************ Sermon on Ephesians 3:14-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 21, 2017
Ephesians 3 (sung by Shema)
"A Prayer for Christians"
In front of us is a prayer of Paul for the Ephesian church. Look at verse 14: "For this reason I kneel before the Father." Paul is on his knees in prayer. This is now the second prayer for the Ephesian church. In Ephesians 1 Paul prays that the Ephesian church may know and understand all the blessings of being a Christian: the hope, the riches, the power. In Ephesians 3 he prays they will apply this. In chapter 1 the prayer is for knowledge. In chapter 3 the prayer is for application.
It is like buying a smart TV. The salesman or the brochure or the internet describes all its features. That's what we have in Ephesians 1. But then you need to know how to operate it, how to change the channels, how to switch it to Roku or YouTube or NetFlix. That's what we have in Ephesians 3.
There is progression to the prayer. It starts with inner strength, moves to an indwelling Christ, progresses to an unsurpassing love and the fullness of God. All of this ends in the glory of God.
I Inner Strength
A First, Paul prays for inner strength. Look at verse 16 of our Bible reading:
(Eph 3:16) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being ...What is Paul praying for? He is praying for a strong inner being.
Why do we need a strong inner man? Go back to verse 13. In that verse Paul talks about sufferings. And, Paul has firsthand knowledge of sufferings, doesn't he? In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul gives us an exhaustive list of his sufferings (2 Cor 11:23-29). Let me list them for you:
flogging and beatingsPaul needed a strong inner man to deal with all of this.
exposure to death
a night and day on the open sea
in danger from rivers, bandits, Jews, Gentiles, and false brothers
in danger in the city, country, and sea
he often went without sleep
hunger and thirst
cold and naked
he inwardly burned with sin
Little children have it so good. They have life free of worry and heartache -- which is the way it should be. But as you get older you accumulate pain and trouble and turmoil and disaster and disappointment. I have noticed that the longer one lives, the more painful life becomes. Life is full of pressures and problems and trials and heart-aches. Life is full of tragedy and accidents and disease and death. All of these can devastate us and destroy us. All of these can rob us of peace and joy. All of these can cripple our service and witness. In all of this, a weak inner man leads to frustration, mental strain, worry, stress, sleeplessness, and so on. So Paul is praying for inner strength as we deal with the problems of life.
B One verse I always keep in mind as I think about these things is 2 Corinthians 4:16.
(2 Cor 4:16) Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.Do you hear what Paul is saying? The outside is getting worse but the inside is getting better. I hate to admit this is true for my life as well. On Thursday's bike ride the youngest rider thought we were going too slow. So off he went at 24+ MPH. I grimly hung on for more than a mile before he slowed down to 20 MPH. Afterwards he admitted he was hurting. I was breathing too hard to admit anything. The outward man is having problems but the inner man is being renewed day by day.
C We live in a culture that is concerned only about the outward man. I'm afraid that even Christians get stuck in this trap and pay too much attention to the outward man. The world does this because that is all that it sees. Walk into a department store like J C Penny. There is a men's section, a woman's section, a children's section, lingerie, coats and jackets, shoes and belts. But there is no inner man department. It is all outer and our culture is consumed by this. Similarly, advertisements on TV and magazines and the internet tells us we can look young again with tummy tucks and face lifts and enhancements of various parts. The focus is the outer. I'm not saying it is wrong to look attractive. But it is wrong to make that your only or primary focus because you are working on something that is outer and decaying. Make the inner man your primary focus instead. That's what Paul is saying.
As I get older I find I focus more on the inner. My outer man has grown older. My inner man has grown younger.
D Back to Paul's prayer: "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being ... (Eph 3:16).
We all need to reach the point where we rely on the power and strength of the Lord. We all need to reach the point where we realize our spiritual resources are not enough. We all need to reach the point where we realize God's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
In contrast to the perishing outer man, for the Christian there is an increasing strength available to the inner man. God makes an unlimited spiritual energy available to us.
The power is available, my brothers and sisters. It is available. All we need do is tap into it. All we need do is plug ourselves in. It is simply a matter of feeding on the riches of God's Word. That's what the Spirit uses to strengthen our inner man.
The outer man is wasting away. The inner man is being renewed in strength and power. Can you make this your testimony? This is Paul's prayer. This is my prayer for you and for me.
II Christ Dwelling in Your Heart
A This brings us to our second point: Christ dwelling in your heart. Look at verse 17: "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17). Notice the words "so that." "So that" refers to the first step. It refers to being strengthened with power through His Spirit and Word in your inner being. In other words, if you have a strong inner man, then Christ dwells in your heart by faith.
Paul is not talking about salvation here. Paul is not talking about the union with Christ we need in order to have the blessings of grace. It is not a question of whether Christ is in your life.
B The Greek word for "dwell" means "to live in a house." To settle down and be at home. Ruth and I have lived in 11 different homes since we have been married. Moving is stressful, especially if you have kids who are angry about moving. I remember praying at the supper table one night: "Thank You for all that Ruth does to make our home a house." Boy did I get that wrong. I meant to say, "Thank You for all Ruth does to make our house a home." What we all needed was a place where we would feel comfortable and safe and at home. This is what Paul has in mind.
C Think of your heart as a home. With different rooms. What does Christ find there? Let's pretend your heart has an office with computers and check books. Is it filled with smut and trash and pornography and materialism? Or, is the office of your heart filled with stuff that pleases the Lord?
And then there is the kitchen/dining area of your heart, the place where desires and wants are satisfied. And He wants to know what you long for. He checks the menu to see what satisfies you. Will He be pleased with what He sees?
Then He goes to the TV room of your heart. Enough said about that room ...
What about the workshop or garage of your heart? What is parked there? What tools have you been using? What have you been making or repairing?
We all have closets where we hide things. What is hidden in the closet of your heart?
Is Christ at home in you? Is He comfortable living in your heart? Do you have a place where He really belongs and fits? Are you hospitable to Him and the things of the Lord? Do you seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness? That is what happens when we yield ourselves to the Spirit. That is what happens when the outer man wastes away and the inner man is renewed in strength and power. Christ has a home, a place, in our life. Where He fits. Where He belongs. Where He is at home. This is Paul's prayer. This is my prayer.
III Comprehend the Love of Christ
A Our third point is found in verses 17-19. What happens when Christ settles down and is at home in your life? Listen to the next part of Paul's prayer:
(Eph 3:17-19) And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, (18) may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge ...Here is another purpose statement. Here is another reason why Paul is on his knees.
Do you see the progression? When you are strengthened with the Spirit and indwelt by Christ the result is love. Paul says "rooted and grounded in love." He means love is important. It is not something minor. It is not something you can take or leave. It is not optional. It is essential. When Christ and His Spirit dominates your life, the result will be love.
B You will love the way He loved. The very love of God, the love which sent Christ to the cross and the grave, the love that sacrificed for your sake and my sake, that love will flow in you and through you. We are talking about love for neighbor. By this love, says Jesus, all men will know that you are my disciples. But this love also means you love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.
When Jesus is at home in your life, He will fill all your life with love. You will be rooted in love and grounded in love and filled with love and overflowing with love. It will be a deep love. It will be a love that overcomes all the offenses and hurts that come your way.
C Not only will you experience the love of Jesus in your heart but you will also comprehend this love. Your will understand its breadth and length and height and depth.
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? Think of the actual cross of Christ. It points up to the heavens, and it points down to the depths. It points to the east, and it points to the west. The love of Christ is like the cross -- it points to all points of the compass and to all corners of the universe.
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? As the eternal Son of God, Christ in heaven had glory and majesty. He was very God of very God. By Him were made the heavens and the earth and everything in them. His almighty arm held up the sun and moon and stars. The praises of the cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded Him. The full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of His throne. He reigned supreme over all creatures. He was God over all, blessed and exalted forever. When Christ took on our flesh He emptied Himself of all of this pomp and glory. Instead, He took on our sin and our shame, our misery and our grief. He made Himself nothing. He took on the nature of a servant. He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself out of love (Phil 2:5f).
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? Think of what happened on the cross. He Who was King of the universe became obedient to death. He Who was the Son of God became a man of sorrows. He suffered, He bled, He died. He was forsaken by the Father. He endured the torments of hell. He suffered all of this out of love.
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? The width of God's love is immense; it extends to every tribe and language and people and nation; it covers every sin and need and care and situation. The length of God's love is eternal; it existed before time, it is never ending, it is unconditional, and it is boundless. The depth of God's love is unfathomable; it caused God to stoop as low as man. The height of God's love is infinite; it extends to the highest heaven and to the very throne of God.
Paul prays the Ephesian Christians may know and experience this love. I pray we may as well.
IV The Fullness of God
And this leads to the fourth point that we find at the end of verse 19: "that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Here is another purpose statement. "That you may be filled."
I remember my highschool science teacher putting a lit candle upright in a pan of water. Then he lowered a glass jar over the burning candle and into the water. We students watched as water was sucked into the glass. "Nature hates a vacuum," said the teacher. "As oxygen gets burnt, water is pulled in to take its place."
Our soul is like a vacuum. God rushes in to fill it with His presence. Jesus is full of grace and truth; He fills us with grace and truth. God is love; we are love. God is peace and give us peace. God is joy and gives us joy. God is patience and gives us patience.
I become like God when I am filled with His fullness. Paul prays for this to happen.
Paul's grand finale is the glory of God. God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. You may think yours will never be inner strength. That Christ will never be truly at home in your heart. That the love of Christ will never fill you to overflowing. That you will never be like God.
Guess what? God does more than all that we ask or think. He exceeds all boundaries. Why? For the sake of His glory. God is glorified when we go through the steps of the Christian life. God is glorified when we progress from inner strength to the indwelling Christ to being filled with His love to becoming like God. He is glorified and He is praised.
This is how Paul's prayer ends: "to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Eph 3:21).
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page