December 10, 2023

Finding the Handle that Turns on the Power!

Pastor: Wade Trimmer Series: Ephesians Scripture: Ephesians 3:14–21

On one occasion, the late English preacher George Duncan went to visit some friends in the English countryside. For years they had lived in an oldfashioned, rundown house. To Mr. Duncan's surprise, he discovered that the house had been completely remodeled. The people had installed new lights, an electric stove, and many other pieces of modern equipment. But he was even more surprised to see the lady of the house still using a kerosene stove for cooking and oil lamps for lighting. After greeting him, she said, " George, don't look so confused. We've had a great change here, but we just haven't turned on the power yet."

This typifies the lives of so many Christians a great change has taken place in their hearts, but they haven't turned on the power yet! As a result, they never seem to be adequate for the demands that life places upon them. Knowing this tendency, (the tendency to faint because of difficulties, dangers, and uncertainties – Eph. 3:13,) Paul prays that the saints may be able to "get your hands upon on” (English word “comprehend” in 3:18, means to “lay hold of”, “grasp”; ‘to obtain”) the handle that turns on the power for abundant living.

I. Praying for Supernatural Power to Intimately Know Christ’s Presence and Love - 3:14-19

In Paul's first prayer, found in Eph 1:18-19, he prayed the “3 whats” for the saints to be able to enlightened so as to understand what power and provision was already theirs in Christ. In this prayer, he prays the “4 that’s” for the saints so that they will be enabled and endued with strength by the Holy Spirit in their inner man in order to use or release the power that was resident in them via Christ's indwelling presence.

The “4 that’s’ of the prayer are:
that they would be strengthened through the Spirit (3:16);
that they would be rooted and grounded in love (3:17);
that they would comprehend the immensity of Christ’s love (3:18-19); and
that they would be filled to God’s own fullness (3:19).

In these four requests, Paul covers four dimensions of human need: psychological, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Let’s examine each more closely.

A. The Prayer Offered Up
1. a sense of intense constraint 14 – “I bow my knees” - Overwhelmed by the majesty of God's redemptive purposes and burdened at God's people's miniature appropriation of all the riches and resources available in Christ, Paul is driven to his knees.

Spiritual posture in Ephesians is important. As dead sinners in chapter 2, we were lying in the grave of our sins, having been born-again, we are now sitting in the heavenlies in Christ (1:3), we are walking in the life, light and love of the Lord, so that we can stand against the devil. Here Paul is bowing in prayer.
Jews normally stood in prayer. (Mk. 11:25, And whenever you stand praying…” Lk. 18:11, “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus.) The posture of the body isn't that important.

2. a sense of intimate companionship - 14b,15

(a) a loving Father - 14b, 15a - What does Paul mean when he refers to God as "Father?" Options include: (1) Inter-trinitarian (Father of our Lord Jesus Christ); (2) Creative (of all mankind; see Acts 17:28-29; Heb. 12:9); (3) Theocratic (Father of the nation Israel; see Ex. 4:22-23; Dt. 14:1-2); (4) Adoptive/Spiritual (of Christians only). I think without question that it is the the latter that he has in mind in this text.

Through Christ we are made partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have His name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.

(b) a lasting Family - 15b, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” - The translation "every family" would probably include all people ("on earth") without exception (and perhaps even groupings and classes of angels "in heaven"), thereby making God "Father" in the creative sense.

B. The Power Turned On – 3:16-19

1. Inner strength - 16 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being…” Two different words for strengthening appear in 3:16 and 18 (krataioo = “to acquire strength”, “to be firm, resolute”. The other word is dunamis = “miracle working power” as well as “moral power”). The Spirit strengthens by the indwelling Christ, who enables perception of the experience. Just as love is both the source and the goal, Christ is the goal (v. 17) and the source of the power of God at work in us (v. 19).

“Power” and “Spirit” are so commonly associated in both Testaments that they are virtually synonymous. The Spirit is the power of God at work in people. Paul prays for his readers that the Spirit will be so strong an influence at the controlling center of their being that their lives will show it.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life is evidence of salvation (Rom 8:9); but the power of the Spirit is enablement for Christian living and Great Commission ministry, and it is this power that Paul desires for his readers. “You shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

(a) This will resolve the issue of personal adequacy. The issue of lack is resolved. Spiritually, the sense of helplessness, of not being able to cope, of running out of strength when the day is only half done, can be overcome.

