God today is very busy teaching us to learn to consistently “walk by faith,” i.e., cease trying to live by our addiction to trying to obey God’s law and instead believe that Jesus, by His Holy Spirit, is already doing so through us. The Bible says He is (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:4)—so I can believe it, irrespective of what I see in my own life,
We saw last week that the path to learning to live this way is to ask myself, as I read the Bible, “Am I reading the law or the gospel?” Other ways to express this thought are, “Is this about ‘what is above me’ (my relationship with God—the gospel), or ‘what is beneath me’ (my relationships on the earth—the kingdom).
If the passage concerns my relationship with God above me, it is all of grace. He alone pursued me, saved me, and won my heart, and there is nothing I can do to assist Him in that task. For me, it is already finished!
Once I see this with spiritual eyes and believe it, I am eager to jump into my heavenly Father’s family business of ruling over the earth in His kingdom, my purpose for being created (Genesis 1:26-28). Walking by faith is a prerequisite for ever doing that.
In Paul’s introduction to his letter to the Ephesians, he addresses this very issue. In 1:3-8 he reviews the things God has already done for us, completely independently, without any help from us. This work was finished at the cross. This is the gospel of the grace of God.
In the next six verses (1:9-14), he lets us in on the plan God has for us—the family business—what He will do with us in the future. This is extending the kingdom of God. That work has already begun in us and is continuing to expand.
Then he prays a very interesting prayer. Paul prays here for the Ephesians, and therefore for us as well. Could this be a prayer that would be a good thing for us to pray for ourselves? Let’s look at it.
After mentioning the good reports he had heard about the Ephesians in verse 15 and 16 , he prays the following in verse 17:
“…That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,…”
The word “knowledge” is the Greek word epiginosko. The idea here is that Paul is praying for these Ephesian Christians, who are genuinely full-on, furrowed-brow-serious about being Jesus’s disciples. In Revelation 2:2-4, the Apostle John describes the Ephesian church:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ”
So, as we might expect, Paul is praying in Ephesians 1:17 that they will see both the truth about God (revelation) and then remember to properly apply that truth (wisdom).
As I shared last week, my knowledge of Greek is limited, but with that firmly in mind, I want to share what I have discovered about these verses in Ephesians 1. There are several words that mean “to know” or “knowledge” in the original Greek New Testament. Three of these are used in these verses in this prayer by Paul in Ephesians:
Oida – “to know from observation;”
Ginosko – not just to know, but “to understand completely, frequently indicating a relationship between the person knowing and the object known;”
Epiginosko – “lays stress on participation in the truth known itself.”
All these definitions are from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
Oida is like seeing a beautiful, comfortable-looking chair in the window of a furniture store. It looks very, very comfortable and I know it will hold me up if I sit in it.
Ginosko is knowing it still more fully by going into the store and actually sitting in it and experiencing how it holds me up and how wonderfully comfortable it is (My wife, Jill, recently purchased just such a chair for me!).
Epiginosko, the Greek word in verse 17, is like believing the chair is comfortable and will hold me up, then trying it out and experiencing it, and finally buying it and taking it home with me, because I can’t live without it—that chair has captured my heart and I am establishing an ongoing relationship with it (That, indeed, has happened with my chair; I have an epiginosko relationship with it!).
Now, let’s apply these three words to our relationship with Jesua Christ:
Oida – “I know and even believe that the historical Jesus lived and I know and believe all He taught about sin, and salvation, and I am a five point Calvinist” (knowing Jesus by observation, study, or learning—an intellectual knowing).
Ginosko – “I know all about Jesus, believe it all, and I also know that I, personally, am a down and dirty sinner, in personal, real life situations, not just a theological or theoretical sinner, and I have repented and experienced His glorious salvation!” (knowing Jesus by an experiential experience with Him as my Savior and Lord).
Epiginosko – “I know Jesus because I know He loves me, has saved me, and I can’t wait to find out what is involved in following Him.” (knowing Jesus because He has captured my heart and I can do nothing else but give Him my life and join with Him in His kingdom—the family business).
Bingo! I am pumped! This prayer of Paul’s proves exactly what I want it to prove—verse 17 shows me that Christianity is an experience with the living God through the Holy Spirit who lives inside me, not simply knowing the facts of the faith or even just believing it with my head. It is an experiential relationship with Him in His kingdom.
I should have stopped there, but I read on, again, with just enough Greek to be dangerous:
Ephesians 1:18: – “…The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know…” (epignosco again, right?). No!
I discovered that “know” in verse 18 was a word from the same root as oida, to know by observation only, rather than experience. What is going on here? I thought I had a perfect understanding of what God is saying!
So, I went back, looked again at Paul’s introduction, and discovered that there is a division in it: Ephesians 1:3-8 is about the gospel; Ephesians 1:9-14 is about the kingdom. I saw that Paul’s prayer addresses both. Verse 17 discusses our experience (epiginosko)—the gospel, that we have already experienced, and verse 18 to see and understand (oida)—the kingdom, a vision of the as yet unrealized future.
As partners in the family business, God is letting us in on His plans, a vision of what we, yes, WILL EXPERIENCE in the future as we grow into more and more responsibility in the kingdom of God, in our families, in the church, in politics, and in the marketplace, as we bring each into the kingdom in our experience!
After we meet the Lord with an epiginosko experience with Jesus, we then learn by study and observation, the vision of the kingdom, oida. Then, eventually, will come an experience of the kingdom for us all, ginosko and epiginosko, as “His kingdom comes, and His will is done, on the earth as it is in heaven” Lord, do it!