Because I Have Heard - Ephesians 1:15-23 part 2

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Last week we spent most of our time focused upon the first three words of Ephesians 1:15. This is where Paul says, ‘For this reason’. We considered three reasons that Paul was compelled to pray for these believers.

  1. Paul prayed for them because he heard of their faith in Christ and their love for all of the saints.

  2. Paul was compelled to pray for them because of all the doctrine that he spoke of in Ephesians 1:3-14.

  3. Paul was compelled to pray for them because they needed to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1:18)

This morning I would like to begin by looking at the rest of Ephesians 1:15. Paul says, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints...”. Although we will begin with this verse we will be brought forward to other things in this text.

When you read through Paul’s letters you get the impression that he had made it a priority to hear about others. He begins by saying, ‘because I have heard’. These words may not seem to contain much but they really are quite fun to consider.

Do you know anyone who listens really well?

Someone who seems to constantly have their attention focused upon the conversations that they are having and then they act upon them in some way?

Whenever I talk with Jim Swanson I am always impressed by the way he will remember the littlest things that I said to him. He will remember little details and then he will pray for me and ask me about them later. Or he will talk to my wife and then weeks later he will ask about that particular situation.

I see this same quality in the apostle Paul when I read his letters. Paul made it a priority to hear about others and then he would respond in an appropriate way. He worked hard to make sure that he was well aware of these churches and those who attended them.

Let me give you just a few examples that might demonstrate that this was a priority for Paul.

  • Paul knew the maturity level of each of the churches. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk and not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready...” (1 Cor 3:1-2)

  • Paul knew of specific problems that each church, and of the individuals individuals in the churches, were facing. To the Galatians Paul wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel...” (Galatians 1:6)

  • Romans 16 is an entire chapter where Paul greets the individuals in the church by name even though he had never been there. In all, he greets twenty-six people in that chapter.

  • Paul’s philosophy of ministry was about creating opportunities for the churches to get to know him and for him to get to know the churches. “Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by theses afflictions.” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3a)

None of these things happen if someone has not decided to make hearing and responding to others a priority. As pastors, evangelists, and teachers, we need to cultivate a ministry that is similar to Paul’s. Ministers should heed the instruction that James gives when he says that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. We would all do well to remember I Corinthians 13:1-2 which says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

There is not a person today who would not want to know that they have been heard.

  • A baby cries out to be heard and responded too.

  • A child wants to be heard by their parents even if they don’t get what they desire.

  • Every wife wants to be heard by their husband.

  • Every church member and every church leader wants and needs to be heard.

  • Here, Paul shows the Ephesians what a comfort it is that he has heard of them and is moved to thank God for them in their prayers.

This small phrase, ‘I have heard’, can bring great comfort to someone in so many different situations.

The other night Mindy and I watched a documentary about submarines. One of the stories that they told was about a Russian nuclear submarine that had an explosion on board while they were out at sea. They sealed the compartments off so that the submarine would not sink too quickly but they had to send someone back in to shut down the nuclear reactor before it over heated. A young man volunteered for the job. He went down to the reactor and successfully shut it down which adverted a catastrophe. However, when he tried to return he was unable to re-open the hatch to get to safety. The sailors on the other side of the hatch could not get it open. They could only listened to the young boy in his final moments as he cried and talked to them. No doubt this young boy did not want to die but I am sure that he was grateful to have his companions there with him at the end.

Paul, was not always a good listener. Especially when it came to listening to those who displayed the very same qualities that he now commends the Ephesians for.