099 - Strengthened by the Holy Spirit [B]
Strengthened by the Holy Spirit
Ephesians Lesson #099
April 4, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are indeed grateful that we have this time to come together to rejoice in our salvation, to be reminded that we are saved, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to Your mercy You saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
“Father, we know that salvation is not based on anything that we do, but it is based exclusively on what Christ did on the Cross. His death there was in our stead on our behalf. He paid the penalty in full for us so that in His death we have forgiveness. We are cleansed from sin, we are justified when we trust in Christ as Savior; and therefore, we are assured of our everlasting life.
“Father, as we continue to study about Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 and taking lessons from that as to how we should be praying for ourselves and for others, we pray that You would open our eyes to the truth of Your word that we might be edified and encouraged. In Christ’s name, Amen.”
Open your Bibles to Romans 6. We’re studying what it means to be strengthened by the Spirit in Ephesians 3. But we’re going to begin by looking at Romans 6:1–6, because I believe that the verses in this section lay down for us the basic foundation of our spiritual life.
It shows that in the teaching of the New Testament, the significance of the resurrection of Christ is directly tied to our spiritual life, so we need to understand this as we study this topic as part of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3.
The chapter begins with Paul asking this rhetorical question, “What shall we say then?” That leads to an understanding of the context: what happened. In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul established the fact that we are all sinners.
Every single human being is a sinner, and sin is not some horrible egregious thing, sin can be what most people think is not so big a deal, and that is just pride, arrogant, self-sufficiency, as opposed to God-dependence.
Sin involves sins of the mind. I read a comment recently that one of the greatest things they came to understand learning the Bible is the issue of mental attitude sins. I don’t know how anybody can ever think that they are sinless or that it really doesn’t apply to them when mental attitude sins are emphasized in Scripture as some of the worst sins. They are self-destructive, and they can be destructive of relationships with others.
Mental attitude sins include anger, resentment, and refusal to forgive others for past wrongs. Mental attitude sins eat away at the soul, especially those related to lust, as Peter says. These sins destroy the soul, they are self-destructive.
They lead to the more overt sins: the sins of tongue, like gossip and slander, reviling others, as well as other overt sins in terms of theft, of criminality, of violence, of murder, things of this nature. But those mental attitude sins are at the very root.
Once Paul establishes that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, then he focuses on God’s solution in Romans 4 and 5. Only God could solve the problem of human sin.
No human being born other than Jesus, who is born of a virgin, is born without the taint of sin. All are born guilty of Adam’s original sin; and therefore, born corrupt and spiritually dead.
The only way to be saved, as Paul says in Romans 4:1–5 is to be justified by faith, as illustrated by Abraham in the Old Testament that we trust in Christ. In the Old Testament it was a trust in God’s promise of a future salvation.
In the New Testament it is a trust in the completed work of Christ on the Cross. At the instant that we trust in Christ, God the Father imputes or credits to us perfect righteousness, the righteousness of Christ.
“He who knew no sin was made sin for us that the righteousness of God might be found in us.” That is not an experiential righteousness, but is referred to as imputed righteousness. And because we are now clothed in the righteousness of Christ, God declares us to be righteous, to be justified. We are not changed morally. God does not eradicate our sin nature, but He declares us to be righteous.
Some who Paul is addressing in Romans 6:1 may hear that and say, “Well, if Christ died for my sins and I’m forgiven, then I can just do whatever I want to do!” The answer to that is, “May it never be.” That’s the rhetorical question that Paul deals with,
Roman’s 6:1–2, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin, live in it?” There’s an important question.
We haven’t lost that capacity to sin, but the Bible teaches that positionally, that is, in terms of our legal position before God, we have died to sin in the sense that he will describe that we are no longer under the absolute tyranny of the sin nature. That power has now been broken. This is something that never happened in the Old Testament. This is something that is new to the post-cross dispensation.
He explains this in Romans 6:3–4, “Or do you not know—in other words, it’s important to understand the principle that is taught throughout the New Testament.—do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
“Baptism” is a word that has caused a lot of confusion, a lot of difficulty. As matter of fact, it has caused a lot of violence over the years as people disagreed about what it meant. It was so controversial that the early translators of the Bible, men like John Wycliffe in the 14th century, William Tyndale, who was the genuine forerunner of English translators in the 16th century, and others that were involved in translating the Bible from the original languages into English, rather than translate BAPTIZO, the Greek verb, they simply transliterated it to avoid the fights. What that did was just obfuscate the meaning; it didn’t solve anything.
