By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love
As we continue to study Paul’s powerful prayer, we do so with the realization that it is being answered on a daily basis in our lives. As we are empowered in our inner person through the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit, things happen. Paul speaks of two of these in this verse (1) Our hearts are prepared to make them a dwelling place for Christ and (2) we are rooted and grounded in love as His love takes hold of us. Ah yes, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; we are being built up together as a dwelling place for God; and Christ dwells in our hearts.
(1) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. The first result of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is that Christ takes up residence in our hearts. The word dwell describes a settled dwelling place where Christ takes up permanent residence in contrast to the temporary abode described in Heb. 11:9, By faith he (Abraham) lived as an alien in the land of promise. It is the same word as used in Col. 1:19 to describe all fullness dwelling in Christ, For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him. It is not a temporary relationship. Christ settles down in our hearts. He is here to stay. Our faith has a part to play in this. He is not speaking here of the faith involved in the reception of eternal life (for by grace are you saved through faith). It is rather the faith that He is there and is not going anywhere. It is the faith that can endure through trials because we know that Christ is there. It is this fact that energizes our very lives in all that we do.
(2) The result of Christ’s dwelling in us which results from the empowering of the Holy Spirit is that we are being rooted and grounded in love. Think about it. What else could possibly be the result of Christ dwelling in our hearts? With the incomprehensible love that He displayed through the incarnation and His death on the cross it is only natural that His love would flow out through us. The source of the love that is being rooted and grounded in us is Christ. This love flows naturally into the following verse which speaks of the comprehension of the love of Christ. Paul uses two metaphors to describe our relationship to Christ’s love. The first is botanical as it speaks of the fact that His love is deeply rooted within us. Our personal roots are deeply related to Christ’s love. The second pictures the foundation upon which great buildings are built. The root and foundation of who we are as believers is Christ’s love that overflows into our lives.
This relates to Christ’s prayer where He requests for us the following, I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me (John 17:23). The picture here is one of Christ being at home in our hearts through faith that provides an understanding of the absolutely secure relationship we have with Him.
Ultimately it is God’s love that is made real and understandable in us as the remainder of the prayer will emphasize.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man;
Paul makes one simple request in this prayer. It is that believers may be strengthened in the inner person. This is what Paul desires for the Ephesian believers and all believers throughout all time. He asks that God may give to us a gift and this gift is one that is available to believers. It is based on an inexhaustible source; the riches of His glory.
In making this request (that He would grant you), (1) Paul calls on the unlimited resources of God; (2) He requests that believers might be made strong in the inner person; (3) He requests that the agent of this request be God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. In the following verses, Paul will discuss the purpose and results associated with His prayer but for now we will look at the request itself. This is a prayer that is not only a prayer for the Ephesian believers but a timeless prayer as well; indeed, a prayer for us right now.
(1) This request is based on resources that are assured, (according to the riches (wealth) of His glory). This is the fifth time in Ephesians that Paul has referred to riches of God’s glory and grace that He showers upon us (1:7,18;2:7;3:8,18). They speak of the forgiveness of sins; of the fact that we are His inheritance; and His kindness toward us. Now Paul prays for something that he knows God wants to provide in our lives through the riches of His glory; that is the riches that are associated with the essential character of God which He delights to share with His children.
(2) He asks that we might be empowered through the power of the all-powerful One; that is the Holy Spirit, God Himself. You might remember that in 1:19 Paul used four different words for power as he spoke of the power of Christ in support of believers that is in accordance with the power of His power of His power. Now He uses two words for power (he includes one that was not used in 1:19) as he asks that God share His power with us through the means of the all-powerful Holy Spirit. Hoehner writes, “it is through the Holy Spirit that the believer is to be strengthened with God’s ability to act.”
(3) He asks that we might be empowered in the inner person. This is not physical strength but a deep inner strength that is provided for us in the deepest part of our being. As we receive Him through faith (2:8-9) we also trust Him enough to make Him at home in the deepest residence of our being. Hoehner writes, “It denotes the desire that Christ may literally ‘be at home in’, that is, at the very center of or deeply rooted in, believers’ lives. They are to let Christ become the dominating factor in their attitudes and conduct.” We have trusted Him for eternal life. Now He wants us to trust Him to be at home in the very center of our lives. He is a guest that can be trusted with all that we have.
