Ephesians 1:17, “ That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

When we read Scripture, we always need to understand as much as possible about the original context of the passage under consideration. Doing so helps us understand what the passage means in its context which helps keeps us from going off the guardrails of the Bible into fanciful interpretations or reading our opinions into the text. It’s easiest to determine the purpose of each New Testament epistle since the Apostle refers to specific problems in the congregation in each letter. In Galatians, for example, Paul aims to expose the false gospel preached by Judaizers and to unfold the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Galatians 1:6-10; 2:11-21).

Ephesians though is different from Galatians, and the other Pauline epistles in that Paul does not specifically mention the problems troubling the church at Ephesus. With that said, Ephesians does contain a lot of basic doctrine and ethical principles, which help readers to understand that the pressing need of the Ephesians Christians and the surrounding regions was instruction in doctrine and living so they might mature in the faith. Today in Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17) which helps confirms this for readers.

The “spirit” mentioned here commentators agree is God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is present in all Christians at the moment of conversion, sealing them as the Lord’s possession and assuring them of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). Paul is not asking the Father to give the Ephesians the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is already ministering to the Ephesians Christians. Paul is asking the Holy Spirit, who is present with the Ephesians to grant them a fuller understanding of the grace of God. The goal of biblical wisdom and biblical revelation is “knowledge of him”- the Creator who has fully revealed Himself in Christ the Lord (Phil. 2:5-11).

John Calvin writes, “Till the Lord opens them, the eyes of our heart are blind. Till the Spirit has become our instructor, all that we know is folly and ignorance. Till the Spirit of God has made it known to us by a secret revelation, the knowledge of our divine calling exceeds the capacity of our own minds.” The Holy Spirit at regeneration opens the eyes of sinners so they can know God and who they are in light of Him. After conversion, the Holy Spirit works to give Christians insight into the revealed Word of God so they can deepen their personal walk with Him (John 16:13; Galatians 5:16).

Let’s be clear here: The “spirit of wisdom and of revelation” is not some mystical experience, esoteric gift, or special blessing or special revelation received after conversion. The “spirit of wisdom and of revelation” refers to the work of the Holy Spirit to help the people of God understand the God of the Bible. Today, if you are a Christian, you possess the Holy Spirit, who works in the corporate Body of Christ to confirm the truth of Holy Spirit, help God’s people understand its meaning, reveal their sin, drive them to Christ alone, and much more.