The basic, literal meaning of the Greek BAPTIZO, is to dip, to plunge or to immerse something. It was often used to describe taking cloth and immersing it into a die and in that process, the cloth would take on the color of the dye. That led to a figurative use where, as the cloth is identified with the dye, it changes its color, to the idea that what baptism signifies as a figurative term is identification with something.
For example, in the classical period of Greek history, BAPTIZO was used to describe that which occurred when a new recruit in the military after basic training would have an initiatory rite. He would take his sword or his spear, and dip it into a bucket of pigs’ blood, indicating that he was identified with death, and he was now ready to go to war even to the point of killing the enemy.
It picks up as a figurative sense this idea of identification, and that’s what’s so important to understand in the Bible, is that baptism has to do with an identification with Christ’s death on the cross.
So about the baptism that’s mentioned here, if we change the word to its figurative meaning, then we would say, “Do you not know that as many of us as were identified with Christ were identified with His death?” That communicates! People understand what that means, and that is what the word signifies here.
Interestingly, there are eight different baptisms in the Bible, and for a lot of people, whenever they hear the word “baptism,” they think of getting wet either through sprinkling or through being immersed in water. But actually of these eight baptisms, only three involve the person being baptized getting wet. In fact, in two of them, the people who got wet were not being identified in the correct way, and they lost their lives.
The first three that have to do with a wet baptism that is identifying them in a positive way has to do, first of all, with the baptism of John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s message was “repent for the kingdom of God is near.”
That was his announcement, because he was the forerunner of the Messiah. His mission was to prepare the nation Israel for the coming of the Messiah and that meant they had to change the way they did things.
They had to change their mind about the Law, they had to change their mind about God. In some cases, that meant becoming a believer by trusting in the promise of salvation, the Old Testament promise of salvation. For others it meant that they were saved: they had trusted in that redemptive promise of God in the Old Testament.
But they had drifted from God, they were not living a life that would honor God, or they were not obeying the Law as they should have, so they needed to change their mind and turn back to God to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah and the coming of the Kingdom.
That was John’s baptism; his message when he says to be baptized was to identify the people with his message. They were identifying with his message that they were going to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah and the coming of the Kingdom.
The second wet baptism was the baptism of Jesus. At the beginning of His ministry, He came down and was baptized by John the Baptist. He doesn’t have anything to repent for because He is the perfect Son of God; He is without sin.
He came and was identified, not with the message of John, but He was identifying with the plan and purpose of God to present Himself publicly to Israel as the Messiah, the Promised Savior; the One who would save His people from their sins.
The third wet baptism is believers’ baptism, when a person has trusted in Christ as Savior, then after he is given some instruction to make sure that he understands the gospel, he understands the purpose of baptism, that it is not to do anything to impress God. It is not done as a way to secure their salvation or things of that nature, it doesn’t wash away their sins literally.
The purpose of water baptism for the believer is to give a visible picture of a very abstract teaching in Scripture, the baptism that’s mentioned here, which is the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Many get very confused about the baptism by the Holy Spirit, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit is explained here in Romans 6:3–6, that at the instant that we trust Christ as Savior, this event occurs.
We don’t feel any different, it doesn’t give us a warm fuzzy glow, it doesn’t make us more saved, but it is a tool like communion to remind us of what happened, the transaction that occurred in the heavenly sphere at the instant that we trusted Christ.
When we trust Christ as Savior, we are instantly identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and that has a great significance. Because being identified in His death indicates the fact that we are now free from the penalty of sin. The eternal penalty of sin is assigned to every person who does not trust in Christ as Savior.
John says in John 3:18 that we are to believe in the name of the Son of God, and if not, then we are condemned already. We are already in a state of spiritual death, and condemned, but the only condition for being delivered from condemnation is to believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God, to believe in who Jesus is and what He did for us on the Cross.
Then we go off into other dry baptisms. There’s the baptism of Noah; those who are identified with Noah were only seven others: his wife, his three sons, and their three wives. They’re identified with him, so they get on the ark where they will be perfectly dry, and then everyone else on the planet is destroyed in the flood. For those who get wet, it’s a punishment.
Same thing happens at the Exodus event when Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt. They get trapped with the Red Sea at the back, and he calls upon the Lord to deliver them. God parts the Red Sea; the Israelites go through the opening where it is dry; they do not get wet.
They’re identified with Moses in his faith and his mission before God. Then after all the Israelites have crossed, then the waters come crashing down and drowned the Egyptian army. So the ones who get wet, once again, are wet from judgment, and they are destroyed.
Then you have the baptism of the Cross, when Christ is identified with our sins on the Cross, and He pays the penalty for our sins.
There is the baptism of fire when in the future there are those who have not trusted in Christ, and they are brought to eternal judgment.
But the baptism by the Holy Spirit is the one that is emphasized here, Romans 6:3–4, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were identified into Christ Jesus identified with Christ were identified into his death. Therefore we were buried with Him through identification—it a spiritual identification with his death—that just as Christ was raised from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The result of understanding this is that when we are saved, as Paul will state it in Ephesians 2:10, we were saved for good works, not because of good works; that we are saved for the purpose of walking in newness of life.
There are a number of times, and we will go through this in detail when we get to the last three chapters of Ephesians, which we’re very close to, where the focus shifts to our spiritual life—how we live. This is always described with this metaphor of walking, and that is important.
Here it is walking in newness of life. Because we have been identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, we have been given new life in Him. As Jesus said, He came not like a thief to destroy, but He came to give life and to give it abundantly.
Many people think, “If I become a Christian, I’ve got to give up everything.” Well, if you become a Christian, you’re going to gain so much more. You’re blessed with all the heavenly blessings, you’re blessed with more than you can think or imagine, and God doesn’t ask you to give up anything. He only says believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
The purpose of the resurrection is not payment for sin. The purpose of the resurrection is to be the benchmark for this new life that we have in Christ.
In Romans 6:6 Paul says, “because we know this, that our old man—that is everything that we were before we are saved. Old man doesn’t mean your sin nature because that is still very active—was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with.”
The old man, all that you were before you were saved was crucified in the past for the purpose that something will take place in the future. That which takes place in the future is that you will learn not to walk according to your sin nature. He goes on to say in Romans 6:10 that we are to “consider ourselves dead to sin.”
In the Old Testament and up to the point of the beginning of the Church Age when the apostles were the first to undergo this baptism by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, there was never this break of the sin nature in the Old Testament. The Law doesn’t provide for that. But now that we are in Christ there is this break with the sin nature, and that is because of this ministry that is described as the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit.
As we prepare to look at our passage, which talks about being strengthened through the Spirit, I just want to remind you of some of the ministries of God the Holy Spirit.
On the left column are ministries that took place at the instant that you trusted in Christ as Savior. They’re all non-experiential, meaning you didn’t feel anything. You might have felt elated because now you’re going to be saved, but that doesn’t have anything to do with these things happening.
Some people are sick, and they don’t feel any better. Imagine the thief on the cross. He is suffering excruciating pain, just like the Lord Jesus Christ, and he turns to the Lord Jesus Christ and he says, “Remember me today in Your Kingdom.”
At that instant he is saved because Christ has recognized that he has trusted in Him and His messianic promise at that instant. But he didn’t feel any better. When you’re hanging nailed to a cross, there’s not anything that’s going to make you feel better. This is a legal transaction that occurs in Heaven.
- Regenerated; you are made a new creature in Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.”
We know from Titus 3:5 that this is “not by works of righteousness which you have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. At that instant we are given new life in Him. We are made alive together with Him as we studied in Ephesians 2:4–7, where it says that we Jew and Gentile are made alive together with Him, we are raised together, and we are seated together with Him in the heavenlies. That is our legal position in Christ. All of that took place at the instant of salvation.
- The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9, 11. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says, “Or do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?” God the Holy Spirit comes to indwell permanently in every believer in Christ. You cannot lose it. It won’t be taken from you.
- Sealed by the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. Twice in Ephesians we are told that we have been sealed. If we have trusted in Christ as Savior, we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. That sealing secures our eternal salvation. It is described in Ephesians 1:14 that the Holy Spirit is the guarantor of our inheritance, so that it cannot be lost.
You can’t commit a sin that will cause you to lose your salvation, because there is no sin that is too great for the grace of God. There is no sin that God forgot about, and Christ didn’t pay for on the Cross. And sin is no longer the issue because Christ has paid the penalty for all sin. The issue is trusting in Him and when we do that we have eternal forgiveness.
- We also received a spiritual gift at the instant of salvation distributed by God the Holy Spirit.
- We are baptized, identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
- Lastly, God the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers and is the One who makes our prayers efficacious by sort of cleaning them up and making them communicate as they should. Paul says in Romans 8:26, “For we don’t know how to pray as we ought, but God the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.”
Those are permanent realities that we have, and so much more in Christ. Those are part of all of those blessings that we are given at the instant of salvation.
- There is one ministry that is repeated that is distinct, which is also mentioned in Ephesians 5:18, Paul said, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled by means of the Holy Spirit.”
We’ve gone through this a lot. Filling by the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we get more of the Holy Spirit, but that the Holy Spirit is the means by which we are filled with something.
Just to remind you as we read through Ephesians 5:20 and following, it results in being thankful, grateful to God for all things and we start to submit to one another in the fear of God. It also involves speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord.
Compare that with Colossians 3:15 and following, the results listed in Ephesians 5:19 and following are the same results that come from “letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us” in Colossians 3:15.
If you do one act and it results in certain things, and performing another act results in those same things, then those two acts are looking at the same thing in different perspectives.
Ephesians 5:18, “be filled by means of the Spirit.” It doesn’t tell you what you’re being filled with. Colossians 3:15 says we’re filled with the Word of Christ, the Word of God, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” It is the Spirit of God who uses the Word of God to strengthen us and to mature us spiritually.
This is what we’re getting at in our passage in Ephesians 3:14–16. Look at that passage with me as we continue.
Ephesians 3:14, “For this reason,” Paul says, “I bow my knees.” In other words, he’s saying I prayed to the Father.
We talked about the fact that we are not to pray to the Son. We are not to pray to the Spirit. All of the examples in Scripture of prayer are all addressed to the Father. We have passages in Ephesians, Colossians, and other passages that we are to give thanks to the Father, but nowhere does it say to give thanks to the Son or give thanks to the Holy Spirit.
We are always to direct our prayers to the Father. We have God the Holy Spirit, as well as Jesus Christ our High Priest interceding for us. We don’t pray to the intercessors. We pray to the One to whom they are interceding. We pray to the Father.
Ephesians 3:15, “… from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
It’s difficult to interpret this passage, but it indicates that God the Father is the Creator of all mankind. He is not the spiritual Father of all mankind; that only comes one way.
John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave he the power to be called the sons of God.”
The only way to enter into God’s family is through salvation, but in a broader metaphorical sense, God is the One who is the creator of all human beings, the sense in which it is used here. That means that there are no ethnic differences in the human race. We’re all human beings, every single one of us, and we are not to put any kind of emphasis on whatever skin tones there might be.
This is especially brought out in terms of the body of Christ in what we’ve studied in Ephesians 2 and Ephesians 3 that because we are all one in Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, or any other ethnicities. We are all as believers one in Christ. Our job is to be conformed to the image of Christ. It is not our job to be conformed to some subculture identity.
We are to focus upon our mission as believers to be one in Christ. Paul is praying; the content of his prayer comes in Ephesians 3:16, “that God would grant us—something that emphasizes grace. What he is praying for specifically is that we are “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.”
I built this staircase for us to remind us of the progression here. Paul is not listing different things that he prays for. There is a structure to these prayers. He prays to the Father,
We asked the question, why is he praying to the Father? For what is he praying?
He prays that the Father would use the Holy Spirit to strengthen them in their spiritual life.
Here’s the point, if Paul thinks it’s so important that he needs to pray to God for the Ephesian believers that God would strengthen them through the Holy Spirit in their spiritual life, then that should be something we should be praying for others, as well as for ourselves.
Interestingly, there are several books that list all the prayers of Paul and all the prayers of the Bible. The things that the apostles prayed for are not the things we usually pray for, and the things that we usually pray for are never mentioned.
The application there is we need to figure out what we’re supposed to actually be praying for, and the Scripture gives us that pattern and that information.
He’s praying that the Father would use the Holy Spirit to strengthen them in their spiritual life. Why does he want us to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit?
So that Christ would make His home in us
Christ permanently indwells us; that’s our positional truth. That is our legal position before God: Christ is in us, the hope of glory. But for Him to be at home in us in terms of fellowship is a different issue.
We should ask the question, why does Paul want Christ to be at home in us?
Revelation 3:20 is horribly taken out of context by many organizations, where Jesus is standing at the door of the church, knocking, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice, I will come in and sup with him—or dine with him.” That’s the picture of fellowship.
Two verses earlier God says that He has PHILEO love, there are different words in the Greek for “love.” God never has a PHILEO love where the object of His love are unbelievers. He has agape love for unbelievers, but not PHILEO. That’s a more intimate love. That’s reserved for only those who are already saved.
Even though this church is really messed up, Christ isn’t knocking on the door saying, “Let me in so I can save you,” He is knocking on the door saying, “You need to let Me be a part of your spiritual life, so that you can grow.” They’re already saved.
We do not get saved by inviting Jesus into our nasty little life, our corrupt, spiritually dead soul. We believe in Jesus. Over 95 times in the Gospel of John, John says the issue is believing in Him. Believe in His name; trust in Him. Nowhere in the Bible does it say commit your life to Jesus. Nowhere does it say invite Him into your life.
Revelation 3:20 is often used for that, and it’s the same idea that we have here, that Christ would make His home in them. They’re already saved, but Jesus isn’t at home in their lives at this point. Just like the church of Laodicea, Jesus is not at home in them. He is excluded from the life of the church. But they’re still saved.
The result is in his prayer that the Father would use the Holy Spirit to strengthen them with the first result: that Christ would make His home in them.
The purpose for that is so that they can begin to comprehend the immensity, the infinitude of Christ’s love for them.
Notice how important it is that letting the Holy Spirit strengthen them is related to their ability to love one another and to exhibit the love of Christ in their life. We will see a correlation to that.
Why does he want them to know the love of Christ? The ultimate result is so that you might be spiritually mature, reflecting the love of Christ in your life.
That’s the staircase to maturity. We need to learn to love as Christ loved. But that only comes as a result of the Holy Spirit.
He is praying that they would be strengthened, and is linked to “with might.” It’s through the Spirit in the inner man.
These are the four components of this verse that are important to understand.
We are “to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man.”
The phrase “to be strengthened” is a verb in the Greek that means to become strong, to make strong. This is a concept that is often talked about in Scripture. It’s not just something new that Paul’s talking about here, but it goes back even to the Old Testament.
For example, Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say on the Lord!”
They didn’t have the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Spirit’s not mentioned there, but the focal point for them was to wait on the Lord and God would be the One who would strengthen them. It’s interesting how that is connected to the concept of courage.
Which is how this is translated in some different translations, but it is in the sense of what is being strengthened. They’re strengthened in the sense of having courage to follow God, to trust God in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul says, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”
Notice, both the Old Testament and New Testament connect the concept of courage to strength, because in our lives we’re going to face difficult circumstance. Sometimes we’re like David in Psalms, we’re facing enemies who seek our life because they’re in competition with us. They want our job, or they despise us because we’re Christians. The encouragement here is to be strong in the Lord who strengthens us.
It is God the Holy Spirit who strengthens us, so in church history you have many examples of martyrs who died for their faith during the time of the reign of Bloody Mary in the mid-16th century. Go back to the Roman Empire and some of the persecutions there, and it’s amazing, the courage and the strength that these believers had to face horrible, horrible torture and death.
Yet they would go to their graves singing hymns to God, praising God, and giving the gospel to the crowds and to those who were persecuting and torturing them.
We are to be strengthened with might,
This always takes us back to God’s power, which we looked at this last week. I want to hit a couple of things that I said last time by way of review.
1. God’s power is unlimited. His omnipotence refers to the fact that He is able to do whatever He desires to do. God is able to accomplish anything. OMNI indicates that His power is without limits. He is omnipotent.
In the Scriptures, His omnipotence relates to the three areas:
- Creation—He who created everything. If God is able to create an atom and lock into that atom the power that an atom has, don’t you think He has the ability to handle any problem that we face? It is very simple. God has the ability.
We see the emphasis in His creation.
Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
- The resurrection of Christ.
Romans 1:4, Christ’s resurrection “… declared Him to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness …”
1 Corinthians 6:14, “And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.” He has the ability to give us life even after death.
1 Corinthians 15:43, our physical body “is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” God has the power to resurrect us, to give us life eternal.
2 Corinthians 13:4, “For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God.” God’s power is that which strengthens the believer.
Paul prayed in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” The reason he is praying this is related to what we’re studying in Ephesians 3, that ties to spiritual strength and power.
It is applied to the gospel. Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
1 Peter 1:5, “we are kept by the power of God.”
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This all describes that divine power by which God has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness.
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Ephesians 3:16, we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit …” It is God the Holy Spirit who is doing this.
Here we have an interesting phrase in the Greek. It is the preposition DIA plus the noun PNEUMA, but it has the article with it, which is unusual.
In Greek, you can often simply replace the article with the preposition, so that just by having the preposition in front implies that the noun is definite. But when the writer wants to emphasize the specificity of the noun, he may include the article as well.
He is making it very clear that we are strengthened through, the pronoun “His” Spirit, but it also has that article there to really make it clear this is through God the Holy Spirit, which is being focused on here.
The use of this preposition is very similar; in fact, it’s hard to explain the difference. In Ephesians 5:18 we are to be filled by means of the Spirit. It uses a different preposition and a different form of the noun. It’s EN plus the dative. Here it is DIA plus the genitive.
It’s the same kind of construction we have it in Ephesians 2:8–9, “for by grace you have been saved through faith.” It emphasizes the immediate agent who is producing the action. For salvation, it is our faith. In this passage the One who strengthens us is God’s Spirit, and this takes place in the inner man.
This is parallel, Ephesians 3:17, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
“In your hearts” in that verse ties back to the inner man. It is our spiritual life that he’s focusing on here, so the inner man relates to our spiritual life, not strengthening our outer man.
You do that by going to the gym or walking or whatever it is that you do to keep in shape. But this is talking about keeping your spiritual life in shape, that we are strengthened through the Holy Spirit.
How does that happen? We have a couple of passages to look at.
The primary one is in Galatians 5:14 and following. In Galatians 5:14 Paul is talking about a topic that is related to his prayer here in Ephesians 3. It is love. He gives the command, a quote from the Old Testament, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” “Biting and devouring one another” is not to be taken literally. They don’t have a problem with cannibalism.
This is a metaphor for sins of the tongue: slander, gossip, expressing your anger, hostility, resentment, and bitterness towards others. He said that you’ll just consume one another; the end result is destructive.
We don’t have to look far to get examples of that. Those of you who like to watch the news, every day they report on numerous examples of people who are filled with bitterness and anger for some real or imagined hurt.
As long as they don’t give it up in love and forgive one another as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, then it will always result in destruction, consuming one another.
The solution is the biblical solution, Galatians, 5:16, “I say then: Walk by means of the Spirit…” We have to walk by means of the Spirit. That means that we have to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within us.
We have to be in right relationship with God. And when we sin, we have to confess sin because then God forgives us of those sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
The command is to “walk by means of the Spirit, and you will not bring to completion the lust of the flesh.” That is, you’re not going to bring to completion those horrible desires that you have that come from your sin nature.
If we walk by the Spirit, then God the Holy Spirit is going to produce a character change in us. He’s going to transform us into the character of Christ, and this is indicated by this list of “the fruit of the Spirit.”
His initial command in Galatians 5:14 is to love one another. What’s the first fruit of the Spirit that he mentions? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.
If you look at your attitudes, your reactions, and they are not characterized by kindness and goodness—that is grace orientation—if they are not characterized by the love of God, then you’re walking according to your sin nature.
What is love? We will spend some more time on that, but love is seeking the absolute best for the object of your love. The problem with that is most people define that as what they think is best for the object of their love, and that has nothing to do with love; that’s just selfishness.
You have to know the Word of God. You have to understand what God wants in a person’s life, and that’s what best is. Best is God’s will for them. We love by recognizing what God’s values are and applying that toward others.
This is something very different from what people normally see or hear about life. How do we get it? What kind of life is it? It’s a new life. Which takes us back to Romans 6: because we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, we are to walk in newness of life.
We’re not to live like everybody else in our culture, we’re not to look at our friends and our neighbors and our teachers and the people we work with for our standard; we’re to look at Christ or our standard. We have a new life, we have a new mission, and we have a new means of living that life, and that is walking by the Holy Spirit.
Next week we will continue through this passage, understanding what it means that Christ will dwell in our hearts.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word, to focus upon the fact that we’ve been given new life because we’ve been identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
“We have been raised to newness of life, but so often we don’t represent that. We don’t reflect that, we don’t live in any way different from those around us. And that is because we’re still walking according to our sin nature, not walking according to God the Holy Spirit.
The only way to have a new life is to trust in Christ as Savior. It’s not by baptism, it’s not by joining a church; it’s not by having a religious experience. As the Scripture teaches again and again, it simply by faith in Christ. Faith alone, not accompanied by works, not dependent upon something else other than faith, but faith alone in Christ alone.
Trusting in Him, trusting in His Word, walking by the Spirit, then we can see this transformed life. Salvation is based simply and solely on trusting in Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross, believing He died for us, He died in our place, He paid our penalty, and by trusting in Him we know we have everlasting life.
Father, we pray that You would help us to think about this message, to remind us of what we went through this morning, that we may be reminded of the importance of being strengthened by the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”