MUSINGS CONCERNING SPIRITUAL INTIMACY
Pondering the Possibility of Spiritual Intimacy
When we first began dealing with Paul’s uses of the “ACCORDING TO” mention was made that of the sixteen repetitions, we would consider only nine. The last two that will be covered are Ephesians 3 verses 16 and 20. These two remaining verses will be noted in the next few chapters. The last two verses like the first seven discussed are non-participatory. That is, they are completely the outflow of God’s will with regard to His elect. The reaction of the believer is the result of the action initiated by God.
It will be better for us perhaps before concentrating on verses 16 and 20 to observe the powerful announcements of the Apostle in verse 12. It is a conspicuous admonition for Spiritual intimacy that few thoroughly contemplate and fewer realize. The description of spiritual fellowship and intimacy so dramatically revealed in verses 11-21 of Ephesians Chapter 3 are the highest plane ever described as possible for believers while they are still in the body of this death.
When approaching the prayer in verses 14-21, let the redeemed take advantage of the station in life he now has as a child of God as declared by the Apostle. His liberty in Christ is immeasurable. “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Eph. 3:12)
For the elect everything is wholly contingent upon Jesus Christ. Without Him, man has no access to God, no spiritual liberty (boldness), and certainly no faithful confidence. Without Him, there would be no forgiveness of sin because there would be no sin-bearer. Without Him, reconciliation with God the Father would be impossible and all efforts for such acceptance by man would be utterly refused. Without Him, there could be no righteousness, no justification, and therefore no salvation. However, because of the faithful obedience of Christ Jesus, all believers are complete in Him. (Col. 2:9-10)
Ephesians 3:12 has been called the A B C’s of our Biblical standing. The access, boldness and confidence of every child of God can rest squarely upon the “FAITH OF HIM,” or faithfulness of Him and our faith in Him as a result of the Holy Spirit’s confirming work — the work of revealing Jesus Christ as the very Lord and Saviour to all of the elect. The quickening, or making the elect one spiritually alive is the work and will of the Sovereign Godhead.
When we see Jesus being made sin for us and can understand spiritually that believers are in return made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:12), access is clean, clear, and powerful. The chosen have been made acceptable in the beloved. (Eph. 1:6) The redeemed may now pray in the name of Jesus and have access that reaches the ear and tender compassion of the Holy and just God of all. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)
The Apostle Paul made it quite distinct that Jesus Christ and He alone is the sole reason for this unblemished and potent access to the Father. “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Eph. 2:18) The point being that because of the perfect deeds of Jesus, believers may with boldness (liberty) approach the Throne of Grace and confidently expect through the Saviour grace, mercy, and help more than sufficient for each and every need. Whether it be the forgiveness of sins, strength in times of weakness, or deliverance in days of danger, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
If the redeemed as a result of shame for sin withdraw from this great privilege, or thoughts of utter unworthiness keeps them from the mercy seat, they truly have misunderstood the doing and dying deeds of Jesus. He is our righteousness and there is plenteous forgiveness where this access leads – the Throne of Grace. “This is no timorous approach. It is not the access of a distracted or indifferent spirit, by one filled with the assurance that it will not be repulsed, or dismissed with unanswered petition, for though unworthy it is not unwelcome.” (John Eadie)
Perhaps no child of God received greater illumination, revelation, or intimacy with the Godhead than did the Apostle Paul. It was Paul that was ordained the Apostle to the Gentiles. He referred to himself as the prisoner of Jesus for the Gentiles. (Eph. 3:1) Paul’s willingness to have the saints share in these rare privileges should therefore not seem strange. Paul labored, suffered, and existed for the purpose of revealing the mysteries of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He remarked in Ephesians 3:13 that his tribulations for the cause of Christ was indeed the glory of the Gentiles. Godly parents can somewhat understand the heart of the Apostle as they consider any sacrifice they make is a joy if their children are advanced even if it be ever so slightly.
