Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
Focus: being filled with the Spirit
Function: To help people desire the filling of the Holy Spirit
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
We have another “so then,” “because of” or in this case, “For this reason,” to examine before we move into the bulk of the passage.
We already mentioned how Chapter 2 deals with the question of racism or division. It is important to understand a little bit about the Galatians. They were sincere converts but at the beginning of their faith, some people who believed that Christians needed to obey the entire Old Testament law had come to town and sown division among the Church.
Paul writes this letter to point out how they have left grace for legalism and they are trying to be perfect without the power of the Holy Spirit.
The For This Reason is a couple of paragraphs describing Paul’s ministry to Gentile believers and how the mystery that the Jewish people did not seem to grasp was that salvation from Jesus Christ was for the entire world. It comes to everyone who trusts in Jesus regardless of their geological heritage.
He reason for the prayer, the Apostle’s Prayer, is because he has been given responsibility for them, to teach them what Jesus wants them to know. When I read the passage, it feels like a fatherly affection for his children and a desire that they succeed in their witness to Jesus’ love.
So, let us break down this prayer.
His first request is that they be filled with the Spirit according to the riches of His glory. I read about the transition of power from Elijah to Elisha last week in my devotions. Elisha asked for a double portion of the Spirit to be placed upon him. Paul is asking for the same thing here. He doesn’t want them merely to have a small taste, a smattering, of the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, but to be filled to the extent that Christ Jesus Himself was.
I resonate with that desire of the pastor for his or her congregation. Moses wished that everyone would be filled with the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God who gives us wisdom, courage, faith and trust. We cannot do this alone, or in our own strength.
I hope you notice that include all of us when I pray that we be filled with God’s Spirit every week during the pastoral prayer. It is also my passion for you.
The power of the Spirit, his prayer is, is for the Spirit of God to strengthen us in the inner person. I know that sounds mysterious and is hard to put a handle on what it means. But it is experienced by that presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I find that there is one main thing that seems to block the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and that is unforgiveness. Jesus said it, when we pray, stand forgiving and whatever we ask for will be given to us. (Mark 11:25)
The next one speaks to me. That Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.
I have to remind myself that it is Jesus in me, and not me, that does the good works in this world. Otherwise, I can get proud. It is done by faith in Christ.
It isn’t natural for us to love our enemies, but Jesus commands us to treat them as well as we treat ourselves. That can only be done by faith. We do it, not seeking revenge, but trusting in the grace of God to be given to us as we give that grace to others.
And, that isn’t just my idea. The text says it. As we dwelling in Christ, we are being rooted and grounded together in love.
Rooted and grounded in love.
I love that metaphor. I mentioned that Paul tells them in chapter 2 that they are saved completely independent of any works that they could do to earn their salvation. Salvation is a gift of God’s love to us.
I mentioned also that they are saved in order to do the good works that Jesus did and then he goes on to say that those good works are breaking down the barriers between the races.
And here is the thing. We can get so focused on breaking down the barriers that we forget that it is in Christ Jesus that we have forgiveness of sins, and because of that, the filling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It is because of Christ’s love for us, not our own efforts that we are saved. And another part of his passion, in this prayer is that they understand the power of God’s love to keep them and to protect them.
It is not that they are rooted and grounded in their love for others -that love for others is a result of the Holy Spirit’s actions in their lives-. But they are rooted and ground in the love that Christ Jesus has for all of us.
Brother John tells us that fear can be the result of the fact that we do not understand the nature of God’s love for us. Perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear. We feel that love when we connect with God in prayer, worship and in service toward others. At times, while we are worshiping here together, I see that mysterious love of Christ filling our hearts.
Again, the nature and the power of God’s love to overcome sin is a miraculous mystery to me. I see it often and I know it to be true.
And that leads us to the final part of the prayer.
That they have the power to comprehend.
The power to comprehend.
Again, this whole prayer is about the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It gives us the power to believe. It gives us the power to love. And it gives us the power to comprehend.
And again, the thing that he wants us to understand is the power, the width, the depth of God’s love for us.
I find this to be true. The longer I spend time with Jesus, the longer I spend time in God’s word, the more time I spend in prayer about things, especially those who would consider themselves to be my enemies (like atheists since I am a preacher and etc), I realize that God loves them. The Circle of who gets included keeps getting bigger and bigger for me the more I begin to understand the width and breadth of God’s love.
If that is true, then how can we hold anyone as an enemy?
So, his prayer is that the Holy Spirit will give them the power to both understand and implement God’s love in their lives.
I pray that the Spirit would fill us as well.