Live By the Word (Ephesians 3:17-19)

In Ephesians 3:16, Paul prays that his readers would be strengthened with God’s power through the Spirit who lives in them. This is a bold prayer. Can we even fathom having the power of God strengthening us? And what would that even look like? After making his request, Paul continues – in verses 17-19 – by answering those questions. Put simply: the reason Paul wants them to be strengthened with God’s power through the Spirit is because he wants them (and us) to have a real and intimate fellowship with God and Christ. It may seem odd to think of connecting God’s power and intimate fellowship with Him, but that is precisely what Paul does in these verses.

First, Paul prays that his readers would be strengthened so that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith (v. 17a). Why would Paul pray for Christ to dwell in the hearts of believers? Does He not already do so? Yes, but much like the request that they be strengthened with power through the Spirit has to do with being more completely filled and controlled by the Spirit, this is referring to a more intimate communion with Christ. Paul wants us to be strengthened with power by the Spirit so that we might have closer and closer fellowship with Christ – which will result in our being conformed more and more to His image (2 Cor. 3:18). By the Spirit’s power, we can know Christ and have ever-increasing fellowship with Him and ever-deepening relationship with Him. Paul desired that. Do we?

Second, Paul prays that his readers would be strengthened so that they might know the love of Christ (v. 17b-19a). Paul recognized that love is at the very root and foundation of everything we are and possess as Christians. All the blessings we know are the result of God’s love for us (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:16). Knowing that, Paul wanted his readers to be ever-growing in their understanding of that incredible love. Ultimately, the fulness of God’s love for us in Christ surpasses our ability to know and understand (v. 19a), but that does not mean we cannot know or understand it at all. Rather, it means we can continue to grow in it with confidence that we will never exhaust its immensity. The breadth of God’s love is too wide for our narrow minds. The length of God’s love is too immense for our little souls. The height and depth of God’s love in Christ is too grand for our finite hearts. Nevertheless, with the help of God’s Spirit, we can explore those immense dimensions of God’s love and come to understand – and treasure – them more and more. Paul desired that. Do we?

Third, Paul prays that his readers would be strengthened so that they may be filled with all the fulness of God (v. 19b). This is obviously a phrase of summation. Paul is not praying that we would become God ourselves but rather that we would become everything God desires and intends us to be. God’s ultimate goal and purpose for us is that we be perfectly holy and blameless – like Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 5:26-27; 1 John 3:2). Again, this can only happen through the power of the Spirit, so Paul prayed that his readers would be strengthened by the Spirit so that God would completely fill and control and dominate their lives. Paul desired that. Do we?

Ultimately, this prayer of Paul helps us understand what we should desire and long for. Too often, we are consumed with goals and purposes that have nothing to do with God’s desires and plans. Small wonder, then, that we do not experience His help and power in achieving them. We need to be strengthened with power by God’s Spirit – so that we will have intimate fellowship with Christ, so that we will know the love of God in Christ, and so that God’s fulness will fill us.