Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #697 MP3 Audio File Video File

Grounded In Love

Ephesians 3:17-21

Delivered 03/09/2014

We are in the middle of Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians that is found at the end of chapter 3. In the first part, he prays that Yahweh would grant according to the riches of His glory for his readers to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.

I see Paul as praying here that these Ephesians would be strengthened with the power of the Spirit in their thinking. He is praying that their thinking would line up with the Word of God, primarily in the area of what he taught in chapter 2 of the Jew and Gentile being equal before Yahweh as the one New Man. It was critical to the unity of the Church that their thinking align with the concept of "one New Man" in Christ. No more Jew, no more Gentile, just Christians, just sons of the Living Elohim. If their thinking does not line up with this, they could fraction into a Jewish Church and a Gentile Church. So it was a huge deal for them to think right.

We ended last week with the first part of verse 17:

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17 NASB

"So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith"—this is an exact parallel of what Paul said in verse 16, "To be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." Paul is not asking Yahweh that the Spirit might strengthen you, and then subsequently that Christ might dwell in your heart through faith. This is one in the same action. "Christ dwelling in your heart through faith" is an explanation of how it is that God will strengthen you in the inner man!

I think that when Paul uses "eso anthropos" (inner man) here he is talking about the mind, the thinking process. Paul's phrase, "the inner man," (3:16) is synonymous with the heart (3:17). And the heart is another reference to the thinking. So I see Paul as praying here that these Ephesians would be strengthened with the power of the Spirit in their thinking.

"That you, being rooted and grounded in love"—the Greek here has a purpose clause: "In order that" or "with the purpose that," or "with the result that," "You, being rooted and grounded in love." So Paul prays that they would "be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man" with the result that "Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith" in order that you may be rooted and grounded in love.

The original word order has "in love" first, stressing the importance of love in Paul's thinking. We see this order in:

that the Christ may dwell through the faith in your hearts, in love having been rooted and founded, Ephesians 3:17 YLT

What love are we rooted and grounded in? Is it our love for Yahweh? Is it our love for one another? Or is it Yahweh's love for us? Which of those roots and grounds you?

Charles Hodge writes, "The love in which we are to be rooted is not the love of God or of Christ toward us, but either brotherly love or love as a Christian grace without determining its object." Is your love for others going to root and ground you? In other words are we rooted and grounded by our works? John Calvin wrote, "From one's work conscience feels more fear and consternation than assurance." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 3, 14,20).

On this love that roots and grounds us, John MacArthur writes, "It's very difficult to hold your breath. You try it for a long time and you'll explode, it's just very difficult. You're fighting against the natural. When you became a Christian the most natural thing in the world was this, the love of God is shed abroad in your heart, it should permeate you, it should exude from you, it should touch everybody around you, it should be a way of life, but some people are holding their breath."

Is loving others as easy for you as breathing? I wish it was. If loving others is so natural and easy, why are there so many exhortations in the Scripture to love one another? If it's like breathing, we shouldn't need to be told to do it at all. It should just be automatic for believers. I think that this type of teaching is hurtful to Christians. It causes them to question and doubt their salvation because love is not automatic for them.

Through the strengthening of the inner man by the Spirit and Christ's indwelling in their hearts, the readers are to be established in love so that they will comprehend the greatness of the love of Yahweh in Christ. Here the love in view is the love of Yahweh revealed in Christ and poured into His people's hearts by the Spirit. This is not a petition that they may love Christ more, but that they might understand Christ's love for them. It is my opinion that he is talking about Yahweh's great love for us as demonstrated in sending His own Son to be the sacrifice for our sins, which roots and grounds us.

Paul mixes his metaphors, using one from botany and another from architecture to strengthen his point. He just can't paint the picture adequately enough, so he mixes the metaphors. We must keep the connection with the earlier part of the prayer in mind. The result of being strengthened with power through God's Spirit in the inner man is that Christ will come to be at home in our hearts through faith, resulting in our being rooted and grounded in love.

