LIFE-STUDY OF EPHESIANS
TO BE STRENGTHENED INTO THE INNER MAN
THAT CHRIST MAY MAKE HIS HOME
IN OUR HEARTS
In this message we come to 3:14-17, the first part of Paul’s second prayer for the church, the prayer which is related to experience. The apostle’s prayer in 1:15-23 is for the saints to receive revelation concerning the church. In 3:14-21 his prayer is for the saints to experience Christ for the church.
I. THE APOSTLE’S PRAYER
FOR OUR EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST
A. “For This Cause”
The Apostle Paul begins his prayer in verse 14 with the words “for this cause.” The cause for which Paul prayed is hidden in the depths of chapter three. We have seen that in this chapter Paul presents himself as a pattern of one who has seen God’s economy. Paul received the revelation that God’s economy is God’s dispensing of Himself into His chosen ones to make them the expansion, the enlargement, of Christ, who is the embodiment of God, for God’s full expression. Having received such a revelation, Paul became an apostle, a sent one. He was also a prophet, one who spoke for God. Paul not only spoke for God, but he even spoke forth God. As God’s spokesman, Paul ministered the unsearchable riches of Christ to others so that they might see the same revelation and also become apostles and prophets. This means that Paul’s desire was to produce more apostles and prophets. For this purpose he even suffered imprisonment. But the more he was confined in prison, the more revelation he received and the more of Christ he was able to minister to the believers to make them all apostles and prophets. All this is the cause for which Paul prayed in Ephesians 3.
When some hear that all the saints can be apostles and prophets, they may wonder about 1 Corinthians 12:29, a verse which says, “Are all apostles? are all prophets?” Not all are the apostles or the prophets, but, as 1 Corinthians 14:31 says, all can prophesy. The apostles and the prophets were those who took the lead in the New Testament. The difference between us and them is that they were the leaders and we are the followers. But this does not mean that we cannot do what the leading apostles and prophets did. In the same principle, the difference between the elders and all the other members in a local church is that the elders take the lead and the other members follow. This does not mean, however, that the other members cannot do what the elders do. On the contrary, all the members should do what the elders do, and they should do even more. How different this is from the concept in Christianity that the laymen cannot do what the ministers do! The elders are not a higher rank; rather, all are of the same rank. The only difference is that the elders take the lead, like sheep who walk at the front of the flock. Likewise, the leading apostles and prophets are not on a higher level than the rest of the saints. They take the lead, and we all follow them to do what they do.
When I came to this country, I came with a revelation concerning Christ for the church. Having received such a revelation, I was sent here to speak for God and even to speak forth God. I am simply a follower of the apostles and prophets in the New Testament. My burden is for all the saints to become such followers. I hope that one day thousands will be sent out to speak for God. Although we cannot be the leading apostles, we can be the followers. In like manner, we cannot be theprophets, but we all can prophesy. We all can be sent, and we all can speak for Christ. What a privilege, a mercy, and a grace to be the followers of the leading apostles and prophets!
B. Unto the Father
In verses 14 and 15 Paul says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, of whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named.” Notice that here Paul does not refer to God, but to the Father. The “Father” here is used in a broad sense, signifying not only the Father of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10), but the Father of every family in the heavens and on earth (v. 15). The Father is the source, not only of the regenerated believers, but also of the God-created mankind (Luke 3:38), of the God-created Israel (Isa. 63:16; 64:8), and of the God-created angels (Job 1:6). The Jews’ concept was that God was Father only to them. So the apostle prayed to the Father of all the families in the heavens and on earth, according to his revelation, not as the Jews, who prayed only to the Father of Israel, according to the Jewish concept.
Since God is the source of the angelic family in the heavens and all the human families on earth, so it is of God that every family is named, just as producers give names to their products and fathers give names to their children.
II. TO BE STRENGTHENED
In verse 16 we have the subject of Paul’s prayer: “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit into the inner man.” In contrast to the prayer in chapter one, which is a prayer for revelation, this is a prayer for experience. The need in chapter one is for us to see the things related to the Body of Christ, to see how the Body comes into existence and how it is constituted. But it is inadequate simply to see the revelation; we also need the experience of what we see. Because we need to experience Christ in a subjective way, Paul prayed that we would be strengthened with power into the inner man.
A. By the Father
according to the Riches of His Glory
In verse 16 the word “strengthened” is modified by four phrases: “according to the riches of His glory,” “with power,” “through His Spirit,” and “into the inner man.” Firstly, we are strengthened according to the riches of the Father’s glory. Glory is the expression of God. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” In this declaration of God there is glory, for the declaration of God is the manifestation of God, which is glory. When the Lord Jesus expressed God on earth, God’s glory was manifested.
All the families in the heavens and on earth express God to some extent. With their expressions of God, there are the riches of His glory. The apostle prayed that the Gentile believers might experience God in a full way according to the riches of His glory, that He might be expressed through the Gentile believers by their experiencing Him in a full way.
What then are the riches of God’s glory? The riches of glory in verse 16 are related to every family in verse 15. Every family is an expression of God to a certain degree. Because the Father is the source, the origin, of every family in the heavens and on earth, every family is His expression. The family that expresses the Father the most is the family of the believers. Therefore, Paul prayed to the Father that we might be strengthened for the purpose of expressing Him to the uttermost.
B. With Power
We are also strengthened with power. This power is the resurrection power referred to in 1:19-20; it is this power which operates in us (3:20). This power raised Christ up from among the dead, uplifted Him to the heavens, and put everything under His feet. With such a power God is strengthening us.
C. Through His Spirit
It is through the Spirit that the Father strengthens us. He strengthens us by the indwelling Spirit. This does not mean that the Spirit is not with us or that the Spirit will come down from the heavens to strengthen us. The strengthening Spirit has been with us since He regenerated us. He is still within us now. Through this indwelling Spirit, the Father strengthens us from within.
D. Into Our Inner Man
Verse 16 also says that we are strengthened into the inner man. The inner man is our regenerated spirit with God’s life as its life. It is our spirit regenerated by the Spirit of God (John 3:6), indwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:11, 16), and mingled with the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 6:17). In order to experience Christ unto all the fullness of God, we need to be strengthened into the inner man. This implies that we need to get into our spirit, where we can be strengthened through the Holy Spirit.
Because human beings are souls, not spirits, our personality or our person is in our soul. This is the reason the Bible refers to men as souls (Exo. 1:5; Acts 2:41). Both the body and the spirit are vessels used by the soul. Therefore, as souls, we have an outward vessel, the body, and an inward vessel, the spirit. When we repented and believed in the Lord Jesus, the Lord came into us and regenerated us with Himself as our life. Before we were regenerated, there was no life in our spirit; we simply had our human life in our soul. But through regeneration we now have the divine life in our spirit. Therefore, our spirit is no longer merely a vessel; it has become our person with the life of God. But what about our human life and our old person in the soul? The old person, the soul with the human life, has been crucified on the cross, and now our new person is the spirit with the divine life. Our spirit regenerated with the divine life is now our inner man.
It is very difficult to remain in the spirit. We all are accustomed to going out from the spirit, not to going into the spirit and staying there. According to my experience, I can testify that I am not inclined to stay in the spirit. Because it is so easy for me to get out of the spirit, I am still learning to remain in the spirit. Whenever we stay in the spirit, we are strengthened; but whenever we go out from the spirit, we are weakened. Have you ever noticed how easy it is for your mind to wander when you are praying? When you are not praying, you may not think of certain things. But when you begin to pray, you may suddenly find your thoughts dwelling on one thing and then another. You may even make a fast trip to another part of the world. This is the reason we need to be strengthened into our inner man. The more we are strengthened, the more the parts of our inner being are brought back into the spirit, into our inner man.
