Amplified: May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: that, according to the wealth of his glory, he may grant to you to be strengthened in the inner man, (Westminster Press)
NET: I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man,
NLT: I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit's inner re-inforcement - (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: that He would grant to you according to the wealth of His glory, with power to be strengthened through the Spirit in the inward man (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: that He may give to you, according to the riches of His glory, with might to be strengthened through His Spirit, in regard to the inner man,
THAT HE WOULD GRANT YOU, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY: hina do (3SAAS) humin kata to ploutos tes doxes autou: (Ep 3:8; 1:7,18; 2:7; Ro 9:23; Php 4:19; Col 1:27)
Literally Paul's petition reads
That (2443) (hina) expresses purpose, in this case the purpose for which he is bowing and interceding.
S Lewis Johnson observes that...
O'Brien comments that...
Grant (1325) (didomi) means to give as a favor. This grant is based on the decision of the will of the Giver (in this case God) and not on any supposed merit of the recipient (Is this not a working definition of grace? See word study of charis)
Wiersbe summarizes Paul's prayer noting that...
According to - not "out of" (see below also). The first is proportionate, the latter is a portion of! There is a "wealth" of difference! Paul used a similar expression to emphasize the limitless power of God in his first prayer that his readers might come to know (quoting from the literal translation)...
According (2596) (kata) means in proportion to one's largess! Not stingily. Not just a portion but a proportion! If I am a billionaire and I give you ten dollars, I have given you a portion (very small portion at that) out of my riches. But if I give you ten million dollars, I have given to you according to or more proportionate to my true wealth. The first giver would take it out of His riches and would be like Mr. Rockefeller who used to give his caddy a dime. God is not like Mr. Rockefeller, in either his wealth or generosity!
O'Brien reiterates this great truth writing that...
John Eadie comments that this phrase...
Hughes comments on "according to" observing that...
Ruth Paxson commenting on "according to" writes...
Jamieson, et al comments that "according to" means "in abundance consonant (in harmony) to the riches of His glory; not “according to” the narrowness of our hearts."
Riches (4149) (ploutos [word study] from pletho = to fill) a plentiful supply of something and in human terms refers to the abundance of possessions exceeding the norm of a particular society (interestingly Paul never uses ploutos with this latter material connotation). Here ploutos refers to God's riches and is a favorite word with Paul in Ephesians to describe the quality of the divine attributes and gifts (See entries below)
Ploutos - 22x in 21v - Mt 13:22; Mark 4:19; Luke 8:14; Ro 2:4-note; Ro 9:23-note; Ro 11:12-note, Ro 11:33-note; 2Co 8:2; Eph 1:7-note, Eph 1:18-note; Eph 2:7-note; Eph 3:8-note, Eph 3:16-note; Phil 4:19-note; Col 1:27-note; Col 2:2-note; 1Ti 6:17; Heb 11:26-note; Jas 5:2; Rev 5:12-note; Rev 18:17-note NAS - riches(18), wealth(4).
The riches describe God’s endowment, His infinite wealth and resources. You can’t possibly ask too much.
Paul is saying in essence “I want you to get your hands on your wealth, realize how vast it is, and start to use it.”
The old gospel hymn says it well...
My Father is rich in houses and lands
Our Father's resources are infinite, His repositories are overflowing, His vaults are bottomless.
The treasures of earth are not mine,
God's Word promises riches that money cannot buy.
MacDonald - Preachers often point out that there is a difference between the expressions “out of the riches” and according to the riches. A wealthy person might give a trifling amount; it would be out of his riches, but not in proportion to them! Paul asks that God will give strength according to the riches of His perfections. Since the Lord is infinitely rich in glory, let the saints get ready for a deluge! Why should we ask so little of so great a King? When someone asked a tremendous favor of Napoleon it was immediately granted because, said Napoleon, “He honored me by the magnitude of his request.” (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
Glory (1391) (doxa [word study]) speaks of a manifestation of God's true nature, presence, or likeness. He is glorified when He is allowed to be seen as He really is. To be where God is will be glory. To be what God intended will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory. The basic idea in the word doxa is that of manifestation. The glory of God is the manifestation of His Being, His character and His acts. The glory of God is what He is essentially. Glory, therefore, is the true apprehension of God or things. The glory of God must mean His unchanging essence.
Would you like a sample of God's glory? Then simply walk out into the countryside on some clear night and observe the starry, starry skies for as David affirms in Psalm 19:1...
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
Now combine this the vast riches and surpassing glory of these starry images with what Job said...
In prayer, it is it is both useful for ourselves and glorifying to God to recognize His bountifulness—to remember that He gives to as a the riches of Kings! I love what John Newton (Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare) wrote that relates to this idea...
Thou art coming to a King,
TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH POWER THROUGH HIS SPIRIT: dunamei krataiothenai (APN) dia tou pneumatos autou: (Ep 6:10; Job 23:6; Psalms 28:8; 138:3; Isaiah 40:29, 30, 31; 41:10; Zechariah 10:12; Matthew 6:13; 2Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:11; 2Timothy 4:17; Hebrews 11:34)
S Lewis Johnson observes that the first petition is a petition for empowerment.
Best - Believers are not left to whistle up strength from within themselves in order to be able to do God's will.
It is notable that Paul's prayers are almost always for the spiritual welfare of others -- a good pattern for imitators of Paul to follow.
To be strengthened (2901) (krataioo from krataios = strong <> see study of root kratos) means to be empowered, to be increased in vigor, to strengthen with the implied meaning of to establish (active voice), to grow strong (active voice), to be made strong (passive voice), to be braced (as when the Gulf Coast states in the US "brace" for the onrushing Category 5 hurricane!), to be invigorated, to be fortified (I like that word for it pictures the saint in a "spiritual fort"). Note that all the NT uses are in the passive voice.
Krataioo refers to strength or might, but especially that which is manifested.
As discussed below krataioo in this verse means to be shown to be strong, to be shown to be mighty.
The passive voice indicates the strengthening to our inner man comes not from man himself but from God's indwelling Spirit.
TDNT writes that krataioo...
NIDNTT writes that krataioo means...
Here are the other 3 NT uses of krataioo..
John Eadie comments that Paul "had likened the Ephesian Christians to a temple (Eph 2:21-note), and in harmony with such a thought he prays that the living stones in that fabric may be strengthened, so that the building may be compact and solid. (John Eadie, D., LL.D. The Epistle of St Paul to the Ephesians)
Barnes writes that "to be strengthened with power" means "to give you abundant strength to bear trials; to perform your duties; to glorify his name...See [Ro 7:22-note]. The body needs to be strengthened every day. In like manner the soul needs constant supplies of grace. Piety needs to be constantly invigorated, or it withers and decays. Every Christian needs grace given each day to enable him to bear trials, to resist temptation, to discharge his duty, to live a life of faith. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)
Wayne Barber explains that krataioo...
Boice explains Paul's first request for the believers to be strengthened internally through the Spirit writing that...
When Martin Luther was summoned to Worms to recant his 95 Theses he wrote "“May the Lord Jesus strengthen me.”
