The Promise of God's Power (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Ephesians 3:14–3:21
I. A Quest for Personal Power
Power is a priceless commodity in our world. I’m not talking about the kind of power that we receive from a hydroelectric generator or a wind turbine or a nuclear reactor or a solar panel. I’m thinking of the personal power each of us longs for. Hundreds, probably thousands, of “self-help” have been written about this kind of power. One of these writers put it this way:
“Above all, personal power is the ability to achieve what you want. More than anything else, it is personal power that brings you success and happiness.” (Shauna Chymboryk)
Isn’t this what so many of us want to hear? Isn’t this the very thing we often desire: personal power? The power to change things. The power to help. The power to fix what's broken. Power to know the future. Power to change people’s opinions. Power to land the job of our choice. Power to make our children obey. Power to change our spouse. Power to prove that we were right. Power to make someone suffer, just as they've made us suffer. Power to be successful... and safe... and satisfied.
Couldn’t we, in some sense, describe human history as one long quest for personal power?
Where are you looking for power this morning? Turn over to Ephesians 3 this morning, and let's see how God directs in our quest for power.
III. The Passage: “Strengthened with Power” (3:14-21)
Over the past few weeks, we've been trying to understand the work of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of the Lord; the Spirit of God. The Scriptures teach us that the Holy Spirit is fully God. But how does His work differ from that of the Father and the Son? Let see how the Apostle Paul can once again help us with that question. Let me read from Ephesians 3:14-21:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In this passage, Paul comes to the end of the first half of the letter, where he has opened up an incredible vista on the purposes of God in Jesus Christ.
He has described a work that began before the foundation of the world, a work presently unfolding in and through the lives of his readers, and a work that will one day changes the universe as all things are summed up, are united in Jesus. And In the next three chapters of the letter, chapters 4-6, Paul will challenge to live differently in light of this fresh view of reality.
To understand this incredible passage, let’s take a closer look by breaking this section down into three parts.
A. An Unabashed Prayer for Power (3:14-16)
Notice that in first part, in verses 14-16, Paul makes it clear he's praying. But please don't miss that this is an unabashed prayer for power. Paul is praying for power, not for himself, but for his listeners. As the Creator of every person and family, Paul can ask...
...that according to the riches of [God's] glory he may grant [them] to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in [their] inner being..
So the power for which Paul prays is power from the Holy Spirit. Now, since Paul was a learned Jew, this prayer is not surprising. The Old Testament is filled with references to the power of the Spirit of God. When the power of God’s Spirit would “come upon” or “clothe” an individual, they would speak words of power, or perform deeds of power through the Spirit.
Even before this point in Ephesians Paul spoke of “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (1:19). But notice that this power is not something that merely “comes upon” God’s people, as in the OT. No, it is strength for our “inner being”. It is power for our inner person. It is... personal power.
B. Paul’s Prayer for Jesus in Your Heart (3:17-19)
But look at where Paul goes next in verses 17-19. He goes on to describe the purpose of this Spirit-given, personal power. Obviously such power could change any of your circumstances and any of the people in your life... because it is the power of God himself. But notice what verse 17 tells us about why Paul prays here for power through the Holy Spirit... so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…
Now, we’re used to hearing prayers that involve Jesus in someone's heart. “Accept Jesus in your heart”. Or, “Open your heart to Jesus.” Or “Ask Jesus to come into your heart”. Though these formulas are not found in the Bible, all of them have been used more recently to encourage or invite people to exercise saving faith.
But here, in the only passage in the Bible that speaks of Jesus dwelling in our hearts, here Paul is praying for believers, not unbelievers. He is not leading them in a “sinner’s prayer”. So what exactly is he praying for when he ask that “Christ may dwell in [their] hearts through faith”? Isn’t Christ already in them?
He goes on to explain. Listen (vs. 17-19): ...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is a prayer for true power. This is a prayer for the power of God’s Spirit to be at work in us through faith, so that our life is radically shaped by the love of God.
You see, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Almighty God, is not first given to those who believe in order that they might change people and circumstances outside of them. No, that power is given first and foremost to accomplish what should always be ranked as the greatest of all miracles: it is power to change your heart.
Just before Jesus spoke to his disciples about the Holy Spirit, during that upper room meal before his crucifixion, he told them this:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
Greater works? Really? Greater than calming a storm? Greater than banishing a legion of demons? Greater than walking on water or feeding thousands of hungry people? Greater than raising people from the dead? These works are not simply the signs and wonders that God performed through the hands of many in the early church. No, these greater works are the works of new life made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus, AND the sending of the Holy Spirit.
The greatest work is the very work that Jesus died to make possible: the work of changing your heart by reconciling us to God. Paul reminded the Corinthians church of this very truth in regard to the power of God’s Spirit:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:9-11)
That very power makes it possible for the Lord Jesus Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith. But what exactly does that mean? What is Paul asking for here?
You know, having seen people move in and out of houses all my life, I can say with certainty that a person may move into a house, but you might never know they actually lived there. But when someone really inhabits a home, it becomes clear on the outside doesn’t it? New plants might appear. The outside fixtures might change. New decorations might go up. Friends and family begin to come and go.
Paul knows that Christ might be in them through His Spirit, but he doesn’t fail to pray that Christ will truly inhabit them; that Christ will truly live, not only in, but also through them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ dwelling in their hearts means that they are filled to overflowing with all the fullness of God, that is, that Christ’s life is seen in theirs.
And that kind of life is marked first and foremost by love. We will be (v.17) “rooted and grounded in love”. How can you know if you are being strengthened in your inner person by the Spirit of God? How can you know if Christ is dwelling in your heart through faith? By the effects of the love of Christ, in you and through you.
That’s why Paul tells the Galatians: But the fruit of the Spirit [the evidence and expression of the Spirit within you] is love... joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control... (Galatians 5:22, 23)
Is the power of God’s Spirit showcasing through you a life of love? Is the power of God’s Spirit revealing through your life the life of Jesus Christ?
C. Unimaginable Power to the Glory of God (3:20, 21)
Notice how Paul concludes this prayer and points us to the ultimate goal of God’s Spirit in us:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
A Christ-like life empowered by the Holy Spirit is not a life limited by our often feeble requests or faint-hearted imaginations. No. The “far more” here is defined by this whole context. Paul is saying God can abundantly cause Jesus Christ and His love to so permeate your life that, for His glory, unimaginable transformation will take place in you and through you. Do you believe that this morning?
IV. Do Not Grieve…But Be Filled
So what does it practically mean that the Christian life, this life of following Jesus, is only possible through the Spirit’s power? Does that mean we simply “let go and let God”? That we sit back and wait for God’s Spirit to move us to do this or that?
Before I answer that, please don't miss that the reality of the power of the Holy Spirit should be an incredible encouragement to you. Why? Because he makes possible that which is impossible by our own strength.
In practical terms, Paul will go on to encourage them in 4:30 to “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” by holding onto things like “bitterness and wrath and anger”. But he will also exhort them in positive terms, in 5:18, to “not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but [to] be filled with the Spirit… “
Why mention these verses now? Because they help us understand what it practically means to empowered by the Spirit for a new life surrendered to the indwelling Christ. It is not a passive life waiting on the Spirit. It is an active life, depending on the Spirit; depending on his power to empower our steps of repentance and faith; of confession and obedience; of humility and love.
God has called you and me to a life of bold faith, inspired by his promises, and wonderfully... empowered by his Spirit... the Spirit of promise. Remember what we've learned this month: the Spirit is the promise of God's purpose, that is, a new life in a for Jesus Christ. The Spirit is promise of God's purchase, that is, the assurance that we now, because of Jesus, belong to God and will be God forever.
The Spirit is the promise of God's perspective, that is, a renewed mind to not only know God's word, but like Jesus, to think God's word. And as we've just heard, the Spirit is the promise of God's power. He is the promise of divine power, that we might truly and daily live for God's purpose, assured of God's purchase, and by means of God's perspective; that we might live in, for, and like Jesus Christ. Amen?
This is exactly what see said at the outset of this study of the Holy Spirit: God the Spirit, the promised Helper, helps us to live in the purposes of God the Father, purposes that God the Son has made possible through his life, death, and resurrection.
Are you hungry for power this morning? Personal power to bring about genuine and lasting change in your life? If you are, then please know it isn't ultimately about God changing your circumstances or changing the people you want him to change. That change is about God changing you? How? From the inside out. To what end? That the indwelling Christ might demonstrate his lordship and power through your life, every... single... day.
How can we experience the Spirit's power in that way? But turning from that which grieves the Spirit and stepping out in that which breathes the Spirit. In nautical terms, in means cutting those anchors of sin and self, and raising the sail of surrender to God's word; that is stepping out in obedience, trusting... trusting that the Spirit of promise will in fact be there to blow and fill our sails; to drive us forward on Christ's path.
This morning, we need to pray boldly in light of that power.... because it is promised power. I hope you will take a couple minutes to pray quietly; that you would confess any misguided ideas about change, and that you would ask him for this very power... “that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith”.
More in The Spirit of Promise (2020)
June 21, 2020The Promise of God's Perspective (I Corinthians 2:1-16)
June 14, 2020The Promise of God's Purchase (Ephesians 1:13, 14)
June 7, 2020The Promise of God's Purpose (John 15:26, 27)