For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Asides from the Lord’s Prayer and the High Priestly prayer, this prayer may be one of the most spiritually insightful and theologically rich prayers throughout the Scriptures. There is must that can be said about this prayer and how Paul frames the spiritual life of believers and what it ultimately means to be a follower of Christ.
However, I want to highlight one key passage for consideration. Paul prays that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” This may be one of the most concise summaries of how God’s purposes, later described as the fullness of God, come to be realized.
It is often the case that we think that Christianity is about “love.” After all, Jesus said loving God and loving neighbor are the two most important commandments. Consequently, we are inclined to think that love is the foundation for what is means to be a Christian. However, Paul’s prayers runs up against that notion. Being rooted and grounded in love is something that happens as Christ dwells in people’s hearts through faith. It is then in the next line of the prayer that Paul expand on this love as something that people begin to comprehend and know love, as if it is the depths of wisdom.
For Paul, love is the telos; something we grow and progress into. This is evident in Ephesians 4.15-16. Love is what brings maturity to the body of Christ. However, it is by faith that one comes to have Christ dwell in one’s heart. It is faith that provides the place of transformation of the person so that they can then grow into and exhibit this love into its full maturity.
What is it about faith that brings this about? In part, it may be what specifically Paul has talked about that is specifically being trusted: that God has broken the barrier between Jew and Gentiles and has included the Gentiles into His promises in Jesus Christ even though they were originally on the outside of the covenant (Ephesians 2.11-22). In this faith that God is joining people together, this faith would naturally point people towards the love that would bring and keep people together. Those things that we trust and hope in readily become the things that define our lives and, in the case of faith in Christ, the faith and hope to be joined together in Christ through love brings about the characteristic of love that begins to define us.
However, trusting and hoping in love is not by itself how Paul causes the union with Christ in Ephesians 4.15-16. Rather, the body of Christ mutually builds up people together in love. As we place our faith in God’s reconciling all things and people together in Christ, it opens us to both give love and receive love. Faith sets the stage for the divine drama of love that we participate in with the other actors.