Power (1411) (dunamis [word study] from dunamai = to be able, to have power) refers especially achieving power. It refers to intrinsic power or inherent ability, the power or ability to carry out some function, the potential for functioning in some way, the power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. Dunamis is the word generally used by Paul of divine energy.
Note that words derived from the stem duna— all have the basic meaning of “being able,” of “capacity” in virtue of an ability. Duna- is the root for English words like dynamic, dynamo, dynamite, etc.
A stick of dynamite has power but the fuse has to be lit for the inherent power to be manifest...so too with God's dunamis. Earlier Paul had prayed that the saint's be enlightened to the truth that they possess this surpassingly great power, the same (dunamis) power which effected the miraculous resurrection of our Redeemer (Eph 1:19; 1:20-notes)
Paul prays these believers be made mighty with power, or dunamis, the ability to do that which we could never have done before, the capacity, the divine ability to live a life on a higher plane.
Dunamis conveys the idea of effective, productive energy, rather than that which is raw and unbridled. Where is this inherent power derived from? Through the working of God's Holy Spirit. And where is the sphere of operation of this enabling power? in the inner man.
Paul is praying for every saint (not some special class of elite so-called "spiritual" Christians) to possess genuine spiritual power, which ultimately is a mark of every believer who submits to God's Word and His Spirit (Corollary question - Do you lack spiritual power in your Christian life? Then do a simple inventory -- Look at your "obedience quotient" - immediate or delayed [= disobedience] or non-existent, Look at your intake of sound doctrine vs "religious literature" [e.g. Christian novels, magazines, even devotionals, etc] vs only secular sources [R rated movies, fowl language on TV, "premium channels" on Cable, etc] and finally look at your surrender to to the Spirit - sweet surrender, partial and halting, willfully resistant to His voice.)
Note that in this context this (dunamis) power is not necessarily the power to perform spectacular, sensational miracles (which is the predominant meaning of dunamis in its uses in the gospels - eg, see Mt 11:20, 23, 13:54, 58, etc), but the spiritual power necessary to live as mature, stable, wise Christians in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. It is by dunamis power that a believer is enabled to say "Yes" to his Lord and "No" to his flesh. Daily victory of sin (the world, the flesh and devil) is one of the greatest "miracles" a believer can experience.
Dunamis is the implied ability or capacity to perform. It conveys the idea of effective, productive energy, rather than that which is raw and unbridled.
Dunamis is the potential for functioning in some way (power, might, strength, ability, capability).
There is an instructive use of dunamis later in 2Timothy where Paul describes men...
William MacDonald comments on Paul's reminder to Timothy (2Ti 1:7-note) of his access to God's "dunamis" writing that "Unlimited strength is at our disposal. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, the believer can serve valiantly, endure patiently, suffer triumphantly, and, if need be, die gloriously." (Believer's Bible Commentary)
MacDonald quotes F B Meyer on this supernatural power - "It is power. It is His power. It is great power; nothing less would suffice. It is exceeding great power, beyond the furthest cast of thought.” (MacDonald then adds) This is the power which God used in our redemption, which He uses in our preservation, and which He will yet use in our glorification (Ed: Respectively - past, present and future salvation = Three Tenses of Salvation). Lewis Sperry Chafer writes: "Paul wants to impress the believer with the greatness of the power which is engaged to accomplish for him everything that God has purposed according to His work of election, predestination and sovereign adoption." (Ibid) (Bolding added)
Note that in his letter to the Ephesians Paul did not pray that believers might be given divine power but that they might be aware of the divine power they already possessed. (Ep 1:18, 19, 20-See notes Ep 1:18; 19; 20). Through Christ we have the resource of God’s own supernatural power, the very power (dunamis) He used to raise Christ from the dead (cp Peter's word on our resources in Christ - 2Pe 1:3). It is of utmost importance to understand that God does not provide His power for us to misappropriate for our own purposes. He provides His power to accomplish His purposes through us. When our trust is only in Him, and our desire is only to serve Him, He is both willing and “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ep 3:20-note).
Although God promises us and provides us with His dunamis power, we must learn wait upon His timing (Acts 1:8) and also be willing to humble ourselves that His power may be perfected in us (2Cor 12:9-note). Note that Jesus Himself had at least in one sense the same power available to believers today (see Lk 4:1,14,18 ...God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power)
Barclay writes that dunamis "can be used of any kind of extraordinary power. It can be used of the power of growth, of the powers of nature, of the power of a drug, of the power of a man’s genius. It always has the meaning of an effective power which does things and which any man can recognize. (Daily Study Bible)
An Illustration of Strength in the Lord...
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower
Through (1223) (dia) refers to the instrument by which the strengthening with power is effected, in this case the Holy Spirit). In other words this divine empowering will be effected through God's Spirit. The agency of the Spirit in dispensing divine power is in line with other New Testament teaching where the Spirit and power are intimately linked (Acts 1:8; Ro 1:4-note ;Ro 15:19-note; 1Cor 2:4; 1Th 1:5-note).
Spirit (4151) (pneuma) in context refers to the Holy Spirit not man's inner spirit. The dunamis (dynamic) power is communicated to us by the Spirit Who is our dynamo, residing in every believer and working through us. Although His name is not specifically mentioned we see His working in Philippians 2 where Paul records...
John Eadie - The Spirit of God is the agent in this process of invigoration. That Spirit is God's, as He bears God's commission and does His work. He has free access to man's spirit to move it as He may, and it is His peculiar function in the scheme of mercy to apply to the heart the spiritual blessings provided by Christ. (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
It is always good to remember that Jesus performed His ministry on earth in the power of the Spirit (see verses below), and this is the only resource we have for Christian living today.
In (eis) marks out the destination of the gift. It is not simply “in reference to" or "for" but it denotes or implies that the dunamis comes from an external source, and enters into the inner man. The inner man is the sphere (many commentators favor the preposition "eis" in this case to point more to the sphere) in which the strengthening is to take place.
Eadie on the inner man - The “inner man” is that portion of our nature which is not cognizable by the senses, and does not consist of nerve, muscle, and organic form, as does the outer man. In the physiology of the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, it (inner man) is not the soul—psuche—in its special aspect of vital consciousness, but it is more connected with mind—nous, and stands in contrast not exactly to sarx, as representing generally depraved humanity, but to that sensuous nature which has action and reaction in and from the members... it is the sphere in which (spiritual) renewal takes effect—our intellectual and spiritual nature personified...And this strength is imparted to the “inner man” by the Spirit's application of those truths which have a special tendency to cheer and sustain. He impresses the mind with the idea of the changeless love of Christ, and the indissoluble union of the believing soul to Him; with the necessity of decision, consistency, and perseverance; with the assurance that all grace needed will be fully and cheerfully afforded; and with the hope that the victory shall be ultimately obtained. Ro 15:13-note; 2Ti 1:7-note. This operation of the Spirit imparts such courage and energy as appear like a species of spiritual omnipotence. (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
Sam Storms on the inner man - in the inner man (Eph 3:16d) see Rom. 7:22; 2Cor. 4:16; it is "the interior of our being . . . the seat of personal consciousness, . . . [and] of our moral being" (Fee, 695-96) = heart. I.e., "that part of them which is not accessible to sight but which is open to his energizing influence" (Lincoln, 206). (Ephesians 3:14-21 Sermon)
In (1519) (eis) is literally "into". Eis is an interesting preposition to use in this context for it is a preposition which marks motion into a place or thing. Here the force of the preposition pictures dunamis - power entering into the inmost personality, into the "control room" so to speak.
