Ephesians 3:16-19… Part Deux…
Some of you may remember when I first posted about this prayer a little while back. If not, you can find it here. In this post, I want to continue my thought process from earlier and take a look at the actual contents of the prayer. I’m sure there will be a third part if I start going long, but we will see.
Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
So, in this last semester of school I had my prayer room team studying this prayer, and I have to say that it was a really good study time. This post is mostly borne out of those discussions, so I will try to keep things in perspective. The first thing to remember is that the context of the overall prayer is that we would have might in the inner man that we could suffer for Christ honorably.
Now we move into the actual prayer. The heart of the Apostle is first that God would grant the church to be strengthened. The first thing that stands out to me is that this strengthening is not automatic, but is something that must be sought and contended for. In the mind of the Apostle, the burden of empowerment is not some artificial gritting of the teeth and digging in of the heels. Rather, the Apostle appeals to the sovereignty of God in everyday affairs of men. This is also why the various martyrs of history have refused to back down and displayed such strength under such pressure… God is sovereign and grants to those who are in need that they would have all that they need to give the glory to God. Have you ever wondered why miracles, signs, and wonders are so limited in the “enlightened” Western World? Because we have so little need. In our refusal to be faithful with the little of the spirit we have been given, of course we have so little of this power. God, in His sovereignty has seen that we have little need of the supernatural in our day-to-day existence.
Why do we have this lack of need? Because we are so worried about not being offensive with simple truth (as opposed to those who set out to be offensive and merely look moronic), we have little actual persecution (come on, a city saying they don’t want prayer before a high school football game is about as intense as it gets) and thus we have very little need of divine strength and protection. This why I would associate the American church with the Laodicean church of Revelation 3. I know that is a popular association to make among Charismatics, but hear me out.
“Because you say ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, I counsel you to buy from me Gold refined in the fire…” (Rev 3:14).
The Western Church has by and large lost touch with the idea that we still need Jesus. Oh, we’re grateful for our salvation, but for many the first response when they get sick is to go to the doctor. “My insurance will cover it!” Yes, finances are a blessing, and God has placed many smart people in the medical field– and no, you don’t want to become one of the weird “medicine is of the devil!” people– however, we can’t take medicine at the expense of faith… or vice versa. Is medicine legitimate? Absolutely! (James 5:14) Is faith legitimate? Most definitely! (James 5:14) For others, the first response when they need money is to take out a second mortgage. “Obama will bail me out if I default!” ((snarky-ism)) However, back to the topic. Due to our lack of overall need, God has not given the supernatural manifestations yet. The end-times will fix this, so just be patient.
It is the sovereignty of God that will afford us this might… however, the might is granted “according to the riches of His glory”. To that end, we need to ask what the riches of his glory are. Quite obviously, the riches of His glory has a profound effect on the human frame… but what IS it? There are two specific instances that I want to highlight– namely, Stephen and Moses.
Starting with Moses (because he is first in canonical order… w/e), into the Old Testament we go. Moses is leading the nation of Israel out of captivity, so the plagues on Egypt have already happened, the parting of the Red Sea has already happened, and Israel is now wandering around in the desert angling toward Mt. Sinai. God descends on the mountain, the people get called together, and Moses takes a hike. For those who aren’t quite up on your Old Testament, I’m in the book of Exodus and somewhere around chapters 27-32. So Moses travels up the mountain and meets with God for 40 days and 40 nights. As far as we know, he didn’t come down during that time, because of the reaction of the people of Israel in Exodus 32:1. So how does a man survive 40 days without food OR water at the top of a mountain? Intriguing, right?
Now we go back to the New Testament in chapters 6, 7, and 8 of Acts, specifically. Stephen has been making a name for himself by arguing with the Hellenistic Jews in the Synagogue of the Freedmen and actually arguing down the wizards of smart to be found. For his trouble, he gets arrested and dragged down before the Sanhedrin and gives this masterful speech in Acts 7 (that I’m sure I will have to write about sometime) that absolutely convicts everyone in the room, and that is where I pick up the story…
“When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54-60)
Now, I can make a couple of educated guesses that Stephen was not standing before the Sanhedrin looking for ways to get himself killed. The greatest debater (quite possibly) in all of church history (who, ironically enough, is the patron saint of stone masons) was standing before the Sanhedrin exactly the same way he had been in the Synagogue of the Freedmen… looking to convince people of the reality of Jesus. However, in the moment that everyone is howling at him as a heretic, he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and gives him such a charge that as the stones are raining down on him he has the presence of mind to ask God to forgive those who are murdering him.
So what can we pull away from these stories? Both of these men received divine strength when they saw God. The thing that gave them the supernatural moxie they had was God breaking in and revealing Himself to them. The riches of God’s Glory is the depth of His self-revelation to all men. It is God’s revelation of his own person and nature that gives confidence and strength to the human frame.
So… thus far we have the Apostle Paul asking that God, in His sovereignty and according to the depth of His self-revelation would grant the church to be strengthened with might. Since I’m getting pretty long winded, I think I will leave the rest for the next post. Stay tuned, part three is coming soon.