"Rooted"—is from the verb rhizoo, which means: "to cause to take root, to become firmly rooted or fixed." But it is significant that the tense is perfect. It suggests the thought of something that took place in the past, but whose effects persist in the present, and is therefore, the first cause of their relationship with Yeshua.

"Grounded"—is from themelioo, which means: "to lay a basis for, to build upon a foundation, to build, to be founded, to be grounded." He will be your foundation, and the foundation of your life will be His love. Like buildings, our lives are to be built deep in the foundation of Yahweh's love.

To be rooted in something means that you're getting your nourishment from it, your life; from the water, and from the nutrients and minerals in the ground—you're absorbing all the life of the love of God. That's what's making you live! That's what's making you alive—you're drawing upon the love that is in Christ Yeshua. Rooted pictures a sturdy, growing tree that sinks down roots that enable it to withstand drought and the fierce storms of life. To be grounded in love pictures a solid building with a foundation that goes down to the bedrock. It can withstand a flood or an earthquake, because it is built on the rock. This pictures Yahweh's love for us that is not based on fluctuating feelings or circumstances. Rather, it is solid and steady, undergirding everything else in life.

We can't handle life unless we have a solid foundation, unless we are rooted and grounded in love—in the assurance that our Elohim Yahweh loves us. Most of us are tempted in times of adversity to question Yahweh's love. Because we are hurting so bad, our emotions cause us to feel like God has forsaken us. But the Scripture teaches that Yahweh's love is just as real in times of adversity as it is in times of blessings. Yahweh's love to us is unchangeable.

If you want to be able to deal with the temptation to doubt Yahweh's love in times of adversity, look to Calvary. The most convincing objective evidence of God's love for us is His giving His Son to die for our sins:

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 NASB

Elohim showed His love by meeting our greatest need—a need to be redeemed from an eternal separation from Him. No matter how much difficulty, pain, heartache, or calamity we go through in this life, it cannot compare with the catastrophe of eternal separation from Yahweh.

If we want proof of Yahweh's love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where He offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of Yahweh's love for us:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASB

God loved us, and because of that love, He sacrificially gave His only Son to die in our place:

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

Calvary was the ultimate demonstration of God's love for us:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB

Please notice our condition when God demonstrated His love for us—"while we were yet sinners." God loved us when we hated Him. He reached out in love and met our greatest need while we were His enemies.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Yeshua, Ephesians 2:1-6 NASB

This was our condition; we were dead in sin. We were objects of God's wrath. We have all sinned against a holy, righteous God. We have rebelled against His commands and defied His moral law. Because of this, we all deserve His wrath. We do not deserve God's love or mercy.

Any time that we are tempted to question God's love for us, we need to look to Calvary. If God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us when we were His enemies, surely He loves us enough to care for us now that we are His children. In the midst of the worst adversity, I can be assured of God's love for me because of Calvary.

If we are going to trust Yahweh in adversity, we must remind ourselves of what we know of Him. We must reason through the great truths of His sovereignty, wisdom, goodness, and love as they are laid out to us in the Scripture. We must not allow our emotions to overrule our minds. Our emotions must become subservient to the truth.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31 NASB

"God is for us"—this is a concise summary of the Gospel. God is on our side. Think about it! Meditate upon it! Yahweh, the immutable God, has from all eternity loved you and planned out your salvation.

"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19 NASB

Yahweh is not like people, He won't change His mind and stop loving you. If that doesn't thrill your heart, you don't understand your sinfulness:

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Romans 8:32 NASB

"But delivered Him over for us all"—the word "delivered" means: "to turn over to judgement." Who delivered up Yeshua to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy; but the Father, for LOVE.

If God sent His Son to die for me when I was His enemy, will He not meet my every need now that I am His child? We must use our minds to reason through the truths of Scripture and not allow our emotions to rule us. Let's face it, there are times when we do not feel loved by God. This is where faith comes in; we must trust Him no matter how we feel.

