Christ and The Church 2: Grow in Christ
Text: Ephesians 3
Introduction: Review: Christ and the Church
Chapter One - We are In Christ
Location in Christ, Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Sanctification in Christ, Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Vocation in Christ Ephesians 1:11-12 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Illumination in Christ, Ephesians 1:17-19 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Chapter Two - Salvation In Christ
Our Past: Dead in Sin, Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Our Present: Seated in Heavenly Places, Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Our Future: Showing the Riches of His Mercy, Ephesians 2:7 hat in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Chapter Three - Grow in Christ
Paul’s Passion - Ephesians 3: 1-13
¶ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 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: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory
Paul was amazed at the person he was because of Christ in Him
He was a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles. Vs. 1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
He was a prophet of God’s revelation of the mystery of grace and the church to the Gentiles. Vs. 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;
The mystery, as the Bible uses it here, was something once hidden but now revealed and Paul tells the Ephesians and us what that mystery was in Vs. 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
He was a preacher sent to tell the world the good news Jesus saves. Vs. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
He was a pastor, a shepherd to the churches he had started, and the preachers God had called under his ministry. Vs. 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
As we read this opening paragraph of chapter 3 we get a sense of Paul’s passion for God’s calling in of his life and for the message he has been given to share with the Gentiles. It was a passion that gave him freedom even while held in bondage as a prisoner. It lifted him from this the cell he was in and put him back into the work of God carrying the Gospel around the world
Paul’s passion delivered him, emotionally and spiritually, from prison, what can our passion for the work of God, the church and the Gospel do in us?
Will it free us as it did him? Will our passion move us, will it overcome our apathy, our worry, our fear or our complacency?
It has been said that the greatest enemy of the modern church is not sin or Satan but apathy and complacency. Passion about who we are in Christ, our purpose in Christ and the calling of God to share the Gospel should utterly defeat apathy and complacency in our lives and in our church.
Our passion should be like the song of Deborah when Israel went out to war. In Judges 5:12 Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive.
Our passion should answer the call of God in Isaiah 60:1-4 1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. 4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
The one time slaver, drunk and slave of slaves come to know Christ in the midst of a terrible storm at sea, later he became a preacher and the author of “Amazing Grace.”
After he was saved, Newton married his long-time sweetheart and began studying for the ministry and preaching in whatever vacant building he could procure. Known as the "old converted sea captain," he attracted large audiences. He was ordained and in 1764 he took a church in Olney.
He never took lightly the fact of his conversion. He said, "People stare at me and well they may. I am indeed a wonder to many, and a wonder to myself. Especially I wonder that I wonder no more."
In his old age he would often have to be reminded what he was preaching on. It was suggested that he retire because of his poor health and failing memory. He replied, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!" - "The Golden Age of Hymns," Christian History, no. 31
John Newton, like Paul, hand and never lost his passion for Christ.
Paul’s Passion for the Christ and the church is next expressed through his prayer in vss. 14-19
Paul’s Prayer Ephesians 3:14-19
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
It is a prayer that builds and grows from one blessing to another and culminates with a knowledge that can comprehend the unknowable and fill the deepest depths of our soul.
Paul’s prayer requests for the church.
vs 16. Strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man.
Paul's prayer is directed toward the spiritual part of us our inner man our soul.
He didn’t pray for growth or finances or a new building. He prayed for souls made strong by the Spirit of God.
Paul prays in vs 17a, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”
We know from chapter one that Paul believes Christ is in us, but here he prays for Christ to dwell in our hearts. Is there a difference between dwelling in us and being in us?
Yes, you see, Christ in me is a theological fact at salvation, but Christ abiding in me, dwelling in me is an awareness of and a surrender to a deeper, growing, spiritual relationship. That is what Paul was praying for, not only that I know Christ is in my life but that I rejoice that I dwell with Christ in my life daily, fully and joyfully.
I think this is exactly what Jesus was telling the disciple the night before he was crucified in John 15:4-5. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Paul’s next desire for the Ephesians is vs 17b. That you, being rooted and grounded in love.
Compare this verse to Colossians 2:6-7 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
This is a complement, the complete-ment, to Christ dwelling in us. I cannot be rooted and grounded in love outside of dwelling with Christ and Christ dwelling in me Paul just prayed. Once that is true, I am rooted and ground in him, then Paul’s next prayer request is possible.
