Power—The Way of its Application
by G.J. Stewart
To know the power of God. and how it may be applied to us in the present time is of all moment to us. Passing through an antagonistic world, and having to do with an enemy who strenuously opposes our apprehension of the smallest blessing God has given to us, we too little realise the power which would enable us to lay hold of them. Our blessings are not of this world, and the devil by means of the world seeks to rob us of our true blessings.
Ephesians 1:3 shows that the counsel of God has provided for us blessings of a higher character than this world can offer, and that it is the power of God which makes all good in us now. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.” Now in scripture “spiritual” is opposed to “natural,” “heavenly” to “earthly,” and “in Christ” to “in Adam.” We have certainly many natural blessings coming to us as children of Adam and for earth; but these are not our own blessings, though we are keen enough to discover and cultivate them. But we are at times at a loss to tell what our spiritual blessings are, and we cultivate them far too little. Yet God would have these wrought in us now. This, however, is dependent upon His power by His Spirit.
Now power is spoken of or referred to in four ways in this epistle, but running side by side with this thought we have the apostle’s earnest desire for its application to the saint, expressed to us to tell us what is the way of its application. This way is through
He did not think it necessary only to teach the saints about the power, but that God by His Spirit might apply that power to them, he turns to Him in prayer. This, beloved, is the great means of bringing in the power of God, whether by the teacher or by the saints. The apostle prays himself in chapters 1 and 3 and exhorts to prayer for himself and all saints in chapter 6, and neither you nor I will know what the present power of God is unless we are men of prayer. It is the man of prayer that is the man of power, and not the man of knowledge only.
Why do we not know better what God’s present power is to enable us to enter into our immense privileges? Surely our shame is that we are not sufficiently in the habit of prayer. Oh, if we only felt aright the reality of the thing, should we not be a little more careful henceforth to cultivate this habit? How keenly alive the apostle was to this our passage shows. With him it was not enough that we should know the power that is toward us as manifested in the resurrection of Christ (chap. 1:19); nor that we should be conscious that we have been the subjects of this same power working with us (chap. 2:5); but he prays that we may know that
POWER IN US.
A power lifting us into the realm of spiritual things, as a present and continual reality, so that we may understand all the spiritual blessings wherewith He has endowed us. This is his desire for the saints, for this he bows his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom every family in heaven and earth is named.
The apostle is not teaching now, he is praying that the power he desires to see in exercise may be applied to us thus. Do we ever pray for it? How little there is of such prayer privately! How little at the prayer meetings! If it were more so, should we not rise strengthened in the inner man? Would not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ grant us, “according to the riches of his glory”—always Paul’s standard—“to be strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inner man?
Do we believe that we have an inner man? We know a great deal about the outer man and how to cater for it, but the apostle prays, that we may be empowered by the Spirit in the inner man. That the inner man might be renewed was his desire, though the outer man perished. We cannot take the outer man into heaven. It would be good for us to take a little more care of the inner man, to pray that it may be well fed upon the love of God; this would lead to growth. Thus empowered by the Spirit,
CHRIST DWELLS IN THE HEART BY FAITH.
He practically lives in our affections. Faith makes all that the Spirit works in us a present practical reality, and all the tendrils of the being entwine around Him who is the centre of the counsels of God. We need strengthening for this, or it would burst the vessel.
This leads on to being rooted and founded in love. God’s love is in view, that which is the source of everything and is general in its bearing. A tree well rooted draws its nourishment from the earth, and a building is founded on the earth; but the saints draw their nourishment from love, and are established in love—the very nature of God. If we would walk as heavenly men, we must be rooted and founded in love, the omnipotent love of God.
But this love embraces all, hence he prays that we may comprehend with all saints, “what is the breadth and length and depth and height,” it does not say of what. It is the whole counsel of God, for His glory in Christ, not the mystery only, that is but part of what He wants them to comprehend. The assembly is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all; he prays that we may know the “all in all” that Christ fills. It goes beyond the assembly, but we need to know both the place which the assembly has in the counsels of God and our place in the assembly.
Thus enlarged as to the counsels of God, he prays that we may know that which is peculiarly known by the assembly, “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.” This is not to know the unknowable, but to know more and more of that love which still surpasses all our knowledge of it. We may know daily more of it to the day of our departure from this earth, and when that scene bursts upon us we shall say—The half hath not been told us! But the petitions deepen! “That ye may be filled into all the fullness of God.” Not filled with it, which would mean the infinite compassed by the finite, but filled into, like a bowl floating in and filled with the mighty ocean. Always in the fullness, and ever freshly filled with it.
Wonderful petitions! Surely God-given. The perfection of state as known in Christ is the object of desire. But God is able to accomplish even this in us, though He alone. This the last two verses show, as they show also that the ultimate object in the apostle’s mind is that even now there should be in the assembly—
GLORY TO GOD.
That He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think is often quoted, but in what connection? Not in regard to easy circumstances here. It is not health or providential deliverances, right as such petitions may be at times. Here all is in connection with that which belongs to Christ. It is not even that He will put us up there in the glory, this He will surely do; but what is here asked is glory to God in the assembly. May He work this desire in the hearts of His people by His Spirit, that there may be more such petitions from individuals and the assembly, to His glory.
“To him be glory in the assembly by Christ Jesus, unto all generations of the age of ages. Amen!” This is the apostle’s great desire. The assembly is the vessel of the glory of God now and evermore. So he says, “unto all ages,” that he may take in this present time, during which surely glory should be to God in the assembly by Christ Jesus. To this end he prays for present power to be wrought in us, producing a state suitable to the manifestation of
POWER FROM US.
Now it is evident that power cannot come from us if it is not in us. If we are not empowered by His Spirit in the inner man, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, He cannot use us in any of the spheres of the present exercise of that power as referred to in the rest of the epistle; the assembly, the world, the family, or against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies. We may know what the power toward us is, also that this power has wrought with us, and yet be dull and inert. That it may be in us, he prays, so that it may work out from us. May we pray also!
Every exhortation that follows on from chapter 4 hangs directly upon this, though the fact of Christ being raised from the dead by the power of God is the basis of everything. We may, perhaps, think that we could not sustain the weight of the armour of God apart from the power of His might; but we need the power that raised Christ from the dead made good in us by the Spirit, in order that we may fulfil the smallest exhortation in the practical part of this epistle. How impossible is it to walk lowlily and meekly apart from this power. Lowliness and meekness does not grow naturally in the fallen human heart.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ grant unto His beloved saints today the earnest desire and prayer, that we may be strengthened with power by His Spirit in the inner man, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, that there may be more glory to Him in the assembly by Christ Jesus, in these, the last moments upon earth!
Food for the Faithful 1901, p. 74