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
- Ephesians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
- Ephesians 3:14-16 The Fullness of God, Part 1 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16 The Fullness of God, Part 2 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16-17 The Fullness of God, Part 3 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:14-17 Making Christ at Home in Your Heart - Steven Cole
Literally Paul's petition reads
that he may give to you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power
That (2443) (hina) expresses purpose, in this case the purpose for which he is bowing and interceding.
S Lewis Johnson observes that...
there are three “thats” that are important in Paul's prayer. The first one is in verse 16: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”
Now I know you’re going to say, “Well, must be the that that begins verse 17 must be the second one.” No, in the English translation, that is used, but the little conjunction “that” (hina - 2443) which introduces a purpose clause or at least the substance of the petition, is not used there. So we’ll drop that one, and include it with verse 16, “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man [to the end] that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”
“That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend...” – that’s the second one...
And the third one, in verse 19 in the middle of it, “that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”
O'Brien comments that...
At the heart of Paul's first petition (Ep 1:16,17-see notes Ep 1:16; 17) for his readers is a request for power. He has already prayed that they might know Gods incomparably great might for them as believers (Ep 1:18, 19-see notes Ep 1:18; 19). Now he asks for divine power more directly that God may strengthen them inwardly through his Spirit. If the apostle had urged his Christian readers not to be discouraged on account of his sufferings (Ep 3:13-note), then his prayer for them to be strengthened by God's power was in order to meet this need. The resources available to fulfil this confident request are limitless (O'Brien, P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
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...
There are four requests in Paul’s prayer, but they must not be looked on as isolated, individual petitions. These four requests are more like four parts to a telescope. One request leads into the next one, and so on. He prays that the inner man might have spiritual strength, which will, in turn, lead to a deeper experience with Christ. This deeper experience will enable them to “apprehend” (get hold of) God’s great love, which will result in their being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” So, then, Paul is praying for strength, depth, apprehension, and fullness. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor) (Bolding added)
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)...
what the exceeding greatness of His power to us who are believing, according to (kata) the working of the power of His might (the same might that raised Christ from the dead). (Eph 1:19-note)
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...
That glory is Gods radiance or splendour, which conveys the ideas of the perfection of his character and activity. His glory is often conjoined with power (Ro 6:4-note; Col 1:11-note) and paralleled with his goodness (cf. Ex 33:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 with Ep 3:19). Here this preposition, which Paul often uses in petitions and thanksgivings (Ep 1:19-note; Php 4:19-note), draws attention not simply to the idea of source, thereby signifying out of the wealth of His glory, but also indicates that His giving corresponds to the inexhaustible riches of that glory. It is on a scale commensurate with His glory: He gives as lavishly as only He can...The One to whom he directed his requests gives richly and generously:
And my God will fully meet every need of yours in accordance with his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Php 4:19-note).
By formulating his prayer along these lines, the apostle assured his readers that the Father was wholly able to meet their needs. (O'Brien, P. T. The Letter to the Ephesian)
John Eadie comments that this phrase...
illustrates the proportion or measurement of the gift, nay, of all the gifts that are comprehended in the apostle's prayer. And it is no exaggeration, for He gives like Himself, not grudgingly or in tiny portions, as if He were afraid to exhaust His riches, or even suspected them to be limited in their contents. There is no fastidious scrupulosity or anxious frugality on the part of the Divine Benefactor. His bounty proclaims His conscious possession of immeasurable resources. He bestows according to the riches of His glory—His own infinite fulness. “That He would give you”— (John Eadie, D., LL.D. The Epistle of St Paul to the Ephesians)
Hughes comments on "according to" observing that...
to come before the One from whom are all things and to whom are all things (Ro 11:36-note) makes for great optimism, especially when he is no mere John D. Rockefeller who sometimes gave from his riches, but is rather the One who gives according to his riches — “on the scale and in the style of the wealth of his glory.” Such are the resources from which he strengthens us. (Hughes, R. K.: Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ. Crossway Books)
Ruth Paxson commenting on "according to" writes...
