|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|The apostle Paul prays that the Ephesians believers be "filled." But does it matter what they are "filled" with? Dr. Barber explains why it does matter!|
This prayer sums up what Paul says in chapters 1-3 and sets up what he is about to say in chapters 4-6. The prayer is the key, the pivotal point, the hinge of the whole book. This is a Prayer for Fullness.
Paul starts the prayer in 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul,...” then he stops and for 13 verses he puts everything in a parenthesis. Paul is so overwhelmed with the mystery of how the Jew and the Gentile can be made into one new man in Christ Jesus. He was overwhelmed with the mystery of the church, the mystery of the new creation, the mysterious union of Christ living in us and of all men being equal in Christ. No one receives more than the other. All of us receive the fullness of what God offers. Paul was so overwhelmed. He talks in chapter 3 of how the mystery was revealed to him, how he explained it and how he proclaimed it.
Then he starts his prayer again in verse 14. I think the Ephesian church needed a dose of encouragement from Paul on how to tap into what they already had in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the very essence of this prayer. I think we all need to be encouraged. Remember, we are to be strengthened with an ability that is beyond ourselves. This is what Christianity is all about. It is not living like Jesus. It is Jesus being Jesus in us. He lives in us, wants to be at home in us and dwell in us. I think the reason we need to be encouraged, just like the Ephesians, is because many times we forget what we are like apart from the ability of God that He has now given us in the person of His Spirit. We forget what our abilities are like compared to God’s abilities in us. Many of us are trying to live like Jesus. You know that doesn’t work. You can’t live like Jesus. But Jesus, in your cooperating with Him, can live out through you His character and His life.
Perhaps many of us are a little frustrated. Perhaps we need to go back and look at what our ability is like apart from being strengthened in the inner man through the means of the Spirit of God.
I was reading in Romans where Paul said to the Roman church, “You know, I’ve got a few things to share with you. I am going to remind you of some things. I have said them to you before, but I really believe you need to hear them again.” I think that is the hour we are living in. We need to understand, folks, not only what we have in Christ, not only how to tap into it, but we need to realize what we are like apart from His strengthening in our life. Some of us have forgotten that. Perhaps you have strayed away from the Word of God. You have been so busy doing that you have stopped being. You have not been in the Word of God. Maybe it has been weeks and weeks and weeks since you have really been in the Word of God. You’ve been busy. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to fellowship and don’t really know what is going on in the body and what they are learning together as a body. You haven’t really gotten back into being strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit of God. I want to tell you to be careful because the potential of evil is all around us. It is resident in our flesh.
We are going to read the qualities in Galatians 5 of what a lost man is like, of what the old flesh used to produce. Whether flesh is saved or flesh is lost, flesh is still flesh. That potential of evil is still resident with us until the day we die and our bodies have been glorified. James says all of those lusts reside in our flesh. We battle every day with our ability versus God’s ability in our life. What is one like compared to the other? Well, let’s look. In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident,” they are very apparent. When a person is not being strengthened with divine ability within his life, it is very obvious in him. Here is what he becomes in bondage to. It says first of all their deeds are immoral. Make no mistake about it, that is sexual immorality. I am not saying it in any way except the way it is. You say, “I am a believer. Jesus is in my heart.” Friend, if you are not being strengthened daily by the Spirit of God in your inner man, if you are not letting Jesus be Jesus in your life, then sexual immorality is a struggle that you are going through. Many of you may have fallen into bondage to it. The old flesh is still susceptible. “Impurity” is the word that means “the acts of uncleanness.” “Sensuality” is the word for indecent acts that shock others.
We have been reminded and shocked by what we have heard in the Christian community over the past several years. How can that happen to Christians? I tell you how it happens. It is when people don’t pay attention to the richness of their salvation and they are not willing to tap into the divine abilities God has given them. They are not letting the Spirit of God dwell in their hearts. As a result, this is what comes out of it, things which shock the world.
“Idolatry” is worship of everything but God. “Sorcery” is the word pharmakeia, which is where we get the word “drugs” from. The word translated “enmities” is the word that means “hostility that will take one’s own vengeance out on another.” Not Christians! Yes, Christians, if they are not being strengthened with divine ability which is the character of Christ. They will use whatever is handy. Most of the time they will take their vengeance out with their tongue. Does that happen in this church? Absolutely. Everyone is not tapping into what God has given them. We all know that. We all struggle this way. We need to be reminded that the normal Christian life is not living as we please and then coming to church on Sunday. The normal Christian life is daily abandoning ourselves to whatever God wants in our life and letting His divine ability be produced in us.
“Strife” is a word that refers to contentious attitudes towards others that always keep things stirred up and confused. “Jealousy” is the word that refers to when you are offended because somebody is living a higher lifestyle than you are able to live. That is what jealousy means. It makes you mad. “Outbursts of anger” refers to tempers that flare when bitterness surfaces. “Disputes” is the word for those who seek their own way at the expense of others. They are always causing disputes because of their own selfish interests and their own selfish opinions.
“Dissensions” is what happens when we are always causing disputes. People take sides and it results in factions. They begin to divide up and seek to conquer. That is what happens when people aren’t tapping into what their salvation is all about. It is not a transforming thing that has happened in their life. The word “factions” is really better translated “heresies” or “sects.” You see, a sect is anything built around a man.
“Envying” means “never content with what we have.” It goes a step further, though. Jealousy is being jealous of a lifestyle above you, envy is when you seek to take away what somebody else rightfully has, even his joy in Jesus. “Drunkenness” speaks of itself. Since flesh will not turn to God, you have to get a fix some other way. “Carousing” is talking about partying and frivolity, that which results from not depending upon the Lord Jesus who strengthens us in the inner man.
Now Paul doesn’t finish the list. He says, “and things like these.” Why? You mean to tell me that all of us have resident with us not only the riches of Christ at salvation in the inner man, but we also have resident in our bodies the lusts of the flesh that cause us the problems and give us the potential for evil at a given moment? Yes. We need to be reminded of our ability versus God’s ability. Only God’s ability strengthens us and makes us mighty. Man’s ability only brings a dead-end result, as we have just seen in Galatians 5.
With that in mind let’s look at Paul’s prayer once again. Look at Ephesians 3:16: “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory,...” What are the riches of His glory? The riches of His glory are found in 1:1-3:13, everything Paul has said about what we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, 1:3 says every spiritual blessing. Whatever you need is in Christ in the area of the spiritual realm. It has already been given to us. It is yours. You don’t have to go someplace to get it. You’ve got it. He lives in you.
Paul says, “according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened.” The word “strengthened” means “to be made mighty.” It is the word that speaks of dominion. Let His character be manifest in your life and you will see the greatest miracle. You will begin to see what normal Christianity is.
Well, Paul goes on. He says, “...be strengthened with power.” That’s the Greek word dunamis. It is the word that means divine ability, divine capability. God wants to strengthen you with an ability you don’t have apart from Him.
Now he says, “by the means of His Spirit in the inner man.” God had put His person in you. God the Holy Spirit lives there. Why? To strengthen you, to make you able to do what you couldn’t do before you received the Lord Jesus, to make you able to love your wife when your wife doesn’t love you, to make you able to love your husband when your husband doesn’t love Jesus the way you love Jesus, to make you able to forgive, to make you able to do the things that you couldn’t do before. There has been a total change in your life.
Verse 17 continues the prayer, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The word “dwell” has the idea of a person being in a house and being at home. In other words, he wants Christ to be at home in his life, in his business, when you fill out your income tax, in whatever you do, when you take your checkbook, when you take your thoughts. Christ is at home, settled in. He is a resident now. He didn’t rent a room, He came in and purchased the whole house. He came in to rule and reign.
How do we accommodate Him and make Him feel at home? By faith, through faith. Faith is trusting Him and obeying Him. It’s believing that God can when you can’t.
Then Paul goes on and says, “and that you, being rooted and grounded in love.” When are we rooted and grounded in love? When we first get saved? Oh, no. Yes, it comes in. The potential and the reservoir is there. Colossians says that. You are rooted into Christ. But when do your roots go deep into the reservoir? When are you settled into His love? Only when you surrender to His Spirit do you become rooted and grounded in His love. Both words, rooted and grounded, are in the perfect tense to show a state of being that depends upon a specific action. What have I done? I have bowed down. What has happened? I have tapped into the roots of His love. What springs out of me is that divine love of Christ, that unconditional love. Everything I do is built upon it. Everything I do is wrapped around it.
Verses 18-19 says, “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.” Let me just summarize that by saying you can never teach this. You have to live it. You don’t discover it individually as much as you discover it corporately. This is what is so exciting. When the whole body of Christ begins to tap into and be rooted in His love, then you learn with all the saints what the love of Christ is. How do you learn it? That word “knowledge” is the word participatory knowledge. You experience it for yourself. As you experience that love, interacting with people, you begin to comprehend what the love of Christ is all about.
Look at the last phrase of verse 19. This phrase sums up his whole prayer. He says, “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” What in the world does that mean? It is overwhelming that God wants to let us experience His fullness and has offered it to us. What does it mean to be filled up to all the fullness of God?
Let me ask you a question. What is dominating your life? What are you filled up with? You see, whatever you are filled up with controls and dominates what you are. It affects your relationships with your wife, your husband and your children. They are directly affected by what you are filled up with. Paul said, “I want you to be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
The first thing I want you to see is Paul is praying that all of God would dominate all that you are. In other words, that all of God would dominate all of you. I picked that word “dominate” very carefully because the word “filled” has that implied in the word. The word is pleroo. It is the word that means “to be filled to the brim.” If you fill a glass of water and fill it to the brim, that’s pleroo. It is filled full. There is no room for anything else. There is the implied meaning of satisfaction. You have a satisfied glass if it is full of water. What is a glass for? To be filled up. When you put the liquid to the top it must be satisfied. Nothing else is needed to satisfy the glass.
So in light of Paul’s prayer, Paul is saying when we are empty of sin and we are empty of self and filled up with the fullness of God, then we begin to understand what satisfaction is all about. There is also the implicit meaning of dominance. Whatever fills a person dominates that person. What are you filled with? What is coming out of your life? Look at your life. Are you filled with fear and jealousy or are you filled with the Holy Spirit of God?
Let’s take the word pleroo, and run it through the New Testament. From Acts to Revelation it is found about 29 times. I picked a few of them to give you an idea of what it means to be filled, and therefore, to be dominated by something other than the Holy Spirit of God.
Turn first to Acts 4:8. Every one of us have had this occur in our life. It makes us understand why Paul had to remind believers to be strengthened with power in the inner man because we forget. We forget that whatever fills us controls us. That is the way we act. In Acts 4:8 we find Simon Peter filled with the Holy Spirit: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘...Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified.’”
Whew! Can you see that hand go out and that finger pointing? I am sure those guys backed off and said, “Man, what has happened to him?” Four or five weeks before he wouldn’t even admit he knew Jesus Christ. What dominated him five weeks before was not the Holy Spirit. What dominated him was fear for his own life. As a result, he cowered down and wouldn’t even speak up in the crowd when he could have associated himself with Jesus Christ. You see, when you are filled with the Spirit of God, you are dominated by the Spirit. Every area of your life is dominated and mastered by the Spirit of God. Boldness is one of the first things you are going to find associated with that filling.
Look with me in Acts 13:52 and we find that word pleroo, again. Remember it means to be filled full, to the brim, to be dominated by. In Acts 13:52 Paul is on his first missionary journey. He has been over in Iconium, Lystra and Derby. He has had all kinds of problems, but he has faithfully equipped the saints. “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Do you see something associating itself with being filled with the Spirit of God? When you are dominated by His Spirit, the ruling attitude in your life is the joy of knowing who is in control and the joy of trusting Him.
Let me show you the converse to that. There are people in the New Testament who the word “filled” is used to describe, but they chose not to be filled with the Spirit of God. Let’s see what they were filled with and how it effected other people around them. Look in chapter 5 of Acts and verse 17. In the context of this passage people are being healed of all kinds of diseases. This is the early church. The Spirit of God has come in power, and people are literally overwhelmed. God is doing a great work, but look at the religious lost who continually refused the power that can change them into the character of Christ. Verse 17 says, “But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates [that is the sect of the Sadducees], and they were filled with jealousy; and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail.”
You know, there’s a principle here, something to think about. One of things I noticed is when I am filled with anything other than the Holy Spirit of God, especially jealousy, I will offend and imprison, with my words or whatever I do, the very people God is seeking to use. It always works that way.
Turn to Acts 19:20. Paul is in Ephesus. Remember Artemis was the Satanic idol there, the big temple there on top of the hill in Ephesus. You can still see how majestic it was even to this day. People came from all over the world to see it. It was filled with Satanic influence, so God countered that with miraculous things that Paul would do. In verse 20 look at what was happening. It says, “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” Every time you see the words “growing” and “prevailing,” what can you look out for? You see, people who aren’t dominated by the Spirit of God are dominated by something else. When people are around them who are filled with the Spirit of God, they become a threat automatically.
Look at verse 24. There was a man by the name of Demetrius who was a silversmith. He had picked up on this idolatry stuff, and he was making little idols of Artemis out of the silver. As people came from all over the world to go to the Temple, he was selling these little things for a profit. Look at what it says. “For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen.” To put that in 20th century terms, he was a self-made, smart businessman. But people who were dominated by the Spirit of God were threatening his business.
Look at verse 25: “these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades and said, ‘Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.’” Take that statement and match it with what God’s Word says. Does our prosperity depend upon our business? What does it depend upon? It depends on our God.
Well, I am going to show you what these people did. Look at verse 26: “‘And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. And not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned from her magnificence.’”
In verse 28 I want to show you what one man’s rage did to effect another group of men, who had no idea, and then a whole city. Verse 28 says, “And when they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ And the city was filled [pleroo] with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater.”
Now what in the world stirred up all those people? One man who was filled with the wrong thing. What are you filled with? It is dominating your life. It is effecting your home and your church. We need to be in prayer. We need to get with it and stop playing games at the foot of the cross.
Romans 1:29 tells us what we used to be filled with. It should never bother us when sinners sin because sinners don’t know how to do anything but sin. But when the saints of God start living like the sinners, we’ve got problems. Verse 29 says, “being filled [pleroo] with all unrighteousness, wickedness, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” Why do they do that? Verse 28 tells us “they did not see fit to acknowledge God.” Do you know what the word “acknowledge” means? It means to bow down to and allow Him into every room of your house, letting Him dwell, letting Him be who He is in your life.
Perhaps there is something else you are being filled with. I hope not. I don’t like this passage. You don’t like it. None of us like it, but I think we need to be reminded of it, don’t you?