“Reflections Of His Grace”
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The Gracious Equipping For Service: Ephesians 3:14-21
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
In this text, Paul is requesting through prayer, that the Lord would equip the Ephesian saints with the necessary tools to be faithful in their service to Him.
A very basic outline of this section of Scripture which is Paul’s prayer for the Lord’s equipping of the saints:
I. Paul’s prayerful/submissive attitude in prayer – 14
II. Paul’s recognition of The Father’s authority over His family – 15
III. Paul’s request for spiritual strength in the inner man – 16
IV. Paul’s request for Christ inhabiting their hearts – 17a
V. Paul’s request for love to be their foundation – 17b
VI. Paul’s request for their comprehension of the love of Christ – 18-19a
VII. Paul’s request for spiritual filling – 19b
VIII. Paul’s acknowledgment of His great abilities – 20
IX. Paul’s desire for the Lord to be glorified – 21
X. The enabling of Paul to minister this mystery in the midst of persecutions – 12-13
Paul’s prayer continues …
(Ephesians 3:17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;
Following Paul’s request for the Ephesian believers to receive spiritual strength, he now asks …
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;
The idea of “dwell” in this text means “to permanently reside in a house”. So this request by Paul involves the Lord permanently inhabiting the Ephesian believers.
I believe this request by Paul could be speaking of one of two different actions of the Lord within the life of the believer:
1. The most obvious meaning of this phrase is that Christ indwells the believer beginning at their initial salvation experience. This results in Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit:
a. accompanying and helping the believer (Hebrews 13:5-6);
b. comforting the believer (John 14:16-18);
c. guiding the believer (Romans 8:14) ,
d. revealing the truths of the Word (John 16:12-14);
e. guaranteeing and securing their salvation eternally (2 Corinthians 1:20-22, Ephesians 1:13-14).
This is probably the most common understanding of our text… It is through an exercise of saving faith that the individual receives the indwelling Spirit of God.
However, keep in mind that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the natural result of their initial salvation experience. I believe that Paul was assuming those to whom he was writing were saved individuals. If this is the case, why would he ask the Lord to do what he believed the Lord had already done in their lives?
ALL of the other requests that Paul makes on their behalf were acts of God that were not limited to their original salvation experience; IN EVERY OTHER CASE, they are acts that are carried forward by God following their salvation experience.
Keeping this in mind, there is another possible way to understand this text…
2. Note Christ is being requested to indwell “the heart” of the believer. Many times in the Bible the heart is linked symbolically for a person’s desires, affections and lusts (Psalm 10:3, Psalm 37:4, Proverbs 13:12, Romans 10:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:17 and many others)
When Paul speaks of Christ fully indwelling their hearts, he could be asking Christ to enter into the believer’s desires and align them all to do His will. (Jeremiah 31:33, 32:40, Ezekiel 36:26)
“For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)
Many times, the alignment of the believer’s desires to the will of God is an ongoing process. As the believer grows in faith and knowledge of the Word, they find their heart (desires) gradually becoming more aligned with God’s will (1 Peter 2:1-3, Colossians 1:9-10)
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
(2 Peter 1:2-4)
Based upon this, I believe that Paul is asking the Lord to enter into their “hearts” (their desires) and through ongoing knowledge and application of the Word, align their hearts more fully to do His will above all else. As their desires to do His will increase, they will find themselves being more obedient to Him. This is the exact meaning of the statement of the Lord when He says… “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Our growth I grace and knowledge are certainly by faith as well. We must not only learn His Word but we must trust it for us to live according to it. As our faith in the Lord and His Word grows, we will find our desires will align themselves more fully with His desires.
By God’s grace, may we all experience Him living fully within our hearts, applying His Word, increasing our love, and aligning our desires to please Him in all things. This is another work of the Lord that we do not deserve, but can only be received as an act of His wonderful grace.
If we have seen spiritual growth in our lives and we now desire to please Him in greater ways, there is no reason for us to be prideful. It was only Him working with us, by grace, that has brought these changes to pass!
May we all get a clearer picture of our Lord and Savior, and the great grace He has shown to us. Let us be always watchful to keep His great acts of grace on our behalf in the center of our attention… In doing so, may we be motivated to LOVE Him more, APPRECIATE Him more and SERVE Him more!
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