God is not promising something which He is unable to perform. He estimated His own resources before He promised to bequeath such wealth to His children. God's budget has always been balanced, and there need be no fear of His prodigal program of spending for the salvation and sanctification of believers in His Son. Nothing is unstable in the plan of redemption, for God is not experimenting with men's souls, nor has He left anything to chance. He counted the whole cost of building this wondrous habitation of God long ages before He laid a single living stone upon the foundation, and knew that He was fully able to carry it to completion. In his book In the Heavenlies, Dr. H. A. Ironside unfolds the deep meaning of the words "according to" in a simple illustration: "It does not say 'out of' His riches, but 'according to' His riches. Here is a millionaire to whom you go on behalf of some worthy cause. He listens to you and says, 'Well, I think that I will do a little for you,' and he takes out his pocketbook and selects a ten-dollar bill. Perhaps you had hoped to receive a thousand from him. He has given you 'out of' his riches, but not 'according to' his riches. If he gave you a book of signed blank checks all numbered, and said, 'Take this, fill in what you need,' that would be 'according to' his riches." This is precisely what the King of glory has done for us, as we saw in Eph 1:3. He has given according to the sublime measurement of own immeasurable riches.
Ephesians 3:20 "According to the power that worketh in us."
Perhaps we are quite convinced by now that through our position in Christ we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Objectively, we apprehend this fact, and doctrinally we believe it. But our great problem is how to live like heirs. We know what we are; our difficulty is to be what we know. How may we subjectively appropriate this wealth, so that experimentally it is manifested in a consistent walk and a conquering warfare?
God assures us that He has made provision for this experimental realization through the in-working of a resident power. It is the power of a Person Who is none other than God's own Spirit. All that Christ was and did as the incarnate Son was through the power of the Holy Spirit. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to be to the disciples all that He had been to Him. From the day of Pentecost this same Spirit has been in every member of Christ's Body as a mighty power working to make these riches of glory his personal possession. This we shall see more fully as we now begin our study of the prayer petitions. We feel like saying in the words of Dr. Scroggie, "All that we can hope to do is to mark the order in this tumult of holy words."
The trinity of the Godhead work together to make this wealth ours. The riches which the Father provides in the Son are possessed through the Spirit. (The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian)
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 - riches(18), wealth(4).
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
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
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.”
Our Father's resources are infinite, His repositories are overflowing, His vaults are bottomless.
The treasures of earth are not mine,
I hold not its silver and gold;
But a treasure far greater is mine;
I have riches of value untold.
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.” (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;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Now combine this the vast riches and surpassing glory of these starry images with what Job said...
"Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?" (Job 26:14)
Comment: Job's magnificent conclusion is this: How much knowledge of God there is beyond what we can see and hear.
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,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.
TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH POWER THROUGH HIS SPIRIT: dunamei krataiothenai (APN) dia tou pneumatos autou:
- Ep 6:10; Job 23:6; Ps 28:8; 138:3; Isa 40:29, 30, 31; 41:10; Zech 10:12; Mt 6:13; 2Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13; Col 1:11; 2 Ti 4:17; Heb 11:34
- Ephesians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
- Ephesians 3:14-16 The Fullness of God, Part 1 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16 The Fullness of God, Part 2 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16-17 The Fullness of God, Part 3 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:14-17 Making Christ at Home in Your Heart - Steven Cole
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...
means “to make strong,” occurs 54 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Jdg. 3:10; Ruth 1:18; 1Sa 4:9; 23:16; 30:6; 2Sa 1:23; 2:7; 3:1; 10:11, 12; 11:23, 25; 13:14; 22:18; 23:3; 1Ki. 20:22-23, 25; 2 Ki. 3:26; 12:6 -7, 12, 14; 22:6; 1 Chr. 21:4; 2 Chr. 21:4; 23:1; 34:8; 35:22; Ezra 6:22; 7:28; Neh. 2:18; 6:9; Job 36:19, 22; Ps. 9:19; 27:14; 31:24; 38:19; 64:5; 69:4; 74:13; 80:15, 17; 89:13; 103:11; 105:4, 24; 117:2; 139:6, 17; 142:6; Lam. 1:16; Dan. 4:36; 5:20).
In the NT we find only the passive “to become strong.” In Lk. 1:80; 2:40 it denotes childhood growth. In 1 Cor. 16:13, with andrízesthe, the exhortation is to “be strong” (cf. 2Sa 10:12 "Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight."). Eph. 3:16 traces such strengthening to the inward operation of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2Sa 22:3). (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
NIDNTT writes that krataioo means...
to make strong, to take courage, to gain the upper hand over. krataioo is used in the Lucan birth narratives to describe the child Jesus growing and becoming strong in spirit (Lk. 1:80) and wisdom (Lk 2:40). Otherwise the word is not common in the NT. It clearly refers to manly strength in 1Co 16:13, which is a quotation (cf. Ps 31:24; 2Sa 10:12); and has a metaphorical sense in Ep 3:16; in Gnostic terminology, the inner man is expected to be strengthened with might. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)
Here are the other 3 NT uses of krataioo..
