Elsewhere, Paul writes of faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13:13). The earlier verses in Ephesians chapter one have a lot to say about hope. Now we come to the other two parts of the famous trilogy: faith and love.
Faith. In English, the noun ‘faith’ and the verb ‘believe’ look very different. In the original Greek of the New Testament, however, ‘faith’ (pistis) and ‘believe’ (pisteuo) are similar. To believe is to exercise faith. To have faith is to believe.
The faith of the Ephesians was noteworthy. Paul had heard about it. This was no easy-believism or simple intellectual assent. It was real and life-changing. Which immediately confronts us with a challenge: what kind of faith do we have?
Love: This is the well-known term agape (pronounced a-gar-pay). It is one of several Greek nouns for love, most of which have to do primarily with warmth of feeling. In contrast, agape has to do primarily with the will. It is not just something we feel; it is something we choose to do. In some circumstances—like helping a dirty and sick person in a diseased slum—we may feel anything but warm feelings. We may actually feel uncomfortable or even repulsed. But agape keeps going anyway. That is why it is sometimes called ‘anyway love’.
Paul writes here of love for all the saints. Some will always be more loveable than others, but agape reaches out equally towards them all.
Give thanks: Here the verb is eucharisto from which we derive the name Eucharist, often used to describe the Lord’s Supper. Paul makes the remarkable claim here that he never stops giving thanks for the Ephesian Christians and praying for them. They are constantly on his mind.
The Bible says it is a sin not to pray for people we are responsible to pray for (1 Sam 12:23). Some people say, ‘I just pray for others when I feel led.’ If we are honest, we often miss people when we pray like this. We nearly always need reminders. There is a discipline in prayer that is essential for genuine discipleship.
1. Make a list of at least seven categories of people for whom you should pray e.g. your family and friends, missionaries, colleagues… who else?
2. Over the next few days, set up seven blank pages, one for each category and insert the actual names of people you know in the relevant category.
3. Allocate one category to each day of the week and make it the basis of your regular daily prayer.