|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 26
Meditation Title: Be Strengthened
Eph 3:16-17 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Right, we now move on to Paul's prayer. There are a variety of interpretations as to how this prayer is split up. We'll simply take it in what seem to be obvious parts to consider. Put most simply, here Paul is praying that God may strengthen you. That is the very basis of the prayer but then we may consider the source of God's strengthening, the means of His strengthening and then the outcome of His strengthening. Each part is highly significant and worthy of our consideration.
Right, let's consider first the source of strengthening that Paul desires for us: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you.” At first that is very simple and straight forward but the trouble is that Paul never explains this expression – his glorious riches . This is the fifth time he has used it. Previously he spoke about, “the riches of God's grace.” (1:7), “the riches of his glorious inheritance.” (1:18), “the incomparable riches of his grace.” (2:7), and “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (3:8) but nowhere does he really explain it. Even the writers of the various paraphrase versions of the Bible have struggled here: “his glorious, unlimited resources” (Living), “the glorious richness of his resources” (JBP) and the Message version completely skirts around it. Simple language versions (e.g. Good News version) say things like, “the wealth of his glory”, none of which take us much further. Ultimately we have to say that all we have comes from God Himself and there is no limit to Him. Paul is thus saying, may God strengthen you out of His incredible, wonderful, unlimited resources, which are, in fact, Himself!
Having said that let's consider the means of strengthening that Paul desires for us: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Power – Spirit – inside us. That is the way we are strengthened. It is God's power, released by His Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. Jesus taught, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit.” (Jn 7:38,39). Here is the truth, that within us we have God's own Holy Spirit and He will strengthen us by His very own powerful presence. Within us we have a well whereby we may draw on the resources of the Spirit of God who dwells within us. How do we draw on Him? When we pray and when we worship. When we pray and when we worship, the Spirit within us rises up to agree and confirm our praise and our worship and as He does so we are strengthened. Feeling weak and lacking energy? Check out how often you pray and worship, and if it is only on a Sunday morning, it is no wonder you lack strength!
Finally let's consider the outcome of this strengthening that Paul desires for us. Now there will be a lot more in the verses that follow on but for the moment we'll simply focus on the immediate end of this part: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Now that sounds strange because surely the Spirit, as we've already said above, lives within us? In fact isn't that what Paul taught elsewhere: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:9-11) There it is; you can't be a Christian if the Holy Spirit is not living within you, and He it is who brings ongoing life to us.
So what is Paul saying in our verse today? Surely the key is in the word ‘dwell ' which means to be established and at home and to grow in usage. Yes, the Holy Spirit already lives in us, but as we open ourselves to Him we will find He strengthens us and we find a closer intimacy with Christ whose presence we come to realise and experience more and more. Yes it is a gradual growth process just as Paul spoke about the Spirit to the Corinthians: “we …all reflect he Lord's glory….being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18) Yes, there is a gradual change process going on within us, which is brought about by the Spirit living within us so that we experience Christ more and more AND become more and more like him. There is a lot more to come but we'll see that in the next meditation.