Ephesians 1:15-22 (ESV):

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, 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, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

I provided the whole context, but I'm particularly interested in understanding the expression "having the eyes of your heart enlightened" (v18). Is Paul dropping a nugget of mystery about the inner nature of human beings? Does the human heart have spiritual senses that are dormant but can be awakened by God, to enable us to grasp spiritual matters that otherwise could not be grasped? Or am I stretching a simple figure of speech way too far here?

4 Answers 4


What does “having the eyes of your heart enlightened” mean in Ephesians 1:18? (Does the human heart have spiritual senses that are dormant but can be awakened by God?)

We may be overlooking certain obvious truths here. Physiologically, the human heart consists of nothing more than “a hollow organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation.”[1] Therefore, perhaps we might recognize references to “the heart” as the predispositions, inclinations and traits of personality that are characterized by our minds, at the core of our consciousness.

Naturally, the mind and the heart are two separate aspects of human nature; we shouldn't allow metaphorical or poetic language to overwhelm our common sense. With that in mind, we can proceed a bit further metaphorically as we identify the "biblical heart." Dr. James Burton Coffman has observed:

“According to the Scriptures, it is ‘the heart’ that imagines (Genesis 6:5), understands (Matthew 15:13), reasons (Mark 2:8), thinks (Luke 9:47), believes (Romans 10:9), and loves (1 Peter 1:22). These passages are more than enough to identify the Scriptural ‘heart’ as the mind or seat of the intelligence” (emphasis added).

Interestingly, the "blindness of the heart" is found in Ephesians 4 (KJV).

Ephesians 4:18, KJV: "[Gentiles having] the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart..."

Suppose we illuminate this verse a bit by relying on key phrases in the NASB, beginning at verse 17 for context:

Ephesians 4:17-18: "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart..." (emphasis added).

Here, the "eyes of [the] heart" constitute our intellect and mental, spiritual recognition of other-worldly truths. Paul's reference to the Gentiles' "ignorance" is helpful toward the remaining clause "hardness of their heart." ("blindness" in KJV). As we put all the pieces together, we should understand that the phrase "eyes of the heart" is merely our conscious recognition of that which Satan labors so arduously to suppress:

2 Corinthians 4:3-4: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Paul further relates his concern over the veil of duplicity that clouds the minds of the faithless:

2 Corinthians 11:3: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (emphasis added).

The biblical heart is clearly a vital aspect of our intellect, recognition of spirit truths, and the faithful humility we exercise in Christ.

[1] Google Dictionary.

  • Good answer. +1; I love 2 Corinthians 3 and parallel to Moses' veil.
    – alb
    Jul 18, 2021 at 12:54

The word καρδία in NT koine Greek, when used metaphorically, denotes the center of emotions and spiritual life, very similar to modern English. See appendix below. As such, "to open the eyes of the heart" is to see spiritual things clearly; specifically, "so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints" (Eph 1:18). Paul goes on at some length to enlarge this glorious prospect that awaits a true spiritual understanding of the unseen world. See V19-23

