions about how we live our lives now and in the future. But in the case of the Gospel, these things which we know, these things which we believe, are invisible. They are not present to us, they are not visible, they are not obvious; they have to do with things we cannot presently see, whether we are talking about what God has done in the past or what He has promised He will do in the future. And the essential invisibility of these objects of knowledge make it such that our knowledge of them doesn’t always come with the kind of “fullness” or “strength” that accompanies knowledge of visible things.
A common example might serve to illustrate the point. It is one thing to know that another person loves you; it is quite another to hear that person say it. Somehow, hearing the words puts the spirit at ease and has a greater effect than a mere reflection on the various demonstrations and examples of love which the other person has put forth throughout the time of the relationship. It is perhaps the immediacy of sound, in comparison to the distance of remembrances, that explains why hearing the words “I love you” is so much more comforting and consoling than thinking back on acts and demonstrations of love from the past.
The visible has a kind of strength on us that the invisible does not have. But, as Luther said somewhere, faith consists in giving ourselves over the hold of invisible things. That is why we must pray that God enlighten our hearts, so that with them we can “see” the invisible things of the Gospel, to be gripped and moved by them in what we do. When our belief in them is strengthened and focused, we come to live in the truths we know but cannot see with a kind of vitality and zeal as if we did see them.
In a future post, I should consider whether there is something we can do to strengthen our conviction in invisible things. But for now, suffice it to say that Paul prays for God to accomplish this effect in the Ephesians. The same God who makes us to know Him in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle described in the previous verses, also can strengthen our conviction and grant us a fuller, deeper, more profound knowledge of all the good things which He promises us in the Gospel.