For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…
I. THE PECULIAR FITNESS REQUESTED FOR THEM AS FORMING THE MATERIAL OF THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE (vers. 16, 17). It is very clear that the "building" idea pervades this passage throughout. The reference to the dwelling of Christ in the heart decides this. The apostle's mind was so engrossed by this figure of a temple — the knowledge that he was writing to people who were familiar with temple architecture having possibly something to do with it — that each individual Christian presents himself to his mind as a stone in a glorious temple. And all his thoughts assume a corresponding form and colouring. He asks that they "might be strengthened with might in the inner man." In this he shows his anxiety that they might prove true stones, possessing qualities befitting the glory and the character of the building; that they might be subjected to such a process as would impart to them the quality of soundness, a most desirable quality in a stone. Upon its soundness depends its capability of bearing strain, of carrying weight, and resisting the ravages of the elements. The quality of the stones composing a building determines the strength and stability of the building itself. Two things are declared respecting this process, namely, its manner and means.
1. The manner of it — "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The strengthening is secured by the indwelling of Christ. This is not a literal or physical indwelling. The nature of the indwelling is implied by the expression "by faith." Contact of Christians with Him by faith results in the transmission to them of His qualities.
2. The text describes the means of the indwelling — by faith" and "by the Spirit." Here we have both the agent and the instrument employed to secure the indwelling. There is a beautiful interblending of the human and Divine in this transaction. The Spirit promotes faith; faith receives Christ; and Christ constitutes the strengthening. The strengthening consists in the transfusion of the soul with Christ's characteristic traits of strength and firmness. This process is effected by the operation of faith; faith, again, is a mental act prompted by the spirit. If we adhere to the figure of a house, as the term "dwell" seems to suggest, the whole process may be represented thus — Christ comes to "dwell in the heart" with a view to impart strength to it, but He must be admitted into it through the door, which is "faith"; then, again, this door must be opened by the porter, the Spirit, as in the example of Lydia, whose heart, we are expressly told, the Lord opened to the reception of the things spoken by Paul.
II. WE NOTICE THE SECOND REQUEST OF THIS PRAYER, THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE ENLARGED AND CHRIST-HONOURING CONCEPTIONS OF THE MAGNITUDE OF THE TEMPLE OF WHICH THEY FORMED A PART. Most people connect the words in verse 18 with the love of Christ referred to in the following verse. The structure of the Greek seems opposed to this interpretation; also the logic of the passage. Can it be true that the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of which we are so definitely to comprehend, is beyond our knowledge? We must look, then, for some other reference to fit the words. What had the apostle uppermost in his mind? Was it not the Christian temple so beautifully described in the last words of chapter 2 as being in course of building? The purport of the thought would seem to be this temple. The apostle knew how narrow and contracted the thoughts of many Jewish Christians, especially, were respecting this glorious institution. He is, therefore, anxious to lift their minds cut of the narrow rut of their traditional exclusiveness. He wants them to rise to a truer and nobler conception of this glorious spiritual temple — "to comprehend its breadth, and length, and depth, and height." By its breadth and length he describes its area as covering the whole earth, as contemplating all nations within its scope. By its depth and height he measures its elevation; it includes the whole family on earth and in heaven, the Church militant and the Church triumphant. In a word, then, we have the area and elevation of the spiritual temple, the Church, in the one ease covering the earth, in the other reaching to the heavens.
1. The source of it. The comprehension indicated comes as the result of being "rooted and grounded in love." A strange interblending of figures. Not only has the heart penetrated into the love, but the love penetrates into the heart, transfusing it with its own qualities. What is the result? It is that the heart, so affected, so wrought upon, possesses in its new instinct of love a key to all God's ways and operations.
2. The universality of its comprehension. It is implied that to comprehend the magnitude of the aim of the Christian Church was a matter which the Ephesian Christians were to attain to in common with all saints. It is the duty of every Christian to attain to clear views on this important matter. It is men who have comprehended this most clearly and appreciated it most fully who have succeeded best in doing great things for God. It is only by the inspiration and enthusiasm born of this great fact that such heroes of the faith as Wesley in England, Carey in India, and Livingstone in Africa, were stimulated and emboldened to attempt the mighty things they achieved in their day.
3. The use of it — "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." Here the apostle tells us that one of the advantages of the realization of the wide-reaching aims and benevolent purposes of the Church was the help it gives to realize the transcendent love of Christ. It sounds paradoxical to speak of knowing that which passeth knowledge. There is a sense, nevertheless, in which it is consistent. The fact of the love being Divine at once places it beyond the utmost stretch of the human mind to measure its force, to fathom its depth, or to scale its height. He to whom, both by reason of sympathy of nature and power of inspiration, was given more than to any other human being the power of fathoming its depth, and measuring its height, represents it as of the very essence of God. Yet this knowledge-defying love, the text tells us, we may know.This knowledge consists of two things.
1. In being convinced of it as a fact. As Intimated, this conviction, the apostle tells us, comes of duly comprehending the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the Church. The Church, in the magnitude of its conception and comprehensive benevolence, is a standing monument of Christ's love, a proof indisputable of its existence and operative force. This much we know of the love of Christ. The sun far surpasses our power of comprehension. We can form no idea of its bulk, of the extent of its forces, of the influence it exerts upon myriad objects embraced by its light and heat. Nevertheless, there is nothing of the existence of which we are more convinced, or with the power of which we are more impressed. Thus it is with the love of Christ.
2. To know the love of Christ means also an assurance of a personal interest in it. It means the conviction that, however it may defy the utmost power of our imagination to measure its magnitude, we are, nevertheless, embraced by it; that it is our moral atmosphere in which we breathe inspiration and power; the spiritual light which infuses, sunlike, gladness and joy into the very core of our life, giving serene rest, and creating unflinching confidence in the midst of universal unrest, and of myriads of turbulent and conflicting elements.
3. The knowledge of Christ's love is a qualification for the reception of all the fulness of God. The love of Christ, apprehended in the sense explained, unlocks the soul for the entrance into it of all God's fulness. This is the apostle's climax thought. Here he describes the highest point of spiritual attainment the believing soul is capable of reaching, that is, becoming a depository for all the fulness of God. The love of Christ, apprehended in this deeper manner, brings the whole man under the complete sway of God. For this being filled with all the fulness of God means —
(1) To have an all-pervading consciousness of God; it is to have God in His fulness — in the fact of His goodness, His love, His holiness in the profoundest sense pervading our every thought and action, inspiring them, moulding them, and directing them. In a word, it is God becoming the sole motive power of the soul.
(2) It also means to be endowed to the utmost possible capacity of our being with spiritual power — to be God-endowed as well as God-motived. In this fulness God lays Himself, so to speak, at the service of the soul — in the wealth of His love and the treasures of His grace.
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,