Power of Love

God’s immeasurable affection in Christ. (Ephesians 3.14-21)

Pastor Terry Inman

9-9-12

I will never forget sitting in my 1960 Mercedes Benz on campus in the beautiful Santa Cruz redwoods. I’m not sure were we had been but I had just pulled up to a parking spot near the men’s dorm.

Mary and I had been dating most our freshman year. I was in love or at least it sure felt like it to me. But I thought I was way to young to be thinking rationally about marriage. In my mind that was a way off but my emotions were telling me I wanted some assurance that she was feeling the same.  

I didn’t feel like I was ready for a formal proposal with a wedding date in mind so I blurted out. “Mary will you marry me sometime”? She said, yes and we cried, embraced and prayed.

I remember being overwhelmed by the idea that someone as lovely and Godly as Mary would want to be married to me for life. I didn’t feel I deserved her but I was very happy that she didn’t know that. About a year and half later we were married after my sophomore year.

Here’s one of my favorite wedding photos. This is a happy girl! Forty-four years later we may not be as emotional but our understanding and experience of love has greatly matured and we very happily married.

I can imagine the Apostle Paul reflecting on his life long journey with the infinite love of God. He records his own personal experience of being unworthy but chosen in Christ. He is overwhelmed by the privilege of making God’s boundless love known to both Jews and Gentiles.

Now in prison he thinks about the priceless value of this lavish gift. A man of many words struggles to define God’s love in Christ. It moves him once again to grateful prayer.    

These first three chapters of this Letter to the Ephesians are doctrinal. They are the principles of our faith in Christ. The next three are practical.

We have been talking a lot about what God has done for us in Christ in the heavenly realms. Next week we are going to bring it down to earth.

Paul will talk about how all these rich benefits “in Christ” impact our relationships and responsibilities here and now. He began this section with prayer and now he ends it the same way. This prayer is like a doxology, an expressive, exhilarating hymn of praise to God.

Both of these prayers from prison, the one in the first chapter and the one here at the end the third chapter are not about material external needs but focus on our internal spiritual needs.

In the first chapter the emphasis was on being “enlightened”.    Paul said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1.18-19 (NIV)

Now at the end of this chapter after sharing all that we have in Christ he prays that we would be “empowered”. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”  Ephesians 3.16 (NIV)

There noting wrong with praying for material needs, but our greatest needs are spiritual. When we grasp our position and provisions in Christ we will not be nearly as focused on this life’s comforts or discomforts.

Jesus told some poor Palestinian’s facing much greater economic challenges than ours not to worry so much about food, and clothing. He takes good care of the birds and the flowers why not us. He said the pagans run after these things but our heavenly Father already knows what we need. Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt. 6.28-34 (NIV)

There is a lot of “prosperity” teaching in the church today that is way out of balance. Paul is praying that we make an internal deposit of the real riches we have received “in Christ”. 

This prayer like can be broken into three stages. The Invocation, the opening calls to prayer, The Intercession, with four specific prayer requests and The Benediction, the closing blessing or affirmation.

An Invocation is a call or summons to a higher spiritual authority. In this case an appeal to God. Paul has been writing to the people of the congregation he planted in Ephesus. Now for the second time right in the middle of his script he stops the horizontal communication and goes vertical. He was taking to God about them now he talks to God for them.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Ephesians 3.14-15 (NIV)

“For this reason” is repeated from the first verse in this chapter. This time what motivates him to pray is the fact that Jews and Gentiles have been fully integrated into God’s family.

In the ancient Greek this is a play on words. Father is (patera) and family is (patria). Family here is a term that describes people of a common ancestry. He says we are all part of the “whole family” in heaven and earth. He wants them and us to fully enjoy all of our spiritual privileges.   

Standing was the typical Jewish posture in prayer but here Paul “kneels before the Father”.  It’s almost like a snapshot of the grateful prodigal son. Kneeling isn’t more religious; it is a position of submission, passion and adoration. Body language is important.

In Luke 18 Jesus tells a story about the posture of prayer. He compared a self-righteous Pharisee with a tax collector. The Pharisee “stood up” and prayed about himself. He thanked God that he was not like the robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like the tax collector.

