This sermon is number 14 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 14
"A Prayer For The Church"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now let me welcome you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to our Bible study this evening. It's great to see you all here. There's some visitors with us, and it's nice to see you and we hope and trust, as we meet together, that the Lord will bless us under the sound of God's word. I hope you're here expecting - expecting the Lord to touch you and expecting Him to speak to you in His own living way.
Ephesians and chapter 3 - Ephesians chapter 3, and I don't know whether you kept your sheet from last week, but we have a little bit to finish off of our study last week. We're going to begin, God willing, at verse 14 right through to verse 21 if time serves us well. Let's read the whole, from verse 8 onward to get the context: "Unto me" - Paul says, remember - "who am less than the least of all saints", the 'leaster' of all the saints, as we saw that he put it, "is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ". Now, we looked last week at the message of the mystery. What was the message of the mystery that Paul was delivering to the Gentiles? Well, this was the first thing that he preached: 'I would know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified' - the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Then verse 9 - the second thing: "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory".
Now, these are the verses we want to look at specifically tonight: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" - Amen! Amen!
Now, last week we looked at the message of the mystery and we saw the first thing that Paul had to preach, and the thing that we ought to preach, is the Lord Jesus Christ. That's all we have! Whatever we are, whatever we have, is in Him! The Christian faith is not only a body of belief, but it's a body of a man that we believe in. It is Christ - His unsearchable riches. But the second thing that Paul said that he wanted to preach and reveal to the Gentiles is found in verse 9 - to make known to all men: 'To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ'.
Now, we saw that the fundamental understanding of what the mystery of God is, is to understand what a mystery is. It's not what we understand today as a 'murder mystery': something that we can never understand; or like a jigsaw puzzle. But the mystery of God, we have seen, is something that was in the past but was not seen. God had hidden it from men! It was a sacred secret that He had never revealed before, and now it has been revealed and it is known to all men through revelation - not something that can be learned, books can't be read about it - and that's how men came to the knowledge of it. But God had to come, and He came to Paul and to the other disciples, to the apostles, and He revealed this new thing that God was going to do - the new man, the new creation in Christ Jesus, the third race, the church of Jesus Christ - how every man in the world, no matter what creed, colour, faith, nation they were from - that they could all by faith in Jesus Christ be united together within the church of Jesus Christ. He has broken down every barrier, every wall of partition, and made one new man! That is the mystery, and Paul was preaching that that mystery comes through the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Then, secondly, in verse 9 he preaches a theology of unity - that this is a special thing; that it's not just about preaching the word of God, which is the Gospel - that Christ Jesus died for your sins according to the scriptures, and whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. That is the first step - the unsearchable riches of Christ. But then Paul says: 'I then go on to preach another thing to the Gentiles - a theology of the church: the message of the mystery of the unity of the church of Jesus Christ'. Now, you see this is important, because there are many many evangelistic societies (and I do not despise them, don't get me wrong) but the whole message of God is 'Christ and the church'. The church is the mechanism, the organism that God has chosen to work in the world. Now, your view of the church might be one thing, and its state at the moment, but that's another subject. But God has said: 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'. The church is God's ordained people to bring the Gospel to men and women, and this is interesting: Paul didn't leave it at the Gospel. After he preached the Gospel, and after men and women were being converted to Christ, he then revealed to them this mystery: that everyone - Jew, Gentile, Greek, bond, free, man, woman - no matter what background or status you have - rich and poor - you can be part of this community of grace.
