Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 40
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000
|As he begins to look at Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, Dr. Barber describes the posture of prayer, the person to whom it is addressed, and begins to look at the petitions in the prayer.
A Prayer for Fullness – Part 1
Turn with me to Ephesians 3:14 as we finally get into Paul’s prayer. Oh, how he has dignified our salvation! Now he wants to pray for the people he has been writing to. He wants them to know, not just about their salvation, but how to start living in the richness of it. We are going to call this study, “A Prayer for Fullness.” Let’s read verses 14-21 and see what we have in store for us:
- For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
What a prayer! It will take us a while to work our way through what Paul prays for this Ephesian church. You know, you’ve got to stop and remember where Paul is as he prays. Paul is in prison. Remember this. The agenda that he has on his heart is to pray for those who have been entrusted to him. Not only does he instruct them, he also prays for them.
Back in 2:18 we see an interesting verse. Look back for just a second. Paul says, speaking of Christ, “for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” Oh, folks, the doors have been opened up. Do you realize that back in the Old Testament only the High Priest could go into that Holy of Holies? The book of Hebrews says that veil has been rent, and we can come in with confidence and with boldness because of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about that! We get to talk to the Father! We get to go right into His presence. I don’t have to find an earthly priest and get him to pray for me. I go through my High Priest. Listen, as a believer I am a priest. I am a part of His Holy Temple, and I can go right into His presence.
Look at 3:12: “in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” We have access to the Father. One of the riches of our salvation is this marvelous thing we call prayer. We can go in and hear. We can go in and be heard. That is part of the riches of our salvation.
Verse 14 says very clearly, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father.” What reason? Remember, he started this prayer in verse 1. You have got to jump all the way back to verse 1. He starts the prayer in verse 1, stops and puts a parenthetical pause for 12 or 13 verses. Then he picks it back up in verse 14. He says in verse 1, “For this reason I, Paul.” You can figure out what the reason is. Go back to chapter 2. There are some things he has told them in chapter 2 that he wants them to understand. He wants them to not just mentally know them, but he wants them to live in the reality of those things.
Look at 2:5. He says, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Oh, we have been made alive in Jesus Christ. Go down to verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Drop down to verse 19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” That’s God’s family. Then he sort of wraps it up in verse 22 before he comes into verse 1 of chapter 3. He says, “in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
Now, go back to verse 1 of chapter 3 and see if you can figure it out “this reason.” For what reason? He could easily be saying, “Since you are God’s dwelling on this earth, made alive in Jesus Christ, His workmanship, a part of His family, I bow my knees before the Father.”
Paul has spent three chapters telling the people at Ephesus what they have in the Lord Jesus Christ. He talked about the riches of their salvation, the reasons of their salvation and the revelation of their salvation. Now he says, since you are God’s dwelling on this earth, for this reason, I bow my knees before the Father. He is trying to tell them, “I am just praying that all I taught you can start becoming reality as you walk and live the Christian life.”
Do you realize what you have in Jesus Christ? Have you been listening or maybe you haven’t allowed God to teach you in your spirit. You don’t realize that He is everything you could ever look for. Maybe you don’t realize what you have, or maybe you do, but you are not living in the reality of what that means on a day by day basis. Paul says, “For this reason, I don’t want you to just know it. I want you to live in it, in the reality of what I have just taught you.”
There are three things we are going to bring out about this prayer. Every time you find a prayer of the Apostle Paul, take a lot of time to study it. His prayer in Colossians 1:9-12 is just wonderful. The whole Christian life lays itself out in front of you. If you want to know what the normal Christian life is study that. Well, it is the same way with this prayer right here in the third chapter of Ephesians. Talk about the Spirit praying in and through us, this is definitely a Spirit-led prayer for the Ephesian believers.
The Posture of Paul’s Prayer
First of all, we see the posture of Paul’s prayer. Let’s start looking at it. He says, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father.” What is significant about bowing your knees? Well, there are some things significant to it, but let me share something with you. You don’t have to kneel down every time you pray. It does not mean that you are any more or any less spiritual than somebody else if you are standing and they are kneeling. In looking into this study, I found several places in Scripture where they stood with their hands raised to heaven, just as humble in their hearts as anyone is who kneels or bows down before the Father. But when they bowed down, it signified something. As long as these things are in your life, the posture doesn’t matter as much. It is the attitude of your heart as you approach the Father.
What two things does bowing signify? Bowing our knees before the Father signifies, first of all, a submission to a higher authority. Paul has already called himself a prisoner. He has called himself a bondservant. It shows that the one who bows down and prays is in the presence of the ultimate authority. Turn to Psalm 95:1-6. This shows you the attitude of someone who comes before the Father. This is what you realize about Him. In verse 1 it says, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; and His hands formed the dry land.” Since He is all of these things and since He is absolutely sovereign and absolute authority, it says in verse 6, “Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” It is an attitude of a person in his heart.