The Christian mystics used to speak of the “interior life” or the life of the soul. Isn't it interesting (sad) how many Christians in America spend a fortune on their “outer life,” on cosmetics, clothes, cars, and externals of life. So many people neglect the cultivation of the inner life. God wants to strengthen us in our interior, to pump His strength into our hearts and souls and does this in answer to prayer and by His Holy Spirit Who will especially utilize the Scriptures. Have you ever had the experience of a verse of Scripture, previously memorized but long forgotten, flashes into your minds in a moment of need?
John MacArthur makes an interesting statement that "Spiritual growth can be defined as the decreasing frequency of sin. The more we exercise our spiritual muscles, yielding to the Spirit’s control of our lives, the less sin is present. Where the strength of God increases, sin necessarily decreases. The nearer we come to God, the further we go from sin. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Inner man - refers to the spiritual part of the believer's new nature where God dwells and works. It's that part which Paul describes in Romans 7 writing...
Writing to the Corinthians Paul again uses this term which is unique to him noting that the inner man is that part of the believer that is being renewed (and strengthened by the Holy Spirit)...
O'Brien notes that in regard to the "inner man" - Some have understood this expression to denote the new creation inwardly begotten by the Spirit in those who are united by faith to Christ (cf. Col 3:10-note; Ep 4:24-note). However, it is better to understand the inner person as the interior of our being … the seat of personal consciousness, … [and] of our moral being. It is the focal point at the centre of a persons life where the Spirit does His strengthening and renewing work. Indeed, the inner self stands in need of empowering given our struggle against sin (Ro 7:22-note) and the need for daily renewal (2Cor 4:16-note). When the outer person of the believer is wasting away, the inner person is being renewed day by day (2Co 4:16-note). In the context of both 2Corinthians 4 (2Co 4:6; 5:12) and the following verse here (2Cor 4:17) heart is parallel to the inner person. (O'Brien, P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
Blaikie has an interesting thought on "the inner man" explaining that "The inner man is the seat of influence, but with us it is the seat of spiritual feebleness. Most men may contrive to order their outward conduct suitably; but who has control of the inner man? Faith, trust, humility, love, patience, and the like graces which belong to the inner man, are what we are weakest in, and what we have least power to make strong. In this very region it is sought that the Ephesians might be strengthened with might by the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is available for this very purpose for all that ask Him. (Ephesians 3: Pulpit Commentary)
Marvin Vincent has this note on the meaning of the "inner man" - In the inward man...is the rational and moral I; the essence of the man which is conscious of itself as a moral personality. In the unregenerate it is liable to fall under the power of sin (Ro 7:23-note); and in the regenerate it needs constant renewing and strengthening by the Spirit of God, as here. Compare the hidden man of the heart, 1Pe 3:4 (see note)
John Gill writes that...
Inner (2080) (eso) means within.
Man (444) (anthropos) refers not to the male of the species but to all human beings.
Spurgeon writes that "the firstfruits were not the harvest, and the works of the Spirit in us at this moment are not the consummation—the perfection is yet to come. We must not boast that we have attained and so reckon the wheat for the wave offering to be all the produce of the year; we must hunger and thirst after righteousness and pant for the day of full redemption. Dear reader, this day open your heart wide, and God will fill it. Groan within yourself for higher degrees of consecration, and your Lord will grant them to you, for He is able “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). (Spurgeon, C. H. Daily Help)
Morris - The prayer offered by Paul in Ep 3:16-19 is addressed to the Father (Ep 3:14-note) and concerns the indwelling of Christ by faith (Ep 3:17-note) and inner strengthening by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). Thus all three Persons of the Godhead dwell in the heart of the believer (John 14:16,17,23), so that we can "be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ep 3:19-note).(Morris, Henry: Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing) (See also Trinity - A Brief Excursus)
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Our Daily Bread devotional "Inner Strength"...
Amplified: May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: so that Christ through faith may take up his permanent residence in your hearts. I pray that you may have your root and your foundation in love, (Westminster Press)
NET: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, by being rooted and grounded in love, (NET Bible)
NLT: Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: that the Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts through your faith; in love having been firmly rooted and grounded (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: that the Christ may dwell through the faith in your hearts, in love having been rooted and founded,
SO THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS THROUGH FAITH: katoikesai (AAN) ton Christon dia tes pisteos en tais kardiais humon: (Ep 2:21; Isaiah 57:15; John 6:56; 14:17,23; 17:23; Romans 8:9, 10, 11; 2Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27; 1 John 4:4,16; Revelation 3:20)
Regarding "so that" (or similar words like "that" in other English translations) O'Brien makes the observation that...
Christ (5547) (Christos from chrio = to anoint, consecrate to office) is the NT counterpart of the Hebrew word transliterated Messiah. Notice that once again Paul has masterfully involved each member of the Holy Trinity - the Father (see Eph 3:14-note), the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 3:16) and Christ (Ephesians 3:17). Indeed, one of the great privileges of prayer is that we can interact with the eternal Godhead on the behalf of others and ourselves. Why are we so loathe to take advantage of this incredible privilege? Consider prayerfully and reflectively singing the following hymn (prayer) by Kate Wilkinson...
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
MacDonald explains that "Actually, the Lord Jesus takes up His personal residence in a believer at the time of conversion (John 14:23; Rev. 3:20). But that is not the subject of this prayer. Here it is not a question of His being in the believer, but rather of His feeling at home there! He is a permanent Resident in every saved person, but this is a request that He might have full access to every room and closet; that He might not be grieved by sinful words, thoughts, motives, and deeds; that He might enjoy unbroken fellowship with the believer. The Christian heart thus becomes the home of Christ, the place where He loves to be—like the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. The heart, of course, means the center of the spiritual life; it controls every aspect of behavior. In effect, the apostle prays that the lordship of Christ might extend to the books we read, the work we do, the food we eat, the money we spend, the words we speak—in short, the minutest details of our lives. (Believer's Bible Commentary)
May dwell (2730) (katoikeo from kata = intensifying preposition and emphasizing permanence + oikeo = occupy a house) literally means to settle down and abide or to take up permanent abode. It means to live or dwell in a place in an established or settled manner as opposed to sojourning or making only an occasional visit.
Vincent on katoikeo - Settle down and abide. Take up His permanent abode, so that ye may be a habitation of God (Ephesians 2:22-note where the derivative word katoiketerion = dwelling place = a permanent dwelling). The connection is with the preceding clause: “to be strengthened, etc., so that Christ may dwell, the latter words having at once a climactic and an explanatory force, and adding the idea of permanency to that of strengthening. (Ephesians 3)
The aorist tense shows finality. Wuest conveys the picture translating it as “that Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts.”
Figuratively, as in this verse, katoikeo refers to the possession of a human beings by God (or other supernatural beings), these divine powers said to have "settled down" in one's soul, pervading, prompting, governing it. A good thing if the supernatural being is Christ. A bad thing if the reference is to demonic beings (e.g., see Mt 12:45).
