Summary: Paul prays that we might be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, so that we might know the unknowable, and be filled to the fullest (#6 in The Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“...that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.”
The first thing I have an obligation to point out to you as we begin, is that we’re still in the middle of Paul’s prayer; a prayer for the church he’s writing to, but also, as we have said and agreed upon, for all who would come after, including us.
So I want to stand back, as it were, and take in this prayer as a whole today, at least up through verse 19 (even though I would include his anthem of praise in verses 20 and 21 as part of the prayer), and sort of dissect it in order to see it’s individual parts more clearly.
First of all there are several phrases that establish some conditions that must exist. Now this doesn’t mean that there are some things you and I have to work toward; some goal to be met by our striving, before this prayer can apply to us.
I’m saying that since Paul is addressing Christians, these conditions do indeed exist in each believer, so we simply need to be made aware of them, and aware that by their very nature they declare the objects of Paul’s prayer to be Christians already.
Skipping through these verses from 14 through 19 to see these conditions then:
1. “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”. So we see first that all he is going to ask comes directly and independently from the Father of Glory, God Himself, the One who is the generator of all life in heaven and on the earth. “...it is He who gives to all, life and breath and all things, and has made from one every nation of mankind...”
There is no other source of supply, there is no other source of blessing, there is no other who can regenerate, who can grant eternal life, who can give growth and development to the spirit. So Paul bows the knee to Him.
2., we see that Paul asks his petitions be granted ‘according to the riches of His glory’. In this, we are made aware of two things. The first is that Paul is not asking God to give some paltry prize here. He’s not begging for penance. He is not hoping to wrench something for us from the hands of some miser in the sky.
He knows that God’s mercy and grace abound toward His holy ones, and He’s asking according to God’s will, that which He is confident that God is not only able, but willing and anxious to provide, ‘according to the riches of His glory’, which, by the way, are limitless in quantity and eternal in quality and duration.
3. The next pre-existing condition we see is that Paul is praying for people who are ‘rooted and grounded in love’. You may remember our coverage of this term several weeks ago. This is very important to what we will be talking about later in this sermon, because being filled to all the fulness of God is absolutely dependent on our being rooted and grounded in love.
Let me say that another way. Think about the illustration Jesus used of the vine and the branches in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Remember that several weeks ago I pointed out that Paul did not tell the Ephesians that they were rooted in knowledge, but in love. And just as the vine is rooted in nutritious soil, and takes up that nutrition and gives it to the branches, so we, who are the branches, are rooted in love as the vine is. Now we may not have the capacity that the vine has, but we have the exact kind of love flowing in and through us that comes from the vine. There is no difference in essence. I’ll come back to this briefly later.
4. The fourth thing we see is that it is a prayer for all the saints. It is not for any who are not saints, but it is for all who are saints. No saint is excluded. Not new Christians, not what someone might refer to as ‘carnal Christians’, ~ although I have to seriously doubt the existence of such creatures ~ and it is not only for the preachers and teachers and dedicated foreign missionaries. It is only for God’s holy ones, but it is for all of God’s holy ones, meaning all born again believers.
5. Lastly, and this may not sound at first like a condition, but it is one. I’m referring to the phrase “which surpasses knowledge” in verse 19. Remember that I said none of these things are something we are required to attain to. In point of fact, we could not attain to them through some exercise or effort of the flesh. They are simply conditions that exist as a part of being a spiritual person; and by that I mean a Christian. One who is born of the Spirit and has the Spirit living in him.