Ephesians:3:14-21,  “Paul’s Prayer For Personal Experience Of Jesus For The Ephesians


Jim Bomkamp

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1.     INTRO:


1.1.               In our last study, we looked at the first 13 verses of chapter 3.


1.1.1.  In that study, we observed Paul provide more background for our understanding of the things that the Lord was doing in the church in bringing about unity between all different people groups.  Paul also discussed his own calling and ministry in bringing about this tearing down of the barriers that exist between Jew and Gentile.


1.2.               In our study today, we are going o look at verses 14-21 of chapter 3.


1.2.1.  In this study, we will see Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesian church.  The first prayer he prayed was in chapter one and in that prayer he mainly petitioned that the Ephesians would grow in their “knowledge of the Lord.”  He wanted them to  understand the great treasures of the grace of God that they presently possess because they are “in Christ.”  In this prayer, Paul’s emphasis has to do with the Ephesian’s “experience of God,” of receiving personally and experientially all of the fullness of the Lord, of His power and His love in their lives.


1.2.2.  This prayer of Paul’s for the Ephesians church is also one that all of us as Christ’s people need fulfilled in our life.  The experience of God that Paul prays for the Ephesians here is not meant to be an experience only for the exceptional Christian but rather that which should entail “the normal Christian life” which every Christian can and should experience, as it is available for all. 


2.     VS 3:14-15  - 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, -  Paul tells the Ephesians that he bows his knees before the Father


2.1.               In verse 14, Paul expresses the attitude of his heart primarily.  He says that he bows his knees before the Father, but in saying this he isn’t saying that he only prays on his knees nor that this is the only position for effective prayer.  In reality, the scriptures detail God’s people praying and worshipping the Lord earnestly in many different postures.


2.2.               Paul prays for the Ephesians to ‘the Father.’  Jesus, in His example prayer for His disciples, taught us to pray as He prayed, directing our prayer to God as our ‘Father.’  This is the proper way for us to consider the One to whom we are praying.  When we think of the concept of ‘Father’ we realize that just as an earthly father is ready and willing to entreat warmly and welcome his children when they come to him, in the same way when we pray we are coming to our heavenly ‘Father’ who loves us as a son or daughter with even a much greater love than our earthly parents and thus He is always willing to receive us when we come to Him, and, He always grants our requests of Him as they are according to His perfect will.


2.3.               When Paul mentions here that ‘every family in heaven and on earth derives its name’ from God the Father, he is speaking specifically of the family relationship and identity that God’s children share with Him.  Paul is not referring to every single family here, including those who are not God’s people, for contrary to the philosophies of this world the scripture is clear that God is not the father of every person on the earth:  


2.3.1.  John 8:40-44, “40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” 


2.3.2.  1 John 3:10, “10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”


3.     VS 3:16  - 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, -  Paul prays that the Father will grant to the Ephesians that they be strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man


3.1.               The New Testament reveals to us that Christians are actually possessed of two different natures.  Paul often refers to these two natures with terms such as:


3.1.1.  The “new nature,” ‘inner man,’ or ‘spiritual man.’


3.1.2.  And for the other nature, the “old man,” “old self,” or “the flesh.”   


3.2.               Here Paul refers to the new nature as being the ‘inner man.’  This is the new nature that only those who have come to saving relationship with Jesus Christ experience.  A non-believer does not have a dual nature, he only knows and experiences the sinful nature that he inherits from Adam, mankind’s federal head.  The unsaved person is spiritually dead, as we discussed in chapter 2.  He is dead in transgressions and sins and walking according to the course of this world and according to the spirit of the power of the air, the Devil. 


3.3.               From the scriptures we read that Christians are to feed their new nature they have in Christ and keep the old sinful nature inactive (see Galatians chapter 5 for instance).  Someone once described the Christian as having a war within us, as if two dogs were fighting within us.  The one you feed is the one that is going to win out.  If you feed the flesh you will become fleshly.  If you feed the Spirit you will be spiritual and be greatly blessed and used by God.


3.4.               In Ephesians 4:22 Paul writes to these Ephesians warning them of ongoing corruption of the old nature that is within them, “22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.”  According to God’s ability Paul requests that the Ephesians be strengthened in their ‘inner man.’


