Ephesians 3:17
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
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(17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.—What that indwelling power is he now indicates, so passing to another Person of the Holy Trinity. It is (see Colossians 1:27) “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The indwelling of Christ (as here the construction of the original plainly shows) is not a consequence of the gift of the Spirit; it is identical with it, for the office of the Holy Spirit is to implant and work out in us the likeness of Christ. So in John 14:16-20, in immediate connection with the promise of the Comforter, we read: “I will not leave you orphaned; I will come to you.” “Ye shall know that . . . ye are in me and I in you.” Hence the life in the Spirit is described as “To me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21); “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). Faith is simply the condition of that indwelling of Christ (comp. Ephesians 2:8), the opening of the door to Him that He may enter in.

The prayer is here complete, all that follows being but consequent from it. In accordance with the universal law of revelation, all is from the Father, all is through the Son vouchsafing to tabernacle in our humanity, all is by the Spirit effecting that indwelling of Christ in each individual soul.

That ye, being rooted and grounded in love.—The phrase “ye, being,” &c., stands in the original before the word “that,” as a kind of link between the previous clause and this, which seems to describe the consequence of the indwelling of Christ—viz., first love, next comprehension, and finally growth into the fulness of God.

The expression “rooted and grounded” (i.e., founded) contains the same mixture of metaphor as in 1Corinthians 3:9, of the tree and the building—a mixture so natural as to pass into common usage. (Comp. Colossians 2:7, “rooted and being built up in Him.”) The idea implied in “rooted” is of the striking down deeper and spreading wider into the soil; in “founded” of the firm basis on which ultimately we rest. “In love:” Love is not itself the root or foundation (for this is Jesus Christ Himself), but the condition under which growth takes place. Generally that growth is upward, as in 1Corinthians 8:1 : “Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up;” or, as in Ephesians 4:16, where the body is said “to build itself up in love.” Here that growth is downward, deeper and deeper into the communion with God in Christ, as “faith is made perfect (or, efficient) by love.” As in relation to man, so also to God, love is at once the recognition of an existing unity between spirit and spirit, and a means—probably the only means—of making that unity energetic and deepening it continually. Hence love is the first consequence of the indwelling of Christ in the soul; and by it the soul becomes rooted and grounded in the unity, given by that indwelling, with man and God.



Ephesians 3:17We have here the second step of the great staircase by which Paul’s fervent desires for his Ephesian friends climbed towards that wonderful summit of his prayers-which is ever approached, never reached,-’that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.’

Two remarks of an expository character will prepare the way for the lessons of these verses. The first is as to the relation of this clause to the preceding. It might appear at first sight to be simply parallel with the former, expressing substantially the same ideas under a somewhat different aspect. The operation of the strength-giving Spirit in the inner man might very naturally be supposed to be equivalent to the dwelling of Christ in our hearts by faith. So many commentators do, in fact, take it; but I think that the two ideas may be distinguished, and that we are to see in the words of our text, as I have said, the second step in this prayer, which is in some sense a result of the ‘strengthening with might by the Spirit in the inner man.’ I need not enter in detail into the reasons for taking this view of the connection of the clause, which is obviously in accordance with the climbing-up structure of the whole verse. It is enough to point it out as the basis of my further remarks.

And now the second observation with which I will trouble you, before I come to deal with the thoughts of the verse, is as to the connection of the last words of it. You may observe that in reading the words of my text I omitted the ‘that’ which stands in the centre of the verse. I did so because the words, ‘Ye being rooted and grounded in love,’ in the original, do stand before the ‘that,’ and are distinctly separated by it from the subsequent clause. They ought not, therefore, to be shifted forward into it, as our translators and the Revised Version have, I think, unfortunately done, unless there were some absolute necessity either from meaning or from construction. I do not think that this is the case; but on the contrary, if they are carried forward into the next clause, which describes the result of Christ’s dwelling in our hearts by faith, they break the logical flow of the sentence by mixing together result and occasion. And so I attach them to the first part of this verse, and take them to express at once the consequence of Christ’s dwelling in the heart by faith, and the preparation or occasion for our being able to comprehend and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Now that is all with which I need trouble you in the way of explanation of the meaning of the words. Let us come now to deal with their substance.

I. Consider the Indwelling of Christ, as desired by the Apostle for all Christians.

To begin with, let me say in the plainest, simplest, strongest way that I can, that that dwelling of Christ in the believing heart is to be regarded as being a plain literal fact.

To a man who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, of course that is nonsense, but to those of us who do see in Him the manifested incarnate God, there ought to be no difficulty in accepting this as the simple literal force of the words before us, that in every soul where faith, howsoever feeble, has been exercised, there Jesus Christ does verily abide.

