Summary: 24th in a series from Ephesians. How to make my heart a place where Jesus can be at home.
We’ve all heard the old adage “Home is where the heart is”. But I think if the Apostle Paul was here with us today, he would probably rearrange the words like this:
“Heart is where the home is”
That is the essence of the passage that we’ll look at this morning as we continue our journey through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Let’s read our passage out loud together:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Ephesians 3:14-17a (NIV)
This morning, I want to take a few minutes to provide you with some introductory information about this passage, but then I want to spend most of our time together focusing on the concept of Christ dwelling in our hearts.
The beginning phrase of this passage probably looks familiar to us. You’ll remember that Paul began chapter 3 with that very same phrase - For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles. And then, as we’ve seen over the past several weeks, Paul does as he often does and inserts this big parenthesis for the next 12 verses. In those verses he describes how God is carrying out His eternal purpose through the body of believers called the church. And now as we come to verse 14 Paul picks up with the thought that began back in verse 1.
Do you ever think about why we pray? I mean really think about the reason why we pray. We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the sovereignty of God in the firs three chapters of Ephesians. It is God who chooses us, God who predestines us to become part of his family, God who redeems us and God who guarantees that we will one day receive the inheritance of all the spiritual blessings that He has promised to us. So it only seems fair to ask, “If God is going to do what He wills anyway, why should I pray?”
I think Paul answers that question with his phrase “for this reason.” It’s interesting to see how the various commentators treat this phrase. Obviously, it refers back to what Paul has written previously in this letter, but what exactly is the reason for which he is praying?
Is it because he is imprisoned and he doesn’t want his readers to be discouraged? Is it because of his interest in the welfare of his readers and his desire for them to enter fully into their privileges in Christ? Is it because of the reconciling work of Jesus that has brought Jews and gentile together in the church and because of Paul’s understanding of this mystery?
Perhaps all of those thoughts entered into Paul’s reasoning. But it seems that the immediate context has to do with the fact that God’s children have been gathered together in the church for the purpose of making God’s manifold wisdom evident here on earth and in the heavens. So Paul is praying because he is confident that God will do the things Paul is praying for in our lives in order to prepare us to be fit vessels to carry out God’s sovereign plan.
Next, Paul writes that he bows his knees before the Father. Paul is not indicating here that we have to bow our knees when we pray. In fact, throughout the Bible we find people praying in various different positions. But the idea of bowing our knees is a picture of submission, reverence and awe. It pictures a subject coming before the king to bring a request. The point Paul is making here is that when we come before God to pray, we need to come with a right heart. We can come boldly, as we saw a couple of weeks ago, because our access is based on what Jesus has done for us. But we also need to come with reference and awe.
Then Paul uses an interesting phrase to describe God. He calls him “the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Frankly we could spend our whole time just looking at this phrase this morning, but let me just make a couple of quick observations. First, there seems to be a reference here to creation and the fact that all created beings owe their existence to the Father. But because of the context here in Ephesians, Paul seems to be emphasizing the idea that in the church, we all have the same Father. It doesn’t matter whether we are Jew or Gentile, male or female, black or white, rich or poor. We are all God’s children and God loves all his children equally. He doesn’t play favorites. So when Paul prays, he is praying for all of God’s children, including all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ.