What Did Paul Mean...
In Leading Us to Pray
That We Might Be Filled with All the Fullness of God?
By Ed Corley
This month we are praying that you might be filled with all the fullness of God—Ephesians 3:19. This seems beyond what our minds can grasp. How do we even think of being filled with God’s fullness? Well, it’s mostly a matter for the heart. Tthe Lord has given each of us a heart to go where our minds cannot go. Romans 10:10 tells us, With the heart man believeth. So, with our hearts we grasp Ephesians 3:19 and start praying. God knows how to answer. But then, we do need to let our minds come along and understand as much as possible, so our process of knowing will not be left out. One thing in particular stands out in the Ephesians 3 passage from which we gain this month’s prayer. How we are filled with God’s fullness becomes more clear to our understanding when we connect Ephesians 3:19 with all we see in 3:17,18. Being filled with the fullness of God comes as we know the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of His love. But, we’ve got to take something else into consideration here. As Paul led us toward praying about love, he admitted that God’s love is beyond knowing. This throws us to where only the heart can go. We know that we should not take a few words out of their context and use them alone. So, we will look at all of Ephesians 3:14-19 where there are three months’ worth of prayers. I discerned three supplications in the passage as I observed the little word hina in the Greek New Testament. It’s in this passage three times. Hina is an important word that Paul used to tell what he was praying. He used it frequently through all the *passages from which we have gained our prayers for intercession. It became a “marker” for me through these Scriptures as I was finding his prayers and adopting them for our use. We started sharing them with you over twenty-five years ago. After all this time, I just can’t get away from them. They keep saying more and more to me—and I hope to you too.
As you go through this Ephesians passage, mark the word hina, translated that. But take note of this, the word that at the beginning of verse 17 is different. It goes with the Infinitive form of the Greek katoikéo which means “to have a dwelling place.” It connects with the prayer that started in verse 16. Read them together and let fresh understanding begin coming to you. Ephesians 3 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 1that(hina) He would grant you, according to the riches (the abundant wealth) of His glory, to be strengthened(from Greek kratéo, to be governed) with might (dúnamis, power) by His Spirit in the inner man; 17 that (so that) Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; (“I’m praying that you might come under the government of God’s Spirit so you will have the faith to open your life to Christ for Him to dwell in you permanently.”)2that (hina) ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able (from ischúo, that you might have the spiritual strength) to comprehend (katalamban’omai,to seize for yourselves) with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 and to know the love of Christ, which passeth (surpasses) knowledge, 3that(hina) ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Where are we going? We’re aiming toward knowing something of what it means to be filled with all the fullness of God. I had thought I might refrain from saying any more about fullness because, in reality, it is beyond my ability to bring any more light at this point. My mind fails when it comes to measuring the depths of God’s Word. Never have I been so thrown on the enabling grace of the Lord as I am in these days. The more I learn of His grace and of His love, the more I realize there is more to know. It all reaches into eternity.In fact, who is there who can describe the love of God, or the fullness of God, or the fullness of God that was expressed in Christ Jesus, or the fullness that is to be known in Christ’s Body the Church? But, the Scripture dares to speak of all this. Paul, especially, in Ephesians and Colossians, draws us on toward knowing the fullness.
In Ephesians, Paul made it a point of emphasis that he had been elected, called out by God, to bring the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. With that emphasis coming through time and again in this Epistle, he made it a further point of emphasis that God’s grace is offering a fullness for us who may not be of Jewish blood. But, here is a common ground on which we all stand, whether we are of Jewish lineage or not. We have all been born into a line of humanity that has been corrupted by sin. This means we all have begun our stance before God on one common ground. Because we are sinners, everyone of us is in need of the grace that comes to us through His only begotten Son.From a point of having no hope, and existing without God in the world, the Holy Spirit has drawn us into the bosom of God’s love. And now, loving us, caressing us with His healing hands of mercy and speaking His Truth into our hearts, He is drawing us on to know His fullness. Only the Holy Spirit can ever make this substantial and real to us. He is doing that very thing because God loves us unconditionally.The fullness of His love into which we are being drawn is sealed with the Covenants and made certain by the offering of Christ’s Own blood. It is reaching so deep into the sin that once possessed us that there is no boundary left beyond which it cannot go. In other words, there is not a one of us who is too great a sinner for God’s love to embrace and draw in to know its fullness.