It is not to be weakened down into any notion of participation in His likeness, sympathy with His character, submission to His influence, following His example, listening to His instruction, or the like. A dead Plato may so influence his followers, but that is not how a living Christ influences His disciples. What is meant is no mere influence derived but separable from Him, however blessed and gracious that influence might be, but it is the presence of His own self, exercising influences which are inseparable from His presence, and only to be realised when He dwells in us.

I think that Christian people as a rule do far too little turn their attention to this aspect of the Gospel teaching, and concentrate their thoughts far too much upon that which is unspeakably precious in itself, but does not exhaust all that Christ is to us, viz. the work that He wrought for us upon Calvary; or to take a step further, the work that He is now carrying on for us as our Intercessor and Advocate in the heavens. You who listen to me Sunday after Sunday will not suspect me of seeking to minimise either of these two aspects of our Lord’s mission and operation, but I do believe that very largely the glad thought of an indwelling Christ, who actually abides and works in our hearts, and is not only for us in the heavens, or with us by some kind of impalpable and metaphorical presence, but in simple, that is to say, in spiritual reality is in our spirits, has faded away from the consciousness of the Christian Church.

And so we are called ‘mystics’ when we preach Christ in the heart. Ah, brother! unless your Christianity be in the good deep sense of the word ‘mystical,’ it is mechanical, which is worse. I preach, and rejoice that I have to preach, a ‘Christ that died, yea! rather that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.’ Nor do I stop there, but I preach a Christ that is in us, dwelling in our hearts if we be His at all.

Well, then, further observe that the special emphasis of the prayer here is that this ‘indwelling’ may be an unbroken and permanent one. Any of you who can consult the original for yourselves will see that the Apostle here uses a compound word which conveys the idea of intensity and continuity. What he desires, then, is not merely that these Ephesian Christians may have occasional visits of the indwelling Lord, or that at some lofty moments of spiritual enthusiasm they may be conscious that He is with them, but that always, in an unbroken line of deep, calm receptiveness, they may possess, and know that they possess, an indwelling Saviour.

And this, I think, is one of the reasons why we may and must distinguish between the apparently very similar petition in the previous verse, about which we spoke in the last sermon, and the petition which is now occupying us; for, as I shall have to show you, it is only as ‘strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man’ that we are capable of the continuous abiding of that Lord within us.

Oh! what a contrast to that idea of a perpetual unbroken inhabitation of Jesus in our spirits and to our consciousness is presented by our ordinary life! ‘Why shouldst Thou be as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?’ may well be the utterance of the average Christian. We might, with unbroken blessedness, possess Him in our hearts, and instead, we have only ‘visits short and far between’ Alas, alas, how often do we drive away that indwelling Christ, because our hearts are ‘foul with sin,’ so that He

‘Can but listen at the gate

And hear the household jar within.’

Christian men and women! here is the ideal of our lives, capable of being approximated to {if not absolutely in its entirety reached} with far more perfection than it ever has yet been by us. There might be a line of light never interrupted running all through our religious experience. Instead of that there is a light point here, and a great gap of darkness there, like the straggling lamps by the wayside in the half-lighted squalid suburbs of some great city. Is that your Christian life, broken by many interruptions, and having often sounding through it the solemn words of the retreating divinity which the old profound legend tells us were heard the night before the Temple on Zion was burnt:-’Let us depart?’ ‘I will arise and return unto My place till they acknowledge their offences.’ God means and wishes that Christ may continuously dwell in our hearts. Does He to your own consciousness dwell in yours?

And then the last thought connected with this first part of my subject is that the heart, strengthened by the Spirit, is fitted to be the Temple of the indwelling Christ. How shall we prepare the chamber for such a guest? How shall some poor occupant of some wretched hut by the wayside fit it up for the abode of a prince? The answer lies in these words that precede my text. You cannot strengthen the rafters and lift the roof and adorn the halls and furnish the floor in a manner befitting the coming of the King; but you can turn to that Divine Spirit who will expand and embellish and invigorate your whole spirit, and make it capable of receiving the indwelling Christ.

That these two things which are here considered as cause and effect may, in another aspects be considered as but varying phases of the same truth, is only part of the depth and felicity of the teaching that is here; for if you come to look more deeply into it, the Spirit that strengtheneth with might is the Spirit of Christ; and He dwells in men’s hearts by His own Spirit. So that the apparent confusion, arising from what in other places are regarded as identical being here conceived as cause and effect, is no confusion at all, but is explained and vindicated by the deep truth that nothing but the indwelling of the Christ can fit for the indwelling of the Christ. The lesser gift of His presence prepares for the greater measure of it; the transitory inhabitation for the more permanent. Where He comes in smaller measure He opens the door and makes the heart capable of His own more entire indwelling. ‘Unto him that hath shall be given.’ It is Christ in the heart that makes the heart fit for Christ to dwell in the heart. You cannot do it by your own power; turn to Him and let Him make you temples meet for Himself.

