What should you ask God for so that YOUR church might move forward?
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is all about the church. Make no mistake here. He’s not taking about a building or an association with a membership list. The great Apostle is talking about a people who have been transformed by faith in Jesus and set apart to serve the living God.
Now, as Paul moves from the deep theological truths of chapters 1-3 and prepares, in chapters 4-6, to help the Ephesians walk in these truths, he prays that they’d move forward.
The nervous system of this passage is found in verse 16. … that … he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being (ESV).
Sounds mysteries, doesn’t it? Paul prays on his knees that God would grant the Ephesian church a gift in keeping with all God has (His “riches”) and with the summation of all God is (His “glory”). This gift will be given “through his Spirit” whom we already know calls the elect to Christ (1.4) and seals them, indicating they belong to God (1.13). But, apparently there is more—a work of God available to churches!
This gift will be given to believers in their “inner being” (check out Rm 7.22-23; 12.2; 2 Cor 4.16). This refers to that part of us that is renewed to know God in this life. It’s also where Christ meets us through the Spirit. This meeting, Paul prays, will take place “with power”. Ah, but not power to heal from disease or make us successful or solve personal problems. Look what is prayed for: … so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith … (:17a). The gift Paul prays for is that the risen Christ will so be at the heart of the Ephesian church that they’d be totally characterized by His work through the Spirit.
Now, our own church here in the Northwoods is separated from the Ephesians by at least one ocean and by 1,958 years, give or take a year. But, we have the same needs and are no different in God’s eyes. Many of us, doubtlessly like the Ephesians, have been disappointed by church at different times in our lives. We’ve been in churches where Christ didn’t rule, where new creations in Christ drilled down into issues and found their own “flesh”—that term Paul uses elsewhere (like Romans 8) to describe our way of solving problems apart from Christ. This was disappointing, because this passage shows us what is available when we really trust God together.
All this takes us back to verse 16. Do you notice the verb? … that … he MAY give you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being. This verb is in what’s called the subjunctive mood. It’s the mood of possibility. (Like saying it MIGHT rain, not that it IS raining.) This indicates to us that it is possible to have a church filled with those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ, but who are not being met with power by the Spirit.
Scary, isn’t it! I don’t want to be in a church like that. And, I don’t want Woodland to go that way. Rather, I want our encounter with the living God to be like that described in the next few verses:
… that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth … to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge … that you may be filled with all the fulness of God (:17b-19b).
Now, that’s the way to move forward! And, in Paul’s closing doxology, before he turns to practical matters in the next chapter, he tells us this is possible: Now to him who is able … [be] glory …
Yes, God is able, to meet us with power and strengthen our inner selves with the strong love of Christ for one another.
That’s how we move forward!
Consider a few questions to get a better handle on Ephesians 3.14-21
Have you ever been hurt by a church? Why was this so disappointing?
Was this church praying for power from the Spirit to love each other with the strong love of Jesus? How might such confidence in God have changed the situation?
According to what you gather from this passage, what is the deciding factor in whether or not God really does gift your church with His power?
Why is it so important to understand that God’s power described in this passage is all about being characterized by Christ? What happens when we get this wrong?
What practical things does this passage encourage you to do?