There was a man who bought a Rolls Royce automobile. Unable to find any information about the amount of the engine’s horsepower, he wrote to the company asking for that info. After no reply, he continued to write them. Finally, several letters later he received a response. The letter read: "Dear Owner, we do not disclose the amount of horsepower our engines turn out, but rest assured it is adequate for every driving experience you encounter!” This is Father’s answer for every believer. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit within our hearts is more than enough for every situation in life.

2. Indwelling Christ - 17a“that Christ may dwell in your hearts…” The Greek word for dwell is “katoikeo?” and means “to settle down and feel at home in our hearts.” The word is used expressly to denote residence against lodging, the abode of a master within his own home as against the turning aside of a wayfarer for an overnight stay. The heart of the Christian is to be a home, not a hotel!

(a) This will resolve the issue of relational alienation. The sense of loneliness, isolation, separation is settled. Sam Storms notes: “It would seem that he is praying for the emotional increase or experiential expansion of what is already a theological fact. His desire is that the Lord Jesus, through the Spirit, might exert an ever-increasing and progressively more powerful influence on our lives and in our hearts. It is what I like to call, the incessant spiritual reinforcement in the human heart of the strength of Jesus and his love. And this is an ongoing experience.

Cols 1:27, declares that “Christ is in believers as the hope of glory.” Christ the Person of all Majesty is now permanently living in me - me, who before salvation was the person of all Misery - so that now I have the sure Promise of all Mercy. Christ in me is the guarantee that I will see and share in that glory which is realized in the Presence and Person of the God of Glory.

(1) no more superficiality permissible in relationships – 17b - “rooted and grounded in love” - Here Paul employs a double metaphor: one from agriculture and one from architecture. Love, says Paul, "is the soil in which believers are to be rooted and grow, the foundation on which they are to be built."

(2) no more solitary protectionism in relationships - 18a,“with all the saints” - Gloria Furman, in commenting on this verse, says, “We grow in Christ because we must - it is who he has designed us to be. But how does this happen? Are we like cut roses in a vase? Single stems in a bud vase? Neither. The gospel frees us to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and this love has a context - the garden of community. Rather than plucking us out of Christian community to show us Christ's knowledge-surpassing love, God plants us in the body of Christ. In other words, we grow in the garden of the local church, not in a vase all by ourselves. Jesus dwells in the hearts of individuals by faith, and it is together "with all the saints" where we explore the all the geometry of Christ's love. How wide, how long, how high, and bow deep is the love of Jesus. We were made to help each other discover the answers to these questions. In this garden of community, we seek the flourishing of others. Seeds of envy, favoritism, arrogance, racism, and gossip will find no place to cast down their roots when we are all rooted and grounded in love.”

3. Incomprehensible love - 18,19a - The first half of 3:19 is a good example of an oxymoron (a combination of words that appears contradictory): Paul prays that they may know the love that is beyond knowing. This is language from someone who has been surprised and overwhelmed with Christ’s love. Love brings movement; it causes things. To know Christ’s love is to be transformed by love and expanded into the fullness of God. This love is experiential in nature, i.e., it’s not just a theological fact.

(a) This resolves the issue of unconditional affection. The need for love is met in the love of God. I need someone who knows all about me, and still will not reject me; someone who will love me in spite of my unloveliness and my unloveableness. There is only One who can do that - our Great God. And the Father wants His children to know from experience His love. We’re not speaking of a mindless emotionalism that decries doctrine, and all church assemblies has the goal of working oneself into a frenzied state. This involves truth, grace, and love in the inner man that moves us to the God-man, where we are lost in wonder, love, worship, and praise. This isn’t found by pursuing and experience with God, but by pursuing God, desiring to know Him intimately.

A great example of a believer’s experience of the love of God in a powerful way occurred in the life of one of my favorite Puritan authors, Pastor John Flavel. On one occasion he was on one of his ministerial journeys on horseback in the neighborhood of Dartmouth, England when the sense of Christ's inexpressible love so overcame him that he no longer knew his whereabouts; and when he recovered himself, he found he had fallen off his, which was standing still by a brookside waiting on him, and his nose was bleeding profusely. He washed his face in the stream and rode on; but that night he passed into such a spiritual trance that he left supper untasted and lay awake till daybreak, bathed in a flood of serene exaltation and beatitude.

The wife of Jonathan Edwards, Sarah, had a similar experience that lasted for days. She said on one occasion: “At length my strength failed me, and I sunk down; when they took me up and laid me on the bed, where I lay for a considerable time, faint with joy, while contemplating the glories of the heavenly world. After I had lain a while, I felt more perfectly subdued and weaned from the world, and more fully resigned to God, than I had ever been conscious of before. This was accompanied with a ravishing sense of the unspeakable joys of the upper world.”

