Ephesians 1:18a

Sermon preached on February 12, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

Do you like anticipation? Every few years I get a new Macintosh computer and there’s nothing like the anticipation of getting a new Mac. It’s a great time.

Marg’s father used to tell me that the anticipation of getting something was better than the actual getting of it. I never agreed with that. I always enjoyed getting something much more than the anticipation. But with him it was different, he said he enjoyed the anticipation more than getting the real thing.

Perhaps that was because sometimes the real thing doesn’t live up to the hype. I’ve looked forward to things and when I’ve gotten them they either don’t work at all or they don’t very well or they’re not suitable. They’ve been great disappointments. When I played
Little League baseball my position was first base and I was told that they were going to get me a first baseman’s glove. I was so excited because I just had a regular glove. I couldn’t wait to get it. But when I got it I was so disappointed because it was way too small for me. I couldn’t even get my hand in it fully. With that the anticipation was way better than the real thing. I imagined that I was getting a good first basemen’s mitt—one that was big and would be really good for catching the ball. But it didn’t work out that way.

Or perhaps Marg’s dad had a better imagination than I did—and that he always imagined that things would be better than they were. But in any case, he felt that the anticipation was better than the reality.

But with you Christians,
you have two things that are both great. Both the hope that you have and the future reality are going to be glorious. Neither is going to be a disappointment. The future reality is going to be so great that it will surpass our greatest desires. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9f,

“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love him”

But that is not to downplay the hope that we have. For Paul continues and says,

“but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things,
even the deep things of God."

Our hope is based on this revelation of the Spirit.

But what we see from our text is that
our grasp of our hope is not what it should be. Paul asks for three things for the Ephesian Christians in this section. The first is that they would know the hope to which God had called them. Paul tells them that he prays that God would open the eyes of their hearts, so that they would be able to comprehend this great hope.

The great lesson for you here is that

you should be seeking to have a better grasp of the hope that you have.

You ought to be asking God to open your eyes so that you may grasp more and more of the hope that He has called you to. Paul writes,

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened
in order that you may know
the hope to which he has called you,"

Paul prayed that God would give them spiritual insight so that they would be able to see things correctly.

I'm fond of quoting the story of
Elisha's servant at Dothan—and it exactly illustrates the point Paul is making here. Elisha's servant was afraid when he saw the city surrounded by the Syrians. But Elisha prayed that that his eyes would be opened. God answered his prayer and we read that, (2 Kings 6:17)

"the LORD opened the servant's eyes,
and he looked and saw the hills
full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

There were spiritual realities that the servant couldn't see naturally. God had to open his eyes. When God did—the situation looked entirely different. He was no longer terrified.

In the same way, we Christians need to be praying that God would open our eyes so that we would see with our spiritual eyes. In our old state we were blind to these spiritual realities. In
Ephesians 5:8 Paul said to the Ephesians,

"For you were once darkness…"

And Ephesians 4:18 describes unbelievers as being,

"darkened in their understanding
and separated from the life of God
because of the ignorance that is in them
due to the hardening of their hearts."

That's the way that we were when we were unbelievers. Part of our problem is that things have carried over from our old way of life. The other part of the problem is that we're influenced too much by the world. Like them we're focused too much on earthly things. We spend too much time thinking about what we shall eat, what we shall drink and what we shall wear and such things. In Matthew 6:32-33 Jesus said,

"For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well."

You are not to be focusing on earthly things like people who don't know Christ. You are to be focusing on the great hope that you have.

The enlightening that began with your conversion is a process. We need our eyes opened to see more of the hope to which God has called us. This is what Paul is asking for here for the Ephesians. Paul wants us to know the hope to which we were called. You are to be praying that God would more and more open the eyes of your heart, your spiritual eyes so that you will be more and more aware of spiritual realities and know the hope that you have better.

Indeed, you are to know this hope so well that it is to be a defining characteristic of your life.

