Ephesians 3:14&15 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
Of course I study the Bible and books about the Bible, but for a few days each week I search them in particular preparation for my preaching. I often read some great Christian minds on the themes of these various texts. My privilege this week has been to begin to study this prayer. It must be one of the most majestic prayers of intercession recorded anywhere in the Bible. Of course there is John 17, the prayer of Christ in the Upper Room; there is the prayer of Solomon at the opening of the Temple in I Kings 8; there is the prayer of the early church in Acts 4 at the release of Peter and John from prison. Yet in this prayer in Ephesians vast longings erupt from the greatest of all Christians within the briefest compass. The prayer is all intercession. There is little thanksgiving, and no confession. There is the briefest adoration of God as Father, and then Paul brings this Ephesian congregation to God and asks the Lord to bless them in certain mighty ways. The prayer is characterised by a profound sense of worship and a new covenant boldness and a virtual intoxication with God; how transcendent are the requests which Paul makes. This is how it is possible to pray, with confidence to ask for so much, and yet with a holy awe. No other religion has anything like this combination.
Prayer is the articulation of our faith in the God of the Bible, the Creator of the vast universe, the One who has made himself known to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. We have entrusted ourselves to Christ’s blood and righteousness for our salvation, and we daily trust in him and our praying declares that reality. It is a sin not to pray, not to have dealings with this God. There was an interview in the Times yesterday with a model. I’d never heard of her, but she had a page to herself. The interviewer asked her, “Do your exercise your soul?” That is a great question isn’t it? This was the model’s answer; “Oh yes. Whenever someone is doing my make-up or doing my hair. It gives me time to think and to discover what really matters to me. It can help to put things into perspective.” She trivialises her soul. She makes a convenience of God. She is going to live as long as God. Let her get that in perspective, but she will give God that time when she is trapped in her chair as the make-up artists are doing their stuff.
1. SOME PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT PRAYING.
Let me begin with four observations about the subject of prayer and praying before we start to consider specifically what Paul says here.
i] This prayer is a wonderful example of theological devotion.
There is a very real danger of untheological devotion, and it is here especially that we weigh in the balances theological modernism and find it wanting, not just in modernism’s denial of great truths and revealed doctrines but in its failure to have developed Christian piety in the churches where it has settled. Where do you find together in one professing congregation a modernist pulpit and a thriving weekly prayer meeting, where men and women earnestly and humbly lead the congregation in an orderly way in adoration, intercession and worship? Such a combination does not exist. Either the praying is going to kill the modernism and then the preacher will get converted, or the modernism will kill the praying, and that is generally what happens. But there have also been remarkable instances of the former. There is the case of William Haslam the vicar in Baldhu, in Cornwall. We have been to the sad ruins of the church building in Baldhu where a great work of grace was done in the 19th century. The godly in the congregation were praying for their pastor Haslam, and one Sunday as he himself was preaching it was then that the word and Spirit affected his own heart and he was converted. People in the congregation could see what had happened and the cry went up, “The parson’s got converted! The preacher’s got saved.” In that church the modernist pulpit caught up with the evangelical prayer meeting. It is all recorded in Haslam’s biography which has been recently reprinted. But it rarely happens that the pulpit is captured for truth like that. Usually the prayer meeting gets contaminated by the modernism in the pulpit and then devotion and intercession and zeal all wither and die.
We must also weigh in the balances the modern charismatic movement and contemporary evangelicalism as they have girded the globe. We have to say that we find much of them lacking in God-centred devotion that is Christological to its core, and that is what we long for. We can overlook much else if we find that. The pastoral prayer is one of the central features of our worship. In it the minister leads the congregation in their longings, fears, confession of sin and love for God. In all the religious services featured on religious television such praying is never featured. TV simply cannot come to terms with it, and into the vacuum which its absence provides yet more smart-suited ‘personalities’ and histrionic singing are poured. Everything is out of balance because of that devotional void at the heart of those services. While there is scarcely an example of the early church singing recorded anywhere in the New Testament there are references to and examples of its praying everywhere. Paul’s adoring wonder of God flamed up to heaven, and in his epistles we see a boundless yearning for the Lord – “O that I might know him” – and his total satisfaction in God.
