We are studying together the book of Ephesians under the series of Revealing the Gospel and we have now come to the second half of chapter 3 of Ephesians, verses 13 to 21. We have already seen that the whole plan of salvation was fulfilled in the holy history of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the first two chapters of this epistle, Paul expounds so beautifully the truth as it is in Christ. He revealed to us the matchless charms of our Lord, Jesus Christ in which redemption full and complete has been obtained for all mankind and that in our last study, chapter 3, verses 1 to 12, we saw that this wonderful gift of salvation includes the Gentile world. This is the divine mystery that was kept suppressed, kept hidden, in the past but now since the New Testament period has been revealed, first through Peter and then especially through Paul that the Gentiles were included in the plan of salvation.
Now, in this present study, we are coming to an extremely important section of this epistle of Ephesians. Chapter 3, verses 13 to 21 is dealing with the love of God and I have entitled this study as being "Rooted and Grounded in Love" because every Christian to be able to stand the fiery darts of Satan, to stand the pressures of this sinful world, must be rooted and grounded in love. Let me put it this way. There are two important facts that the New Testament brings out concerning the gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ that every Christian must be absolutely clear on. The first truth is the love of God. Why? Because the ground of our salvation is not our performance, is not our goodness; it is the unconditional, self-emptying love of God. We are saved because God loves us. Jesus made that clear in John 3:16: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Paul made that clear in Romans 5 where he says in verse 5 onwards that the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit and then he expounds that love. He says, while we were helpless, while we were enemies, while we were ungodly and while we were still sinners , we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. And by doing this, He demonstrated His love towards us. In Titus, chapter 3, verse 5, Paul tells us it isn't because of our righteousness but because of His mercy, because of His abundant love, He saved us. So the love of God is the ground of our salvation and every believer needs to know this.
Number two, the fact that God loves us unconditionally is not enough to save us because our God is a holy God; He is a righteous God; He is a just God; He cannot save us or redeem us or take us to heaven simply by excusing our sins. That would make Him an unjust God. His law makes it clear, the soul that sins, it must die. How did God save us? The second truth that every Christian must know is the "in Christ motif", the central theme of Paul's theology. And this is what we saw as we studied chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Ephesians. God took you; He took me; He took all mankind and put us into Christ at the incarnation and thus qualified Christ to be our Representative and our Substitute. When we and Christ became one in the incarnation; when God and man were united in the one Person, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ became the second Adam. This did not save us but this qualified Christ to be our Savior, our Representative, our Substitute. Then, by His perfect life which met the positive demands of the law and by His sacrificial death, which met the justice of the law, God gave mankind a new history, a new status in which we stand justified. And this is the good news of the gospel. This is what Jesus asked His disciples, commissioned His disciples, to preach into all the world. This is the mystery of salvation which includes the Gentile world. But all this was possible because of God's love. And this is what Paul is dealing with in chapter 3, verses 13 to 21.
Now to appreciate this passage, we must keep in mind the context, the historical context of this epistle. As I already mentioned several times, this epistle is a prison epistle. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel to the Gentile world. He was in a Roman dungeon but he had received news that his flock had become very discouraged, especially his flock at Ephesus, had become very discouraged. This is how they reasoned: "If God, (the supreme God that Paul proclaimed to them,) is not able to protect Paul, who is now languishing in a Roman prison, what hope is there for us?" And their faith began to dwindle and Paul heard about this and he writes this letter of encouragement. He first tells them that in Christ they have salvation full and complete and they should not be worried; they should not be discouraged. But now he is turning to the love of God. And listen to what he says in this passage. I am going to read the passage first and then I am going to explain verse by verse what Paul is saying here.
Ephesians 3, verses 13 to 21 and if you have your Bibles, dear reader, I recommend that you read it from your translation. I am going to read from my New Kind James. You follow whatever translations you have and listen to what Paul is saying in this tremendous passage. "Therefore, I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulation for you which is your glory." This is why he is writing about the love of God. They are losing heart because of his imprisonment. Verses 14 to 21: "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named 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. Now to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Isn't that a tremendous passage?