II. So now, in the second place, notice the open door through which the Christ comes in to dwell-’that He may dwell in your hearts by faith.’

More accurately we may render ‘through faith’ and might even venture to suppose that the thought of faith as an open door through which Christ passes into the heart, floated half distinctly before the Apostle’s mind. Be that as it may, at all events faith is here represented as the means or condition through which this dwelling takes effect. You have but to believe in Him and He comes, drawn from heaven, floating down on a sunbeam, as it were, and enters into the heart and abides there.

Trust, which is faith, is self-distrust. ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.’ Rivers do not run on the mountain tops, but down in the valleys. So the heart that is lifted up and self-complacent has no dew of His blessing resting upon it, but has the curse of Gilboa adhering to its barrenness; but the low lands, the humble and the lowly hearts, are they in which the waters that go softly scoop their course and diffuse their blessings. Faith is self-distrust. Self-distrust brings the Christ.

Faith is desire. Never, never in the history of the world has it been or can it be that a longing towards Him shall be a longing thrown back unsatisfied upon itself. You have but to trust, and you possess. We open the door for the entrance of Christ by the simple act of faith, and blessed be His name! He can squeeze Himself through a very little chink, and He does not require that the gates should be flung wide open in order that, with some of His blessings, He may come in.

Mystical Christianity of the false sort has much to say about the indwelling of God in the soul, but it spoils all its teaching by insisting upon it that the condition on which God dwells in the soul is the soul’s purifying itself to receive Him. But you cannot cleanse your hearts so as to bring Christ into them, you must let Him come and cleanse them by the process of His coming, and fit them thereby for His own indwelling. And, assuredly, He will so come, purging us from our evil and abiding in our hearts.

But do not forget that the faith which brings Christ into the spirit must be a faith which works by love, if it is to keep Christ in the spirit. You cannot bring that Lord into your hearts by anything that you do. The man who cleanses his own soul by his own strength, and so expects to draw God into it, has made the mistake which Christ pointed out when He told us that when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man he leaves his house empty, though it be swept and garnished. Moral reformation may turn out the devils, it will never bring in God, and in the emptiness of the swept and garnished heart there is an invitation to the seven to come back again and fill it.

And whilst that is true, remember, on the other hand, that a Christian man can drive away his Master by evil works. The sweet song-birds and the honey-making bees are said always to desert a neighbourhood before a pestilence breaks out in it. And if I may so say, similarly quick to feel the first breath of the pestilence is the presence of the Christ which cannot dwell with evil. You bring Christ into your heart by faith, without any work at all; you keep Him there by a faith which produces holiness.

III. And the last point is the gifts of this indwelling Christ,-’ye being,’ or as the words might more accurately be translated, ‘Ye having been rooted and grounded in love.’

Where He comes He comes not empty-handed. He brings His own love, and that, consciously received, produces a corresponding and answering love in our hearts to Him. So there is no need to ask the question here whether ‘love’ means Christ’s love to me, or my love to Christ. From the nature of the case both are included-the recognition of His love and the response by mine are the result of His entering into the heart. This love, the recognition of His and the response by mine, is represented in a lovely double metaphor in these words as being at once the soil in which our lives are rooted and grow, and the foundation on which our lives are built and are steadfast.

There is no need to enlarge upon these two things, but let me just touch them for a moment. Where Christ abides in a man’s heart, love will be the very soil in which his life will be rooted and grow. That love will be the motive of all service, it will underlie, as its productive cause, all fruitfulness. All goodness and all beauty will be its fruit. The whole life will be as a tree planted in this rich soil. And so the life will grow not by effort only, but as by an inherent power drawing its nourishment from the soil. This is blessedness. It is heaven upon earth that love should be the soil in which our obedience is rooted, and from which we draw all the nutriment that turns to flowers and fruit.

Where Christ dwells in the heart, love will be the foundation upon which our lives are builded steadfast and sure. The blessed consciousness of His love, and the joyful answer of my heart to it, may become the basis upon which my whole being shall repose, the underlying thought that gives security, serenity, steadfastness to my else fluctuating life. I may so plant myself upon Him, as that in Him I shall be strong, and then my life will not only grow like a tree and have its leaf green and broad, and its fruit the natural outcome of its vitality, but it will rise like some stately building, course by course, pillar by pillar, until at last the shining topstone is set there. He that buildeth on that foundation shall never be confounded.

For, remember that, deepest of all, the words of my text may mean that the Incarnate Personal Love becomes the very soil in which my life is set and blossoms, on which my life is founded.