For such a time as this; Paul’s request rings true for believers of any age and any moment. Right now, God is in the process of strengthening you and me with power in our inner person for such a time as this. The One from whom every family on earth originates knows us intimately and is able to provide exactly what we need for such a time as this.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:14 For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father,
Paul continues the prayer he had begun thirteen verses earlier when he wrote For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles. He continues with the words For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father. Note that both verses begin with the same words. The prayer continues through the end of the chapter. In the discussion on verse one I wrote, “Paul now turns to pray for those who have been united together in one body, both Jews and Gentiles into one holy temple in Christ. The reason for the prayer remains the same. The interluding thirteen verses serve only to intensify the content of the prayer. Paul bows his knees as an expression of humble admission of his relationship to the Father.
The word translated bow is used four times in the New Testament and in each of the other three instances it refers to a quote from the Old Testament. In Romans 4:11 Paul writes But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” He quotes from 1Kings 19:18 as he answers Elijah’s question, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” It speaks of allegiance to God.
In Rom. 14:11 (“AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”) and Phil 2:10 (so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,) he quotes from Is. 45:23 That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
Two verses earlier Paul had written in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. So, Paul takes advantage of that bold and confident access that he has in coming before the Father to present his petition. There are two things about Paul’s prayer and prayer in general that we can learn in this verse. (1) The words I bow my knees speak more about attitude than they do about physical position. One day all will have to admit who the Father is. Paul chooses to come before the Father in humility acknowledging both who he is and who the Father is. He can come boldly but also humbly through faith. What a fantastic position to occupy. We have the opportunity to choose faith in order to humbly and boldly come before Him. The Scriptures speak of several postures for prayer. Each involves the proper attitude for prayer. (2) The word Father describes the personal nature of our relationship with God. In Ephesians, Paul uses Father eight times in referring to God. In the Old Testament the word Father is only used fifteen times in reference to God. This is out of a total of 1,448 occurrences. In the New Testament it is used 245 times out of 413 occurrences. (This information is taken from “The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology” as I did not look through the Bible to count them for myself.) What is the point? As Paul speaks of the mystery of Jews and Gentiles being united in one body it is also true that it provides a more personal relationship for us to have with the One who is our Father. We can freely and personally enter His presence with confidence.
Just as Paul takes advantage of that relationship here, we can also take advantage of that relationship as we bend our knees to the Father. We may exercise that opportunity through faith rather than compulsion.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
Paul finally reaches the conclusion of his long conditional sentence that he had begun in verse two with the words if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you. In between he has discussed the great mystery by which Gentile believers and Jewish believers are brought together into one body in the church. It is indeed this great mystery that allows us to enter into that same promise; that is the grace you are saved through faith message. In all ages, Gentiles have been able through faith to enter into relationship with God but it is now that it has been made easy as we simply make the choice to place our faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Paul was writing from his place of imprisonment. It was because of his ministry to the Gentiles he had been imprisoned. He had been arrested in Jerusalem because the Jews had accused him of attempting to overthrow the Law of Moses. As a Roman citizen, he had appealed to Rome rather than be tried in Jerusalem. He asks the Ephesians not to lose heart or be discouraged because whatever tribulations he was suffering were worth it. His current imprisonment was because of his ministry of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. It was to their glory. This glory was the glory that the Ephesians enjoyed as new creatures in Christ. Paul does not want them to lose heart because of his sufferings. Their being united together in Christ was worth it all to him. We have glory in Christ because of His sufferings and we glory in the fact that this made it possible for us to be members of His family.
Paul took eleven verses to extol the great promises which were now freely and easily made available to the Ephesians. Now he merely says not to become discouraged because he was in prison. Perhaps, because they loved Paul they were discouraged. Perhaps it was more personal in that they thought, if this can happen to Paul, it can happen to us. Whatever the reason, Paul reminds them to never become discouraged because what had happened was to their glory and it is an unimaginable glory.
So, how is this practical in our lives? Perhaps we might think of the sacrifices someone else has made that we know Jesus. But right now, it is especially practical. Although many of the things going on around us are not the results of someone else suffering because of their ministry to us, when we endure tribulation of whatever type we can shy away from discouragement because of the position that we possess in Christ. We are the dwelling place of God as individual believers. We are being built into the dwelling place of God along with other believers in the church. He has uniquely crafted us for a specific place in that building. We have an eternal hope.