We need to be strengthened in order to stay in our spirit and not to be distracted by thoughts regarding so many things. In order to pray without being distracted, we need to be strengthened into our inner man. Oh, how we need to be strengthened so that our whole being may come back to the inner man and stay there!
The revelation in chapter three of Ephesians can be seen only when we are in the spirit. As verse 5 says, the mystery is made known to the apostles and prophets in spirit.Being strengthened into the inner man is the secret of seeing the revelation of the mystery. We need to be strengthened so that our whole being might be brought back to our spirit.
In our spirit we are also filled with the riches of Christ unto all the fullness of God (v. 19). The Greek word rendered “unto” in verse 19 means “resulting in.” Our being filled with the riches of Christ results in the full expression of God. This is the fullness of God.
III. CHRIST MAKING HIS HOME IN OUR HEART
The first part of verse 17 says, “That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.” Our heart is composed of all the parts of our soul—the mind, the emotion, and the will—plus our conscience, the main part of our spirit. These are the inward parts of our being. Through regeneration, Christ came into our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). Subsequently, we should allow Him to spread Himself into every part of our heart. Our heart is the totality of all our inward parts and the center of our inward being; therefore, when Christ makes His home in our heart, He controls our entire inward being and supplies and strengthens every inward part with Himself.
In verse 17 Paul says that it is through faith that Christ makes His home in our hearts. Faith is the substantiating of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). Christ’s indwelling is mysterious and abstract. We realize it not by our physical senses, but by the sense of faith.
The first three chapters of Ephesians are on the church, and the last three chapters are on the walk worthy of God’s calling for the church. However, actually only the first two chapters are on the church, for chapter three marks the beginning of Paul’s exhortation concerning a walk worthy of God’s calling. In Ephesians 3 Paul presents himself as a pattern of one who could carry out God’s eternal purpose concerning the church. If we had only chapters one and two without chapter three, we would have the teaching and even the vision regarding the church, but we would not have the way to fulfill the vision. In chapter three we see how the church is constituted and realized in a practical way. This chapter is concerned neither with the revelation of the church nor, strictly speaking, with the walk worthy of God’s calling for the church; rather, it is concerned with the practical experience of the church being constituted.
The church life is constituted of those in the pattern of the Apostle Paul. We all need to follow Paul in receiving the revelation in our spirit and in being strengthened into our inner man. When Paul bowed his knees to the Father, he was so strong in his inner man that nothing could shake him or disturb him. Because his whole being was in his spirit, nothing outward could trouble him. We also need to be strengthened to such an extent that nothing will be able to carry us away from our inner man. Furthermore, we need Christ to make His home in our hearts so that we may be wholly occupied and possessed by Him.
When we are strengthened into our inner man and Christ makes His home in our hearts, we are able to see the revelation. We need to receive the same revelation given to the leading apostles and prophets. Paul could not receive this revelation for us; we must receive it ourselves personally and subjectively by being strengthened into our inner man. This revelation concerning Christ and the church is the economy of God, the hidden mystery. Whether or not we are today’s apostles and prophets depends on whether or not we have seen the revelation. If we do not have the revelation, then we cannot be apostles and prophets. If I had come to this country without this revelation, all my speaking would have been in vain. But I did come with a revelation, and I have spoken according to this revelation. This made me a follower of the apostles and prophets in God’s New Testament ministry. Today all the saints, including the young people, can be such followers.
When we were saved, Christ came into our spirit. Now we must give Him the opportunity to spread Himself throughout all the parts of our inner being. As we are strengthened into the inner man, the door is opened for Christ to spread in us, to spread from our spirit to every part of our mind, emotion, and will. The more Christ spreads within us, the more He settles down in us and makes His home in us. This means that He occupies every part of our inner being, possessing all these parts and saturating them with Himself. As a result, not only do we receive the revelation, but we also are filled with Christ. Then wherever we may go, we shall be the apostles, the sent ones, and the prophets, those who speak for Christ.
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