Years ago, Johan Lukasse of the Belgian Evangelical Mission came to the realisation that evangelism in Belgium was getting nowhere. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The nation had a long history of Roman Catholicism. Now within the nation there was building up the success of many of the cults - the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons and so forth. People, more and more, in the whole of the Belgian society were becoming increasingly unreceptive to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And because of that, in his despair, as the head of an evangelistic organisation he got on his knees before God and he opened the word of God and began to study, in depth, what God would have to say to him about the way forward. He came up with a new plan. Do you know what he did? He gathered together different nationalities of believers - Belgians, Dutch, American, and anyone else he could find who believed in the Lord Jesus. Then the second thing he did was he rented a large house and he bunged them all in together, shut the doors, and told them to live together. Now, you can imagine the friction that set in! Different cultures, different ways of doing things, understanding of values, even eating - the things that they ate they couldn't agree on - a problem of a language barrier. But he persevered and they persevered, and what they did was their disagreements, their arguments - they turned to prayer and brought them before the Lord, and out of that situation grew an amazing sense of the fruit of love among these believers. Do you know what the unconverted in Belgium began to call them? This was their nickname: 'the people who love each other'. That's what it's all about, isn't it? 'The people who love each other'.
Now, what would you call the church of Jesus Christ in Ulster? 'The people who hate each other'? Maybe that's a bit strong: 'The people who despise each other, who want to get one over the other, who don't like the other's denomination'? 'The people who compete against one another for numbers, for converts'? What would you call us? What is the situation of the theology of unity? Now, don't get me wrong, this is 'theology of unity in truth'; this is Biblical ecumenism, not false ecumenism with the church of Rome or any other church that does not believe the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the theology of 'Biblical unity' like you find in 1 John, 2 John and 3 John where the apostle rejoiced in those who walked 'in the truth'. That's the only unity that you can have - walking in the truth with those that are born again. But listen to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ - John 13 - now let these words pierce your heart: 'A new commandment I give unto you' - new, never seen before - 'that ye love one another' - listen - 'as I' - the Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified Christ - 'loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another'.
Now, if that was the only qualification of the world knowing that we were saved - would they know it? Would they? Would the mystery of Christ and the unity of the church shine forth? Now, it's with this mystery, and I believe this with all my heart, that we, if we ever will win the world, will win the world! With the mystery that all men, no matter what their background is, can be united together in Christ. Not getting saved and then separating and segregating into their little groups, but they can be united together as one in Christ. Now, men have been trying to do this down all the ages. They've been trying to break down borders and nationalities, and bring together - the Latin language was going to be the whole language and now you can hardly learn it at school any more, and even when I was meant to learn it I couldn't learn it at school! But that was to bring the world together, wasn't it? We talk about a united Europe, the United States of America - and from the very tower of Babel, this was in the heart of men. But what they were wanting to do was do it with sin still in them - the problem of sin, the problem of jealousy, the problem of national and political pride. But here the Lord Jesus Christ is giving to Paul this vision of the mystery where the Lord Jesus Himself is uniting together every tongue, people and nation and tribe as one - without sin! Isn't it wonderful?
Now, is this the message of the Gospel that you know? Because it's an intrinsic part of the Gospel. My question is: are you understanding it? Do believe it? - and more importantly in the situation we find ourselves in, in the world: are we articulating it? Are we getting this message across that you have nothing against a nationality, or a person of another political or religious persuasion? You might not agree with their beliefs, but them as a person - that you love them and you want them to be born again. For this is the truth, just like for Johan Lukasse in Belgium, that could liberate, revolutionise and revive Ulster!
[Paul] preached, after he preached Christ, about the unity of the church. Then thirdly, verse 10, we see what else he preached: 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God'. First, he preaches the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. Second, he preaches the message of the church, and its unity to the Gentiles. Thirdly - this is fascinating - he preaches to inform the heavenly beings! 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God'. Think about this! Think about this! At this moment angels are observing you. Where you sit, there are angels hovering over, looking at the situation of this church - absolutely astonished at what God has done in His church through the blood and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is saying, 'When I preach this message of the church, and when the angels see the church, they are amazed because we are part of the mystery'. One writer put it like this: 'It is God's cosmic drama. The theatre is history. The stage is the world. The actors are the church. The writer is God, who directs and produces the drama. And the audience? The cosmic beings, the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms - and the history of the Christian church is the graduate school for angels'. Think about this! This is how the angels are watching us and learning the way they ought to behave.
