In Ephesians 1:13-17 it is clear that Paul is dividing the Christian experience into three parts that can be classified as the past, the present and the past:
- Past - "When you believed" and entered into Christ..."you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."
- Present - "May give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."
- Future - "Until the redemption of those who are God's possession."
Paul's focus is not on the past, although he acknowledges it and says that the Ephesians believers have the Holy Spirit because of their salvation experience.
Neither does Paul focus on the future, but he does say that we have been sealed with "the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession." A seal was used to show ownership of a document that often contained legal information concerning property, transactions, inheritances, etc. The Ephesian believers have been sealed not with an impression pressed into a piece of clay to seal legal information in a scroll, but with the Holy Spirit being pressed into their souls by God to indicate he is now the owner and the one who guarantees the plans he has for them. This seal will stay secure and protect the contents God placed in the Ephesian believers until the day of redemption, which is the resurrection.
Paul's focus, though, is not on the past or the future, these things are set. The variable is the present. What will the believers in Ephesus do with their guaranteed inheritance, which is their gifting and placement in the body of Christ in time? Will they grow to understand who they are in Christ and what God desires to accomplish in them? Will they be productive with the assets God has placed in them? Or, will they squander their inheritance? And, fail to recognize the valuable treasure God has sealed in them and guaranteed with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives? This is what Paul is focused on and because of this Paul prays for them in their here and now.
Since the past is secure and the future is guaranteed, Paul prays for their growth and production in their present. Paul prays that they may be productive, but their production is based on their understanding of the super-natural spiritual realities that they cannot and will not know by human reason. They must understand the revelation from God through the Holy Spirit that abides within them. So Paul prays for them:
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." - Ephesians1:17-23
Paul says God's "incomparably great power" is presently in "the church, which is his body" functioning on earth today! The key to operating this power in the church is the believers knowing and understanding what is going on! Their past is complete, their future is secure, but their present depends on whether or not they have any clue what is going on concerning God's desire to function in time through his people, the church. Knowledge and understanding of the plan and how it is to be executed is essential for completing the assignment. Ignorance guarantees an incomplete experience with the inheritance God has given to us.