We also have to weigh up ourselves, the modern Reformed movement and ask whether our praying – our spirit of devotion – reflects the greatness of the God we proclaim. I simply comment that this prayer in Ephesians 3 needs to shape more of what we are accustomed to hear; it must characterise our own devotions. How our own praying – my own praying – needs to be deepened and strengthened, but the Lord has taught us to cast ourselves on him. Our understanding of the sovereignty of grace, that salvation is of the Lord, does bring us habitually to God for his mercy to be shown. We’ve been stripped of all our confidence in the engineering of man. “Thou must save and Thou alone.” I was gratified to read two days ago a letter from Dr. Joel Beeke describing his visit to South Wales last week where he spoke at the Word and Spirit Conference held in Bryntirion Seminary in Bridgend. This is what he writes, and I found it encouraging: “Precious prayer meetings are held at this conference. The quality of the prayers, as I expected, are very high. This is my fourth trip to Wales and I never cease to be amazed at the gift of prayer given to the Welsh. I know of nothing like it anywhere else in the world. How they come to the mercy seat adoring God for who He is, and then beseeching Him to send revival and to pour out His Spirit.” Here is a man from the North American Dutch scene who is not writing those things to curry favour with the Welsh, but from his travels all over the world this is the praying that impresses him. We lament our praying, but here is an encouragement from a much esteemed and godly man who is crying to us, “Pray on!”
So Pauline theology needs to saturate and structure our devotional lives. I am not thinking about theologians praying. I am thinking about the Welsh tradition of Calvinistic Methodism that affected every nonconformist denomination in Wales. I am thinking of our forefathers who were miners and quarrymen and iron-workers and farmers and the wives of those men. They walked a mile or two to the Prayer Meeting and when they were called upon to pray there was a ‘pitch’ to their devotion, in its texture and richness and creativity and God-centredness, which could be incredibly moving. Ann Griffiths the Welsh hymn writer is a product of that kind of Christian. One reason many prayers, both public and private, are dry, cold, and repetitive is because there is so little Christology in them. As Alexander Whyte complained in his day, “I don’t mean that there is too little New Testament language in our prayers; but there is too little both Old and New Testament language meditated on, understood, believed, realised and felt. There is too little Scripture substance, Scripture strength, Scripture depth, and Scripture height, in our prayers.” I feel that is true of my own praying. So here in this prayer in Ephesians 3 we have Paul’s wonderful piety showing us the possibility of fluent, warm, high theological devotion coming from a life consumed with the living God. This is how John Murray prayed at the beginning of his lectures in Systematic Theology in Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.
ii] How often Paul writes about his praying and expresses his prayers.
Don Carson has a book on the prayers of the apostle Paul and in one section he prints out all the apostle’s prayers. How many would you think there are in Paul’s letters? There are actually 42 places in which the apostle expresses his intercession for others or his thanksgiving for them. Forty-two! Paul has a well-known phrase describing his own intercession which is this, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit.” In other words, when he woke up in the morning he appropriated his great High Priest Jesus Christ. When he filled his bowl with water and washed he cried to God for a clean heart. When he clothed himself he cried, “And clothe me in your righteousness now and ever.” When they brought him his meagre prison fare he thanked God for it and he also prayed that his soul would be filled with good things. So on, night and day, Paul prayed without ceasing. Let me quote some words of Alexander Whyte again:
“I will be bold, and particular, and personal, at this point, and will say one thing of the foremost importance to you and to myself, that we must imitate Paul in this, and take far more time to prayer than we have ever yet taken. I am as certain as I am standing here, that the secret of much mischief in our souls, and to the souls of others, lies in the way that we stint, and starve, and scamp our prayers, by hurrying over them. Prayer worth calling prayer: prayer that God will call true prayer and will treat as true prayer, takes far more time, by the clock, than one man in a thousand thinks . . . If you find your life of prayer to be always so short, and so easy, and so spiritual, as to be without cost and strain and sweat to you, you may depend upon it, you have not yet begun to pray. As sure as you sit there and I stand here, it is just in this matter of time in prayer that so many of us are making shipwreck of our own souls, and of the souls of others.”
