Strengthened in the inner man

Dr. Bill Helton From a Pastor’s Heart

October 27, 2013

(Ephesians 3:14–21)

This passage is the second of two prayers recorded in Ephesians, the first one being Ephesians 1:15–23. In the first prayer, the emphasis is on enlightenment; but in this prayer, the emphasis is on enablement. It is not so much a matter of knowing as being. It is worth noting that both of these prayers, as well as the other prison prayers (Philippians 1:9–11; Colossians. 1:9–12), deal with the spiritual condition of the inner man, and not the material needs of the body. Paul knew that if the inner man is what he ought to be, the outer man will be taken care of in due time. Too many of our prayers focus only on physical and material needs and fail to lay hold of the deeper inner needs of the heart.

The first thing that strikes us is Paul’s posture: “I bow my knees.” You can see an emphasis on spiritual posture in Ephesians. As lost sinners, we were buried in the graveyard (Ephesians 2:1). But when we trusted Christ, He raised us from the dead and seated us with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:4–6). Because we are seated with Christ, we can walk so as to please Him (Ephesians 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15); and we can stand against the devil (Ephesians 6:10–13). But the posture that links “sitting” with “walking” and “standing” is “bowing the knee.” It is through prayer that we lay hold of God’s riches that enable us to behave like Christians and battle like Christians. Whether we actually bow our knees is not the important thing; that we bow our hearts and wills to the Lord and ask Him for what we need is the vital matter.

There are four requests in Paul’s prayer, but they must not be looked on as isolated, individual petitions. He prays that the inner man might have spiritual strength, which will, in turn, lead to a deeper experience with Christ. This deeper experience will enable you to “comprehend” (get hold of) God’s great love, which will result in your being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life is evidence of salvation (Romans 8:9); but the power of the Spirit is enablement for Christian living, and it is this power that Paul desires for his readers. The power of the Spirit is given to us “according to the riches of His glory” (Ephesians 3:16). How marvelous that God does not give the Spirit’s power to us “out of His riches” but “according to”—which is a far greater thing. If I am a billionaire and I give you ten dollars, I have given you out of my riches; but if I give you a million dollars, I have given to you according to my riches. The first is a portion; the second is a proportion.

Paul uses three pictures here to convey this idea of spiritual depth, and the three pictures are hidden in the three verbs: “dwell,” “rooted,” and “grounded.” The verb dwell carries the idea of “to settle down and feel at home.” Certainly Christ was already resident in the hearts of the Ephesians, or else Paul would not have addressed them as “saints” in Ephesians 1:1. What Paul is praying for is a deeper experience between Christ and His people. The verb rooted moves us into the plant world. The tree must get its roots deep into the soil if it is to have both nourishment and stability; and the Christian must have his spiritual roots deep into the love of God. Paul prayed that the believers might have a deeper experience with Christ, because only a deep experience could sustain them during the severe trials of life.

Paul’s concern is that we lay hold of the vast expanses of the love of God. Believers have an inheritance in four dimensions: breadth, length, depth, and height. But there is a paradox here. Paul wants us to know personally the love of Christ “which passeth knowledge.” There are dimensions, but they cannot be measured. “The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,” parallels “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). We are so rich in Christ that our riches cannot be calculated, even with the most sophisticated computer.

It is tragic when Christians use the wrong measurements in examining their own spiritual lives. We like to measure ourselves by the weakest Christians that we know, and then boast, “Well, I’m better than they are.” Paul tells us that the measure is Christ and that we cannot boast about anything (nor should we).

After contemplating such a marvelous spiritual experience, it is no wonder Paul bursts forth in a doxology in Ephesians 3:20-21, a fitting benediction to such a prayer. Note again the Trinitarian emphasis in this benediction: Paul prays to God the Father, concerning the indwelling power of God the Spirit, made available through God the Son. Paul seems to want to use every word possible to convey to us the vastness of God’s power as found in Jesus Christ. This power works in us, in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). It is the Holy Spirit who releases the resurrection power of Christ in our lives. Why does God share His power with us? Is it so that we can build great churches for our own glory? Is it so that we can boast of our own achievements? No! “To Him be glory in the church!” But the amazing thing is that what we do in His power today will glorify Christ “throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 3:21). The church’s greatest ministry is yet to come. What we do here and now is preparing us for the eternal ages, when we shall glorify Christ forever. He is able to do all—above all—abundantly above all—exceeding abundantly above all! Are you ready to be strengthened in the inner man? Trust Christ!