Why does God love us? Is it because we are lovable people? Is it that we are just so lovable that He could not resist us? NO! God's measureless love is poured out upon us, not because of who we are or what we are, but because we are in Christ Yeshua:

But now in Christ Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 NASB

The love of God flows to us because we are "in Christ." It is because of our union with Yeshua. It is very important that we grasp this concept that God's love to us is in Christ. Just as God's love to His Son cannot change, so His love to us cannot change, because we are in union with the one He loves.

We are constantly tempted to look within ourselves to seek to find some reason why God should love us. Such searching is usually very discouraging because if we are honest, we know that there is nothing good in us for God to love. When God looks at us, He doesn't see us standing in our own goodness or merit. He sees us united to His beloved Son, clothed in His righteousness. He loves us, not because we are lovely in ourselves, but because we are in Christ. God's love to us cannot fail any more than His love to Christ can fail. Grasp that, brethren! We are accepted and loved because we are in Christ.

to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NASB

God's unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God's love, nor does our faith create it. But the experience of that love, and the comfort it is intended to bring, is dependant upon our believing the truth about God's love as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures. Doubts about God's love will deprive us of the comfort of His love.

Samuel Pierce says, "The love of God is a subject altogether too wonderful, too mysterious and divine, so great and so immense that the more real saints think of it, the more the Holy Spirit is pleased at any time to give them spiritual conceptions of it—and they cry out 'Oh! The depth!'"

may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, Ephesians 3:18 NASB

"May be able to comprehend"—unless they were "rooted and grounded in love," and the "love of God shed abroad" in their hearts, it would be impossible for them to comprehend the exceeding riches of the love of Christ. This is the climax of prayer, the point to which the other petitions tend. Indeed, from the beginning of the Epistle, he has been declaring what love Christ has shown for the Gentile world.

The Greek verb translated, "may be able," means: "to have the strength." The verb comprehend is a compound verb, it comes from the Greek word lambano, which means: "to receive something." The word here is katalambano, which is an intense verb meaning: "to seize, or to grasp for your own." So Paul is praying that we may have the power to lay hold of, or comprehend the immensity of Christ's love for us. This is not something we can accomplish apart from God's divine strength.

Every child of God knows the love of Christ in some way, but we do not all know it to the same extent. Some are babes in Christ, who, like all babies, are quite self-centered. They assume that Christ loves them because they are so loveable! But as you grow in Christ, you begin to see how wretchedly sinful your heart was and, apart from God's preserving grace, still is. And yet, wonder of wonders, He still loves you! You grow deeper in Christ's love as you realize that He loves you in spite of all your failures and sins. Comprehending Christ's love requires God's supernatural power, because it is not naturally discerned.

"With all the saints"this is a reference to all believers. The word means: "holy ones," or those who are set apart from the world unto God. Paul wants all believers to understand the love of God.

"What is the breadth and length and height and depth"—these four dimensions are held together in unity by one definite article; it is, "the breadth and length and height and depth." There are tons of ideas on what these dimensions refer to. One commentator lists ten different views as to what they mean. One of the more foolish interpretations is that these words refer to the three dimensions of astronomical space. Another view says it's the four ends of the cross. Another view says these dimensions belong to a building, and suggest that he is talking about the Church, the Holy Temple of God.

I think that these dimensions are talking about the love of Yahweh. Verses 17 ends with love and verse 19 starts with love, and these four dimensions are talking about Yahweh's love for His people.

What is the breadth of His love? How broad is it? Chapter 2 verses 11 and following tell us that His love is broad enough to take the Gentiles, who were called uncircumcision, and to bring them together with those who were a far off ( verse 13) and make them near by the blood of Christ. To take Jew and Gentile and make them one (verse 14) and break down the middle wall of partition and abolish the enmity. And make one New Man reconciling Jew and Gentile unto God.

Gentiles were separated from all the promises—but the breadth of God's love in the Church is the fact that Jews and Gentiles, that are miles apart, can be brought together! That's the breadth of God's love. It encompasses a great multitude that is beyond number:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; Revelation 7:9 NASB

Notice that this multitude is from every ethnos, and all phule. Phule is used 31 times in the New Testament almost exclusively for the tribes of Israel. So this great multitude is from all the tribes of Israel and from the ethno s or goy, non-Israelite Gentiles.