A love which is BOUNDLESS – breadth – This four-fold description of God’s love is contained in the gospel of God. If we are to move from information to sensation, from knowing in our heads to knowing that you know the love of Christ in our hearts, we must be gospel-centered in our living.

Where is the love of Christ seen most clearly? At the cross. There is where what Jesus said in Jn 12:32 becomes a reality: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The phrase “all men/people” doesn’t suggest universal salvation. It means “all people without distinction,” that is, Jews and Gentiles. He does not force them; He draws them (see John 6:44-45). He was “lifted up” that men might find the way (John 12:32), know the truth (John 8:28), and receive the life (John 3:14). The cross reminds us that God loves a whole world, without distinction, and that the task of the church is to take the Gospel to the whole world. His love is as wide as the world: For God so loved the world (John 3:16). His love is broad enough to encompass all mankind without distinction of color, class, or conditions. It comprehends all nations, compasses all needs, confers measureless blessings for this life and the world to come.

On the mount of crucifixion fountains opened deep and wide; through the floodgates of God's mercy flowed a vast and gracious tide. Grace and love, like mighty rivers, poured incessant from above, and heav'n's peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.

A love which is ENDLESS – length – The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Before the first Adam sinned, the Last Adam had his bags packed to move from mountains of glory to the hill of Golgotha! His love is everlasting. Jerm 31:3, “… I have loved you with an everlasting love…”. It is so long that it reaches from eternity past to eternity future. It is eternal love in the fountain of election, ceaseless love in the flow, endless love in its endurance, boundless love in that it exceeds all our sin and our guilt.

His love is FATHOMLESS – depth – In the gospel, Christ on the cross cries out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” No man ever fell in a hole that deep! The depths to which Jesus was willing to go declares this is how much God loves you and me. His love is deep enough to reach the most depraved and degraded sinner.

His love is MEASURELESS – height – His love is high enough to exalt us from the guilty sinners on death row to glorified sons enjoying eternal life in the never-ending bliss of Heaven! 1 Samuel 2:8 - "He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world.”

Here is love, vast as the ocean, lovingkindness as the flood: when the Prince of Life, our Ransom, shed for us His precious blood. Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise? He can never be forgotten throughout heav'n's eternal days.

4. Infinite fullness - 19b – The Amplified Bible - "that you may be filled through all your being unto the fullness of God - that is that you may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself."

(a) The resolves the issue of final achievement. My life and labors in the Lord will not be in vain. My longing to achieve holiness, to be done with this struggle with sin, to find paradise lost, to realize my ultimate destiny, will become a reality. There is both a now and a then to this desire to be filled to the fullness of God.

II. Praising that Sounds Forth From a Spirit-filled Church - 3:20-21

Paul's lavish praise of God reflects the boundlessness of his ability to bless his people in response to their prayers. But before going any further, notice where he is able to do this – “in the Church!” Of all the places one might think God would choose to reveal and embody and express his manifest glory, the church, with all its weaknesses and divisions and failures, scarcely seems to qualify! Yet that’s exactly his intent.

Our God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, for he is a God of superabundance. The Greek word translated “far more abundantly” has the idea of an extraordinary degree, considerable excess beyond expectations.

Alexander the Great, asked a man to give him his daughter's hand in marriage. The man agreed to do so but for a huge sum of money. The ruler consented and told him to request of his Treasurer whatever he wanted. So he went and asked for an enormous amount. The keeper of the funds was startled and said he couldn't give him that much without a direct order. Going to Alexander, the treasurer argued that even a small fraction of the money requested would more than serve the purpose. "No," replied Alexander, "let him have it all. I like that fellow. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous."
In the same way, we should go to the throne of God's grace and present petitions that express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of our King and our desire to know from experience what it means to be filled and flooded with the presence of God!

Let’s accept the worsds of the pastor who wrote one of the greatest hymns ever written (Amazing Grace) - John Newton’s challenge: “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring, for His grace and power are such none can ever ask too much.”



other sermons in this series

Feb 25


Being Filled with the Spirit

Pastor: Wade Trimmer Scripture: Ephesians 5:18–21 Series: Ephesians

Feb 11


Living In and Loving the Will of God!

Pastor: Wade Trimmer Scripture: Ephesians 5:15–17 Series: Ephesians

Feb 4


Imitating Our Father

Pastor: Wade Trimmer Scripture: Ephesians 5:1–14 Series: Ephesians