As many of you know, earlier this year, New City partner Erik P. moved to Asia as a teacher. He is able to attend an international church that is made up of people from many different countries. They are currently going through a study of Ephesians. Take a moment to read Erik's thoughts on Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:18-21, and continue to pray for how God will use Erik on His mission in Asia.
Ephesians chapter three ends with a beautiful prayer:
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I have read that prayer, stood in awe of its description of the power of God and the love of Christ, and prayed it myself many times, but I've never asked why Paul prayed it. What drove him to this soaring acknowledgment? Beyond the fact that this prayer is a true statement about God's character, I believe Paul had a specific purpose in praying this way for the believers in Ephesus, and for that we need to go back to the beginning of the book of Ephesians.
Paul wrote this letter to, "The saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus." These saints were Gentiles living in modern day Turkey. Paul wrote to tell them about, "God, who is rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4) and the great grace of God. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast." (2:8,9) He then proceeds to remind the Ephesians where they were before they knew Christ.
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called"the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"- a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands -remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:11,12
They were separated from God, not a part of his chosen people Israel, and without hope. The Jews were God's chosen people and these Ephesians were not. But God in Christ changed all of this and I love the way Paul describes it. "You who once were far off have been brought near." (2:13) "He has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us." (2:14) "That he [God] might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two." (2:15) "[That he] might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility." (2:16) "The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body." (3:6)
Not only has God brought these two formerly hostile groups together into one body, but he specifically designed the church to shout this good news of reconciliation to the world. "That through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be make known." (3:10) The wisdom of God is the gospel, his plan from the creation of the world to bring grace to his creation, and for the Ephesians, to reconcile the Jews and the Gentiles through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is the reason Paul prays the way he does. He experienced God's great mercy, love, and grace and was commissioned to bring this good news to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul wanted the Ephesians to celebrate their reconciliation, live in the family of God, and stand in awe of, "Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine." (3:20)
We can join this prayer. "I pray that you may have power to comprehend...the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...to him who...is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine." Do I really comprehend that love or understand God's power? If the love of Christ and the power of God can reconcile Jews and Gentiles surely God can reconcile blacks and whites in Christ and bring us both into his family. When I look at our world and see refugees and migrants on one hand and 4th and 5th generation citizens on the other, do I believe God's love can reconcile both groups? Paul says yes in Christ! The Jews and Gentiles two thousand years ago are the proof that God's power can accomplish far more than we can imagine.
What people do we imagine are irreconcilable today? Which groups have a dividing wall of hostility that's just too high? Different races? Can God bring conservatives and liberals into the same family through Christ? Popular kids and the loners? Imperialists and the conquered? Poor and rich? Terrorists and the terrorized? Those too dirty to set foot in a church and those too clean to reach out? God give us power with all the saints around this world to grasp the breadth, length, height, and depth of your love for us and for our unreconciled neighbors. God, show us your power at work within us that can accomplish far more than we can ever dream. And God, when you reconcile us with those we are separated from, please use our church to display your glory to the world.