Sam Storms on dwell - There are two words typically used for the concept of indwelling. The first, paroikeo = to abide or to inhabit, but not necessarily permanently. The second, the one used here, is katoikeo = "a settling in or colonizing tenancy" (Best, 341); i.e., to live permanently (cf. Col 2:9). Christ doesn't sojourn in our hearts. He is no divine nomad! He is, reverently speaking, a squatter. He is a permanent, abiding resident. Two questions: First, isn't "indwelling" a ministry of the Spirit? See Ro 8:9-10. According to the NT, Christ dwells in his people by means of or through his Spirit (see 1Cor 15:45; 2Cor 3:17; Gal. 4:6). Second, if Christ, through the Spirit, indwells the believer from the point of the new birth, how can Paul pray as he does in this text? It would seem that he is praying for the emotional increase or experiential expansion of what is already a theological fact. His desire is that the Lord Jesus, through the Spirit, might exert an ever-increasing and progressively more powerful influence on our lives and in our hearts. It is what I like to call, the incessant spiritual reinforcement in the human heart of the strength of Jesus and His love....One more interesting observation: although the concept of Jesus being 'in our hearts is a popular way of expressing what it is to be a Christian, this is the only place in the NT where that precise terminology is found! (Ephesians 3:14-21 Sermon)
Paul is praying that Christ may be a permanent resident in their hearts, with katoikeo conveying the added thought of domination and control.
O Jesus Christ, Grow Thou in Me
So just as the powerful words of the preceding hymn convey, Paul is praying that Christ may grow more and more intimately at home in our hearts so that we might come under His full control and blessed domination.
That He may dwell "does not means that He may call upon you sometimes, as a casual visitor enters into a house and tarries for a night, but that He may “dwell,” that Jesus may become the Lord and Tenant of your heart." (C H Spurgeon, Daily Help)
Boice writes that the dwelling "is used for the fullness of the Godhead abiding in Christ and, as here, for Christ’s abiding in a believer’s heart and life. The prayer is that Christ might settle down in our hearts and control them as the rightful owner. (Boice, J. M.: Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary)
Eadie comments that "Christ dwells there not as a sojourner, or “as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night,” but as a permanent resident. (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
Wayne Barber writes that...
Wuest writes that "Dr. Max Reich once said in the hearing of the writer, “If we make room for the Holy Spirit, He will make room for the Lord Jesus.” That is, if the saint lives in conscious dependence upon and yieldedness to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will make room for the Lord Jesus in the heart and life of the saint by eliminating from his life things that are sinful and of the world, and thus enable the saint to make the Lord Jesus feel completely at home in his heart. Wonderful condescension of heaven’s King, to be content to live in a believer’s heart and have fellowship with him. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
Ruth Paxson writes
Although it is not strictly Scripture, you might consider taking a few moments and reading Robert Boyd Munger's short work entitled My Heart Christ's Home (My Heart Christ's Home - YouTube) for some thoughts on what it looks like to have Christ dwelling in your heart.
by Daniel W. Whittle
Once far from God and dead in sin,
Hearts (2588) (kardia [word study]) does not refer to the physical organ but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect (mind), emotions (feelings), and will. The heart is the wellspring of man’s spiritual life.
Heart is a key word in Ephesians (see notes Ephesians 1:18; 4:18; 5:19; 6:5, 6:22) and is used by Paul with in the OT sense as descriptive of the center of one's personality, the thoughts, will, emotions, and whatever else lies at the center of our being. If Christ has taken up residence in our heart, it follows that He is at the center of our lives and exercises His rule over all that we are and do. Application: Is He at the center of your heart? Your attitudes and actions will speak a louder answer than "yes" or "no"!
Surprisingly, this verse is the only place in Scripture that specifically mentions Christ dwelling in our hearts. Paul's point here is that Christ should be in permanent residence, not at the periphery, but at the very center of the believer's life.
By nature, our
Without the life of the Lord Jesus within us we have no alternative but to backslide or lapse in disciplining ourselves for godliness (1Ti 4:7,8, 9, 10, 11-see notes 1Ti 4:7; 4:8; 4:9; 10; 11). And so we see Paul’s longing for the saints at Ephesus that Christ might dwell as Lord and Master in their hearts by faith. Only by such conscious, continuous and conspicuous presence of His indwelling life can believers know experientially a sanctified, holy heart. Our prayer (in addition to Paul's prayer of course) should be...
Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
We often relate heart to the emotions (e.g. “a broken heart”), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Matt 15:19). That’s why you must “watch over your heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23-commentary).
While kardia does represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the center of personality, in Scripture it represents much more than emotion, feelings. It also includes the thinking process and particularly the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions.
Men in ancient times considered the heart to be the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom, the meaning also conveyed by the New Testament uses.
Through faith - speaks of the Christian's continuing trust in Christ and His authoritative Word and does not refer so much to our initial belief or trust in Christ for salvation. But as we began by faith, so we are to continue to live day by day in faith. The spiritual world is not traversed by sight but by faith, which is the only way we can see the unseeable! Christ dwells in us by faith, because it is only by faith that we perceive His presence. It is only by faith that we know Him for Who He is. It is only by faith that we understand what He does for us. It’s by faith we appropriate all of the blessings of the spiritual life and reciprocate the manifestations of His love. How does faith come? By the word of God. It’s through the study of the holy Scriptures.
Through (1223) (dia) signifies the channel through which God's grace flows, here speaking of faith and remembering that this free flow of grace is based on the object of that faith, Christ Jesus our Lord. Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace. Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation.
Through the perfect, once for all sacrifice of Christ and through receiving His gift of righteousness, we have access to God in both daily prayer and eternal salvation (Ep 2:18-note; Ro 5:2-note; Heb 4:16-note, 2Pe 1:11-note).Every person who comes to Christ in faith can come before God at any time, not in self-confidence but in Christ-confidence.
MacDonald - We enter into the enjoyment of His indwelling through faith. This involves constant dependence on Him, constant surrender to Him, and constant recognition of His “at home-ness.” It is through faith that we “practice His presence,” as Brother Lawrence quaintly put it. (Ibid)
Faith (4102) (pistis [word study]) means a firm persuasion, conviction, or belief in the truth. Pistis is not just mental assent but firm conviction, surrender to that truth and conduct emanating from that surrender. In sum, faith shows itself genuine by a changed life. Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace. Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation. Furthermore, faith, like grace, is not static.
In short, saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. None of those responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, any more than believing itself is solely a human effort.
As they trust Him, He makes their hearts His home. And remember not to disconnect faith from obedience -- faith that believes is faith that obeys. We can say we believe but if we refuse to obey, the validity of our belief has to be questioned.
The implication of Paul's prayer is that the more the Spirit empowers their lives the greater will be their transformation into the likeness of Christ, a point that is developed throughout the "application" sections of the letter (Ephesians 4-6)..
Eadie - Faith induces and also realizes His presence. (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
KJV Bible Commentary - Faith is the medium of appropriating Christ. Faith opens the door and receives Him. In some Christ is just present, in others He is prominent, and in still others He is preeminent. (Dobson, E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV Bible Commentary: Nelson)
Wayne Barber explains it this way...