Lk 1:80 - And the child continued to grow and to become strong (to become strong and healthy, with the implication of physical vigor) in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Lk 2:40 - The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
1Cor 16:13 - Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (Comment: Krataioo is frequently used in the NT to denote inner, spiritual growth. As in Eph 3:16, krataioo is also in the passive voice, which literally means “be strengthened.” In this context the implication is that the believer is to be sufficiently strong as to be able to dominate any evil influence [world, flesh, devil].
In the physical world one might lift weights and so strengthen themselves, but in the spiritual world, believers cannot strengthen ourselves for that task belongs solely to the Lord! However, don't forget that believers do have a role/responsibility in this spiritual strengthening -- we are not just to "Let go and let God". The believer's "job" is to submit [yield, surrender] himself or herself to God's Spirit [believers can resist, quench and grieve the Spirit] in order that He can strengthen us. We can only “be [passive voice] strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (see note Ephesians 6:10), and “be [passive voice] strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (see note 2 Timothy 2:1).
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...
means "made mighty." It is the Greek word krataioo. Some Greek verbs end in an "o" but this verb ends in two o’s which conveys the thought of something beyond just being "strengthened." It means "to be shown to be strong, to be shown to be mighty." It is almost the same thing that Paul prays in Philippians. The idea then is that you are to get what is on the inside of you to the outside so that you might be shown to be strong...Is there a difference between might and power?" Oh, yes. The word "power" here is the word dunamis. That word means "to be able to do something, be capable." Basically Paul is saying,
"I want that which is inside of you to get on the outside of you. I want people to look at you as you live your Christian life and let them see that you have a divine ability that is operating inside of you. I want it to be more than just what you say. I am praying that it will be in how that you live."
The assignment to do the strengthening is not in God the Son, it is God the Spirit. The Spirit of God comes into a man the moment he becomes a Christian. Now, you are not living life alone. You may be acting like it, but you are not. If you are trying to fight your problems by yourself, if you are trying to figure them out on your own, if you are not coming to the Word, letting the Holy Spirit of God enable you and reveal to you the things of God, then no wonder you are confused. You have a divine partner living in you, and He is in you to strengthen you with power so that you have an ability that you didn’t have before. If you will learn to tap into Him, then you will begin to learn to live in the reality of His presence....
Now understand something. He is not praying that they will get these riches. They already have them. He is praying that they be strengthened according to these riches. He is saying,
"You’ve got them. Now be strengthened by that which you have. Live in it. Live out of it."
Folks, we have a reservoir of riches of wealth, spiritually, which God has given us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul intensely says, "Oh, God, don’t let them walk out with heads filled with information. God, let them walk out understanding they have these riches. Let them be strengthened in the inner man with power. Let these riches be a part of the source of their strength in their walk."
You may find out this week that you have lost your job. You may find out this week that someone has done you wrong. Where are you going to be strengthened? Friend, Paul is saying you know something about your salvation. When you run back to the Lord Jesus Christ, in Him is the reservoir of what you are looking for. Let the Spirit of God with power strengthen you in the inner man. Let these truths so get down inside of your life that you become different. All of a sudden what you have inside of you begins to work inside of you. All of a sudden people see a difference in your life. You are doing things and you are living in a way that is on a higher plane than what you lived before. In other words, don’t just sit and soak. Grab hold of the fact that you have got all the wealth that ever could be, spiritually, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn how to tap into it. Learn how to draw it out. It is in your account. It is in your name. The Lord Jesus lives in you. When you have your problems, run to Him.
Learn to be strengthened according to the riches that He has given you in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:14: A Prayer for Fullness - 1)
Boice explains Paul's first request for the believers to be strengthened internally through the Spirit writing that...
Paul has been talking about suffering, and this is probably why he begins his prayer with a request that the believers at Ephesus might be strengthened by God’s Spirit. None of us show much of the manifold wisdom of God in easy days. It is in suffering that the grace of God is manifested. But who has strength for suffering? We do not choose suffering. We shrink from it. Like Christ in the garden we inevitably draw back and ask that, if it is possible, this cup might pass from us. If we are to show God’s wisdom in such times, it must be by God’s strength. He must send his angels to minister to us.
