Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Great Prayer – Of Strengthened Love

Ephesians is a common favourite of the discerning Bible-loving believer. I was reminded only recently of the wonderful two-fold structure of this gem from Paul, who was imprisoned when he wrote it. The ending of the first part of this book contains a heartfelt prayer for the Ephesians and it’s a clear biblical favourite.

Paul beseeches God on behalf of the Ephesians, in radical love. He pleads that the Ephesians might come to truly know Christ, and his “strengthened love which surpasses all knowledge.”[1]

He approaches the prayer in Ephesians 3:14-15 paying homage to God; the appeal of the prayer comes in verses 16-19; and, the prayer comes to a beautifully thespian crescendo of praise in verses 20-21.[2]

Paul is taken up in rapturous notes of inspired action in throwing himself before God as he advances on the throne of grace in prayer. He connects theologically the relationship of Son to Father and the context of the Ephesians as co-heirs in Christ, through faith. He then intercedes for them that Christ may indeed grant them “according the wealth of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person” (v. 16).

‘To be strengthened with power’ in the biblical context is an amazing concept; one that we can only barely grasp. Certainly only the born-again person could even begin to contemplate the vast riches in the height, depth, width and breadth of Christ’s overwhelming and superabundant love. But even to us, this is a mystery.

And we know, of course, that faith is central--in this way alone Christ ‘dwells’ in our hearts. Indeed, the Amplified has it: “May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts!” (v. 17a.) In this we see that faith is the ongoing invitation for the Holy Spirit to prevail over us, propagating our initial faith.

Faith in Christ at the fullest extreme is a very large meal--it is a lot to contend with, but not in a burdensome way. We’re simply awed by the measure of the fullness of him who is God. As we make room in our hearts for Jesus, by way of holy and virtuous living, he takes further root and squeezes out any last vestige of prevailing sin. That is the glorious theory, to the making of a devoted saint. (Of course, we know that sin is never defeated entirely; until the final day that is!)

Our sanctified holiness is hence entirely dependent on how well we accommodate God in our hearts. Where we make room he will fill. The more room made the more space he’ll occupy. And this is Paul’s wish--that the Ephesians will become transcended in the ongoing heavenly transaction.

And what could we say about the doxology (praise of God’s glory) that completes the prayer? It is a majestic symphony of wonder-filled praise for God’s inherent nature; the fact of his being.

We know that God surprises us serially--his dimensions in this life are simply beyond comprehension, and the moves and motives of him above are never truly understood. And the incredible thing for Paul and the Ephesians--and even ourselves--is the opportunity to be vehicles of this awesome power of love and grace.

This power works in and through us. We are his messengers as we accommodate and cooperate with the Spirit in ways we don’t fully understand; therein lays faith and the expectation of miracles of his grace in daily life.

“To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it)” –Ephesians 3:21 (Amplified).

[1] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House/Baker Academic, 2002), p. 471.

[2] Hoehner, Ibid, p. 471-96.

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