Summary: Paul prays for believers to experience Christ-likeness, not just on an individual level, but on a corporate level as a local body of believers.
Last time, we looked to Paul’s prayer here and noted that he asks for God’s power to work in the lives of the Ephesian believers so that they might enter into Christ-likeness.
We pointed out how Christ-likeness is something for us to enter into - to receive, rather than achieve. As Paul makes clear in verse 19, Christ-likeness is part of the “fullness” that God is working to bring into our daily lives. Christ-likeness is an eternal reality for every true child of God that we must learn to allow the Spirit to bring us into with respect to our daily experience.
“For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” - Colossians 2:9-10 (NLT)
We are called to allow the newness that is now within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit to be fleshed out in our daily lives.
“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.” - Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)
In verses 16-17a, Paul speaks about how God’s power works to bring us into the experience of individual Christ-likeness. That’s what we considered last time.
We noticed that the way God works to bring us into Christ-likeness is through teaching us to live our lives from the “inside out” - “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” - and that the result is that we will live a life where Christ can be “at home in our hearts” (v. 17a), that is, there will be nothing in our lives that will make our Savior uncomfortable.
Now today, we will look to verses 17b through 19, and see how God’s power can work not only to enable us to experience in our daily lives individually, but to bring us to an experience of Christ-likeness collectively, as a body of believers. (READ TEXT)
2. Power to walk in corporate Christ-likeness - vs. 17-19
The church is the body of Christ. As such, we as a congregation are to portray Christ to the world. As we learn how to work together, we can, as a congregation, walk in Christ-likeness. As we seek to allow the power of God to change us as we need to be changed, we can truly be Christ at work in our world for God’s glory.
When God’s power is at work in the lives of individual believers, then His power will be at work in the corporate body of believers.
How does God work to bring about corporate Christ-likeness in a local body of believers? God’s power can . . .
A. Enable us to envision a Christ-like church - vs. 17b-18
The word translated “grasp” in the NIV is translated “comprehend” in the NASB, and “understand” in the NLT. The idea here is that Paul prayed first of all for them to be able to understand that which God has in mind for them to experience together as a body of believers - the love of Christ.
Jesus described His vision for His church in John 13:34-35, when He said:
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35 (NIV)
Our Lord’s vision for His church is that we love each other as he loves us and that the way we treated each other would not only come to identify us as His followers, but would also draw others to Him, too.
That which our Lord envisioned was obviously experienced by the early church, as we read about their shared life in the book of Acts:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.” - Acts 4:32-33 (NASB)