It was through the old creation, the universe in the beginning, and the days of creation when God created the heavens and the earth, that God revealed His glory to human beings. 'In the stars His handiwork I see. The firmaments showeth forth His handiwork'. Isn't that right? That is how we see the glory of God with the naked eye to the human being, but it is through the new creation - the church, the mystery of Jesus Christ - that God shows His glory to the angels. You can read about it in 1 Corinthians 11 on the subject of headship. Those who could not accept the headship of God in heaven, those who shunned the authority and superiority of God, those who led a rebellion - Lucifer and all his angels - are watching, and can see that you ought to be in subjection to God.
In 1 Peter chapter 1 and verse 10 to 12 we read about it. Listen: 'Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into'. This is the mystery of all ages. The prophets never understood it. The scribes, the patriarchs never had it revealed to them and, all of a sudden, the Gentile people of God who never knew God, or the commonwealth of Israel, or the promises of the covenants - all of a sudden the angels watch: 'God has revealed it unto them?' Yes, God has! That's the miracle of grace. That's the miracle of the mystery, that the assembly - the local assembly - is observed by God. Look at 1 Corinthians 4 verse 9 - turn to it. First Corinthians 4 verse 9, and part of the verse says this: 'For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men'. Does that mean that the angels know when your seat's empty? I don't know, but more importantly God knows when your seat's empty.
It's interesting, the phrase that Paul uses here: 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God'. Now, that's a very very colourful - literally - a colourful phrase, because that phrase that Paul is using there is a phrase which is translated in another place as 'many coloured', 'multicoloured'. Now, let me give you a bit of a language lesson here. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew. The New Testament is written in Greek. But for the Greek world, that had come about after the Hebrew world had sort of passed away a bit, they translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek so that the Greeks could read it. The Greek Old Testament is called the 'Septuagint' - and in the Greek Old Testament this phrase, 'manifold', is used of Joseph's coat of many colours. Do you understand? 'The manifold wisdom', 'the many coloured', 'the multicoloured wisdom of God' - do you see the description? God is describing a multicultural, multicoloured nation of believers, all united together as one society, one community. This is God's 'multicoloured new man', and as Satan's angels are looking on, they're gobsmacked. Isn't it wonderful?
That's why they get so annoyed at times. That's why they stir the pot in your life at times, because they see what God is doing and they know that they can't do anything to stop it. Because you can't stop God! They look and they realise that the devil has not wisdom like this, the devil has not 'manifold, multicoloured wisdom'. He has only black wisdom! They look in awe - and all the angels and principalities and powers look - and they see the consequences of the cross of Jesus Christ. Think about it - Satan kneeling there at the cross, looking up at my Saviour bleeding and dying, and thinking 'I've got Him now!' If he could only see what he's seeing now, then - a people all over the world! He thought he was only up against the Jews, but people from every tribe and tongue and nation united together as a new creature that has never been seen before - and he's got it in the neck, and praise God he has. Praise God, there's a day when he'll be cast into hell with all his angels, and he knows it! What a mystery! What a sovereign eternal plan of God!
Look at verse 13 - that is why Paul says this to his people: 'Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory'. Paul, remember, was in prison. He was willing to pay the price. We learnt, verse 1, that he was in prison because he was preaching this Gospel about the Gentiles, about the fact that the Gentiles could trust in Christ. Paul was willing to pay the price, that the church of Jesus Christ might go forward. Are you? Are you willing to pay the price in your life of time, of a night in the week, of some money, of your reputation, of perhaps the status within your business and climbing a ladder? Are you willing to do that to give some time - some time - to watch the church of Jesus Christ go forward? Or is that too big a price?
