THAT WE MAY BE FILLED TO THE MEASURE OF ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD

Ephesians 3:14-21

© Copyright 2010  Rev. Bill Versteeg


 

Let me start this sermon with a very simple object lesson, which I have used in the past for an evening sermon. The intent of this object lesson is to help us understand that having the Spirit and being full of the Spirit are two related but different things. Jesus said in John 6:35 - “Whoever believes in me will never thirst.” By this he was pointing o the Holy Spirit that we receive by faith in Christ. To be a Christian, by definition is to have the Spirit. It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that we drawn to Christ, come to faith, have a sense of assurance telling us that our sins our forgiven, it is by the Holy Spirit that we turn away from sin and we have new life in Christ. In that sense, we are like this sponge, the spirit is in us, we are quite wet.

(Take sponge, soak in water, as you lift the sponge out of the water, squeeze out the excess.  Now though every pocket of the sponge is wet, that is it.)

 

It is in that sense that we see the Spirit of God working in people throughout the scriptures. People obeyed God. Disciples left all to follow Jesus. In Jesus and through the Power of the Holy Spirit they discovered their spiritual thirst satisfied. If that however was the full extent of the promised Holy Spirit, then the Christian faith would never have filled the world as it has, turned millions, even billions of people to faith and powerfully transformed lives and cultures.

When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, he promised it in such abundance that he could describe that abundance this way: “Those who believe in me, from them shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) By this he was referring to the Holy Spirit they were later to receive. You see the different is the difference between a wet sponge, and a sponge soaked beyond its capacity to hold the water. Having the Holy Spirit and being Full of the Holy Spirit are two different things and though it is the same Holy Spirit, the difference is in magnitude, in power, in effective witness.

 

Jesus when he promised the Holy Spirit said to his disciples (who already had the Spirit and were filled with Joy at his resurrection) 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Pentecost has to do with Spiritual power, power to be a witnessing church, power to make a profound difference in the lives of others, in cultures, in this world. It is a difference in orders of magnitude, the difference between being wet and being a river.

(Take the same sponge, soak it in water and lift it out without squeezing the sponge.  Now water pours out of the sponge because it has exceeded its capacity to hold the water against gravity)

 

That is the essence of what Paul points to in his prayer for the Christians at Ephesus in Ephesians 3:14 - 21

 

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with powerthrough his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

I hope you noticed Paul’s repetitious use of the word POWER. His prayer is that the realities of Pentecost power may be upon the Christians at Ephasus. And so this morning that is my introductory point. Pentecost had to do with power, Spiritual power, to make a difference in this world. Before Pentecost, the 120 followers of Christ were involved in a holy huddle, in prayer, in hiding. Yes they had the Spirit, they were wet, but theirs could not be called a river gushing from them.

When Pentecost came, the crowds were amazed that even their language had the effect that all could understand it. And no only were they words, they were words that by the Spirit brought conviction and 1000s of lives were changed in one day.

Now if we understand that Pentecost has to do with Spirit power to make a difference, then I invite you to notice the specific descriptions of Spirit Power that Paul highlights.

 

The first is the power to believe or the power of faith that points to the invisible reality of the in dwelling Christ.

 

Again, remember that Paul is pointing to a difference in magnitude, it is possible to be a wet believer, and it is possible to be a gushing over river flowing kind of believer. With one of them, you have to get close to them, get to know them and then as you get close to them, you might discover that they believe in Christ. It is subtle, almost hidden, hardly talked about but something you can sense in their joy, in their good character, in the subtleties of the language they speak and the way they interact with others. That’s a wet Christian. But Paul’s prayer is that we may be strengthened with power through the Spirit in our inner being so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. The difference is one of magnitude. To meet this Christian is to meet Christ within. With authenticity, they speak of Christ, the realities of Christ in their hearts. With gifts of the Holy Spirit, they reach out to others and lives are changed. Their presence is marked by the presence of the divine God, where they are, God is at work. Lives are changed, broken people are healed, the captive are set free, the Lord’s gracious blessing is poured out. To meet them is to meet Christ within. Their presence is a witness to the resurrected Christ. To converse with them creates an awareness that God is part of the conversation. Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians that they may have this spiritual Pentecost power that will turn them from being joyfully wet into gushing witnesses - filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Second, Paul prays that they may have the spiritual power to comprehend the love of God in Christ.

