…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have 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. – Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV
Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus was for inner strength, provided by God through His Spirit, so that they would know what it means to have Christ dwell or take up residence within their hearts. Paul was praying that they would have a complete awareness of Christ’s transformative presence within them. These were believers that Paul was praying for, but he knew that they could easily miss out on the full reality of their relationship with Christ. So he asked God to give them the power to recognize and realize just how remarkable a gift they had received when they placed their faith in Christ. And he emphasized that faith was the key. It was the key when they first believed and it would be the key to their ongoing relationship with Christ. Paul knew their faith would be tested. His own imprisonment had already had an adverse affect on them. They had become scared. Doubts and questions had crept into their hearts and minds. And Paul knew that they were going to need God to give them strength to endure. Not only that, God would have to empower them to understand the fulness of what they had received in Christ. He referred to them being “rooted and ground in love” – the love of God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9 ESV). God expressed His remarkable love for mankind by sending His own Son to die on man’s behalf. And the believers to whom Paul wrote had personally experienced that love. That love had taken root and provide them with a firm foundation that nothing could ever shake. Paul believed that with all his heart and wrote the believers in Rome so that they might comprehend the truth of the unshakeable reality of God’s love. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” (Romans 8:35 NLT). “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).
But Paul wanted the Ephesian believers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt the “breadth and length and height and depth” of that love. He wanted them to experience the full scope of God’s love as revealed through Christ – “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Paul knew that, on this earth, we will never fully comprehend the magnitude of the love of Christ, because it is beyond our human capacity. But with God’s help, we can grow in our appreciation for and understanding of His love. We can experience, albeit incompletely, what it means to “be filled with all the fulness of God.” God has given us His Spirit. He has made available to us His indwelling power. But we fail to experience the fulness of that power because of sin, stubbornness, self-centeredness, and our constantly faltering faith. It is like having a car with a powerful engine and a full tank of gas, but we never turn on the ignition. The power is there, but we fail to make use of it. Which is why Paul prayed for power from God to provide the strength necessary to turn the key and feel the full force of God’s indwelling presence in our lives. Far too often we wallow in mediocrity and weakness when we could be experiencing the transforming power of God. The full love of God is unknowable and incomprehensible – without God’s help. We will never fully appreciate just what He has done for us without the Spirit’s assistance. God’s love for us has no limits, but we are limited in our ability to understand it. That’s why we need God’s help. What a great reminder to each of us to pray constantly for one another for God’s divine assistance. We can’t fully appreciate all that we have been given in Christ without God’s help. We are like children who have received a massive inheritance, but lack the mental capacity to comprehend the incredible nature of the wealth at our disposal. We end up settling for so much less. We have the love of God available to us and we would rather play around with the weak and worthless affections of this world. C.S. Lewis put it well when he wrote, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory).