“Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.”
Ephesians 3:17 TPT
“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”
Ephesians 3:17 NLT
We’re going to camp for a second day at Ephesians 3:17, and look at a second Bible version, the New Living Translation. Paul prayed that through their faith, Christ would live within the hearts of his friends in Ephesus. That through their faith, His life would be present and active in their lives. This was life-changing stuff for a people steeped in the religions of their day. The Jews didn’t believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Christ. The Gentiles in Ephesus lived in a religious world dominated by the Roman and Greek god-pantheons and in particular worshipped their very own Artemis. But through Paul’s ministry, both the Jews and Gentiles had come to accept the truth about the saving grace of God and had taken the step of faith, repenting of their sins and accepting that Jesus was the Christ and was their Lord and Saviour.
In the previous verse in this chapter, Paul prayed that the Ephesians would experience the power of God’s glorious riches in their lives. And he then adds a joining word introducing us into verse 17, the word “Then“. The NIV starts this verse with “So that“. Was Paul therefore saying to the Ephesians that, because they have all this power, explosive and supernatural power at that, potentially available within them, that they in effect could provide a home for Christ? There are many verses in the Bible about Christ living within us. Here’s just two of them from the Epistles. Romans 8:11a “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you…” And Galatians 2:20a, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me….”. And Jesus said in John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” And in case we doubt the power that is available to us, how much power do we think would be needed to raise someone from the dead into eternal life? And it lives within us, just waiting to be “unveiled“.
So today, is it realistic for us pilgrims to expect to have Christ live within each of us, as it was in the Ephesian church? What Paul was saying was that we can enjoy an intimate relationship with Jesus, as He lives within us by the power of the Holy Spirit. A relationship of love and trust. A relationship where Jesus can lead and guide us in our daily lives. So, for example, faced with a situation that perhaps would have at one time invoked a negative response, we now respond with compassion and grace. Increasingly, we see Jesus moulding and transforming our lives, making us more like Him. And over time, our love of Jesus will increase more and more, keeping us strong. Not forgetting, of course, that we have this “explosive power” waiting to be revealed.
This power that we have implied within us, has to be released through faith. Jesus living within us directs and focuses the power in many different ways, and it becomes more apparent and effective as He works through us through faith. In the Ephesian church, in that society and culture, the early Christians needed the power to stand firm in the face of intense persecution. And the evidence for that power was shown through the growth of the Christian Church, that turned the world of that time upside down, in the process resetting history into His-story. I am writing this blog post just having heard that Russia has invaded Ukraine. The same power that impacted the First Century world is still available to us in the 21st Century world. Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever”. He is the Prince of Peace. So we pray for our leaders, for world events, for our persecuted brothers and sisters, in faith that the power within us can make a difference. And as we pray God is listening.
One last thought, for pilgrims, from this verse. We read that “Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” The picture is of a tree, which has a root system that provides nourishment and stability to the trunk, branches and leaves above the ground. The nourishment, in the form of water and minerals, combines with the chemistry that goes on in the leaves, to provide all that is needed for growth. And the stability comes from having roots that go so deep, and are so resilient, that no matter what storms are present, the tree stands firm. As the tree grows, so does its root system. In my local woods several trees have been uprooted by the recent storms, victims of an unstable root system that could not support them. The picture is clear – through our faith, we grow taller and stronger day by day. Our roots in Christ also grow to keep us stable and nourished, no matter what the storms of life throw at us. Without faith, we won’t have the resilience to stand firm in the face of adversity, and will end up like the fallen trees in my local woods – dead and decaying. So we pray and invite Christ to make His home in our hearts. But are we making room for Him?