Still, it is not only in times of suffering that we need to be strengthened. We need strength every day of our lives and in every circumstance.
Is it temptation? We need strength to resist it and be victorious to the glory of God.
Is it a tough moral choice at work? We need strength to do the right thing so that Jesus, whom we serve, might be honored.
Is it witnessing? We need strength to speak the truth regardless of what the world may think of us for speaking it. When Jesus prayed for God to send the Comforter or Holy Spirit to be with his disciples it was this he chiefly had in mind. The word parakletos (“comforter,” “counselor,” or “advocate”) means “one called alongside to help.” The Holy Spirit helps us do the right thing in difficult circumstances. (Boice, J. M.: Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary)
When Martin Luther was summoned to Worms to recant his 95 Theses he wrote "“May the Lord Jesus strengthen me.”
Power (1411) (dunamis 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...
holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. (2Ti 3:5-note)
Comment: The point is that the so-called godliness of these men is a sham and devoid of any real power (dunamis) to break the power of sin. Those who practice such deception enjoy the external expressions of evangelical worship to be amenable to their lifestyles but they are violently at odds with the gospel’s internal effects of subduing sin and nurturing holiness. They lack the inherent ability or capability, the dunamis, because they lack the indwelling Spirit Who strengthens with power as Paul prays in Ephesians 3:16. The corollary is that those who possess the indwelling Spirit and divine dunamis have the inherent ability to wage victorious battle with the three mortal enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil, all seeking to turn us from God and unto self with its consequent ungodly, unholy attitudes and actions. One can readily see the importance of praying for believers to be strengthened with dunamis power through the Spirit in their inner man - see Ephesians 3:16.
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...
In 1934, when Adolf Hitler summoned German church leaders to his Berlin office to berate them for insufficiently supporting his programs, he was surprised when Pastor Martin Niemoller stood up to him. That evening his Gestapo raided Niemoller’s rectory, and a few days later a bomb exploded in his church. He was later arrested and placed in solitary confinement. Dr. Niemoller’s trial began on February 7, 1938. That morning, a green-uniformed guard escorted the minister from his prison cell and through a series of underground passages toward the courtroom. Niemoller was overcome with terror and loneliness. What would become of him? Of his family? His church? The guard’s face was impassive, but as they exited a tunnel to ascend a final flight of stairs, Niemoller heard a whisper. At first he didn’t know where it came from, for the voice was soft as a sigh. Then he realized that the officer was breathing into his ear the words of Proverbs 18:10 (commentary):
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower
The righteous run to it and are safe.”
Niemoller’s fear fell away, and the power of that verse sustained him through his trial and his years in Nazi concentration camps.
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...
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (See notes Philippians 2:12; 2:13)
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.
Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness...14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power (dunamis - the inherent ability) of the Spirit; and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.
Acts 10:38 "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good (implicit that He did good empowered by the Spirit), and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him.
IN THE INNER MAN: eis ton eso anthropon:
- Jeremiah 31:33; Ro 2:29-note; Ro 7:22-note; 2Co 4:16-note; 1Peter 3:4-note
- Ephesians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
- Ephesians 3:14-16 The Fullness of God, Part 1 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16 The Fullness of God, Part 2 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16-17 The Fullness of God, Part 3 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:14-17 Making Christ at Home in Your Heart - Steven Cole
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)
Is there any greater need in the Christian's life than to be made strong and with a power outside of himself? How often he feels that he is going backward rather than forward. He is conscious of weakness, failures, defeats, and backslidings that are well-nigh overpowering. More than once he cries out in anguish of spirit,
"Is it worth while to try to keep on? I just have not the strength for this conflict."
Nor has he, and God rejoices whenever a child of His comes to the end of himself and acknowledges his own utter impotency, for then God can begin to work. The Pentecost promise was for power. We are to be made strong with power through a Person.
"By His Spirit." The Holy Spirit who worked for us to implant life now works in us to impart power. He lives within us to strengthen and energize with divine might and by a definite and continuous process. The life bestowed by the Spirit through rebirth is to be realized in fulness through renewal.
"In the inner man." Into the most secret springs of our spiritual life this Spirit-strengthening power is infused. God always begins at the innermost part of our being and works outward. (The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian)
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...
I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (Ro 7:22-note) (Comment: I believe Romans 7 deals with a believer but others interpret this chapter as describing an unbeliever).
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)...