The danger with Alexander Whyte’s emphasis on clock-watching, considering the actual minutes we spend in prayer, is that it can tend to pride. You see the man blowing out his cheeks and saying, “Well, I’ve done my half-an-hour again today . . .” Let’s avoid that. Surely virtually every one of us laments our inattention and mind-wandering in our praying. Let me share something with you that I found helpful in John Piper’s book on the ministry, “Brothers We Are Not Professionals” (pp. 36&37). He is talking about reading, but its application to praying is evident. We all tend to say we don’t have time to pray and our lives seem to be lived in snatches, but how much praying you can do in fifteen minutes. This is what John Piper says about reading books: “Say that you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read about five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-and-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 times 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. Assume that an average book is 250 pages long. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year.” So you could read the two volumes of John Calvin’s Institutes in six months. John Piper goes on: “This helpful discovery freed me from the paralysis of not starting great, mind-shaping, heart-enriching books because I lacked enough big blocks of time. It turns out that I don’t need long periods of time in order to read three masterpieces in one year. I needed twenty minutes a day, six days a week” Then John Piper talks of three such periods of twenty minutes, when you get up, then lunch-time and finally before you go to bed. That would result in reading thirty-six medium-sized books in a year. Apply those ideas to our praying, when we think we do not have the time, what might be achieved in little slots of our time day by day.
iii] Prayer is the measure of what we are.
There is the memorable quotation of the young Robert Murray M’Cheyne, that “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.” The Scripture makes it clear that the Christian lives his life before the eye of God. Everything the Christian is he is before God. Live near to God, and everything will appear to you to be small in comparison with the sight of those eternal realities. I once heard Al Martin exhorting ministers about their communion with God, saying that “the man of God must strive to maintain a real, expanding, and varied acquaintance with God and his ways.” Real. Our acquaintance with God can’t be something formal or professional. Expanding. Our fellowship with God must be growing – we are to be transformed from one level of glory to another. If Christians aren’t expanding in their knowledge of God and his ways then they are shrinking. Varied. Through trials, blessings, opposition, unanswered prayer, poor health, pains and gains we are driven in our need to God. The most telling fact of a Christian is his private life before God, in all the vulnerability and nakedness of his soul, exposed to an open Bible, responding to the God who speaks to him there. Men who are mighty with God are mighty in this, though they may be the last to recognise it.
In C.S.Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters” a junior devil is asking the senior devil Screwtape for help in preventing a baby Christian growing. “If you can’t keep him from prayer altogether,” Screwtape writes, “keep him focusing on his feelings, or get him to pray to some imaginary thing, an object like a crucifix, or someone at the corner of the bedroom ceiling.” But the junior devil discovers to his alarm that this new Christian is learning to turn from his feelings. He is casting himself on that completely real, external, invisible Presence there with him in the room. Then the devil is losing the battle for that Christian’s soul. The man of God knows a real acquaintance with God in the secret place. And lastly this;
iv] The Christian can always pray.
There are two observations which Dr. Lloyd-Jones makes as he begins to look at this prayer. “We have become a generation of Christians that tend to live on meetings. That may sound strange at a time when church attendance is very low. Nevertheless I think it is true that those who still gather together tend to depend overmuch on their attendance, and to feel that when they are laid aside on their beds in sickness there is nothing that they can do except wait until they get well again. That is an utter fallacy. Paul was very active and busy in prison. He spent some of his time, we gather, in praying for various churches. We find in the prison epistles that he says he is praying constantly, daily, for them.
“Though he is a prisoner, though a malignant enemy has arrested him and has put him into bonds, and has made it impossible for him to visit them at Ephesus and to preach to them, or to go anywhere to preach, there is one thing that the enemy cannot do, and that is, he cannot prevent him from praying. Paul can still pray. The enemy cannot confine him to a cell, he can bolt the doors, he can chain him to soldiers, he can put bars in the windows, he can hem him in and confine him physically, but he can never obstruct the way from the heart of the humblest believer to the heart of the Eternal God. In many ways in this uncertain modern world of ours this is one of the most comforting and consoling truths we can ever learn. Think what it means to hundreds, not to say thousands of Christian people in various parts of the world at this moment” (D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ”, Banner of Truth, 1979, pp. 109 & 107). So here was a man with burdens enough about his own condition. You hear people say, “I have enough troubles of my own without praying for other people’s troubles,” but that thought never entered Paul’s mind. He gathered these people to his heart and he prayed for them.