AND THAT YOU, BEING ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE: en agape errizomenoi (RPPMPN) kai tethemeliomenoi (RPPMPN): (Matthew 13:6; Romans 5:5; 1Corinthians 8:1; 2Corinthians 5:14,15; Galatians 5:6; Colossians 1:23; 2:7) (Matthew 7:24,25; Luke 6:48)
Now Paul mixes his metaphors (as in 1Cor 3:9), drawing one from agriculture (rooted) and the other from architecture or building industry (grounded).
Being rooted (4492) (rhizoo from rhíza = root) literally means to cause to take root or to strengthen with roots. In classical Greek rhizoo is often used with ethical implications. Figuratively rhizoo means to become stable, to render firm, to fix, to be firmly established, to be strengthened with (spiritual) "roots", to be firmly fixed with the focus upon the source of such strength.
The passive voice (it is only used in the passive here and Col 2:6) points to the "source" being not that intrinsic to man but from an outside Source, in context Christ. Believers are established and settled securely in the love of Christ. We are rooted deeply in the soil of love and thus rooted are able to grow strong and massive. In Christ we find life-giving soil.
In Isaiah we see a parallel picture reading that Messiah's coming might
We are firmly rooted into Christ the moment He comes into our life. That is a plant nobody can rip up. We can’t lose our salvation because we are firmly established in Him the moment we exercise our faith in Him and He comes into our life.
Paul wrote in Colossians
Rhizoo is used only here and in Colossians 2 (above) and twice in the Septuagint (LXX) -- Isa. 40:24; Jer. 12:2.
Both rooted and grounded are in the perfect tense underscoring the permanence of these states (and just another small reason to substantiate the believer's eternal security). Note Paul's mixing of metaphors (rooted from the farming or agricultural world, and grounded from the building or architectural world). Meditate on the metaphor of rooted -- think of a tree which must sink its roots deep into the soil if it is to have nourishment and stability. Then thank God that as believers at the moment of salvation we have been permanently and completely rooted deep into the love of God! Amazing love, how can it be?! Take a moment and read Psalm 1 and the passage in Jeremiah 17:5-8 contemplating your having been rooted in love. One of the most important questions a Christian can ask himself is, “From Whom do I draw my nourishment and my stability?” If there is to be supernatural, God glorifying, Christ exalting power our Christian life, then there must be depth. The roots must go deeper and deeper into the love of Christ. This is real Biblical "mysticism".
Grounded (2311) (themelioo [word study] from the adjective themélios = foundational, fundamental, describing that which lies beneath -- the foundation -- with reference always to something secure and permanent in itself) means to ground securely. Deeply and firmly founded, like a building rising higher and larger.
The picture conveyed by themelioo is that of a house which is so firmly fixed on a foundation that it is not moved by winds or floods or figuratively by the stormy waves of suffering or the loud howling roar of our adversary, the devil.
"On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
Jesus used themelioo in His soul stirring conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount...
In his epistle to the Colossians Paul wrote that God would present the saints before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach...
Believers at the moment of salvation become established on the firm foundation that was laid at the Cross which has effects or results that continue into their present every day life (and through all ages to come).
The metaphor is architectural and refers to the foundations on which one builds. When the storm blows, the strength of the roots is disclosed! (see notes Matthew 7:24; 7:25) Paul prayed that the believers might have a deeper experience with Christ, because only a deep experience could sustain them during the severe trials of life.
Peter uses this same metaphor (establish) to encourage the afflicted saints writing...
Warren Wiersbe has a true story which emphasizes the importance of Paul's prayer for them to be grounded...
Love (26) (agape) (Click word study on agape) is that love which is unconditional, sacrificial, and giving, even to one's enemy. The prototype of this quality of supernatural love is the Father's love for sinful men as manifest by the Son's sacrifice on the Cross. That is the love in which we are to be rooted and grounded!
In context of Ephesians 3, the agape in view is the love of God revealed in Christ and poured into His peoples hearts by His Spirit (cf Ro 5:5, 5:8; Ro 8:35; 36; 37; 38; 39. see notes Ro 5:5, 5:8; Ro 8:35; 36; 37; 38; 39). Gods love in Christ provides the motivating power that enables believers to love others, and thus this prayer anticipates the call to the higher, heavenly life of love in subsequent chapters (Eph 4:2; Eph 5:2- see notes Ep 4:2; Eph 5:2). Those believers who are strengthened with dunamis by the Spirit and in whom Christ is settled in their hearts will be enabled to obey Paul's call to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling".
John Eadie on love - Love is the fundamental grace. As love keeps its object enshrined in the imagination, and allows it never to be absent from the thoughts; so love to Jesus gives Him such a cheerful and continued presence in the mind, that as it gazes ever upon the image, it is changed into its likeness, for it strives to realize the life of Christ. It deepens also that consecration to the Lord which is essential to spiritual progress, for it sways all the motives, and moves and guides the inner man by its hallowed and powerful instincts. And it gives life and symmetry to all the other graces, for confidence and hope in a being to whom you are indifferent, cannot have such vigor and permanence as they have in one to whom the spirit is intelligently and engrossingly attached. When the lawgiver is loved, his statutes are obeyed with promptitude and uniformity. Thus resemblance to Jesus, devotion to Him, and growth in grace, as the elements and means of spiritual advancement, are intimately connected with love as their living basis. The entire structure of the holy fane is fitly framed and firmly held together, for it is “rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3 Commentary)
MacDonald - To be rooted and grounded in love is to be established in love as a way of life. The life of love is a life of kindness, selflessness, brokenness, and meekness. It is the life of Christ finding expression in the believer (see 1Cor. 13:4-7). (Believer's Bible Commentary)
As Scroggie says, “Love is the soil in which our life must have its roots; and it is the rock upon which our faith must ever rest.” (W. Graham Scroggie, “Paul’s Prison Prayers,” the Ministry of Keswick, Second Series, p. 49.)
Steven Cole - Paul mixes his metaphors, using one from botany and another from architecture to strengthen his point. We must keep the connection with the earlier part of the prayer in mind. The result of being strengthened with power through God’s Spirit in the inner man is that Christ will come to be at home in our hearts through faith, resulting in our being rooted and grounded in love. Paul does not specify whether this is God’s love for us or our love for Him or our love for one another. So at this point, he is talking about love as the main principle of the Christian life. God’s great love for us as demonstrated in sending His own Son to be the sacrifice for our sins undergirds everything. Stemming from that, all of His commandments are summed up by saying that we are to love God and love one another. Thus the Christian life is rooted and grounded in love.
To be rooted in love pictures a sturdy, growing tree that sinks down roots that enable it to withstand drought and fierce storms. A tree is a living, growing organism. Even so, the Christian life is a living, growing relationship with God and with others. God’s love is the soil in which it is rooted and it necessarily results in our growth in love for Him and for others. Love is the first-listed fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). If you are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, love will be manifesting itself obviously in your life. Conversely, if you are not growing in demonstrable love for God and others, it indicates that you are not walking in the Spirit. At best, you are a babe in Christ and He does not yet make His home in your heart. At worst, you may not be a genuine Christian at all.