2Cor 4:16-note Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying (present tense), yet our inner man (the heart, the soul that lives forever, that part of man reborn, newly created in salvation) is being renewed (present tense) day by day.
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. (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...
"To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; this is the petition which the apostle puts up on his bended knees to the Father of Christ, that he would strengthen these saints, that so they might not faint at the tribulations which either he or they endured.
Believers in Christ need fresh supplies of strength to enable them to exercise grace, to perform duties, to resist Satan and his temptations, to oppose their corruptions, and to bear the cross, and undergo afflictions cheerfully, and to hold on and out to the end:
this is a blessing that comes from God, and is a gift of his free grace; a "grant" from Him Who is the strength of the lives of His people, of their salvation, of their hearts, and of the work of grace in their hearts:
the means whereby the saints are strengthened by God, is "His Spirit"; Who strengthens them by leading them to the fulness of grace and strength in Christ, by shedding abroad the love of God in their hearts, by applying the promises of the Gospel to them, and by making the Gospel itself, and the ordinances of it, useful to them, causing them to go from strength to strength in them:
the subject of this blessing is the "inner man", or the Spirit, or soul of man, which is the seat of grace; and this shows that this was spiritual strength which is here desired, which may be where there is much bodily weakness, and for which there should be the greatest concern; and that this strength is not naturally there, it must be given, or put into it.
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).(Defenders Study Bible) (See also Trinity - A Brief Excursus)
Our Daily Bread devotional "Inner Strength"...
A large company extracts contaminating substances from steel drums by suction. Powerful pumps draw the materials out of the barrels, but the workers must carefully regulate the force of these pumps. If they take out too much air, the drums will collapse like paper cups because the outer pressure will exceed the inner pressure.
Likewise, when adversity and hardship come into our lives, unless God empowers us from within we will be unable to withstand the pressures from without. True, we get solid support from loved ones and Christian friends, but it is our spiritual inner man, "strengthened with might through His Spirit," that sustains us and keeps us from crumbling.
The Spirit works to strengthen us and renew our minds as we read God's Word and pray. If we neglect the Scriptures, seldom talk with the Lord, and stop fellowshipping with Him, we will grow weak and vulnerable. Then we will be unable to withstand the pressure of temptation or trouble.
Let's ask the Lord to develop our inner strength so that when life's blows and burdens press upon us we will not cave in. -D C Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Help us, O Lord, when troubles come
To trust Your Word and not succumb,
And help us not to turn aside
But in Your strength and love abide. --DJD
The power of Christ in you is greater than the pressure of troubles around you.
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...
The prayer that the readers may be strengthened inwardly through Gods Spirit is explained and amplified by the following clause: that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith. Several English Versions render these words as the purpose (or result) of the preceding (cf. the NIV's so that), and give the impression that Paul wants the readers first to be empowered by the Spirit so that subsequently Christ may dwell in their hearts. Although this interpretation is syntactically possible, it is unlikely. The language of the two clauses is parallel, and the experience of the Spirit's strengthening activity is the same as that of Christ's indwelling (cf. 1Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17; Ro 8:9, 10; Gal 4:6). In your hearts is equivalent to in the inner person of Eph 3:16, while Christ's indwelling defines more precisely the strengthening role of the Spirit in Eph 3:16 His indwelling is not something additional to the strengthening. To be empowered by the Spirit in the inner person means that Christ Himself dwells in their hearts. (O'Brien, P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians.)
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,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.
May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.
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
O Jesus Christ, grow Thou in me,
And all things else recede!
My heart be daily nearer Thee,
From sin be daily freed.
More of Thy glory let me see,
Thou Holy, Wise and True!
I would Thy living image be,
In joy and sorrow, too.
Fill me with gladness from above,
Hold me by strength divine;
Lord, make the glow of Thy great love
Through my whole being shine.
Make this poor self grow less and less,
Be Thou my life and aim;
O make me daily through Thy grace,
More meet to bear Thy Name!
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...
If you are not being strengthened in the inner man with power by the Spirit of God, it is very obvious that you are not making Christ at home in your hearts. Why? Because Christ is His Spirit that lives there. If you are living a lifestyle that is not pleasing to Him, if you are grieving Him, then no wonder you're discouraged, defeated and generally a "mess" spiritually speaking. No wonder your life is falling apart. There is a very basic truth in Scripture and when you come to grips with it, it becomes very understandable what victory is all about.