APPENDIX - extract from Thayer on "heart" = καρδία

b. the center and seat of spiritual life, "the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors" (so in English heart, inner man, etc.); α. universally: Matthew 5:8; Matthew 6:21; Mark 7:19; Luke 1:51; Luke 2:51; Luke 8:12, 15; Acts 5:3; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 14:25; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Peter 3:4, etc.; plural: Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:6, 8; Mark 4:16 (R L text Tr marginal reading); Luke 1:17; Luke 2:35; Luke 5:22; (Luke 24:38 R G L marginal reading; Acts 7:51 L T Tr WH text); Romans 2:15; Romans 16:18; 2 Corinthians 3:2; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 4:7; Ephesians 5:19 Lachmann; Hebrews 8:10 (T WH marginal reading singular); Hebrews 10:16, etc. ἡ καρδία is distinguished from τό στόμα or from τά χειλεα: Matthew 15:8, 18; Mark 7:6; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 10:8f; from τό πρόσωπον: 2 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; περιτομή καρδίας, Romans 2:29; ἀπερίτμητοι τῇ καρδία, Acts 7:51 (L T Tr WH text καρδίαις, WH marginal reading genitive καρδίας, cf. Buttmann, 170 (148)). of things done from the heart i. e. cordially or sincerely, truly (without simulation or pretence) the following phrases are used: ἐκ καρδίας (Aristophanes nub. 86), Romans 6:17; and L T Tr WH in 1 Peter 1:22, where R G ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας, as in 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; ἀπό τῶν καρδιῶν, Matthew 18:35 (ἀπό καρδίας εὐχάριστος τοῖς θεοῖς, Antoninus 2, 3); ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδία and ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας, Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33; Luke 10:27, and Rec. in Acts 8:37 (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 26:16; Psalm 118:34 ()); μετ' ἀληθινῆς καρδίας, Hebrews 10:22. ἐρευναν τάς καρδίας, Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23; δοκιμάζειν, 1 Thessalonians 2:4; γινώσκειν, Luke 16:15 (ἐτάζειν, Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 7:10); διανοίγειν τήν καρδίαν (see διανοίγω, 2), Acts 16:14; ἦν ἡ καρδία καί ἡ ψυχή μία, there was perfect unanimity, agreement of heart and soul, Acts 4:32; τιθέναι τί ἐν τῇ καρδία (בְּלֵב and לֵב עַל שׂוּם, 1 Samuel 21:12; Malachi 2:2; Daniel 1:8; τιθέναι ἐν στηθεσσιν, ἐν φρεσίν, etc., in Homer), to lay a thing up in the heart to be considered more carefully and pondered, Luke 1:66; to fix in the heart i. e. to purpose, plan, to do something, Acts 5:4 (A. V. conceived in thy heart); also εἰς τήν καρδίαν (L T Tr WH ἐν τήν καρδίαν) followed by the infinitive, Luke 21:14; βάλλειν εἰς τήν καρδίαν τίνος, followed by ἵνα, to put into one's mind the design of doing a thing, John 13:2; also διδόναι followed by an infinitive, Revelation 17:17; ἀναβαίνει ἐπί τήν καρδίαν τίνος, followed by an infinitive, the purpose to do a thing comes into the mind, Acts 7:23; ἐν τῇ καρδία joined to verbs of thinking, reflecting upon, doubting, etc.: ἐνθυμεῖσθαι, διαλογίζεσθαι, Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:6, 8; Luke 3:15; Luke 5:22; λέγειν, εἰπεῖν (בְּלִבּו אָמַר), to think, consider with oneself, Matthew 24:48; Luke 12:45; Romans 10:6; Revelation 18:7 (Deuteronomy 8:17; Deuteronomy 9:4); συμβάλλειν, to revolve in mind, Luke 2:19; διακρίνεσθαι, to doubt, Mark 11:23; διαλογισμοί ἀναβαινουσι, of persons in doubt, Luke 24:38 (R G L marginal reading plural); ἀναβαίνει τί ἐπί καρδίαν, the thought of a thing enters the mind, 1 Corinthians 2:9. β. specifically, of the understanding, the faculty and seat of intelligence (often so in Homer also (cf. Nägelsbach, Homer. Theol., p. 319f; Zezschwitz, Profangräcität as above with, pp. 25f, 50); cor domicilium sapientiae, Lactantius, de opif. dei c. 10, cf. Cicero, Tusc. 1, 9; לֵב, 1 Kings 10:2; Job 12:3; Job 17:4, etc.; (cf. Meyer on Ephesians 1:18 and references)): Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18 (Rec. διανοίας); 2 Peter 1:19; συνιέναι τῇ καρδία, Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27; νόειν τῇ καρδία, John 12:40. of the dullness of a mind incapable of perceiving and understanding divine things the following expressions occur: ἐπαχύνθη ἡ καρδία, Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27, (from Isaiah 6:10); πωρουν τήν καρδίαν, John 12:40; πεπωρωμένη καρδία, Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17; ἡ πώρωσις τῆς καρδίας, Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:18; βραδύς τῇ καρδία, slow of heart, Luke 24:25; κάλυμμα ἐπί τήν καρδίαν κεῖται, 2 Corinthians 3:15. γ. of the will and character: ἁγνίζειν καρδίας, James 4:8; καθαρίζειν τάς καρδίας, Acts 15:9 ῥερραντίσμενοι τάς καρδίας, Hebrews 10:22; καρδία εὐθεῖα (cf. Winer's Grammar, 32), Acts 8:21; πονηρά, Hebrews 3:12 (cf. 11. § 132, 24; Winer's Grammar, 194 (183)); ἀμετανόητος, Romans 2:5; γεγυμνασμενη πλεονεξίας, 2 Peter 2:14; στηρίζειν τάς καρδίας, 1 Thessalonians 3:13; βεβαιουν, in passive, Hebrews 13:9; σκληρύνειν, Hebrews 3:8; ἡ ἐπίνοια τῆς καρδίας, Acts 8:22; αἱ βουλαί τῶν καρδιῶν 1 Corinthians 4:5; προαιρεῖσθαι τῇ καρδία, 2 Corinthians 9:7; κρίνειν (to determine) and ἑδραῖος ἐν τῇ καρδία, 1 Corinthians 7:37. δ. "of the soul so far forth as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions": ἡ καρδία καιομένη ἦν, of the soul as greatly and peculiarly moved, Luke 24:32; αἱ ἐπιθυμίαι τῶν καρδιῶν, Romans 1:24; στηρίζειν τάς καρδίας, of the cultivation of constancy and endurance, James 5:8. in reference to good-will and love: ἐήξειν τινα ἐν τῇ καρδία, to have one in one's heart, of constant remembrance and steadfast affection, Philippians 1:7 (`te tamen in toto pectore semper habet' Ovid. trist. 5, 4, 24); εἶναι ἐν τῇ καρδία τίνος, to be cherished in one's heart, to be loved by one perpetually and unalterably, 2 Corinthians 7:3; εὐδοκία τῆς καρδίας, Romans 10:1. in reference to joy and pleasure: ηὐφράνθη ἡ καρδία, Acts 2:26 (from Psalm 15:9 ()); χαρήσεται ἡ καρδία, John 16:22; ἀνήρ κατά τήν καρδίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, i. e. in whom God delights, Acts 13:22; of the pleasure given by food, Acts 14:17 ((Winer's Grammar, 156 (148) note) see 2 a. above). in reference to grief, pain, anguish, etc.: ἡ λύπη πεπλήρωκε τήν καρδίαν, John 16:6; ὀδύνη τῇ καρδία μου, Romans 9:2; ἡ καρδία ταράσσεται, John 14:1, 27; συνοχή καρδίας, 2 Corinthians 2:4; βάρειν τῆς καρδίας μερίμναις βιωτικαῖς, Luke 21:34 (cf. 2 a. above); διαπρίομαι τῇ καρδία, Acts 7:54; συντετριμμένος τήν καρδίαν, Luke 4:18 R L brackets; κατενύγησαν τῇ καρδία, Acts 2:37 (L T Tr WH τήν καρδίαν); συνθρύπτειν τήν καρδίαν, Acts 21:13. ε. of a soul conscious of good or bad deeds (our conscience): 1 John 3:20f (Ecclesiastes 7:22; so לֵבָב, Job 27:6; ἡ καρδία πατασσει τινα, 1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 24:10).

