Thanksgiving for Faith and Love – Ephesians 1:15-16
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:15-16
This morning we begin a new section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. You may remember me saying that verses 3-14 were one continual sentence as written in the Greek. The section we begin today is also one sentence. This time it is 169 words in the Greek in vss. 15-23. Paul is known for these long sentences. Our verses today begin with the words for this reason in the NAS. These words form a connection between the two passages of study. So when Paul says for this reason he has in focus the five spiritual blessings he has just written about. Do you remember them? He chose us, he adopted us, he redeemed us, he revealed the mystery of the gospel to us, and he has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise.
In addition to those blessings, which Paul is very thankful for, he says here that he is also encouraged by what he hears from the Ephesian church. He mentions two particular areas here: faith and love. Let’s consider faith first.
I. Faith – Paul says he had heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus. This is a good thing. It is encouraging to hear that the church you have been involved in planting has grown spiritually to the point that they are known as faithful Christians. He writes having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which exists among you…the church and her congregants were known as people of faith. Let’s take a moment and define faith.
i. πίστις (pis'-tis ) to trust or believe.
ii. Webster defines faith as “the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another.”
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
iii. What is faith? Faith is the belief that God is who he says he is and has the assurance and conviction that what he says in his word is truth.
We know that it is not enough to know the definition of a word like faith. We have to live out our faith everyday. When we do that we demonstrate that we have a real understanding of what faith is. It is evident by what Paul says here in vs. 15 that the Ephesians demonstrated their faith.
b. Demonstrated – What was he hearing? How had the Ephesians demonstrated their faith? Paul gives us no detail whatsoever about this. But we know what is expected of those who believe don’t we?
What does Hebrews 11:6 say? And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
We are to be people of faith. In Ephesians 1:13 we read these words, In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise… Ephesians 1:13
The word “believed” that you see in vs. 13 and the word “faith” in verse 15 comes from the same root word, the greek word “pistis” we looked at just a few minutes ago. It shows us the relationship between the two words. You can’t believe in Christ without being a person of faith. The word “believed” we are looking at here does not refer to a one time deal. It is not a snapshot. Paul is referring to a continual belief. And when he talks here about the faith of the Ephesians he is talking about an ongoing and vibrant faith. You see,
i. Real faith is a lifestyle
1. This is what Paul saw in Timothy. Listen to what Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5-6…For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
a. The word sincere means undisguised or without pretense. Now Timothy wasn’t born with this faith. He watched his mother and grandmother demonstrate real faith, he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and his faith began to grow until Paul could say this about him.
2. The people attending the Ephesian church had noteworthy faith as well. Paul had heard about it.
a. The interesting thing about faith is that it is almost always clearer when someone is under pressure. Or maybe I can say it this way; you will see what someone is really made of when they are under pressure.
b. There was a young architect with a new idea for building large factories. It seemed a simple idea really. The old and acceptable way of doing things was placing columns at regular intervals to support the roof of the building. The problem with the columns was that they took up a lot of space at the ground level. This young architect figured that he could save a lot of space by making the columns smaller at the bottom and wider at the top. No one would believe him. He proposed a test. He built one of his newly designed columns with a large platform at the top on which they would add weight until the column showed signs of collapse. The test began and bets were placed on how long it would stand. By the time the column began to show stress cracks the amount of weight on the platform was many times over the amount needed. But it wasn’t until the weight was added that they knew for sure the column could do the job. The people of the Ephesian church had been tested by the weight of persecution and their faith proved strong. Paul is continually thanking God for their faith.
There is another thing that Paul is thanking God for. For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, Ephesians 1:15
So added to the reputation of faith was their love for other Christians (all the saints). There is something that we should be very sure of. True faith, the kind of faith that Paul saw in the Ephesians, is accompanied by love. It was true of them and it should be true of us.
II. Love - “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
Simply put, you can’t have real faith without having a love for one another in the body of Christ. If God is at work in you and your faith is growing love is going to be one of the results that people will see. You can see that God is at work in someone by the way they treat others in the body of Christ.
The condition of your relationships is an indication of the condition of your faith and trust in God. Pastor Wayne Barber
i. ἀγάπη (agape) an attitude of appreciation resulting from a conscious evaluation and choice.
1. There are other kinds of love talked about in scripture but here Paul uses the word that calls for a conscious choice. This is what he had heard about the Ephesians. They loved one another.
2. Do you think for a minute that the church in Ephesus was that much different than our church here in Ashton? That everyone just naturally had the same interests, the same backgrounds, and the same viewpoints? Of course not. But here is what Paul says about them, I have heard of your love for all the saints (not just the ones that are easy to love) and I do not cease giving thanks for you.
3. We don’t have the details but it is not hard to imagine that they were taking care of one another in difficult circumstances. They clearly demonstrated their love to one another.
i. Later in his letter to the Ephesians Paul reminds of some of the components of this love. In chapter four Paul is talking about what it means to live a Christian life. Here are some ways we can demonstrate love to one another.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.Ephesians 4:25
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, Ephesians 4:26
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32
We will dig in to these passages later in our study but I think they are sufficiently clear for our purposes today. These are ways that we can show our love to one another, and, of course, there are many more.
III. Applying this passage – we know it does no good to walk away from here this morning without thinking about how this passage should affect our lives. I want to help you apply what Paul is saying by asking you two questions. The first is…
a. What has been heard about you?
i. Paul was encouraged by what he had heard about the Ephesians. What are people hearing about you? Don’t come up to me after the service and say “You know pastor, not everything you hear about someone is true.” I know that. I am talking about what people know to be true about you. And you can do something about that. One of the reasons people don’t like to think about this is because they already know that they have a bad reputation. And may be you don’t think that your reputation can change.
ii. It is true that if you are a rat, you are going to smell like a rat. If you care more about yourself than others, people will know you are selfish. If you consistently tell lies, you are going to be known as a liar, if you consistently not work hard, you will be known as a slug, and so on.
1. These are bad reputations but they don’t have to stay that way.
iii. The positive side of this is true as well, just as we have seen in vs. 15. If you are a man or woman of real faith, you will be seen in that light. If you love the people of your church, the people in the community will know that and see you as a person who is being affected by Christ in you. What have people heard about you? What will people hear about you?
The second question is like the first…
b. What has been heard about ABC?
i. What do the people of Ashton, Franklin, Amboy, and Rochelle know about this body of believers?