Victory is not me doing for Him. It is me being strengthened.
That enables the Spirit of Christ to be welcomed in my heart...
You have already received Jesus into your life. You say, "I want to walk in the fullness of what He has to offer. Where do I start?" It starts when you realize how weak you are and how desperate we all are to tap into His strength. You see, weakness is an absolutely necessity if you are going to be strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit of God. God will bring people and circumstances into your life that will cause you to get down on your face and say, "Oh, God, I can’t." He says, "That’s right. I never said you could. I can. I always said I would. Now tap into Me. Appropriate what is already yours."
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
Purpose of Realization - It is threefold:
(1) to establish Christ's presence in possession of us;
(2) to enhance Christ's preciousness to us through the deepening knowledge of His love for us;
(3) and to ensure the plenitude of Christ's life in us.
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."
"That" -- a very definite advance upon the first "that." The Spirit working in power in the inner man discovers and discloses that which hinders Christ's fullest indwelling; demands the emptying of the life of self and the enthronement of Christ as Lord; and establishes Him more effectually in the possession of every part of the Christian's life.
"Christ may dwell." This has no reference to Christ's initial entrance into the Christian's life. He is already there as Saviour. He has crossed the threshold and been given a place in the life. Yet in some lives He seems to be far more like a house-guest than the sole and rightful owner. This does not satisfy Christ's heart, nor fulfil God's purpose. When God exalted His Son to be Head over the Church, He gave Him the right to become the Lord over every Christian.
The word "dwell" connotes the fixed, permanent abode of the One who owns; it is illuminated and interpreted by Paul's other word, "To me to live is Christ." This word "dwell" makes the human personality of the Christian the home of Christ into which He may settle down and be absolutely at home, possessing, controlling and using it as He wills. His is to be the presiding Presence, permeating and possessing all.
"In your hearts." In the innermost sanctuary Christ is to be given the place of pre-eminence, enshrined and enthroned as Lord over all.
"By faith." On the Godward side Christ's indwelling is due to the supernatural power of the divine Spirit, while on the manward side it rests upon the willing yielding of the Christian to Christ's possession and upon the appropriation of Christ Himself by faith. Thus the presence of Christ is made a living, luminous reality, and the first purpose in the realization of our wealth is fulfilled. (The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian)
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,
No light my heart could see;
But in God’s Word the light I found,
Now Christ liveth in me.
As rays of light from yonder sun,
The flowers of earth set free,
So life and light and love came forth
From Christ living in me.
As lives the flower within the seed,
As in the cone the tree,
So, praise the God of truth and grace,
His Spirit dwelleth in me.
With longing all my heart is filled,
That like Him I may be,
As on the wondrous thought I dwell
That Christ liveth in me.
Christ liveth in me,
Christ liveth in me,
Oh! what a salvation this,
That Christ liveth in me.
Hearts (2588) (kardia) 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
“heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
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;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
Daniel W. Whittle (Play Hymn)
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.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Ro 10:17-note)
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) 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...
have to learn to accommodate Him by my faith. Do you understand what that means? The word "faith" is pistos, which comes from pistoo, which comes from peitho. It means to obey it. I can tell you all day about my faith, but until you see me obey it, I don’t have any faith. Faith is not something you tell people about, James says; faith is something you show people that you have by your willingness to obey Him. Some days my flesh does not want to obey Him. I have other thoughts in my mind, but God says, "You had better obey Me." I choose to obey and immediately step into what was already there—the presence of God. Folks, I am telling you, obedience, surrender, is the key to the whole Christian life. I have to let Him in. Purity, holiness, and cleansed hearts have to be the norm if a person is ever going to experience the strengthening of God in the inner man. I surrender my thoughts, my attitudes, my emotions, and my secrets, and through my faith I begin to appropriate and to accommodate the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart.
(He adds) Faith is what accommodates Him. What do I mean by faith? Well, it was by faith that He entered your life to begin with, when faith was exercised in who He is and what He has come to do and when you bowed before Him. You see, the word "faith" doesn’t mean just to mentally understand. It has the idea also of bowing before Him. The deity of Christ is built into the word "faith." The Greek word pistis, comes from the word peitho, which means to be so overwhelmed, so persuaded that you are brought to your knees. That is when worship begins. Salvation is when you bow and surrender your will to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the essence of what faith is all about. When that faith was exercised, Christ entered your life. When faith continues and you continue to bow before Him and surrender to Him, then He dwells in your life by the means of faith. You see, it is what accommodates Him.