  • Upvoted +1 for a solid, concise answer, and because I find helpful the appendices you attach from time to time. And hey, it's not all the time that Lactantius gets quoted on Stack Exchange twice in one week! =) May 3, 2021 at 3:48

I believe Paul is speaking metaphorically here. All verses KJV.

Paul’s repeated emphasis throughout his writings is the transition from the Old Covenant of the law to the New Covenant of grace. Paul is continually educating his audience as to the truth about the love and grace of God whether his audience is Jew or Gentile.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians starts out addressing the Ephesians which would have been predominately Gentile. However, many scholars theorize that this specific letter was intended by Paul to be used universally throughout all the churches of Asia. Hence, the content can be applied to both Jew and Gentile.

In chapter 1 verse 17, Paul gives a good clue as to his intention for verse 18:

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of the glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the recognition of him,

Here Paul states that he prays that God gives his audience a spirit of wisdom and revelation in being able to recognize Him (Jesus/God). So, this desire for revelation is tied to verse 18 and “the eyes of your understanding (heart) being enlightened”.

18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

This concept of revelation is very important for there is a specific reason that Paul is addressing that makes the “recognition of God” difficult.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 3 Paul addresses the issue of being blind to the gospel of grace.

12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

In these verses Paul states that every time the Law of Moses is read (without the understanding of Christ) there is a veil over the hearts and minds of the hearers. He states that this veil is taken away when Jesus is introduced. He states that when the spirit gives the revelation of Christ, the veil is lifted and there is now liberty to those who hear the gospel.

Paul speaks of a blindness that has happened to Israel in Romans 11 however, the symptoms and cause of that blindness are universal, ie they happen to both Jew and Gentile. In Romans chapter 2, Paul states that the Gentiles exhibit the same law based bias as the Jews. Here is Romans 2:12-15:

12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another)

Here Paul states that the Gentiles exhibit the same law driven bias as the Jews. The Gentiles were both “excusing” (excusing others for their behavior is the behavior was in line with their own) or “accusing” (accusing other for their behavior if the behavior was different than their own). Hence, Paul states that the law will convict them all because whether Jew or Gentile, all exhibit the results of the law, ie self righteousness and judgment of others. So, the sin of self righteousness is universal and obscures the recognition of God’s grace.

This is precisely what Paul is praying will happen with his audience in Ephesians 1:18; that the eyes of their hearts and minds will be free to see the grace and mercy of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.


Spirits are received, and having your heart open means your heart is receiving it. Eyes are in your head and take in (receive) light, so to the eye of the heart, open like the eye to receive light. Notice also that seeds need... "The seed is the word of God"

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