In Ephesians 3:14-19 Paul was praying for the Christians in Ephesus, asking God to empower them in a way that would enable them grow in their walk with Him. Paul had been reviewing with them some of the key doctrines of their faith as a reminder of all God had redeemed them out of and into. He was about to move from doctrine to practice, noting that while correct doctrine is vital, it means little if it does not lead to correct behavior or living. In his doctrinal section Paul referred to the spiritual wealth that belongs to the Christian, a spiritual wealth that flows from God’s riches in glory. Paul’s prayer here is that Christians will have the spiritual strength to live lives that reflect that wealth.
In verses 16-19 we read that Paul prayed they would be “strengthened,” and “rooted and grounded in love.” He went on to pray that in the process of being rooted and ground in love they would be able to “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Finally, he prayed that they would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Read Ephesians 3:16. The first part ofPaul’s request was that they would be strengthened. That was first because it is essential to being able to appropriate the riches that God has for us.For that to happen believers would need to allow the Holy Spirit to control their lives because, as Paul wrote in verse 17, “Christ must dwell in our hearts through faith.” Just so there is no confusion, when Paul talked of God’s Spirit and Christ indwelling us, he was talking about God’s presence with us. Paul never made a distinction between the second and third members of the trinity so to have the Spirit and Christ within is identical.
According to verse 16 God wants to strengthen us so we can be all He created and then redeemed us to be and He has the riches to ensure that will happen when we allow Him to.
Paul wrote that God wanted to strengthen our “inner being.” Whenhe wasreferring our inner being, he was referring to that part of us that will continue to exist forever, sometimes called the soul and sometimes called our spirit. Read II Corinthians 4:16. There is a physical part of us that realistically is in the process of decay but there is also a part of us that will exist forever, either with God or separated from Him. The “inner being” of that verse corresponds to the “new being” of 2:15. Read Ephesians 4:24. It is that “new being” or “new self” that needs strengthening if we are to enjoy the fulness of benefits provided in redemption. God’s strengthening is essential to living the life expected of us.
The moment one invites Jesus to be his Savior he is born again, and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in him. The presence of the Holy Spirit within a believer is, in part, God’s down payment on all He is going to do for him. The Holy Spirit enables a believer to become all He redeemed us for. Becoming a Christian is not a simple matter of changing our religious affiliation on Facebook from “none” to “Christian.” Becoming a Christian is being adopted into very family of God. Becoming a Christian is not covering over the old life with a facade of right living, but a transformation wrought in our very being by God Himself who then instills in us the Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5.
In this Greek sentence the words “dwell” and “strength” are in a parallel structure, showing they are inseparably connected. Unless the Holy Spirit is allowed to dwell in us, we will never be spiritually strengthened.
There are two key Greek words for dwell, each denoting a difference aspect of one dwelling somewhere. One word was used to describe someone who was living in a place as a stranger. In Ephesians 2:19, Paul used that word to describe those who were “foreigners or aliens.”
The second Greek word and the one Paul used here, described someone who had settled down somewhere and made it his permanent home. It would be used to describe one who lived in his own house as compared to a stranger he might invite to visit with him. The difference is between a visitor who comes from time to time and has no real say in how the residence is run and the owner who resides all the time and controls every aspect of the house.
Ephesians was addressed to the Christians, so Paul was not writing about Jesus coming to dwell in our hearts after a faith commitment. The idea was controlling the life of the individual after the salvation commitment by being really at home in the individual.
Paul was praying that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, would control our lives not as a visitor but as the owner of the residence.
One of the interesting pictures we have of Jesus is found in Revelation 3:14-21. Read Revelation 3:20. That verse is a call to open the door of one’s heart and invite Jesus to be one’s Savior. There are plenty of verses that picture that, but Revelation 3:20 was written, according to Revelation 3:14, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea.” The New Testament letters addressed to churches were really addressed to the Christians in those churches. Read Revelation 3:15. Jesus went on in that letter to note that they had become self-satisfied in their Christian faith. Jesus urged them to return to Him and find in Him their real source of provision and strength. In verse 19 we read that Jesus wrote to them as “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” The Bible never talks of disciplining those who do not belong to Him. In the Old Testament God disciplined Israel because they were His people. In the New Testament God disciplines believers because they are His family. God has promised to judge those who do not belong to Him, but discipline is a term used for those in His family.
All of that is to show that this letter addressed to the church was addressed to Christians in Laodicea. That means, therefore, that it was to Christians that Jesus said “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.” That declaration is followed by, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” In the culture of the day in which that promise was given, the meal referred to here was a leisurely family affair in which there was a level of intimacy and interaction too often missing today. In other words, Jesus said that if the Christians in Laodicea would welcome Him into their lives as more than a casual visitor, He would be more than willing to spend significant, quality time with them.
That is not exactly what Paul was referring to in Ephesians when he wrote that God wants to strengthen us by His Spirit so “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” but it is very close and may even be a parallel concept. In His letter to the Christians in Laodicea Jesus said He wanted a more significant place in the life of the Christian so He could have a more intimate fellowship with them. In Ephesians, Paul prayed that we would give God a more significant place in our lives so the Holy Spirit can have control of our lives so that “Out of his glorious riches he may strengthen us with power.” In Revelation it was all about fellowship whereas in Ephesians it was all about strength to live the life expected of us as believers. But the two, fellowship and power cannot be separated. With a closer fellowship comes power, which is why Paul went on to write that a key to that fellowship and power is, “being rooted and established in love.”
Paul knew that all of us as Christians need to continually grow in our relationship with God, which is why he could write to the Christians in Philippi about the same time that he wrote this letter to the Christians in Ephesus. Read what he wrote in Philippians 3:12 and 3:14. There will never be a time when we cannot or should not be growing and the more we grow the better able we are to live a daily life that is pleasing to God.
Paul prayed that the Christians in Ephesus would press on so that the Holy Spirit could strengthen them from within. Is that the prayer we have for ourselves and for one another? It should be.