When a person bows his knees, he realizes he is bowing his knees to the Father. Oh, but folks, He is our Heavenly Father. Far removed from anything you understand down here, when you walk into His presence, submitted to His divine and Holy will, you are in awe of Him. The bowing of the knee is a sense of submission to a higher authority. You are saying, “God, whatever you want is what I want.” That is what bowing the knee means. You can do that standing up. You can do that in whatever position you are in as long as your heart is overwhelmed with who it is you are talking to.
Secondly, it signifies an intense passion, an intense emotion in prayer. Every time Paul prays he is very specific. His prayers are not general. In being specific and in being detailed, he is very passionately, very emotionally involved in this prayer. When a person will fall down on their knees, it is always a picture of that intensity, of that passion and of that emotion. In Ezra 9:5-6, Ezra was appalled and heart-broken over hearing of the intermarriage of the Israelites with the pagan neighbors. It says in Ezra that he fell down on his knees and stretched out his hands in confession to the Lord on their behalf. He was very intense, very emotional, very involved with what he was doing.
In Daniel 6:10 we see Daniel praying. You know, King Darius wasn’t too bad a guy. He kind of liked Daniel, but he made a mistake. He listened to his commissioners and his satraps when they said, “Make a decree that says no man can worship anybody but the King.” He forgot all about Daniel. As a result, Daniel went to the lions’ den. When Daniel heard that the King had made the decree it says in Daniel 6:10, “He continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God.” You see, there was an intensity here. He realized the severity of the situation, the seriousness of it, and it drove him to his knees.
In Acts 20:36 we find one of the most emotional, intense and passionate times of Paul. He had called the elders of Ephesus, the very church that he is writing to in the book of Ephesians, the one he warned about watching out for the savage wolves and this false doctrine. We find him on the island of Miletus. He gets them together, and it says, “He knelt down.” They cried and wept over him. It was a very serious moment. It says that he knelt down and prayed with them all. So the whole posture of prayer sometimes is not in what your body is doing. It is in what your heart is doing before God. You may not be kneeling. You may be in a crowded subway or someplace. You may be in another city. You may be on a plane. Wherever you are, if your attitude is filled with awe and submission and you are intensely concerned and God has burdened your heart, that is what it means to bow your knees before the Father.
This is not some trite prayer he prays in prison. This is something that is deeply, intensely burned into his heart. He wants these people at Ephesus to be able to live it out in front of the people. So there is passion. There is submission. There is awe, and there is emotion. Paul’s prayer posture then is very clear. It is an attitude of his heart.
The Person to Whom Paul Was Praying
Secondly, I want you to see the person to whom Paul was praying. He says, “I bow my knees before the Father.” When I say “person,” we know that this is God in three persons. He had a definite personality. We know Him as Father. Paul’s Heavenly Father cares about us. We are of His household. We are of His family.
I want to go beyond that and talk about the Father Paul is praying to. It does not teach here the universal Fatherhood of God. Look at what he said: “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” There are a lot of liberal teachers out there who say that this verse teaches that God is everybody’s Father in a spiritual sense and therefore, everybody, universally, has been saved already. It does not teach the spiritual Fatherhood of God. It does not teach the Brotherhood of man in a spiritual sense at all. The Bible is very clear. When it comes to the spiritual family, there are two fathers. There is God, and there is Satan, the devil himself. If you will look with me in I John 3, I will show you that. I John 3:10 talks about the children of God: “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” There is a distinction here from being the offspring of Satan and the spiritual offspring of Christ.
Look in John 8:39. We find it again. Here Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and some of the religious Jews: “They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.’” Verse 41 continues, “‘You are doing the deeds of your father.’ They said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on my own initiative, but He sent Me.’” Look at verse 44. “‘You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.’”
In Ephesians Paul is saying that the Father, from whom every family gets its name in heaven and earth, is the spiritual family. There is a sense that God is Father of all creation. How can we say that? In the sense that nothing was created except that He created it. But when it comes to a spiritual family, you have to be born again and be birthed into that family. Then every believing family, whether it is in heaven or on earth, can claim God as their Father. They have free access to Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all of His household. So he prays to the Father. But who is this person? It is the one who is the Father of all believers. We have access to Him, but He is not the Father spiritually of every person. If you do not know the Lord Jesus, you are a child of the devil, an offspring of the devil.