3.5.               When a person gives to someone or some cause according to his ability we can gauge the amount that he might give.  Here, Paul prays for the Ephesians that God the Father might grant to them his prayer request ‘according to the riches of His grace.’  Paul is asking for big things to be done in the lives of the church in Ephesus because God’s ability is infinite. 


3.5.1.  We Christians need to not limit ourselves when we pray for others, that is, as long as you have the faith to believe that your prayer will be answered.  Whenever Jesus taught about prayer He always used “limitless language.”  For instance, Jesus once said:      John 11:22, “22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.      John 14:1-60, “13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.


3.6.               Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians here is that they would be strengthened in their inner man.  This is a prayer for them to have spiritual resolve and conviction.  It is a prayer for strength to withstand temptation and persevere in doing what is right in spite of what everyone else around may be doing in their life.  This is the great need that we as Christians have is that we be strengthened in the new nature through the Holy Spirit and die to self allowing Christ to live through our life. 


3.7.               Paul spoke about the reality of his own experience in walking with Christ when he wrote:


3.7.1.  Galatians 2:20, “20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” 


3.7.2.  Philippians 1:21, “21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”


3.8.               To be honest, when I read from Paul’s letters about his life as he describes his love and devotion to the Lord as well as how greatly the Lord is using him, I realize how different my life is from his.  Paul was experiencing a depth of personal relationship with Christ that I would like to have however I have to tell you that right now I am not experiencing it.  I have at times experienced it and I know what it is, and I want it for my life. 


3.8.1.  For instance, Paul described his ministry in 1 Corinthians 2:4 saying, “4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”  


3.9.               The church in America needs a revival because the experience that Christians are having of Christ is very much lower than that which existed in the lives of the early church as well as the lives of the great men and women of God in history past.  For instance, the reason why we love to sing so many of the great hymns of 100 plus years ago is that we love the words because they reveal a level of Christian experience that is very uncommon in our day.  These hymns show us what our experience of Christ could and should be like.


4.     VS 3:17 – 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, -  Paul prays that the Ephesians may have Christ dwell in their hearts through faith and that they be rooted and grounded in love


4.1.               This verse causes confusion because Paul prays for the Ephesians that ‘Christ may dwell in your hearts’ and yet we know from many scriptural references that Christ already dwelt in their hearts just the way that He dwells in the hearts of all true Christians, including:


4.1.1.  2 Corinthians 13:5, “5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?   


4.1.2.  Colossians 1:27, “27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 


4.1.3.  1 John 5:12, “12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”   


4.1.4.  Romans 8:9, “9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”


4.2.               So, what does Paul mean when asks that Christ would dwell in the Ephesian’s hearts?  The Greek word translated ‘dwell’ used here means literally “to settle down at home with.”  Paul is praying for the Ephesians that they might be a home for Christ or at home with Christ.  This is the kind of experience with Christ that we Christians ought to have. 


4.2.1.  Are there things in your life that would make Christ uncomfortable to dwell with you?  These things need to be removed if you are to be a place where Christ wants to dwell.


4.3.               The experience that Paul is praying for the Ephesians involves experience of Jesus dwelling in their hearts.  Yes, the Lord dwells in the hearts of all Christians, however it is not always the case that Christians are responsive to the indwelling Christ.  Many Christians seem to ignore the Lord being in their heart a good part of every day and they live their life as if they did not know the Lord or have eternal life.  Paul is praying that the Ephesians might know Christ as “Lord” of their life, in control of them and all that they do.


4.4.               Paul prays that the Ephesians become ‘rooted and grounded in love.’  Christian maturity can be gauged by the depth that a Christian loves.  Jesus gave us that one new commandment which is to “love one another.”  The apostle John wrote much for us in his first epistle about how everything in our Christian walk has to do with our own apprehension of God’s love for us and then in response our loving others with that same love with which God has loved us:


4.4.1.  1 John 4:19, “19 We love, because He first loved us.” 


4.4.2.  1 John 4:8, “8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 


4.4.3.  1 John 4:16, “16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”


4.5.               Loving people with God’s love (agape) involves a commitment on one’s will and is not dependent upon feelings.  It is unconditional love and it involves actions that are deliberately taken on behalf of the one who is loved.


4.6.               The “rooting and grounding” in love for Christians requires us to learn about God’s love for us from His word and it also requires time to experience the care and love of God for our lives as Christians as we walk with Christ through this world and in all of our experiences.  Roots grow slowly but they are the most vital part of any growing plant or tree as they provide the nourishment that flows through them to the the leaves and fruit of the tree, as well as the protection from the elements for the tree.  The other day I was driving down Platten Street by my house and as I passed some rather large trees on the sides of the road I was just imagining the root system that these large trees surely had underneath the road I was driving upon.  We Christians need ‘rooting and grounding’ in God’s love after coming to salvation. 


4.7.               We Christians must recognize that whenever we are walking with Christ that we will be walking in love (agape love that is).  Also, obedience to Christ always involves walking in love.  Christ will always demonstrate His love through the life of anyone who is genuinely committed to Him. 


4.7.1.  How great of a lover of people are you?  That is the question each of us as Christians need to answer for it is the gauge of our experience of Christ in our life. 


5.     VS 3:18  - 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, -  Paul prays for the Ephesians that they may be able to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth


5.1.               There has been debate about this verse as to whether the breadth, length, height, and depth referred to here is “God’s love” or general “experience of Christ.”  I guess in the end there is no real issue though for to know Christ is to experience God’s love.


5.2.               I’ll bet you can’t draw the breadth, length, height, and depth of an object?  To do this would require four dimensions.  To know Christ you see is an other worldly experience!


5.3.               Martyn Lloyd Jones quotes the great English preacher of a century and a half ago, Charles Spurgeon, as saying the following about the experience of Christ that every Christian may have with Christ, “There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.”  Lloyd-Jones continues, “In other words, there is a stage in the Christian life, in the development of the Christian, ‘which is as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.”  As was said at the outset of this study, the kind of Christian life described in this prayer for the Ephesians should typify that of every Christian, for it is the birthright of every Christian if he will but renounce other attractions and take hold of Christ as he should.


5.4.               We Christians need to study God’s word diligently so that we might know Christ and His love for us intimately.  A few years ago at one of our Calvary Chapel pastor’s conferences, pastor Sandy Adams told the following story that emphasizes the fact that many Christians in the church haven’t really studied God’s word to know the Lord and thus their knowledge of God’s word is not solid or complete:


“It reminds me of a young Cajun boy named Claude.  He was a zealous new Christian who lived way down on the bayou.  He approached his pastor one day, and asked if he could serve in the church. The pastor asked, “Claude, can you read and write?”  Claude admitted going to school hadn’t been his top priority.

He’d been too busy hunting gators and eating gumbo.  The pastor asked again, “Well, do you know your Bible?”  Claude replied, “Sir, I’s pretty good in de Scriptures; I knows my Bible from limb to limb.”

The pastor then asked him to name his favorite Bible story. Claude answered, “I like de parable o’ de Good Samaritan.” He said, “Great, tell me the story?”

And here’s how Claude told it.

”Onced dere was dis man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. And he felled among thorns and de thorns sprung up and choked him.  And as he went on his way, he didn¹t have no money and he meets the queen of Sheba, and she gives him a thousand talents of gold, and a hundred changes o’ raiment. 


And he gets into a chariot and he drove furiously.  And as he was a drivin’ under a big juniper tree, his hair caught in de limb of dat tree, and he hung dere many days.  And de ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink, and he ate five thousand loaves and two fishes.  One night when he was a hangin’ dere asleep, his wife Delilah comes along and cuts his hair, and he drops and he falls to de stony ground.  But he gets up and he went on.

And it began a rainin’ forty days and forty nights, and he hides himself in caves, and he lives on locusts an wild honey. And while he was dere, he met a servant who says, “Come, take suppa at my house.”  And he says, “No, I won’t, I married a wife and I can’t go.”  Well, de servant went out into de highways and de hedges and compelled him to come.

And after suppa, he went on down to Jericho. Well, when he got dere, he saw dat old queen Jezebel sittin’ way up high in da window, and she laughed at him.

