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Studies In Ephesians

Proclaiming the Unsearchable Riches

of Christ (See 3:8)

Chapter 3:14-21

Inner Strength For Family Life

A recent trip down to the recreational center one evening is a reminder of our culture’s obsession with “fitness.” On the way through the lobby, the visitor gets a look into one corner of the pool where swimming lessons are on for the young ones, while in another corner, the older set is into “water walking.” Glass windows reveal the bodybuilders lifting weights; thicker glass walls shield the passerby from injury by stray racquetballs. Overhead there is the steady rhythm and throb of stair-steppers, treadmills, and stationary bicycles.

More power to ’em, we can say. “Bodily exercise profits a little,” Paul says. But then he goes on to say: “but godliness is profitable for all things” (1 Tim. 4:8). With all our concern about physical well-being, we can’t help but ask: “How much attention is being given to spiritual fitness?”

In the section of Ephesians before us, the case is made for real spiritual fitness–strength, not for the cardiovascular man, but for the “inner man.”

This section of the letter represents a major transition from the earlier more ‘theological’ section to the later more ‘ethical’ section. Up to this point, Paul has taken his reader on a trip into the profound mysteries of God, all of which, finally, pertain to us, the believers. Here God has revealed to us our identity–who we are in Christ: we are the children of God.

What follows this section is the more practical ‘ethical’ portion of the letter–“How then, shall we live?” The life to which we are called is dynamic (represented by the word “walk”), so that the believer realizes that faith rests in God, but is never at rest in the world. We are to “walk worthy of our calling” (4:1); and walk “not as the Gentiles walk” (4:17). We seek to “walk in love” (5:1), as “children of the light” ought to walk (5:8).

Only Through The Gospel

Such walking requires the inner strength, toning, and endurance that only the Gospel can supply. The preceding section laid that foundation. Now Paul “bends his knees,” praying urgently that the Father who gathered us all and made us a “family” in Christ will supply the inner strength necessary for us to live (“walk”) as God’s children ought to do. The walk of this life is, after all, an uphill journey. But our needs for this journey are supplied wholly through the “indwelling” of Christ–Christ taking up residence in our hearts through faith; faith worked by the Holy Spirit as we hear and take to heart the good news of our salvation.

But can we ever hear too much of the Gospel? Does the point come where we should move on from this ‘theology’ business and get to work on our own Christian life? If that’s the way it’s being done, then it’s not a Christian life. That’s why this section bridges between the ‘theological’ and the ‘ethical’–we cannot live a ‘Christian’ life unless Christ accompanies us in the heart.

Here’s the goal of this indwelling–this ‘faith-life’: “That you be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” Here is the foundation of the Christian life–to know and believe the unbelievable love of God; here is the meat on which it feeds–the knowledge . . . no, the comprehension–of Christ.

It is the Gospel that impresses upon our cold hearts the love that has been shown us. Paul began with God’s work of predestination, the election of grace (1:3-14); he goes on to tell of the enlightenment (1:18); of grace (2:8-9); of quickening (2:1); of making us His own family (2:14-22). All these activities are the work of the true God, who “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (1:3). Through this we come to know that “God is love” (I John 4:16), and believing it, that love–that “fullness of God”–fills us.

By God’s love we are equipped and invigorated for the road that lies before us, or as Paul says, for the “good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:10). It is by people who walk by faith, in whom Jesus Christ dwells by faith, that God is glorified and praised.

Paul finishes our section with a doxology and benediction: “To Him be the glory.” Sections to come will set forth the patterns, opportunities, and challenges that will require the believer to exercise that spiritual fitness. His work in us will, in the end, resound to His glory.

–Pastor Peter Reim