22 Aug 2020
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to HIm who is able do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to HIm be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).
In the first few chapters of Ephesians, Paul has been explaining the peace mission of Christ which resulted in the creation (or recreation) of the new society and humanity and his own personal involvement in this, because of the commission he had received from God. From the above passage, he now turns to intercession and prayer that God’s plan he has been explaining may be more completely fulfilled in the lives and experience of the believers.
Notice the earnestness and reverence Paul exhibited in asking God to grant to the believers his requests according to the riches of His abundance and glory.
Paul first asked for strength in the inner being and Christ’s rule in the heart. He prayed for inward strengthening of the Holy Spirit that the believers may be fortified and invigorated to know the strength of the Spirit’s inner reinforcement, and may lay hold more firmly ‘by faith’ of this divine strength. He also asked the Father that Christ by His Spirit may dwell and abide in their hearts, and reign. Take note of the involvement of the triune God.
It is important to realise that God searches our hearts as well as weighs our actions. In one sense, God focuses more attention on the heart and the inner being, looking at the motives and purposes within which manifest in our performances. The heart (inner being) is the seat of all moral qualities. Although we are born again, the inner man needs to be renewed day by day, for the principle of evil remains unchanged, that is, the indwelling sin still remains and we need, by God’s Spirit, to mortify the flesh and to put to death the fleshly desires. The Holy Spirit can make the feeble mighty, the trembling brave, and the weary cheerful. He gives power to the faint and to them who have no might, He increases strength (Isaiah 40:29).
Paul yearned for an increased measure of grace to be granted the saints and for their spiritual abilities to be enlarged. He longed that Christians might be more in the habit of living by faith in Christ, so that He might be in them, not by transient visits, but abiding constantly in their thoughts and affections, and that thereby they would be established in joy and abounding fruitfulness. Next, he also longed that they might not only have love but be ‘rooted and grounded’ in it, so that their communion with Christ might be a steady experience rather than an occasional luxury. But such is our natural weakness in contemplating heavenly objects that without continued grace preparing us, they would be altogether beyond our reach.
For in the new and reconciled humanity which Christ is creating, love is the pre-eminent virtue. The new humanity is God’s family, whose members are brothers and sisters, who love their Father and love one another. They need the power of the Spirit’s might and of Christ’s indwelling to enable them to love one another, especially across the deep racial and cultural divide which existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. This also applies in our current context with believers from various races, cultures and languages. The unseen cause of their stability will be the same: love. Love is to be the soil in which their life is rooted; love is to be the foundation on which their life is built.
When Christ dwells in the heart, love will be the foundation on which the Christian life is erected, steadfast and sure.The blessed consciousness of His love and the joyful answer of our hearts to it – this becomes the base on which the soul rests; this produces stability, security, serenity. Consciously founded upon Him the believer can be strong and “immovable” (1 Corinthians15:58).
Paul then passed from our love (in which we are to be rooted and grounded) to Christ’s love (which he prays we may know). We need strength and power for both, strength to love and power to comprehend Christ’s love. It is partly by loving that we learn the meaning of His love. We must have love to Christ before we can know what love to Christ is, and we must consciously experience the love of Christ before we can know what the love of Christ is. In other words, we must have a wam and steady love for Christ in order to have a deep and living possession of the love of Christ. Reciprocally, it is also true that we must have the love of Christ known and felt in our hearts if we are to love Him back again. The more intensely and steadily we love Christ, the more capacitated we are to comprehend HIs love to us. As faith is the medium of understanding, so love is the avenue for receiving love.
Paul prayed that believers may have power to comprehend the love of Christ in its full dimensions – its breadth and length and height and depth. Although it is likely that Paul was indulging in poetic hyperbole, John Stott felt it legitimate to say that the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind, ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and ‘high’ enough to exalt Him to heaven. The individual Christian can know something of the love of Jesus; but his grasp of it is bound to be limited. It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God, all the saints together. Even then, we may comprehend the dimensions to some extent with our minds, but we cannot ‘know’ in our experience – hence Paul described the love of Christ as surpassing knowledge.
Since the love of Christ is so transcendent and mysterious, so infinite and incomprehensible, how can it be understood and known by us? Completely and perfectly it cannot, yet truly and satisfying it may be. Christ’s love to us is discovered in the Word of God, and as the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding, we are enabled to apprehend something of its wonders and blessedness.
Growth into fullness is the fourth and last petition of Apostle Paul in the prayer in Ephesians 3. We are to be filled not ‘with’ so much as ‘unto’ the fullness of God. God’s fullness or perfection becomes the standard or level up to which we pray to be filled. Such a prayer surely looks on to our final state of perfection in heaven when together we enter the completeness of God’s purpose for us, and are filled up to that fullness of God which human beings are capable of receiving without ceasing to be human. We shall attain the fullness of love, of which Paul spoke in his prayer. Then Jesus’ own prayer will be fulfilled: “that the love which you have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26(b)).
Paul concluded that God is able to do very much more, far more abundantly, than all that we ask or think, for He is a God of super-abundance. The infinite ability of God to work beyond our prayers, thoughts and dreams is by the power at work within us, individually and within us, as a people of God. The power is limitless; the love is limitless – only divine power can generate divine love in the divine humanity – to Him be the glory is the most appropriate conclusion!