Bible Study Theology

Ephesians 3:14-21 Rooted and grounded in love

This is the third day of looking at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers…

This is the third day of looking at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers…

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

As I continue in this study, it is going to become more and more necessary that you read the preceding posts to follow what I am saying, but since I have no way of knowing whether you will actually do that, let me try to summarize what I have said thus far.

1)  The end result of the progression that the prayer walks through is our being “filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19)  God is in a process of forming in us his very image.  Someday, when his work is complete, we will bear his moral likeness.

2)  The first step necessary to take us to that destination is an experience of the manifest presence of Jesus in our lives through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit we can be with Jesus!

Now, let’s pick up at the end of verse 17.  Here we have another participial clause that serves as a link between Paul’s petition in vs. 16-17a and the next petition in v. 18.  When we experience Jesus’ presence in our lives through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the result is that we are “rooted and grounded in love” Once we have been rooted and grounded, we can then begin a process of going deeper and deeper in our experience of the love of God until we are “filled up to all the fullness of God.”

What does it mean to be “rooted and grounded in love”?

Paul brings in the concept of Christ’s love almost as an aside, but it quickly becomes the centerpiece of his prayer.  Notice how he moves from the idea of “Christ dwelling in our hearts” to the state of “being rooted and grounded in love.”  Is there a connection here?

It is almost as if Paul assumes that it is obvious that the experience we have of Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit is an experience of his love.

Going back to my illustration yesterday of the child being adopted, you can see this more clearly.  When I, in Los Angeles, adopt the child in New York, that child knows he is loved.  Why else would I adopt him and promise him that we will live together and that I will provide for his every need?  He can know, to a certain extent, that I love him.  But when I actually arrive in New York and see him for the first time and take him in my arms and give him a great big Daddy bear-hug and tell him that I will always be with him, that is an experience of my love for him that he will never forget–the beginning of many happy years together, even though we most certainly will face difficult times in our relationship.

It is one thing to hear that Jesus loves you.  It is quite another thing to experience that love first-hand!  This is what Paul desires for his brothers and sisters in Ephesus–an experience of God’s love through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

I’m convinced that this is the need of many believers as well.  They have never been rooted and grounded in the Father’s love for them.  They know it intellectually, but their experience of that love is limited to just seeing his love displayed in circumstances or in the “common grace” ways that all mankind is loved by God.  The love that Paul is asking for here is of a different sort.  To say that we know God loves us because he feeds us and clothes us would be like the adopting father in my illustration above sending checks to the adopted son in New York.  Sure, it is a way of showing love, but it is not a relationship.

In Romans 5:5 Paul says,

“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Through the Holy Spirit we experience firsthand the love of God in our hearts.  I find it hard to put this into words because it is like trying to express the love that we experience in any relationship.  When I tell you that I love my wife, I certainly mean that I feel love for her, but it is so much more than that. In the same way, through the Holy Spirit we know not just in our heads but with our hearts that God is with us and that he loves us.  This is what it means to be “rooted and grounded in love.”

I’ll never forget something I heard Pastor John Piper say about Romans 5:5.  He said (this is not a direct quote) if you wonder if you have really experienced the love of God being poured out within your heart by the Holy Spirit, then ask God to do it to you!  Say, “Lord, do Romans 5:5 to me!”  You need to know by experience that God loves you.  You need to be convinced of it.  When you know by experience that God loves you you are rooted and grounded in his love.

“Rooted and grounded in love” is a mixed metaphor.  Paul mixes an agricultural metaphor with a construction metaphor.   When you are certain of God’s love for you then you are “rooted” like a plant.  You can begin to grow and flourish and bear fruit.  When you are certain of God’s love for you, it is like the foundation of a building.  The word translated “grounded” is used for the foundation of a house.  You are “established” on the foundation of God’s love and the building can then be constructed.

But how do we avoid a frantic, subjective search of our own hearts to see if we really are “rooted and grounded” in God’s love for us?  We all know how fickle our hearts are.  No matter what experience of Christ’s love we have experienced in the past, the moments will come when we doubt everything and are tempted to despair that he has ever really loved us or that he will continue to love us, especially when we’ve really blown it!  Perhaps even as you are reading this, you are thinking… “Have I really experienced this?  Can I be sure that Jesus loves me?

This is why Paul is praying! He knows that the knowledge and experience of God’s love for us is the only way we will ever reach the goal of being “filled up with all the fullness of God.” So we need the constant strengthening of the Holy Spirit, who reveals the presence and love of Jesus to us.  Without this “root”–this “foundation” of God’s love, we will never be filled with the fullness of God.