 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Remember, the difference is one of magnitude, as is clearly demonstrated in this passage by the fact that it describes the infinite width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. To be a Christian is to understand that God loves you and God has a purpose for your life. The Spirit gives us that taste, that foretaste of the love of God. The Spirit witnesses with our spirits, says Paul, that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ. To live in this world, knowing deep down in our hearts that God loves us, having the love of God poured into our hearts by the Spirit that he gives us is our inheritance as the children of God. That is what it means to be a wet Christian. Others will notice if they get to know you.

Remember though that Pentecost is a difference of magnitude, this time the power to comprehend how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Christ. This power turns us into people who have the capacity to love others without an expectation of return. This power to comprehend the love of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served, enables us to live like he did, giving our lives to others, giving our resources to others, giving our time to others, living like Christ did in this world, giving his life to others. To come to comprehend the love of Christ is to live that love of Christ to others.

Comprehending that love enables us to see that it is the love of Christ for us that is the only thing that in the end really matters. Our insecurities, they don’t matter. Our lack of ability - it doesn’t really matter. Our limited language skills - doesn’t really matter. What matters is the love of Christ and our living out of that love in every possible way. And the litmus test of knowing this love that surpasses knowledge is death. So many people live with an overwhelming fear of death. But scripture is so clear. When we come to comprehend the width, length, height and depths of the love of Christ, we come to understand that nothing can separate us from that love, not the devil and not death itself. And so many of the early Christians, with joy in the Holy Spirit, like Stephen, gave their lives, they died celebrating the love of God, martyrs for Christ’s cause - they were filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Third, Paul prays that they may have the Spiritual power to witness.

 

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

How does the church of Jesus Christ grow? How does the expression of the Kingdom of God become a reality in a country, in a culture? Once again, the issue is power, the issue, Spiritual power.

Once again, when it comes to power, we as Christians sometimes get some unscriptural assumptions.

Some feel that getting involved politically, being a Christian voice in politics, political power, is a way of promoting the Kingdom of God. As if the Christian faith will be spread through politics, often of the very right wing persuasion. We need to remember that Christian political action is a consequence of the Kingdom’s presence, it does not cause the kingdom to come. The kingdom comes by Witness. Jesus said, wait for power and you will be my witnesses. We have seen this demonstrated in history over and over again. Countries that are diametrically opposed to the Christian faith overturned by the power of witness even under persecution. The Roman empire which burned Christians and fed them to the lions overturned from within to become the Holy Roman empire by the power of witness. Romania, overturned by Christian witness. China is being changed from within by witness. It is witness that spreads the faith throughout culture.

Some think that it is by cultural influence, cultural power, that the reign of Christ is spread, the kingdom advanced. Culture is a consequence, a result of the kingdom. It does not cause the kingdom spread or the growth of the church. Culture is the tool of the Islamic faith for its spread. Monoculturalism to the tool for spreading the Islamic faith throughout countries. We live in a multi-cultural society and Christianity did and does its growth best in multi-cultural societies. The Roman empire was a multi-cultural society. Christians suffered greatly, but as they suffered and died witnessing, the church grew in leaps and bounds. It was through the power of the Spirit that the church witness. It was the Power of the Spirit that turned deacons into Stephens, who were so full of the Holy Spirit that others could not resist their words or wisdom. Witness grows the church and brings the kingdom. And the church continues to spread through witness.

It has been commented by missiologists that Christianity seems to have a cyclic life span in cultures. We used to be the western Christian world. Now there are more Christian Reformed people in Africa than there are in North America. We have lost sight of the fact that the church continues from one generation to the next by the power of Spirit filled authentic witness.

And so Paul here prays that the church may grow, that glory may be in the church and in Christ Jesus to multiple, all generations through the power of the Spirit by which we will continue the works of Christ, even do more than he could do in the flesh, because the power of the Spirit is upon us. It is our witness as parents that speaks to our children. And Paul’s prayer is that we might be empowered to service and to witness through the Holy Spirit, so that generation after generation may glorify the living God.

filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

I know that in my life, I need more of the Holy Spirit, for my desire is to be the source of a river for others. How about you?

filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

This morning we are going to celebrate the Lord’s supper together. During the Lord’s supper, prayer partners will be available at the sides of the church (and foyer) to pray with each of us that the power of the Spirit may come upon our lives, power for faith, power to understand the love of God and power to witness. If you would like to receive prayer, during communion, join with one of our prayer team persons for prayer.

 

 

 



(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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