“For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:14-19 WEB (R)
In this post, I’d like to explore the idea of being “filled with all the fullness” of God. It’s both a bit of a paradox and a very very high call! Let’s keep in mind, as I wrote about here and here, Paul saw the church as a singular unit/body, so the things he prays are not for individuals, but for the entire assembly as one whole.
When trying to understand a certain word or phrase in scripture, it’s often helpful to look at other places it is used. Here are a couple other examples of Paul writing about “fullness”:
Colossians 1:18b-20 ESV: “…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” -Notice that Jesus himself was indwelt with “all the fullness of God,” exactly as Paul prayed the Ephesians would be. Very interesting.
Colossians 2:7-12 ESV: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
So, here is a summary of these three passages:
In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that through Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith, the Ephesians would be rooted in love, comprehend the love of Christ, and be filled with the fullness of God.
In Colossians 1, he writes that the fullness of God dwelt in Christ and therefore Christ was able to reconcile all things to God.
In Colossians 2, he warns about being “taken captive” by empty human wisdom and tradition, reminding believers that the fullness of God dwells in Christ, and that by being “in Christ” (an idea he wrote of many times), we too have been filled with God’s fullness.