Part Two: The Colonization
In part one of this examination of Spiritual Colonization, we looked at the colonizer, who was Jesus Christ Himself. As we continue this look at the biblical concept of colonization, we move deeper in Ephesians 3:17. Paul next told the Ephesians the nature and place of this residency when he writes, “may dwell in your hearts.” Now, at first sight this statement looks rather peculiar. Remember, Paul was praying for the Ephesians that this would take place; he was praying about something that had not already taken place. But the question when we read this on the surface is, “is not Christ already dwelling in the believer?” After all, did not Romans 8:9-11 say that a person cannot be a Christian unless Christ was dwelling in them? When a person receives Christ, Christ at that very moment takes up residence in that new believer’s heart, the inner man, so how can Paul be praying for Christ to dwell in them when He already does? According to Ephesians1:18, Paul was convinced that the eyes of their heart had already been enlightened. So, what was Paul praying about here?
To understand the nature of Paul’s request, we must understand the meaning of this term “dwell” that Paul used here. First, understand that it was this idea that bore the focus of Paul’s comments in this verse. It is the word that appears at the front of the clause indicating that Paul was placing extra emphasis upon it. The Greek term that Paul used was a compound word, katoikeo, which was derived from the noun oikeo, to live or settle, and the preposition kata, down. When brought together and used as it is here the word meant to live, dwell, reside, or settle (down) in a place. In other words, to make one’s home in a place or to be at home.
An ancient meaning of this term will help in understanding the implications of this term as used here by the apostle. It could also be used as a reference to inhabiting a place or colonizing it. When a country is colonized, the citizens of a foreign power take up permanent residence in another country that is not like their homeland and begin to transform that country into an extension of their own homeland. They might name cities and regions after cities and regions of their homeland. They will as much as possible plant and grow foods that they are accustomed to eating in their homeland. They will raise livestock that they raised in their homeland. They practice customs as they were practiced in their homeland. They are not changed to conform to the people in the new country, rather the country is transformed into a place in which they are comfortable living due to its similarity to their own homeland.
Now this process usually takes quite some time. So, although they are living in the land that is being colonized, the colonization itself is a process that is carried out usually over a protracted period of time. Here we get a little glimpse into that for which the apostle was praying in Ephesians 3. Although at the very moment of salvation Christ took up residence in the Ephesians through the Holy Spirit, the fullness of experience between Christ and them was still to be accomplished, since it was not an instantaneous reality, the fullness of experience was not. Paul was not praying that they would get saved or that they would get more of Christ, both of which were impossibilities since they were already saved. Paul was praying that Christ would fully inhabit them in an experiential sense. Positionally, He already lived in the Ephesians; but experientially there was still much to be desired regarding the relationship.
Here is a question for us to answer. How comfortable is Christ in us personally? I am not asking how comfortable Christ is in your church, nor am I asking if you are a Christian, nor am I asking if the Holy Spirit indwells you. These are facts for all those who are truly converted. What I am really asking is are you in a condition experientially, practically, that is in your earthly conversation or life, in which Christ is completely at home and settled down in you? Is Christ nothing more than a tolerated visitor or is He an intimate companion who belongs there, a natural part of the environment of your heart?
One author has rightfully identified what Paul is focused upon here. Paul was not referring to the fact of Christ’s presence, so much as he was the quality of it. Every true believer has the personal presence of Christ in them, but some believers are in a state in which they provide a dwelling for Christ that He is more comfortable with than others. And it is this that Paul was beseeching God for the Ephesians to be. Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it this way, “There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.”
Here we are beginning to see the essence of what Paul was addressing in his prayers for the Ephesians. This was Paul’s prayer for the whole church of Ephesus, because this is meant for all believers, not just a choice few super Christians or spiritually elite. You see, when Christ comes into the believer’s life, He begins a process of colonization in which His new abode must be remade to be like or match up with His homeland. Things must change if He is to be comfortable there.
The regions of our heart must be emptied out of the years of worldly clutter that has built up that often impede His free movement from one region of our heart to the next. The cob webs of sin that have entangled themselves around our windows throughout the years must be swept out so that we might more clearly see the world for what it is, the domain of the wicked one, and God’s truth in His Word for what it is, life and strength.
Windows that have been sealed closed through years of no use must be unstuck so that the fresh air of His presence might flow through our inner man. And what of the squeaky doors, messy floors, undone laundry and the like? There is much that must be fixed internally within us if Christ is going to make this house His home. Here we see why our inner man must grow and why we must fight the good fight; for as that takes place we become more and more like that type of dwelling that Christ is most comfortable in, most at home in, most comfortable inhabiting.