What is the length of His love? Look at chapter 1:

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love Ephesians 1:4 NASB

Now look at chapter 2:

so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Yeshua. Ephesians 2:7 NASB

What is the length? The length is from eternity in the past—if you can even say that— way back before the foundation of the world, where Yahweh chose you; and it reaches into eternity future, where Yahweh will show, through us, His exceeding riches of His grace! Christ's love extends from eternity to eternity. It is an eternal love that will not let us go! 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, "Love never fails"; that's its length, it's eternal. Yahweh says to us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love."

If He loved us, because we loved Him— Arminians love that—He would love us only as long as we loved Him, and on that condition. And then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, and Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God. Isn't that great? Our love does not depend on our love of Him. He loves us sovereignly, and His own nature is the measure of the kind of love that we have, and He is utterly faithful in His constant love for us.

What is the height of Yahweh's love? High enough to bless us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3 NASB

His love lifts us up to our exalted position of being seated with Him in the heavenly places:

and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Yeshua, Ephesians 2:6 NASB

How deep is His love? The depth of His love caused Him to leave the glory of heaven and His exalted position there and come to this earth to be born as a baby. It moved Him to go to the extreme suffering of the cross, where "He who knew no sin was made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). His love is deep enough to reach us when we were dead in trespasses and sin. As Charles Wesley wrote, "Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" His love is truly amazing!

You cannot know the love of Christ or grasp these four dimensions without having first been strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man and having Christ dwell in your heart through faith:

and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 NASB

"And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge"- the genitive "of Christ" cannot be objective, meaning "our love to Christ." It is a subjective genitive, meaning "Christ's love to us," or possessive genitive, "Christ's love."

The Greek word that was translated "know" in this verse is "ginosko." It is a verb expressing experiential knowledge. The Greek word that was translated "knowledge" here was "gnosis," a noun denoting the act of knowledge. Paul was praying that they would experience the love of Yahweh that surpasses knowledge.

How do we know a love that surpasses knowledge? Although there is always more to know about the infinite love of Christ, this does not mean that we can know nothing about it, or that we can know only a little about it. In fact, we are "to grasp the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ"—we can understand it in all its dimensions. The emphasis is on the greatness of this love. Paul prays that Yahweh will give us power to grasp and to know the love of Christ.

When you study theology, one of the doctrines is the incomprehensibility of Yahweh. When we talk about Yahweh's incomprehensibility, we talk about understanding Him in His fullness, We know Yahweh, but yet he's incomprehensible.

"That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God"—this is a divine passive; Paul asks that we would "be filled." We cannot fill ourselves with the fullness of God— it can come from Him alone. But it comes from Him as we are filled with His Word.

The word "filled" is from the Greek pleroo, which has the idea of being "controlled." For example, in the Gospels it says, he was filled with anger, he was filled with rage, he was filled with wrath, filled with malice. It means that one attitude dominated or controlled them.

Paul says later in this Epistle that believers are to, "Be filled with the Spirit," meaning that we are to be controlled by Him. So, the question is how are we controlled by the Spirit? We appropriate the controlling grace of the Spirit through the means of letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within us. I think the same is true with the fulness of God. When we are controlled by the Word, we are controlled by the Spirit, thus controlled by the fulness of Yahweh our Elohim.

Believers, we need more than a casual acquaintance with the Bible. God's Word is to dwell in us abundantly—it is to saturate us. It must become part of our very being, transforming the way we think and act. And I think this can only happen as we read it, memorize it, and meditate on it to the point that it controls us.

Gordon Clark writes, "God's fulness in us consists in knowledge, not merely the introduction of the Gentiles into the church, but an extensive theology. Ignorant Christians are empty, or nearly empty. It is surprising that so many commentators miss this point." Fullness implies control, so that God perfectly controls our minds.

