THE EYES OF UNDERSTANDING
Ephesians 1:17-20 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.
Although the Ephesians to whom Paul was writing had already become Christians and were conducting themselves faithfully in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:1), his prayer for them, according to the lesson text, was that God would increase their gift of wisdom and reveal to them greater knowledge of Him. This, Paul, likens to the eyes of your understanding being enlightened. Seeing, as well as all other senses of hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling, are wonderful benefits to a full, enjoyable life. To those of us not visually impaired, our eyes allow us to recognize objects around us and to distinguish between them based on color, size, shape, and the perception of depth. By association with given names, we are able to distinguish between a tree and a cow, or between our aunt and our uncle. We see an object with the eye, but we comprehend what the object is or represents with our intellect - with our minds. Consequently, we understand what we see. This is the sense that Paul uses eyes of...understanding in the lesson text.
Our senses, to be enlightening to us, must function with our minds in order for us to gain knowledge. We can distinguish between a trumpet and a flute by sight, sound, or shape based on what the eye sees, what the ear hears, or what the hands feel. We are able to do this because we already have knowledge of what both of these musical instruments look like, sound like, and feel like. In other words, our understanding of these instruments has already been enlightened. We have the mental capacity to perceive the qualities of each instrument and, therefore, are able to discern the differences between them. Paul's prayer for the Christians at Ephesus, and his prayer for each Christian today, is for us to "see" the will of God - to know His will, to understand it, and to use wisdom in its application. This is Christian sight that has been enlightened.
Paul's prayer for Christians is that we all should be enlightened in order to know what is the hope of His calling. The hope we have in God's calling is far more than the comforts and pleasures found in life on earth. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:19). True hope in God is for that which is not seen. We hope for salvation in heaven, and with patience wait for it (Rom. 24-25). The writer of Hebrews sums up this blessed hope of salvation. He says we should earnestly desire salvation as the hope God has set before us. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:18-19).
Paul says that enlightenment is also needed to know what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. We have read many stories about earthly riches being passed down to the heirs of a wealthy estate, which, when received, they are privileged to use during their lifetime. However, there is no earthly benefactor that can bestow riches that will be a blessing for eternity. Through Christ, we have the hope of enjoying the greatest inheritance of all - eternal life in heaven. Through belief and baptism into His body, the church, we become the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Rom. 8:16-17).
Finally, according to the lesson text, Paul prays for Christian enlightenment, that we may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. The power of God is difficult to comprehend, because there is nothing on earth to compare it to. This one act, that of raising Jesus Christ from the dead, transporting Him into heaven, and seating Him at his own right hand, should be sufficient to enlighten us, as His children. Believing this, we are assured He has the power to resurrect us also, and give us a home in heaven. What a wonderful consolation it is, as Christians, to be able to see through the eyes of understanding.