Verse 12: he says: 'In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him' - or that could be better translated: 'by the faithfulness of Him'. We come to God and the angels watch us come to God. Why? Because of Christ's faithfulness in going to the cross and dying for us. We can be absolutely confident that when we come to God in prayer, when we come to Him in worship, that we are being accepted, that we are being heard, we are being seen - not upon what we do, but because of the faithfulness of Him. Confidence comes from conviction, and if you've confidence you have conviction that Christ died for you and that Christ is pleading for you in heaven. Conviction comes from the word of God. So the formula is: confidence, conviction, the word of God. Take the word of God out - don't read it, don't study it, don't listen to it in the church - confidence and conviction disappear! Now, if you're absent of confidence before God and if you've no conviction (like half of the church of Jesus Christ about everything now) the chances are you're not reading the word of God. Do you see it? We have boldness, not because of our faith, but because of His faithfulness or the faith of Him - Jesus Christ, the righteous, the Son of God. Are you convinced of this message? Are you? Are you absolutely confident of what this message can do in our land, in our homes, in our nation, across the world for the many problems that we have?
This man Paul amazes me, and the amazing thing about him to me is that he's a man - and he's a man like you or me (or a woman). He is a sinner. Now, don't canonise him now or make him some holy thing that none of us can reach to. He was a man saved by the grace of God, and I know he was ordained for a special reason and a special purpose, we saw that last week - but he was a man! You have the same God - the same grace imparted to you, the same opportunities! It's amazing! He lived the Christian paradox. He's lying in prison - now don't forget that - but he's seated in heavenly places. Isn't that right? He's less than the least (or less than the 'leaster') yet he describes himself as the recipient of God's revelation, God's holy oracles. He has lost his life to find it! This was the Christianity that pushed the church of Jesus Christ forward. This was the faith - this wasn't a 'Sunday only Christianity'! This wasn't a 'wink and nod Christianity'! This was a Christianity that you would die for! I strongly suspect, according to the word of God, that if you don't have that Christianity, you don't have Christianity - because that's the only one I find in the scriptures. I don't find too many backsliders in the New Testament. I'm not saying there aren't any, but the streets around this hall are filled with them - filled with them! The New Testament's not!
That is the church that Paul portrays - and listen: the church is not an option! It comes with Christ. But let's look at our passage for tonight (if we can!): 'The Prayer For The Church'. Now, one of the greatest problems that you may face, and I face in prayer, is keeping your mind on it - and we often have a wandering mind, don't we? We're thinking about one thing - maybe we're praying about mum or dad or someone who's ill, and then we make an association with them. Maybe it's the fact that their auntie's not well or going away on holiday, and then we think about that we're going away on holiday soon, and then we look forward to going on holiday, and we think about all we're going to do on holiday - and, before you know it, you don't know where you are, and you've forgotten where you've come from, isn't that right? Your mind wanders in prayer, and you might start off well and then you just think about something else, and you lose it. Now, it's interesting that Paul did this, but he lost it in a spiritual way! If you look at verse 1 he started off with prayer: 'For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles' - and then, if you look at verse 14, it flows beautifully: 'For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ'. So he's about to get on his knees for prayer, and then he got digressed by the wonderful mystery of the church of Jesus Christ.
Now, if we could have a few spiritual digressions it would be a bit better in our prayer life. But you see what he was talking about - he was about to get onto his knees! Now, Paul had a prayer list for the church of Jesus Christ - and I would advise you to get a prayer list. You need a prayer list! How can you know what to pray about if you don't have it written down? Unless you have a photographic memory! He had a plan for prayer. Look at the first point - verse 14 and 15: 'For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named'. Now, the first thing I want you to notice about this was: his posture of prayer - 'I kneel'. Now, perhaps you already kneel when you pray. Sometimes I kneel and sometimes I don't kneel - it's not a 'have-to-do' thing. It's not compulsory to kneel, because the psalmists say that you can talk to God as you're walking, as you're sitting, as you're lying down even on your bed. The psalmist said: 'I cry out to God lying on my bed'. Now, I wouldn't advise that - to lie on your bed and cry unto God - but you can pray in any place, at any time, in any way, in any capacity or circumstance. So why is Paul saying, 'I kneel'?