‘Thou, my Life, O let me be

Rooted, grafted, built in Thee.’

Christ is Love, and Love is Christ. He that is rooted and grounded in love has the roots of his being, and the foundation of his life fixed and fastened in that Lord.

So, dear brethren, go to Christ like those two on the road to Emmaus; and as Fra Angelico has painted them on his convent wall, put out your hands and lay them on His, and say, ‘Abide with us. Abide with us!’ And the answer will come:-’This is my rest for ever; here’-mystery of love!-’will I dwell, for I have desired it,’ even the narrow room of your poor heart.Ephesians 3:17-19. That Christ may dwell in your hearts — May be always present with you, and may reside continually in you, by his purifying and comforting influences, so as to direct your judgment, engross your affections, and govern all your passions and tempers. See on John 17:23; Galatians 2:21. By faith — By means of a continual exercise of faith in him, and in the truths and promises of his gospel. “The apostle had called the church the temple of God, Ephesians 2:21; here he represents every individual believer as the habitation of Christ, who came from heaven that he might rule in the hearts of men. And surely the indwelling of Christ in our hearts by faith in his doctrines and promises, is a much greater honour than that which the temple of Ephesus was said to possess, through the residence of an image of Diana, falsely reported to have fallen down from Jupiter, Acts 19:35 : also a better preservative from evil than the votaries of that idol pretended to possess, by carrying about her shrine, mentioned Acts 19:24.” That being rooted and grounded — Deeply fixed and firmly established; in love — Both in an experimental knowledge of God’s love to you, and in the exercise of a fervent love to him in return, and to each other, which will be a never-failing source of piety and virtue in your hearts and lives. The word τεθεμελιωμενοι, here rendered grounded, is used in allusion to a building, agreeably to the apostle’s representation of the Christian Church as the temple of God, built not of stones, but of men who believe and obey the gospel. And, (as the pious Professor Frank observes,) in the following clause, “he expresses his wish that the foundation might be so extensively and deeply laid, and that a superstructure might be raised, extending itself to such a magnificent length, and breadth, and height, as to be fitted to receive the sacred guest, that he might dwell, as it were, uncrowded in their hearts.” May be able to comprehend — So far as a human mind is capable; with all saints — That which all, who are worthy of the name of saints, do in some measure attain unto here, and shall fully understand hereafter; what is the breadth — Of the love of Christ, embracing all mankind; and length — From everlasting to everlasting; and depth — Descending into the abyss of our sin and misery to rescue us thence; and height — Exalting us to the summit of heavenly glory and felicity, to the dignity of God’s sons and daughters here, and to the vision and enjoyment of him hereafter. And to know the love of Christ — Continually aspiring after more enlarged and affecting views thereof, even of the love which he hath displayed in purchasing his church with his own blood, and redeeming it out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, Revelation 5:9; which, however, after all we can say or think of it, as to its nature, extent, and excellence, does and ever will infinitely surpass our knowledge and comprehension. “This prayer of the apostle does not imply any contradiction, for though the love of Christ be so great that it cannot be comprehended by the understanding of men, the apostle with great propriety prayed that they might know as much of it as the limited nature of their faculties permitted them to know, in order to their being sensible of the wisdom and power of God in gathering the Christian Church, not only from among the Jews, but from among the idolatrous Gentiles also;” and in bestowing on the members of that church such unspeakable blessings of grace here, and in preparing for them such blessings of glory hereafter. That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God — Macknight, who applies this clause to the church at Ephesus, collectively considered, rather than to the individuals of which it was composed, observes, “Having told the Ephesians, (Ephesians 2:21-22,) that the Jews and Gentiles were formed into a holy temple, for a habitation of God by the Spirit, he prays that this great temple might be filled with all the fulness of the presence of the true God, inhabiting every part of it by the gifts and graces of the Spirit, chap. Ephesians 4:6. For in that respect the Christian Church far exceeded the temple at Ephesus, which had nothing in it pretending to divinity, but the lifeless image of an idol placed in a corner of it.” The apostle, however, rather intended this, as he evidently did all the preceding clauses of his prayer, to be applied, not so much to that or any other church in general, as to each individual believer therein in particular. He therefore prayed that the mind and heart of each might be enlarged more abundantly, so as to admit larger communications than ever of divine light, love, wisdom, holiness, power, and glory, till at length they should arrive in the heavenly state, to full perfection in the knowledge, image, and enjoyment of God, where that which is perfect being come, they should know even as they also were known, and possess love in proportion to their knowledge.3:13-19 The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith - see the notes, Ephesians 2:22. Expressions like this often occur in the Scriptures, where God is said to dwell in us, and we are said to be the temples of the Holy Spirit; see the John 14:23, note; 1 Corinthians 6:19, note.

That ye being rooted - Firmly established - as a tree is whose roots strike deep, and extend afar. The meaning is, that his love should be as firm in our hearts, as a tree is in the soil, whose roots strike deep into the earth.

And grounded - θεθεμελιωμένοι tethemeliōmenoi - "founded" - as a building is on a foundation. The word is taken from architecture, where a firm foundation is laid, and the meaning is, that he wished them to be as firm in the love of Christ, as a building is that rests on a solid basis.

In love - In love to the Redeemer - perhaps also in love to each other - and to all. Love was the great principle of the true religion, and the apostle wished that they might be fully settled in that.

17. That—So that.

dwell—abidingly make His abode (Joh 14:23). Where the Spirit is there Christ is (Joh 14:16, 18).

by faith—Greek, "through faith," which opens the door of the heart to Jesus (Joh 3:20). It is not enough that He be on the tongue, or flit through the brain: the heart is His proper seat [Calvin]. "You being rooted and grounded in love" (compare Eph 3:19), is in the Greek connected with this clause, not with the clause, "that ye may be able to comprehend." "Rooted" is an image from a tree; "grounded" (Greek, "founder," "having your foundations resting on"), from a building (compare Notes,, see on [2367]Eph 2:20,21; Col 1:23; 2:7). Contrast Mt 13:6, 21. "Love," the first-fruit of the Spirit, flowing from Christ's love realized in the soul, was to be the basis on which should rest their further comprehension of all the vastness of Christ's love.

That Christ; on whom this Spirit (who must strengthen you, as being a Spirit of might, Isaiah 11:2) resteth, Isaiah 61:1May dwell in your hearts; may intimately and continually possess and fill, not your heads only with his doctrine, but your affections with his Spirit: see John 14:23.

By faith; whereby ye not only believe Cllrist’s truth, but receive and apprehend himself, and which is the means by which ye have union and communion with him.

That ye, being rooted and grounded in love: either he means:

1. Our love to God and our neighbour; and then he prays that their love might not be slight and superficial, but strong and firm. Or:

2. God’s love to us; and then he prays that the Ephesians, who had already tasted God’s love to them in Christ, might be more fully strengthened in the persuasion of that love. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,.... This is another petition put up by the apostle for the Ephesians, which is for the inhabitation of Christ in them: the inhabitant Christ is he who dwells in the highest heavens, who dwells in the Father, and the Father in him, in whom all fulness dwells, the fulness of the Godhead, and the fulness of grace; so that those in whose hearts he dwells cannot want any good thing, must be in the greatest safety, and enjoy the greatest comfort and pleasure; and this inhabitation of Christ prayed for is not to be understood in such sense, as he dwells everywhere, being the omnipresent God; or as he dwells in the human nature; nor of his dwelling merely by his Spirit, but of a personal indwelling of his; and which is an instance of his special grace: he dwells in his people, as a king in his palace, to rule and protect them, and as a master in his family to provide for them, and as their life to quicken them; it is in consequence of their union to him, and is expressive of their communion with him, and is perpetual; where he once takes up his residence, he never totally and finally departs: the place where he dwells is not their heads, nor their tongues, but their hearts; and this is where no good thing dwells but himself and his grace; and where sin dwells, and where he is often slighted, opposed, and rebelled against: the means by which he dwells is faith; which is not the bond of union to Christ, nor the cause of his being and dwelling in the hearts of his people; but is the instrument or means by which they receive him, and retain him, and by which they have communion with him:

that ye being rooted and grounded in love; either in love to God, and one another; for faith and love go together; and love is sometimes weak, and needs establishing; and what serves to root and ground persons in it, are the discoveries of God's love, views of Christ's loveliness, the consideration of blessings received, and the communion they have with God, and Christ, and one another, and a larger insight into the doctrines of the Gospel: or rather in the love of God to them; which is the root and foundation of salvation; this is in itself immovable and immutable; but saints have not always the manifestations of it, and sometimes call it in question, and have need to be rooted and grounded in it; which is to have a lively sense of it, and to be persuaded of interest in it, and that nothing shall be able to separate from it.

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in {h} love,

(h) With which God loves us, which is the root of our election.

Ephesians 3:17. Κατοικῆσαι κ.τ.λ.] Parallel to δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι, etc., which “declarat, quale sit interioris hominis robur,” Calvin. According to Rückert, something different from what forms the object of the first petition is here prayed for, and there is a climax. In this way we should have, in the absence of a connecting particle, to take the infinitive, with de Wette, as the infinitive of the aim; but the circumstance that with Christians the being strengthened by the Spirit, who is indeed the Spirit of Christ, cannot at all be thought of as different from the indwelling of Christ (Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Php 4:13; Romans 15:17 f.), and the subsequent ἐῤῥιζ. κ. τεθεμ., which manifestly further expresses the conception of the κραταιωθῆναι, decide for the former view. The explanatory element, however, lies in the emphatically prefixed κατοικῆσαι: that Christ may take up His abode by means of faith in your hearts. In the Holy Spirit, namely, which is the Spirit of Christ (see on Romans 8:9-10; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17), Christ fulfils the promise of His spiritual presence in the hearts (John 14:23; comp. above, on Ephesians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 13:5), in which faith is the appropriating instrument on the part of man (hence διὰ τῆς πίστεως). Where thus there is a κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, there is also to be found a κατοικῆσαι of Christ; because the former is not possible without a continuous activity of Christ in the hearts. Opposed to the κατοικῆσαι of Christ in the hearts is a transitory (πρόσκαιρος) reception of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:3). A more precise definition, by virtue of which the clause κατοικῆσαι κ.τ.λ. may in reality be an explanatory clause to that which precedes, is thus before us, namely, in the prefixed emphatic κατοικῆσαι itself. This in opposition to Harless and Olshausen, who find this more precise definition only in the following ἐν ἀγ. ἐῤῥιζ. κ. τεθεμ.

On κατοικεῖν in the spiritual sense, comp. Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Jam 4:5; 2 Peter 3:13; Test. XII. Patr. pp. 652, 734; and the passages in Theile, ad Jac. p. 220. The conception of the temple, however, is not found here; for the temple would be the dwelling of God, and Christ the corner-stone, Ephesians 2:20 ff.Ephesians 3:17. κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. The presence of Christ, His stated presence (κατοικεῖν as contrasted with παροικεῖν = sojourn, cf. Genesis 37:1), the taking up of His abode in them (cf. the use of κατοικεῖν in Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26; 2 Peter 3:13; and also its application to Christ Himself in another relation in Colossians 1:19), is also embraced in the scope of Paul’s prayer. The indwelling expressed here by the comp. κατοικεῖν is also expressed by the simple οἰκεῖν (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Its seat is the καρδία—the centre of feeling, thinking, willing (cf. Delitzsch, Bib. Psych., iv., 5). And the means or channel through which it takes possession of the heart is faith, the διὰ πίστεως indicating the receptivity which is the condition on our side. There remains, however, the question of the construction. The κατοικῆσαι, etc., may be taken as dependent on the δῷ and as forming a second boon contemplated in the gift prayed for, as if = “and that He may grant you also that Christ may dwell in your hearts” (Mey., Abb., etc.). Or it may be taken as dependent on the κραταιωθῆναι, etc., expressing the contemplated result of the gift of strength (inf. of consequence; cf. Acts 5:3; Hebrews 6:10; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 16:9, etc.), = “to the effect that Christ may dwell in your hearts”. The omission of the connecting καί is no insuperable objection to the former; for cases of asyndeton are sufficiently common. But the second view (so Ell., Alf., etc.) is on the whole to be preferred, as it deals better both with the grammatical connection and with the emphatic position of the κατοικῆσαι. The former view has the difficulty of taking two somewhat different grammatical constructions as parallels, and it fails to bring out as the latter does the advance in the thought. The indwelling of Christ is the higher boon which is in view as the end and effect of the strengthening.—ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι: ye having been rooted and grounded in love. Nothing can legitimately be made of the anarthrous ἀγάπῃ, the article being often dropped before abstract nouns, and especially after a preposition (Win.-Moult., pp. 148, 149). As the ἀγάπῃ is also without any αὐτοῦ or other defining gen., it appears to have its most general sense here, not “the love of God” or “the love of Christ” in particular, but love, the Christian principle or grace which is “the bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:14). In this love they are described (by two perf. parties.) as “having been rooted and grounded”. If the terms ἐῤῥιζεμένοι, τεθεμελιωμένοι, were used in their proper etymological connotation, they might suggest much. The former might convey the idea of subjects deriving their life and growth from love; and the latter the idea of subjects built up on the basis of love as living stones in the Divine temple. But the terms are also used without any reference to their original, etymological sense—ῥιζοῦν, e.g., in Soph., Œd. C., 1591, means simply to establish something firmly. So here the two words probably express the one simple idea of being securely settled and deeply founded. Thoroughly established in love, having it not as an uncertain feeling changing with every change of experience, but as the constant principle of their life—this they must be if they are fully to apprehend the magnitude of Christ’s love. Here, again, the construction is a difficult question. Westcott and Hort attach ἐν ἀγάπῃ to the κατοικῆσαι clause and the ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι to the ἵνα clause. But the ἐν καρδίαις ὑμῶν seems a proper and adequate conclusion and completion of the idea of the indwelling. Many (including Meyer, Winer, Buttm., AV, RV, etc.) connect the whole clause with the ἵνα, = “in order that, being rooted and grounded in love, ye may be able”. This gives an excellent sense, and examples of the transposition of part of a sentence from the natural place after the ἵνα to one before it are found elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Acts 19:4; 1 Corinthians 9:15; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10; Colossians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; cf. Buttm., Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 389). On the other hand, the relevancy of most, if not all, of these examples is not above suspicion (cf. Ell. and Abb. in loc.), and it does not appear that in the present passage there is any such emphasis on the ἐν ἀγάπῃ as can explain its peculiar position. Hence it is better on the whole to connect it with the preceding (as is done in one way or other by Chrys., Luth., Harl., Bleek, De Wette, Alf., Ell., Abb., etc.), and take it as another instance of the nom. absol. or participial anacolouthon (cf. Win.-Moult., p. 715; Krüger, Sprachl., § 56, 9, 4; Buttm., Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 298; Blass, Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 285). So we translate it—“ye having been rooted and grounded in love in order that ye may be able,” etc. The rooting and grounding are expressed by the perf. part., as they indicate the state which must be realised in connection with the indwelling of Christ before the ability for comprehending the love of Christ can be acquired.17. that Christ may dwell] This clause is in close connexion with the preceding. The “strengthening” is the requisite to the “dwelling”; the “dwelling” the sure sequel to the “strengthening.” See last note but one.