So there are four general observations about prayer. Now let us begin to look at this particular prayer. Let me begin with this point as it may be the more difficult to explain;
2. PAUL SETS BEFORE US THE LIVING GOD AS THE FATHER.
Notice how Paul calls him “the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (v.15). People used to say that nobody before Jesus had called God ‘Father.’ That is not true. Plenty of people in Judaism called God ‘Father.’ People used to say that the word ‘Abba’ was a little child’s word, ‘Daddy,’ and that Jesus had given to the world a new intimacy with God, but that isn’t true either. ‘Abba’ is a word with much wider use than simply on the lips of children. The first occurrence in the Scriptures of the idea of God as Father comes when Moses marches in boldly to stand before Pharaoh. He says, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn; let my people go, so that they may serve me” (Ex. 4:22&23). For Israel to call God ‘Father’ was to hold on to the hope of liberty. The slaves were to be called sons.
The Lord Jesus told his disciples when they prayed to call God ‘Father.’ Here was hope; here was freedom; here was revolution. The Creator of the heavens and the earth is our Father, don’t you know? This Father has sent his Son to end our bondage and give us abundant life, and that is what the people of God clung to in their darkest times: “Surely you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us” (Isaiah 63:16): “We are always going to cling to this hope that you surely are our Father even when we are 70 long years in Babylonian exile.” Here were these Christians in Ephesus, a city under the power of the Temple of Diana, a community which was a part of Caesar’s dominion. When would this tyranny of idolatry and evil end? “Surely our Father knows!” Addressing him as ‘Father’ was not simply reassuring and comforting, it was a deeply challenging title. When you call God ‘Father’ it is a great act of faith, of holy boldness. Saying ‘Our Father’ means stepping out in faith into a world which doesn’t seem to have a father, where babies are left to be exposed in the night and eaten by packs of dogs, where young girls are abused, where sacrifices are made to idols, and where young men are crucified. Doesn’t this seem to be a world without a Father? But Paul says what every Christian says, “I kneel before the Father.”
God is our Father because all creation came from him. We are all, in that sense, God’s offspring, made in his image. Even the angels were made by the Father of spirits and they are also called the sons of God. Have we not all one Father? The devil is uncreative; he made nothing. In the beginning our Father created the heavens and the earth.
“This is my Father’s world,
And to my listn’ing ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
O let me not forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world;
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.” (Maltbie D.Babcock, 1901)
More than that is intended here; God is the Father of every one of his people by a birth from above. To as many as received Christ to them God gave the right to be called the children of God, to every one who has been born of God. God has given them that authority, saying, “You are to think of yourself as one of my children, and you must always think of me as your Father.” That is the status of every Christian. This same God, to underline this reality, has gone on to give us the Spirit of adoption. By the Holy Spirit we can call God, ‘Abba, Father.’ But more than that, God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and so, because we are in Christ, that is another ground for us addressing him as our Father. He loves us with the identical fatherly love with which he loves his eternal Son. I am sure that you cannot believe that! “God loves me with the same affection as his affection for Jesus Christ? He can look at me and say to me, ‘You are my beloved Son. I’m pleased with you’? Surely not!” I say that it is wonderfully true, because you are in Christ, and that is how your Father views you. He cannot see you outside of his Son. Hear me! Because God is the Father of the Redeemer he must be the Father of the Redeemed. So haven’t we much entitlement as Christians to look into the great smiling face of God and call him our Father?
But Paul goes on to say one last thing, that from this Father, “his whole family in heaven and earth derives its name” (v.15). Which family is Paul referring to? If we translate the phrase, “the Father of whom every fatherhood is named” then we are being told this truth that God is the archetypal father, and we can say, for example, to people who have had abusive fathers, “Don’t look at them as the model father, look at the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He’ll never treat you like your own miserable Dad who hurt you so much. Look to God and learn what fathering is all about.” There is the absurd theory of Sigmund Freud that fatherhood has come to mankind by projection, that is, we invented God up there – we projected him high in heaven – because we needed a heavenly father figure. No! Paul says that this mighty Father came first. Nor has fatherhood come to us by the survival of the fittest, evolution deciding that fatherhood of a family is the most enduring and powerful pattern. No! The very notion of fatherhood derives from God. He is the source of all conceivable fatherhood. Can’t you understand the frustration of fathers involved in divorces when they are refused access to their children? That strikes at something at the very heart of their personal identity.