But what is Paul saying in it? First of all, as I mentioned, in verse 13 Paul is writing to a group of discouraged believers. They were discouraged because Paul was in prison and they were beginning to undermine the power of God, the protective power of God. And Paul is saying, "No, please, don't you ever get discouraged because of me. I am there because God wants me there." You see, Paul is not just a theologian; he has the heart of a pastor and because of the discouragement of his flock, he is saying, "I bow down my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Now, keep in mind, dear reader, that in the days of Paul, the typical attitude of prayer was standing up, facing heaven with your eyes open with your hands raised and praying to God. But whenever a person prayed with deep concern, then he would go on his knees. And this is what Paul is doing here. He is on his knees because he is deeply concerned about his flock who are discouraged. And he is deeply concerned for any saint that is discouraged. And listen to what he says in verse 15: "From whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." You see, God is the Creator of every created being, angels or human beings. And so, we all belong to the family of God by creation. This is the true God that Paul is addressing, the God of heaven, the God of creation. And he is saying in verse 16 and this is his prayer. Listen to his prayer because this prayer includes you and me. "That he, that is, God, would grant you, that is, us or any discouraged believer, according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man." Now that phrase, inner man, is a typical Pauline expression. And what does Paul mean by that? What does Paul mean that, "I want you to be strengthened with great might by his Spirit in the inner man?" Well, that term, inner man, is used only for the converted, born-again Christian. You will find it in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 16. You will find it in Romans 7, verse 22. It's a Pauline expression for the converted man.
Let me explain to you what he means by it. If you remember what Paul says in chapter 2 of Ephesians, verse 3 that we, while we were unconverted, served the sinful desires of the flesh and of the mind. You see, the unconverted man has no contradiction between his sinful nature and his mind. They both are in unison, in harmony with sin. But, when you accept Christ, a change takes place in the mind. That change is referred to as repentance. The Greek word means a change of mind. When a person is converted, he, by his mind, by his will, turns towards God in appreciation and gratitude and accepts the gift of God, Jesus Christ, as his or her personal Savior. But the sinful nature has not changed one iota so that the sinful nature of an unbeliever and the sinful nature of a believer are identical. The difference between a believer and an unbeliever is not the nature but the mind. In the believer, the mind has made a U-turn. It is no longer running away from God; it is now in harmony with God. And that is what Paul calls the inner man, the converted mind.
And Paul is saying that it is in this converted mind that I want you to be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit. You see, you can't be strengthened in the flesh because the flesh still is sinful and belongs to the realm or the camp of Satan but the converted mind belongs to God. The inner man belongs to God and that is where the Holy Spirit is controlling, the dwelling. He dwells in our spirit but he wants us to be strengthened with might in the inner man in the converted mind.
Now, how are we to be strengthened? Look at verse 17 of Ephesians 3: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you being rooted and grounded in love." You know, that first part of verse 17 puzzled me for a long time. I'll tell you why dear reader. Because Paul is saying here that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. He is praying to God that Christ may dwell in the hearts of these Ephesian believers. But the fact is that the believers already had Christ dwelling in them. Was he implying in verse 17 that the people to whom he is writing were unbelievers? And the answer is, "No" because in his introduction in Ephesians 1, he called them faithful in Christ. Then what does he mean by this prayer that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith? Well, the solution is found in the word "dwell." You see, the word "dwell" in English simply means "to reside" "residing in." In English it normally has one meaning but in the language in which the New Testament was written, there are two words in the Greek language, that can be translated into the English word "dwell." Now both come from the same root word but they have a different meaning. One of the words is patakeo and the other word is parakeo. They both come from the root word keo but the difference is this. Patakeo means to dwell permanently in a place. Parakeo is to dwell temporarily in a place. For example, when you are traveling on the freeway and you come to the end of the day, you're tired and you have not reached your destination so you book into a motel. You spend the night; you dwell that night in a motel. The word that the Greeks would have used is Parakeo. You are dwelling temporarily in that place. But when you return home, your permanent dwelling place, then the Greeks would use the word Patakeo. Now it is true that Christ dwells in every born-again Christian but the question is, "Is He dwelling in you permanently?" Please remember, it is possible for you to grieve the Holy Spirit and drive Him out of you. In Fact, Romans, chapter 4 will deal with this, especially verse 25 onwards. Paul will tell the believers, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by which you have been sealed unto the day of redemption." You know, in Matthew 10, Jesus told His disciples, especially verse 22, but the whole chapter. He told His disciples that they would be persecuted because of Him. They would be put in prison because of Him and only those whose faith endures unto the end, shall be saved.
In Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 35, the writer of Hebrews is telling the Jewish Christians, "Please, don't give up your confidence in Jesus Christ." Why? Because it has great recompense of reward. And then in verse 38, Paul says (that is who I believe wrote Hebrews), he says, "The just shall live by faith but if any man draw back, I will no longer have pleasure in him." And then in verse 39, he adds, "But we are not of those who draw back, but who believe unto the saving of the soul." The righteousness that saves you, dear reader, is in Christ. Nobody can touch that because Christ is in heaven where no thief can enter. But the faith by which that righteousness becomes yours is not in Christ; it is in you. That, the devil can destroy; that he can touch. And Paul's prayer is here to the discouraged listeners or readers. He says, "Please, my prayer is that Christ may dwell in you, not temporarily but permanently. He uses the word "kutikeo." And the only way that Christ can dwell in your hearts permanently is when you are rooted and grounded in Christ on the love of God. And for that to happen he says in verse 18 of Ephesians 3, "that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints (and that includes you; it includes me) that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Here is a statement that every Christian should understand.
You see, one of the biggest problems we Christians face is understanding the love of God. We have difficulty understanding the love of God for two reasons.
Number 1: There is a linguistic problem. We have only one word in English for love. The disciples had at least four words in the Greek language that uses the word for love. They chose a word that has no English equivalent. They chose the word "agape" "love" in the English language does a great injustice to God's definition of love by the word "agape." You see, there are at least three major distinctions which make human love completely contradicting God's love.
(1) Human love is conditional. It depends on outward beauty; it depends on goodness. We do not naturally love our enemies; we only know how to love the good ones, those that are good to us or our loved ones. We do not know how to love our enemies. It is unnatural for us. That is human love because it is conditional. It needs arousing because it depends on beauty, on goodness and so on. God's love, in complete contradiction is unconditional. It is uncaused; it doesn't depend on outward beauty, on goodness. That is why the New Testament makes it clear that while we were still sinners, God demonstrated His love towards us. You remember what Jesus said on the cross concerning the ones that were crucifying Him; He prayed to His Father and He said, "Father, forgive them." That is agape.
(2) Human love is changeable. The greatest evidence of this is the divorce rate in our country. Fifty-two percent of the marriages in this country end up in divorce and approximately forty-nine percent in the Christian church. Why? Because any marriage that is founded on human love is on shaky ground. The fact that a man comes to you, young lady, and says, "I love you. Will you marry me?" does not mean that he will love you three years later. He loves you right now because he wants you to marry him but three years down the road and sometimes even less, he may abuse you; he may hit you; he may insult you, physically and verbally. What has happened to his love? It has gone because it's changeable. Peter discovered this the hard way. He told Jesus in the upper room, "All the disciples may forsake you, but not me. I love you unconditionally and I will die for you." But when the test came in Pilate's courtyard, Jesus was denied by Peter three times and the third time by cursing and swearing. What happened to his love? It disappeared because human love is changeable; it's unreliable. But we are told in Jeremiah 31, verse 3 that God loves us with an everlasting love. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 8, where Paul defines that agape love, that agape love never fails. We are told in John 13, verse 1, that Jesus loved us to the very end.
