B.C.P. Trinity 16 Ephesians 3:13-21
13: Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 14: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 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; 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19: And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21: Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Up until this prayer in Chapter 3 of the letter Paul has been outlining the fundamentals of the Christian faith. After this prayer he outlines the way that Christians should in response to God's undeserved favour. So this prayer is a watershed in this letter. This prayer, when answered by God, will enable the Ephesian Christians to follow God's ways. To do good works, which God prepared in advance for them to do, as it says in 2:10.
It was normal for a Jew to pray standing up with outstretched arms. Paul kneels in prayer indicating an seriousness, a pleading towards God. It is a reminder that we need to pray for our fellow Christians that we should all grow in our love, knowledge, and service of Jesus.
He prays for three things, that they will be strengthened; be loved; and be loving.
How many people use a cash dispenser, a 'hole in the wall' machine ? How many of us, at least occasionally check our balance before we withdraw any money ?
Imagine that your account was in credit by millions of pounds. So much money you could not imagine how you could ever spend such an amount ! I guess that you would draw more money than you do now, and that you wouldn't be too bothered about how much you had left in the account because it would be so large.
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; 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
The verb 'to strengthen' is in the present continuous tense. We can be strengthened and go on being strengthened. The dwelling in the inner man or our hearts is also taking about a continuing of dwelling. The word in the Greek refers to the permanent home that is lived in by it's master, rather than a temporary lodging.
God has an unlimited amount of power available to his children through His Holy Spirit who dwells in every Christian. However, this is about how much the Holy Spirit is allowed to live in us. It is as if we have a strength dispenser within us. This can never be overdrawn. Some Christians try to live their lives in their own strength but this is not the way God intended. His Holy Spirit gives us the strength that we need to have Jesus in our lives. When we feel that strength is waning or under attack we can pray to God to give us a top up. Just as we replenish our wallets or purses from the cash dispenser.
In the 'Idle thoughts of being an idle fellow' Jerome K. Jerome wrote, 'Love is like the measles; we all have to go through it.'
This is a rather cynical and narrow view of love. Jesus came and showed us how much God loves everyone. He died for us. The ultimate expression of love.
Paul uses two images of love in verse 17. He talks about being rooted and established in love.
The word 'rooted' suggests an settled plant with its roots deeply embedded in soil that holds the plant secure, and provides water and nutrients. We are like plants. God's love gives us security. It provides us with the good things that we need to grow and flourish. So we are like trees safe in God's love, nurtured by his love.
Many people suffer from insecurity because they feel unloved or alone. Jesus loves everyone and provides the security and the good things that everyone needs.
The word grounded describes the foundations of a building. These need to be securely built into the ground so that a building will remain stable. If we are firmly attached to God's love in Jesus through the Holy Spirit we can know stability in our lives.
We live in the Western world which seeks to substitute things for love. As a society we are reaping the consequences of this. High teenage pregnancies, juvenile crime, high levels of divorce and family breakdown leaving children insecure and adults damaged.
God is the one whose love should be pursued. For he will never reject anyone who comes to him. His love will not disappoint, he will never let anyone down.
God's love is so broad that it includes everyone. Every race, colour, age, sex, nationality, and class.
God's love is so long that it will last through eternity.
God's love is so deep it will reach the most degraded sinner.
God's love is so high it will exalt sinners to heaven.
A child learns about life from its parents. If it receives unconditional love it learns how to love unconditionally. A child who is abused will think itself worthless and be unable to trust adults. A child who is rewarded only when it achieves something can think that he/she has to earn love.
Our relationships shape the way we are. Our relationship with our loving heavenly Father should shape the way that we are. When I became a father for the first time I was astounded by the love I felt for Joshua. I guess many parents here can identify with this. You imagine that love multiplied a million times and you are not even approaching the love that God has for you. God's love for us frees us to love others unconditionally.
Jesus summarised the law and prophets by saying that we are to love God with our whole being and to love others as we love ourselves. This is the response that God wants us to make to his love. It is proof that we have at least started to understand it and have accepted it.
We were all created to be loved, and to love. Paul's prayer is that the Ephesians would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, verse 19.
What does this mean ? I think it is taking of being filled with God's love. It is linked with being like Jesus who showed us what loving God is about. It is about sacrifice, and obedience. Love isn't really true love unless it costs the one doing the loving.
When we try to do something ourselves we are all too aware of our human frailty and, perhaps, do not expect too much of ourselves.
We, like Jesus, do not have to try to live in our own strength. We can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we rely on him then we need not be limited by our weakness or our imagination !
Verse 20: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
This does not mean that we should not ask, because God loves to grant the requests of his children that are in accordance with his perfect will. We may not get everything that we ask for, however. For example a loving responsible parent will not grant every request of a child because some are not in the child's best interests. So they wouldn't allow a two year old to play with a kitchen knife.
A parent likes to give his/her child a surprise present sometimes. Sometimes God likes to give us unexpected surprises that are so wonderful that we have not dared to ask for them, or could even have imagined them. Nothing is impossible with God.
What is the purpose of God's love coursing through the veins of his people ?
21: Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
God's purpose is to reveal himself to people through the church and in Christ Jesus. In the N.T. Jesus and the church are closely linked. It is called the body of Christ. Elsewhere Jesus is called the bridegroom and the church the bride.
We cannot but wonder why God should chose to work with sinful human beings in the church. The reason God does it is so people can see his transforming power in His people. So that people will scratch their heads and wonder what motivates Christians to love so deeply.
God calls us all to be committed to his church. For we are the church. So, when you think of the church don't criticise it. Pray for it. For through your prayers God may bring about a miracle. And that miracle may be you.
What did many people who were on the planes in the United States and facing death on September 11th do ? They phoned people to tell them that they loved them. That is the message that people the world over want to hear. They want to know that they are loved unconditionally. This is what the heart of the Christians gospel is about. We are loved by God, and we are to share his love with others.