“Being Strengthened with Might in the Inner Person” Ephesians 3.16
Strengthening ourselves in God is important if we are to be able to live for the Lord in our day to day lives. In Ephesians 3, when the Apostle Paul marks the transition from the doctrinal to the applicational part of his epistle, he stops to pray for his readers. This prayer is the subject of many messages, but I am afraid it is not the topic of many intercessory prayers. It is remarkable for its incredible requests. “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14–19). The first reqest is the subject of our meditation.
If we are interceding for others in the church, brothers and sisters in the Lord, what do we generally pray for them? Most likely, we pray for temporal things—things like health, wealth, and prosperity. It is not wrong to pray for these things. Still, these are not the things Paul prayed for his readers. Paul’s first prayer request for them and for us was, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner person.”
While not praying for our temporal blessings, the Apostle Paul does plead for our eternal and spiritual health, wealth, and prosperity. In order to wrap our minds around this prayer request, there are three questions that we need to ask and answer. First, who or what is this inner person? Second, why does our inner person need to be strengthened? Finally, we need to know how this strengthening is accomplished?
The first and perhaps foundational request in Paul’s prayer is that God will strengthen us in our inner person. It is barely possible that before we read this request we didn’t even know an inner being existed. So, who or what is this inner person that Paul desires to be strengthened? To answer the question we need to explore two other texts that teach us about the inner person.
Romans 7:21-23 is the first reference to the inner person. The Apostle writes about him in his vivid account of his personal struggle with indwelling sin. “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God in the inward person, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” He says in verse 22 that he delights in the law of God in his heart of hearts, the inner person. In the part of him where the real Apostle Paul dwells, that person that no one sees but God, that person delights in and desires to carry out the good and righteous commands of God. Although he desires to please God and delight in God’s law in his heart, he struggles against sin in his life.
The inner person in this case is the spiritual part of Paul that is responsive to God. While part of Paul does not want to obey God, the part of him he calls the inward person does want to do what God would have him do.
A second reference that we need to look at is 2 Corinthians 4:16. Paul in this context is writing about the struggles of the ministry. He speaks eloquently of the trials and tests that he was willing to endure to bring the gospel to the Corinthian believers and to others. Our response may be, “Paul, how do you keep going? How can you hold on in the midst of such trouble? How do you keep on keeping on?” He would say that he understands God’s plan for this present age. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
The word translated “renewed” is drawn from the Greek word for new that means “new in quality.” The mercies of God are new every morning. Paul’s relationship with the living God is fresh, new, and growing every day. So, the inner person is the real person. He is seen in direct contrast with the outward man, the man everybody sees. He is the man that really counts. The outward person is falling apart. We who are getting older know how painfully true this is. However, the inner person is growing and being made fresh every day. Perhaps, when we greet one another, we should ask, “how is your inner person doing?”
Getting back to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, who is this inner person that Paul prays the spirit of God will strengthen? In our brief survey we have learned something about his identity. Our inner person is who we really are; the one who lives where only God and each of us can see. Second, he is the part of us who sees and responds to spiritual realities. The inner person is the part of us who loves and delights in God. Finally, our inner person is the part of us that God created anew when He saved each of us and the inner person is the part of us that God wants to make new every day.
Now that we know who this inner person is, we now need to ask the question: “Why does he need to be strengthened?” The obvious answer is our inner being needs to be strengthened because he isn’t strong enough already. How do we know we are weak in our inner person?
Just look at Paul’s experience. In Romans 7:22. Paul spoke of the fact that he delighted in God’s righteous law in the inner person. But when we step back and look at the larger context, we survey the field of battle in Paul’s life. He found in himself he wanted to do right yet, because of the principle of sin in his body, he could not do what he wanted to do. Instead, he found himself doing what he didn’t want to do. Can we identify with the Apostle Paul in this? Do we often fail in our struggle with sin? So, through the Holy Spirit’s strengthening the inner person we can have victory over sin and the ability to live to please God.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16, we find the second example of Paul’s experience. “Therefore we do not lose heart.” In spite of all the difficulties of the ministry, we don’t quit. The Apostle Paul does not quit because, although the outer man is falling apart, the inner person is being renewed—getting better and better–every day.
A strong inner person accomplishes three things. A strong inner person allows us to overcome adversity, because our focus is the sufficiency of God. A strong inner person also allows us to keep from giving up because our inner person is drawing strength from the infinite supply of the Holy Spirit. A strong inner person is the best defense against the psychological and emotional onslaught of Satan’s forces. The inner person sees reality as it really is and sees God as He really is. So, in view of this, is our inner person strong enough? No. So, Paul prays that our inner being might be strengthened by power through the Holy Spirit?
How then does God provide strength in our inner beings? Prayer is a key. Paul knew that and that is why he prayed that we would experience this strengthening. How do we usually pray for ourselves? “Lord, change our circumstances.” “Take away this trial.” Perhaps, we should pray, “Lord, strengthen us in our inner being that we might grow through all of this.” Have we prayed this way for someone else? Have we prayed this way for our selves?
The Holy Spirit is the source, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner person” (verse 16). This strengthening comes from the ministry of God, the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can have this enablement as we yield control to Him.
When God the Holy Spirit strengthens us with power in our inner person, He doesn’t just zap us. He uses the word of God to transform us and to be the source of our strength. Paul wrote to show us the viewpoint of the inner being that is being renewed every day. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
The Apostle’s first request is unusual in that we don’t usually think in these terms. Yet, it is an important one. If we are to be able to receive the rest of the blessings that Paul requests for us, and if we are to carry out the practical admonitions, we must have the strengthening ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Therefore, let us pray for it. Let us dwell on the Word and submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit of God in order that we might experience this strengthening in our lives. Paul is not praying for theory her but for reality. Let us seek to know and have this strength.