The Spirit Of Wisdom and Revelation-Ephesians 1:15-17

In this passage, Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus, and his desire is that what he prays would become a reality in all of their lives. We therefore understand that God’s desire is that what Paul prays here would become a reality in the lives of all believers everywhere. He begins, in verse 15, with “For this reason”, the reason being given in verses 13 and 14, the believers have been sealed with the “promised Holy Spirit”. How does Paul know this? He knows because he has “heard about their faith” and “their love for all the saints”. He knows they are genuine believers because they demonstrate faith in the Lord Jesus, with the evidence of this faith being “love for all the saints”. Two things are of interest here. Firstly, love here is agape, love for those one does not like, love for those who are not particularly “loveable”. Secondly, this love is for “all” the saints, even the ones it is difficult to love. Their faith was shown genuine by their love for “all” the saints, particularly for those they did not particularly like, for those who were not particularly loveable. As Paul prays for these believers, he continually gives thanks to God for them, and he then tells them precisely what he prays for them and what he would like to see come to pass in their lives. He prays, first of all, that God would “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better”. There is a translation issue here, regarding whether the word “spirit” should be capitalized or not, whether Paul’s reference here is to the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. We believe that it should not be capitalized, that it is a reference to the human spirit here, primarily for three reasons. 1) Paul’s use of the subjunctive mood in the verb “give”. The subjunctive is the mood of possibility, it has been made possible for them to receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation”. His use of this mood would make no sense if his reference here was to them receiving the Holy Spirit, for he has just told them, in verse 13, that they had received the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, and it would make no sense to tell them he prayed that it would be possible for them to receive what they already had. 2) His use of the second person plural pronoun “your”. This pronoun directly modifies the word spirit, and it use would also make no sense if it referred to the Holy Spirit, for there is only one Holy Spirit. 3) His use of the dative case for the pronoun “you”. The dative is the case of personal interest, the person to or for whom the action is performed, the someone to whom something is given or for whom something is done. It is the spirit of wisdom and revelation which is given, both to and for the believer. For these reasons, it is our contention that Paul’s reference here is to the human spirit, which an examination of the major translations would support, for only the NIV and ESV capitalize “Spirit”, while all of the others do not. What Paul wants for the believers, then, is that God would give wisdom and revelation to their spirits. What then does he mean by this, what is he asking for? The human spirit is that faculty in human beings which causes us to search for and assign meaning to everything which happens. The most basic and fundamental human question, the one we ask about everything which we encounter in life is “What does that mean”? It is the human spirit which causes us to search for the meaning of everything, and it is the human spirit which causes us to search for God, who is the ultimate source of meaning. Paul prays that God would give “wisdom and revelation” to our spirit. The word “revelation” is apokalypsis, literally to “uncover or unveil”, the revealing of knowledge or insight which can only be given to us by God and cannot be arrived at by human reason The word “wisdom” here is sophias, which refers to knowledge or insight put into practice. Revelation refers to the receiving of knowledge or insight, while wisdom refers to knowing what to do with that knowledge or insight. So what Paul ultimately desires for all believers is that they would receive, from God, insight into the true meaning of things, that God would reveal to them the true meaning of everything, and that they would know what to do with this knowledge. In this way, we grow to “know Him better”. The word know here is epiginosko. experiential knowledge. What all of this ultimately means is that Paul prays here that all believers would progressively learn to see things more and more as God does, that they would see and understand the ultimate meaning of everything, would see and understand everyone and everything through His eyes, see things the way He does, and live their lives accordingly. This is what Jesus did, and is what Paul (and God) primarily desire in the lives of all those who have received the “seal, the promised Holy Spirit”. May we as believers endeavor to pray this prayer for one another, that we may all see things as God does, to see all of life through his eyes.

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