Devotional # 102. 9/17/14. Ephesians 3:14-21.
Intro. We have come to the third part of Ephesians chapter 3. Two weeks ago (vv. 1-7) we talked about the unity of believers. Last week (vv. 8-13) we talked about the unity of believers. This week, guess what we’ll read about? Right, the unity of believers! So we see the theme that Paul is giving us in this chapter. The importance of we Christians putting aside our self-centeredness, petty squabbles and uninformed judging is so important. As we read from John Stott last week, “How can we take lightly what God takes so seriously?” (Source 1). Not only does this further the kingdom of God but it has a direct effect on non-Christian’s salvation. Why would a non-believer ever want to learn more about a Jesus whose followers seem to hate each other? Why would they go into a church where their view of Christians being hypocrites is just reinforced? They wouldn’t and, I have a feeling, that’s why so many Christians skip church every Sunday. So we will be that change, right!? We will take instruction from God, through Paul, and we will be faithful in the areas God has given us.
v. 14. Do you remember last week we talked about how humble Paul was (Ephesians 3:8, Devotional 101)? In the same way he notes that he bows before God the Father. This would be especially important to Paul’s audience as he would be brought to trial in the future and all he had to do was say the Emperor was god. But Paul doesn’t just bow in reverence to an unknown god or even in reverence to the One true God, for no good reason. He tells us “for this reason…” Wait, for what reason? The same one that has been the focal point of the first and second sections of this chapter. The same one he called a “mystery” earlier. It was the unification of our family, the body of Christ. That Gentiles would be equal to Hebrews as “heirs”, from “the same body” and participants in forgiveness of sin from Jesus, the Messiah (3:6).
vv. 15-16. Here we see that we aren’t left to our own devices. We’re not left powerless but powerful (“strengthened with might”). Who gives us this strength? It is God’s “Spirit”, the Holy Spirit who strengthens our “inner man”. What is this inner man? The word “inner” in the Greek is eso (G#2080), meaning “within: the internal inner man; the soul or conscience” (Source 2). The word “man” is anthropos (G#444) and is a general term for a human being, whether male or female (Source 3). So we can understand that this applies only to the Christian who has his soul and conscience awakened by the Holy Spirit. Every person has a conscience along with having knowledge of right and wrong in their heart (Romans 2:15). But only the believer, only the person who has accepted Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins, has the Holy Spirit living in their heart. When this happens the Holy Spirit impresses spiritual things, godly impulses, through their conscience. This is why Christians hear a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), this is why they are led to help a certain person or share Jesus with someone in need. This is why we “bear fruit” (when the Holy Spirit works through us, almost involuntarily having us serve others) and, most importantly, this is why we love like Jesus loved. Not “love” as in “I love this hotdog”, but the love where we’re willing to die for someone else to hear about how they can go to heaven. This segues into the “love” that Paul talks about in the next verses…
vv. 17-19. The “love of Christ” provides a human with a paradox. We are technically unable to “know” this love and yet we are “able to comprehend” it and therefore will be “filled with all the fullness of God.” How is this possible? Paul already explained it. The inability to “know” (“passes knowledge”) is from the human perspective: both the mental ability and the logical reasonableness of such a thing. We’ll never be able to get enough knowledge on the subject of Jesus’ love in order for it to make sense. We’ll never be able to run enough experiments to quantify conclusive data that Jesus’ love is ‘x’ (width) by ‘y’ (length) by ‘z’ (depth) by ‘q’ (height). (Paul covered his bases by giving us 4 dimensions!) But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. It just means that it exists in a separate reality than that of visual planes. It means that we can find it with the instructions Jesus has given us here in the Bible. It also means that we can know it by “faith.”
Ask yourself if spiritually you “know” this “love” that “strengthens” your “inner man” and if you are “filled with all the fullness of God”? Are you confident that God is good and that He is increasingly building you into the person you are supposed to be? When hard times come do you freak out or patiently wait on the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7)? If you have the confidence that Paul had (and yes, it’s possible for each one of us to have it) then great! You are maturing and can mentor other believers. If you do not have that confidence then I have three suggestions. No, they’re not 12 steps. You may have heard them before; you may not like them, but you need to hear them because they are truth: 1. Read your Bible cover to cover, 2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to “strengthen” you for the ministry God has given you and 3. Love Christians and non-Christians with the love of Jesus. Do you want to know why? 1. If you read your Bible cover to cover all of the fears and confusions that come from your life and the lives of friends and family will be answered and God will give you confidence. 2. If you pray for the Holy Spirit to give you this strength you are both acknowledging that you can’t do it on your own and recognizing that you believe in God’s power to change your life. 3. Loving others is commanded by Jesus over and over (John 13:34; 15:12 etc.): loving Christians promotes the kind of family that God (and Paul) are trying get us to be and loving non-Christians gets our eyes off ourselves and puts the compassion that God looks at His lost children with, into our eyes and actions.
vv. 20-21. Paul finishes the chapter by glorifying God. God is obviously the “Him” who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly.” But what does He do abundantly? Everything. God makes every single thing He does incredibly plentiful. God does more than we can ever imagine (“above all that we ask or think”). So why do we doubt Him? The very power that “works in us” is the power that we can’t imagine. My first thought is how much better heaven is going to be than anyone can imagine! But Paul’s context, although looking towards infinity still has practical meaning for our time on earth. The church is told to give “Him glory” by “Christ Jesus” to who? To “all generations.” This is a legacy that we leave for all kids. Whether they are the kids in Hungary that we visited a couple months ago or your kid in the next room or the children in Sunday school. We have a responsibility to pass down a lifestyle of glorifying the One, true Lord. As Joshua declared, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Conclusion. So Jesus’ body, Christ’s Bride, we the Church, is incredibly important to God. He won’t let racism or classes or generations stand in the way. As I mentioned above Paul finishes the chapter with a doxology, which is very fitting when we think about all that he has covered. But he is also wrapping up the section of chapters 1-3 and getting ready to move into the next section of chapters 4-6. Next week we’ll start in on how the body is made up of many parts which might be easy to slip into legalism with. For now let’s focus on the 3 steps that build confidence in the Lord and what He is doing. Remember: 1. Read your Bible, 2. Pray for strength, 3. Serve others, both Christian and non-Christian! Have a great rest of your week!
Source 1: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.