Christ is at home in the life of a person who loves Him, loves His Word and is surrendered to His will. Christ is at home in that person, and that person is going to experience the dwelling of Jesus within him. He is going to experience the manifestation of a divine power that he doesn’t have on his own.
When I surrender and say "yes" to Jesus, Christ begins to live in me. I tap in to that ability that I would not have had if I had not exercised faith in Him. So we accommodate Him. We make Him feel at home by the means of faith. If I am not trusting Him, if I am not surrendering to Him, then obviously He is uncomfortable in my life.
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
- Ephesians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
- Ephesians 3:14-16 The Fullness of God, Part 1 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16 The Fullness of God, Part 2 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:16-17 The Fullness of God, Part 3 - John MacArthur
- Ephesians 3:14-17 Making Christ at Home in Your Heart - Steven Cole
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
grant those (the primary meaning is for believing Israel but this truth is applicable to believers) who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)
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
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted (perfect tense) and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (See notes Colossians 2:6; 2:7)
Rhizoo is used only here and in Colossians 2 (above) and twice in the Septuagint (LXX) -- Isa. 40:24; Jer. 12:2.
Jer 12:2 Thou hast planted them, and they have taken root; they have begotten children, and become fruitful; thou art near to their mouth, and far from their reins.
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,
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand."
Jesus used themelioo in His soul stirring conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount...
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded (themelioo - perfect tense - actually pluperfect which also conveys permanence) upon the rock. (see notes Matthew 7:24; 7:25)
In his epistle to the Colossians Paul wrote that God would present the saints before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach...
if indeed you continue (genuine believers will continue - they are not saved by continuing in their natural power but continue because they are saved and have supernatural power) in the faith firmly established (themelioo in the passive voice and perfect tense) and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (See note Colossians 1:23)
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...
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish (themelioo) you. (See notes 1 Peter 5:10)
Warren Wiersbe has a true story which emphasizes the importance of Paul's prayer for them to be grounded...
''In my second building program, we had to spend several thousand dollars taking soil tests because we were building over an old lake bed. For weeks, the men were laying out and pouring the footings. One day I complained to the architect, and he replied, “Pastor, the most important part of this building is the foundation. If you don’t go deep, you can’t go high.” That sentence has been a sermon to me ever since.'' (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
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)
F B Meyer writes the following devotional entitled "The Receptivity of Faith" in "Our Daily Walk"
FAITH IS our power of appropriation. The pity is that we are so slow to make use of our Lord s resources! He does not force Himself upon us. Though He brings with Him gold tried in the fire that we may be enriched, and white raiment for our clothing, and eye-salve for our blindness; and though He knows how urgently we need these things, He will not force them on our acceptance. Rather, He stands and knocks, as a travelling merchant knocks at the door, who has wares to dispose of, and we need to open the door and receive the gifts which are offered, without money and without price (Rev3:18-20; Isa55:1-2).
Faith is our reception of the spiritual to make good the lack of the physical. It is a drawing on the Eternal for the deficiencies of our earthly pilgrimage. Probably when we look back on our present life, we shall find that our deficiencies were permitted, and even assigned, that we might be driven to avail ourselves of the fullness of the Lord Jesus (John1:16; Eph3:19). We were allowed to wander in the sultry heat, that we might know Him as the shadow of a great Rock in a weary land; we were exposed to wild tempests and storms, that we might make for alcoves and harbours in Him that we should otherwise have missed.
It has been truly observed that Job's rebellious moods arose when he thought that God was afar off, but there was a difference when he realised that God was suffering with him. Remember that you are not divided from God by a deep chasm. He knows your sorrows. In all your afflictions He is afflicted. We have not a High Priest, who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. When Jesus saw the sisters weeping, He not only succoured them, but entered into their distress, and wept with them.
Are you weary with burdens that are crushing you? Is your lot cast with them that hate peace? Is your heart oppressed with loneliness? Take Jesus into account. Don't face your difficulties alone, but meet them in the fellowship of your Saviour. Have faith, i.e., reckon on God. Let the Lord Christ dwell in your heart, and He will be responsible for all, as you reckon on Him for all.
PRAYER - O Lord, I open my nature, and since my capacity is small, I pray that by love and faith, by patience and suffering, Thou wilt enlarge my heart, that it may be filled with all the fullness of God. AMEN.
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’.
* * *
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.
* * *
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)