so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
I. THE INDWELLER - CHRIST. There is a threefold idea suggested by the term.
1. The believer is regarded as a temple or house to be divinely inhabited. It is originally a house in ruins, to be restored as a beautiful temple of the Lord. Judging by the analogy of restoring a ruined house, the first operation is a cleansing out of the rubbish; the second, an opening of the windows to admit the pure air of heaven, and a kindling of a fire on the hearth; the third is a closing up or all the cracks or openings in the walls by which the wind or air finds access; and the fourth is the furnishing of the rooms with such articles of convenience as our taste and our means may enable us to procure. Similarly, when the Lord takes up his abode in the sinner's heart, the process, though not successive in point of time, includes, first, the application of the blood of Christ to "the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience;" second, the opening of the windows of the understanding to displace the tainted atmosphere of man's thoughts, and the kindling of the fire of love Divine in the heart; third, the watchful closing up of those avenues in the soul through which sin so easily finds access; and fourth, the furnishing of the soul with the needed graces of the Spirit.
2. The indwelling is here ascribed to Christ. It is elsewhere ascribed to the Holy Spirit: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). It is likewise ascribed to the Father: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). These varying forms of expression find their solution in the doctrine of the Trinity. He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father, and be that hath the Son hath the Father; then, again, he that hath the Son hath the Spirit of Christ: "The Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you ... the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:9, 10). Therefore, when the apostle speaks of Christ dwelling in our hearts, he refers to the Spirit's indwelling, for Christ dwells in his people by his Spirit. But there is a distinction in the modes of this indwelling: the Father dwells in us by love (1 John 4:16); the Son by faith (Ephesians 3:17); the Spirit lies hid in the heart, working the faith in the one case anti the love in the other.
3. It implies an abiding habit of life. Christ does not come as a sojourner or as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for the night, but as a constant dweller. Herein lies our security for the continuance, the power, the comfort, of this life.
II. THE SEAT OF INDWELLING - THE HEART. This is the true shrine. The word signifies the seat of religious knowledge as well as feeling. Thus Christ sits at the very center of spiritual life, himself the very Life of that life (Galatians 2:20), controlling all its impulses and movements. The objects we most desire we treasure in the heart. The heart wearies of many things, but can never weary of this Divine Visitant, who can speak with commanding voice when the soul is disturbed by suggestions of sin. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart" (1 John 3:20). The Lord is the supreme Possessor of the heart "now sprinkled from an evil conscience."
III. THE SUBJECTIVE MEANS OF THE INDWELLING - FAITH. This is not to be regarded merely as the means of our justification, or as the root of our spiritual life, but as its continuously sustaining principle, according to the apostle's teaching: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and. the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). This is the faith that worketh by love, that purifies the heart, that overcometh the world. It is the principle of spiritual communion; it is that by which we realize the presence, the excellence, the power, of Christ in us; it is that which radiates all grace and peace through the believer's heart. - T.C.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.
1. By the senses. That we shall not have again on earth.
2. By the intellect. That is the presentation of Christ doctrinally or theologically.
3. By the heart. That is the reception of Christ by the form of an actual experience; by such a cooperation of the reason with the imagination that we are able to bring the invisible person near to us, and so bountifully reproduce Him, and so beautifully set Him forth, that He becomes to us the "chiefest among ten thousand," and the one "altogether lovely"; so that every sweet thing in us goes out to Him as every dewdrop in the sunshine evaporates and goes up towards the sun. This is receiving Christ by faith. It is not the rejecting of the senses; it is the non-using of them, rather. It is not the despising of the reason; it is an auxiliary use of the reason. But it is the manly way of taking hold of the Lord Jesus Christ by the enthusiasm of love, and making Him the supreme object of our desire, and of our allegiance. This is receiving Christ by faith; and if we continue so to receive Him, then He dwells in our hearts by faith — that is, by heart-sanctifying love. This I understand to be the distinctive peculiarity of Christianity, not only, but that without which there cannot be any Christianity. There can be no Christianity to the man who does not personally take Christ by faith. There is no substitute for this personal experience, and there can be no system of Christianity which does not provide for this personal experience, towards the Lord Jesus Christ.I remark, then, in view of this exposition, that —
1. Any system which leaves out the central figure is not Christian, and has no right to wear that name. For Christianity consists in such an enthusiastic love of the individual human heart for Christ, that they are unified, that there is a substantial, indissoluble oneness between them as there is between the child and the parent; and that it is the cause of all the after life and action of the individual person. If that is denied, Christianity is denied. If Christ is so expounded that such an experience is impossible, Christianity is destroyed in the destruction of the very fundamental idea of Christ.