The tax collector didn’t even lift his head. He prayed for mercy. Jesus said, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18.9-14 (NIV) If you want to be heard approach God with honor and humility!

In the intercession Paul makes four requests on the behalf of his readers. He prays for a strengthening, a deepening, an grasping, and a fulfilling of their relationship and role in Christ.     

First he asks for our strengthening. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,”  (v.16)

Earlier Paul used three different words to describe God power. Now he prays that these “glorious riches we have in Christ” will give us inner strengthening, enabling or empowering. It is His Spirit that empowers! 

“Inner being” or “the man with in” is where we are empowered. Externally Paul was getting old he was imprisoned but he wrote to the Corinthians. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor. 4.16 (NIV)

These four requests build on each other. He also prays for a “deepening” in our relationship with Christ. “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,” (v.17)

Positionally we are raised and seated with Christ in heavenly places. That is our privileged status in His realm. But our heads are not in the clouds. Practically He lives in our hearts by faith not by feelings. Paul prays that the “roots” of his love will go down deeper and grow stronger in us.

He mixes his metaphors here with tree roots that go deep into His love and foundations that hold things in place. Adversity has a way deepening and stabilizing our faith.  Roots go down deep in the winter. When things on the surface are stormy or even icy we can get bitter or better!   

Third he prays for our grasping or capturing of the dimensions of the love of Christ. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (v.18)

In school I struggled with reading comprehension. I could read all the words but I couldn’t always tell you what I just read. He wants us to grasp His limitless love. He uses measurements like width, length, height, and depth but in the next verse he says, “his love surpasses knowledge.”

We are deeply rooted in the love of Christ. It is totally another dimension beyond our experience, intellect, reason or even emotion!His love is too large to be confined by any geometrical measurements. Paul has already illustrated in these three chapters that God’s lavish love is wide enough to reach the whole world and beyond.

It is long enough to stretch from eternity to eternity. It is high enough to raise both Gentiles and Jews to heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is deep enough to rescue people from sin’s death and disgrace and free us from Satan’s grip.

Finally he completes a picture with this prayer for fulfillment. He wants us,“to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (v.19)

Even though God’s love “surpasses knowledge” or is beyond comprehension it is not beyond our experience. Somebody said, “I just know it in my knower” Some of us are too smart for our own good. 

Paul is not saying here that, he wants us to “measure up” to God. Satan is the only one that thought he should have that much status. He is simply praying that we will experience all the love God has measured out to us! He wants us to be totally filled up with the love of God in Christ.

Earlier Paul painted a portrait of the Church. Jesus Christ is the head and we are fitted and framed together and filling out His body here on earth.

God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  Ephesians 1.22-23 (NIV) The only way we can fulfill our function is to be totally filled with his love!

Paul concludes this prayer with an incredible Benediction or blessing.“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3.20-21 (NIV)

This is like the Alleluia chorus! This acclimation is the crescendo of the first half of this e-mail to the Church of Ephesus! This is high praise.

What God has done “in Christ and is doing in us, His church, is immeasurable and unimaginable. It is totally all about God, His power and His glory. What is incredible is that He is glorified in the Church, and in Christ, on earth and in heaven’s realm now and in every generation forever and ever!

So as we wrap up the first half of this letter, there is an awesome theme. “In Christ” we are rich in relationships. We are in His family. We are infinitely loved and empowered. We are connected to God and each other!

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2.20-21 (NIV)   

We will see in the next few chapters this gets lived out in our connections with each other. We are fitted together and functioning together. So today you will have an opportunity to find a connection group.

If your new here we would love to have you in the Doorway or one of our four road map groups short classes we like to see every experience. There are groups for kids, youth, young adults, seniors, singles, men and women, couples, prayer groups, recovery groups, bible studies, and sports. There Spanish, Indian, and Filipino groups. We want everyone in the harbor Family to celebrate Jesus on Sunday and grow in Jesus in a connection group sometime during the week.

Now let me pray Paul’s prayer over you. “I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.

And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.