Lesson 7 : Ephesians 3 FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY
Paul starts out in verse 1 of Ephesians 3 telling his readers: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– . Then Paul breaks from that thought as another truth comes to him he wants to share with his readers. Note Paul refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus rather than a prisoner of the Roman government. Let me remind you- Paul is awaiting trial before Nero and is under house arrest. He probably is dictating this letter to a secretary he was allowed while at the same time being guarded by a Roman soldier.
The thought that prompted this interruption that he will take up again in verse 14 was for the sake of you Gentiles Paul wanted them to be sure they understood what his ministry was all about. It was about a mystery that had been revealed to Paul. A mystery that Paul was to devote his life to explaining to the world.
Have you ever thought about how intrigued we humans are with mysteries and secrets? God knows we are fascinated by mysteries. In fact He has hid mysteries in life and in His creation because He knows we love mysteries. Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Is this not what King Solomon set out to discover- the mystery of life?
Life itself is a mystery, time is a mystery, death is a mystery, space is a mystery; as is love and many other things which God has concealed. Mysteries are the secrets God has locked in His creation all about us. Science is all about exploring and discovering the keys to unlocking those mysteries. Some of which have taken centuries to unlock and some of which still perplex us today.
So Paul explains the mystery revealed to Him by the Lord Jesus that had been hidden and not fully comprehended in the times before. But with the arrival of the Lord Jesus, who was God the Son who became flesh and dwelt among us- the mystery was revealed.
Verse 6 tells us the mystery: This mystery is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers in the promises in Christ Jesus.
In Matthew 13:34 we read: Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things HIDDEN since the creation of the world.
A mystery was something formerly hidden or obscure but now revealed by God for all to know and understand.
The mystery Paul says was not made known to men in other generations.
You see the revelation of the mystery was not complete until Jesus came and died for our sins, arose on the third day and then after 40 days ascended into heaven. In the past God spoke to our forefathers though the prophets at many times in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He mad the universe. ( Hebrews 1: 1-2)
Old Testament revelation was fragmentary and partial- although it allowed enough light for those responding to the light given in obedience were saved. Adam certainly did not understand fully that God the Son would become flesh and die for our sins on a cross- but He believe Gods promise to send a Redeemer who crush the head of the serpent.
Now what Paul is doing and devoted his life to doing was explaining the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles ( all non-Jews) in the promises of Christ Jesus. This is what Paul has been carefully and in detail listing in these first three chapters- the basic truths of what we have all inherited as believers- both Jew and Non Jew. For if we are in Christ we are heirs to the promises of Abraham. Paul has listed for us these great and unlimited resources that are ours. It is like the reading of a will a list of what all we have inherited as join heirs with Jesus all of the riches, the blessings and the power and promises.
The prayer that Paul is leading up to in verse 14-21 is the second part of a prayer he began in Ephesians 1. In the first prayer Paul prays for believers to have the eyes of their heart enlightened so we would have knowledge of this power; in this second prayer, Paul prays for us to know how to use this power. In Ephesians 1- Paul prayed for knowledge in four specific areas;
- Know God better. ( More you know Him, the more you will love Him.)
- Know the Hope to which you are called. ( Christ in you is the hope of glory. Without God- you are without hope)
- Know the riches of His inheritiance.
- Know the power that is in us who believe.
The Lord Jesus said, I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly. The thief comes to kill and steal and destroy. When we get saved we have a new life, a new identity, we are in fact new creatures. Living out our new identity is now the priority of our lives. But the thief wants to steal our identity. Our lives have been transformed and are being transformed. We are new creatures.
God has revealed mysteries and great truths for us to observe in nature if we will take the time to look . One of the greatest transformations in nature is the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly. One of Gods most beautiful and delicate creations.
Look at the lowly caterpillar- this worm-like creature who crawls on its belly. What is the lesson God is teaching us here? This is a picture of life in the flesh. The natural human life. Everything in the path of the caterpillar is an obstacle over which it must painfully and slowly crawl . It gets over or around one obstacle only to find another in its path. So it seems sometimes in the seasons of our lives- there is one problem after another.
Gets pretty easy to lose heart in those situations doesnt it? Want to give up- because we are discouraged, lost heart for going on after all it seems whats the use? With nothing more to look forward to than another day of crawling through life and encountering one obstacle after another, we begin to understand how people end up in a bar at the end of the day, or take drugs or distract themselves with hobbies or entertainment.
You are just headed for a grave anyway, right? Wrong. It appears to an observer of the caterpillar, the caterpillar has died and has been left lifeless and dead in a cocoon of its own making. But God is at work in that cocoon and in that caterpillar to do a transforming work of metamorphosis that only God can perform. The sun begins to shine and all of sudden this dead looking cocoon begins to break open and out comes a beautiful butterfly, one of natures most delicate and beautiful creatures. It is no longer required to crawl on its belly over every obstacle- it floats on gossamer wings above the world that once bound it by gravity.
We do not have to live like the caterpillar- God calls us to come forth from the cocoons of our own making- we have become new creatures. Now we must learn how to live this new life which Paul has prayed we would know the incomparable power to us who believe the same power that resurrected Jesus from the cocoon of a borrowed tomb.
We are not caterpillars- we are butterflies. We do not have to crawl on our bellies- we can float like butterflies.
Lets take each part of this prayer and see how we might lay hold of that which Christ has taken hold of us for:
Paul did not want the Ephesians and all believers who would read this letter to know who we are and what we have. We must first have knowledge of what we possess- the promises, the position and the power before we can apply it.
