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A meditation on Ephesians 3:14-21

Much of contemporary Christianity is obsessed with the pursuit of power, and much of that pursuit is focused on getting personal power of some kind. 

Yet when Paul prays for believers in Ephesians 3:14-21 he is not thinking about personal power but about the powerful truth of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone and the deep and liberating impact that really knowing this powerful truth has in and on the mindset of the believer.

He prays that, out of God’s glorious riches [the incomparable riches of God’s grace mentioned in 1:7-8 and 2:7], the believers would be strengthened with power in their inner being so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. What he is praying for here is for the power to have confidence in the reality of their salvation in Christ [Ephesians 3:16-17].

He also prays that, with this confidence, rooted and grounded in this love of God in Christ, they ’will have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge’ [3:17-18]. Again, this is not a prayer for personal power to do great deeds or achieve great things for the kingdom, nor is it even a prayer for the power to have victory over sin; rather it is a prayer for the power to understand the truth about God’s love expressed in Christ.

The end result of this power of knowing God’s love is ‘that you may be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God’. It is only when we know God’s love expressed in Christ that we will embrace the complete salvation that God has provided for us in Christ. Without that knowledge we live with a half-baked, watered-down salvation far removed from the fullness of all that God gives us in Christ. 

In closing Paul mentions power again, affirming that what God is able to do for us is far more than we could ever ask or imagine. It is not limited by anything in us or about us. Rather it is measured by that same power of God that is already at work in us [3:20], that is by that same power that worked in us to bring us out of spiritual death and into spiritual life [1:19-2:10].  

The same incomparably great power that saved us initially is the power that keeps us saved, safe and secure in the presence of God today.

Here we are confronted with a number of unspoken questions, questions that dog every one of us deep in our innermost being unless we are ignorant of our on-going sinfulness:

How can I know that I am safe from God's wrath today?

How can I know that I am safe from condemnation today?

How can I cope with all the accusations hurled against me today by my own conscience, by my Christian peers, and by the devil?

How can I have assurance that today I have unimpeded access into the presence of God?

How can I live today at peace with God, knowing that he will never for a moment reject me?

And the answer shouts at us from these verses the grand assurance: the power for all of this is the power of understanding, of really knowing, and then really trusting, the amazing, immeasurable, inexhaustible love that God has for you, and which he expressed and demonstrated beyond all doubt in the life, death and resureection of Jesus Christ, his Son.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2011.