Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 3:16e “. . .in the inner man;. . .”
This delineates the sphere in which the Spirit operates upon us. “The inner man” is our inmost being, “the true and enduring self” (Bruce). The outer man is the one people see, the one who dresses, works, eats, and mingles in society. People interact with each other from without, but God deals with us within, in “the inner man.”
Everywhere else in this world is Lucifer-land, Devil-domain. Satan is “the god of this world” (2 C 4:4). Only within the innermost being of believers does God establish heavenly outposts, divine communication centers with earth. Connected to the very core of each believer’s personality is a vastness which reaches into eternity and relates to the divine. “The inner man” is the noblest part of our being, for here the divine touches us.
As the point of contact between self and God, “the inner man” is thus the recipient of might, the channel into which strength is poured, the funnel through which the power of God is diffused throughout one’s entire being. When God works on us, He works deep down, for our problems are rooted deep within us. When God comes to help, He delves to the root of the problem, reaching deeper within us than we ourselves can reach. Our plight is so pitiful that only God can reach, change, and strengthen “the inner man,” but once we let Him touch it, He sends from it a shiver of power throughout the whole personality, a divine deluge which fills and floods every fiber of our being.
Be not deceived. Always seek strength on the inside. Spiritual battles are always won or lost “in the inner man.” Conduct is determined not by outer temptation, but by inner response. In the wake of identical temptation, one man stands, another falls. What is the difference? The condition of “the inner man.” Our insides control our outsides. Our thoughts are the genesis of everything, springs which swell into oceans. “No man is whipped until he is whipped inside, and when whipped inside he is whipped altogether. Just as long as his soul is firm and steadfast he is invincible by any force that can be sent against him” (Carroll).
Thus, ever be asking self, is there direct passage between God and us? Is the path to and through the “the inner man” open to God? Does He trod its deepest and inmost parts? The passageway through the conduit must be kept clean, unclogged. The Spirit must be allowed into every corner and crevice. God is not interested in partial control over us. Paul did not describe this sacred inner workroom of the Spirit as a piece or a part, but as a “man,” something significant and large. God wants the whole you.
Eph. 3:17a “That Christ may dwell. . .”
Paul now hastens to the second supplication of his intercessory prayer. We follow him to learn how to pray more effectively for one another. Intercession is the business of all believers. Staff, deacons, Sunday School teachers, choir directors, mission group leaders–let us pray for all under our charge, with the Apostle serving as our mentor. First, pray for each other “to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (3:16). Second, pray “that Christ may dwell” in our hearts.
This latter request may shock us initially. Christ already indwells every believer. If not indwelt by Christ, we are not Christian at all. Nevertheless, Paul is not being redundant. “Local images are always elastic in the spiritual sphere” (Moule). Paul is not talking about the fact of Christ’s presence, but rather the quality of His presence. The indwelling of Christ is an experience believers “grow into as Christ takes stronger and fuller possession of every corner of their lives” (Boice).
Christ dwells within, but can yet come to dwell ever more richly and fully. His presence inside us has its degrees, its ups and downs, its lessers and mores. “In some Christ is just present, in others He is prominent, and in others again, He is pre-eminent” (Scroggie).
Christ lives within every believer. The question is, to what extent does the indwelling Christ feel comfortable, at home, within us? When YHWH decided to destroy Sodom, He came personally to handle the grim details. The Lord and two angels journeyed from Heaven, and on their way visited with Abraham and Sarah. God felt comfortable in their tent. Lot was also a believer, but YHWH did not go to his house. The angels went alone, for God would have been uncomfortable there. When God tends to business in our lives, does He feel comfortable handling it Himself, on site, or does He sense a need to send emissaries to accomplish His tasks?
Eph. 3:17b “. . .in your hearts. . .”
“It is not enough if the knowledge of Christ dwell on the tongue or flutter in the brain” (Calvin). Christ must dwell in the heart, the best room in the house of our “inner man.” The ancients deemed the heart the seat of everything, the center of feeling and affections, the essence of one’s interior conscious self, the central chamber of the soul.
The heart is the shrine in our temple (Scroggie). “Though all of us is a temple for Him, yet the heart is the chair, where He properly sitteth” (Bayne). “In heavenly places” we sit next to Jesus, who in turn sits at the Father’s right hand. Christ has lifted us into the innermost shrine of Heaven. Shall we do less for Him within the temple of our innermost selves?
Christ will never leave us or forsake us as believers, but I fear we often hear in our innermost shrine “the solemn words of the retreating divinity” (Maclaren), as when the glory departed the temple of God. Jesus does not remain where He is not wanted. How tragic when he has to slip quietly from the throne of our hearts to reside on a porch of our lives.
I remind you of the pathos in Revelation 3:20, where our Lords pleads, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” These words are often used as an evangelistic appeal to the lost, but in their original context they are proffered to believers. The picture is pathetic. Within the house someone is living life and carrying on with everyday details while outside Jesus stands ignored. He is out in the recesses, leaning against the doorpost, and having to listen to the din within. This is not right. If we intend to have Christ within us, let us give Him the best room within us, the heart.
As we have no crevice in our “inner man” from which the Spirit is barred, let no room in our hearts be closed to Jesus. He is not to be merely tolerated as a visitor who sleeps in the guest chambers. He owns the house, and should be given the master bedroom. When we give Jesus the key to our inner self, give Him the master key, for He is the Master.
Eph. 3:17c “. . .by faith;. . .”
“By faith” we initially received Jesus. Also “by faith” we possess and enjoy Him. What we did in the past to have Jesus first indwell us is what we continue to do in the present to know Him ever more fully. Faith is the human response to the divine initiative. In spiritual matters, receptivity is the condition on our part. We must appropriate what God proffers.
By challenging us in this second petition to have Christ dwell in our hearts “by faith,” Paul has in essence returned us to the first supplication. To have Christ “by faith,” we must lean entirely on the Spirit by turning totally from self. “Faith is self-distrust” (Maclaren). The indwelling of Christ must be preceded by the emptying of self and by the strengthening of the Spirit. “If we make room for the Holy Spirit, He will make room for the Lord Jesus” (Dr. Max Reich, quoted by Wuest). Only the Spirit can eliminate from our “inner man” all that is repulsive to Jesus. The Spirit alone can make our hearts fit dwellings for Christ. Until the Spirit controls our inner self, Jesus cannot be comfortable in our hearts.
When we invite a guest to our house, we want it to look its best. Having it otherwise would be an insult to our caller. Effort expended in cleaning and preparing is a compliment to the guest. The more important we deem the guest, the more intense is our preparation. However, at best our hearts are but mere huts, and how does one prepare a hut for the arrival of the King of Kings? The roof cannot be lifted, walls re-made, or floors re-laid. We cannot embellish our inner hut adequately for the Potentate.
When Jesus comes, we know we need to prepare, but He is so great that the necessary preparation is beyond our natural ability and capacity. Thus we must be strengthened by the Spirit, for only He can prepare our inner hut adequately. When the Spirit is there, Jesus will feel at home.