We are certainly aware of the different ways that Paul describes sanctification; we are to yield, to submit, to be filled, to crucify, to walk worthy, etc. Each of the previous infinitives describes the human-cooperative aspect of sanctification with some slightly different points of emphasis.
Although final sanctification is guaranteed to those who have believed (Romans 8:29), each Pauline model for its actualization carries with it the assumption that the one being sanctified must be an active participant, i.e. we must do something.
The most important exception to this norm, however, comes in one of Paul’s rich prayers for the Ephesians; he prays that based upon God’s inexhaustible resources that they would be strengthened and that Christ would dwell in their hearts, i.e. that they would be filled with all the fullness of God. In order for this to be accomplished, however, in this context the believers are not instructed to do anything. Rather, there is something that they need to know. By implication there is something that I need to know. Paul is praying for a spiritual miracle, that believers would be able to comprehend the immeasurable love of Christ Jesus toward them.
At first glance, Paul’s prayer is a typical spiral of subordinating clauses. Upon further examination, a logical chiasm is clear. Paul begins his prayer by drawing upon the riches of God’s glory (3:16). Interestingly, the prayer ends with a benediction that God would be glorified in his church and in his Christ (3:21). The outside layer of this logical chiasm, then, concerns itself with God’s glory.
His continues his request, that the Spirit would internally strengthen us, i.e. that we would experience God’s power in a practical way in our lives (3:16). Interestingly, at the close of the letter, this concept is directly mirrored. God is capable of doing more than we can comprehend because his power is at work in our lives (3:20). The next layer, then, concerns itself with God’s power.
We need to be strengthened, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith (3:17). This concept is mirrored several verses later where Paul desires that we be filled with all the fullness of God (3:19). Since all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus, the two phrases are equivalent. This layer concerns itself with the fullness of God in the believer, i.e. the crux of sanctification.
Next we need strength to comprehend vast dimensions: breath, length, depth, and height (3:18). Several phrases later, Paul reveals that these dimensions are unknowable. Paul is asking for God to a miracle for the Ephesians; they need to know something that is not knowable. This next layer, then, concerns itself with knowing.
The logical chiasm would look like this:
(C) Christ dwell in hearts
TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST
(C’) Filled with fulness of God
The climax of the chiasm, then, is knowing the love of Christ. I need to know the love that God has for me, so that I can be filled with all the fulness of God, so I can be a partaker of the divine benefit, so God’s moral attributes will be made manifest in my transforming character.
I challenge you: this week make a list detailing how you know that God loves you.