Praise the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of what He has done and my reception of His grace through faith, I can walk freely and boldly into His presence at each and every moment. One day the veil will be lifted and we will see Him just as He is (1John 3:2). Let us not become discouraged but rather bask in the magnificent promises of God as we look forward to meeting on the other side.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
On this Thanksgiving morning, when because of the pandemic we are being discouraged from spending time in each other’s houses, we can walk freely into God’s presence at any time. The only thing that prevents this is refusal to place our faith in the One who has died for us. God is not impressed with a long list of things we have done. We enter His presence freely, not because of what we have done but because of what He has done. He tells us “Believe and enter.” Anything else denies the great gift He has given us. This verse is especially appropriate on Thanksgiving Day as there is no greater gift that has ever been given than the ability to freely enter God’s presence through faith in Him.
The verse begins with the words in whom and ends with the words in Him, both referring to Christ. In between it speaks of our unfettered access to God. It is only because of Christ that this access exists. The word translated boldness is freedom in the NIV. In John’s epistle it is confidence, (we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming (1John 2:28)). Because of what Christ has done we may speak freely, boldly and openly in the presence of God. We might as well because He knows everything about us already. The world may scream rash epithets at Him and go unheard, while as we enter boldly, confidently and freely in Christ He hears what we say. This does not suggest that we enter with any sense of arrogance. We enter humbly with a sense of awe knowing what He has done for us, yet we also enter boldly. While boldness refers to our ability to speak freely, the word translated access speaks of the fact we can freely come into His presence. We have the opportunity to freely approach Him (access) and to speak freely (boldness) in His presence and we can do both with total confidence.
This occurs through faith in Him. This phrase can be understood as referring either to the faithfulness of Christ or the faith of believers (by grace are you saved through faith). Both are true and both are likely in Paul’s thoughts as he penned this verse (The more I read the deepness of Paul’s writings the more I am convinced that he would intentionally place two ideas in one phrase). We enter His presence based upon what Christ has faithfully done as well as our reception of that work through faith. The tense of the verb we have emphasizes the continual access that we have through faith in Him.
This is astounding news. To the Gentiles it was doubly astounding. Through faith in Christ, we can continually and freely enter His presence (no appointment required) and speak frankly and openly from our hearts. So, when we are asked today “What are you thankful for?”. We know the answer.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,
God was not taken by surprise when the Messiah was rejected by the Jews. He did not have to scramble in order to put a plan in place to deal with it. It was His eternal purpose to bring about the mystery of uniting both Jew and Gentile together as one body in Christ Jesus. It was a shock to the Jews and Gentiles who had been at odds for centuries. It was even a surprise to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. But God had this splendid plan in place before time began. It is the mystery of the church as it unites all believers of whatever stripe into one body that causes the angelic beings to see God’s variegated or multicolored wisdom.
This unity occurred in the only way possible; that is through the death of Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the most remarkable plan ever conceived as the One who is Lord, (the One who is God) became man and died in our place on the cross. When we believe in Him, we are part of His body whether we like it or not. Salvation has always been through faith (For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”(Rom. 4:3)). Yet the body becomes united as one when Jesus Christ our Lord became sin for us. (He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2Cor. 5:21))
The following are my thoughts brought to mind after reading this verse. So, we are placed together in one body to bring God’s message to the world. This is God’s plan and it works amazingly well given that He has chosen sinful humanity as an essential element in that plan. In the Old Testament, God chose a people to be united in Him and be a light to the world that would draw the world to Him. Although there were always individuals who loved Him and lived for Him, yet the nation as a whole succumbed to the sins of the surrounding nations rather than be a light to them. Today, we are as believers, part of that magnificent dwelling place that is in the process of being built for God. As I look at that building, I see building blocks trying to jump out from where God has placed them. To me, this may be the most amazing part of God’s plan as He has chosen imperfect humanity as His message to the world. And God’s plan will succeed because He is God and He knows exactly what He is doing in every way and every time. (“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Rev. 19:7)). Therefore, we must praise God for the way in which He has uniquely gifted each of us to be part of that ever expanding building. We must live in obedience to Him as we seek to fulfill our responsibility of being His message to the world.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
The purpose of Paul’s ministry to present the mystery (the manifold wisdom of God) is described here. This is truly an interesting verse (it is also a difficult verse to understand) as it says that the purpose or result of this display is that the manifold wisdom of God is made known to those who are the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This display is meant for the place and the rulers where spiritual warfare takes place (For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12 )). It is the unity of the church in bringing Jews and Gentiles together as believers in one body, that speaks of the manifold wisdom of God to the angelic beings, both good and evil, that inhabit the heavenly places. It was something that even they did not understand until God revealed it.