Notice how the Holy Spirit puts it in our text. Paul wrote,

"in order that you may know
the hope to which he has
called you,"

You were called to hope. Hope is your calling. God wants us to be filled with hope. In Romans 15:13 Paul it this way,

"May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may
overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit."

You are to be overflowing with hope.

One of the things that you should realize is that
God has delivered you from hopelessness. Your life now has great meaning. You are headed for glory. You are citizens of heaven.

But someone may object—

"Wait in minute. My present circumstances aren't that good. If my present condition improved a bit, then I might be able to show a little more hope. But as it is right now, don't criticize me for not having much hope because things just aren't good for me."

Nonsense! Hope has nothing to do with present circumstances. Remember what Paul said in Romans 8:24?

"But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what he already has?"

When I go into the prison on Thursday I'm going to tell the Christian guys there that they need to be overflowing with hope.

The fact is that all Christians have this hope and should know it well so that they are overflowing with hope.
This hope is yours, whether or not you know it.

Let me illustrate. I remember one day I was
looking for my sunglasses. I was going out and I needed them because it was a very bright day. And the frustrating thing was that I had just had them. I couldn't imagine what I had done with them. I looked and looked and looked and couldn't find them until I must have went to scratch my head about it and I found them on top of my head. I had them the whole time.

I'm glad no one saw me looking for them. I can imagine how foolish it would have looked. If someone had seen me they would have said, "Larry, what are you looking for?" I would have told them my sunglasses and they would have looked at me with incredulity and said, "Okay."

Can you imagine how foolish I would have looked? But that's exactly the way we look when we don't know our hope. It's right there. We're crowned with it. We are to know it more and more. We are to overflow with hope.
Our present sufferings are not to dampen our hope. Remember how Paul put it in Romans 8:18? He wrote,

"I consider that our present sufferings
are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us."

You are going to be made glorious. Your present troubles are not worthy to be compared to that.

What a day that will be for you Christians. We're going to be
caught up in the air to meet Jesus. On that Day you are going to be made perfect. 1 Corinthians 15:52f tells us that,

"in a flash,
in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed.
For the perishable
must clothe itself with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality."

We are going to be made free from sin, from death. We are going to be made like Jesus. In 1 John 3 we read,

"Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."

Our lowly bodies are going to be made like the glorious body of Jesus. (Philippians 3:20) Jesus is going to say to you, (Matthew 25:34)

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance,
the kingdom prepared for you
since the creation of the world."

We are going to see His face. We are going to dwell with Him forever. We are going to rule with Him. How wonderful it will be. In Romans 5:2 it is called 'the hope of the glory of God'. Paul wrote,

"through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."

But, again, someone may object—

if we focus so much on our coming hope, we'll be useless to the world.

Did you ever hear the expression,

"He's so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good."?

I don't like that expression because it's not true. I mean, think about it. Was Elisha's servant behaving better before or after he had his eyes opened to see the chariots and horses of fire? He had a much better grasp of things after his eyes were opened and he could behave much more appropriately.

This is the consistent teaching of the Bible.

the more you know the hope to which you were called, the more you overflow with hope—the greater impact you will have on the world around you.

Consider your evangelism.

In 1 Peter 3:15 the apostle wrote,

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have."

Do you see Peter's logic? If you have great hope, if you're overflowing with hope—you will be living in such a way that people will ask you about what you have. You'll be above the troubles of this life. You'll be full of hope no matter what happens to you.

Another verse in this regard is
2 Corinthians 3:12 where Paul wrote,

"Therefore, since we have such a hope,
we are very bold."

The context there is about the ministry of the new covenant being better than the ministry of the old covenant and how Moses face had to be covered because its glory was fading. But the glory of the new covenant is lasting.

Again, the point is that if you know the hope to which you are called—it will help you be a much more effective witness for Jesus.

But knowing the hope that we have

will also help us appreciate Jesus more.

