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All the Fullness of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 14, 2024 12:01 am

All the Fullness of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 14, 2024 12:01 am

The worst neglect in our lives is a failure to seek the deepest possible understanding of who God is. From his expositional series in the book of Ephesians, today R.C. Sproul examines Paul's astonishing prayer that Christians may be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19).

Get R.C. Sproul's Expositional Commentary on Ephesians for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/3270/ephesians-commentary

Meet Today's Teacher:

R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

Meet the Host:

Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

Don't forget to make RenewingYourMind.org your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

Renewing Your Mind is a donor-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Explore all of our podcasts: https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts

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When it comes to our search to know the things of God, we haven't come close to doing our best. In fact, probably our most sinful neglect in our lives is our failure to seek the deepest understanding we possibly can have of who God is.

R.C. Sproul spent his entire ministry helping people know who God is, and each of us has room to grow. In today's text, the Apostle Paul prays that we would comprehend and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. You're listening to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. Last week, we began a message from R.C. Sproul on Ephesians 3, beginning in verse 14, and today we conclude that message. This section of Ephesians is actually a prayer, and Dr. Sproul calls it Paul's deepest and most moving prayer. Before we return to this prayer, I do want to remind you that you can request R.C. Sproul's newly released commentary on Ephesians, and you can give a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Well, here's R.C.

Sproul on the final verses of Ephesians chapter 3. We talk about our minds. We talk about thinking all the time, but sometimes we need to stop and say, what is it? We cannot reduce the mind to matter. We cannot reduce thought to mere physical impulses. And yet in my mind, which I don't know really where my mind is, we know that there's a relationship, at least in this life, between the brain and the mind.

We don't normally think of thinking with our elbows. We usually think of thinking with our heads because it seems at least like that inner consciousness that is part of our every waking moment is somehow related to our brains. Well, I believe it is related to the brains, but it can't be reduced to the brain. But who I am is inside of me, is what I'm saying. And what I am in the final analysis is inside of me. That's where the person is found in your mind, in your consciousness, in your thoughts, in your feelings. That's where our personalities and our characters are defined. And that's at the heart of the Christian affirmation of the significance of the resurrection is that the inner person, the soul, is not destroyed at death.

But the affirmation of the whole of Scripture is from the moment this mortal body dies, there is a continuity of conscious, real existence. That is, the inner that is the inner person cannot be vanquished by death. And it's from that fountain of the inner person that our morality is defined, our courage is found.

We sometimes say to people who lack courage that they need to dig deeper, to go down into their cells to find the courage that they need. And this is Paul's prayer, that the inner person be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within every converted person. And so Paul says, O Father, You've regenerated these people. You've changed the disposition of their souls by Your Holy Ghost. You've caused them to be reborn. Now strengthen them by Your presence in their souls and in their minds.

Why? That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Now, it's again a strange request because the New Testament makes it clear that the moment that you or I believe in Christ, I and you enjoy the unspeakable glory of the mystical union of our souls with Christ. Again, I've mentioned before two prepositions that are common in the New Testament.

The word n-e-n or the word eiseis, eise means into, n means inside of. The New Testament when it calls people to believe, it calls us to believe eis, Christ, to believe into Christ. And when we believe into Christ, we enter into this mystical relationship with Him so that now I become by the power of God in Christ, en Christo, and He becomes in me. And one of the reasons why the church is to involve a fellowship, a communion of all saints is whoever you are, if you are in Christ and Christ is in you, and I am in Christ and Christ is in me, then we have a relationship that is built upon and established on the presence of Christ in our hearts. That's what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are all part of the adopted family of God. Now, when we are converted and become in Christ and Christ in us, He doesn't just enter our hearts for the moment of our conversion and then departs to go on to other important missions. No, when Christ enters into the soul or into the heart of a believer, He comes to stay forever so that this mystical union that we have with Christ is a privilege and a power that nothing on heaven and earth can destroy. And that's why it's a little bit strange that Paul would pray for a strengthening of this relationship because he's saying that Christ may dwell in your hearts.