And he say, “Throw her down outta dere,” and they throw’d her down seventy times seven.   And of the fragments, dey picked up twelve baskets fulls, ­ besides womens and childrens.  And den da say, “Blessed are da piecemakers.”

Now, who’s wife you s’pose she be in de judgment day?””


5.5.               H.A. Ironside has written the following story, “When Napoleon’s soldiers opened the prison of the Inquisition, in an underground dungeon they found the skeleton of a prisoner.  The flesh and clothing had long since gone, but the remnants of an ankle bone with a chain attached to it were still there.  On the wall they saw cut into the rock with a sharp piece of metal a cross.  Above the cross in Spanish was the word for height, and below it the word for depth, and on one arm the word for length, and on the other the word for breadth.  As that poor prisoner of so long ago was starving to death, his soul was contemplating the wonder of God’s purpose of grace, and to Him the figure of the cross summed it all up-the length, the breadth, the depth, the height.”


6.     VS 3:19  - 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. -  Paul prays for the Ephesians to know the love of Christ and to be filled up with all of the fullness of God


6.1.               Curiously, Paul prays for the Ephesians that they might know something that ‘surpasses knowledge.’  This, of course, is ‘the love of Christ.’  This reminds me of what Paul wrote earlier in the letter when he spoke of the “unfathomable riches of Christ.”  The love of Christ has such great depth that try though we may to comprehend all of it, we shall always see that there is so much more to explore.


6.2.               Someone once said that the scriptures are like a great ocean.  For the babe in Christ and the young child there are the shallow shore lines where they can wade and grow in their understanding of the scriptures.  However, great Bible scholars shall never be able to reach its great depths either.


6.3.               To know Christ is to know ‘the love of Christ,’ and thus Paul should pray for the Ephesians that they might know this love. 


6.4.               Paul prays for the Ephesians to have “the Big Gulp.”  He asks God the Father that they ‘may be filled up to all the fullness of God.’  That is a big prayer request, but as was mentioned earlier it is OK to pray big prayers as long as you have the faith to believe that God shall fulfill them.  All the fullness of God’ entails becoming like Christ in every aspect of character and devotion as well as “the fullness of the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit” in your life.  Imagine how God might use someone who was ‘filled up to all the fullness of God.’ 


6.4.1.  Do you o Christian want all that God has for you in the Christian life?  To desire less is to sin.    


7.     VS 3:20  - 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, -  Paul speaks of how the Lord is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think


7.1.               What keeps us from having all that God wants to give us is not the ability of the supplier, who is God.  What holds us back is our own reluctance to have all that God wants for us and our lack of discipline in coming to the Lord to ask for His every resource in prayer.


7.2.               Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” yet how many Christians are willing to look to the Lord in prayer for all things?


7.3.               God the Father is not only able to miraculously answer any petition that we His children through faith in Christ bring to Him, He is able to do ‘far abundantly beyond’ all that we ‘ask or think.’  The Lord is “omnipotent” and there is no limit to His power and ability to work, that is, except for that limit which we limit Him to by not coming to Him in prayer and bringing every need to Him.


8.     VS 3:21  - 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” -  Paul ends his prayer exclaiming that God should get the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus


8.1.               In every era of history the Lord is to get all ‘the glory’ and thus whenever we, Christ’s church, pray for others we need to be careful to request that the Lord be glorified in our request. 


8.2.               This request for God to be glorified ought to accompany our every prayer to the Lord.




9.1.               As we consider this study and how that we apply it to our life, I want to ask you a few questions:


9.1.1.  What is your present experience of Christ in your daily life?


9.1.2.  Do you know Him?  Is He living within you?


9.1.3.  Is your Christian life so much above that of the ordinary Christian that it is as much above it as a Christian is above a non-Christian?  Are you an extra-ordinary Christian in your experience of Christ?


9.2.               If the answer to that last question is “No!” then I want to ask you to pray that you might know the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ and His love for you.


9.3.               Ask Christ to reveal to you His love and that you might become rooted and grounded in His love.


9.4.               Ask Christ that you might know all of the fullness of God.


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