We have a God who loves us unconditionally and whose love never stops. You know, there is a tremendous passage in Romans 8 which I would recommend you memorize. Chapter 8, verses 35 to 39 where Paul is asking the question, "Who will separate us from the love of God. Will persecution or distress or famine or nakedness" and his response is: "I am persuaded, I am convinced beyond any shadow of doubt, that nothing in this earth or in heaven or in the Satanic world, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God which was revealed in Jesus Christ." My dear reader, God's love is unconditional. God's love is changeless and God's love is self-emptying. You see, human love, at its very best, is motivated by self. We are egocentric by nature and this selfish nature has polluted every human act so that our love, even if sometimes it is wonderful, is polluted with self. But the love of God is self-emptying.
Jesus, we are told in Corinthians, was rich but He became poor that we who are poor may become rich. In that same book, chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians, we are told that Jesus was made sin that we might be made righteousness in Him. Jesus was willing to empty Himself, totally, for us. God so loved the world that He emptied heaven for us in giving us His only begotten Son. That's the kind of God we worship. And it is this love that you and I need to be rooted and grounded in. Paul uses two metaphors, rooted is from botany; grounded is from architecture. Deep roots and firm foundations are the necessity of every Christian if we are going to stand persecution and discouragement. And when you are rooted and grounded in this agape love, you are filled with the fullness of God because John, in his epistle 1 John, chapter 4, verse 8 and 16, tells us that God is love. He doesn't tell us that one of God's attributes is love. God is love, period. Everything about God is love, even his wrath must be understood in the concept of His love. And His judgments must be understood in the concept of His love. God is love and there will never come a time when He will stop loving you. Yes, you may stop loving Him but He will never stop loving you. And when you are rooted and grounded in this truth, when you comprehend with all the saints what is the width, height and depth and length of this love, when you are filled with the fullness of God, you will be able to stand the pressures of this life. The secret for Christ to permanently dwell in the believer, is for us to be rooted and grounded in the unconditional love of God.
And now, having said this, let us now turn to his benediction in verses 20 and 21 because chapter 4, with which we will begin our next study, is dealing with Christian ethics. You see, Paul always ends his epistles with "How should the gospel affect our Christian living." But let us look at his benediction. "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly." Have you got that, reader? God is able to do for you and me more than we ask and we think. That's the kind of God we worship. Why? Because God is a God of love and it is God's purpose that none perish. That is why He so loved the world while we were still sinners and He sent His Son, not to condemn the world but that through Him we might be saved. And so He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask and think according to the power that works in us.
You see, when Jesus redeemed all mankind "When I go to My Father, I will send you another Comforter." Do you know what word Jesus used? He used the word "paraklatos" and that word in Greek means "somebody who is by your side to comfort you, to strengthen you, to help you, to make your prayers meaningful." He is more than just a comforter as the King James puts it. He is more than that; He is a helper by your side; He is the power of God in you so that you may not be discouraged, that you may know in whom you believe, that you may be guided into all this truth that I am expounding from this Ephesians epistle. "To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." You see, the difference between the Christian God and the pagan god is this: the pagan god is up there; he will not step down and you through your sacrifices and through your good works must appease him so that you may be acceptable to him. The God you and I worship in Christianity is a God of love. He did not ask you to be good before He redeemed you. While we were sinners, He sent His Son down here to this earth. He emptied heaven. The God of the Christian religion is a God who came down to this earth, became one of us and by His perfect life and by His sacrificial death, He redeemed you and me, redeemed all mankind. The gospel is unconditional good news. God is not asking you to be good before He accepts you. Salvation is a gift for sinners. We are saved by grace, not by works.
It is true that the gospel produces a people that are excited about doing good works. Good works is the fruits of salvation but never the means. Then what is the means of our salvation? The love of God and the holy history of Jesus Christ. These are the two basic facts of the gospel, that God so loved the world and that He redeemed us through Jesus Christ. And it is my prayer that you will know this truth and this truth will set you free. Amen.