Paul transitions from prayer into doxology in verses 20-21. A doxology is a formal praise to Yahweh. And the doxology that Paul pens here extends from his consideration of what he prays for believers:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, Ephesians 3:20 NASB

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think"by saying He is the One "who is able," Paul again ascribes power. To be able one must have power (which is what the verb actually means—to have power to do).

In other words, we can have confidence that God will grant this request to grasp and to know all the dimensions of His love; in fact, He will do more than what we can ask or imagine.

If we take anything from this passage, we at least should see that Yahweh is powerful! This is the seventh of eight instances of God's power in this passage. And this was how Paul prayed, looking to the all powerful Yahweh to give and fill:

'Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, Jeremiah 32:17 NASB

Whether we look at the vastness of the universe, with billions of galaxies containing billions of stars, or at the complexity of our own bodies, or at the incredible design on the microscopic level, we see evidence of a powerful Creator. Now grasp this: This all powerful Creator loves us.

"Far more abundantly"—is all one word in the Greek. It consists of "huper," which means: "above or beyond, above or beyond what we can ask or think." Then he joins the word "ek" to it, which intensifies the force of the verb to which it is connected, to a level of perfection. So what he's saying is "huper"—above; "ek"—above, to a level of perfection. The last word is "perissos," which means to exceed to a degree that you go beyond all things that can be. You get it? Huperekperusso literally means: "to go beyond all things in an inexhaustible way"! Whatever you can imagine, Yahweh can do far above it. He is unlimited in power.

"According to the power that works within us"—this takes us back to Ephesians 1:19 where Paul said that the same power that raised Christ from the dead (the greatest display of power in human history) is what raised us from spiritual death to life. In other words, there is an extraordinary power available to believers, a power that can accomplish far more than we ordinarily think or imagine. It comes by the Spirit. It accords with the riches of God's glory. It is the very fullness of Yahweh, as unimaginable as that sounds.

Paul put it this way in Philippians:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NASB

Can we do all things through Christ? Leap tall buildings at a single bound? Run faster than a bullet? Notice the context:

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. Philippians 4:11-12 NASB

What Paul is saying here is that whatever circumstance he finds himself in, he can handle it through God's enabling power. This spiritual truth applies to all who live in dependance upon Christ:

to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Yeshua to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:21 NASB

"To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Yeshua"—nowhere else in the New Testament does any doxology ascribe glory to God in the church or even in Christ Yeshua. But if you think about the context, it makes complete sense. Given the role that Christ has in having all things summed up in Him, and the public display that the church is to the world of the manifold wisdom of God, it is suiting to say that glory be to God in the church and in Christ Yeshua, because it is through them that men and angles will see Yahweh and will glorify Him.

As Yahweh saves people who were formerly dead in their sins (2:1-3), seats them with Christ in the heavenly places (2:6), and builds them into His Holy Temple (2:21), He is glorified.

The doxology concludes the first half of the letter on the same note with which it began in the introductory Jewish b'rakhah (1:3-14), namely, in praise of Yahweh for His mighty salvation, initiated in eternity, carried into effect in Christ, and intended to redound to the praise of Yahweh's glorious grace for all eternity.

"To all generations forever and ever"—this is a unique ending to the doxology. He uses the term "generation" and "age." It is a mixture of time and eternity. We could translate this: "from generation to generation forever." The idea being that Yahweh is to be glorified "forever and ever," beginning in this age and continuing into eternity.

"Amen"—in both the Tanakh and the New Testament, amen is used to confirm a curse, to accept a blessing, or to associate oneself with a doxology, as we see in Romans 1:25 and Galatians 1:5. Here, we all are invited to ascribe glory to Yahweh by saying along with Paul, "Amen!"

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, "Indeed, our chief defect as Christians is that we fail to realize Christ's love to us." He adds, "How important it is that we should meditate upon this love and contemplate it! It is because we fail to do so that we tend to think at times that He has forgotten us, or that He has left us."

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
1000 Chattanooga Street
Chesapeake, VA 23322