It's even stranger when you think that, for the Jew, it wasn't a custom to kneel and pray. Most of the Jews stood and prayed. In fact, if you go to Jerusalem today, you'll know that there at the Wailing Wall they're all standing and they're praying. They stand to pray normally, and for the Jew to kneel and pray meant that it was something extraordinary, something unusually passionate, that the person that was praying was doing. If you go into the Old Testament, King Solomon when he was praying to dedicate the temple, he knelt on a wooden platform before the people, he lifted his hands toward heaven in prayer and God came! It was a special event when he knelt. In Gethsemane, the night before the Lord Jesus Christ was taken to be crucified, He fell prostrate on the ground on His face and on His knees in agony and prayed. Incidentally when Paul made his emotional, tearful departure from the elders in Ephesus, do you remember? He knelt and he prayed with them!
Now many Christians in Ulster, excuse the pun, as a knee-jerk reaction against ritualism and against the empty procedure of a dead denomination, don't ever kneel because 'they' kneel. I don't think it would do us any harm for all of us to get on our face before God for a few hours. But the point of Paul kneeling was not some ritualistic, outward conformity to a rule, but it was mirroring the disposition of his heart! The fact that he was on his knees physically was demonstrating that inwardly his spirit and his soul were on their knees, metaphorically speaking, before God - he was submissive to God in everything.
Now, to the Jew, that meant that Paul had a deep emotion within his heart. Now what was the deep emotion that drove Paul to his knees? The first thing was this: his thrilling, thrilling emotion with the mystery of the church of Jesus Christ that God had revealed to him. That God was delivering to him by revelation, he was so thrilled with it, that he fell to his knees, he praised God and he was bringing the beauties of the church before God. Now if you preach the word of God, and it doesn't thrill you to your knees, you might as well forget about it. You know, our wee land is dogged with preachers who aren't thrilled about what they're saying - and you can see it! They're not thrilled. The zeal of God's house - and I'm talking about the church now, the body of Christ, full of believers - it doesn't thrill them, because the realities that they speak about are not in the depths of their soul. They're in their head, they're in their intellect, but they have never reached the deep recesses of their being that God can touch, it doesn't thrill them any more!
Now don't try and imitate it, because I believe people see through that as well. How easy it is to be like the railway conductor who, after daily shouting out destinations of Bangor and Holywood and Conleigh, imagines that he's been there! But those places, he has no idea about the realities that lie behind his own words. You've heard the word of God, maybe you've preached the word of God - let me ask you, in Jesus name: do you know the realities, and do they still thrill you? Do they?
It's interesting that it made him fall on his knees. You know, there have been times that I have been studying this wee book, and do you see after I finish it and get it ready for Monday night? There have been times that I've just stood in the presence of the Lord, with all these wonderful thoughts flooding through my mind and my heart, and I can't say a thing to the Lord for it's just wonderful. That's falling on your knees.
Do you know what Martin Luther said? 'The best study is prayer'. I think if I had the choice - I haven't had it yet - between studying and praying, I would choose praying because I need God more than I need knowledge. Is that not right? Do we not need God? The truths of God that thrill us so much, we need to see that the secret of Spirit-filled preaching is praying. Spurgeon said: 'Bathe, saturate your sermons in prayer and when you preach it then there's a follow up work to do'. So much of the time we pray before we preach and then, when we get it out, then we forget about it and go on to the next thing. But one of the greatest works is to follow up your preaching and your work with prayer. To pray the seed of the word of God in after it's been preached, to cultivate it, to water it, and pray that God will water it with your prayers.
The second thing in his plan of prayer was the Person to whom prayer is addressed. Verse 14b: 'To the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ', the Fathership of God, 'of whom the whole family in heaven and in earth is named'. Now Jesus Himself taught us to pray 'Our Father' didn't He? Luke 11: 'Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name'. Now the first thing that God is Father of is a special Fatherhood: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But then Paul says: 'Not only is He the Father of the Lord Jesus, but of whom the whole family in heaven and in earth is named'. Another translation translates it like this, and I like this: 'From whom every family in heaven and on earth is named' - every family in heaven and on earth, He is the [Father] of the redeemed. First of all: Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, secondly: He is the Father of the redeemed in heaven who have already gone on before and those left on earth. He is their Father, He is our Father - but! He is also the Father of everyone. Don't get me wrong now: in creation He is the Father of all, He has created all things, He has made all beings, whether human or angelic, in the creation of all things. Phillips translates it like this: 'From whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly derives its name'. Now what is Paul saying, he is directing our thoughts to who we are praying to. Do you get it? The Father of the Lord Jesus Christ - we are in Christ, He is our Father, the Father of the church in heaven, the Father of the church on earth, and indeed the Father of all creation and all angelic principalities and powers. We are coming to this sovereign, eternal, everlasting King. That's what he's getting at. He wants you to see not your ingrown toenail, but your God! The God that you are coming to, the God that you are prostrate before.
