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Archive for February, 2019

Christ Dwelling in Hearts

February 13th, 2019

…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love… (Ephesians 3:17-18 BSB)

The full meaning of Paul’s words here – including the implications – are many, too many to examine fully in this little space. Biblical theologians have expounded on this in considerable depth and detail but even then there is an evident depth here that no one can fully fathom in scholarly words or articles.

This prayer – and it is important to realize that this is part of what Paul is praying for God to do in their lives – is an inspired and intelligent prayer for God to pour into the church at Ephesus, and into all churches and all Christians in all places of all times, His limitless love through Jesus Christ. AND that it may be perceived by the church that God is doing this. 

Dangerous Misinterpretations

There are some misinterpretations here to avoid. One is that Paul was praying for them to have an experience that they had not yet had, namely that Christ had not yet indwelt them. That they had been saved by grace and that they then needed to exercise their faith to a greater degree so that Christ would come and live in them.

This idea is clearly rejected by other comments in Ephesians and in other letters of Paul. In 1:13 we read, “And in Him, having heard and believed the word of truth—the gospel of your salvation—you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” And in Romans 8:9, “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” And Christ Himself said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).  The clear teaching of the New Testament is that in order to receive the Spirit, one must simply believe in Christ – it must be sincere faith, genuine faith, brought about by the conviction of the Spirit upon the hearing of the gospel – and it must be repentant faith, turning from sin and self and turning to Christ only – but this simple “childlike” faith is all that is required.

Another misinterpretation is that Paul is teaching that we receive the Spirit at salvation and we receive Christ in our hearts later on in life. This interpretation misrepresents the nature of God, and the Bible teaches that Christ comes to us through the Spirit. A simple reading of Romans 8 reveals how many different words and phrases Paul used to describe the Spirit of God – “Spirit,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “Christ,” “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead,” all referring to the one Holy Spirit of God. 

And again, Christ in John 14:23 says that He and the Father will come and make their home in the life of the believer. 

The Simple and Clear Meaning

Though the depth of this prayer in experience is inexhaustible, the meaning is simple enough to grasp: that we are to believe in Christ and the more faith we have in Him the more evident the Spirit will be to us and through us to others. 

He was praying for the whole church as well, and this is important to grasp. He was praying for church families, among whom were still some unbelieving members. It is always the case of church life, that within the community there are children, sometimes spouses, and, in that day, servants, and others who were attracted to the love of the church but had not yet trusted in Christ themselves. He prayed that Christ would dwell in the church – “in you” plural – by faith, and not by osmosis. He left no door open to suggest that someone may be indwelt by Christ because their parents were, or their spouse was, or their employer was. Each must believe for himself.

Rooted and Grounded in Love

“Rooted” is an agricultural term and “grounded” belongs to architecture. Both describe foundations, one of a plant and the other of a building. Paul was praying that the love of Christ would be the very foundation of all that they do and all that they are. From that love comes stability and nourishment and strength. 

Power, with All the Saints, to Comprehend

Again, Paul used precise words. “Power” is elsewhere translated “that you may be able” but the meaning is an appeal to the divine work of God to enable us to grasp how great His love is. “With all the saints,” we should consider this a simple reminder that this is not a competition, not a race. Whatever God pours into one life in terms of the knowledge of His love, He wishes to pour into the life of all believers. 

“To comprehend” is katalambano in Greek and means “to lay hold of so as to make it your own.” Paul used this word in 1 Corinthians 9:24, when he wrote, “Run in such a way as to take the prize.” He used it twice in Philippians 3:12, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. ” This is an appeal for believers to own this knowledge and hold onto it as their own precious possession, prized above all other truths. 

How differently we would think and live if this were true about us! We often awaken and go to bed with nagging doubts gnawing at our hearts – doubts of our fitness, doubts of God’s acceptance of us, doubts of our commitment. God desires that at the very center of the Christian’s heart is not a thousand doubts, but the strong and deep awareness of His love, that this knowledge would be grasped and claimed by the work of the Spirit in our hearts, and that we would stand in this confidence daily! 

Go to God in prayer and faith until He gives you this confidence! Stay before Him, cling to Him as Jacob clung to the angel, until He blesses you with this rooting and grounding in your soul. When doubts come, return to His Word and to His Spirit’s voice to hear it again, that Christ loves you with an eternal love. This, more than any other thought or truth, should be the central dominating realization of every child of God.

Ephesians

Overwhelmed by Grace

February 12th, 2019

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being… (Ephesians 3:14-16 BSB)

By the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul has communicated to us these great truths about our salvation. The average man tends to think of religion as (a) an idea, something that may or may not be true, and (b) as something if it is true means he should consider paying it some attention. To the average person the whole idea of having a certain faith, mostly, starts and ends with himself, and if he aspires to anything it is his aspiration and his hopes and his ideas.

How different Christianity is. Ephesians explains to us that our faith starts in heaven, where God chose us before the creation of the world, and that despite our fallenness, He has redeemed us in Christ and seated us with Him in glory. We are his heritage which He redeemed through the blood of Christ to be His forever. All of this is done in the eternal love of the eternal God which He will pour in us, upon us, and through us to others, by His Spirit, both now and forever.

This vision is absolutely overwhelming. It is the “eternal purpose” of God “which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). The eternal love of the eternal God was planned in an eternal way from eternity past and will be expressed fully in and through us in eternity future. Our redemption and God’s love toward us is timeless, endless, immeasurable, and astounding.

The Christian faith has a practical aspect to it – God is our God in earth time and He helps us deal with earthly problems and earthly thoughts. But our salvation in Christ comes from another place – eternity past or “the heavenlies” – and will lead us to eternity future, also in “the heavenlies.” This future home is more than just a home. Christ calls heaven a “place” – “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2) – and it is a place, but much more than only a place. It is also a state of spiritual fullness in the love of Christ.

As we experience God in this life His eternal love and our eternal position in Christ become increasingly clear and dear to us. This divine life is to be the main reality of the Christian’s daily life and of the life of the body of Christ. The eternal love of God is our daily reality: “The love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5).

Paul prays this prayer for the Ephesians believers, and for us also: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph 3:16). This is the strength of heart and spirit that comes through the deep confident knowledge of God’s love for us, His purpose for us, and our acceptance through Christ.

Our faith is not some nice little spiritual thought that we sprinkle on top of the problems we have in this life, like adding sugar to something otherwise bland tasting. No. The Christian faith and the experience of redemption in Christ is our central identity and our core reality. It becomes a light from within by God’s Word and Spirit that permeates our inner being and all thoughts and, thereby, all actions. Have you been overwhelmed by the greatness of God? Have you grasped, or begun to grasp, the profoundness of the calling and position of being a believer?

Paul dared to say that the riches of God can be poured into our hearts to strengthen us – can you imagine what that would be like? The strength, wisdom, purpose, love, commitment, joy, and peace of God is to come into the heart and spirit of every believer – and that means that there can be no limit to what God can do in our heart! The only limitation on what God will do in you and in me is our faith.

Too often we look on the duties we have – what we are supposed to do – and feeling overwhelmed we go about them, thinking that this is what the Christian life is – just doing good stuff for God. But what this passage of Ephesians tells us is that the Christian life is first being overwhelmed by the love and strength of God. That is our first duty – to let Him overwhelm us with how great He is and how great is His love. This is who we will be for eternity – this person overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace. Then we go out in His strength and serve.

Ephesians