For this reason, I kneel before the Father from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. ( verse 14,15)
Is it necessary to kneel for this prayer to work? No, not necessarily, unless the Spirit prompts you to kneel. You can pray standing, seated or prone on your face- all are mentioned in scripture. ( Here is my thought- kneeling expresses reverence, awe and deep, earnest concern. Also if Paul kneeled when he prayed this I am going to follow this prayer in every detail.)
For this reason- Paul is referring back to what he has told us we now possess as children of God- our new identity and status we have as joint heirs and children of God. This access to power beyond anything we can imagine and that is the power in us greater than anything outside us.
The Father from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name does not mean everyone born is a child of God. Only those born again of the Spirit are in the family of God. It is clear in the John 8, there are only two spiritual fatherhoods- God and the devil. Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:39-42: you are of your father the devil.
Next look at the source from which we are strengthened out of His glorious riches Our source from which we can pray for strengthening is unlimited. It is the same power that created the heavens and the earth, that resurrected Christ from the tomb, that then raised Him all the way up to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God, it is this power and this unlimited source we are tapping into.
Do not make this prayer difficult. When you are discouraged by life- when you feel yourself losing heart and giving up- ask God to help you. To strengthen you. This is God, Our Fathers responsibility. Remember Jesus told us regarding the love of fathers: Which of you, if his son asks for bread, would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him. ( Matthew 7) In Luke 11, Jesus adds, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened.
The strengthening in our inner being is provided through His Spirit which indwells each believer. He knows what you have need of before you ask. He loves to give. It is there for the asking.
In the KJV, verse 16 reads: That He( God the Father) would grant you, according to His riches in glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.
Paul is not praying for God to give those riches to believers, but that He grant believers to be strengthened by God according to the riches they already possess. Paul wants what God wants for each us- THAT WE LIVE LIVES ACCORDING TO THE SPIRITUAL POSSESSIONS THAT WE POSSESS. Why would live as paupers when we are rich?
Grant means to give. When we know and believe what God has granted to us as His children and joint heirs with Jesus, then we can literally take it for granted.
THE POWER OF POWERLESSNESS
Why does one ask to be strengthened? Because we realize we do not possess the strength to deal with the difficulties. Now- do you understand why God allows us to experience adversity, trials, tests and temptations? When we realize we cannot do it in our own strength we realize we need Him. In fact we learn sooner or later, we really cannot do anything apart from Him. WEAKNESS ACTIVATES FAITH.
In 2 Corinthians 12, we read of an amazing discovery Paul makes, that we all need to discover. Paul has a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited because of these amazing revelations he has received from God. This thorn was some type of weakness or infirmity that Paul asks the Lord to remove three times. The Lord told Paul and us: My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. ( 2 Cor. 12: 9) Pauls response- I will boast all the more gladly in my weakness, so that Christs power may rest on me. For WHEN I AM WEAK, I AM STRONG.
In fact, the inner man can grow stronger the longer you live if you feed and nourish it with the word of God and your mind in transformed. Spiritual maturity and strength comes from proper nourishment of Gods word and spiritual exercises of obedience.
Spiritual growth or maturity can be defined as the decreasing frequency of sin. When we grow stronger in our inner man, sin will automatically decrease.
The reason for the strengthening of our inner man is so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. Did you realize our faith is awakened by our weakness? And when we are aware of our weakness in the face of temptation, and adversity, we are prompted to pray for strength to endure and resist. No wonder James counted it a joy when he fell into various trials and tribulations, for he knew from experience the outcome would result in strengthening- a maturing of his faith.
The word dwell comes from a Greek word meaning to permanently reside. In other words our heart becomes the residence or home of Christ We know Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts at the time of salvation- but there are areas of our life that must be cleaned out before He is comfortable or even sometimes allowed in them. Gina and I leased a house once from a man who left a large walk in closet locked and explained to us that it would remain locked for he held private possessions to which he did not want us to have access. We never felt like that house was truly our home. We enjoyed the benefits it provided- but we could not enjoy it fully as our own because we did not possess this property legally.
It seems to me- that in order for us to experience the fullness of God and thus the fullness of His strength- we must allow Him access to every area of our life. So the two go together- being made strong in the inner man leads to Christ being at home in our hearts and this leads to the next prayer requests- a prayer by the way that God longs to answer for us for He longs for us to experience His love.
Paul prays that we would be rooted and grounded in love in order that we can comprehend the vastness of the love of Christ and filled with the fullness of God. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments and He and His Father, Our Heavenly Father will come and make their home with us.
The goal is for us to be filled with the fullness of God. To appropriate all that we have been given. To live the abundant life that not only glorifies our Father in heaven- but is light and salt in this dark and decaying world.
Are you living the abundant life?
J. Wilbur Chapman tells this story of a testimony given by a man in his church:
I got off at the Pennsylvania depot as a tramp, and for a year, I begged on the streets for a living. One day I touched a man on his shoulder and said, hey mister, can you give me a dime? As soon as I saw his face I was shocked to see that it was my own father. I said, Father, Father, do you know me? Throwing his arms around me and with tears in his eyes, he said, Oh my son, at last I have found you! I have found you. You want a dime? Everything I have is yours. Think of it. I was a tramp. I stood begging my own father for ten cents, when for 18years he had been looking for me to give me all that he had.
Filled with the fullness of God is what God wants for you and me as His children.
No wonder Paul stops to close this prayer with praise to Almighty God who is able to do immeasurably more than al we ask or imagine according to HIS POWER THAT IS AT WORK IN US.! To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen!!
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those whose hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. ( Isaiah 40:29-31)
We are new creatures transformed from caterpillars into butterflies.
Why continue to crawl- when you can FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY?