by Pastor David Groendyk
Because Christ Jesus has brought about forgiveness and reconciliation between man and God and between Jew and Gentile (2:13–16), and because Paul wants the Ephesian church to more and more grow in unity and maturity (2:21–22), Paul prays that the church would be filled with the love of Christ and the fullness of God (3:14–19). As we can infer from chapter 2, this is a church where hostility, enmity, and division have creeped in due to the differences between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. For the Jews and Gentiles, their dividing wall of hostility was a certain body of ceremonial laws found in the Old Testament (see 2:15). It’s striking that Paul’s primary prayer is that these believers be filled with love and godliness to counteract that hostility. To be filled with self-sacrificing love leads us to put aside our differences with other believers for the sake of remaining united in the gospel. But, of course, that’s not easy. Just look at the words Paul uses in his prayer. We need strength to comprehend this kind of love (v. 16); we need the Holy Spirit—God himself—to give us this strength (v. 16); this love is immense, broad and long and high and deep (v. 18); this love surpasses all human understanding (v. 19); and God himself must do an unimaginable work to cause us to comprehend this love (v. 20). This unimaginable love is the same love that caused God to send Jesus to die for unworthy, rebellious, wrathful sinners (see 2:4). What kind of love is this? Are you imitating this kind of love? It’s no secret that Christians today are divided over the current political and social climate. But Christ himself is clear that nothing should divide Christ’s body that is not central to the gospel. To unnecessarily divide the body of Christ is a grievous sin. How do you see believers being divided by current political and social issues? What are some ways you can fight for unity despite differences with other believers in these areas? Are you acting as a model of reconciliation and peace or of hostility and enmity?
Verses 1–13 are actually a digression from Paul’s main line of thought. (You can see he starts with “For this reason” in verse 1, gets side-tracked for a while, then comes back to “For this reason” in verse 14; even Paul goes on sanctified tangents!) Notice how self-abasing Paul is in these verses. He is jailed (v. 1); he is suffering a lot (v. 13); he is the least of all the saints (v. 8); any ability or power or gift he has was given to him by God (vv. 2, 7). Even though Paul recognizes that he is in a unique position as someone who is an apostle and has received direct revelation from God, he deflects all the honor and praise and glory to God. As Pastor Mark said yesterday, this is a “decidedly Godward worldview”. Everything is about God’s glory and his magnificence! This is why Reformed theology is sometimes called “big God theology”—we make much of God rather than humans. And look at how big Paul makes God look here. The gospel of Jesus Christ was God’s plan from all of eternity past (v. 11); although it was not fully revealed how it would happen in the Old Testament (i.e., it was a “mystery”), God’s plan all along was to save both Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ (vv. 5–6); the gospel displays God’s “manifold wisdom” (v. 10) and “unsearchable riches” (v. 8). We should be left in awe of God’s wisdom and grace and riches and salvation after reading these verses. And the role of the church is to display the glory of our God in this plan of salvation to everyone who is watching, including angels and all the host in heaven (v. 10; see also 1 Pet. 1:12). Paul has demonstrated how he uses every grace and gift from God for the sake of making God’s salvation known to those who have never heard it. Is this how you are using the graces and gifts of God—to glorify God and make the gospel known to unbelievers? Or are you using them in self-serving ways? What kind of gospel are you promoting—a gospel that focuses on God’s role in salvation or a false “gospel” that tells people they need to do good things to be saved?