We can also look at this phrase and say that the family refers to the family of faith, of that great company who love God, both men and angels too; the family of the church on earth now, the family of the spirits of just men made perfect who have finished their earthly race and are now in heaven, and the family of the angels. They all get that name ‘family’ from the same one Father. He is the source of our fellowship and unity. You think of a large far-flung family who at every Christmas return to the family home where their widowed father greets them and renews his love for them all. He is the source of their existence by right of begetting; he is the source of their oneness by reason of his love for them all. So God is the Father of us all; he gathers us up in Christ and he indwells each one of us and is preparing this great homecoming for all his vast family.
Christians belong to God’s family. On Friday night a woman itinerant slept on the steps of this church with her two dogs. She doesn’t belong to anyone or anywhere and only her two dogs belong to her. There is no one who says ‘Goodnight’ to her. Most of us would feel desolate at ‘not belonging’, of having no anchorage. One of the greatest spiritual and psychological blessings a man can experience is to find a place where he belongs and where the people love him as a brother. In the security of a family relationship he can find himself and realise his true personality. It is one of the greatest needs of our time to promote family fellowship in the church of Christ. What rewards there are for those who take the local church as the family of faith, who are prepared to lay down their lives for their brethren. Our Brother Jesus did that and we are to love one another in the family in the same way. What blessing comes upon such love.
3. PAUL TELLS US THE OCCASION OF THIS TIME OF PRAYER.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father” (v.14). Go back to verse one and see the same words of introduction, “For this reason I, Paul, . . .” and then, instead of praying he got side-tracked. His intention had been to tell them back there in his letter what his longings for them were, but Paul saw the crucial importance of opening up more of this theme of the New Covenant church, and the wonderful revealed mystery of Jew and Gentile henceforth as equal members of that church. Now, thirteen verses later, he has discharged that duty, expounded that theme, and he can return to what his prayers for them are all about. Two things regarding this occasion;
i] Paul kneels before the Father.
This is how Paul begins, “For this reason I kneel before the Father . . .” (v.14). Notice when he talks about worship in verse 12 he says, “we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” We may do that anywhere, “when through the woods and forest glades I wander . . . then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee how great thou art.” In the countryside we approach God. When we are flying in a plane and want to talk to the person next to us we approach God first for help. There is no place we cannot, as it were ‘kneel’ and lay hold of the love and wisdom and power of God. I don’t mean literally kneel down, but to raise our hearts and souls to address our God. The posture of kneeling speaks of the urgency and seriousness of praying. It’s not an activity that you reserve for times when your make-up is being put on and your hair is being done!
Isn’t it very significant that we are told of an occasion when the Lord Jesus himself knelt down and prayed? If there was anyone who had the right to casually talk to God any time and any way it was the incarnate Son of God, but we are told when he approached God in prayer he knelt down. It was his submission to God as sent by the Father, as now veiled in the likeness of sinful flesh, in our lowly condition, in this fallen world that constrained him to kneel, even though he was wholly without sin. It showed his humbling himself, his great reverence and godly fear of the One whom he always addressed as his Father. If the Son of God worshipped God like that how much more should we display the same reverence when we are dealing with the Holy One – we men who desire to do good but actually do evil every day?
So, kneeling to pray became common in the early church. There is that wonderful scene at the harbour actually in Ephesus (where this letter is being sent) some years earlier when all the elders to say goodbye to beloved Paul. They are in tears because he has told them that they will not see his face again. He speaks to them and charges them to care for the flock. Then we are told Paul said, “Let us pray,” and that he knelt down to pray and they all knelt down too. It is an incredible scene. The harbour at Ephesus bustled! It was the Heathrow terminal of the day with multitudes of people coming and going, but there in the midst of all that activity there is this group. I cannot but believe that after his charge to the elders most of the congregation came to bid farewell to Paul, that is, hundreds and hundreds of people, men, women and children, and they are all kneeling down in the dust and praying silently as one man’s voice is heard leading them all. So Paul uses this figure of speech when he speaks of prayer. He could have said, “I pray to God,” but he uses the metaphor, “I kneel before the Father.”
