Be Filled With The Uncontainable Fullness Of God

May 24, 2020 – Ephesians 3.14 – 21 – Pastor Cliff Bergman

Today we come not only to the end of a chapter, but the end of the first section of Ephesians which focuses on every believer’s position in Christ and concludes with a great crescendo of praise to the God whom we serve. Victoriously navigating through daily life and its various demands is dependent on our grasp of who we are in Christ and drawing upon the supernatural resources that are part and parcel of that relationship. As you meditate on the priceless nuggets of truth in these first 3 chapters may they encourage you and fortify your faith and trust in Jesus as your Savior. God’s desire for us goes well beyond us knowing and being able to articulate the fundamental truths of our faith which rest securely on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. Rather God’s desire is for His truth to be thoroughly integrated into who we are and how we live. His desire is that these threads of truth will be woven throughout the fabric of who we are and be evident in every aspect of us. Realizing that experientially is the answer to the overarching appeal Paul made in his prayers in Ephesians. It is summed up in:

Ephesians 1:17 (ESV) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

God’s desire is that we might know Him intimately, from the very depth of our being such that His life pulsates through our own. That is embodied in the Bible’s definition of eternal life,

John 17:3 (ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life is not merely knowing about God, but having a vital and intimate relationship with Him. Experiencing that relationship with God is embodied in Paul’s second prayer which we have given attention to by considering the four appeals he makes in it. The first three, which we have already looked at are:

  1. Be Strengthened Where You Need It Most (Eph 3.16)
  2. Be Home To The Abiding Presence Of Christ (Eph 3.17a)
  3. Be Strengthened With The Unfathomable Love of Christ (Eph 3.17b-19a)

The requests are all interconnected and necessitate supernatural intervention to be realized. At the same time, we must align our focus with God’s and draw upon His enabling strength in order that we experience the full extent of this abiding relationship with Jesus.  Today we will give attention to,

4. Be Filled With The Uncontainable Fullness Of God (Eph 3.19b)

As with the first three, this request also stretches our thinking and comprehension.

Ephesians 3:19 (ESV) and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

How can we be filled with the fullness of God? Or, how can we contain He who is surely uncontainable? It may be helpful to point out that Paul wasn’t seeking that his readers become like God in every manner. God has attributes that apply exclusively to Him, none of which will ever be true of His children. God alone is eternal, meaning He is without beginning or end; He is immutable, or unchanging; as well as omnipresent, or He is everywhere; He is also omniscient, meaning He knows everything there is to be known; He is also omnipotent, meaning there is no limit to His power. Clearly none of those attributes apply to the finite people He created. However, there are attributes that we do share, at least in part, with Him.

1 Peter 1:15 (ESV) but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

Obviously the attribute of holiness is one which we not only ought to strive to attain, but one which we can make progress in achieving as we are sanctified. Consider also the attributes comprising the fruit of the Spirit,

Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

While being filled with the fullness of God stretches our finite comprehension it nevertheless is surely reflected in us as many of the attributes and qualities of God become evident in us. The theme of being filled with the fullness of God was central in Jesus’ final discourse to His disciples on the evening preceding His crucifixion. Its importance is apparent since this is a key part of His final teaching to them. He encouraged His disciples by telling them that even though He would soon be gone physically, He wasn’t going to abandon them and leave them as orphans. To the contrary, He would send the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, to abide in them. That experience is something which is unique to followers of Jesus; it is something the unsaved know nothing of.

John 14:17 (ESV) even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

In this verse Jesus made it clear to His disciples that the Holy Spirit would not only continue to dwell with them, but in the future He would go a step further and dwell in them. Jesus then expanded on His abiding presence with His saints. Carefully read the promises in John 14. In addition to the Holy Spirit, He too, Jesus, would come to them (18). In verse 20 Jesus added that they would be in Him and He would be in them. These words provide greater insight into what it means to be in Christ as emphasized throughout Ephesians. Jesus expanded on what His followers should expect when He said,

John 14:21 (ESV) Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

Jesus manifesting Himself to those who love Him is surely inclusive of Him reaching down into the recesses of our hearts and souls and exposing that which is incompatible with a welcoming place for Him to abide. And having done so, then replacing it with the fruit of the Spirit and the accompanying resolve to walk by faith in His enabling strength. Jesus didn’t stop with that promise but expands further on what it means to be filled with the fullness of God,

John 14:23 (ESV) Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

As you make your way through this comprehensive passage, it is apparent all three Persons of the Trinity are in view as dwelling in every believer, the Holy Spirit in verse 17, Jesus Christ in verses 18, 20 and 21, and then the Father, as well as the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in verse 23. The appeal made in Ephesians 3.19 that the saints be filled with all the fullness of God is the fulfillment of what Jesus said would happen after He was physically gone. Understanding what it means to have the Triune God dwelling in us extends beyond the limits of our finite minds, as well as finding adequate words to describe being filled with all the fullness of God.

Note that the full extent of being filled with the fullness of God isn’t synonymous with salvation, for if that was the case Paul wouldn’t have prayed that it would happen to the saints in Ephesus, since they were already saved. It was about a decade earlier when the Church was established in Ephesus (Act 19) and the believers then were clearly personal recipients of the Holy Spirit. Hence Paul’s appeal that they be filled with the fullness of God was something to be ongoing after conversion. The people in Ephesus were like you and me, seeking to live out their faith in Christ before the watching world. Even though many of us were saved decades ago, we continue to need to be strengthened with power through His Spirt in our inner being. They, like us, needed to be attentive to being welcoming dwellings for Christ. And just like us, despite having experienced the love of God in innumerable ways, they hadn’t fully grasped the unfathomable love of God. And likewise, no matter how long we have known the Lord, there ought to be an ever increasing capacity to be filled anew to overflowing with the uncontainable fullness of God.

