Paul’s Prayer and Plea
Ephesians 3:12-4:6, April 18, 2021
12 In him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Do not fall away from Christ, by reason of his sufferings, which was to their glory; or stated differently, his sufferings were their glory, in that in them he sealed the truth of the doctrine he preached, being ready still to suffer for what he preached to them; he means they might assert the apostle’s afflictions were not for any crime, but for preaching the Gospel to them, and that it was an honor for Paul to suffer to do so.
– Also, in verse 1 of this chapter, Paul told us his imprisonment was on behalf of the Gentiles. Now he repeats himself where the Gentiles represent the price he paid so the blessing of salvation could come to them. Paul viewed his trials as their glory, and he desires them to view things the same way. — Not only did Christ die for their sins, but an apostle, Paul, was willing to suffer to bring them the good news of Jesus Christ.
Acts 5:40-42, His [Gamalie’s] speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Paul’s kneeling posture is not common in the New Testament, standing to pray is the norm. However, kneeling was used for times of deep and strong emotion such as in Luke 22:41; Acts 20:36-38; 21:5.
More significant is the use of kneeling when we look at Isaiah 45:23, “I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Paul, in kneeling before the Father, is showing his submissiveness, loving worship, and great seriousness.
There is a connection between the Father and His family in these two verses as the Greek word for Father is pater; family is patria. Recall the human family was created in His image. That image was marred when Adam and we sinned. But the image was not destroyed. In fact, the image we were created in is restored or recreated when we are born again as shown in 1 John 3:1, See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
God’s family includes the unseen heavenly realm with spiritual beings called angels, cherubim, seraphim, watchers, etc and redeemed human beings on earth and in heaven.
16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being,
There is a reason Paul first prays that we be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit. Here, the word strengthened is the exact opposite of the word be discouraged in verse 13. If we fix our eyes on a man, even one like Paul, is to eventually become discouraged or to lose heart. If instead, we always look to the Lord we will be strengthened. When we read in your inner being, what is being emphasized is a real depth of penetration of His power; Deep into the inner being or man conveys the idea. So why are we to be strengthened?
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The key reason we are to be strengthened is found in the word dwell (katoikeō). In the Greek it is a compound verb with the meaning to dwell down or as we might say to “settle down.” It is used in the sense of one being at home, in this case Jesus being at home settled down within each of us. Paul goes on to describe how we may have God’s power within us, first by being rooted in love and second by being established or grounded in love. When that occurs, we then begin to grasp the love of Christ, just how wide, and long and high and deep it is. This love of Christ is not something we can know by some form of knowledge, we need Christ’s indwelling. Then Paul prays we will not only have the indwelling of Christ, but that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God as His children becoming more and more like the image for which we were created.
Paul now closes this wonderful prayer with a doxology or praise for God
20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,
21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Paul wants everyone who reads this to know, God’s power is super-abundant or immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. As a result, God gets the glory for ever and ever from what He has done in the church via His Son Jesus.
Paul also wants us to know he has not asked for too much in this prayer as the Father can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Now we will look at the first six verses of chapter 4.
After Paul’s powerful prayer for believers, he now pleads with us to live our lives in a way worthy of the calling we have received. And he is not pleading on his own, but As a prisoner for the Lord as he described himself in the first verse of chapter 3. He is essentially asking if we will live our lives as prisoners for the Lord?
1a As a prisoner for the Lord,
What does Paul ask of us or rather tell us what God expects of us now with Christ indwelling within us?
1b then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
3 Make every effort [diligent] to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace [peace-makers].
Seven characteristics or marks that would make us a good brother or sister in the faith.
Those marks are to be worthy, humble, self-controlled, patient, loving, diligent, peace-makers. Imagine a congregation of people with these characteristics would have little or no difficulty being of one mind and united spiritually.
Paul next proceeds to list seven ones that unite (or should unite) believers in the one body of Christ.
When we are tempted to break unity, we need to remember these unifying truths.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
These are the truths unite us as a body where instead of focusing on differences (“majoring on the minors” if you will), we can concentrate on the positive doctrinal truths which form the foundation of Christian unity.
To close I would like to go back to Paul’s prayer and personalize it for us
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen all of you, all of us, with power through His Spirit in the inner being of each and every one of you,
17 so that Christ may dwell in each of your hearts through your faith.
And I pray that all of you, each of you rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with each other and all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (beyond measure)
19 and to know this love of Christ surpasses knowledge—that each and every one of you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Let us make this prayer our prayer and not let the Lord end up describing us this way (from Ezekiel 33:31-32)
31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.
32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.
When the rubber meets the road, put God’s word into action in your lives.