Summary: Christ wants to be the center of our lives, our personalities, our mind, our will. (#3 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith...”
We have come to a phrase of great significance that we cannot skip over lightly, thinking it has only a surface application and only joins one phrase or one thought to the next.
If the reader is not careful, there is the danger of thinking (or not really thinking at all) that this is a reference to salvation itself, and going on without pause, because, after all, we’re Christians, so we needn’t deal with the salvation issue any more.
But I’d like for you to consider today, that Paul is writing to believers. We’ve already established that in previous sermons from previous verses of this letter; so we won’t go over all that again.
He’s writing to the church. Christians. So he must mean something here, deeper than the doctrine of salvation and the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ at conversion.
Just to be sure I don’t leave anything unsaid though, let’s begin with the basics and talk about:
CHRIST IN THE HEART AT SALVATION
We are taught by the Bible that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Although this is not the only place these doctrinal truths can be substantiated, Paul’s letter to the Romans establishes very systematically that when Adam sinned, all of mankind was in his loins and therefore all are accountable for sin. We are born with a sin nature, and therefore need a Savior.
The Bible says that prior to Christ we are all dead in trespasses and sins, and are therefore devoid of the divine nature. We have only the fallen nature, and are entirely ruled by that.
In fact, we can stay right here in Ephesians to show that the difference between the man in Christ and the man outside of Christ, is absolute. It is literally the difference between life and death.
We touched on it briefly in our last sermon, when we talked about the inner man and the outer man.
In that sermon I said that this inner man, this spiritual man, is what the unsaved person does not have. He has only his outer self; his flesh, and must contend with and be concerned with only that, because that is all he has, until he comes to Christ in repentance and faith and is born from above.
The man who has not received this spiritual life from above is nothing but an empty shell. He is entirely concerned with and controlled by the circumstances and conditions of the world around him, and in order to survive he must constantly contend with those, in order to maintain any control of his life. It is a constant battle that occupies all his thoughts and efforts, and so far as this world is concerned, it is a wise man who stays vigilant in this exercise, and an apathetic fool who does not.
The Christian is one who is born from above, or ‘born again’, as Jesus said to the Pharisee, Nicodemus. It means he has been given new life in the Spirit, and is now a partaker of the divine nature. In II Peter 1, verses 3 and 4, Peter tells us that God called us by His “...own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
This is the dwelling place of God in the Spirit, that Paul is talking about here in Ephesians 2:22. God gives new life to the one who comes to Him in repentance and faith. He comes by His own Holy Spirit and indwells the man, and from that moment on, this is the real man. The inner man. This is the one with whom the Christian must be most concerned. The old nature did not die, but the Christian must reckon himself dead to it, and alive to God through the divine nature imparted to him.
His duty, now that he is a new creation in Christ, filled with the Christ-life and no longer of this world, is to respond to life and all of its conditions and circumstances as the new man; not relying on all of the old ways with which he dealt with life in the flesh, but submitting all things to Christ, and living by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
In reference to these things, Romans 6 through 8 are the chapters to read and meditate on for clearer understanding. Paul makes very clear in those chapters, the difference between the man in the flesh and the man in the Spirit.
His focus in those chapters, and especially in Romans 8:5-11 is not that we should live according to the Spirit, but that in Christ, we are according to the Spirit.