In these first three chapters the apostle Paul has been teaching his audience who they are. He wants Christians to understand their new identity in Christ. We have learned that we are saints. We are full of faith in Jesus. We are chosen by God before the foundation of the world. We are predestined by God for adoption. We are redeemed through the precious blood of Jesus. We are heirs, obtaining an inheritance when we heard the word of truth, living to the praise of his glory. We were made alive, though we were dead in our sins and trespasses. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. We are reconciled to God in one body so that there is no longer Jews or Gentiles, but simply Christians having equal access to the Father. In our last lesson we learned that we are to display God’s wisdom, showing all creation how good and wise God is. Paul concludes his description of our identity in Ephesians 3:14-21 by teaching that we have been strengthened in Christ. God wants you to know that you have strength. We can feel so weak in our Christian walk but God wants you to know the strength that is accessible to you.
The Prayer for Strengthening (3:14-16)
Paul returns to his prayer that he seems to have started in the first verse of chapter 3. The prayer is a continuation from chapter 1 where Paul declared that he did not cease to remember these Christians in his prayers. Paul said that he was praying that they would know the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (1:19). So Paul returns to his prayer for these Christians, desiring that they would be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” From the riches of God’s glory, Paul prays that God would strengthen these Christians with power. Notice that the goal is not physical strength but spiritual strength. It is your inner being that is being strengthened. He is praying that God would making them spiritually strong. Do you want spiritual strength? Do you want to be strong in the Lord? This strength can be given to you by God through the Spirit. What a prayer that we must pray regularly for ourselves and for one another!
Now consider why this is so important. In chapter 1 the apostle Paul’s prayer was that they would know this power in Christ. With the eyes of your hearts enlightened, you will be able to know the hope you have, the riches you have, and the power toward us. Paul continues that he does not simply want you to know it, but to do something with that knowledge. That knowledge is supposed to strengthen you. We know what God has called us to and now Paul prays that you will be strengthen and enabled by the Lord to live it and be transformed. Earlier in chapter 3 Paul taught that when you read what he and the apostles and prophets wrote, you would have the same mind, insight, and knowledge as them. That knowledge will strengthen you. This reminds us that the word of God is not mere words on the printed page. This is the Holy Spirit working in our lives. This is why the author of Hebrews could declare the word of God is living and active and has the power to cut to the deepest parts of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
The Result of Strengthening (3:17)
In verse 17 the apostle Paul tells us the result of this strengthening. Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith. Christ is to make his home in your heart. Christ is the very center of your life. Your life will be deeply rooted in him. Christ must become the controlling factor in our attitude and in our conduct. Our inner being is being strengthened by God through the Holy Spirit resulting in the deep indwelling of Christ in your heart through faith. Notice the two images that Paul uses to communicate this idea: “Rooted and grounded in love.” Being rooted carries and agricultural image and being grounded or established carries an architecture image. This is your strength. You will be stabilized in your life like a strong tree rooted into the ground or like a powerful building properly established. Trees are amazing. In our strong winds those trees still stand. They are rooted properly to be able to withstand any force that comes against them. When a building is properly established and constructed it is able to withstand great forces that come against it. In San Diego it was always humorous to me when an earthquake would hit and the tourists would get on the news and talk about how this tall hotel building was shaking and swaying. The reason it is humorous was that if the building did not sway like it was built to do, it would have collapsed. Built properly and rooted properly, buildings and trees are prepared to handle external forces.
In the same way, our foundation is the love of God. We are rooted and grounded in love. The first three chapters have poured out an amazing picture of God’s love for his people. He chose us, predestined us, adopted us, inherited us, blessed us, saved us, reconciled us, and strengthened us. The eyes of our hearts are enlightened to know the hope, riches, and power so that Christ will be the foundation of our lives. Christ will dwell in our hearts. I should not have to make this point because I think we see that Christ dwelling in us is a metaphor. Jesus the person is not actually inside of you, of course. The metaphor pictures Christ as the center of our lives, controlling our lives, and changing our lives. When this strengthening with power comes, it will stabilize your life, causing you to be firmly rooted in Christ. This is the only way I have survived the trials in my life and it is the only way we will continue to survive the fierce attack of our common enemy, Satan.
The Reason for Strengthening (3:18-19)
Why do we need this strength? Paul explains further in verse 18. Paul has prayed this so that we “may have the 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 consider who Paul is writing this to. He is not writing to unbelievers but to Christians. Paul is praying for God to strengthen them because we can let down our guard and spiritually coast through life with no intensity for Christ. We can forget that our lives are to be controlled by Christ. Christ is to be at the very center of our lives, deeply rooted in our hearts.
Paul prays why this is so important. We need to know the love of Christ. Paul wants us to have the strength to comprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ. I want you to get your mind around the love of Christ. I want you to know the depths of Christ’s love. I want you to know the heights of Christ’s love. I want you to know the length of Christ’s love. Okay, Paul. What is the height, breadth, length, and depth of Christ’s love? Look at verse 19. Christ’s love is immeasurable. Christ’s love is incalculable. The love of Christ is so vast that we cannot begin to comprehend it. But Paul says that I want you to have the strength to try to understand this love.
Why do we need to try to understand the vastness of this love? So that “you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” We will not live as God’s holy, chosen ones until we try to comprehend the love and mercy of Christ. We cannot begin to be followers and lovers of Jesus until we try to know the love of Christ. We immediately slip back into foolish and sinful living when we forget the love of Christ. We stop desiring Jesus when we forget his love for us. We stop following Jesus under the weight of Satan’s trials and temptations when we forget the love of Christ.
Paul has prayed that you would have enduring spiritual strength. The result of that strengthening by God through the Spirit is that you will be rooted and grounded because Christ is at home in your life, the very center of your life. You should desire this strengthening and pray for this strengthening so that you may know the love of Christ because that will be the catalyst to transform your life to the fullness of God. You can be transformed. You can have a radically new life. You can be strengthened by God through the Spirit. You can be rooted and grounded in love. You can have strength in your inner being. Don’t believe it? Listen to how Paul concludes this thought in verses 20-21.
The Power for Strengthening (3:20-21)
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). God can do this through his strength. He not only can do what he ask, he can do all that we ask. In fact, he can do “above all that we ask.” He can do abundantly above all that we ask. The power is seen that God can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask.” If this was not enough, he can do well beyond all that we ask or think! This strength can happen through the power of God. Hoener writes that this is one literal translation: “To the one who is able to do beyond everything, very far in excess of that which we ask or think.”
Now read the rest of this verse. Where is this exceedingly abundant power at work? The power of God is at work within us. God can do far beyond what you can ask or imagine. His power can change your life. His power can transform those habits, vices, sins, and make us to be what God has called us to be. You have a glorious identity in Christ. His power can change everything about you. Will you let God change your through his Spirit to strengthen your inner being? God can do it and this is our purpose. God’s strength is greater than your sin. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” God’s glory is to be seen in us, the body of Christ, the church. Live for the glory of God.