Ephesians - Part 6: Chapter 3 vv 14-21
As we come to Paul’s supplications we find that there is intimacy with the throne of heaven. All is achieved through the person of the Lord Jesus, for it is both in Him and through Him that we can approach directly to God. How different from the old system of Judaism when the people had to stand outside when the priest went into the presence of God, and even he could not move within the veil. Only Aaron on the Day of Atonement had that privilege, and that but once a year. We can now approach with confidence, though not with rashness or presumption; the way into the holiest has now been opened for us by the Lord Jesus.
Paul knew the love these believers had for him. This was seen on the shore at Miletus as recorded in Acts chapter 20 verses 36-38, when they wept sore and fell on his neck and embraced him. He would encourage the saints that though the imprisonment was very sore to Paul, he sees it as if it was the tribulation that is to come upon the world. However, he realizes that it is for the blessing of the saints as they receive the vital truths that are in his writings.
The parenthesis of verses 1-11 is now closed and he takes up the petition he began in verse 1, ‘for this cause’. The second prayer of the letter now begins, yet how different to the prayer of chapter 1 where he desires that the believers will enter into the knowledge of what God has brought them into, and to realize the power that is available to them. He now desires that there will be an understanding of the love and blessedness of the fellowship in the one body, and the implications of God’s thoughts toward us.
It is good to see the posture he takes, and the person to whom he addresses his prayer, v. 14. In bowing the knee he appreciates the glory and honour that is God’s, and his own dependence upon Him. It is to the Father of the Lord Jesus, for here love and the divine presence is the prime thought expressed, so he uses the more intimate expression of Father. It is good to have intelligence in prayer.
The prayer begins by introducing the progeny of God of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, v. 15. God gives life and breath to all; be they heavenly or earthly, all owe their existence to Him, who is the originator of all life. Hence, all takes its name from Him.
We now enter into the depth of this prayer, and see the wonder of Paul’s thoughts as he desires great blessedness for those who are redeemed.
The power of the Spirit in the life of the saints is the first thought as he approaches the throne of the Father. He prays, ‘That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory’, v. 16. Ironside has put it well when he writes on this section, ‘not “out of”, for then God’s glory would be diminished, but “according to”’,1 and by this we are enriched. God loses nothing by blessing us, but we gain everything. The content of Paul’s prayer rises very high so that he desires that we have an intimacy with the whole of the Godhead. He desires that we might know the power of the Spirit, the indwelling Christ, and the fullness of God.
Strength within is asked for, as he seeks to further the work of God in the saints; this can only be accomplished by the Spirit, and it is for the inner man. Perhaps he is looking to the new man of chapter 4 verse 24, or, as 1 Peter 3 verse 4 brings before us, ‘the hidden man of the heart’.
He now prays for an appreciation of the presence of Christ, v. 17. If the Spirit strengthens the inner man, how blessed is it to have the Lord Jesus dwelling within us! The idea of Christ dwelling is that of Him being at home, of the Lord being in the place that belongs to Him, and feeling comfortable there. What a transformation this would make to our lives if we could only value the constant presence of the Lord Jesus within.
This is an act of faith; faith honours God and God honours faith. We must have a life of faith to bring pleasure to God and this is the means of knowing the presence of the Lord Jesus within. We remember the promise of the Lord Jesus when in the Upper Room ministry He said, ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you’, John 14. 18, and, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him’, 14. 23. This also forms part of the mystery, as he writes in Colossians chapter 1 verse 27, ‘To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you the hope of glory’.
The presence of the Lord Jesus will give us permanent stability. We notice ‘that’ follows the thought of the Lord taking up residence in our heart. This word can be rendered ‘in order that’; it is used when a positive result is required – this is to be rooted and grounded in love. Using the figures of fertility and stability, he desires that we are deeply rooted and have a firm basis. The former taking its sustenance from, and the latter making it an immoveable ground on which we act in love.
This will lead us to be able to comprehend what and where we have been brought to in the purpose of God, v. 18; it will give us a perception of God’s blessings. The desire is that we may be able to comprehend with all saints the truth before us. The word ‘comprehend’ is a compound word signifying to lay hold on for oneself, to seize upon. It would appear that what God seeks for us is to realize what we have come into in Christ. All that has been set forth in the chapter is within this verse. Its breadth is boundless, as it brings in the despised Gentiles wherever they are found. Its length is endless and eternal, as it reveals the church will enjoy all we have unto all ages. As we consider the depth we cannot help but recall the place that God found us in and saved us when we were in the depth of sin and under Satan’s power as seen in chapter 2. As far as the height is concerned are we not now in heavenly places in Christ, linked to God’s beloved Son, and to share the glories that will be His in the day when He is manifested with honour and glory in this world?
All would demonstrate a passion that has been bestowed upon us, v. 19. As he continues in prayer, he desires that we might come to know, by experience, the love of Christ. It is not surprising that he uses the word ginosko when bringing before us the love of Christ, for this love goes beyond knowledge. Much can be said about the love of Christ. Christ says that there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends, John 15. 13. Or, ‘having loved His own which were in the world He loved them to the end’. He completed the work that was needed for our salvation, and when we think of the depth of suffering the Lord passed through it can only demonstrate the vileness of our sin that cost Him so much to redeem us. Such is His love that the words of Romans chapter 8 verses 35-39 alone can set forth the position we now enjoy because of it. There we find that things physical, mental, spiritual, natural, material, personal, and terminal, whether they are seen or unseen, cannot separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All was with a view that we might be filled with all the fulness of God. How can one express the inexpressible? The condition of the heart in verses 17-18 enables us to comprehend this wondrous revelation made to us.
The thoughts of Paul are expressed by the twofold term he uses to make us appreciate God’s ability to answer anything we bring before Him in word or thought. God can go above and beyond whatever we desire and to do it superabundantly. It is only possible because of the power that is within us; the power of chapter 1 that raised and glorified Christ is the power that God will use to answer the prayers of His children.
The prayer closes with the beautiful doxology that again exhibits the reason why the church has been brought into being, v. 21. The dealings of God with us in this present age are that glory might be brought to Him throughout all ages. Amen.
1 H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies - Practical Expository Addresses on the Epistle to the Ephesians, Loizeaux, 1971.