2. As the Christian system is not held by those who leave out the central figure, so every Christian system is imperfectly held by those who only hold it in a philosophical form. This latter mode is far in advance of the former, which I have just been criticising; but still the holding of the Lord Jesus Christ speculatively and philosophically, the teaching of Him only technically and psychologically in this way, is so imperfect a holding of Him that it cannot for a moment compare with the full-orbed glory of Christianity as it is set forth in the earliest narratives and teachings of the New Testament. I would not underrate the value of an intellectual conception of Christ; but I would hold it as an auxiliary, and as a guide. The intellect cannot fulfil the conditions of Christianity. It is the heart by which a man must believe unto salvation. It is not Christ as analyzed, as stated in technical terms, that ever will affect a man. Every man must by the inflammation of his own heart feeling find his Christ. A creed is just like a philosopher's telescope. He sweeps the heavens to see if he can find the star for which he is searching; and by and by the glass brings it to his eye. The glass helps him, but it is not the glass that sees the star. It is the eye that does that. The glass is a mere instrument by which to identify the star, and magnify it, and bring it near, and shut off other things. A blind man could net see a heavenly body with a telescope, no matter how powerful it might be. A creed is a philosopher's telescope by which we identify philosophical truths, and magnify them, and bring them near; but it is the heart that is to apprehend them. It is the heart that is to interpret the things that are marked out by our creed or philosophy.
3. The heart may embrace Christ with an enthusiasm of love, though the intellectual perception is imperfect and vague. It is better that the intellectual perception should be full and clear; nevertheless, a man can embrace Christ by the heart without the help of the understanding, far better than he can embrace Christ by the understanding without the aid of the heart. Thousands and thousands there have been, I believe, who have loved Christ, and have lived on their love to Him, and have died by the power of that love, and have been translated to glory, though they could not have defined the Divine nature, nor reduced their faith to any intellectual expression. They would have been larger and happier Christians, doubtless, if they had added to the heart element the intellectual element also; but it is possible for one to take hold of Christ with the heart. It is possible for one who has but slender endowments of reason to take hold of Christ.
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. That the attempt to prove a God by scientific tests, applying physics strictly, can only reach a small way up. There is an argument that can be constructed that will satisfy — those that it will satisfy; but it is only a little way that it can go. And as I do not think that men can, by scientific observation, test and determine that which lies outside of all physics, so neither do I think this failure need lead to the scepticisms which some men make, but which, thank God, the most eminent scientific men do not make, who are many of them reverent, and who are all of them, I believe, seekers after the truth. The greatest physicists of the day are men who want to know the truth, not only as it is related to matter and to men, but as it is related to Divinity. But that makes no difference. You cannot prove nor disprove by matter that which lies beyond matter; and if, through all the material universe, there is no sign nor hint of God, it does not make any difference in the truth of His spiritual existence.