To be grounded in love pictures a solid building, with a foundation that goes down to the bedrock. It can withstand a flood or an earthquake, because it is built on the rock. This pictures a love for God and for others that is not based on fluctuating feelings or circumstances. Rather, it is solid and steady, undergirding everything else in life.
We need to be very realistic and practical in applying Paul’s point here. Some come into the Christian life from an upbringing where love was nonexistent. They have known only anger and abuse. But, they hear about the love of Christ on the cross, they trust in Him as Savior and Lord, and they step into a brand new world. But since they have never experienced genuine love, they don’t know how to love others. Where do they begin in the Christian life? Paul’s words here suggest that they must begin to sink down roots into God’s love and they must build a foundation centered on loving God and loving others. Love must become the motive for all that they think and do.
Often, these new believers are directed into acquiring Bible knowledge. Knowing the truth of Scripture and its great doctrines is essential. There is no growth in the Christian life apart from knowledge. But, if you acquire knowledge without love, you only feed pride (1 Cor. 8:1). Paul says that if we have all knowledge, but do not have love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). So while we should strive to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, it must always be practically oriented towards helping us love God and others.
Sometimes new believers also are directed towards serving the Lord. Again, it is vital that every believer use the gifts that God has entrusted to him or her in some sort of ministry. The parable of the talents shows that God expects us to use and multiply what He has given us for His kingdom. But, if such service is not rooted and grounded in love, it profits us nothing (1 Cor. 13:3).
Even if you were raised in a Christian home where you were loved and you were taught from childhood to think of others ahead of yourself, you still must work to sink down roots and lay a foundation in love. At the heart of loving God and others is dying to self, and none of us dies to self without a lifelong struggle. You may think that you are a loving person, but then you don’t get your way. Maybe God doesn’t answer your prayers as you think He should. Or, you’ve been obedient to Him, but then you get hit with an unexpected, difficult trial. Maybe your family members don’t go along with the way you want things done. Or, you show love towards someone who responds by betraying you or slandering you. Or, you give yourself in what you thought was selfless service, but nobody notices or says thank you. So your feelings get hurt.
Just as the test of a tree’s roots is a strong storm and the test of a building’s foundation is an earthquake or flood, so the test of your love is when these sorts of trials hit. Do you shake your fist at God because He disappointed you? Do you get angry with those who have wronged you or who were insensitive to your hard work? If so, you’ve got more work to do on the foundation of your Christian life. You’ve got to sink your roots deeper into love. (Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ)
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F B Meyer writes the following devotional entitled "The Receptivity of Faith" in "Our Daily Walk"
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The Apostle now tells us that he is praying that the inner man may be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit. I must emphasize that this prayer is offered for those who are already Christians. He is praying for the people whom he has been describing in the first and second chapters, where he said some very remarkable things about them, such as, ‘In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession’. Not only so! The Apostle has already offered a great prayer for them in chapter 1, namely, ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him’. But still he is not satisfied. He goes on praying for them, and he lets them know that although he is in prison and far away from them, he is bowing his knees, he is praying in the presence of God, he is looking into God’s face on their behalf, and he is praying that in the inner man they may be strengthened with might by the Spirit of God.
I emphasize the fact that he offers this prayer on behalf of Christians because the experience of forgiveness and of salvation is merely the beginning of the Christian life. It is only the first step, an indication of entry into the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately there are many Christians who stop at that point; they are concerned only about their personal security and safety; their sole concern is to belong to the Kingdom of God. They are anxious to know that their sins are forgiven, that they will not go to hell, and that they have a prospect of going to heaven. But the moment they have had this initial experience they seem to rest upon it. They never grow, and you cannot detect any difference in them if you see them fifty years later. They are still where they were. They think they have everything, and there is no indication whatsoever of any development.
Now that is very far removed indeed from what we find here about the Christian. There are great and glorious possibilities for Christians. One of them is ‘that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith’ and that they may come to know something about God’s love in its ‘breadth and length and depth and height’; indeed that they ‘might be filled with all the fulness of God’. These words indicate something of what is possible for the Christian; and we must underline the fact that it is possible for all Christians. The Apostle is not writing a circular letter to apostles, he is not concerned here only with some very exceptional persons; he is writing to the ordinary church members of the Church of Ephesus. We do not know their names, we know nothing about them; they are people whom we describe (if there is such a thing) as ordinary Christians. Yet Paul is praying for them, and he prays that they may experience all these blessings, leading to the almost incredible climax, ‘that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God’.
This is not only a possibility for all Christians, it is the duty of all Christians to be in this position. The great Charles Haddon Spurgeon, dealing with this matter, once said, ‘There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling’. In other words, there is a stage in the Christian life, in the development of the Christian, ‘which is as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling’. That states the matter in a very striking and strong manner, but it is right and true. We all know the difference in level between the non-Christian and the Christian. The Christian is on a higher level, a higher plane than the non-Christian. But Spurgeon reminds us that there are higher reaches in the Christian life which are as much above this ordinary Christian level as the Christian is above the non-Christian. We must accept that, it we really believe that Christ can dwell in our hearts, that we can know this love of God and of Christ in all its dimensions, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God. Clearly, that is as much above the ordinary Christian level as that level is above the non-Christian.
The question we must face therefore is: Have we reached this level to which Spurgeon refers? Do we conform to the description which the Apostle gives here of what is possible to the Christian? Is Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith? Have we looked into this great ‘cube’ of God’s eternal love? Have we been staggered as we have looked at its dimensions? Do we know what is meant by being ‘filled with all the fulness of God’? Do we know the God who is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we either ask or think? Have we reached that level, that height? Are we dwelling there? Or are we still down on the ordinary Christian level? There is always the danger of imagining that because we have been converted we can rest upon our oars, or simple become active, busy workers always rushing into activities.
Having dealt with this matter we must obviously go on to the next question. If we feel that we are still on this ordinary level, how can we reach the higher level? There is but one answer to that question, it is the answer given by the Apostle’s prayer. We must be ‘strengthened with might by (God’s) Spirit in the inner man’.
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Why does our inner man need to be strengthened?
The first answer is that initially the Christian is only a babe. That is the New Testament term. Paul, writing to the Corinthians says, ‘I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ’ (1 Cor 3:1). A babe has only started to live; he has not developed fully, and he needs to be strengthened. He is weak, he is ignorant, he is innocent of many things in the world that is round and about him, and he does not have an immunity against the things that are liable to attack him. That is always the characteristic of infancy. That is why the child has to be protected by the parents; obviously he does not know, he does not understand. He takes everybody at their face value, he takes that world as it is, and sees everything superficially. He does not know of its ugliness and the foul things that are in it. It is only as we grow that we begin to understand these things. I am not saying that the babe is without sin, or that he is innocent. I do not agree with Wordsworth’s idea that we come into this world ‘trailing clouds of glory’, and that later ‘shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy’. I am saying that a child, because of his ignorance, is not aware of the dangers, and therefore needs to be protected.
The same is true of the new man in Christ Jesus. However old a man may be when he is converted, he is at first a babe in Christ. And as a babe he feels at first that everything is solved, that he will never have another difficulty. Quite frequently evangelists are responsible for such thinking; they give him that impression. In his utter innocence the babe imagines that there will never be another cloud in the whole of his life. But alas, the clouds come, difficulties arise, problems come across his path; and he is bewildered, and often he falls. He may even become a backslider. This is largely because he was a babe and was not aware of the facts. So the babe needs to be strengthened. The Apostle John in his First Epistle writes to ‘little children’, ‘young men’, and ‘fathers’, because there are these gradations in the Christian life, which is a process of growth and of development.
A second reason for the need of this strengthening of the ‘inner man’ is the existence of the devil, the adversary, the accuser of the brethren. Anyone who has not realized that he is confronted with this power is the merest tyro in the Christian life. The Apostle emphasizes the matter in the last chapter of this very Epistle, saying, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood’. The problem is not only that we have to struggle against our own flesh and blood, that is, our bodies. Neither is it merely a struggle against other men. The real problem, says Paul, is the struggle against ‘the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual wickedness in high places’. The inner man needs to be strengthened because this power is not only great in might, but also in subtlety and in cunning. This same apostle tells the Corinthians that the arch-enemy is so powerful that he is able to ‘transform himself into an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14). He can quote Scripture, he can reason with you, he can put up arguments and present cases, and he can confront you with an appearance of truth which sounds right and truly Christian, but which is false; and he can lead you astray and into snares which will trap you. There is no more powerful reason for the need of strengthening with might by the Spirit in the inner man than the fact of the devil.
The devil always makes a special target of this inner man. I have often had to deal with people who were in trouble and difficulties in their spiritual life simply because they had not realized his existence and his cunning. They seemed to think that the only sins were the sins of the flesh. They were watching and on guard against these, and they had reached a point at which they were comparatively free. So they thought that that was the only line on which the devil attacks, and they were not aware that with great subtlety and as an angel of light he can make direct attacks upon the inner man, and insinuate there his evil thoughts and ideas, his innuendos and suggestions. Being unaware of this they suddenly found themselves unhappy and wretched and wondering whether they had ever been Christians at all. This was entirely due to the fact that the devil in his subtlety had ignored the outward altogether and had concentrated all his attention upon the inner man. Hence the exhortation in the Old Testament: ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Prov 4:23).
A third reason why we need the strengthening of the inner man is the very greatness of that which is offered to us, and which is possible for us. This possibility is ‘that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith’, and that we may know the love of God and may ‘be filled with all the fulness of God’. The very greatness of what is offered to us demands that we be strengthened in order to receive it, lest we might be shattered by it. This is a most important points, and one which is often misunderstood; many Christians do not appreciate its significance.
An illustration of what I regard as a complete failure to understand this point occurs in some words written by the saintly Bishop Handley Moule. He writes, ‘And why do we need a supreme empowering just in order to receive our Life, our Light?’ He thinks that it is odd to say that we need to be strengthened to receive Jesus Christ who is our life and our light. He asks, ‘Does the hungry wanderer need power in order to eat the food without which he will soon sink? Does the bewildered mariner need power to welcome on to his deck the pilot who alone can steer him to the haven of his desire? No!’ The very suggestion, he suggests, seems quite ridiculous. But, in my view, this sounds quite wrong. Paul prays that we may be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man in order that we may receive Christ. But, says the good bishop, Christ is our strength. In what way do I need strength in order to receive strength? After giving his two illustrations he goes on to say that Paul must be referring to a tendency within us to dread the thought of Christ’s ‘absolute indwelling’ of our hearts, and to be afraid of it, and to wonder what it might do to us. While there is an element of truth in that statement I reject it as an exposition of this particular verse. The bishop says that we need to be strengthened by the Spirit because, left to ourselves, we are afraid to receive Christ in His fulness.
There is a very definite fallacy in Bishop Moule’s argument, and a fallacy even in terms of his own illustrations. He asks the question whether a man who has been without food for a long time needs strength in order to take the food which is going to give him strength. He says, No! I venture to suggest, with great respect, that the answer may be Yes! Let me explain. Some of us have probably read about men who, during the last war, were torpedoed and who had spent many days on rafts or in boats upon the ocean; or of men who had been in concentration camps where they had been brought to the verge of starvation. Eventually these men were rescued or set at liberty. One’s natural tendency would be to set them down at a table and put a great square meal before them. But to do so might very well kill them. The explanation is that the man is not strong enough to take such food. Before he is in a fit condition to take a heavy meal he must regain his strength. In order to do so you have to inject glucose into his veins, into his blood; you may have to give him various meat extracts, or a very lightly boiled egg which has but little nutriment in it. He has at first to be put on a very light diet. A man who is weak and exhausted simply cannot take strong food; it is dangerous for him to do so. I argue therefore that in terms of his own argument the bishop’s case is quite wrong. It certainly misses the spiritual intent of the Apostle’s prayer at this point, which, I suggest, is that what we are going to receive is so potent, so mighty, so strong, that we need to be strengthened in order that we may receive it.
Let me support my argument by referring to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: ‘I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able’ (1 Cor 3:2). Correspondingly, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes: ‘Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age’ (5:14), that is to say, to those who have grown and developed. If you gave a baby red meat, strong meat, it will give him acute indigestion and cause him great sickness and illness. You do not give strong meat to babes; you give them milk. Strong meat is only appropriate to those whose senses have been exercised by use, who have developed, who are strong enough to take it. Indeed the Apostle Paul has said the same thing to the Corinthians in the First Epistle, chapter 2, verse 6: ‘Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect’. He had not taught ‘wisdom’ to them because they were yet carnal, in fact, mere babes in grace. He had given them the food that was appropriate for them. Before they could receive ‘wisdom’ they needed to be strengthened.
All this is fully substantiated by what we find in the experiences of may saints of God. There is a well-known story of an experience that came to D. L. Moody as he was walking down Wall Street in New York City one afternoon. Suddenly the Holy Ghost came upon him; he was baptised with the Holy Ghost. He tells us that the experience was so tremendous, so glorious, that he really began to wonder whether he could stand it in a physical sense; so much so that he cried out to God to hold his hand lest he should collapse on the street. This was because of the transcendent glory of the experience. When Christ enters the heart the glory is such, the power is such, that the very physical frame seems to collapse beneath it, and we are made to tremble and shake. The same can be found in the experiences of men like Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd. When Christ comes and dwells in the heart by faith, and when we are filled with the whole fulness of God, we need to be strong. It is a shattering, overwhelming experience. So the Apostle prays that these Ephesians may be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man. The greater the power, the greater is the strength that is needed to contain it.