As chapter 2 of Ephesians tells us, believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, are a part of God’s household. So we see his posture, and we see the person he is talking to. He is not talking to the father of people who aren’t believers. This is family talk. Paul is interested in the family. Paul is intensely, emotionally submitted to whatever God wants. He knows His will is that the family there at Ephesus, the believers at Ephesus, the faithful saints, as chapter 1 tells us, not only know their riches in Christ, but they live in those riches and experience the riches of their salvation every single day.
The Petitions of Paul’s Prayer
Let’s begin to look at the petitions of Paul’s prayer. That is going to take us a while. These verses are just filled with meaning. We come to the list of requests that Paul makes for the family of God at Ephesus, those of God’s household. He goes to His Father, free access through the Lord Jesus, the Son. Verse 16 says, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Paul did not say “out of,” but “according to.” Let me give you the difference in that. If you are going to grant someone something “out of” your riches, that is different than granting somebody something “according to” your riches. If a millionaire gives $100 to the church, he has given “out of” his riches. But friend, if a millionaire is going to give “according to” his riches, then he is going to have to give a gift that speaks of his wealth.
Folks, this is beautiful what he is praying here. He says, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory.” That little phrase, “of His glory,” means they are all His. They are all His because of who He is. Where are they resident? They are resident in His Son, Jesus Christ. Let’s think through this. He is going to grant you according to all of His riches in Christ Jesus. Do you think riches means money? If you do, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. It is far better than money. What he is talking about is the riches of our salvation. Now folks, we have already looked into the vault of God’s wealth. We’ve already looked at it, and we know what these riches are. Look in chapter 1. Let’s just go through it.
Verse 3 of chapter 1 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Friend, that is in savings box number one. We have got, in Him, every single spiritual blessing you could ever hope for or want. It is yours. It is mine, and it is already in the vault, Jesus Christ.
Look at verse 4: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Listen, holy living and living blameless before Him is our birthright in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be living that way. It is already resident there. It is already in Christ.
Look at verse 5: “He predestined us to adoption as sons.” In other words, we can live daily with the security of knowing He will never disown us. The Roman law said you could never disown your children if you adopt them. You could never disown an adopted son. We are birthed into the family, but Paul chooses this word to let you know not only are we birthed into the family, we can never be kicked out of the family. You are eternally secure in Jesus Christ. That is part of the riches of our salvation.
Verse 7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” We have been purchased off the slave block. The Lord Jesus has come. Over in Colossians it says He has taken our sins and has nailed them to the cross. I love that. Back in those days when somebody had a debt, they put a big sign on the door. Everybody could ride by and know the debt. If a man wanted to show kindness, he would go over, walk up to that and write across it telestie, the word that means it is finished, paid in full. That is exactly what was said of Jesus when He was on the cross. He paid it in full. He has been to the cross for you and me. Therefore, we have been redeemed off the slave block of sin. We have been forgiven. It is an act of grace. God lifted that sin off of us, like the scapegoat in the wilderness when they put their hands on that goat’s head and sent it off into the wilderness. Those sins will never come back to haunt us again.
In verse 9 of chapter 1, “He made known to us the mystery of His will.” Now you know what that mystery is. You are beginning to understand it. We are all made one new man in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are put into one body.
In verse 11, He gave us an inheritance with His Son. In verse 13, He sealed us with the Holy Spirit of God.
Now, here in 3:16 he is saying, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Now understand something. He is not praying that they will get these riches. They already have them. He is praying that they be strengthened according to these riches. He is saying, “You’ve got them. Now be strengthened by that which you have. Live in it. Live out of it.” Folks, we have a reservoir of riches of wealth, spiritually, which God has given us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul intensely says, “Oh, God, don’t let them walk out with heads filled with information. God, let them walk out understanding they have these riches. Let them be strengthened in the inner man with power. Let these riches be a part of the source of their strength in their walk.”
You may find out this week that you have lost your job. You may find out this week that someone has done you wrong. Where are you going to be strengthened? Friend, Paul is saying you know something about your salvation. When you run back to the Lord Jesus Christ, in Him is the reservoir of what you are looking for. Let the Spirit of God with power strengthen you in the inner man. Let these truths so get down inside of your life that you become different. All of a sudden what you have inside of you begins to work inside of you. All of a sudden people see a difference in your life. You are doing things and you are living in a way that is on a higher plane than what you lived before. In other words, don’t just sit and soak. Grab hold of the fact that you have got all the wealth that ever could be, spiritually, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn how to tap into it. Learn how to draw it out. It is in your account. It is in your name. The Lord Jesus lives in you. When you have your problems, run to Him. Learn to be strengthened according to the riches that He has given you in Christ Jesus.