Ephesians

Filled with the fullness of God. 3:14-21

 
Introduction

In a number of places in this letter, Paul begins to pray for the Ephesian Christians but is then, in an aside, explains some issue of theology raised in the prayer, cf.1:15-23, 3:1. Paul now brings his prayer to a conclusion, 3:14-21. He begins the prayer by addressing God as Father. The first prayer request is for inner strength through life's troubles, while the second is for a knowledge of God's love. Paul then summarizes these requests in a prayer for spiritual maturity. The prayer ends with a doxology.

 
The passage

v14. The prayer is addressed to the Father. A believer has access to the Father through the Spirit of Christ, Eph.2:18.

v15. God's fatherhood is emphasized by noting that fatherhood takes its shape from the fatherhood of God. God is the archetypal father.

v16. For his first point Paul prays that believers might be endowed with spiritual power to strengthen them. This power comes out of the "glorious riches" of God, which riches are inexhaustible. It is mediated to us through the Holy Spirit and it infuses the "inner being". This "inner being" is most likely the "God-breathed", or relational centre of our persons. The word "heart" in the Bible carries the same meaning.

v17a. The first point is restated, but in different words, namely, that the indwelling Christ, through faith, may strengthen his people, enabling them to stand firm in difficult times.

v17b-19a. The second request begins by defining the ground of the first request in the terms of our being rooted and grounded in God's love. This is followed by the request that the readers might grasp the totality of this love, a wisdom beyond knowing; "it is higher than heaven, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea", Job.11:8-9. It is "the love of Christ," Christ's love, a love full of grace. Such love can be observed in Christ's sacrifice for us, Gal.2:20, a love of "surpassing worth", Phil.3:8, yet a love that is beyond understanding.

v19b. The purpose, or goal, of the two prayer points is now identified, namely, that the readers may "attain to fullness of being, the fullness of God himself", NEB. The fullness of deity resides in Christ and so a believer in Christ shares this fullness, Col.2:9-10. Paul prays that we may be filled to overflowing with Christ's strengthening presence and his transcendent love.

v20-21. The prayer ends with a doxology to the God who can do far more than we could ever dare to ask, or think. To God be glory, particularly in the church, and in Christ who made the church possible.

 
Knowing God's love

In the early1700's, John Wesley, an Anglican clergyman, met a Moravian believer from Europe. The Moravians were fired-up children of the Reformation. They were noted for their simple faith and their simple communal life-style. The English church had slipped into Low-church formalism. Wesley was someone searching for substance in his faith, but following the tendency of his day he saw his Christian life in the terms of a "continued endeavour to keep the whole law, inward and outward, to the utmost of my power". Only by this means was Wesley persuaded that he "should be accepted of" God. Bohler, the Moravian, understood the Christian life "as reliance on the finished work of Christ". Faith for him was still in the terms of the Anglican Homily from the time of the Reformation - "a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven and he reconciled to the favour of God." Bohler, writing to Count Zinzendorf, said "our way of believing is so easy to an Englishmen, that they cannot reconcile themselves to it. If it were a little more artful, they would sooner find their way into it."

Wesley's meeting with Bohler opened him to the gospel. On attending a prayer meeting in 1738 and hearing read Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he came to understand the grace of God. "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation." From Wesley's discovery of the depth of God's grace, a great revival swept England, a revival focused on the impossible possibility of a personal relationship with the living God in Christ, apart from our own personal worthiness, or unworthiness. It was a revival focused on the truth presented in our passage for study - that Christ takes residence in our beings and overwhelms us with his love, by grace through faith.

In our passage for study, Paul prays that we might be strengthened in our inner being throughout the journey of life and that we might come to know the extent of God's love, of his grace realized in us through Christ. He prays that we might be complete in Christ. The means, of course, is through faith.

The apostle's prayer for spiritual maturity, in the sense of being filled with God's fullness, identifies for us an important goal in the Christian life. This goal involves our knowing, in the sense of understanding and experiencing, God's amazing grace, a love that transcends all knowledge. The means by which we build this spiritual maturity is faith, faith in the renwing work of Christ. Let us not fail to pray for spiritual maturity.

 
Discussion

Identify the two prayer points in this passage and apply them.

 
 
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