Ephesians 3:16-19: Part Three!
This is part three in my series on Ephesians 3:16-19. If you need to catch up with where I am at thus far, there is a link to the first post in part two. For those of you who remember, I’m going to pretty much pick up where I left off.
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.
As we begin working our way through part three, it should be noted that I am essentially paraphrasing this apostolic prayer by discussing the different phrases that Paul uses in the prayer. To this point we have talked about how Paul is asking that God, through his own sovereignty, would cause the church, according to His own self-revelation, to be strengthened with might. It is this next phrase that I want to being with here. What does it mean to be strengthened with might?
The phrase seems to be something of a subjective and spacey request. However, the Bible does not specialize in etherial concepts. So the question to be asked is what the concrete and practical request actually is. For this, we need to take a look at places where it has happened in the Bible. The two biggest that I can think of are Stephen (as discussed in part two) and Jesus. To shortcut the discussion of Stephen, we have already looked at how the self-revelation of God affected the martyr in that he was given extreme boldness to declare the things that he had seen before the Sanhedrin, and was thus lead to his death. Since that is relatively self-evident, I think time would be better served if we jump directly to Jesus.
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.– Luke 22:41-44
So, let’s set the scene a little bit. Jesus has already had what we call “the last supper” with the Disciples, and he knows that Judas is on his way with the soldiers who are going to bring Jesus to the High Priest. Jesus is in Gethsemane and is praying the whole “let this cup pass from me” thing in preperation for some of the most intense pain and agony that any human being has ever felt, and an angel shows up to “strengthen him”. This happens immediately prior to two specific events. First, after being strengthened, Jesus is “in agony” in prayer and sweating drops of blood. So being strengthened by a divine hand means that you will have the ability to go deeper in prayer. the second major event after this episode is the crucifiction itself. Which means that being strengthened means having an ability to endure an intense amount of hardship and pain for the sake of the Word of God. This second meaning is probably the biggest key due to the context of Ephesians 3 being mostly about suffering in one way or another. In essence, being strengthened with might means having the ability to accomplish the plans of God and endure the hardship the comes with it.
I think one of the interesting things is how Paul clarifies that this happens in the inner man. It’s not like you are going to suddenly become the Incredible Hulk and chunk the dude trying to kill you into outer-space. To be sure, God has done some very crazy stuff in the physical world (ie, Peter getting led out of prison and nobody noticing or David throwing a rock hard enough to break a man’s face in two), but this is geared to the strengthening of the will and the spirit. While physical torture hurts (hence, “torture”), the more deadly effect is the one that such torture takes out on your resolve. If you are resolute in your conviction, no amount of pain is going to change your mind. This, then, connects to the next idea: that of Christ dwelling in your heart through faith.
Now, obviously we are not talking about a man with a physical frame taking up residence in the blood-pumping organ residing in your chest… there isn’t much room in there as it is. The Greek word used there (kardia) can denote the actual heart, but it is more commonly used to describe the thoughts and feelings. So what does it mean for Christ to dwell in your heart by faith?
I think firstly it is the developement of the character of Christ in your thoughts and feelings. What does this mean practically? The Sermon on the Mount. (yay!) It is the meekness of turning the other cheek, the love of truth, the desire for righteousness… all of it. The second facet of this reality would be the mystical union of believers with God through the Holy Spirit. Just as much as we become partakers of the crucifiction through salvation, we become partakers of the resurrection through the power of the Holy Spirit afterwards. It is because of this that we then become one with God and are truly joined with Christ in New Life. To me, this is the essence of Christ dwelling in our hearts: the promise that “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” (Romans 8:11)
That’s enough for now… Part Four soon to come.