We probably do not understand the sharp division that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles in the Old Testament. Gentiles could previously come to God through becoming Jewish proselytes but now to the shock and awe of all in both the heavenly places and on earth all believers were united together in the church functioning together and fitted perfectly together in one body. The unity of the universal church screams this out to whomever would listen including the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
OK, so how does this affect us in the local church? The following includes my own thoughts on the application of this verse and are in no way inspired. Let’s start with the manifold wisdom of God. The Greek word translated manifold is used only here in the New Testament. Hoehner describes the meaning in classical Greek as referring “to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers”. It may be thought of as multicolored. God’s creation is multicolored. Even the people are multicolored. So once the evil ones in heavenly places came to the realization of this new fact, they would do everything they could in order to divide the church. They would divide it by race, by geography, by social status; indeed, in every way they can. They would attack the world culture as well as the culture of the church. We who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, are united together in one body to declare God’s wisdom to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places as well as to those who live in this world with us. In stark contrast, Satan and his minions seek disorder and chaos. As such, the only true unity must be God’s way through His church. Satan desires to spread disunity there as well.
From before the universe was created, it was always God’s plan to bring all together in one body of Christ. Certainly, the Old Testament foresaw the suffering Savior and the ministry extending to the Gentiles but the church is a remarkable evidence of the multicolored wisdom of God as displayed to the residents of the heavenlies that even they did not see coming. Our unity today displays this remarkable wisdom of God. The unity is not based on our view of God’s truth but rather on God’s truth as revealed in His word by the Holy Spirit.
Each of us as believers has been gifted and placed in a particular place in the body of Christ to display the multicolored wisdom of God to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places, and I suspect as well to those living on this earth. Satan desires to destroy this display of God’s wisdom. We as members of one body remain God’s messenger to all.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:8b-9 this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;
Paul now explains the activity and content of his ministry. It concerns the unfathomable riches of Christ. So, let’s begin there with a look at two words. The first is riches. It might also be translated as wealth and refers to all that Christ possesses. There has never been an auditor, even one with an MBA from Harvard that could put a value on these resources. This thought leads directly into a view of the word translated unfathomable but first I conclude my comments on the word riches as it is associated with Christ. It could mean all the wealth that Christ possesses or the fact that Christ shares with us from His riches that we will never be able to comprehend. I suspect that it means both as there is no end to the riches that Christ provides for us through His unending riches. He even paid the ultimate price in order for us to participate in those riches.
So, what about the word translated unfathomable? The word is used only twice in the New Testament. It is used here to refer to the riches of Christ but Paul also uses it in Romans to refer to the very essence of who God is as he writes, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom. 11:33). It means, “not to be traced out, indetectable, uninvestigable, unsearchable, inscrutable, incomprehensible, fathomless. All that exists about God is not discoverable by human beings. Neither are human beings capable of challenging the truth of His declarations. God’s fingerprints abound in His creation and His very DNA is present in us as we are made in His image. Yet God and His truth are only discoverable through His revelation. He has unmistakably revealed Himself through His creation which includes us. It is a revelation that screams out who He is. It is a revelation that exists in both the Living Word and the written word. Mankind tries to investigate His existence as they twist the revelation of Himself that He has given. God is unfathomable and the only way Paul can preach the message is because God revealed it to Him.
God chose Paul for a specific purpose. It was to reveal a mystery. It was first to preach to the Gentiles about the riches available to them, indeed to us. It was to make known the things that God had planned before the creation of the universe. It is now that God has determined to make that clear and gave Paul the responsibility to preach that message that God is freely making available to all His grace through faith. He was to bring to them the light that God desired to reveal to all without exception. It had been initially revealed to Paul when a tremendous light shone on the road to Damascus. Now he was to make that light shine out into the lives of all that they might understand what God had planned before the world began. Indeed, although we may not have received that call in as spectacular a fashion as did Paul, we also have been called to take that message of light to the world.
One last thing for today as Paul says this message comes from the creator of the universe. How foolish it is for that which is created to investigate their Creator. It is not as if we are investigating equals but rather questioning the One who caused everything to come into existence out of nothing. He is the Creator who reveals Himself to us. Paul writes in Romans On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? (Rom. 9:20).
