For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 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.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV
Paul picks up where he left off in verse one of this chapter. “For this reason…” He repeats that very same phrase, because he is took a brief aside to discuss the mystery of the church in verses 2-13. Now he is ready to make some application regarding this unity of Jews and Gentiles into one household of God. Back in chapter one, Paul had prayed for their spiritual enlightenment. He asked that God would give them “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17 ESV). Now in chapter three, he tells his audience that there is another prayer request he offers up on their behalf. He prays for their spiritual strength. “…that according to the riches of his glory he [God] may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16 ESV). In chapter one, he prayed that they might know God. Here he is praying that they would be “filled with all the fullness of God.” Earlier he prayed that they might know the hope to which they had been called. Here he is praying that their knowledge of that hope would strengthen their faith. The author of Hebrews described faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). Faith and hope go hand in hand. They are inseparable. Faith makes that for what we hope become as real and tangible as if we already possessed it. But hope is not based on what we can already see. Paul told the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25 ESV). Jesus promised to send His Spirit. God has guaranteed us eternal life. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us. But we can’t see any of these things. We have no tangible, visible proof. They are unseen by us. But by faith, we believe them to be true and real. Why? Because they have been promised to us by God. We trust His word. We rely upon His faithfulness. And the Spirit of God provides us with the strength we need to believe, even in the midst of doubt and uncertainty. Paul’s desire was that Christ would continue to dwell in their hearts through faith. He was not insinuating that they could somehow lose their salvation. But he was concerned that they could begin to lose their focus on the sufficiency of Christ in their lives. He wanted them to know that they were “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17 ESV). They were firmly and securely planted in the love of God through their faith in Christ. But Paul wanted them to fully comprehend that fact. He wanted the Holy Spirit to provide them with the strength necessary for them to fully comprehend just how powerful and vast God’s love for them really was.
It is one thing to have a knowledge of God. It is another thing to understand and appreciate the love of God. It is when we begin to comprehend His incredible love for us, as displayed in His sacrifice of His own Son on our behalf, that we are able to see life through His eyes, not our own. We stop seeing every little trial as a punishment and start viewing them as opportunities to trust in a loving God who has great plans in place for us. When we begin to focus on all that God has done for us and all that He has promised to do for us in the future, we feel His love and we gain strength for the journey. He has not left us. He will never forsake us.
This all boils down to an understanding of and appreciation for God’s love. It is He who had saved them. In the midst of their sinfulness and helplessness, God had intervened, sending His Son to die on their behalf. Paul put it in simple, yet profound terms: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). The apostle John adds the important distinction that Jesus did what He did out of love as well. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16 ESV). The love of God and His Son for us should encourage and empower us. It should flow through us. Paul prayed that they would be filled with all the fullness of God. This is not a prayer that his readers would become gods, but that the very nature of God – His love, mercy, grace, righteousness, compassion, selflessness, and holiness – would fill us and exude from us.
And Paul had every confidence that what he was asking from God would be provided by God. Why? Because He is “able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV). God doesn’t just have the power to save us, He has the power to sanctify us. And He has made it possible by placing His Spirit within us. His power is not just an external force working from the outside in. The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides within us, transforming us from the inside out. His love for us not static. It is actively revealing itself in His ongoing activity in and around our lives as He molds and makes us into the likeness of His Son. God is patiently, lovingly working within individuals, but also within the church. He is doing things we cannot see. He is accomplishing works that are invisible to our eyes. But in faith we wait expectantly. We hope confidently. We labor joyously. We endure patiently. We are loved. He is faithful. And He is far from done.