II. The difficulties which beset the existence of God as a personal Being, of intellect, of emotion, and of will — a transcendent and glorified man (for that is as near as we can come to it) — these difficulties are not alleviated when we turn in other directions. I am speaking in an age which runs strongly in the line of scepticism as to the existence of God. Because men have not seen Him, and cannot apply to Him the same tests that they apply to matter, there is a strong drifting towards atheism. I see no alleviation in that direction. That we exist, that nature exists, that there is an infinite chain of cause and effect, that it has had a past history, and that it is to have a future history, we cannot deny. We cannot deny that the vast universe is a fact, except by shutting our eyes. You meet the same difficulties in the realm of sense. When you say that matter is eternal, you do not help anything. It is useless to attempt to stop the thought by a word. You do not stop the thought at all. We go back on it. It is more difficult for me, a thousand times, to conceive that there is in the universe a self-ordering nature, than it is to conceive of a personal God who takes care of the universe, as we take care of an estate, or of a kingdom. Neither do I find any relief in turning to the poets. There is no relief for me in atheism, or pantheism, or in the idea that the sum total of the universe, and that all causes and effects, are God; that the whole physical creation is the body of God; that all the intelligence diffused through all creatures is the intelligence of God; that matter and mind, as they exist distributed through the universe, are only another name for God. By adopting this theory we may run away from some grievous difficulties; but we run into as many others that are no less grievous. I would rather shut my eyes and give up trying to understand my God, than undertake to trace Him partly in myself, partly in you, partly in the laws of matter, and partly in the laws of mind. In such a diffused thought of God there is no relief to me from the difficulties which inhere in this subject. The prime trouble is, that we are not large enough to understand God on any theory.
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. THE FIRM HEART IS FIGURATIVE TO DENOTE THE HIGHEST AND PUREST PART OF MAN. It may be compared to a house divided into apartments. Christ must dwell in every room or division. He must dwell in our thought, affection, reason, understanding, judgment, conversation, action, whole life; He must dwell in motive, desire, purpose, will; must have more than the tongue, or to flit through the brain: the heart, the whole of man, He wants. And no transient stay, but constant residence.
II. CHRIST BRINGS TO THE HEART MANY RICH TREASURES. Knowledge of the future, all the promises and blessings of new covenant.
III. FAITH IS THE KEY to unlock the door of the heart for Christ to dwell with us.
(J. A. Fullerton.)I. WHEN CHRIST ENTERS THE HUMAN HEART TO DWELL IN IT, EVIL TENANTS MUST GO OUT.
II. WHEN CHRIST COMES INTO A HEART TO DWELL, CASTING OUT EVIL TENANTS, HE DOES NOT COME ALONE; He brings with Him all those things that accompany salvation.
1. When Christ dwells in the human heart, He dwells there as a living power, not merely attracting all our other affections, but moving, renewing, sanctifying, moulding us according to His own idea, working His own pleasure in us, making men faithful in their daily business, true, righteous, strong for their daily service, for labour, for suffering, for sorrow, for waiting, for whatever Providence may appoint.
2. When Christ enters a human heart to dwell there, He enters it and abides as an undying joy.
3. When Christ abides in a human heart, He is in it as an immortal hope.
(James Culross, D. D.)I. WHAT IT IS NOT.
1. It is not personal.
2. It is not visionary.
3. It is not merely emotional.
II. WHAT IT IS.
1. It is the result of faith as realizing His presence.
2. It is the result of the communication of the Holy Spirit, by which He is graciously present.
3. It is the result of His love.
(James Culross, D. D.)
I. THE CONDITIONS OF THE ADVENT. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith requires an earnest belief in Christ. I observe that this belief must be as specific as the Advent, not a mere historic belief; not a languid acknowledgment of the fact that Christ has come into the world. Again, a mere conventional or traditional acquiescence is not the kind of faith that is required, an acquiescence by which men are called Christians in the sense in which we are a Christian community. True faith is an earnest, original action of the individual soul, moved by strong conviction. That faith is good for nothing which you take and adopt from another. You cannot receive a faith from your fathers. There is a time when we can indicate to our children the landmarks of fight. But even the minds of children should not be cast into a fixed mould. We should not say, "Search no more; here is the image of our fathers, and the image and superscription must be stamped upon the waxen substance of your minds; let it harden there!" We say, there is the old Bible; let your minds become developed, and your own experience will shed light upon it. So learn for yourselves an original, active, earnest faith that comes out of every man's soul, Which he struggles and wrestles for as Jacob wrestled in the night with the angel. We should feel as the Samaritans did: "Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we...ourselves...know that this is the Christ." But they themselves saw Him and knew Him, and from an earnest and original conviction of their own souls they believed in Him. Conviction is a personal exercise of trust. It is a spontaneous, complete yielding of the whole soul to that in which we trust.
II. THE MANNER OF THE ADVENT. What is meant when we say that Christ dwells in the hearts of men? We do not mean that an actual Christ dwells there; we mean that the spirit of Christ dwells in the hearts of men. And the spirit is really the man. The man is not in his outward or physical form. The real man is the soul, the spirit, and character. The moral standard of Christianity is not a verbal rule, but a character. The rule of Christian life is not an outward law; it is a character. When our characters are assimilated to Christ's character, or when Christ's character permeates and controls us, then Christ dwells in our hearts. There is no mysticism in that — nothing unreal, nor anything we cannot grasp. Christ dwells in the heart as a character — as a spirit of life. It is by the spirit, and not the outward form that Christ dwells in us. One man may today show the spirit of Christ in the disposition of his wealth; another man may do likewise in his poverty. The man who uses his wealth in a humble, lowly spirit — with the spirit of the loving Jesus; who makes it not merely the instrument of selfish aggrandizement and outward development — he feels that wealth is the gift of God. The outward condition does not make a man like Christ; but the inward spirit. Thus Christianity is adapted to all conditions. The spirit of love is fitted for all conditions. Be you rich or poor — do you stand in a prominent or obscure and lowly place before men — have the spirit of Christ! Let it dwell in your heart! Be truly Christ-like in your home and business relations, fulfilling the duties that rest upon you, as did those who went about Palestine of old preaching the gospel to the poor. Does God take note of the actual size and description of your goodness? Who can tell what shall be God's minister — the little bird in the air, the snow in the field, the lilies that are dressed better than Solomon! All are agents of God's instruction. Use your instruments to minister good to man, to make the best use of the little you have. Drop the pebble in the water, and who can tell how wide its ripples will extend in the stream? Do your little acts of goodness and live a true life, and God will see to the rest, and make, perhaps, your small practical action to result higher and deeper than you can calculate.
III. SPHERE AND RESULT OF THE ADVENT. We are brought to consider the sphere and result of the Advent. Christ's Advent is in and through individual souls. To be sure we contemplate Christianity as the grandest scheme of social regeneration, and the only true scheme that the world has ever known. It came and Unbarred partitions that divided man from man. It aimed at a new and better social state; it aims at it now. And men have looked forward to a New Jerusalem, and that Christ would come with a shout and gather together His elect. Christianity speaks to individuals. It did not call upon communities at first. It did not call nations, but individuals — Peter, James, and John and Nathaniel, and in due time Paul. And if the world is to be made better, it is to be made better through individual souls. Christ's kingdom is essentially an inward kingdom. Its power is silent and hidden. It is the progress of a conviction. Sometimes when yon look upon the shore, the sea extends before you smooth and glassy, and the shore is covered with slimy weeds, and by and by you walk that way again, and the great sea has come up, and the shore you looked upon is no more to be seen. So silent and hidden forces are pouring into the world, and all at once we discover the world is made better; but not by a sharp shock or outward convulsion. The geologist tells us the earth has never been made by any sudden formation, but by one thing being added to another. So social changes have been made — not by quick shocks, but by silent action. How strange are the revolutions taking place in society; and how different from what they were a few years ago. We see men holding to opinions unpopular some few years ago, when they would be called fanatics, fools, and madmen. But lo! that opinion becomes the adopted law of the land; it is the ruling force; it is the recognized idea. What has come about? It is the silent work of the Divine kingdom in the individual heart.
(E. H. Chapin, D. D.)1 Corinthians 1:1, etc.; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 1:3).
3. He sets it at liberty from sin and Satan (Luke 11:1, etc).
4. He reveals His love to it (Ephesians 3:17-19).
5. He weans it from other things (Philippians 3:7, 8).
6. He strengthens it (Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 83:26).
7. He satisfies it in the want of outward blessings.
8. He reconciles it — God and man (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
9. He fills it with the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
10. He sups with it, and it with Him (Revelation 3:20).
(H. Foster, M. A.)
I. Mark, then, THE APOSTLE'S DESIRE HERE THAT ALL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MAY POSSESS THE INDWELLING CHRIST, 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. 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. It is no mere influence, derived and separable from Him, however blessed and gracious that influence might he, but it is the presence of His own self, exercising influences which are inseparable from His presence, and only to be realized when He dwells in us. 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 of 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. 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 poor but 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 aspect, 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 fits for the more permanent. Where He comes in smaller measure He opens the door and fits the heart for 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. 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 that 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 songbirds 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 CONSEQUENCE OF THIS INDWELLING OF 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 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.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(Chas. S. Robinson, D. D.)
