17 “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17–19 (ESV)
Ephesians 3:17-19 contains the purpose for the Apostle’s Paul prayer on behalf of the Ephesian believers, within the immediate and historical context, and on behalf of all believers in Christ at all times, within the overall context. The prayer’s ultimate purpose is based upon the apostle’s previous statements contained in Ephesians 3:14-16: “14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,…”
What was the ultimate purpose for Paul’s prayer? Examining Ephesians 3:17-19 separately will contribute to our understanding.
Ephesians 3:17 says, “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—.” Let’s carefully observe the contents of the first part of this verse.
To begin with, the apostle says “so that.” This is a purpose clause. This phrase indicates the reason for something. In this instance, the reason for what Paul has previously stated in Ephesians 3:14-16.
Paul continues saying, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The apostle has more in mind than just salvation because he is addressing believers who are already indwelt by Christ through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). The key word here is the verb “dwell.”
Dwell (κατοικέω; katoikeo) is an infinitive verb. This dwelling is never ending and is to impact the entire being of the individual being indwelt by Christ. The word dwell does not refer in this context to the beginning of Christ’s indwelling at the moment of salvation (John 3:1-8; Romans 8:1-9; I Corinthians 6:19-20). Rather, it means the need for Christ to literally, “be at home in,” at the very center of believers’ lives. Christ is to be the dominating factor in everything in our lives. In other words, He is the Lord of our lives.
For Christ to be the center of the believer’s existence is indicated by the word heart. Heart (καρδία; kardia) means the inner self. In other words, one’s heart is the mind, emotions and will of an individual, and in this case, the Christian. What the believer in Christ thinks, feels and chooses to do must be controlled by the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, there will be spiritual conflict in the believer (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:16-26; James 4:7; I Peter 2:11; 5:8; I John 2:15-17), but the Lord Christ must rule.
This dwelling, to which Paul refers, is solely through the instrument of faith. Faith (πίστις; pistis) means to trust in, commit to, depend upon and honor and worship Jesus Christ; not only as Savior but also as Lord. In order for believers to have Christ be daily at home in their souls, each of us must trust Him, be committed to follow Him, learn to depend upon Him, and worship and honor God the Father alone because of Him (I John 4:24).
This means that every situation, every relationship, every thought, every conversation and action by the believer must be framed and fashioned by one’s obedience to Christ. This is the goal for which the Apostle Paul pursued in his Christian life (Philippians 3:10-16). It is to be ours as well.
Pray today that Christ would dwell in your heart through your faith, trust, commitment, dependence and worship of Him. Have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!