“I pray…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”
The day finally came when I realized I was just beginning my million-mile journey of the six inches from my head to my heart. I had crammed quite a lot of Bible and theology into my head that had not reached my heart. I came to the point I wanted to sing the song I learned in my childhood and to mean it: “He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.” I wanted to know God, not just know about Him.
That is what the apostle Paul wants for his readers as he prays for them “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians is perhaps the most doctrinally advanced of his letters, yet, he wants its readers to live in experiential awareness of its great truths. He desires for them a lived-faith, not just the assent to right doctrine. Thus, he prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Of course, it is a given, a spiritual fact that Christ does dwell in every believer. Jesus promised believers, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… On that day [Pentecost] you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18, 20). Again, Jesus reassured believers that He and His Father “will come to them and make our home in them” (John 14:23). Paul lived in the reality of the indwelling Christ, proclaiming, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He wrote to the Colossian Christians about the wondrous mystery, “which is Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27). Ask most any child in Sunday School, and they can tell you Christ lives in them!
So, when Paul prays that Christ may dwell in the believers’ hearts through faith, he is clearly asking for something more. He prays for more than the fact: he prays for the grasp of that fact through faith. Paul’s meaning is seen in his choice of the Greek word, kataoikeo, translated “dwell”. It is a rare word, an intense word, literally meaning “to dwell deep down” (kata “down” + oikeo “dwell”). It is a word signifying a settling down, an at-home-ness of Christ in the believer. It is that warm and intimate fellowship that Christ promises the ready believer: “I will come into you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Paul intensifies his prayer, asking that Christ may dwell in the readers’ “hearts” (kardia). He longs for them more than head knowledge, but a living experience that can sing:
“You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!” As Alexander MacLaren puts it, “What he desires, then, is not merely that these Ephesian Christians may have occasional visits of the indwelling Lord, or that at some lofty moments of spiritual enthusiasm they may be conscious that He is with them, but that always, in an unbroken line of deep, calm receptiveness, they may possess, and know that they possess, an indwelling Savior.”(Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Ephesians)
It is the longest journey you will ever make! How might you be doing on that journey from your head to your heart?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
“Faith creates nothing; it simply reckons upon that which is already there.” A. W. Tozer