Summary: Paul, Pt. 15


There once was a sculptor working hard with his hammer and chisel on a large block of marble. A little boy who was watching him saw nothing more than large and small pieces of stones falling away left and right. He had no idea what was happening. But when the boy returned to the studio a few weeks later, he saw to his great surprise a large, powerful lion sitting in the place where the marble had stood. With great excitement the boy ran to the Sculptor and said, “Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?” (Henry Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, p.87)

Do you know God’s power at work within us can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine? (Eph 3:20) Proportionally, Ephesians tells us more about God is willing to “give/grant” to believers than any of Paul’s epistles in the Bible. The word occurs a whopping 12 times in six chapters of the book (Eph 1:17, 1:22, 3:2, 3:7, 3:8, 3:16, 4:7, 4:8, 4:11, 4:27, 4:29, 6:19) for an average of two occurrences per chapter in Ephesians. For perspective, 1 Corinthians uses the word more – 15 times but in over 16 chapters. Ephesians, more than any epistle in the Bible, portrays God as a generous giver (the word “grant” is present in KJV, NASB and RSV but dropped by NIV). The third chapter of Ephesians echoes and resumes the prayer and words of the first chapter. Previously, in Ephesians 1:16, Paul prayed that God would give the Ephesians the spirit of wisdom and revelation – the knowledge part, but here he completes the prayer by asking God for three things – the practical part , structured linguistically around the repetition of “that” (hina) in verses 16, 18 and 19. As powerful as this passage is, I could hardly find a Chinese sermon on it on all major websites.

You Have More Power Than You Think

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph 3:14-17)

A man of the state of Chu had a spear and a shield for sale. He was loud in praises of his shield. “My shield is so strong that nothing can pierce it through.” He also sang praises of his spear. “My spear is so strong that it can pierce through anything.”

“What would happen,” he was asked, “if your spear is used to pierce your shield?”

It is impossible for an impenetrable shield to coexist with a spear that finds nothing impenetrable.

So, what is strength? Tylenol’s web page list three basic Tylenol products: Regular Strength TYLENOL, Extra Strength TYLENOL and TYLENOL 8 Hour. The first one says “effective headache relief that won’t irritate your stomach,” the next boasts “Gelcaps with specially designed holes to release powerful medicine fast” and the last “Fast relief of muscle pain and specifically designed to last all day.” Actually there are three more – Women’s Tylenol ® Menstrual Relief, Tylenol ® Arthritis Pain and Cold-Multi Symptom Rapid Release Gels, but the more products they release, the less they can convince consumers that they have found the answer and cornered the market on what is “extra strength.”

Human strength is often overstated. Some may appear stronger with the power and advantage of resources, relationships and reasoning at their disposal. The truth is we are no stronger than our muscle fiber and physical conditioning. However, true strength and maximum strength is not found in one’s physique, personality or position in life, but in God’s power and provision. God’s gift of strength is vertical and not horizontal – “through His Spirit,” internal and not external – “in your inner being,” permanent and not passing – “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Believers have more strength than they know and more power than they think. God is the provider, the Spirit is the partner in the process and the purpose is for Christ to dwell in one’s heart through faith. Another way to put it: The Father is the initiator, the Spirit is the intermediary, the Son is the inhabitant and we are the instruments or vessels. God provides according His glorious riches. Strengthen (krataioo) is an insightful choice. That is the word to describe John the Baptist (Luke 1:80) and Jesus (Luke 2:40) when they both grew and “became strong.” By that time Jesus was only 12 years old (Luke 2:42), so he was not bodily strong, powerful. “Grow” is the physical, but “become strong” is mental – to have strength of courage, character and conviction. Jesus was not well-built by this time, but he was well-rounded.

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