Christ:—lit. “the Christ,” as so often in this Epistle (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 3:4; Ephesians 3:8; Ephesians 3:11, Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 4:12-13; Ephesians 4:20, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:5; Ephesians 5:14; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 6:5; besides uncertain readings).—Not to press distinctions too far, we may yet point out that the Lord is here presented not specially as Jesus, but as the Messiah, in His anointed majesty as the Prophet, Priest, and King of His saints. The thought of His Presence includes that of our tenderest affections towards Him, but rises also above it. It is the Presence of the Supreme Teacher, Redeemer, and Possessor.

dwell:—the Gr. verb indicates permanent abode. It is akin to the noun, Ephesians 2:22; where see note. See it used 2 Peter 3:13, of the eternal presence of Righteousness in the New Universe. It marks a residence quite different from transient or casual lodgment.

The tense is the aorist (infinitive), and the idea of the aorist is singleness of act. Accordingly, the Lord is viewed here as not merely “dwelling,” but, in a definite act, “coming to dwell,” “taking up abode.” The question arises, did the Apostle contemplate the Ephesians as all alike devoid of the Indwelling in question, and needing it to begin? It is difficult to grant this, in an Epistle addressed to a large community, and one evidently rich in life and love. Well-nigh every stage of spiritual development must have been represented there. Yet the aorist must have its meaning. And surely the account of it is this, that the Apostle views them each and all as ever needing, at whatever stage of spiritual life, such an access of realization and reception as should be, to what had preceded, a new Arrival and Entrance of Christ in the heart. Local images are always elastic in the spiritual sphere; and there is no contradiction thus in the thought of the permanent presence of One who is yet needed to arrive.

On the other hand there are possible stages of Christian experience in which, practically, the Lord’s “coming in to dwell,” as here, would be a thing wholly new; and many such cases, doubtless, were found at Ephesus. Not only here but throughout the N.T. the saint is viewed as meant to enjoy a prevailing, not an intermittent, intercourse with his Lord in faith and love; on habitual “access,” “confidence,” “peace and joy in believing,” and “fruit-bearing” power. Where such enjoyment does not as yet exist there is still lacking that which is in view here. True, it will be only a crude analysis that will claim to discern and decide peremptorily in such spiritual problems. But this does not alter the facts and principles of the matter in themselves.

in your hearts] A phrase important for the interpretation of the clause. It shews that the Indwelling here is subjective rather than objective; an Indwelling conditioned by the saint’s realization. “Christ” is “in” every genuine disciple (2 Corinthians 13:5), in the sense of the disciple’s covenant and vital union with Him (1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:17). But this was certainly the case already with the Ephesian saints. Here then we have to do not so much with fact as with grasp on fact; the reception of the (already vitally present) Lord in habitual realization by the conscience, understanding, imagination, affections, and will. For the “heart” in Scripture is the “seat” of all these: see e.g. Genesis 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 6:10; Mark 11:23; Luke 21:14; Acts 11:23; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9; James 1:26; 1 John 3:20. See on Ephesians 1:18.—“Though all of us is a temple for Him, yet the heart is the choir, where He properly sitteth” (Bayne (cent. 17), On the Ephesians).

by faith] That is, trustful acceptance; holy and humble reliance upon Divine promises, such promises as those of John 14:21; John 14:23; Revelation 3:20. Observe that the Indwelling here in view is to be effectuated by means of spiritual action (God-given, as this passage has shewn, but not the less personal) on the saint’s part. And observe that it is not aspiration, but faith, that is the action. Aspiration will certainly be present, as an essential condition; there must be conscious desire. But it is faith, submissive trust in the Promiser, which is alone the effectuating and maintaining act.

