Paul loves to make bold petitions. He concludes the main part of his second prayer for Ephesian Christians, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . and that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17, 19).” The idea of being filled up with the fullness of God used to baffle me. It still ranks high on the list of Bible conundrums. How can God’s fullness possibly fill us? Let me suggest three ways of looking at it—the car, the canal, and the cell:
- The idea of putting an aircraft engine under the hood of a car is ridiculous, though some dragsters are fitted with jet engines and do stunts along runways at over 250 mph. But every Rolls Royce car engine benefits from the same quality craftsmanship as is put into the engines of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s the maker that matters. Every Christian has Christ inside. Because the fullness of God dwells in Him (Col. 1:19; 2:9) then that fullness resides in us. As He forms us into His image, the same fullness grows in us (Rom. 8:29). We have the potential to express the full range of His attributes, though not at the same magnitude. The filling is qualitative rather than quantitative.
- In what sense does a canal have the fullness of a reservoir? The lake above a dam may be billions of times greater than the capacity of the canal. The canal could never contain all the water, but it can flow with the same quality. Similarly, we can be channels of God’s love, power, and other characteristics, delivering their flow to a needy world.
- The “you” in Ephesians 3:19 is plural, as it often is in the New Testament, so the clearest understanding of being filled with the fullness of God comes in the context of church. When individual members assemble, we express more of God’s fullness. It is like the cells of a body. Each cell has the complete genetic code for the body but only expresses a part of the code. When all the cells are present and functioning correctly, the body is healthiest. It is the church body that is to be filled with the fullness of God and demonstrate the maturity of Christ (Eph 1:23; 4:13). Together we are the dwelling of God (Eph. 2:22).
Paul’s prayers contain incredible requests until we remember to Whom he directs them. The ending of this prayer expresses it superbly. Paul prays
to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
God is utterly capable of surpassing our bold requests. When He does, His glory shines through the church. So let’s pray for the church to be filled with the fullness of God in a way never seen before.
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