************ Sermon on Ephesians 3:14-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 14, 2001
"When Great Love Meets Great Power"
Subtopic: Glory of
An article in Glad Tidings illustrates a great point. A growing church was making construction plans. In honor of the pastor's many years of ministry, the building committee told him they wanted to put his name on the cornerstone. He thanked them for their thoughtfulness, then quoted 1 Corinthians 10:31, "...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." He then asked that the committee not let his name appear. If you were to drive by that church today, instead of the pastor's name you would read these words on the cornerstone: "For the glory of God."
"For the glory of God." Or, as Paul puts it in today's passage from Ephesians 3:
(Eph 3:21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
"For the glory of God." That's the purpose of this building. That's the purpose of this service of rededication. That's the reason for this church's existence. That, says Paul, is why God gives us His love and His power. It is all for His glory!
I God's Great Love
A The Apostle Paul starts our passage with a prayer. We can break down what Paul says into three distinct petitions. As we go through this passage you will see that Paul prays that we measure the immeasurable, know the unknowable, and contain the uncontainable.
First, the Apostle Paul prays that you may grasp and know "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." In this newly remodeled building and among your brothers and sisters in Christ, the Apostle Paul wants you to understand the width and length and depth and height of God's love.
Now, we can ask and should ask how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Christ? Let me illustrate this love with a story from the time of Oliver Cromwell in England:
Topic: LoveThis story is an illustration of the love of Christ. Christ's love is so "wide and long and high and deep" that He is willing to do this and more for us. And, my brothers and sisters, this is the kind of love Paul prays that you personally know and live out in your life.
Title: Ringing of the Curfew Bell
A young soldier had been tried in military court and sentenced to death. He was to be shot at the "ringing of the curfew bell." His fianceé climbed up into the bell tower several hours before curfew time and tied herself to the bell's huge clapper. At curfew time, when only muted sounds came out of the bell tower, Cromwell demanded to know why the bell was not ringing. His soldiers went to investigate and found the young woman cut and bleeding from being knocked back and forth against the great bell. They brought her down and Cromwell was so impressed with her willingness to suffer in this way on behalf of someone she loved that he let the soldier go saying, "Curfew shall not ring tonight."
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? Think of the cross of Christ. I'm not talking about what happened on the cross. I'm talking about the actual cross. 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? Think of the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, between man and God. The love of Christ broke down, smashed down, and destroyed the wall that separated Jew from Gentile and man from God (Eph 2:14f). It is this same love which purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation; a love which broke down the wall between people of different races and cultures and languages (Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9).
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 the heavens and the earth and everything in them made. 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, our fallenness and our depravity. 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 a man is, to reach down to our level. The height of God's love is infinite; it extends to the highest heaven and to the very throne of God.
Measuring God's love is impossible. We are attempting to measure the immeasurable.
And yet, in this building, among these people, you are to show this love.
B Paul's second petition is that the Ephesian church will "grasp," "seize," "get hold of" (vs 18) this wondrous love of Christ. He prays that they will "know this love" (vs 19) – that is, experience it personally in their hearts and lives. Paul prays that the Ephesian church will make the love of Christ their love. At the same time, of course, Paul knows that such love – when it is lived out – becomes a witness, a lure, a light to those who do not yet have it.
I want you to notice that Paul prays that we know the unknowable. He specifies that it is a love that "surpasses knowledge" (vs 19). You see, once we know and personally experience the love of God we come to realize it is indescribable and utterly amazing. And yet, my hope and my prayer is that in this place and among these people you know this unsurpassing love.
C Paul's third petition is that you "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Paul is praying that you be filled with the God of love and the love of God.
The book of Acts tells us what happens when God's people are filled with the God of love and the love of God.
(Acts 4:31) After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.Here, in California, when a building is shaken we automatically think of earthquakes. But in the New Testament church of Jerusalem it was the God of love and His presence that shook the building. Imagine us being so filled with the God of love and the love of God that this place be shaken.
I want you to notice that Paul prays here that we contain the uncontainable. When Solomon built and dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, he had to admit:
(1Ki 8:27) "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!"The God of love and the love of God is too big and too awesome to be contained in this building or in any single person. And yet, my hope and my prayer is that in this place and among these people you are filled with all the fullness of the God of love.
What happens when we contain the uncontainable? Think, for a moment, about an empty drinking glass being filled from a full pitcher of water. The full pitcher not only fills the glass, but fills it to overflowing. That's what happens when we are filled with the God of love and the love of God. Not only are we filled, but we are filled to overflowing. God's great love in our lives, in other words, splashes unto those around us.
D The Apostle Paul also tells you what needs to happen in your life as an individual and as a church to make God's love your love. He prays that you may be "rooted and established in love" (vs 17b), he prays that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (vs 17a), and he prays that God "may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (vs 16b). These are three different ways of saying the same thing: you need to have a relationship with Christ. For God's love and Christ's love to be your love you need to have a relationship with Christ.
In this church and with your pastor, this should be nothing new for anyone here. But let me tell you anyway: for you to measure and know and contain God's love you need to have Christ at the center of your life; you need to live for Him Who died for you; you need to spend time with Him every day in prayer; you need to read and study His Word in daily devotions, in family devotions, and in the company of other believers; you need to worship Him every Sunday. And, as you find yourselves being drawn closer and closer to Him, you will also find yourselves growing in His love – in His love which is so wide and long and high and deep.
