Sermon for Sunday July 26th, 2015, the Eighth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Psalm 14, 2 Samuel 11:1-15 & Ephesians 3:14-21
Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
Theme: The infinite magnitude of God’s love
For four years Emperor Theodore III of Ethiopia had held a group of fifty-three European captives (thirty adults and twenty-three children), including some missionaries and a British consul. By letter Queen Victoria pleaded in vain with Theodore to release the captives, who were held in a remote nine-thousand-foot high bastion deep in the interior.
Finally, the queen ordered a full-scale military expedition from India to march into Ethiopia, not to conquer the country and make it a British colony, but simply to rescue a tiny band of civilians.
The invasion force included thirty-two thousand men, heavy artillery, and forty-four elephants to carry the guns. Provisions included fifty thousand tons of beef and pork and thirty thousand gallons of rum. Engineers built landing piers, water treatment plants, a railroad, and a telegraph line to the interior, plus many bridges. All of this was necessary to fight one decisive battle, after which the prisoners were released. Then everyone packed up and went home. The British expended millions of pounds to rescue a handful of captives.
(Jim Reapsome, Current Thoughts and Trends, May 1999)
The cost of saving mankind from sin and eternal hell was much greater, in that God gave His only begotten Son to the end that all that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
EPHESIANS 3:14-21: THE FULLNESS OF GOD’S LOVE
It is not God’s will for any believer to be ignorant of how much God loves him and all who believe, as well as all who do not believe. It is significant that Christians should live in the awareness of God’s love. St. Paul was concerned that the Ephesians should not become discouraged by the sufferings he was enduring in prison on behalf of the Gospel, because these sufferings, far from being a cause of sadness, were cause for rejoicing. Why were sufferings and persecution cause for rejoicing among St. Paul’s fellow Christians? Among other reasons, these sufferings brought glory to Christ on whose behalf he suffered, and they showed the love of God at work in His own life as he endured these things. Because these sufferings were cause for rejoicing, St. Paul prays for the Ephesians to be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner being, or spirit (Eph. 3:16). If we are to perceive the greatness of God’s love revealed through the sufferings and persecutions of Christians, we must be strengthened in our inner being; we must come to that strength through prayer, both the prayer of others for us, and our own prayer for ourselves. The purpose of this inner strength is that Christ may live in our hearts through faith, and that we may be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17), that is, in the love of God, and be able with all the saints to comprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ, though it is beyond knowledge. This will lead us to be filled with all the fullness of God.
Being filled with all the fullness of God is not a mystical feeling, or simply a spiritual experience attainable by imagination. It comes through a process of living by faith in Christ, and His living in us through the continual exercise of our faith. This is in direct contrast to the way many people live today. For example, many people, when they enjoy high incomes, and things are going well, are happy; but when, all of a sudden, there is low income, or very little income, and a shortage of the good things they once enjoyed, how easily they become sad or angry, and blame God, or blame employers, friends and family!
What happens instead when we strengthen ourselves through prayer in the inner man, and pray for others to be strengthened by God’s Spirit? The spiritual might, or strength, which the Holy Spirit gives, strengthens Christ’s presence in our lives by increasing our faith in Him. The result of this is that we can not only see God at work in times of prosperity, and in good things, but even in times of adversity, when we have to suffer for the sake of doing God’s will, or when we face various trials. Greater faith in the Lord will enable us to rejoice in God even in adversity, as we realize that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
It is when we rejoice in the Lord during trials and adversities, and even thank Him for these things, that we show a strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we realize that His love is not measured merely by the good things we experience, but by all the dimensions of His love as it is daily expressed to us. We perceive the immeasurable greatness of His love in giving His only Son for the life of the world, and we experience His love at work in all the events of our lives to draw us closer to Him. There are many evils resulting from our own sin or the sin of others, or sin acting through unjust laws and structures of society, and God must not be blamed for any of these, but He works in all to draw us closer to Himself and to one another.
It is unlikely that any of us will be filled with all the fullness of God and the fullness of His love, if we continue living with immature views of God’s love. If we think of a father’s purpose in loving, disciplining, teaching and caring for his children, he will have an idea of the kind of people he wants his children to become. It may take some discipline, teaching and patience, for example, to bring them up to be unselfish and caring people. On a much higher level, God has His ultimate idea of who we should all become, and this is measured by the excellence of the character of His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. To be filled with all the fullness of God’s love, will at least include the concept that God is acting in every part of our lives to conform us to the excellence of His Son’s character and produce in us the fullness of the fruit of His Holy Spirit.
What can you do to increase your knowledge and awareness of God’s love for you? What steps will you take in your life to increase your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and be rooted and grounded in His love, more and more, until you are filled with all God’s fullness?