Knowing God, as orthodox Christian theologians have always confessed, is foundational to knowledge of all other things, including ourselves. When we understand better the character of God, then we have a truer understanding of ourselves and our need for Him to take care of our sin so that we can endure the presence of His holiness. This is the great truth that Isaiah learned when our Creator called him to his prophetic office (Isa. 6:1–7), and believers throughout history testify to similar experiences of having the sovereign majesty of God revealed, grasping the immensity of their transgressions, and seeing their need for sovereign grace to redeem them.
Our knowledge of God does not end with knowledge of His character, as important as it is to comprehend that, insofar as we are able. Scripture also tells us about the work He has done for His people (Ex. 20:2) and the tremendous blessings that we receive in Christ. As Paul continues his prayer for the Ephesians in today’s passage, he adds that he is praying for the Lord to give them knowledge of the “hope” to which He has called believers, in addition to knowledge of the divine character (Eph. 1:18).
The New Testament speaks of the content of our hope in different ways. Galatians 5:5 says we await the “hope of righteousness.” Colossians 1:27 makes reference to our “hope of glory.” Jesus Christ is our hope in 1 Timothy 1:1. In Titus 1:2, Paul tells us that God has given us “hope of eternal life.” All of these expressions, in various ways, refer to the same thing — the eternal, resurrected existence we will enjoy in the new heaven and earth, face to face before our holy God as beings who cannot sin, because of the redemption our Savior has purchased for us (Rev. 21).
In Scripture, hope is not a reference to uncertainty or a lack of confidence in what the future will bring; rather, hope is another word for confident anticipation, and it has both objective and subjective aspects. Objectively, we have a hope that exists outside ourselves — Christ will surely return to reign visibly over all (1 Cor. 15:12–58). This fact is even more incontrovertible than the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. Subjectively, hope is the inward confidence we have that we will participate in the benefits of the objective, future reality (Rom. 8:25). The Holy Spirit’s work involves giving us this subjective hope (v. 16), and Paul prays for this in Ephesians 1:18–20.