I don’t think Paul actually felt it necessary whenever he prayed to literally go down on his knees. In the Bible people also stand to pray, and David sat down when he prayed. Posture is not the crucial thing. Let us beware of a formalism that stresses the outward as the essence of prayer, and let us also beware of license that says that you can worship God any way you want as long as it’s OK with you. Rather there must always be reverence and godly fear, and there must also be freedom and confidence. Both these attitudes we must maintain in true worship. Let’s make sure we don’t slip into the one or the other extreme. When we pray with our little children as we put them to bed then we pray very simply so that they can understand, but there is still a great awe for God in our voices as we thank him for entrusting to us a child. What Paul is saying is that his prayers for the Ephesians Christians were not haphazard, or accidental but very deliberate. He knelt before God when he carefully prayed for them.
ii] Paul has a certain reason to pray at this time.
What is this ‘reason’ Paul talks about here for his praying for them? You see how he says, “For this reason I kneel before God” (v.14). Why do we pray for certain people? We love them; we are concerned about them; their plight has touched our hearts. Then there are certain times when we particularly pray for them, and this was one such time. Paul has real people in mind, people who knelt down with him by the sea, and prayed and wept with him as they kept waving goodbye gazing out to sea until all they could see of his boat were the sails on the horizon.
Paul could remember when many of them were converted. They had been, humanly speaking, hopeless cases, virtual trash in the eyes of the world. He had seen what a glorious thing God does when he regenerates a sinner and makes everything new. Paul thought of his conversations and prayers with them, how he had helped them when they were guilty and discouraged and had lost their assurance. Paul spent a few years with them and here he has spent almost three chapters telling them about all the privileges they have in Christ by the grace of God. They have been made alive when they were dead in sin, and now they are members of the body of Christ. From alienation to sonship – these Ephesian sinners. From worshipping the goddess Diana to worshipping the true and living God – these Ephesians sinners. They are on his heart as he writes to them and he naturally prays for them, as he constantly does, that they will act and live in such a way as becomes a people who have been so divinely favoured.
“I am asking, Father, that these people in Ephesus live a transformed life, that they live in newness of life, elevated above the lifestyles of the world they inhabit. I want there to be a difference in their behaviour as a result of their Christian experience. I pray that there will be majesty, and power, and love, and knowledge.” Those are the concerns of this prayer. Paul longs for a transformation in them of those dimensions, a transformation comparable to the effect of Jesus Christ the Son of God living in their hearts, a transformation such as to argue that in them now is the working of an Almighty Saviour. As they faced the temptations of life Paul longed that the way they emerged declared that they had faced them and overcome them by the power of an indwelling Lord. As they underwent whatever life held for them of suffering, Paul wanted them to have the courage and patience that would argue that the Lord was holding them by his strength and was making over to them all the resources of his power.
It was one of the great and urgent questions for the early church, what would be the life, the bearing of these first Christians in the absence and at the death of the apostles. Were they going to be light in Ephesus? Would they be the salt of the earth? Would they be shining in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation? Did their lives bear testimony not only to Pauline theology but to the reality and the relevance of the power they preached? It is the very same question challenging us. Our own lives, are they new? Are they different? Are they transfigured? Are they loving and wise? Are they filled with all the fulness of God? Is it a transformation according to the indwelling of Jesus Christ? That is the key; “Through Christ we are different, because we are in him, and he is in us. I am united to him, a member of his flesh and of his bones. In me there is his presence – the presence of a risen Saviour.”
This is not the privilege of an elite. Paul is not praying for the eminent believers in Ephesus. There was not a child of God, no man nor woman born again, but that person had these privileges, an indwelling Lord, strengthened by the might of God’s power through his Spirit in their inner being. That is why their lives were new, because they faced all the sufferings of confessing Christ in Ephesus with him; they faced the wiles of the devil with him; they faced their obligations with him. The great thrust of this prayer is that the Ephesian Christians should be what they are. They should reckon themselves to have his Spirit in their inner beings, and that Christ was dwelling in their hearts through faith. Were they living like that? Were they living powerfully? Living in Christ? Living in the Spirit? Living by their resources? Our Redeemer is strong, and he has strengthened every Christian to be strong. The Lord expects me to live according to what he has done in me, and according to the resources he has made available to me, and this is what Paul is praying for concerning these Ephesians in this extraordinary prayer.
18th July 2004 GEOFF THOMAS