Part Five: The Outcome of the Colonization (a)
Having articulated the result of his first prayer request, Paul closed out his recounting of it to the Ephesians by describing the outcome of this process of colonization. His first prayer request, for spiritual empowerment which results in spiritual residency, will in turn produce great spiritual intimacy. Paul describes this intimacy at the end of 3:17, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love.” Now, there is some disagreement among students of God’s word regarding the ending of 3:17. While everyone believes it is an outgrowth of Christ’s dwelling, it is not agreed upon regarding whether Paul frames it here as the conclusion of the first request, or the beginning of a more detailed discussion of the purpose of the request, which some argue spans to the end of 3:19.
The latter position is the more popular of the two views. It argues that in this passage we have one basic request of the apostle Paul that is found in 3:16-17a, and the rest of the paragraph gives the purpose of this request. It is this position that most of the English translations have opted to follow. While it is a good position, it is not the only possible way of understanding Paul’s prayer. Based on the Greek text, which is comprised of a series of what are called ina (purpose) clauses in the Greek text, I have opted to follow the first position, which is that in this passage you have three prayer requests: 3:16-17, 18-19, 19, which each build upon one other, climaxing in the third one. That being the case, 3:17 would better be translated “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you might be rooted and grounded in love.” Therefore, the end of 3:17 does not set up Paul’s words in 3:18 as our English versions imply, but rather close out Paul’s first request. With this being the case, 3:18 would have to have a more literal translation from the Greek text that reads something like this “that you might be able to comprehend.”
With this in mind then, Paul’s final words in 3:17 indicate what the outgrowth of Christ’s settling down in the believer’s life will be. As believers are empowered with spiritual power through the divine agency of the Holy Spirit, they will find Christ steadily taking over more and more of their lives, colonizing their hearts, to which believers respond through faith. The outcome of this divine action and human reaction, will be a life in which Christian love has become the undergirding. Paul wrote “that you might be rooted and grounded in love.”
The first term, “rooted,” is of course drawn from the plant world and refers to the idea of causing a plant to take root or taking root. This term was used figuratively to refer to establishing something or fixing it firmly. The second term, “grounded,” was a word taken from the context of construction and building. It meant to provide a structure with a foundation, to lay or construct a foundation. This term was used figuratively to describe laying a firm foundation, establishing, strengthening, or providing a firm basis for belief, practice, life, or conduct in a Christian sense.
The use by Paul of both of these terms clearly indicates that Paul is here identifying a basic or foundational reality in the believer’s life that provides both stability on the one hand and a spring board to behavior and conduct on the other. Let us explore these realities a little. Both roots and foundations provide stability for those things with which they are related, plants and buildings. But just as roots and foundations communicate stability, roots and foundations communicate growth and advancement. In fact, roots and foundations by themselves look strange and odd, demanding that there be something there to complete them. It might be truly said that the reason for roots and foundations is for the life and structure that grows out of or on them.
Both of these ideas of stability and growth are pictured for us figuratively when Jesus summarizes His Sermon on the Mount with the following analogy:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall (Mt. 7:24-27).
The foundation of the structure lent stability to it, and it was upon such a sure foundation that an effective structure could be built.
Both of these terms are used in reference to the prepositional phrase “in love.” This is agape love, that is a rational love of decision, which is a concrete evidential love that determines to act towards another in kindness, goodwill, and esteem independent of the object’s reciprocity. Unlike the love of family, storge, the love of passion or desire, eros, or the love of reciprocity, philia, agape is always determined to extend itself selflessly for the beloved.
But what Paul did not tell the Ephesians in 3:17 was what love was being referred to. Is it the believer’s love for other believers? Is it the believer’s love for God or Christ? Is it God’s or Christ’s love for the believer? Which of these are we to understand Paul to be referring to? The answer is found not in this ending statement, but in what produces it and from where it is produced, Christ’s settling down in the believer’s heart. What type of love does Christ produce, is Christ comfortable with, and springs from the heart where Christ is? We will examine this next time.