The heart of Paul is often manifested by his prayers for the Lord’s people. (Eph. 1:15-16; Col. 1:9) Ephesians 3:14 is case in point. Here we see Paul beseeching the Great God to bestow gifts unfathomable to the redeemed of Christ. The unselfish calling always esteems others better than themselves (Phil. 2:3-4) and therefore, large and compelling petitions are the rule and not the exception. True faith like that of the Psalmist has its only and sole expectation from God. (Ps. 62:5) The abundance of God’s gifts in Christ are beyond our comprehension. (Eph. 3:20) Perhaps that is why we spend so little time pondering them and much less expecting any fruition as described in verses 16-21 of this glorious third chapter of Ephesians.
“That he would grant you”ACCORDING TO” the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 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. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, “ACCORDING TO” the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph. 3:16-21)
That he would grant you, “ACCORDING TO” the riches of his glory…” This is the eighth time “ACCORDING TO” is utilized by the Apostle. Like the other seven times mentioned, it too is unmerited and granted only because God for Christ’s great name sake was pleased to bestow it “ACCORDING TO” the riches of His glory. Romans 9:23 calls such beneficiaries of Divine favor vessels of mercy. “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
The riches of His glory are inexhaustible and are limited only by our feeble reasoning. When we place ourselves in the boundless equation, it only lessens the power of the Holy One. (Ps. 78:41) Sadly, this is a tendency that seems inherently habitual. God’s riches are not granted because of merit nor are they bestowed as the result of superior human conduct. If a proper understanding were rightly held with respect to what we as believers deserve, it would only usher in waves of shame and we in turn would become halted in our petitions. God in His riches is exceedingly liberal and even those who lack much in every way ask and expect great compassion. (James 1:5) When faith is placed in Christ and His deeds, there is no limit to the free abundance.
The scope of His riches is free and limitless. “Observe that the apostle did not preface his petitions by saying, ‘O God, if it can be possible, bestow these glorious spiritual riches on the people.’ No indeed, he would not insult the One who has told us, “He that spared not his only son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32) “freely, ‘not grudgingly’ (A. W. Pink) “And it is no exaggeration, for He gives like Himself, not grudgingly or in tiny portions, as if He were afraid to exhaust His riches, or even suspected them to be limited in their contents. There is no fastidious scrupulosity or anxious frugality on the part of the Divine Benefactor. His bounty proclaims His conscious possession of immeasurable resources. He bestows according to the riches of His glory – His own infinite fullness.” (John Eadie) Note also Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:27; and Phil. 4:19 which were the clear promise of God in His Son for all believers. “But my God shall supply all your need “ACCORDING TO” his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
“…to be strengthened with might by his Spirit…” Jesus taught His followers that one function peculiar to the Holy Spirit was to lead believers into all truth. (John 16:13) This is also the clear teaching of the Apostle in chapter one of Ephesians. The apprehension of any truth with regard to the Scriptures is the result of the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1, it is styled “may give” rather than “grant” but the idea of “free gift” is openly obvious. (Eph. 1:16-19) B. F. Westcott contrasted Eph. 1:16-19 with Eph. 3:16-20 and gave the following differences of the two prayers. “The prayer corresponds with that of Ephesians 1:16 and forward. In both cases the Apostle enforces the need of spiritual illumination for the full understanding of the Gospel. In the former prayer, he begins with the thought of personal enlightenment which leads to a living sense of the greatness of the Divine power: in this he begins with the thought of personal strengthening which issues in higher knowledge and complete work.”