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How then does this weakness of the inner man show itself? First of all, in a spiritual sense the mind needs to be strengthened. This is so because we are assailed by doubts. Some of the greatest saints have reported that they were assailed by doubts even at the end of their lives. They have not believed the doubts, but the doubts have presented themselves and have troubled them for a while. Then there is the problem of depression. Depression is very difficult to define. You may wake up in the morning and find your mind in a depressed condition. The mind that may have been working perfectly yesterday does not seem to be functioning happily today. We are conscious of a kind of dullness and slowness and inability to think clearly. The mind seems to need to be strengthened. Or we may be troubled by evil thoughts that come and attack the mind. They seem to be thrown at us. Paul talks later in chapter 6 about ‘the fiery darts of the wicked one’. The devil hurls them into the mind. They start when you wake up in the morning before you have had time to think. So the mind needs to be strengthened. Another problem is that of wandering thoughts. We all experience this. You find that you can read light literature or a newspaper with no difficulty in respect of concentration. But when you try to read the Bible your mind seems to wander in all directions and you cannot concentrate. You are looking at words, you are reading the verses, but your mind seems to be elsewhere.
We need to be strengthened in the mind also because of the nature of Christian truth. While the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is in one sense gloriously simple, it is also true to say that it is the profoundest truth in the world. This Epistle to the Ephesians is not simple. You cannot understand it in a casual manner and without effort. You cannot gallop through it. There is profound truth here and subtle argumentation. There are ‘immensities and infinities’, to quote Thomas Carlyle. You cannot take these things ‘at a run’. Born again people, Christian people, when they read this Epistle to the Ephesians may well say, ‘I do not understand it’. So the mind needs to be strengthened. We are meant to apprehend truth; and we cannot do so and realize what it means, and what it is telling us, unless our minds are strengthened.
Alas, there are many Christians who do not know this, and completely fail to realize it. Not only do they not know it, they do not want to know it. Such is the Christian who says: ‘I am a simple Christian, a plain man, I can give my witness and my testimony. I can do practical work. But these things are too hard for me, I cannot grapple with them. I am not concerned about doctrine and theology; I believe the simple gospel’. But no Christian has the right to speak in that manner. If you are making no real effort to understand this Epistle to the Ephesians, or all the other profound teaching in the New Testament, you are guilty of sin. This Epistle was written to ordinary Christians. We are all meant to understand these things; and we have no right to contract out of our responsibilities and say that we want a simple message, a plain gospel. For a Christian to say that he cannot be bothered, that it means too much of an effort, that his mind is tired, and that he is busy with affairs and has many problems in daily living, that he is not a natural reader or thinker, and that he is not prepared to make an effort to understand, is to deny the Scripture. The Apostle Paul prays that the minds of these Ephesians might be strengthened in order that they might realize these higher possibilities of the Christian life and experience them, and rejoice in them, and so be able to bear a powerful witness and testimony to the glory of God. Intellectual lethargy is undoubtedly the greatest sin of many Christians today. They never grow in knowledge, they end where they began. They are always talking about their first experiences, but they have never entered into these riches to which Paul refers; they have never climbed the mountain tops and breathed the pure air of God’s holy truth. They are content with the ordinary level; they are ignorant of the more advanced teaching because it demands an intellectual effort.
In exactly the same way the heart needs to be strengthened because we are attacked by fears and by imaginations. We are subject to discouragement. We tend to indulge in evil forebodings. Even when all is going well with us our hearts begin to say, Ah! all is right at the moment, but you never know what is coming! And immediately we are depressed. Have we not all experienced this? How treacherous the heart can be! It can conjure up possibilities; and we go to meet them in imagination: What if this happens? what if that happens? what if this child dies? what if I lose my loved one? and so on. Thus we can make ourselves feel wretched. Nothing is actually happening, we are only imagining what we would be like if it did happen. Thus these fears and forebodings and discouragements and evil imaginations often play havoc with the Christian. There are some Christians whose whole course is ‘bound in shallows and in miseries’ because they have never realized the need of having their heart strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
In the same way the will needs to be strengthened. Our wills are feeble and irresolute as the result of sin and the Fall. We honestly resolve and propose to do certain things: and we really desire to do them. Then at the last moment, we are afraid, or we give up. Because of questions such as: What if I do, or what will happen if I do? the will seems to be paralysed or made irresolute, and we fail to do the thing we know we should do. How often we fail at the very last moment!
The moment you begin to look into this inner man, and to analyse him, you see that he is very weak, very feeble, and needs to be strengthened. Were it not that we can offer for ourselves the prayer that Paul was offering for the Ephesians we should every one of us fail and falter. How often have we done so in mind or in heart or in will! If we were left to ourselves there would be no hope for us, and there would be no one to recommend the gospel. But thank God there is this way whereby we can be strengthened. The Apostle states it perfectly for us here. So that however weak you may feel yourself at this moment, however much you may have failed, this is the way. The Apostle’s prayer is that ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named’, would strengthen them in the inner man. May we not then say, All is well: I can be reinforced by God? I cannot make myself strong: I cannot put this iron into the walls of my soul; do what I will, I fail. But here is strength from God. He is all-sufficient!
The next term reads, ‘may grant you’. What a blessed word is this word ‘grant’! God makes me a grant; He gives me this. It is a free gift; you do not have to earn it, you do not have to purchase it. You simply ask for it and receive it. ‘That He may grant you …’ The feeblest saint can lift up his face even when he cannot stand on his feet. He just looks and says—‘Lord have mercy upon me’, ‘God strengthen me’. And he will ‘grant’ you the strength you need.
But, and yet more wonderful, Paul says, ‘that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory’. The glory of God is the sum, the summation, of all the attributes of God, His might, His majesty, His holiness, His purity, His righteousness, His justice, God in the totality of His being. The glory of God! And it is according to the riches, the fulness of the glory, that God is able to strengthen us with might.
God does this by His Spirit. It is the special function of the Holy Spirit to do this. It was the same Holy Spirit who convicted us of sin, and who gave us the gift of faith that enabled us to believe. We could never have believed without Him, because ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14). But God has given unto us of His Spirit, and it is by the Spirit we believe, and by Him that we are made spiritual men. The same Spirit can also strengthen us in the inner man. The Apostle in chapter 4 of the Epistle to the Philippians says: ‘In nothing be anxious’. When things go wrong we tend to become anxious, and especially in our hearts and minds. There is only one way of getting rid of anxiety. It is, ‘In all things by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’ (vv. 6–7). If you do so, says Paul, ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’. The circumstances are not changed, they remain exactly what they were. Whence then comes the peace into heart and mind? It is from the Holy Spirit who has strengthened your heart and your mind so that you can resist everything that is against you; and you are safe.
Such then is the prayer the Apostle offers. We are living in days when we are constantly hearing about the reinforcing of materials. They reinforce concrete and there is ferro-concrete. Concrete is very strong, but, if you put some iron into it, it will be stronger still. And as new massive buildings are erected something is needed to support and to hold the weight that they will have to bear. That is the principle behind what the Apostle says here. If you and I are to contain the Lord Jesus Christ within us, and be ‘filled with all the fulness of God’, we must be reinforced in the inner man by the Holy Spirit. And if we realize that these are possibilities for us, and desire them, and ask God ‘according to the riches of his glory’ to reinforce us by His Spirit, He has promised to do so, and Christ will dwell in our hearts by faith.
Are we as much above the level of the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the level of the man who is not a Christian at all? To be such is a wondrous, glorious possibility for every one of us at this moment, in Jesus Christ, by the grace of God. (The Unsearchable Riches of Christ- An Exposition of Ephesians 3 - pages 130-141)