Ephesians 3:16-19

‘that He would grant you,
according to the riches of His glory,
that you may be strengthened with power
though His Spirit in the inner person,
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,
to the end that
you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love
which surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.’
(Ephesians 3:16-19)

These verses come from one of the apostle Paul’s astonishingly rich prayers, several of which are recorded for us in scripture. As such, we can learn not only from the truths they contain, but his prayer life too. Do we pray such amazing prayers for each other? – if not, these verses can encourage us to start, by following his example.

One striking feature is that Paul prays his readers would be filled with God, no less, and in a very trinitarian way. He prays to ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’(Ephesians 3:14) regarding them being ‘filled with all the fullness of God’, which involves ‘Christ… in… hearts’ and God’s Holy ‘Spirit in the inner person’. An amazing privilege of the Christian life is that it involves this triune God actually living inside us ‘through faith’, so in effect the ‘Father’(Ephesians 4:6), ‘Son’(Galatians 4:6, cf. John 14:23) and ‘Holy Spirit’(1 Corinthians 6:19), as Paul wrote similarly to the Romans: ‘the Spirit of God dwells in you… if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His’(Romans 8:9). Moreover, we can and should pray ‘more Lord more’, like Paul essentially does for his first century readers here.

We should also note the source and effect of this filling. Obviously the filling is God Himself, but Paul here draws attention to what that means, i.e. from ‘the riches of His glory’, with the effect that we’re ‘strengthened with power’ – the power of God from the riches of His glory! Interestingly, however, this power at work in us doesn’t quite function like we might imagine. For example, Paul was writing from prison, like ‘an ambassador in chains’(Ephesians 6:20). He wasn’t praying about strength to break that sort of chain, necessarily. It’s more about a ‘“power… made perfect in weakness”… the power of Christ’(2 Corinthians 12:9) and ‘our inward person [being] renewed day by day’(2 Corinthians 4:16). It’s about being ‘strengthened to comprehend’ these profound truths, and to live by them, even though in a sense it’s all beyond our full comprehension, and ‘surpasses knowledge’.

The important thing to grasp is the experiential nature of this knowledge. It comes from receiving, being increasingly filled by, then learning how to pour out this glory and power that’s been so graciously poured into us, weak ‘vessels’(2 Corinthians 4:7) though we are. However, the supply is so measureless that there’s always greater ‘width… length… height and depth’ for us to fathom, and the more we receive and pour, the more we’ll begin to understand, in ‘“good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over”’(Luke 6:38).

The key thing to understand, receive, experience and express in this way is love, ‘being rooted and grounded in love… to know Christ’s love’. It shouldn’t surprise us that to know God, and be filled by Him, is primarily about love, since ‘God is love’(1 John 4:8&16). As Paul wrote later in this letter, be ‘therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice’(Ephesians 5:1-2). Knowing and receiving this gift, we’ll ‘love Him, because He first loved us’(1 John 4:19), then find ‘God’s love… poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’(Romans 5:5), because the ‘fruit of the Spirit is love…’(Galatians 5:22).

So, if ‘we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit’(Galatians 5:25), with ‘a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance… forgiving… in love’(Colossians 3:12-14), because love ‘is patient… kind… and endures’(1 Corinthians 13:4-7) etc., and unless we learn to ‘know’(1 Corinthians 8:2) rightly, and express the ‘truth in love’(Ephesians 4:15) we’re ‘nothing’(1 Corinthians 13:2).

Finally, we should note the wider context here – teaching about, and a call for, Christian unity, being ‘built together’(Ephesians 2:22) ‘in love’(Ephesians 4:16). So let’s pray with Paul, for ourselves and each other, to ‘Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’(Ephesians 3:20), that we would increasingly be filled with God, and know His glorious, powerful love working in and through us, ‘forever and ever. Amen’(Ephesians 3:21).

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