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Sermon Summary | "Praying to Know the Love of Christ"

On Sunday, we had the privilege of hearing from another guest preacher! This week it was Ryan Fullerton, the lead pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. Drawing from apostle’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, Ryan described how Paul prayed for the church that they would know the love of Christ by being strengthened as God’s dwelling place, so that they might walk in His fullness. Below is an outline and brief summary of the sermon. (You can also listen to Ryan’s sermon, Praying to Know the Love of Christ, here)

 

Outline:

1. Introduction: What Moved Paul to Pray? (3:14-15)

2. Strengthened to be God’s Dwelling Place (3:16-17)

3. Filled to Walk in His Fullness For His Glory (3:18-21)

 

Summary:

1. What Moved Paul to Pray? (3:14-15)

Paul was motivated to pray on behalf of the Ephesian church for at least two reasons: (1) that the church would be strengthened as God’s dwelling place, and (2) that the church would be filled with Christ in order to walk in God’s fullness. In order to see this in the text, however, we have to follow the complexity of Paul’s argument beginning earlier in the letter. In verse 14, Paul resumes his prayer, which he initially started in 3:1. The resumption of the prayer (in 3:14—“for this reason...”) is linked with the beginning of the prayer (in 3:1—also beginning with the phrase “for this reason...”), which is built off of his remarks given in 2:11-22. These verses in chapter 2 describe the church as God’s new humanity (“one new man”) and members of God’s house in Jesus Christ. As the household of God, the church is also being built up as God’s temple (or ‘dwelling place’) through the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason, then, that Paul prays for the church to be strengthened as God’s dwelling place (cf. 3:16-17) and that the church would be filled with Christ to walk in God’s fullness (cf. 3:18-19), to the praise of His glory (3:20-21).

 

2. Strengthened to be God’s Dwelling Place (3:16-17)

In verse 16, Paul’s petition for the church to be “strengthened with power through the Spirit” (cf. 3:16b) is made explicit. Specifically, it is the petition for power to be strengthened in the “inner man” and that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (3:17a). Again, the apostle picks up on temple language. Earlier he described the church as God’s temple by the Spirit; now it is Christ who indwells believers, in order that they may continually know His presence. At the center of our beings (i.e., “in your hearts”) it is Christ who has taken up permanent residence, transforming us more into His likeness by the empowering presence of the Spirit. 


3. Filled to Walk in His Fullness For His Glory (3:18-21)

Paul prays for the church to be “rooted and established in love” (3:17c) that they may be able to comprehend the immense love of Christ (3:18). As a result, they will experience the fullness of God (3:19); namely, the full measure of His presence and power. Paul’s prayer then leads him into praise. This section ends with a doxology that celebrates God as the One who does far more than we could ever ask or think (3:20-21). The strength to comprehend Christ’s great love through the empowering presence of the Spirit, leading to the enjoyment of God’s fullness should cause our hearts to sing (with Paul): “to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!”

 

[by Andrew Preston]