In vs 18 To be able to comprehend with all the saints, the breadth, length, depth and height, 19 To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge,
Paul is praying for us to have a 4-dimensional understanding of the love of Christ. The love of God goes before us, it follows behind us, it shields us from above, and it guards our steps underneath. The love of God cannot be measured but Paul prays that we may comprehend it, apprehend it, grasp it and experience it in our loves and pass it on to others.
The love of Christ toward us, is always growing, it is always expanding and because of that it even passes a full finite knowledge but through Christ in us we can know it because we experience it every day of our life.
Finally, in vs 19 b Paul says To be filled with all the fullness of God.
The Christian life is filled with blessings of paradox. Blessing that seemingly can’t be true and yet they are.
Here are in our passage today are three of them in vs. 8 - the unsearchable riches of Christ. In vs 19- knowing the love of Christ which passes knowledge and to be filled with the fullness of God. All of these blessing are impossible to quantify and yet they can be searched, known and filled by our relationship with God in Christ.
Do you realize what Paul is praying for? Its for us to grow and continue to grow in Christ. That is how we can experience all those surpassing qualities of Christ’s love and God’s fulness. We just keep growing in Christ.
Is it any wonder Paul accomplished what he did?
He had experienced the love of Christ a love that could not be learned through books or others but only through a direct revelation of God, in Christ.
Then having known Christ’s love he was filled with the fullness of God.
No wonder he could speak at risk of his life from atop Mars Hill in sing in chains, from the bottom of a dungeon in Ephesus. He possessed the unsearchable riches, the unlimited love and the fulness of God. The world could not take away, what only God had given.
As I read this prayer I wonder, will this prayer be fulfilled in our own lives and in our church?
Will we our inner man be strengthened by the Holy Spirit? Will Christ richly dwelling in our hearts? Will our souls be rooted and grounded in love? Will we begun to comprehend the breadth, length, depth, and height of Christ’s limitless love? Will we know that love of Christ that every expands beyond knowledge? Will we be filled with all the fulness of God?
How would it affect us as individuals, as parents, as church members? If all those passionate petitions of Paul were fulfilled in us today? How would our church change? How would our goals, our giving and our gratitude be?
I want to pray as Paul prayed and see these petitions become the pattern of my life with Christ, my growth in Christ.
I don’t want the apathy or defeat that too many times I have settled for in my Christian experience.
Wilbur Reese writes with biting sarcasm: I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love the unlovable or forgive the unforgivable. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth. I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I'd like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
So how much of God do we want? Paul prayed for us to have the fulness of God, but you must be willing, brave and passionate enough to pray and then experience those things ourselves.
Now in the last verses we will look at today, we’ll see the power behind Paul’s passion and his prayer.
20 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, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Paul closes his prays for the church by bring it to his eternal, all powerful, all knowing God.
vs 20 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,
Vs.20 explains how we can know the unknowable and be filled with the fullness of God.
Compare Colossians 1:9-11 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
All these things were possible, all these blessing attainable, all the paradoxes reconciled because God is almighty, and in His glorious power He can and does the impossible, every single day.
God is not limited by weak faith or shallow expectations. Our finite minds may not be able to take in the fullness of God, or the extent of the love of Christ, but our existence, our lives can be overshadowed, surrounded and swallowed in that love and in that fullness.
My soul is like a cup of water submerged in the sea. That cup can never contain the sea but it can be filled in the fullness of that sea. That is what Paul was praying for and that is what we should be striving for.
Are we afraid to ask for impossible things from God, because we are afraid that we will ask more than what God can do? Or are we really afraid of the opposite, that when we pray, God will grant our petitions and then ask us more than we can or are willing to do? But, isn’t that exactly what Paul’s prayer was about, more than we can search, more than we can know, more than we can be filled? Paul isn’t concerned with what he can’t do, because he is convinced of what His almighty God, in all his glorious power, can do.
Much of the so-called evidences of God’s power and work in today’s world are really nothing more than man’s manipulation and motivation of others. Great buildings and sweeping movements are manufactured everyday by man’s power. But only God’s glorious power can make souls be made great, only God’s power can give us knowledge of the unknowable, only God power can fill us with his fathomless fullness.
Are we ready to experience the prayer of Paul?
I am overwhelmed by what Paul is praying for in Ephesians 3. Overwhelmed because of what he is praying for and even more because of who he is praying for. Paul was not afraid to dive into the depths of knowing God, he was not afraid to walk out in to the limitless love of Christ. He climbed to the heights of faith and went to the breadth of service to his savior.
I am overwhelmed not because Paul did those things but because he prayed to God, that God in his power would cause us to do those things. I wonder am I willing to believe such a prayer could be true for me today.