“13 Therefore I ask [you] not to be discouraged at my afflictions on behalf of you, which are your glory.” LEB
Paul said in verse one, that he’s “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.” Then he continued his discussion from chapter two about the spiritual unity that Gentile believers have with Jewish believers because of their common faith in Christ. He talked about the ministry that God gave him to “proclaim the good news of the fathomless riches of Christ to the Gentiles” (vs. 8). Now with all that in view, he’s encouraging the Ephesians Christians “not to be discouraged” about what’s he’s going through on their behalf, that it was something that was for their “glory”: honorable, praise-worthy, and for their spiritual benefit.
The Ephesians were concerned for Paul and what he was enduring for them (and Gentiles in general) in prison. So Paul was trying to comfort them about that, and to let them know that all this is part of his calling. He then turns this around and focuses on their welfare. As a true, unselfish, servant of Christ, he turns attention away from himself, and states his desire and prayer for them:
“14 On account of this, I bend my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” LEB (Eph 3:14)
“from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”
Within the whole context, Paul must be referring to all believers in Christ, both in Heaven and on earth, wherever they happen to be. Paul prays to the Father, through whose Son we all have life, and through whom we derive our name, as those who represent Him.
“16 that he may grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person,” LEB (Eph 3:16)
Paul now specifies certain prayer requests for the Ephesian Christians, things that we should all be praying for regularly, both for others, and for ourselves.
“according to the riches of his glory”
Our God is a glorious God, with many attributes that reveal His majesty: He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present; He’s infinite in wisdom and knowledge and understanding and intelligence; He’s a God who is full of love and mercy and grace and compassion; He’s a God who is altogether holy and just and good. Furthermore, He’s not only our God and King, but He’s our Father, and we are His children. When we consider all that God is, and all He’s done for us, and how He cares for us as His children, then we can confidently pray the following, as Paul did:
“to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner person”
The only way we can live the Christian life, to serve Christ, to witness to others for Him, is through the power of the Holy Spirit….”in the inner person.” It’s within, that spiritual part of us, that we experience communion with God, a changed life, and the power to be and do all that God has called us to do. It’s our inner self that experiences spiritual renewal (2 Cor 4:16) and strength to keep on living for Christ, regardless of our circumstances.
The power of God is available to all believers. As Paul said, we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13). While this power is always available, how to obtain this power, and how to walk consistently in this power, is not always so easy. Indeed, we are often discouraged because of failures in our obedience to God. As Jesus said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41).
However, Paul doesn’t simply pray for us, and then leave us without some sort of instruction about it. While he doesn’t go into any lengthy discussion about it, he does touch on it in verse 17:
“[that] Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (you having been firmly rooted and established in love),” LEB (Eph 3:17)
Since Jesus already lives within us, Paul doesn’t need to pray for that. Therefore, Paul must be referring to Christ actively living His life in us. Jesus doesn’t simply take up residence, and that’s the end of it. No, He not only dwells within us, but lives to empower us from within, to live His life in us. Paul says that happens through two things. One of those things is clearly seen, and that is through faith. Jesus lives His life in us as we rely on Him to do so, as Paul said in Gal 2:20:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ESV
Clearly, a continuous reliance upon Christ to live His life in us, is primary. However, Paul reveals something else about securing His power in our lives, when he says, “having been firmly rooted and established in love.”
To be “firmly rooted and established” in the love of God means first of all, that we are recipients of God’s love, through which we receive all “spiritual blessings” in Christ, which includes His power in our lives. However, God’s love is not simply one-directional; His love is active within us to produce love for Him. As John said, “we love Him because He first loved us” NKJV (1 John 4:19)
So what does love for God have to do with His power in our lives? Jesus answers that question in the book of John:
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…..If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” ESV (John 14:21,23)
If we’re responding to the Holy Spirit’s work within our heart, we will have a love for God. As Jesus made clear, love equates to obedience. Love is something that grows, and is not something that we can produce ourselves. However, we must be willing. Self-will cuts off the power of God in our lives. Therefore, we must have a willing heart to do God’s will. We must have a willing heart to grow in our love for God. We must have a willing heart to live for God’s glory. A heart that is in harmony with the heart and will of God, a life that is Christ-centered, will open the floodgates of His power.
As we fully surrender to Christ’s authority in our lives, love will grow, and so will obedience. That’s God’s power in our lives. In turn, Jesus said that He would reveal Himself to us. He also said that He and His Father would come and make their home with us. I believe what Jesus was teaching, is that the more we love and obey, the more He will reveal Himself to us, and the more He will live His life in us. Again, when Jesus mentioned that He and the Father would make their home with us, I believe He was talking about actively living their life in us and through us.
Based on what Jesus said in John 14, I believe that the degree to which Jesus reveals Himself and His power to us, is in direct proportion to the degree to which we love Him in obedience. In other words, we find God at the level in which we seek Him. God’s power in our lives begins with a surrendered will. Love and obedience is the result. As we continue this process, love and obedience grows, and Christ makes Himself known to us more and more.