Ephesians 3:14-21 | Sermon
Pray to Comprehend the Depths of Christ's Love

Telos: Pray to Comprehend the Depths of Christ’s love.

A sermon by Dan Absalonson

Pray for the time & message.

Hey guys. I’m Dan Absalonson one of the interns. Thanks for this opportunity to open God’s word with you. As you may have guessed from the last three messages I’m going to be preaching on a prayer of Paul’s. You might have noticed a pattern there. Tonight I want to encourage you to Pray to Comprehend the Depths of Christ’s love.

If you have a bible please open it to Ephesians chapter 3 and we’re going to be in verses 14-21.

Read Ephesians 3:14–21

[14] For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

[20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)

Comprehending the depths of Christ’s love is not something we can learn like a fact, like we know that two plus two equals four, two times four equals eight, or that Star Wars Episode 8 is a really fantastic movie. Okay maybe that’s more of an opinion.

But the love of Christ is more than just head knowledge! Comprehending it should change us and it’s not a change we can make happen. We need God to do this in us.

How do we ask him for help? We pray. We need to pray for his help to comprehend Christ’s love.
If our lives don’t change from “knowing” Christ’s love then we don’t really know it - because we aren’t strengthened with power through his spirit in our inner being, Christ isn’t dwelling in our hearts through faith, we aren’t rooted and grounded in his love, and we don’t have strength to comprehend the depths of his love, so we’re not filled with the fullness of God. So we can’t live the life he’s called us to. Otherwise we would see growth and change in our lives. New desires to live for him and not ourselves. But this change only happens by the power of God within us when we are filled with the fullness of God.

To comprehend the love of Christ is to know Christ. What is the love of Christ? Let’s ask it of him. Jesus said:

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

The love of Christ is that he died for us in our place to wash away our sins so we can know God. Christianity is not about going to heaven when we die, it’s about knowing God while we live. If we know him it will change how we live and to know his love is to know him.

Think about the depths, or layers, in a friendship. First you meet, then hang out a few times. Pretty soon you’re making plans to spend time with them because you enjoy them, even love them. It’s like there are layers of friendship that you keep peeling back.

Now think about having a relationship with God, who loves you according to the riches of his Glory. His unlimited overflowing abundance. 

So pray to know his love that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Alright, as we look at our text there’s a lot there, but I’m going to focus on Praying to Comprehend the Depths of Christ’s Love, and I’ll highlight 3 other things we find in the text that help us know his love and lead to us being filled with all the fullness of God.

1. Pray For Strength

Let’s start with verse 14:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

Bow my knees means pray. Interestingly that’s not how they prayed back then. It was most common for them to pray standing up. Paul is praying from a place of humility and reverence. He respects and fears God. 

We don’t pray for help if we think we can do it on our own.

How much we pray shows how much we think we need God.

Alright, let’s get into verse 16. So Paul prays:

16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

Why does Paul pray to have God’s power strengthen? Because we can’t do it on our own! We need to be strengthened with his power for Christ to dwell in us, so we can know Christ’s love, and be filled with God. Our strength won’t cut it. Think about it:

Do you wake up every day rejoicing that Jesus loved you so much that he went to the cross and died for you? Or do the cares of the world usually invade your mind? Are you excited about the things of the world rather than God? You are missing out if you’re not praying to know his love and to be filled with all the fullness of God. 

John 10:10 (NIV)
Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,”

Filled with all the fullness of God! No longer dead in our sin! Christians aren’t you thankful you are no longer a slave to sin but dead to it? Not craving the things you did before. A desire to satisfy your flesh with pleasure, desiring stuff your eyes see. Smartphones, Video Games, Clothes, likes on Social Media. Does a desire for stuff consume your mind or are you a new creation with new desires for God? Is he your greatest treasure?

Are you proud? Looking down on others? Making sure they know how awesome you are? Or are you killing your pride every day and putting others first because the love of Christ put you first? When we understand the love of Christ and are filled with God we don’t love stuff, or pleasing our bodies, or feeding our pride. We don’t love ourselves above others, we Love God, and we love others. You can see we need to pray for help. It’s not easy to live this way, we can’t without him.