Obviously God doesn’t intend our relationship with Him to passive. Instead our relationship with Jesus is to be dynamic and active, one where we seek to mature in our relationship with Him while walking in obedient faith. Turn back to John 14 where Jesus also made it clear obedience is interwoven into our relationship with Him. While obedient living will never succeed in saving anyone, it is nevertheless the unmistakable result of having been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Just like Jesus repeatedly stressed in His final discourse to His disciples that He would fill them with His presence, He equally stressed the importance of obedience by His followers to His commandments.  Note the following verses:

John 14:15 (ESV) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:21 (ESV) Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:23 (ESV) Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Experiencing the ongoing fullness of God in us, is integrally tied to seeking to please the Lord, i.e. knowing what God has said in His word about how we should live, and then following through with that direction from the Scriptures.  The integral link between godly living and God strengthening and empowering us, and filling us with His fullness, is apparent in the promise Jesus culminated this section with,

John 14:27 (ESV) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  

It isn’t just COVID-19 that can rob Christians of peace and fill their hearts with fear. All of us who have been Christians for any length of time know that long before we knew anything about the coronavirus, we encountered times of adversity and sadness that robbed us of peace. We have learned that sometimes our peace was too fragile and it took very little for fear to displace it. Most of us continue to need to be reminded there is only one legitimate source of peace and that is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We need to keep growing in our relationship with the Lord by deepening our understanding of Biblical truth and progressively incorporating it into our lives by walking in obedient faith. Take some time and reflect on what is encompassed in being filled with, not just some, but all the fullness of God. As that truth invades your mind and heart, fear is pushed aside, even in troubled times, and peace takes root.

Too frequently topics like being filled with the fullness of God as detailed here in Ephesians 3.19, or in 5.18 which tells us to be filled with the Spirit, are explained with the claim that the evidence one has been filled with the fullness of God, or with the Spirit, is that they will have some demonstrative experience, or there must be ecstatic manifestations. As a consequence, many tend to dismiss any talk about being filled with  the fullness of God because they equate it with excesses and erroneous teaching. I will leave the discussion about externally manifested experiences for another time. As we shall see when we study Ephesians 5, more often the evidences one has been filled with the fullness of God appear in the day to day lives and experiences of the saints.  It is often the quiet peace of God which surpasses all understanding in the midst of adversity and the accompanying deeply seated assurance that no matter what happens, a believer’s relationship with God is secure. It is secure because it is rooted and grounded in His unfathomable love expressed at the cross of Calvary where our sins were covered with His shed blood. Believers reveal they are filled with the fullness of God as they experience His hand of comfort upon them as they learn of the unexpected death of a loved one. Or as they wait for news of their loved one who is going through 8 hours of extremely delicate surgery. I am reminded of a dear saint who took a lengthy bus ride each day across the city to sit by the bedside of her husband whose mind had slipped away, but who nevertheless was calmed when his wife sat by his side day after day. It is the fullness of God which is apparent when a person perseveres with hope in his or her heart despite financial reversals, or job loss, or betrayal by an unfaithful spouse, or the choices of a rebellious child. It is being filled with all the fullness of God that enables a follower of Jesus to refuse to let go of the outstretched hand of God when faced with persecution for his or her faith. The examples of evidence of people being filled with the fullness of God are innumerable. They line the pages of the history of the Christian Church.

Last week I directed our attention to the 8th chapter of Romans where we are told in

Romans 8:29 (ESV) For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

This undoubtedly encompasses that God’s desire is that we will become more like Jesus each day. Not just in a theological sense, but in a practical and dynamic ways. God’s goal for His children isn’t only that their sins are forgiven and one day they will arrive in heaven, but He wants the longings of our hearts to mirror His, that we will hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Matthew 5:6 (ESV) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Oh that we will find our satisfaction less and less in what the world offers but more and more through our abiding relationship with Jesus. As that happens we will be  less fearful of what the world threatens to take away and increasingly more content with what God promises us.

Conclusion

It is no wonder after Paul detailed His four petitions for supernatural intervention in God’s children and as he envisioned the dramatic change that, that would make in them, that he launched into a grand doxology.

Ephesians 3:20–21 (ESV) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God not only can, but does more than we can ask or think. Wow! More than we can ask or think! Most of us can think pretty big! This isn’t about power or possessions though, it is about those things which God deems important.

Psalm 37:4 (ESV) Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

For the person who delights himself, or herself, in the Lord by living out what it means to be in Christ through an abiding relationship with Him, the desires of their hearts will more and more be synonymous with the desires of God’s heart. The two will become indistinguishable, for God’s desires will be indelibly imprinted through the living word. As we become immersed in Christ, God will do more than we can ask or think. And it will unfold according to God’s power at work within us. No wonder we should join Paul in his doxology of praise and glory in the Church and in Jesus Christ. He has transformed us from being dead in sin, without God, and without hope, headed to a godless eternity, to being a child of God destined to a new heaven and new earth with blessings and joy beyond comprehension. And all that is for God’s glory, which is also for our good, both now, and throughout eternity.

You may feel a bit overwhelmed, as I do, with what is encompassed in being filled with all the fullness of God and what it means today and going forward. May God minister to you through the following song,  The Lord Is My Salvation, by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The first link is to a YouTube video with the lyrics on the screen while the second is a live performance without the lyrics on the screen.  

Without lyrics on the screen.