The apostle Paul writes the following to the people of churches of Ephesus:
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19a NAS).
Although the phrase, the eyes of your heart, is meaningless in a physical sense, it is not difficult for us to understand what Paul intends to say. In contrast to physical things that we can see with our physical eyes, spiritual truths must be discerned by other means.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in much the same way when he talked about the fact that the things of the Spirit of God seem like foolishness to the “natural man.” These people, using only their natural senses and human intellect, are not able to see and to understand those things of the Spirit because, Paul tells them, those things are “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). That is, these are the things that are seen with the sight given by the eyes of the heart.
This ministry of opening the eyes of the hearts of
people was specifically given to Paul when he
was first called into service as he fell before the great light on the Damascus road. At that
time, Paul was not a follower of Jesus Christ but was, in fact, a persecutor of the church of Christ. He was on his way
to the city of Damascus armed with the
authority to throw the Christians there into prison.
The Conversion of Paul on the Road to Damascus (Caravaggio)
However, as Paul approached the city, he was struck blind in his eyes by a bright light that suddenly flashed from out of the sky. So overwhelming was the shock of the light that it threw Paul to the ground. The whole account is recorded for us in the biblical book of Acts.
The way that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, describes Paul’s condition at that event is interesting when it is compared with how Paul himself describes the experience. Luke writes that when Paul rose from the ground, “although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing” (Acts 9:8). This was the perspective of someone else observing what was happening to Paul at the time. Paul was blind, and like any blind man, he could not see anything.
However, Paul had a somewhat different description of what happened to him. Sometime later, in telling about the event, Paul said that it was during the time when he was struck blind in his eyes that God had told him, “Rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you” (Acts 26:16 ESV).
The comparison in the two accounts of the event is significant. While Luke noted Paul’s physical blindness and how he could see nothing, Paul says that it was precisely at this time when God appeared to him. It was during the time of Paul’s physical blindness that, in a way that we cannot know, he actually had a vision of God.
In fact, it is interesting to see that in this first sentence of Paul’s, relating what God told him, a word relating to vision is mentioned three times; “I have appeared to you…the things which you have seen…I will appear to you.”
This is what it means to see with the eyes of one’s heart. Physical sight means little in these times. What is important is seeing God and hearing what He says to you.
As God continued to speak to Paul during this time of physical blindness, the thrust of God’s words continues to be sight instead of blindness. In all of this, God gives Paul spiritual awareness. This spiritual awareness always involves the eyes of the heart. In God’s statement, the operative words are to open ones eyes and to turn to the light. God told Paul that He was sending him to the Jewish people and the Gentiles “To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18 NAS).
A couple of blog posts ago I spoke of walking by faith instead of walking by sight (to read this post, click here: JACOB - EYES OF FAITH). This is done by learning to see with the eyes of our hearts and is what Paul prayed that the people of Ephesus would be able to do.
What Paul wanted the people to see is quite extraordinary. If we read the following sentence slowly, and think about each phrase, we will see how extraordinary the vision is as seen by the eyes of the heart:
“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, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV).