EPHESIANS 3:12 

 

 

You have an enemy, the wicked one, and that enemy is perhaps a thousand times smarter than you are or perhaps a million times smarter. Whatever, he is definitely much smarter than you, and right now he is plotting your downfall and the downfall of every Christian that you know. Maybe you are not aware of it, but this is what is taking place right now: the devil is scheming against you. He is studying your weaknesses, and his goal is to bring some crisis into your life that will be the perfect match for where you are weak in order to cause you to fall. And great will be the fall, if the devil has his way. It may be a year from now, and it may be five years from now; but the devil would like nothing more than to create some great affliction that will catch you unawares and for which you are not prepared and you will fall, unless you have the spiritual strength to face it. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” That is the problem: spiritual weakness. That is the problem that you must be concerned about for yourself, and that is the problem that you must be concerned about for other believers. Paul was concerned about it by the Holy Spirit, and we will see from this passage that one of the important solutions to this problem is prayer. Paul prayed for other Christians, and in this great prayer of his he had one prayer request: that these believers that he loved so much would be strengthened spiritually. If that prayer gets answered, they will be able to handle anything that comes their way. God wants you to pray for other Christians, and according to this passage of scripture, He especially wants you to have this prayer request: that they be strengthened spiritually.   

 

The Apostle Paul begins speaking about prayer in Ephesians 3:12 and Paul wrote, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” The last thing that Paul had written in the previous verse was that he had mentioned the name, the precious name of Jesus, one more time. At the end of verse 11 Paul had written, “which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Remember that Paul preached the unsearcheable riches of Christ. It is therefore not surprising that Paul would mention the name of Jesus and think of some other wonderful thing that Christ does for us by His grace and mercy.

 

Jesus has given us a bold and a free and a confident access into the presence of the Almighty God so that we can ask for anything. He can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. As Paul wrote about the great privilege and power of prayer, evidently his mind turned to the believers to who he was ministering and their needs. He wrote in Ephesians 3:13, “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” We know what the “wherefore” is there for. We have already read the previous verse. Paul is thinking about the power of prayer and the privilege of prayer and then he says, “I desire.” This word that is translated desire is actually the most basic word that means “to ask” and usually it is translated “to ask.” Look in verse 20 and see that the same word is translated “ask.” Perhaps Paul is already thinking of his prayer request. So at any rate he is beginning to think of these believers and that motivates him to se their need of his prayers for them. Of course, if you are going to ask something, that means that you do desire it.

 

Paul desired something and he asked concerning it. Paul wrote “that you faint not.” True spiritual success cannot be measured in numbers. It is measured by continuing the life of faith no matter what. At the end of Paul’s life remember that he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Paul wanted desperately that every Christian be able to say the same thing at the end of their lives. It is not guaranteed to happen that way. There will be days of adversity and of sorrow and of affliction and of crisis. That is what is guaranteed. How are you going to survive such days? How are the Christians to whom you minister going to survive them? By prayer: prayer for spiritual strength.

 

Why is such a prayer needed? Why is the prayer for spiritual strength needed? Because of the tribulations and afflictions that will come one after another until the Lord returns and changes things. Paul mentions one affliction in this verse, and it was his own affliction. These believers in Ephesus cared about Paul so much that he knew that they would be touched by what he was suffering. He was concerned that others would sorrow because of his sufferings. Sometimes the sufferings of those that you really care about will hurt you more than your own sufferings. Either way, you will have affliction, sorrows, tribulations, persecutions, distresses, and other things that will become a part of your life and your experience. Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” Peter wrote, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened unto you.” “They that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution

 

Tribulations in this life are kind of like the waves of the sea. After one wave hits the shore, you can be sure of one thing: others will follow. Sometimes in our prayers when we pray for others, we are simply praying one wave at a time. For example: “Please heal his cancer or please fix their marriage.” Such prayers are valid and needful, no doubt; but why not also pray what Paul prayed. If someone gets what Paul prayed for, then that person will be able to handle any affliction. He prayed for spiritual strength for these believers. He wrote in verse 14, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the reason that Paul prayed for these Christians and this is the basis for the prayer request that he had. His prayer request was that they be strengthened: that they be strengthened spiritually.

 

It is interesting to note that just before Paul gets into the specifics of his prayer that he says, “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul mentions the name of Jesus at the start of his prayer instead of at the end as we often do. I think that Paul’s method is better since you cannot say one word in prayer except it be through Jesus. That is what in the name of Jesus means. You are praying through Jesus and because of Jesus. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” When you have a mediator, you do not bypass the mediator. You go directly to the mediator, and then the mediator goes with you to speak with the other party.

 

It happens again. Paul mentions the name of Jesus, and then Paul thinks of some other wonderful thing that Jesus has done for us. Jesus has put us all into the same family: the family of God. That is the greatest of all families. It is a greater family than your human family. Your human family will only last for this life, but your Christian family will last forever. That which is spiritual is more important than that which is physical and human, of course. And so, your Christian family is the most important family that you have. Yes, love your human family but love your Christian family even more.

 

Paul loved his Christian family, and so he prayed for them. In verse sixteen Paul said that he prayed, “That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened…” This is Paul’s prayer request, that they would be strengthened. Paul has free access into the very presence of the Almighty Father in the name of the Son and Paul asks for this one thing: that they be strengthened.

 

Paul prayed that they would be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. The word that is translated “strengthened” is used just a few times in the New Testament. Of course, it means to be strong instead of weak, and in this context it is talking about spiritual strength. It’s interesting that the same word is used twice in the Gospel of Luke, once concerning the early development of John the Baptist and once concerning the human development of our Lord Jesus Christ. For both of them it says, “he waxed strong in spirit.” That is what every believer needs: to become spiritually strong, and that is what Paul prayed about for the believers that he loved.

 

This verse says “strengthened with might.” The word that is translated “might” is the word “dunamis”, the power, the divine enabling. Once you are strong it is expected that you will do something with your strength. It is kind of like the difference between a body builder and a football player. A body builder builds up his muscles so that his muscles will be looked at and admired. But a football player builds up his muscles so that he can get on the field and get in the game and accomplish something. If you do not have spiritual muscles, you will get knocked flat by the opposition. If God gives you spiritual strength, He wants you to accomplish something with it. If you attempt to accomplish something and do not have the strength that you need, you will never do it. Some fiery affliction will get you down.

 

The emphasis here is that the strength and the power that you need in the inner man is “by his Spirit.” It has to do with the law of the Spirit. The same Spirit who brought you to Christ and who indwells you: has a law by which he operates. You must not violate that law if you want to have His power. You do not receive more of the Spirit in order to get more power. You already have all of the Spirit that you will ever have. When you were saved by faith in Christ, the Spirit came to indwell you. Now there is a law that you must not violate, if you are to have his power, if you are to be strengthened with might in the inner man. In I Thessalonians 5:19 Paul wrote, “Quench not the Spirit

 

You know what it means to be led by the Spirit. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” The first time that the Spirit of God led you, He led you to Christ. Sometimes He does come like a great and mighty wind to compel you to go this way or that. But more often than not, He will speak through His Word like a still small voice and a very light and gentle breeze. Only those who listen closely to the directing hand of the Spirit will know which way He leads. Quench not the Spirit, or you will not have the power of the Spirit. You quench the Spirit when you go your way and do want you want, instead of going the Spirit’s way for you.

 

He is the Holy Spirit. The way to power, spiritual power, is the way of holiness. And so, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:30 “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” We grieve the Spirit when we sin. If you have sinned, make sure that you get cleansing. We need daily cleansing from Jesus. There are many reasons to fear sin and to avoid it: the loss of fellowship, the loss of a testimony, the loss of rewards, the terrible negative results that any sin might bring. But the loss of power is also something to fear. He is the Holy Spirit. His power does not manifest where sin takes place. It is like Delilah cutting the hair off the head of Samson. Before the hair hits the floor, the power is gone. And it takes a while for hair to grow back.

 

Pray for believers that they would be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. If you are not grieving or quenching the Spirit, then He will have free reign to work within you, and one of the main things that the Spirit does is that He reveals and glorifies the Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “When he is come, He will testify of me,” and “He will take of mine and will show it unto you.” And so verse 17 says, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” This is what I think some people call the abiding presence of Christ. And this is the way it works: by faith. That is how everything works in regards to spiritual strength: faith. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Sometimes you hear people pray, “O Lord, be with us today, or be with us in this hour.” But actually that is not a scriptural prayer. He has already promised to be with us. He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” and He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Turn your eyes upon Jesus. He is there is there with you because he said that He would be. Simply believe it. “Believe only,” and then you are strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. 

 

Of course, faith is not an end in itself. Add to your faith…. The greatest thing that can be added to your faith is love: the love of Christ. “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.” When you pray that believers be strengthened, perhaps the most important part of that prayer is this part: the love of Christ. Paul wrote in verse 17, “that you being rooted and grounded in love.” Two words of strength from the natural world are used in reference to love: rooted and grounded. Of course, the first has to do with a tree and its roots that go deep into the ground. If your roots do not go deep into the love of Christ, the next storm that comes your way will likely knock you over and crush you to the ground. The word that is translated “grounded” is a word that relates to the laying of a foundation. This symbolism is used elsewhere in the New Testament. Jesus Himself used the concept of having the right kind of foundation in Matthew chapter seven at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Paul used it elsewhere when he wrote by the Spirit, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The difference between the other uses of a foundation and the use here in Ephesians chapter three is that Christ is the foundation for salvation, and the love of Christ is the foundation for spiritual strength.

 

Concerning the love of Christ, evidently the Spirit thought it was very important because He moved Paul to write more about it. Paul wrote in verses 18-19, “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” It is an interesting phrase that is used here: “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” To know the unknowable: in other words the love of Christ can be known but not by the means through human knowledge normally comes. As Bernard of Clairveau wrote, “The love of Jesus what it is, only His loved ones know.” When Paul wrote, “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height,” perhaps we can never think of the proper words to say to explain it or to say what it means. But maybe one of the martyrs of Christ can explain it to us. It is said that some years after the Spanish Inquisition that one of the dungeons was opened, and down inside the dungeon the remains of a believer was found where he had been chained to a wall and left to die. But before he died he had scratched into the wall a cross. Above the cross he had written the word “height.” Below the cross he had written the word “depth.” On one side of the cross he had written the word “length,” and on the other side the word “breadth   

 

Climb the hill called Calvary and fall on your knees there. As you think of what Christ did for you, maybe the love of Christ will be revealed to you. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” If you experience the love of Christ, you will be strong: rooted and grounded in love. Then no matter what happens, no matter what affliction comes your way, you look to the Lord Jesus and say, “Oh, Lord Jesus, whatever you want to experience in following you, I gladly accept it for your sake because of your great love.” If you have this kind of strength, you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Jesus said to Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” On your prayer list do not forget one of the most important prayer requests of all both for yourself and for the Christians that you know: “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man 

 

  

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Copyright; 2004 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved