We have mentioned that Paul prayed for strengthening of the believers in Ephesus and that his prayer consists of 3 parts: indwelling of Christ, understanding of Christ’s love, and being filled to the fullness of Christ. From the book of Ephesians, being filled with the fullness of God could mean1:
Experiencing God to the fullest.
Paul has mentioned that the the Church is already filled by God (1:23), yet he prays that the Church may be filled. It seems that his prayer is that we are not only positionally filled but that we truly experience the fullest of life made available to us in Christ.2 In other words, while being filled by God is our lives, our desire that it is also our living!
Being like God or like Christ.
The words “fill” and “fullness” are used frequently in the book of Ephesians and its parallel epistle, the book of Colossians. Colossians describes that the fullness of God is in Christ (Col 1:19; 2:9). It is amazing to read that the fullness is also in us. The similarity in phraseology suggests that believers should aim to become more and more like God as we have the capacity to become so (even though we will never be perfectly like Christ).
In chapter 4 of Ephesians, Paul urges believers to live a life worthy of the calling, continue to grow in Christ and “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:13). Growing and becoming mature is Paul’s prayer.
As Paul closes a main section in his letter (chapters 1-3 of Ephesians), he kneels and pray to the Father that we may be strengthened and be filled by the fullness of God. Let us pray for the same thing and make it a pursuit of our lives!
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 TNIV)
Hendriksen, William & Kistemaker, S. J., Exposition of Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001).
Lincoln, Andrew T., Ephesians (Dallas: Word Incorporated, 1990).
O’Brien, Peter T., The letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).
- While Paul does not explicitly explain the meaning of “being filled with the fullness of God” in the immediate context, he uses the phrase in Ephesians and Colossians frequently enough that we can get a good sense of what he is talking about. ↩
- Some commentators explain the prayer in terms of “already but not yet.” While it is possible to understand it that way if we generalize the meaning of the term, but in the original terminology, “already but not yet” refers to the realization of the kingdom of God. Also, in “already but not yet,” we almost never pray for the “already” accomplished things. For example, Christ has already conquered death, so although we still see death and wait for complete fulfillment in the future, we no longer pray that Christ may conquer death because the conquering has already been accomplished. ↩