Bible Study Theology Uncategorized

Ephesians 3:14-21 Strengthened with power

We are 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.

Yesterday, I talked a bit about where this prayer is heading… “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” What a glorious destination!  But what does God reveal to us through Paul’s prayer about how we can arrive there?

Paul’s first request in the prayer is… “that according to the riches of his (the Father’s) glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

In the Greek language that Paul was writing in, this first petition is linked with the next phrase that is in verse 17.  “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” The words “so that” are not literally present in Greek.  Rather v. 17a is another way of expressing the same idea that is in v. 16b.  In other words,  “being strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being” and “Christ dwelling in your hearts through faith” are two sides of the same coin.  They are two ways of expressing one reality.  It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ dwells in our hearts.  And as Christ dwells in our heart (which represents our inner being, our innermost self) we are strengthened with the Spirit’s power.

At this point, you may be thinking, “But why is Paul praying this for Christians? Isn’t it true that Christ already dwells in the heart of every true Christian?  Isn’t it true that every believer already has the Holy Spirit indwelling him?  (Romans 8:9  “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”)

Yes, that is true, but Paul is not referring here to Jesus’ initial taking up residence in our lives through the Holy Spirit when we are converted.  He is referring to an intimate experience of Jesus that is given to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  This is the same reality that Jesus was referring to in John 14 when he promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit.

He says in John 14:21-23…

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

When Jesus promises that he and the Father will “come” to the one who loves him and “make their home” with the one who loves him, he is not talking about conversion, but about a fuller experience of the “manifest” presence of Jesus with the believer through the Holy Spirit.

We do not (and cannot) love Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, and this promise Jesus gives is to those who “love him.” He is referring to the wonderful experience of the believing Christian that through the Holy Spirit we can be with Jesus… we can experience his real presence in our lives.

An illustration might help… Imagine that I adopt a child, but that child is in New York, while I live in Los Angeles.  That child is legally mine, but he does not experience my presence with him until I go to New York and “make my home with him.”  In a similar way, God makes us his children.  He adopts us into his family, but subsequent to that he comes to us through the Holy Spirit and “makes his home with us.”

I mentioned yesterday that one of the marks of every true Christian is a desire to be more like Jesus.  Another mark of the true Christian is the the desire to be close to Jesus.  Haven’t you experienced a longing to have a closer, more intimate, walk with Jesus.  Doesn’t you heart ache to know how to “abide in Christ” as Jesus says in John 15?

Be encouraged by what Paul prays for the Ephesians here, and by what Jesus promises his disciples in John 14.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can have an intimate experience of Jesus’ presence in our lives.  Why not ask the Lord today to come in the power of the Holy Spirit and to reveal to you the indwelling presence of the Lord Jesus in your life.

Paul says, “Christ dwelling in your hearts through faith” May the Holy Spirit grant you the faith to believe that no matter what experience of Jesus’ presence in your life you have already experienced, there is a deeper and fuller experience awaiting you as you reach out to him in faith and ask him for it.  Not just for yourself, but for your spiritual family as well.

Paul says in v. 16a that his prayer for the Spirit’s strengthening (Christ’s indwelling) is,  “according to the riches of his (the Father’s) glory.” Think about the words, “according to” Paul is asking for a “strengthening” that is proportional, or in line with (according to) the riches of the Father’s glory.  You don’t have to be a whiz at math to see that this is a pretty amazing “strengthening!”  The Father’s glory is infinite, boundless.  So no matter what experience you may have had in the past of the Holy Spirit’s fullness in your life, there is more that God has for you.

Bible Study Theology Uncategorized

The cross’ power to sanctify

The thought came to me today that perhaps the primary way that Jesus’ cross saves us from the power of indwelling sin is that the cross releases from our fruitless attempts to establish our own righteousness.

When we have sinned, our natural, sinful, tendency is to seek to “do better next time.”  We want to put our failure behind us and show that we can do better.  And we may actually do better to some degree, but we are still bound by sin because it is impossible for us to do better to the infinite degree that is required by God’s absolute holiness.  Only when we come to the cross of Jesus for forgiveness of our sin and receive the free gift of his righteousness can we receive the absolute and infinte righteousness that God requires of us.  

I Corinthians 15:56 says that “the power of sin is the law.”  When we are set free from the attempt to justify ourselves by keeping the law, we are set free from the power of sin.

Romans 8:1-4 says the same thing:

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

By the cross of Jesus we are set free in a way that the law could not set us free.  The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us through our union with Christ in his death and resurrection by the Holy Spirit.  When we seek to establish our own righteousness, we are only confirming ourselves in our sin, but when we turn from our own self-righteousness to Jesus and his righteousness, we are set free from the vicious, fruitless cycle of trying to “do better next time”.  

Interestingly, just after having this thought in my devotional time, I read the following quote from  

“The only people who get better are people who know that, if they never get better, God will love them anyway.”

—Steve Brown, A Scandalous Freedom (West Monroe, LA: Howard Books, 2004), 68-69

The quote doesn’t state the basis of the assertion, but the basis is the cross of Jesus.  God loves us because of the cross of Jesus and his imputed righteousness.  


a chat with my brother

The following is a chat I had some time ago with my brother about the sinfulness of mankind.  The thoughts are… well… a little disorganized, but I thought some people might enjoy the informality of the discussion we had.