Lit., “through the faith”:—i.e., perhaps, “by means of your faith,” faith as exercised by you; but the article must not be pressed in translation, where an abstract principle is the noun.—“The faith” in the sense of the Christian creed is manifestly not in place here, where the context is full of the idea of the actions of grace in the soul.

that ye] Here appears the holy purpose of the experience just described. The Indwelling is to be specially in order to the attitude and the knowledge now to follow.

being rooted and grounded in love] “In love” is highly emphatic by position in the Gr.—Does it mean the love of God for us, or ours for God? Perhaps it is needless to seek a precise answer. “Love, generally” (Alford), is to be the region of this great experience of the soul; a sphere of which the Divine Love and the regenerate spirit’s response are, as it were, the hemispheres. But we may at least suggest, with Ephesians 1:4 in mind (see note there), that the Divine Love is mainly in view. Is it quite intelligible to regard the saint’s love as the soil and basis of his saintship? For observe it is the saints themselves, not this or that in them (“ye being rooted, &c.”), that the Love in question thus sustains and feeds.

The chain of thought will thus be: “I pray that your hearts may so receive Christ as their perpetual Indweller, that you may, in this profound intimacy with Him, see and grasp your acceptance and life in the Eternal Love, manifested through Him.”

rooted and grounded:—perfect participles. The second, lit. founded, recurs to the imagery of the Temple and its basis; ch. 2. The first, giving a metaphor much rarer with St Paul (Colossians 2:7 is the only close parallel), suggests the additional idea of derived life and its development. The saints are viewed both as “trees of the Lord, full of sap,” deep in the rich soil of the Love of God (cp. Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:12-13; Jeremiah 17:8), and as constituent stones of the great Temple which rests ultimately on the same Love.—Colossians 2:7, just quoted, gives the same collocation of ideas, but with differences. The participle there rendered “built up” is present; “being builded upon.” And “in Him” takes the place of “in love.” This latter difference is no discrepancy; “the love of God is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

Such, as to root and basis, is the true saint’s position. It is not created, but realized, when the experience of Ephesians 3:17 takes place in him. And the following clauses dilate on the spiritual use which he is to make of it.Ephesians 3:17. Κατοικῆσει) that Christ may dwell for ever. It is without any connecting particle [Asyndeton]. Where the Spirit of God is, there also is Christ.Verse 17. - That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Reversing the usual order, the prayer begins (ver. 16) by asking the blessing of the Third Person of the Godhead; now we have a cluster of petitions connected with the Second Person. The first of these is for the indwelling of Christ in their hearts, as opposed to mere occasional visits or influences from Christ; the instrument by which this blessing is attained being their faith. Christ exercising a constant power within them, both in the active and passive movements of the heart, giving the sense of pardon and acceptance, molding the will, sweetening the emotions, enlightening and confirming the conscience, purifying the whole springs and principles of action. This to be secured by their faith, opening the door, receiving Christ in all his fullness, resting and living on him, believing his promises, and longing for his appearing the second time. In order that ye, having been rooted and grounded in love. Two images are combined to make the idea emphatic - that of a tree and that of a building; denoting what is both the starting-point and the support of the Christian's life, viz. love. In what sense? The love of Christ is specified afterwards (ver. 19), but this may be as a pre-eminent branch of that manifold love which bears on the Christian life - the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the love of the brethren to one another; and the reciprocal love evoked from the believer by the reception of this love. Evidently it is implied that the Christian life can begin and flourish only in such an atmosphere of love; as warm sunshine is needed to start and advance the life of a plant, so love is needed to start and carry on the life of the soul. Experience of Divine love is a great quickening and propelling power. "One glance of God, a touch of his love, will free and enlarge the heart, so that it can deny all and part with all and make an entire renunciation of all to follow him" (Archbishop Leighton). May dwell (κατοικῆσαι)

Settle down and abide. Take up His permanent abode, so that ye may be a habitation (κατοικητήριον) of God. See on Ephesians 2:22. The connection is with the preceding clause: "to be strengthened, etc., so that Christ may dwell, the latter words having at once a climactic and an explanatory force, and adding the idea of permanency to that of strengthening.

By faith (διὰ τῆς πίστεως)

Through your (the article) faith, as the medium of appropriating Christ. Faith opens the door and receives Him who knocks. Revelation 3:20.

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