I’m not sure exegetically how closely we can tie the “strengthening with power through his Spirit” of v. 16 with the “through faith” of v. 17, but we desparately need to be strengthened in our faith by the Holy Spirit if we are going to be assured of Christ’s love for us when doubts assail us.  We can’t forget that it is “by faith” that Christ dwells in our hearts.  When our faith is weak, we must cry out for the strengthening of the Spirit to believe the message of the gospel that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

More tomorrow!

By Bryan Jay

My name is Bryan Jay and I have been teaching the Bible full-time for almost 30 years now. In 1992, I began pastoring a new church in Asheville, North Carolina, and in 1997, I moved with my family to Brazil where we lived and served for many years. Since that time, we have moved on to other places, continuing to teach the Word of God.

13 replies on “Ephesians 3:14-21 Rooted and grounded in love”

this really helped me today. I need the strengthening of the Holy Spirit and I need to submit to the word of God. I am a mess, I need more faith.

Thanks for admitting your need, Grant. I will be praying for you! Keep in mind that when you say, "I need more faith," you are also admitting your need for GRACE! Don't think of faith as a quality that you possess in your own sinful self. Faith is believing, and our believing in Jesus is a gift that God gives us by grace. Apart from God's grace we are blind in our sinful unbelief, but by his grace he gives us "spiritual sight"–i.e. faith.

Look at the cross of Jesus. Praise him for dying as your substitute and paying for all your sins. Ask God for the faith to truly believe that your debt is paid and you are acceptable to God because of Jesus.

Bryan Jay

While I do indeed know by experience that God loves me…my heart memory fades. Like you said, the moments come when i doubt or wonder. Thank you for the encouragment to ask the Lord to do Romans 5;5 to me!

I have a friend who recently asked me if I am rooted in love and I answered yes, and he asked me how, and this is what I said;
…because I don’t feel a certain
void or insecurity about being
insomuch so that I feel
compelled to go looking for it in
the wrong
places or looking for some sort
of acceptance love, and attention
the world. I
feel it in my gut and soul that I
am rooted in love and I see it as
evidence in the people in my life,
not with just immediate family/
relatives, but its also evidence in
my desire in wanting to share or
show love in giving something
such as basic needs to the next
who needs it, or someone less
fortunate than I am, what I
believe will
bring joy and comfort in them
receiving it. That desire of
wanting to
see others happy or experience
joy is channeled from the love of
hence it being humbling.
Now my question is, did I not grasp the meaning of the question asked and so sound self-righteous and religious?
I think anyone would rather be called a heathen or atheist than self-righteous and religious, because that hurts especially when that’s not in your heart.

I don’t know if they asked because he or she is seriously asking expecting you to say yes to test you., or truly just wants to know how you feel. But, I personally like your answers. I am seeking for people in my church to do in love more than just speak at people about it. Many are speaking it, but not showing it. I know it’s not going to happen always, but the more a person is sincerely walking it the more it shows for real. What the other person thought of your answer probably depends a great deal upon their view of things too. And how they view you. Not knowing you, it sounds like you are aware of what it means and try to live it. That’s to be respected.

This is what I struggle with- So I go to my church and I am not treated kindly but I used to be in the beginning. I haven’t done anyone wrong. I missed some Sundays and I began to get insulted. I don’t know how to explain to them that I don’t feel they are rooted or grounded in Love if they are preaching it but not living it. I am not feeling rooted in love either because when I am constantly criticized and not heard, I feel like no one knows how to be loving even though everyone is claiming to have the holy spirit. I have been seeking the answers for several months now and just don’t know where to help the situation if they don’t hear me. I came to seek some sort of deep answer and this was a good start. I just wish there were more.

Thank you for your reply, it does bring consolation when someone gets your situation. Love of God has indeed been demonstrated when He sent His Son, in like manner, we as Christians ought to show love to people around us by our actions since we are representing God (disciples we are)

another thing we forget is, when someone makes a mistake, instead of condemning them, we ought to pray for them and restore.

Please pray for me. I have definitely experienced the love of God but it spoke to me what you said about sometimes crashing into doubt and needing Romans 5:5 to be done to me. Please pray I am consumed by His love. I so desire to know this rich love and be so rooted and grounded that I can give it so deeply and impart it so fully to others. Thank you so much for this post.

Thanks so much for your insight on God’s word. I will pray Ephesians 3:17 and Romans 5:5 for myself. So reassuring to know I can ask the Lord to help me go beyond the intellectual knowledge of His love, but experience His love in my heart with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I need this.

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