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,
In the midst of his statement concerning the mission God has given him as minister to the Gentiles, Paul interrupts himself with a quick, terse statement that expresses deep emotion about God’s choice of him for that role (To me, the very least of all saints). This is not a case of false humility but rather an instance of deep realization concerning God’s choice of him for this role. The first two words (for me) serve as emphasis as Paul expresses the awareness that God had done a remarkable thing for him. The remaining portion of the statement might better be translated as who is less than the least of all the saints. Paul considered himself to be the greatest of all sinners (It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1Tim. 1:15)). Paul had blasphemed and persecuted Christ (even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. (1Tim. 1:13)). Paul had persecuted and tried to destroy the church (how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;(Gal. 1:13)). Paul sincerely expresses his feelings concerning his lack of worthiness for the role God gave him. He was not just the least of the apostles, he was less than the least of every believer who existed. Yet, God prepared him and called him for unique ministry.
Paul was extremely zealous in everything he did. When he persecuted, he did it with ferocity. When he preached the gospel, he did it with aggressive purpose. Most of us would hesitate to compare ourselves with Paul, yet we may experience the same realization that he did, the realization of our own unworthiness. As believers, God has gifted us for service that is perhaps beyond what we might expect. He has given us unique gifts designed especially for us. We are not Paul, but God’s call of each of us is special. We are no more deserving of it than was Paul, yet God through His magnificent grace has placed us in the body of Christ designed for service. We fit perfectly into the place in the body that he designed us to fill. Each of us is called specifically into serving God in perfect harmony with the gifts he has given us and with the other gifted saints. We may not be Paul but we are uniquely equipped by God for service.
I was going to look at the second half of this verse as well this morning but there is more there than I am ready to expose in the brief space available. Besides, I think it is well to meditate upon the stunning, undeserved grace that God has bestowed on each of us uniquely and specifically as we serve Him. God did not only call us for service, he gave each of us all that we need to serve Him. Wow! We are prepared for serving the Creator of the universe through the endowment of His unspeakable grace. Is it deserved? Of course not. That is why it is a gift.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.
Paul was placed by God into the ministry of making known to the Gentiles the mystery that united them together with the Jews in the body of Christ. The words of which point back to the mystery that has just been defined in verse six. The word minister is the same word translated deacon elsewhere in the New Testament. It’s synonym, often translated bond servant carries the idea of subjection while the word minister or deacon emphasizes service. As we look at this verse, we will consider the application to our lives. I am no Paul and never will be, yet each of us has been called to serve others in the cause of Christ. We might realize that each of our ministries has to do with the same thing as did Paul’s. We are all called to being a part of letting the world know about the opportunity to become one with us in Christ. We are not all given the gift of evangelism but the gift of each of us speaks to the world. This means using the ministry that God has uniquely given to each one of us. We must not be jealous of the ministry of another but rather revel in doing the service to which God has individually called each of us.
Paul says that the service entrusted to him was a result of the gift provided by the grace of God in his life. We usually think of the gift of God’s grace as being the reception of eternal life and well it is as we accept the gift of God’s grace through faith (for by grace are you saved through faith). But the gift of God’s grace does not stop there. Paul is overwhelmed with the gift of God’s grace in his life. The word he uses for gift always refers to that which God graciously gives. (Although related it is not the same word used in 2:8.) Paul recognizes that this gift is part of God’s awe-inspiring grace in his life. Neither, does God’s grace end with the reception of eternal life through faith in our lives. God calls us to be part of His team and enables us to be part of His mission to the world. We likewise, are overwhelmed with that personal gift of grace that God gives to us. His grace never ceases working in our lives.
Then Paul speaks of the enablement for the service to which he was called as he writes according to the working of His power. It might also be translated according to the energizing of His power. Paul uses two words in this phrase that relate to power. For those of you who remember your science, it might be thought of as potential and kinetic energy. The word translated power speaks of God’s infinity capacity to accomplish whatever He chooses. There is no limit on His power other than His own holy character. The word translated working speaks of the activity of that power. Paul writes of God’s infinite power, powering out in his life the activity associated with the gracious gift God had given him. God’s grace never ceases its activity in our lives. God’s infinite power is also associated with the gracious gift(s) that God has given us. In His never-ceasing grace he empowers us to be part of His message to the world.