For years I’ve been taken with Paul’s revelation of grace as he presented it in chapter 2 of Ephesians. We cannot look into this passage of Scripture too much. I’ve told you in the past that the word you in Ephesians 2:1 is one of two objects of the Verb raised in Ephesians 1:20. The other object of this Verb is Him, that is, Christ Jesus. God raised Him...and you. There are some parenthetical words in between. Seeing what took place in the resurrection lets us in on the fullness toward which we are moving. If our minds have difficulty taking this in, we can let our hearts come into action.But let’s read on. What we’re moving on to see is the condition in which we existed before God’s grace reached us. There was a fullness there too. To know how lost we were helps us grasp how full is the salvation by which He is drawing us unto Himself. Take note of the bullets we’ve placed throughout these verses. They draw our attention to the fullness of the lostness that was ours before the fullness of salvation began its work in us.1 And you hath He quickened (made alive), who were •dead in trespasses and sins; 2 wherein in time past •ye walked according to the course of this world, •according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh (as an energizing force) in the children of disobedience: 3 among whom also •we all had our conversation (our manner of living) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, •fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and •were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Now, we start seeing more of God’s fullness that reached for us when we were so fully lost. Here are three of those “together with” words that we have seen time and again. I don’t apologize for pointing these out so often.4 But God, Who is rich (bountiful) in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, •hath quickened us together with Christ (He has made us alive together with Christ.), (by grace ye are saved;) 6 and •hath raised us up together (We share with Christ Jesus in His resurrection.), and •made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (He has made us sit together with Him in authority over the anti-God spiritual forces in the heavens.):7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.Whatever was the fullness of our lost estate, and however great is the fullness of what His grace has accomplished in us, there is yet more—immeasurably more—fullness that is to be ours in the ages to come. Oh, we can’t grasp this with our minds! Can we? That’s the reason it’s really only our hearts that can begin reaching for this fullness.
For help discover more of what the Word of God says about the fullness, let me take you to the Greek New Testament. The Verb pleróo, “to be made full, complete,” and its Noun pléroma, “fullness,” occur one hundred and seven times in the Greek New Testament. This is pretty strong evidence that the fullness is an important matter for our attention.Let’s see some of the passages of Scripture that address this. Galatians 4:4,5—But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. God sent His Son when time had reached its fullness. If this was so of His first advent, then we can expect it shall be so of His second. He shall come again in the fullness of times.See this Word—oh, see this Word!—in Ephesians 1:10. Let the longing of your heart reach for it. Then, let it begin laying hold on your understanding. That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one (that He might reduce under one Head) all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him. The above word dispensation means an administration of government. There is a governmental administration that will come in the fullness of times. The Covenants, the Words of promise, the actions of God are all drawing us on toward this powerful administration. What Government is this? It is the Government of God’s Kingdom under the administration of Christ Jesus. It reaches unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Just as we share in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we share also in His ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high. What a fullness!
But let us move on to see more of the fullness toward which Ephesians is drawing us. The amazement grows. See this from Ephesians 1:22,23. God hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.I remember when I first saw this. It was too amazing for my mind to take in, but my heart received it. In studying this with another believer, I saw that the word fullness, from pléroma, could mean also “full formation.” This Scripture began saying to us that the Church—the true Church, the universal Church—is Who Christ is now. It is the full formation of Him.Does this do away with Who Christ is in the heavens? No! He is the Head of the Body. Our Head is in the heavens. His Body is on earth.That the Church is the full formation of Him may be hard to comprehend. Our understanding may fall short. But, because it entered my heart many years ago, I have been able to acknowledge Christ’s Body anywhere I’ve gone in the world. What amazing joy, and grace! We’re not joined in denomination, or doctrine, or practice, or in the way we dress, or in where we “go to church,” or in whether we have rituals or not.” We’re joined in Christ.
Now we’re going back to the little passage of Scripture that is inspiring us toward our praying for this month. Trimmed down, we have: that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God—from Ephesians 3:19. There are a couple of things to note here. One is that the word ye in this verse is plural. We do not enter the fullness of God alone. Depending on where one comes from, this might be interpreted to mean, “that y’all might be filled,” or, “that you’uns might be filled,” or “that you guys might be filled,” or “that youse might be filled.” It reaches on for every culture and every way of expressing one’s self in every language there is. Another thing of importance in 3:19 is found in the words might be filled and fullness. These are both from the same root word in the Greek. Besides the meaning of fullness, we can take note that they also carry the meaning of being “brought to completion,” or of “being fulfilled.” When we know the love, mercy and grace of God in company with other believers, we are moving toward a completion that only those in Christ can appreciate.Let’s go on to see in Ephesians 4 what Paul has to say about this fullness together with others in the Body of Christ. There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all—Ephesians 4:4-6.Further on down in this chapter is a passage that’s laying hold on many believers over the world today. The passage tells of the “fivefold ministries” given by the risen Lord Jesus Christ to lead His Body while it is here on earth. Take special note to see what it is that these ministries are moving toward, and for how long they are to continue functioning.11 And he gave some, •Apostles; and some, •Prophets; and some, •Evangelists; and some, •Pastors and •Teachers;12 •for the perfecting of the saints , for the work of the ministry (for the knitting together of the saints, each for their own place in servant-hood ministry), •for the edifying of the Body of Christ (for the building up of the Body of Christ): 13 till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God (till we all come in the unity of belief and of the acknowledgment of the Son of God), unto a perfect man (moving toward each of us becoming complete), unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (for the fulfilling in each one for our own particular purpose in the Body of Christ).Of the “fivefold ministries,” each is to continue its work till we are all brought to the completion that will allow the fullness of Christ to be known throughout the earth. In that completion we will all walk in our own personal fullness together with others in Christ’s Body.
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