Someone asked a tremendous favour of Napoleon, and every time Napoleon was asked a tremendous favour he always granted it, do you know why? He said this: 'Because he honoured me by the magnitude of his request'. You can't ask God something too big! Do you know what God hates? - and I hope I hate it in His Spirit: unbelief! Men that pour cold water on faith, men who will not believe! Remember Jesus - that makes me shudder - He went into that town and they could not believe! Could not! Unbelief - how can you have unbelief when you have a Father of all creation? How can you have it? The hymnwriter said:
'Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring,
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much'.
The second reason for Paul's emotion to fall on his knees is simply because of the awareness of the love and concern that such a heavenly Father would have for His children. It's wonderful isn't it? Who we are praying to, how much He loves us, how much cares for us, how much He wants to bless us! Well if that doesn't make you excited, you'll never be excited! This is wonderful! So Paul gives the prayer list that the church ought to pray for for one another, that he is praying for the church - and, I believe, we ought to pray for individually within our lives.
There are three things that he prays for. First of all, look at your sheet: a prayer for strength. Secondly: a prayer for love, and thirdly: a prayer for fullness. Let's look at the first one: a prayer for strength. Now the idea of what Paul is saying here, look at verse 16 and 17, let's tease it out: 'That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man'. Now you see when you're ill, or sick, or in a hospital, or you're weak or drained - the nurses and the doctors, they strengthen you for one reason primarily: so that you can face life, isn't that right? So that you can face all the processes of your bodily functions, so that you can live, intrinsically continue enjoying and enduring everything that life gives to you. Now this is the same in the inward as it is in the outward: you need to be strengthened inwardly in your spirit and soul to receive all the blessings of the new life that God wants to give to you. But do you know what our problem is often as Christians? We're like wet paper bags and God has a big, gold bullion bar that He wants to plant into us - a blessing! - but He knows that if He puts it in it would fall out the bottom. Isn't that right? That's why Paul says: 'You've got to be strengthened in the inner man' - and if you let God do that He will strengthen you. Look at verse 16: 'According to the riches of His grace'. That means that, no matter how great our request is, the resources of His riches are abundantly greater, because we come to a King! We don't come to a pauper God who we need to bring things to, to make Him richer or to make Him happier, but we come to a God that we cannot better, we cannot add to His riches, His worth, or His grace. He is exceeding rich and He gives according to His riches, not out of His riches now! Doesn't give us a few pounds, He gives us in measure, in parallel, according to them - so we can be sure that we have more than we need, and more than we will ever need! Should that not make you optimistic? God deliver us from pessimism. How could you be pessimistic with a God like this?
He says that we can be strengthened with His riches, strengthened by the might of His Spirit in the inner man. Look at that: 'by the might of His Spirit in the inner man'. Now turn with me quickly to 2 Corinthians 4, for Paul talks about this, 2 Corinthians 4 verse 16: 'For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day'. Grey hair, baldness, teeth falling out, gammy leg, do you know what I'm talking about? The outward man perishes. But although the outward man is fading and essentially is dying from birth and even - who knows - even from the womb, perhaps, the process of death begins. Because once life begins, death begins, because sin began in the Garden. But what a wonderful thing that God has done, He has turned the tables, and though everything is falling off us, our spirit can be strengthened within the inner man. The Holy Spirit - and this is what you have to get as a Christian - it is the Holy Spirit who is the instigator and the administrator of this strength within the inner man. Please do not forget the Holy Spirit - He is the third Person of the blessed Trinity. He is what the church had to wait on before they could do anything, lift a finger. Just because the charismatics have hijacked Him, don't you despise Him, whatever you do - you need Him! But do you want Him? My friend if you don't have Him, if you don't have Him you will never know - I'm not talking about possessing Him, because every believer has the Holy Spirit - but if you don't have the realization in your mind about the fact that you need Him, you will never grow stronger in your Christian faith and your body will grow weaker, and your soul and spirit will stay the same, unless you are strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit of God. What happens when that happens is we become full of Christ. Look at verse 17: 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith'. That's the whole purpose of the Spirit coming and strengthening you in the inner man, what happens is: it makes the access that the Lord Jesus Christ can come and dwell in your heart.
