Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 October 18, 2015
“Strength for the Inside”
Text: Ephesians 3:14-19
Have you ever had a train of thought or a speech interrupted? Most of us have, and some of those interruptions, alas, have been lengthy. If this be the case for you, then how successfully did you return to that speech or train of thought? Sometimes we never recover it.
We have in Ephesians 3 a divine interruption. Paul appears ready to launch into prayer at verse one, but the Holy Spirit had other information to convey through Paul’s pen. Now, as we arrive at verse fourteen, the attempt at prayer resumes. The Holy Spirit, very God Himself, of course has not forgotten the prior material in this letter; neither has the Apostle Paul, His inspired penman. The passage before us today we know commonly as the Ephesian prayer. Today we treat Ephesians 3:14-19, which contains one profound intercession and three excellent implications. Next week, God willing, we treat the great Ephesian doxology (Ephesians 3:20-21)—a passage used often as a benediction at the close of Christian worship. Verses fourteen through nineteen are before us now; let us hear the Lord as He speaks in His written Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
As mentioned earlier, there is one request in today’s text. It occurs in verse sixteen, namely, that God may strengthen us in our inner being. This strength in the innermost part of us comes from God the Father, from Whom all derives its name, through the Holy Spirit—Who, among other ministries, makes the things of God real to us. Note especially that this inner strength comes not from man. Neither does it come from man-made devices or techniques. The inner strength comes only from God, and where it exists and shines, it displays the glory of God.
This inner strength, moreover, comes to us according to the riches of His grace. God gives not this strength according to our merits or demerits; if these be the criteria, then none ever would receive this gracious strength. Rather, He gives (and we thus receive) according to His unmerited favor. This appears, moreover, to be the new-birthright of the Christian. This is good news indeed, but we shall treasure the gift of inner strength from God more deeply as we consider the implications that flow from it.
First, we receive inner strength from God in order that Christ be formed in our hearts through faith. The very faith by which we trust on Jesus as Savior and Lord, like inner strength itself, is a gift that God gives by His grace. Yet God often grows, and strengthens, faith within us by exercising it. As God providentially places us in positions where we must lean more heavily and trustingly upon Him, we find Him faithful and our faith consequently grows. As a result of this sanctifying work of God’s grace, we grow more nearly conformed to the image of Christ.
Second, we receive inner strength from God in order that we may know the extent of Christ’s love for us. We are to be rooted and grounded in His love, just as the Colossians were to be grounded in His Person, walking in Him and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7). From that base, then, we are to know the vast extent of Christ’s love. We are to know its length—especially its length of duration, for God hath loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), from eternity past to eternal future and every instant in between. We are also to know the breadth of God’s love. It extends to elect souls within every tribe and language and people (cf. Revelation 7:9). This implies that the Gospel must be preached widely—in fact, to all the world (Matthew 24:14)—before the consummation of all things at Christ’s return. Furthermore, we are to know the height of God’s love. His love lifts us into glorious fellowship with Himself, and, in our high moments of fellowship with Him, we sense the height of His love most readily. Yet we are to know the depth of Christ’s love also. After all, His love blesses us profoundly (i.e., deeply), and His love never fails—even (and, perhaps, especially) in our lowest straits. How great indeed the Father’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
Third, we receive inner strength from God in order that we may be filled to all the fullness of God. This God does once again by His Spirit. Not only are we to be filled by Him, but we also are to overflow. Out of our life’s overflow, others around us will taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). How precious the state, and how delightful to our souls, when our inner cups are full to overflowing by the good work of our living God.
Now let us think a bit about our lives in the light of God’s Word. Do you feel weak generally, or weak in the things of God? Paul prays consistent with God’s will for you in this difficulty, and our God, by His grace, will strengthen you. Or do you feel at times that God is distant—or even absent—from you? Again, Paul prays consistent with God’s will for you in this state. Our God will dwell in your heart by faith. The Lord says through Solomon, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). The Lord Jesus, God incarnate, on the night of His betrayal, said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” John 14:23). Now that is close proximity indeed.
Do you, now or at times, sense that your ability to trust Christ—to believe—is weak or shaken? Again, Paul prays consistent with God’s will for you in this condition, and that faith by which Christ lives in us will be strengthened. Now we come to an all-too-common malady: Do you feel unloved, or unlovely? As you may have guessed by now, once more Paul prays consistent with God’s will for you in this tough strait. May you then know the length, and breadth, and height, and depth of the love of God—and may this knowledge of His love thrill your soul. Finally, despite all the foregoing, do you feel empty inside? Yet again, Paul prays consistent with God’s will for you in this state, and—should you feel this way—may the Lord Himself, by His Spirit, fill your emptiness full to the brim (to your good and delight) and even to overflowing (to the blessing of many). Now, thus armed with such teaching and application, let us ascribe glory to our triune God in the highest—and let us enjoy His glorious being to the full.