We have this hope because of Jesus, because we are united with Him. Scripture centers our hope in Jesus. For example, in Colossians 1:27 it is called 'the hope of glory' and it is centered on Jesus. Paul wrote,

"To them God has chosen to make known
among the Gentiles the glorious riches
of this mystery,
which is Christ in you,
the hope of glory."

Because Christ is in us—we have the hope of glory. Jesus is the source of our hope. I mentioned before that all through this chapter Paul mentions how these spiritual blessings come to us 'in Christ'. That is the background here.

It is our union with Christ that is the basis for our hope.

In Titus 2:13 our hope is called 'the blessed hope'. It's focused on Jesus' coming. We read,

"while we wait for the blessed hope—
the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior,
Jesus Christ,"

In Philippians 3:20-21 Paul wrote,

"But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power that enables him
to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies
so that they will be like his glorious body."

We will be made glorious. We will be free from sin. As we read in 1 John 3:1f,

"But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."

We shall be like Him. We shall see His face. His dwelling will be with us. Our hope is focused on the coming of Jesus because His coming will result in our glorification. It is then that the truths of 1 Corinthians 15 will come true. As Paul said, (verses 52-53)

"For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself
with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality."

John Murray writes, (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 164)

"The perspective of God's people is not narrow; it is broad and it is long. Its orbit has two foci, one the electing love of God the Father in the counsels of eternity, the other glorification with Christ in the manifestation of his glory. The former has no beginning, the latter has no end. Glorification with Christ at his coming will be but the beginning of a consummation that will encompass the ages of the ages. 'So we will ever be with the Lord.' (1 Thess. 4:17)"

Murray tells us that this perspective, even though it has a past and a future, is not bounded by temporal history. It's bounded by eternity. The reason we can have confident assurance about the future and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God is because we are united to Christ. We should not be able to think of the past, present or future apart from union with Christ. Murray continues, (p. 165)

"Apart from union with Christ we cannot view the past, present, or future with anything but dismay and Christless hope. By union with Christ, the whole complexion of time and eternity is changed and the people of God may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

Those who know this blessed hope, who know the hope of glory, who know the hope of righteousness, who know the living hope that we have—know that this hope is all because of Jesus. This hope will energize you to love Him, praise Him and rejoice in Him.

Thirdly, this hope will help you live be more holy.

You were called to hope. Why? One of the reasons is so that you can be holy.

How does 1 John 3:1-2 continue? It does not yet appear what we shall be – but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. It then says, (1 John 3:3)

"Everyone who has this hope in him
purifies himself,
just as he is pure."

Why is it important that you have hope, that you know the hope to which you were called?

It will lead you to holiness, to lead a better life.

Colossians 1:5f speaks of faith and love springing from the hope that you have. It reads,

"the faith and love that spring
from the hope that is stored up
for you in heaven
and that you have already heard about
in the word of truth,
the gospel that has come to you."

So you see, anyone who comes to know more and more about the hope that we have will never be so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. Quite the contrary, they will be the ones who make the greatest impact upon the world. Indeed, in 1 Peter 1:3-4 our hope is called a 'living hope'. It is the energizing principle of the new life. (Hiebert, 1 Peter)

"Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth
into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish,
spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,"

So Christians, seek to know more about the hope that you have. Pray that God would open the eyes of your heart to it and that you would be able to greatly impact your society because of it. This is your calling.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.

You don't have hope. That's what the Bible tells you.

What are the your hopes? Think about them. What are they? All your hopes are empty, deceptive and false. They are illusions. They are all vanity. They are all meaningless. In
Ephesians 2:12 Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians and talked about before they came to Christ. He said,

"remember that at that time
you were separate from Christ,
excluded from citizenship in Israel
and foreigners to the covenants of the promise,
without hope and without God in the world."

You need Christ. He's your only hope. You need to turn from your empty way of life, from your sins—to Jesus. Go to Him. Ask Him to save you. In Matthew 11: 28f, Jesus said,

"Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."