A Prayer for Love
The prayer of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter three is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ may be viewed here as the Son of His love; and we can appreciate the intimate relationship which is ours with the Father, and which is apprehended according to the excellency of Christ’s own relationship with Him. Love is the paramount thought in this prayer; and the effect it has on us enables us to look up in appreciation of that love which gilds the eternal glory with its excellency. Are we down looking up?
It is good to remember that there is, nothing more intolerant to love than evil.
In Ephesians two and seven Paul alludes to the “riches of His grace,” and contemplating these things we are seen as looking back from Eternity into the highways of Time. In Ephesians 3:16 he refers to the “riches of His glory” and we are viewed looking forward from Time into Eternity.
As there are three “whats” in the prayer of Ephesians one, there are three “thats” in this prayer. The earnestness of the Apostle may be visualised as he bows his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He addresses himself to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (a relationship which lays emphasis on love), to that One from whom every family in Heaven and Earth is named. Scripture reveals divers families each standing in a near or distant association with the Father from whom they all have their origin. There is Heaven’s hierarchy and the angelic hosts, messengers of His who do His bidding. On earth Israel stood in a particularly near place to Jehovah; as a point of fact, only Israel knew God as “Jehovah.” It was not given to every family on earth to know God in that near relationship. God had declared in Amos three and two, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” The Syrophenician woman in Matthew 15 discovered that her claim to a relationship with Christ as “Son of David” was invalid, for at first He heeded her not. Blessing could only come to her when she took her proper place as a Gentile dog, as she confessed in verse 27. Paul divided the peoples of this earth into three companies, viz., Jews, Gentiles, and Church of God (1 Cor. 10:32).
The first “that” appears in verse 16 and has to do with the strengthening of the saint by the Spirit of God. The standard set is a high one, but God never sets low standards. It is “according to the riches of the Father’s glory.” Here is wealth untold and exhaustless. The next thing to note is the subject discussed, “the inner man;” and there must never be allowance made for the flesh. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). The riches of divine glory when applied to the inner man produces strengthening in the power of the Spirit. The great purpose is that we may be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power” (Col. 1:11).
The second “that” is in view of Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. The Lord will never dwell in a divided heart. Should we dare to treat Him as a spy, He will afflict us in His jealousy. Paul desired of the Ephesians that Christ might be a permanent resident in their hearts so that indisputable lordship might be afforded Him. Every rival lover should be ousted and Christ alone given that place of supremacy in our lives. We have to be rooted and grounded in love. Love is the solid foundation on which we are grounded, but it is also the soil from which we derive our supplies. If we are established thus, then the blasts of temptation can never, move us.
The desire is expressed that we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of something that is not named directly in the near context, yet can be found in verse 11 where the Apostle alludes to the “eternal purpose.” Paul uses terms of measurement to convey to the mind and heart the idea of immensity and perfection. When things are measured by our limited apprehension, we do not reach far on the road to learning His purpose. We are taken into infinity when reference is made to the heavenly counsels of the Father. Though they are immeasurable yet He permits us to enter into some of the secrets of His great heart, as He did Moses of old. “He made known His ways unto Moses” (Psa. 103:7). His ways are His revelations in keeping with His divine purpose.
The knowledge of the love of Christ is our next consideration. This term is found three times in New Testament Scripture (Eph. 3:19. Rom. 8:35. 2 Cor. 5:14). The context is different on each occasion. The believer knows the love of Christ, for the cross is the indubitable and abiding evidence of it. We have begun to know the love of Christ, and such knowledge will be continuous for it is exhaustless. The finality of His love is never reached: like Himself it abides forever. This love that we may know is beyond knowing, “It passeth knowledge.” The word “passeth” is the word from which the word “hyperbole” is derived: it surpasseth all knowledge. This word is found in Ephesians three times: in chapters 1:19 in connection with the greatness of His power; in chapter 2:7 it is associated with the riches of His grace; and in chapter 3:19 it is applied to the love of Christ.
The third “that” of this prayer is found in verse 19, “That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” To be filled unto all the fulness of God is perhaps the preferable rendering. Christ is the fulness of God, whether seen as a Man on earth, or as the glorified Man on high. As to the former we learn from Colossians 1:19 that all fulness was pleased to dwell in Him. In Colossians 2:9 we are informed that “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” God will be known so far as He is communicable to His creatures — to those formed for His good pleasure. To be filled unto all the fulness of God is to apprehend Christ, who is the fulness of God, and to continue to be enlarged thereby.
This prayer with its three “thats” is progressive in character; while the three “whats” of the first prayer of Ephesians one are absolute.
After the prayer comes the doxology. Paul had brought before the Ephesians the inward strengthening by the Holy Spirit; then Christ as resident in the believer’s heart; and finally, the fulness of God unto which we should be filled. In the doxology he alludes to One who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which worketh in us. This throws the mind back on chapter 1:19 where we read of “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe.” When Paul finished that remarkable apologetic in Philippians two, verses five to eleven, he affirmed that “it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (V. 13). The doxology must not be severed from the three “thats” of the prayer. He is able to strengthen us; He is able to dwell in our hearts by faith; He is able to make us know the filling of verse 19. Let us then see to it that there is nothing that would hinder any or all of these being operative. God requires a moral suitability to His well-beloved Son.
The One who fills all things is worthy of all the glory; we gladly give it to Him now, as we shall do forevermore.
“Glory, glory everlasting,
Be to Him who bore the cross.”