E I happen to know that one of your main concerns as a church is the struggle to make ends meet, to pay the bills, to meet your obligations to Pastor Bill while keeping up the building and paying for your programs. I want you to notice that Paul doesn't pray about buildings and mortgage payments and money concerns. His concern goes deeper than that. Paul's first concern is that the church be a place where God's love is measured and known and contained. And, that should be your first concern as well.
II God's Great Power
A In the first part of our Bible reading Paul prays about God's love. In the second part of our Bible reading Paul celebrates God's power.
There is a connection between the two. First, both are described as being beyond measure. We can't measure and know and contain God's love. Likewise, God's power is immeasurable. God, says Paul, is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (vs 20). Second, it is God's great power which brings God's great love into this place and among this people.
B This power of God is beyond measure. It is a great and awesome power. It is the power which made heaven and earth and everything in them. It is the power which sets the stars and planets and galaxies in place. It is the power which determines the boundaries for land and sea. It is the power which made a virgin conceive and give birth to a son, the power by which the second person of the Triune Godhead took on our flesh, the power which allowed Him to endue the pain and agony of hell, the power which raised Him from the dead and brought Him into heaven. It is the power used by Jesus so that the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (Mt 11:5).
C Now, I want you to notice, it is a power "that is at work within us." God's great power is at our disposal so that we can do God's work within the church and kingdom. Remember the words of Paul:
(Phil 4:13) I can do everything through him who gives me strength.This reminds me of a story told about Mother Theresa:
Subtopic: Power of
Mother Theresa once wanted to build an orphanage, but she had only three shillings, and someone jeeringly said to her, "What can you do to build an orphanage with only three shillings?"
"Theresa with three shillings," was the answer, "can do nothing, but with three shillings and with God to help her there is nothing that Theresa cannot do!"
We can do great things for God, this church can do great things for God, in this building we can do great things for God – but only by God's strength "at work within us."
Paul goes so far as to say that God can do immeasurably more than we have asked Him to do and immeasurably more than we have even thought of asking Him to do.
We tend to think small. And, we make God small like us. But God is BIG and He wants us to think BIG.
We fix up the doors and the windows and some other stuff of the building. But you know what God says? He says, "I can do more!" We start a neighborhood prayer watch. God says, "I can do more!" We adopt a church budget. God says, "I can do more!" We start a new ministry. And God says, "I can do more!" No matter how much we stretch ourselves in faith, God says back, "I CAN DO MORE!" Even when we stretch ourselves beyond what we think is possible, the response of God is still the same: "I can do more, more, more, more ..." In fact, there are no boundaries, no limits, to what God can and does do within us.
My brothers and sisters, don't think small because our God is NOT small. Don't think small because our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Topic: FaithWe, like those city fathers, sometimes set the boundaries too close, too small, in our spiritual expectations.
Evangelist Billy Walker told a story about the city fathers of New York as they contemplated the future growth of the city. The laid out the streets and numbered them from the center outward. When they began, there were only six or seven streets. In their planning maps, they projected how large they thought the city might grow.
Reaching beyond their wildest imagination, they drew streets on the map all the way out to 19th Street. They called it "Boundary Street" because they were sure that's all the larger New York City would become. But history has proven them to be shortsighted. At last count, the city had reached 284th Street -- far exceeding their expectations!
A Paul prays for God's measureless love within the church. Paul then speaks about God's limitless power within the church. I want you to notice what happens when great love meets great power. What happens is praise to God. What happens is that glory is brought to God's name. When the vastness of God's love meets the immensity of God's power, the only result can be praise to God:
(Eph 3:21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
As I said earlier, God's glory is why God gives us His love and His power. God's glory is the purpose of this building. God's glory is the purpose of this service of rededication. God's glory is the reason for this church's existence. It is all for His glory!
B "To him be glory ..." The glory of God is the weight of God, the worthiness of God, the honor and reputation of God. "Glory" is the sum total of all the honor, praise, and majesty that belongs to God.
Men and angels do not give this "glory" to God. It is already His and will always be His from eternity to eternity. What we are doing this morning is simply recognizing and acknowledging the glory that has always been God's.
"To him be glory in the church ..." We give glory to Randy Moss on the football field. To Mario Lemieux in the hockey rink. To Bill Clinton in the White House. To Britney Spears at the Grammy Awards. To Julia Roberts at the Academy Awards. But to God be glory in the church. We say that all the world is a stage; but when it comes to the glory of God, the church is not only the stage, it is also the spotlight to focus attention on God's glory because of His love and His power.
"To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus ..." It is Jesus Who especially shows both the love of God and the power of God. It is Jesus, then, Who especially brings glory to God.
"To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever. Amen." Glory on earth has been equated with 15 minutes of fame. The most admirable of men and women are but meteors flashing across the sky. But God, His glory is like that of the sun. Generation after generation has experienced His love and His power and bring Him the praise, honor, and glory due His name.
This church, like the church I serve, shows God's great love, has experienced God's great power, and must now bring God great praise.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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