Ephesians 3:14-19 HCSB, “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
For This Reason
“For this reason…” these three words are the most important part of this entire passage. Whenever you see in Scripture a “Therefore”, “For this reason”, or a “So that” you should automatically look back in previous passages to see the reason for it. These three words are of utmost importance because they point us back to the foundation of Paul’s greatest desire for all mankind. To this end, he earnestly prays for repeatedly his readers throughout his letters.
The foundation on which Paul bases his entire ministry is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel that that drives Paul to his knees in prayer before the Almighty.
Paul understands that the gospel brings true life to the spiritually dead. This is an incredible assertion considering that Paul was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and formerly a leading Jewish theologian.
In chapter two Paul writes that “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world”, and the very “ways of the world” that Paul writes about are the same “ways” that condemned Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Paul is overjoyed the Christians at Ephesus have come out of death, been redeemed of their sins, and received the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. His exhortation in Ephesians 3:16, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love” shows how glad he is to have the Ephesian Gentiles in the family of God. Paul is excited to see them grow in their understanding of the faith “delivered to all the saints once for all”.
The Great Desire
From this, it is easy to see that Paul’s greatest desire is for all people, whether they be Jew or Gentile, to be strengthened according to God’s glory and for the Messiah to dwell within their hearts.
The insurmountable joy that Paul has by living for Christ and seeing others come to know Him defines him. Paul, if he were alive today, would be the definitive “Christian Hedonist” that John Piper writes on in his book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. He would gladly associate himself with this quote, “There is only one rock: the Word of God. Only one thing ultimately matters: glorifying God the way He has appointed. That is why I am a Christian Hedonist.”
Paul is the definitive “Christian Hedonist” because he lived his life to glorify God in the way that God appointed him to do so. He lived his life in such a manner that others were drawn to God through his lifestyle, joy through suffering, and incalculable pleasure in preaching the gospel. This joy, this way of living his life, only has one goal and chief desire in Paul’s life, and it’s to see all of mankind know God.
Paul desires for all mankind to see the goodness and love of the Messiah in the way he sees Jesus. He earnestly desires for all mankind to know the depths and riches of God’s grace and mercy. It was this desire and love for God that drove Paul to his knees in prayer to pray for their continued growth in the knowledge and wisdom of God. Kent Hughes in his commentary on Ephesians has this to say, “Paul had fallen to his knees because of two realities: first, the sublime truths of God’s Word, and second, the soul-healing Fatherhood under which he rested.”
It’s in these two realities that we as Christians must embrace as well so that our evangelism and discipleship are not in vain. We must have a deep affection and love for God. Added to it we must realize and proclaim from the deepest parts of our souls that the Father heals all sins and wounds. With these two realities to arm us, we can boldly and assuredly proclaim the truths of Scripture without fail.
With these two realities we should desire and pray for the same things Paul does:
“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
As Christians we should be filled like Paul was with a genuine joy for the Lord and love for others that comes from growing in the knowledge of the Lord. A core principle of the Great Commission is to make disciples and teach them all that Christ commanded. It’s through this process that Christians conform to the image of Christ and love God more deeply and meaningfully.
I believe that we can title this section “Our Greatest Desire” because we should model our desires after Paul who modeled his after Christ. Our passions should be Christ’s passions. There’s no one better who had these same passions than Paul. It’s evident all throughout Ephesians but especially highlighted here for us in this brief glimpse into the prayer life of Paul.
If we pray this prayer that Paul did for our own believing friends we are joining Paul and the countless saints who’ve gone before us in the work of the ministry. This is a noble task, a service of Christian love, and it’s one we must not neglect.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.