New Handbook of Illustration.Liturgies, although a great lawmaker, would allow none of his laws to be written. He would have the principles of government interwoven in the lives and manners of the people as most conducive to their happiness. The multiplication of Bibles that stand upon bookshelves or lie upon tables is an easy matter, but to multiply copies of walking scriptures, in the form of holy men who can say, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart," is much more difficult.
(New Handbook of Illustration.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. In the first place, then, THIS IS NOT THE DESIRE THAT CHRIST MUST BE IN THEIR MIND AND UNDERSTANDING, AS THE OBJECT OF SIMPLE, ABSTRACT, UNINFLUENTIAL KNOWLEDGE. Many may be the persons and opinions in our minds that are not objects of attachment, but, on the contrary, of indifference, or even of aversion. We know merely that they are there, and what they are. Some of them we would rather have absent from our minds, and some of them we would banish from them altogether; but to be in the heart is to be admired, esteemed, loved — loved with cordiality and ardour. We cannot express fervent attachment in more energetic terms than in the language of the apostle, "I would that Christ might dwell in your hearts." And what is expressed here, that we are in our hearts to do? Can anything be stronger than the attachment which shares life and death with its object? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend." The love, then, that Christ demands of His people is fervent love; not a lifeless indifference, a mere negation of hatred, a lukewarm, spiritless neutrality. No. He must be in the heart, and must have the chief place there.
II. Rooted and grounded in love are meant to express in another form the same idea, FIRMLY FIXED IN THE EXPERIENCE AND MANIFESTATION OF THIS SACRED AFFECTION. The figure is double, and is taken from a tree and a building. To the stability of the former a root is necessary, proportioned to the expansion of the branches; to the stability of the latter a foundation is necessary, corresponding to the magnitude of the superstructure. Great profession of attachment, without real firmness of inward principle, is like a wide-spreading tree with short roots, with little hold of the soil, that may stand for a little and be admired, but is in danger of falling from every blast that assails it; or like a house with little foundation, built on the sand or on soft ground, presenting a very imposing appearance to the eye, but when the rain descends, and the winds blow and beat violently against it, immediately it comes to the ground, and involves its inmates in ruin. And what is the love that promises that stability? It is love that is rooted and grounded in knowledge — that has not been the product of a hasty examination or of a superficial observation.
III. And this leads me to the third feature of love, THAT IT BE INTELLIGENT AND ENLIGHTENED, THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS BY FAITH. It is very obvious that there must be knowledge in order to faith, and faith in order to love. That cannot be loved which is not known, and that person cannot be loved, the qualities of whose character, fitted to attract affection, are not believed. It is only by faith that Christ can enter the heart; it is only as the object of faith that He can be the object of love, and faith will be in proportion to spiritual intelligence, and spiritual intelligence in proportion to faith. It is an enlightened attachment that can show good cause for its ardour and its glow. Connected inseparably with love to Christ for what He is, is love to Christ for what He has done; and this, too, is founded in knowledge: "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." It is when this grace is known that love takes possession of the heart, and it is by the faith of it that He continues to dwell there; and as knowledge grows, and faith is strengthened, love is invigorated. That love to Christ, as one of the great principles of all active obedience, is founded in knowledge and rooted in faith. "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again." Thus have I endeavoured to show what the nature of the principle is which the apostle prays for in behalf of the believing Ephesians — that it is a fervent, constant, intelligent, and enlightened attachment to the Lord Jesus, that Christ might dwell in their hearts. In conclusion, allow me to remark.
1. That the prayer implies, that this state of heart must come from above — from the Spirit of the living God.
2. The heart in which Christ dwells must be a purified heart. Jesus Christ is the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person; He is the holy one and the just. An unrenewed and unholy heart would be no fit residence for Him. When the Holy Spirit introduces Himself into any heart, He purifies that heart from dross and corruption. Christ has said, "Blessed are the pure in heart." If any heart remains impure and shows itself so by what proceeds from it, it is quite evident that Christ has no hold there.
