Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Picture of God

As I am preparing for this week’s sermon, a particular phrase in the text struck me. Paul is praying for the Ephesian church (and other churches who would receive this letter). He wants them to fully experience what it means to know Jesus. The phrase that is curious is,

(Ephesians 1:18 NIV) I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know . . .

Three words are worth highlighting in this verse. The first is translated, in the NIV, as eyes (ophthalmos). The second is translated heart (kardia). The third is translated enlightened (photizo). What does Paul intend here?

No doubt, the word for eyes refers to seeing. This word is used to describe the physical organ of the eye. But you don’t need to take a class in anatomy to know that eyes are not located in the heart. In the ancient world, the heart (kardia) was understood as the center of one’s being. We might use the word mind or soul in today’s language. We don’t think of our inner being having eyes. Yet Paul is praying for clarity in our heart (our inmost being); he wants us to comprehend God. What does he want for the eyes of our heart? He wants them to be enlightened. Notice the Greek word, photizo. It is the root word for photograph or photo. In other words, Paul wants us to be able to clearly see God. He wants us to see, understand God as if we were gazing on a photograph of Him.

Have you ever tried to describe how person looks? It could be very difficult. You might describe their hair color, stature, their weight or something they are wearing. You may or may not have success. Yet when you use a photograph, everything is much clearer; you have to say very little. Paul wants us to know God in this sort of way. His prayer for the church at Ephesus, churches throughout Asia minor and churches throughout the world is that they would have a coherent picture of God. Some say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This sort of unambiguous understanding of God is crucial for a healthy church.

Certainly, God is mysterious. It is impossible to know everything about him. Yet, at the same time, Paul prays that our hearts would be illuminated. It seems that many churches have given up on encountering God in such an intimate way. There is a little talk of being empowered by God’s Spirit or seeking God’s direction. I hope that we will regain the expectation of knowing God as we learn to discern His leading. May we, as Paul, long for an unhindered picture of God so that we may follow Him on His mission in this world.