The strengthening with the Holy Spirit’s might is truly “being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” (Eph. 6:10) This might is ‘mighty’ to the extreme and should be sought after with perpetual effort. The strength of faith and grace will assuredly bring all strongholds of evil and vanity to open defeat. “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) This spiritual might when granted is the spirit of true wisdom and understanding. It is “the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Is. 11:2) Be it ever remembered that the natural man with his natural wisdom has neither part nor parcel in gifts so illustrious and powerful. In fact spiritual gifts are foolishness to such and are disdained as beneath their intellectual achievements. Alas! Is not the natural man the epitome of stark folly? (1 Cor. 2:14)
Colossians Chapter 1:9-13 is another plain commentary on Spiritual strengthening with might. These verses also declare that Divine bestowals are “ACCORDING TO” His glorious power. (Vs. 11) It should be noted the similar strains of thought that are followed in both cases. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto The Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Compare these verses with those in Ephesians 3:16-21)
“…to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” This is the Holy Spirit bearing witness with the believer’s spirit that they are the children of God. (Rom. 8:16) It is the inner man that delights in the law of God (Rom. 7:22) and finds refreshing renewal each and every day. The outward man, the flesh may lose its strength and ultimately perish, but not the “inner man” which is strengthened with might by God’s Spirit. The inner man shall be renewed until he is swallowed up in eternal glory. (2 Cor. 4:16)
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye being rooted and grounded in love” some may be able to comprehend” (verses 17-19). However, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” far exceeds in grandeur the occasional visit most experience.” “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess.5:17) and Christ actually dwelling in the heart by faith both seem impossible and truly these are uncommon privileges, but neither are outlandish considerations. They are admonitions for intimacy which “ACCORDING TO” the apostle can be attained by the grace and goodness of God. Believers often quench and grieve the Holy Spirit by the sinful limits which arbitrarily are placed upon the power which worketh in the redeemed. “But such is our native weakness in contemplating heavenly objects that without continued grace preparing us, they would be altogether beyond our reach. We need the wind of heaven to blow our barks forward…Only by His strengthening of the heart are we delivered from being engrossed in the things around us, and our earthbound affections are drawn to things above.” (Arthur W. Pink)
That God-wrought faith, the kind that supersedes human effort is here required, is obviously what Paul prayer believers might be granted — supernatural “gifts” which result in Jesus having a vivid abode in the heart. So strong is His presence that the believer is constantly conscious of the Lord’s pervading indwelling. The active vibrant faith is always seeking its Master and such faith is quickly ignited when that which is sought resides within.
Is it not safe to say that our love for Jesus Christ is more or less a polished fondness? “Lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15) is a fair question put to the heart of us all. We may answer “Yea Lord I love thee,” but what is the true test of Spiritual love toward Jesus? It must be more than feelings or great swelling phrases voiced to enchant our hearers. What is it then that will reveal our love, and the depth of it toward the Savior? Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my words.” Now if this is the case (and it truly is), does not the professed love of most degenerate to a fondness of Biblical principles rather than an obedience kindled by Spirit filled love?
If the redeemed truly desire what Paul describes as “Christ dwelling in the heart by faith,” willing obedience to the words of Jesus is prerequisite. Faith after all works by love (Gal. 5:6) and where Christ dwells, both faith and love will be active and aware of the Divine presence. Jesus said “If a man loves me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23) Note also Rom. 8:9-11; Gal. 2:20.
“…that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend…” Love toward Christ by the gift of faith is here the definitive and solidifying ingredient for being well established and firmly anchored in the truth. “And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) “Love which Christ’s presence brings (John 27:26) is the source of growth and the stay of endurance.” (B. F. Westcott)
Faithlessness in the presence of Jesus Christ is the chilling mark of an infidel. Faithlessness by a possessor of redemption is horrible, but common. Only the indwelling Christ can enable believers to continue in the faith grounded and settled and never moved or pulled away from the hope of the Gospel. (Col.1:23) A faith which has sprawling and deep roots which is nourished daily will remain sound. “Much shaken perhaps by the winds of the world, but firm at the root.” Being grounded and anchored by Divine attributes make spiritual intimacy a calling to all who name the name of Jesus as the Christ. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (Col. 2:6-10)