“Being Filled with All the Fullness of God”
We are exploring Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers and for us in Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul’s ultimate purpose is that we might have the resources to translate the spiritual blessings in Ephesians 1-3 into the shoe leather of our day to day lives. Paul’s prayer has three main requests. Paul asked FIRST that the Ephesians might be strengthened with might in the inner person. This strengthening is ours through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit. SECOND, Paul prayed that Christ might dwell in our hearts by faith. In this request he is asking for our continual submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we are changed from the inside out. THIRD, he prayed that being rooted and grounded in the love of Christ, we might have enough spiritual strength to comprehend a little bit of the vastness of Christ’s love that passes knowledge.
In our meditation for today, we come to the last of Paul’s requests, it is simply “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” There are two questions that we need to ask and answer. What does it mean to be filled with all the fullness of God? Second, what does being filled with the fullness of God look like in our lives?
Perhaps the place to begin is by discussing what being filled with the fullness of God does not mean. Some try to tell us that this type of request does not apply to us “normal Christians.” These people believe there is a class of spiritually elite Christians. These exclusive folks supposedly can receive special “higher” knowledge – some kind of special revelation from God, to have an experience of God that is denied other people.
In this thinking only these who are spiritually elite can know what it means to be filled with all the fullness of God. The Apostle Paul has already taken great pains in this paragraph to show us that this is not the case here at all. Pau prays for all the believers in Ephesus, not just for some special believers. He also has already told us that this knowledge is something we share “with all the saints.” So, this is not for the spiritually elite, those who have extraordinary faith or experienced a second blessing or something of that sort. This is something every one of us should have constantly in our lives.
Since this is not a blessing just for the super Christian, what is this about? The verb “that you might be filled” means “to fill with content”. It can be used in both a literal and a figurative sense. Let me give you just two examples.
In one of the parables that the Lord told in Matthew 13, we read: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away” (verses 47-48). In this text, our word refers to a fishing net filled with fish. The word is used in its literal sense.
In John 16:6 we find our word used in a figurative way. “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” The Lord Jesus did not open the top of their heads and pour sorrow into them. He is saying that sorrow has captured their thoughts and minds and so figuratively has filled the disciples’ hearts.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote continually about being filled. Let me show you what I mean. Let us take a walking tour of the letter to the Ephesians. First at Chapter 1:22-23. “Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, He is the fullness that fills all in all.”
Another place he mentions this filling is in 4:7-10. “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.’ (Now this, ‘He ascended’—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” He did all this in order that He might fill all believers in His church.
In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul again mentions fullness. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Finally, in Ephesians 5:15-18, we read. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”
The reference we are studying in Ephesians 3:19 is related to these other references to filling. All of them have to do with Christ or the Holy Spirit filling us. So, this request is not something that is special for only the select few believers. They also speak of our being filled with God Himself. What does this tell us about being filled with the fullness of God?
To understand this, we need to understand a little more fully what the word filling means when it is used figuratively. Remember John 16:6? Jesus has just told the disciples about what would happen when He went to His Father. Their response understandably was profound sadness. They had invested three plus years in Him, living with Him, spending their days with Him, learning from Him. Now He was going to die and their relationship with Him would change forever. Sadness suddenly took over their emotions and mental functions. For a time, all they could think about was what it would be like without the Lord Jesus with them. In a sense, sadness took control of them. They were under the influence of sadness. If you have ever lost someone close, you know what this feels like.
Now jump ahead to the statement in Ephesians 5:18. “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” Being drunk with alcohol leads to a state of intoxication. You drive in this state and they arrest you for driving under the influence (or control) of alcohol. Paul put this comparison there to help us understand what being filled with the Spirit is. It is living under the influence or control of the Holy Spirit of God, actively obeying Him in our day to day lives!
This is also what Paul is praying for us here in 3:19, that we might be filled with (under the control of) all the fullness of God. When God controls our hearts and our lives, He produces in us and through us a manifestation of His attributes. Remember God has two kinds of attributes – His communicative and His non-communicative. God’s non-communicative attributes are things like GOD’S ETERNITY. God has no beginning and no end. He always was, is and always will be We all have a beginning, but praise God, we will have no end Another of God’s intransitive attributes is HIS OMNISCIENCE. God knows all things. Contrary to what some may think God does not share that attribute with Pastors or other church leaders. He is also OMNIPRESENT, He fills the heavens and the earth. HE IS OMNIPOTENT. He can do anything He wants to do. We cannot. You get the idea.
On the other hand, God’s has communicative attributes which we can share in as God takes control of our lives. God as to His nature is LOVE. And when God has control of our hearts, we love God Himself and our brothers and sisters in the Lord. GOD IS A GOD OF PEACE and He delights in producing that peace in our hearts. GOD IS HOLY. He desires to produce in us practical holiness.
So, the evidence of being filled with all the fullness of God is not ecstatic utterances. It is the work of God in our hearts to make us like Him. The Apostle Paul told us this in the famous list in Galatians 5 called “fruit of the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” There are four specific qualities that being filled with the Spirit produce in us in Ephesians 5:18-20. “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” I have underlined the participles to show the four things that being filled produces in the life of the believer.
Now let us get practical. How does this work and how can it be present in our lives? It begins with having Christ in us. We experience this fullness as we in the language of chapter 4, “grow up into Him who is the head.” Listen to the reason that the Lord Jesus gives Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers to the church. “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST.” Growing in Christ is really living the reality of John 3.30 “[the Lord Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”
Two questions we need to ask. Are you saved? Have you put your trust in the Lord Jesus to save you? You can’t know the filling of the fullness of God, if you are not saved. Second, are we growing up our relationship with Him? Is He increasing and because He is increasing, we are decreasing?