|Ephesians, Queen of the Epistles
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
We are studying together the book of Ephesians and we have now come to the second half of chapter 3 of Ephesians, verses 13 to 21. We have already seen that the whole plan of salvation was fulfilled in the holy history of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the first two chapters of this epistle, Paul expounds so beautifully the truth as it is in Christ. He revealed to us the matchless charms of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in which redemption full and complete has been obtained for all mankind and that in our last study, chapter 3, verses 1 to 12, we saw that this wonderful gift of salvation includes the Gentile world. This is the divine mystery that was kept suppressed, kept hidden, in the past but now, since the New Testament period, has been revealed, first through Peter and then especially through Paul that the Gentiles were included in the plan of salvation.
In this present study, we are coming to an extremely important section of this epistle of Ephesians. Chapter 3, verses 13 to 21, is dealing with the love of God and I have entitled this study as being Rooted and Grounded in Love because every Christian to be able to stand the fiery darts of Satan, to stand the pressures of this sinful world, must be rooted and grounded in love. Let me put it this way. There are two important facts that the New Testament brings out concerning the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that every Christian must be absolutely clear on. The first truth is the love of God. Why? Because the ground of our salvation is not our performance, is not our goodness; it is the unconditional, self-emptying love of God. We are saved because God loves us. Jesus made that clear in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Paul made that clear in Romans 5 where he says in verse 5 onwards that the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit and then he expounds that love. Romans 5:5-8:
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He says, while we were helpless, while we were enemies, while we were ungodly, and while we were still sinners, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. By doing this, He demonstrated His love towards us. In Titus, chapter 3, verse 5, Paul tells us it isnt because of our righteousness but because of His mercy, because of His abundant love, He saved us:
...He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit....
So the love of God is the ground of our salvation and every believer needs to know this.
Number two, the fact that God loves us unconditionally is not enough to save us, because our God is a holy God. He is a righteous God; He is a just God. He cannot save us or redeem us or take us to heaven simply by excusing our sins. That would make Him an unjust God. His law makes it clear: the soul that sins, it must die. How did God save us? The second truth that every Christian must know is the in Christ motif, the central theme of Pauls theology. This is what we saw as we studied chapters one and two of Ephesians. God took you, He took me, He took all mankind and put us into Christ at the incarnation and, thus, qualified Christ to be our Representative and our Substitute. When we and Christ became one in the incarnation when God and man were united in the one Person, Jesus Christ Jesus Christ became the second Adam. This did not save us, but this qualified Christ to be our Savior, our Representative, our Substitute. Then, by His perfect life, which met the positive demands of the law, and, by His sacrificial death, which met the justice of the law, God gave mankind a new history, a new status in which we stand justified. This is the good news of the gospel. This is what Jesus asked His disciples, commissioned His disciples, to preach into all the world. This is the mystery of salvation which includes the Gentile world. But all this was possible because of Gods love. And this is what Paul is dealing with in chapter 3, verses 13 to 21.
To appreciate this passage, we must keep in mind the context the historical context of this epistle. As I already mentioned several times, this epistle is a prison epistle. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel to the Gentile world. He was in a Roman dungeon but he had received news that his flock had become very discouraged, especially his flock at Ephesus. This is how they reasoned: If God [the supreme God that Paul proclaimed to them] is not able to protect Paul, who is now languishing in a Roman prison, what hope is there for us? And their faith began to dwindle. Paul heard about this and he writes this letter of encouragement. He first tells them that, in Christ, they have salvation full and complete and they should not be worried; they should not be discouraged. But now he is turning to the love of God. Listen to what he says in this passage. I am going to read the passage first and then I am going to explain verse by verse what Paul is saying here. Ephesians 3:13-21:
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
This is why he is writing about the love of God; they are losing heart because of his imprisonment.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Isnt that a tremendous passage? But what is Paul saying in it? First of all, as I mentioned, in verse 13 Paul is writing to a group of discouraged believers. They were discouraged because Paul was in prison and they were beginning to undermine the power of God, the protective power of God. Paul is saying, No, please, dont you ever get discouraged because of me. I am there because God wants me there. You see, Paul is not just a theologian; he has the heart of a pastor. Because of the discouragement of his flock, he is saying, I bow down my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, keep in mind, dear reader, that in the days of Paul, the typical attitude of prayer was standing up, facing heaven with your eyes open with your hands raised and praying to God. But whenever a person prayed with deep concern, then he would go on his knees. This is what Paul is doing here. He is on his knees because he is deeply concerned about his flock who are discouraged. He is deeply concerned for any saint who is discouraged. Listen to what he says in verse 15:
...from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
God is the Creator of every created being, angels or human beings. We all belong to the family of God by creation. This is the true God that Paul is addressing, the God of heaven, the God of creation. Listen to his prayer in verse 16 because this prayer includes you and me:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you [that is, us or any discouraged believer] with power through his Spirit in your inner being....
Now that phrase inner being or inner man is a typical Pauline expression. What does Paul mean by that? Does Paul mean that, I want you to be strengthened with great might by his Spirit in the inner being? That term, inner being, is used only for the converted, born-again Christian. You will find it in 2 Corinthians 4:16:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
You will find it in Romans 7:22:
For in my inner being I delight in Gods law....
Its a Pauline expression for the converted person.
Let me explain to you what he means by it. If you remember what Paul says in chapter 2 of Ephesians, verse 3 that we, while we were unconverted, served the sinful desires of the flesh and of the mind. The unconverted man has no contradiction between his sinful nature and his mind. They both are in unison, in harmony with sin. But, when you accept Christ, a change takes place in the mind. That change is referred to as repentance. The Greek word means a change of mind. When a person is converted, he, by his mind, by his will, turns towards God in appreciation and gratitude and accepts the gift of God, Jesus Christ, as his or her personal Savior. But the sinful nature has not changed one iota, so that the sinful nature of an unbeliever and the sinful nature of a believer are identical. The difference between a believer and an unbeliever is not the nature but the mind. In the believer, the mind has made a U-turn. It is no longer running away from God; it is now in harmony with God. That is what Paul calls the inner man, the converted mind.
Paul is saying that, It is in this converted mind that I want you to be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit. You cant be strengthened in the flesh because the flesh still is sinful and belongs to the realm or the camp of Satan, but the converted mind belongs to God. The inner man belongs to God and that is where the Holy Spirit is controlling, the dwelling. He dwells in our spirit but he wants us to be strengthened with might in the inner man in the converted mind.
How are we to be strengthened? Look at verse 17 of Ephesians 3:
...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love....
That first part of verse 17 puzzled me for a long time. Ill tell you why, dear reader: because Paul is saying here that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. He is praying to God that Christ may dwell in the hearts of these Ephesian believers. But the fact is that the believers already had Christ dwelling in them. Was he implying in verse 17 that the people to whom he is writing were unbelievers? The answer is No, because in his introduction in Ephesians 1, he called them faithful in Christ. Then what does he mean by this prayer that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith? Well, the solution is found in the word dwell.
The word dwell in English simply means to reside or residing in. In English it normally has one meaning. But in the language in which the New Testament was written, there are two words in the Greek language that can be translated into the English word dwell. Both come from the same root word but they have a different meaning. One of the words is patakeo and the other word is parakeo. They both come from the root word keo but the difference is this: patakeo means to dwell permanently in a place, parakeo is to dwell temporarily in a place. For example, when you are traveling on the freeway and you come to the end of the day, youre tired and you have not reached your destination so you book into a motel. You spend the night; you dwell that night in a motel. The word that the Greeks would have used is parakeo. You are dwelling temporarily in that place. But when you return home, your permanent dwelling place, then the Greeks would use the word patakeo.
Now it is true that Christ dwells in every born-again Christian, but the question is, Is He dwelling in you permanently? Please remember, it is possible for you to grieve the Holy Spirit and drive Him out of you. In fact, Romans, chapter 4, will deal with this, especially verse 25 onwards. Paul will tell the believers, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by which you have been sealed unto the day of redemption. In Matthew 10, Jesus told His disciples (especially verse 22, but the whole chapter) that they would be persecuted because of Him. They would be put in prison because of Him and only those whose faith endures unto the end shall be saved.
Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 35:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
In this verse, the writer of Hebrews is telling the Jewish Christians, Please, dont give up your confidence in Jesus Christ. Why? Because it has great recompense of reward. Then, in verses 38 and 39, Paul says (that is who I believe wrote Hebrews), he says:
But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
The righteousness that saves you is in Christ. Nobody can touch that because Christ is in heaven where no thief can enter. But the faith by which that righteousness becomes yours is not in Christ; it is in you. That the devil can destroy, that he can touch. And Pauls prayer is here to the discouraged listeners or readers. He says, Please, my prayer is that Christ may dwell in you, not temporarily but permanently. He uses the word kutikeo. And the only way that Christ can dwell in your hearts permanently is when you are rooted and grounded in Christ on the love of God. And for that to happen, he says in verses 18-19 of Ephesians 3:
[And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,] may have power, together with all the saints [and that includes you and me], to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Here is a statement that every Christian should understand. One of the biggest problems we Christians face is understanding the love of God. One reason we have difficulty understanding the love of God is a linguistic problem. We have only one word in English for love. The disciples had at least four words in the Greek language that uses the word for love. They chose a word that has no English equivalent. They chose the word agape. Love in the English language does a great injustice to Gods definition of love by the word agape. There are at least two major distinctions which make human love completely contradicting Gods love:
We have a God who loves us unconditionally and whose love never stops. There is a tremendous passage in Romans 8 which I would recommend you memorize: chapter 8, verses 35 to 39, where Paul is asking the question [verse 35]:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
His response is [verses 37-38]:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am persuaded, I am convinced beyond any shadow of doubt, that nothing in this earth or in heaven or in the Satanic world, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God which was revealed in Jesus Christ. My dear reader, Gods love is unconditional. Gods love is changeless, and Gods love is self-emptying. Human love, at its very best, is motivated by self. We are egocentric by nature and this selfish nature has polluted every human act so that our love, even if sometimes it is wonderful, is polluted with self. But the love of God is self-emptying.
Jesus, we are told in Corinthians, was rich but He became poor that we who are poor may become rich. In that same book, chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians, we are told that Jesus was made sin that we might be made righteousness in Him. Jesus was willing to empty Himself, totally, for us. God so loved the world that He emptied heaven for us in giving us His only begotten Son. Thats the kind of God we worship. And it is this love that you and I need to be rooted and grounded in. Paul uses two metaphors: rooted is from botany; grounded is from architecture. Deep roots and firm foundations are the necessity of every Christian if we are going to stand persecution and discouragement. And when you are rooted and grounded in this agape love, you are filled with the fullness of God because John, in his epistle 1 John, chapter 4, verse 8 and 16, tells us that God is love:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
He doesnt tell us that one of Gods attributes is love. God is love, period. Everything about God is love. Even his wrath must be understood in the concept of His love. His judgments must be understood in the concept of His love. God is love and there will never come a time when He will stop loving you. Yes, you may stop loving Him but He will never stop loving you. And when you are rooted and grounded in this truth, when you comprehend with all the saints what is the width, height, depth, and length of this love, when you are filled with the fullness of God, you will be able to stand the pressures of this life. The secret for Christ to permanently dwell in the believer is for us to be rooted and grounded in the unconditional love of God.
Let us now turn to his benediction in verses 20 and 21 because chapter 4, with which we will begin our next study, is dealing with Christian ethics. Paul always ends his epistles with how the gospel should affect our Christian living. But let us look at his benediction:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...
Have you got that, reader? God is able to do for you and me more than we ask and we think. Thats the kind of God we worship. Why? Because God is a God of love and it is Gods purpose that none perish. That is why He so loved the world while we were still sinners and He sent His Son, not to condemn the world but that through Him we might be saved. And so He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask and think according to the power that works in us.
When Jesus redeemed all mankind, he said, When I go to My Father, I will send you another Comforter. Do you know what word Jesus used? He used the word paraklatos and that word in Greek means somebody who is by your side to comfort you, to strengthen you, to help you, to make your prayers meaningful. He is more than just a comforter, as the King James Version of the Bible puts it. He is more than that; He is a helper by your side. He is the power of God in you so that you may not be discouraged, that you may know in whom you believe, that you may be guided into all this truth that I am expounding from this Ephesians epistle. Ephesians 3:21:
...To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The difference between the Christian God and the pagan god is this. The pagan god is up there. He will not step down and you, through your sacrifices and through your good works, must appease him so that you may be acceptable to him. The God you and I worship in Christianity is a God of love. He did not ask you to be good before He redeemed you. While we were sinners, He sent His Son down here to this earth. He emptied heaven. The God of the Christian religion is a God who came down to this earth, became one of us and, by His perfect life and by His sacrificial death, He redeemed you and me, redeemed all mankind. The gospel is unconditional good news. God is not asking you to be good before He accepts you. Salvation is a gift for sinners. We are saved by grace, not by works.
It is true that the gospel produces a people that are excited about doing good works. Good works are the fruits of salvation but never the means. Then what is the means of our salvation? The love of God and the holy history of Jesus Christ. These are the two basic facts of the gospel: that God so loved the world and that He redeemed us through Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that you will know this truth and this truth will set you free. Amen.