3. I would just notice, that the heart in which Christ dwells must be an undivided heart.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
(Newman Hall, LL. B.)
(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. THE SOIL IN WHICH THE LIVING TREE IS PLANTED: IT IS LOVE. A question rises here at the outset which must be settled ere we can advance a step with the exposition — What is the love in which the trees of righteousness are rooted? Whether is it God's love to man, or man's love to God and to his brother? The question admits of an answer at once easily intelligible and demonstrably true. The love in which the roots of faith strike down for nourishment is not human but Divine. It is not even that grace which is sovereign and Divine in its origin, but residing and acting in a renewed human heart: it is the attribute, and even the nature, of Deity, for "God is love." The soil which bears and nourishes the new life of man is the love of God in the gift of His Son. Having determined the first point — that the soil in which faith's roots can freely grow is found in God, not in man — we must now weigh well what attribute or manifestation of God it is that permits and invites the confidence of the fallen. The justice of God does not afford a soil on which the hope of sinners can thrive. As well might you expect the tender roots of a living plant to strike kindly down into hot ashes, as expect the trust of a guilty soul to go into the righteousness of God for support. No; there is nothing on this side but a fearful looking for of judgment to devour. Neither can human hopes grow in a mixture of mercy and justice such as men, in ignorance of the gospel, when conscience is uneasy, may mingle for themselves. There is only one place in which righteousness and peace can meet without mutually destroying each other, and that is in the Cross of Christ the Substitute. In Christ, but not elsewhere, God is at once just, and the justifier of the sinful who believe.
II. THE PLANT THAT IS ROOTED IN THE GROUND REPRESENTS A BELIEVER GETTING ALL HIS SUPPORT AND ALL HIS SUSTENANCE FROM THE LOVE OF GOD WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. Under this head, the first point that occurs is the very obvious one, that before any measure of growth can be obtained there must be life. Of what avail would richness of soil be to rows of dead branches? A withered branch draws no sap from the most fertile ground. Faith fastens on God's revealed love in the covenant, and satisfies itself from this inexhaustible treasury; but who and what first creates faith? The living will, by the instincts of nature, seek convenient food; but how shall the dead be restored to life? Let it be granted that faith, appropriating God's love, sustains the living, the question remains, Who quickens the dead? In the last resource, an answer to this question must be sought in the sovereignty of God and the ministry of the Spirit; but we must beware of so regarding God's part in it as to miss or neglect our own. "Live" is the first thing in the Spirit's ministry but "believe" is the first thing in the duty of man. To God's eye, looking downward from His own eternity, the order of events is, Live, that you may believe; but to our eye, as we stand on earth and look upwards, the order of events is, Believe, that you may live. Our part is not to produce life, but to exercise trust. Honour God by referring the origin of life to His sovereign grace and power; but obey God by believing in Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Let us neither intrude into His province nor neglect our own. But even when the plant is living, many obstacles may intervene to prevent it from freely pushing down its roots and drinking up the richness of the soil. Stones of stumbling lie in the way of the living root, and hinder its growth. Sometimes the history of vegetable life, concealed for generations, is afterwards thrown open. When a forest tree, that has outlived several generations of its owners, is at last thrown down by a tempest, and its roots all exposed to the inspection of the passer-by, many secret passages of its early history are at length revealed. Each bend of those gnarled roots has a tale to tell — of various offers and disappointments, and conflicts and victories. Here, in the centre of the circular mass, the main stem was pointing perpendicularly downward when the tree was young, perhaps a century ago; but ere it had gone far in that direction, it had struck against a stone. The fibre, then young and pliable, had sensitively turned as soon as it felt the obstacle, and grew for a little upward, as if retracing its steps. Then it had bent to one side and crept along the surface of the stone, intending, so to speak, to turn its flank and plunge into the deep earth beyond its outmost edge. Once or twice in its horizontal course it came to hollows in the stone, and ever instinctively seeking downward, penetrated to the bottom of each; but finding no opening, it came always up again, and pursued its course on the horizontal line. But, long ere it reached the margin of the great rock, it found a rent, narrow, indeed, but thorough. Into this minute opening it thrust a needle-like point. It succeeded in pushing that pioneer through. Tasting thereby of the rich soil below, it thence drew new strength for itself. Strong now in that acquired strength, it increased its bulk and rent the rock asunder. You may now see the two halves of the cleaved rock hanging on the mighty root that rent them. Now the victor has overcome its adversaries, and makes a show of them openly. It holds the remnants of its ancient enemy aloft as trophies of its victory. It is thus that a living soul struggles against all obstructions, and either round them or through them, penetrates into the unlimited love of God as it is in Christ. There the life satisfies itself and becomes strong. This man is more than conqueror through Him that loved him. When the saved are drawn at length from the ground in which the new life secretly grew, and all the history of their redemption revealed in the better land, themselves and others will read with interest the record of the struggle, and the final victory. It will then be seen that every hindrance which the tempter threw in faith's way only exercised and so strengthened faith. They who have had the hardest conflict in throwing obstacles aside that they might freely draw from redeeming love in Christ, draw most freely from that love when they reach it: as that woman who had pined many years in disease, and spent all her means on other physicians, drew proportionally a larger draught from the fountain when she touched its lip at last.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)I. THE GRACE IMPLORED.
1. The love of God includes admiration of His character.
2. The love of God includes gratitude for His benefits.
3. The love of God includes delight in His communion.
II. ITS SPECIFIED IMPORTANCE.
1. The love of God is the essence of religion.
2. The love of God is the germ of holiness.
3. The love of God is the source of happiness.
4. The love of God is the test of meetness for heaven.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF IT IMPLIED.
1. Sincere, and not sentimental.
2. Permanent, and not temporary.
1. There will be a necessary enlargement of our own hearts' affections. My brethren, do believe this, that like every other faculty or feeling or quality belonging to man, his affections have become straitened. This is part and parcel of man's miserable and sinful condition. He has not the love he ought to have for any object; he is narrowed up into his own selfishness. Now, when we get a right view of God's love, and that love comes into our hearts, what follows? The expansion of our own affections. It is a common saying, and a perfectly true one, that small things will satisfy small minds; but I tell you that the converse or another view of that proposition is true: small things will make small minds. If you exercise your mind upon small matters, your mind becomes diminished in its powers and capabilities — if you exercise your mind upon great matters, your mind expands; if the heart is fixed on a small object of affection, its affections become small — if on a comprehensive one, the affections are enlarged. Now look at God. God becomes the object of a man's affection when he enters into this text. What follows? The expansion of his heart. Hence the Psalmist — "When Thou hast set my heart at liberty." I repeat, that if you can enter into the depth and length and height and breadth of God's love in Christ to you, one result will be an expansion of heart and affection back towards God.
2. Another result will be this — a feeling of perfect security in regard to your everlasting state. You will never enter into this until you enter into the depths of God's love.
3. Again, confidence will be the result. When I know that God is my own God, that He is with me always, that His promise will be fulfilled to me, what follows? I have perfect confidence. How can I have this? Why, let God be for me — I say from my inmost soul, let God be for me, and I care not whether man or devil is for or against me, comparatively. Is God absolute, or is He not? I say God is absolute, and controls all things. Then let me have God, and if I love Him I do have Him, and I stand with perfect confidence — in no strength of my own, with no sufficiency to think a good thought, but God undertakes for me.
4. Fruitfulness. If a tree strikes its roots deep, the tree is secure — if the foundation of a building is deep, the building is secure; if I see the depths of God's love, and the roots of my heart are struck deep into God's love, there is abundant reason for my security. But in regard to fruitfulness and a high and exalted state, how can you have that without the roots are struck deep? Can you build a high house or a tower without a good foundation? Can you have a high tree, luxuriant in foliage and fruit, if you have not deep roots? How then can you have a high Christian, an exalted Christian, an elevated experience? Only by the roots being struck deep into God's love.
(Capel Molyneux, B. A.)
"Thou, my Life, O let me be
Booted, 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 forever; here" — mystery of love! — "will I dwell, for I have desired it."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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