“There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.'”
-Charles Spurgeon on his conversion
Question: Have you ever experienced anything like that? Can you point to a time in your life where the gospel actually made sense and the dark cloud was lifted and your heart longed to do nothing more than to gaze at Christ?
Or did you just pray a prayer?
Interesting questions. But are they necessary?
Paul apparently thought so. Ephesians 1 gives us insight into why these questions are necessary, and what they reveal. And if the questions were important enough that Paul didn’t cease praying for them in the lives of the Ephesian believers, they’re probably worth asking of ourselves.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians
This is Paul’s prayer the Ephesian church:
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.
-Ephesians 1:15-19 ESV
Why is Paul praying for Christians to have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, and to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened? If they’re Christians, haven’t those things already happened?
Well, yes and no. Yes, if Paul’s audience were truly Christians then they would have received the Spirit. But just because they were Christians didn’t mean that they had had the eyes of their hearts enlightened, according to his logic.
Paul is saying that there’s some progressive nature to knowledge of Christ and understanding of the gospel. But that growth is about realizing the true nature of “the hope to which he has called you,” meaning the reality is current, but the understanding might not be.
The difference between knowing and tasting
Which means that there’s a difference between knowing about the gospel, and knowing the gospel.
Jonathan Edwards said to think of this as the difference between knowing honey is sweet, and tasting that honey is sweet. You can read about honey in a book and know that it’s a sweet substance. But you can’t know that honey is sweet if you haven’t actually tasted it for yourself. And you certainly can’t explain to others the sensation of tasting honey if you’ve never experienced it.
You can read about the gospel in a book and even know all the “right” answers. You can go through the motions without experiencing transformation. Knowledge simply isn’t enough.
Lives are not changed when people know the gospel; lives are changed when people taste the gospel.
Lives are changed, hearts are transformed, when the gospel of Christ is so sweet in your heart and mind that you do whatever you can to return to that sensation.
A gospel recipe
So Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus to taste the gospel, then he goes on to explain what the gospel actually tastes like. And it’s a mixture of three flavors: hope, riches, and greatness.
Here’s what’s in each of those flavors, as explained by Paul in verses 18-19:
- Hope – the hope to which we are called (eternal life in heaven)
- Riches – the riches of our inheritance (which he tells us earlier in chapter 1 is every heavenly blessing – not bad)
- Greatness – the greatness of His power through us (which he later tells us later in the chapter is the same power that raised Christ from the dead)
You can know what ingredients go into the gospel. Paul lays them out clearly. You can even know to an extent how to describe what it tastes like.
But you might not have ever tasted it for yourself.
And Paul knows that tasting the gospel is the only way people will ever give their lives for the gospel.
Jesus asked us to follow him with our feet, not just our hearts. He told us that if we love him we will obey his commands (John 14:15), not just hold up his banner. And he told us that we need to die to ourselves daily in order to really do that (Luke 9:23).
We don’t get to that kind of radical obedience without a heart transformation. And we don’t get to a transformed heart without a taste of the only thing which has the power to actually transform it.