Now this is an upward spiral, in a literary way, with Paul - and I want you to see this, how he builds one thought upon another. He talks about our capacity, being strengthened according to His riches - our capacity, our ability to hold the Lord Jesus Christ in our heart, is widened by the riches and to the extent of God's grace and wealth. So that we may appropriate His life, so that Jesus Christ may come in in a full sense - and then, when His life fills us and thus enlarges our capacity more, so that we can hold more of Him within us! It goes onward and upward until we get to glory and we're like Him!
Kenneth Wheats translates it like this, this is wonderful, that: 'When you let your inner man be strengthened by the Holy Ghost, Christ will settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts'. Is He at home tonight? Is he? Can He go into every room? Can He look at every picture and painting that has been etched upon your conscience and your psyche, can He? Has He the keys to every door of every compartment of your recesses of your mind, conscious, or unconscious.
For years I have studied this subject of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, because I realize how important it is for the believer. There are so many diverse understandings of it, from a charismatic second blessing to a dead nothing. I asked a wise man one day what it was, do you know what he told me? Listen, he said: 'David, I've searched as well, I've looked into this subject for years, and do you know the conclusion I've come to? It is the split side, the other side of the coin of the Lordship of Jesus Christ'. In other words: if He's lord of your life, you'll be filled with the Spirit, if you seek the Spirit's filling. Do you know what he said to me, this is the comment: 'You'll know when you're filled with the Spirit, when you and Jesus aren't arguing about anything'. Isn't that brilliant? It's not so brilliant when you think about it: when you and Jesus aren't arguing about anything! Do we know this? The result of this that we find, and I'll close with this because I know my time's just over: you will be rooted and grounded in love. Isn't that wonderful? Those two metaphors that Paul is using, the result will be - it's an agricultural metaphor, 'rooted', you'll get your strength from the love of God, you'll get you sustenance from Him, you will be rooted. Then a building metaphor - 'grounded', 'built', He will be your foundation, and the foundation of your life will be His love.
'The love that Jesus had for me,
To suffer on the cruel tree,
That I a ransomed soul might be,
So more than tongue can tell'.
It's taken me fifteen weeks so far, and we're still telling it aren't we? We could have taken longer, and we're going to take longer. Next week we're going to look at 'A Prayer For Love, and 'A Prayer For Fullness' - and then that wonderful verse that 'He is able to do exceeding abundantly more than we can ever ask or even think'. It gets better, I can hardly believe it, but it gets better. If you're thrilled with it shout 'Hallelujah' - Hallelujah! Amen!
One more study in the book of Ephesians, and then I'm flying off on my holidays, and then there's still two more Bible studies. So don't leave, two more Bible studies, and we'll begin Ephesians again in September. So come back next week, and [we'll] continue in September.
Let us pray. Our Father we thank Thee for so great salvation, and what a great Saviour we have that He has saved to the uttermost and He gives full salvation, right from election right through to consummation - when we will be conformed to His blessed image. Lord, we have really not entered into this, we're only paddling at the shore of Thy great ocean - but Lord, take us deeper, take us deeper into the knowledge of Him, and bless us until we come back next week. In Jesus name, Amen.
Trevor Veale & Judith Watkins
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourteenth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "A Prayer For The Church" - Transcribed by Trevor Veale, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]