Sermons

Summary: The Cross-shaped love of Christ.

KNOWING THE UNKNOWABLE

Ephesians 3:14-21

The “For this reason” of Ephesians 3:14 echoes Ephesians 3:1, and picks up the thread of thought that was left there. This follows Paul’s contemplation of the reconciliation accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). Jesus, by His own blood, had resolved the estrangement between God and man, and had broken down the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile…

1. Thinking about this, Paul was driven to his knees before the Father (Ephesians 3:14). The Father is both “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), and “Our Father” (as we say in the Lord’s Prayer). He is “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Ephesians 1:17) - “My Father, and your Father; My God, and your God,” says Jesus (John 20:17).

Kneeling is not the usual posture for prayer amongst the Jews, but it is not unknown (Ezra 9:5; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60). The usual posture is standing (Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13). Evidently the Lord approves of both.

2. The Father is described as the One “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15). “The whole family” is a better translation than “every family” - although both are possible - because Paul had just been speaking about the breaking down of the wall of partition that separated between Jew and Gentile.

The addition “in heaven and (upon) earth” points towards the community of the whole church - and our family identity with one another, and with those who have already passed from this scene of time. It may also locate the “heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3) in which we are “seated with Christ” (Ephesians 2:6).

To be “named” by the Father, is to be admitted into His family. There we - we who were once outsiders - come under His patronage, and receive of His benefits. This is the wonder of our salvation!

3. Paul grounds His petition in “the riches of His glory” (Ephesians 3:16) - an expression which he has used before (Ephesians 1:18). He prays that we would be “strengthened with might” - with dynamic power. This is turned into an exhortation later, when he instructs us to be “empowered by His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

Our strength comes from the LORD, and Paul locates the source of this power in “His Spirit in the inner man.” Collectively, Jewish and Gentile believers “have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18), and “are being built together for a dwelling place of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). The prayer is that Christians would draw upon the strength that is already within them, through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

4. Paul prays “that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:17) - not as a stranger, but as a King in His own residence. And just as we are no more strangers (Ephesians 2:19), the prayer is that we might be “rooted and grounded in love” so that He might be the chief cornerstone of our lives (Ephesians 2:20).

5. The Apostle prays that we will have the power to comprehend the love of Christ - and sets out some incomprehensible dimensions (Ephesians 3:18). We will not apprehend this alone, but only in fellowship with “all the saints” - both those who have gone before, and those still living.

This is a Cross-shaped love. Its Breadth embraces Christians from all walks of life, both Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, male and female (Galatians 3:28). Its Length spans both Time and Eternity. Its Depth reaches down into hell, from which Christ has lifted us. Its Height elevates us to Heaven.

There are similarities in language here to Romans 8:38-39, and parts of Psalm 139. Paul is effectively repeating his earlier petition, for God to grant us “wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17).

6. Paul prays that we may “know the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:19) which is beyond our knowledge. This is only possible by revelation.

The Apostle desires that we would tap into that which is already within us, and be “filled with the fullness of God.” No small aspiration, but not unlike the exhortations “to be holy as God is holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and “to be perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We are to “grow into the measure of the stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13; Ephesians 4:15), and “go on being filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

7. As we seek to comprehend the incomprehensible, and to know the unknowable, Paul leads us into a majestic benediction which is brim-full of superlatives. Here is the key to answered prayer - it lies within God. He is “able to do” (Ephesians 3:20) - having done all when He rested from His Creation work (Genesis 2:3), and when Jesus announced the completion of His Redemption work on the Cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). He is able to complete that which He has begun in us (2 Timothy 1:12).

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Thobekile Zama

commented on Aug 2, 2018

The cross shaped love with its breadth and depth that goes down to hell to elevate the sinners to become God's children,we are elevated from hell to heaven,what a mighty God we have.

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