Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Obtaining the Power of God
If you could have anything you wanted?anything, what would it be? Health? Long life? Enough money to be secure? Great relationships? Smarts? Paul the Apostle has been given the opportunity to petition God for his Ephesian friends. It's his opportunity to ask God for anything?and what we find in the last part of chapter 3 is that prayer. It's a surprising request, but reveals the heart of what God is doing in and through redeemed humans.
Remember that Paul started to tell them about this prayer at the beginning of Chapter 3?but he digressed into telling them about how God had chosen to reveal the mystery of what He was doing in Jesus to them. It's like God had this secret that He was keeping but couldn't wait to reveal. Finally He was able to fully let it out that He was saving mankind through the Messiah Jesus?and putting that in the face of the forces of evil that perhaps thought mankind was forever lost and under their authority.
He ends up by telling them they have bold and confident access to the Father.
So now that we can be ushered into the presence of God and ask Him anything?what does Paul ask? The prayer is threefold, really?simple yet powerful and profound. He prays for:
The nature of that power?how it's used, and what it means to really be a mature follower of Jesus?points us to the central concept of love, and not just any love.
14 ? 15
Everyone?humans on earth and angels in heaven?all derive their existence and significance from the Creator. Paul begins this way to show that the One he is praying to certainly has the power to create a new being with new significance in the Messiah.
You may have thought you've blown it so much in your life that God could never make anything good in you or do anything good through you. But He is that good and that powerful.
16 ? 17a
The thought is turned around a little bit here?essentially as the Spirit of God comes into your life through the Messiah's actions?the result is strength and power in the inner man.
What does that mean? The two Greek words for power here are one that means "to strengthen" and the other "ability" or "dynamic". Paul wants God to give his friends power and ability?but not, as we might think, in the "outer man"?the stuff that is visible to others, but in the "inner man."
It's not miracle working power that we are talking about here either, but the ability to reflect the character of God in our character. You can think, speak, and act like God.
Why does Paul pray for Christ to dwell in their hearts?doesn't He already? The difference here is that word "dwell" signifies a permanent dwelling, not a temporary home. We need to decide that we belong to Jesus permanently. This isn't a club we join to get benefits and then quit when the going gets rough. There is no return policy on salvation.
So what is this character that Paul wants to be built into us? It is simply the most important character trait you can ever have?love.
17b ? 19
As Christ is firmly and permanently implanted in your life, you become implanted into the character of God, which is selfless love (1 John 4:16 "God is love").
The Greek word for "comprehend" comes from the idea of taking hold of something to make it your own. Paul wants us to really know the multi-dimensional and vast love of God?expressed in the Messiah?so big that it will blow our minds.
Being filled with this means we are filled with the fullness of who God really is. It's not about the ability to make things happen or have authority or be important or special. The character of God is self-giving, other-centered, sacrificial love.
This is so opposite to human thinking, where we are always out for ourselves, even when we think we are not.
20 ? 21
So here Paul offers up this incredible praise to God who can do so much more than you could even think to ask for. So why don't we ask? Why don't we see God's power? It may be that we are asking for the wrong things.
We ask to be healed, provided for, protected, blessed, etc. And while there is nothing wrong with these prayers?I think what we are seeing here is a hint that to really see God move in your life?pray that the same kind of love God has?and not even the same kind of love, but actually God's love?will so fill you that it will spill out of every pore.
Prayers like this will bring it all back to God, and His kind of love.
So if it's all about love, what is love all about? We think of love as an emotional feeling. But with God, love is an actual thing. It is what makes up the core of His character and being. The Great Commandment is to love God with the entirety of yourself and love others as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus took this and made it into the New Commandment:
"I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."(John 13:34?35 HCSB)
We get hints at what this love is like from John 3:16: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." So God's kind of love is sacrificial.
We get much more from the most famous passage about love: 1 Corinthians 13.
1Cor. 13:1 "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
This age urges us to be impressive. But in God's kingdom, impressiveness without an "other-centered" purpose is just noise, and it gets you nowhere in God's economy.
"Love is patient and kind": speaks to the gentleness we use in our relationships.
"Love does not envy or boast": speaks to getting satisfaction from God, not others.
"It is not arrogant or rude": speaks against the attitude of "I'm more important than you?I'm worth more than you and you are in my way"
"It does not insist on its own way": Takes the opinions and reality of the other into account
"It is not irritable or resentful": speaks to being satisfied with the road God has you on, no matter how bumpy.
"It does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth": it is not loving to rejoice in sin because sin is not like God.
Love bears, believes, hopes, endures?it never ends. How far will you go with someone, even someone who hates you? How far did God go with us?
As we focus on the incredible powerful love of God?we see that it is something that goes beyond our normal ability to tolerate weakness or success in others. It looks beyond the way things appear and looks into the way God sees the soul?believing that through the love of Christ it can be restored to God's character.
As crazy as it sounds, with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can be this way, and we will act more this way the closer we get to God.
So why is this bit about love so important? It actually should inform everything we read from here on out. Chapters 4-6 are more about how the things we've learned in the first three chapters can be applied to everyday life. And it all centers around this idea of sacrificial, other-centered care. If we see this as the underpinnings, the rest of the book makes more sense.