So if we are filled with all the fullness of God then these things won’t be in us. In Christ you are a new creation because he died and rose again as a sacrifice for you to bring you peace with God. That sacrifice is love you need strength to comprehend. It is mind blowing! It surpasses knowledge! It should humble you to the core! Make you realize how unworthy you are of his love. That’s what it does for me. 
Make you thirst for more of him, to be filled with him, so you find yourself wanting to read your bible and pray and sing to him.

If you are in Christ you are a new creation because he has made you new! That’s why we call it being born again. 

In Christ we have a new identity. We are now part of God’s family. We have been adopted as his sons and daughters.

Romans 8:15–17
15 ...you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ...

The definition of adoption is “to take by choice into relationship.” God chose us. He chose to be in relationship with us. He chose to make you his son or daughter. You have been adopted into his family!
Have you ever seen your birth certificate? It gives you the details of who you were when you were born. It’s your identity. It list facts about your birth like the names of your parents, your given name, and the time and place you were born.

I have two adopted daughters. When we adopted each of them we were given two birth certificates. The original one, that she was given at birth, and her new one give at the adoption. The new one was the same as her old one, except her identity had changed. My wife and I were listed as her parents as though we had given birth to her ourselves. Her name was changed to what we named her. It still showed the place she was born, but made it as though we were the ones who had her in that place.

When the judge signed the adoption decree he said, “she is your daughter. You are her parents. It is like you gave birth to her yourself.” I became her father and she became my daughter. She got a new identity as my child. She shares in the same inheritance as my other
kids. She belongs to me.

This is what Christ did for us, but in a much bigger way. He lived the perfect life, died the death we deserved for our sin, and by his blood we are washed clean. Then he presents us as blameless before God where we are adopted as his children and given a new identity. We belong to him. This should cause us to wake up and rejoice! This should cause us to walk in this new identity.

2 Corinthians 5:17:
if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

This is overwhelming. His love is so vast it surpasses knowledge like it says in verse 19. And this is just one example of one dimension of Christ’s love - that his sacrifice for us makes us new.

So be encouraged because the strength you need to live the Christian life we are called to does not come from you, but from the riches of God’s glory, which are limitless! God gives without limit because he is without limit. The riches he gives are of his nature which is infinite! Not finite like us. We have limited resources, God gives from his unlimited resources.

Romans 5:6–8
[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That is the love of Christ we need to pray to know. This prayer is for Christians. For those of you in this room who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, pray and ask God to reveal himself to you so you too can know the love of Christ.

So our help comes from the riches of his glory. Let’s go to the next part of Verse 16:
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

What does Paul mean by that? Well what would be the opposite? Our outer being? Our bodies? So Paul isn’t saying that God is like:
“Yeah I’m going to pump you up and give you huge muscles!”

Strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being.

So since he’s not talking about our bodies he’s talking about our spirit within us. Our inner man or woman. Our immaterial part. Not made of flesh and bone. Paul experienced this strengthening right after Jesus showed him his love. This is from Acts chapter 9, the same chapter that starts with his conversion from the Christian killing Jewish man Saul - to the bold Christian named Paul. See he got a new name and a new identity.

Acts 9:22
[22] But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Increased all the more in strength - does that mean Paul was increasing in physical strength all the more? Just dropping to the ground like when he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, but this time doing pushups?
“What are you doing Paul?”
“It’s arm day Ananias!”
No. Paul was increasing all the more in strength in his inner being like he prays for us.

2 Corinthians 4:16:
...Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

While our bodies waste away our inner being can be strengthened day by day. Have you ever met someone old who has an inner strength because of their walk with the Lord? They don’t care if the skin between their neck and chin looks more like that jiggly homemade slime that’s all the rage these days. They don’t! They’re not chasing after youth like the rest of the world because they know the love of Christ! So they’re filled with the fullness of God.

Ok let’s stop picking on the elderly. You could say people who are mature in the Lord, not just those who grew up without WiFi. When you’re around them you notice they’re different. Maybe it’s you. Maybe one of your friends, but it’s like: “Whoa. They aren’t like me. They’re not filled with anxiety and worry and always trying to prove themselves. I’ve never heard them complain. They’re always so thankful and joyful!” And it’s not just because they’re older. There are a lot of old people who still act like bratty two year olds.

But those who are mature in Christ, those who are full of God, are so different than the rest of the world and all of its pride. It’s because Christ dwells in their hearts through faith, and they’re rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, and they have been strengthened with power through God’s spirit in their inner being to comprehend the love of Christ! Since they know they’re loved so well by Christ they’re free to live this way. Mature and filled with all the fullness of God like it says in verse 19. Okay 2nd point. 

2. Pray That Christ Dwells in You

Verse 17: so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. 

What does that mean? A dwelling is a place where someone lives. Christ lives in Christians. He’s not just checking in for the weekend. He is making his home in our hearts. We can know that Jesus died for us and believe there is a God, but for him to live in our hearts and not just on our lips or in our head we need faith. Earlier in this letter Paul wrote:

Ephesians 2:8–9
[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Those of you in here who aren’t Christians, did you hear that? Christians are not saved from hell by doing good works. Christians are not better people than you. We are saved through faith in Jesus and what he did for us. Nothing we do can earn our salvation or the forgiveness of our sins, but we live in a way to please God because we’re so thankful for Jesus! Why?

Because God is holy. That means he’s set apart. He’s different from the rest of us. He’s the creator, everything else is his creation. We sin. That means we go against God in our actions, thoughts, words. We go our own way, do our own thing, for our own selfish ambitions thinking that we know better than God. Sin separates us from God. We’ve committed a crime before the just judge who is God Almighty. He can’t let us into heaven to live with him, or make his home in us here on Earth, because we sin all the time.

We are imperfect so we cannot be with God who is perfect. Since he is just and we have wronged him with our sin he cannot let us into his presence. A sacrifice had to be made to pay for all of our sin to make a way for us to have peace with God. So he made a way for us to be forgiven. Jesus said:

John 14:6
6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus humbled himself and became a man. He lived the perfect life we can’t live. He died the death we deserve for the wages of sin (that’s your paycheck) is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23
He paid our price. His death gives us peace with God. He was raised 3 days after being killed on a cross, defeating death for all of us.

You can’t please God on your own without Jesus paying for your crimes to be dropped. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. - Romans 10:9

So confess, repent, follow Jesus, do that until you die. When you’re trusting in Jesus God sees him when he looks down on you. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1
When you turn from your sin to God you are no longer judged as guilty for your sins. God doesn’t see your crimes against him, but Jesus’s perfect life, so he isn’t angry. He’s running to you to embrace you as his child.

If Jesus dwells in our hearts through faith it should change us. Just as a house is affected by those who make it their home, we are affected when Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. He changes us so we’re more like him, he makes us his own. He gives us a new identity. We belong to him. We are different from the world.

What does he mean in verse 17 rooted and grounded in love? Think of tree roots and foundations for a building in the ground. A tree has roots that go deep into the ground so it can grow to be massively tall and still stand without falling over.

Or those pesky weeds that grow in places you don’t want them. You can try and grab them and pull them out of the ground, but you’ll only get the top part to come away in your hand. I’ve grabbed a ton of them, wrapped them around my hand, got down low and braced myself to then pull as hard as I could and nothing. I could not get these stupid little weeds to come up out of the ground because the roots where so strong. A weed was stronger than I am because it was rooted securely in the ground. The Bible says:

[4] ...for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

One Commentary said:
“The true meaning is, that our roots ought to be so deeply planted, and our foundation so firmly laid in love, that nothing will be able to shake us.”

That is strength in your inner being. Rooted and grounded in love!

When you look to Jesus as your savior and invite him to live in your heart and be Lord of your life it creates in your heart a love for God and for the others he also died for. Which leads me to verse 18.

18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints...

Paul is saying that comprehending Christ’s love for us, this experience of Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith, is for every Christian. We should all Pray for power to comprehend the depths of Christ’s love because we need strength to! 
with all the saints… When he writes saints he means Christian. With all the saints you comprehend Christ’s love and all become a home for Jesus to live inside you.

Ephesians 2:22
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

3. To Comprehend the Depths of Christ’s Love

Look at verse 18:

18 strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ...

What does Paul mean when he says to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth?

Those are dimensions. Measurements. What are the dimensions of Christ’s love? Can we measure them? Or do they surpass knowledge like it says in verse 19?

D.A. Carson wrote:
"...apart from the power of God Christians will have too little appreciation for the love of Christ. They need the power of God to appreciate the limitless dimensions of that love. And so Paul prays for power.” and “It takes nothing less than the power of God to enable us to grasp the love of Christ.”

So strength to comprehend the dimensions...

19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge

How can you know something that surpasses knowledge? Paul is talking about knowing the love of Christ in an experiential way. A reality that’s true even when it doesn’t make sense to your mind. A verse from another letter that Paul wrote is helpful:

Philippians 4:6–7
[6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace which surpasses all understanding.
Love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

Have you ever prayed and had a peace about something even though it seemed like you should be freaking out about it? You can’t explain it, but it’s a true reality. That’s how Christ’s love should be for us. So we Pray for power to comprehend the depths of Christ’s love, because God is able to do this great work in us that we can not do in ourselves.

4. Be Filled with the Fullness of God

Look at the second half of verse 19: that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

John MacArthur put it this way:
“To be so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love, that one is totally dominated by the Lord with nothing left of self.”

Like you are so filled up by God’s love that it overflows out of you. This is what Paul is aiming at in all of this. He prays that we’ll be strengthened, so Christ dwells in us, to know his love, and be filled with all the fullness of God. To be so filled with God that there's nothing left of ourselves. Our own pride. Our own will. Our own way. To be filled with God so that doing the will of God is what brings us joy. “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” - Hebrews 12:2

Jesus said “not my will, but yours, be done.”

If we can comprehend the love of Christ, and are filled with the fullness of God his love will flow out of us.

Luke 6:45 (NASB)
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good … for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

So we need to Pray to Comprehend Christ’s Love for us so we can be filled with him.

Let’s look at verse 20:
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us

Amen! Does that power at work within us come from us? No! Look at  20 again: to him who is able…” He is able! He wants to fill us with his fullness. He will fill you with his spirit. This is not about you and what you can do. He is able. Do you believe that? 
Do you believe he can and will? [pause]

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

To him be the glory! If it were something that we could do, we would get the glory! So who gets the glory when we are strengthened to comprehend the depths of Christ’s love and are so blown away by it that we have new desires to start living differently? When we get just how loved we are by Jesus who died for us? When people notice our good deeds and the upright and wholesome way we live our lives putting others first. When they ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you. God gets the glory.

You’ve heard we need to pray to comprehend the depths of Christ’s love, but you might have trouble finding time to pray every day. Pray for a desire to pray more and you will find the time, but maybe these practical tips will help too:

Find a time and place to get with God and read your Bible and pray. Same place, same time every day. If you don’t set a time the Devil wins. All kinds of other things will get in your way. Even good things.

Don’t have a desire for this?
Then pray: “God give me a desire to desire you.”

1 Peter 5:8
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

We are in a war. We are at war with Satan! How much we pray shows how much we think we need God and guys, we desperately need him every day. We can’t follow Jesus in our own strength. If we aren’t filled with his power, we will fall like a sheep hunted by a prowling lion. Don’t be devoured! We need him and he tells us he will give us what we need but we need to ask. We need to pray.

James 4:2-3
2 ...You do not have, because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

When you ask God to give you a desire to read your bible and pray He’s going to answer that prayer! So pray to comprehend the depths of Christ’s love for you that you may be filled with all the fullness of God, and you will be able to walk in newness of life with him.

Let’s pray.