And the idea here is that He takes up His abode. Again, He doesn't just enter for a second, but He takes His residence in our hearts through faith. And that's an astonishing thing, and one that Paul talks about throughout his life and throughout his ministry and throughout his epistles, far and wide of the indwelling, abiding of Christ through faith. Again, that you being rooted and grounded in love, and that's this love that Christ brings with Him, shed abroad by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This is not a cheap love. This is not an erotic love. This is agape love. It's a transcendent love. It's a supernatural love. It's a divine love that is to be rooted and grounded in our hearts. And he says, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now that statement that I just read could occupy us easily for the next six months. On other occasions I've mentioned to you that the first article in the study of what we call theology proper, namely our study of the doctrine of God, the very first article is what we call the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. Now, there have been other philosophies and religions that have grown up over the centuries that have been based on the premise that God is utterly unknowable by creatures. People like Plotinus, the founder and father of Neoplatonism, said that the only thing you can say about God is what He is not. You can't make any positive affirmation of who or what God is. And much of what we say about God, even within the Christian faith, follows this method of description that Plotinus called the via negationis, or the via negativa, the way of negation. When we say that God is infinite, what are we saying? He's not finite.

That's a negative statement. We're defining God by what He's not. But along with this way of negation, the Bible also has what we call the via affirmitas, the way of affirmation in which we make positive statements about who God is. He's eternal. He's omniscient.

He's all these other things that we say about Him. Nevertheless, in our own day, there's been a renewed assault, not altogether unlike that of Plotinus, but going far beyond Plotinus in arguing that any meaningful discourse about God, if there is one, is utterly impossible. The movement of logical positivism followed by analytical philosophy gave rise to what ultimately became the death of God theology, and it taught this, that all theological language, all religious language is nothing more than what they called emotive language. That is, when I say I believe in God, I'm not saying anything meaningful or significant about a reality that exists outside of myself. All I'm doing is describing my own religious emotion, that I have some kind of feeling of worship towards something, whatever it is.

Now this kind of skepticism is completely unwarranted. The Scriptures make it very clear that God is a God who reveals Himself, and that revelation that God gives is intelligible. Now again, we distinguish, if I may get a little technical here, between what's called the deus absconditus and the deus revelatus, the hidden God and the revealed God. We speak of the deus absconditus because we get the English word abscond. Who absconds?

The embezzler absconds with the funds. That means he does what? He flees from the scene of the crime. He goes into hiding. He doesn't want to be found out.

He hopes that nobody will discover anything significant about him. Well, the Bible makes it clear that God has not revealed to His creatures everything there is to know about Him. The Old Testament writer said, The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but that which He has revealed belongs to us and to our seed forever. He hasn't revealed all that He is, but what He has revealed is true and sufficient and intelligible so that we can know something with surety about the nature of God. But when we talk about the incomprehensibility of God, we mean by that not that He cannot be known or that He can't be apprehended and that words about Him are utterly unintelligible, but what we mean by that is that no human being, either now or even in heaven, has a total exhaustive, comprehensive knowledge of God.

That's simply not possible for a creature. Now that I'm using Latin, let me give you another one. Calvin was famous for using a phrase in two different ways, but it was extremely important in historical theological debates.

It still is. He used a phrase that went like this, finitum non kapax infinitum. It can be translated one of two ways. The finite cannot contain the infinite. I have a glass of something cold and refreshing here, and that glass has a particular volume to it. There's not enough space in this glass to pour all the water in the universe into it. It can't contain an infinite amount of fluid.

It has a limited capacity, a finite capacity. And as long as we are finite, our capacity for understanding God is limited. Now that doesn't mean that someday we're going to learn things about God that contradict what He's already revealed.

No. The other way of translating that finitum non kapax infinitum is that the finite cannot grasp the infinite. Now when we go to heaven, presumably we'll learn a lot more about God than we know now. But even in our glorified state as human beings, we will still be creatures. We will still be finite. And even in heaven, we will not have the ability to have a comprehensive knowledge of God. But now Paul is praying that we will reach the optimal level of comprehension of the things of God, that part of being strengthened in the inner person is related to our mental understanding of who God is. This is why my blood curdles when I hear well-meaning Christians saying, I don't need to know theology.

All I need to know is Jesus. I think they need spankings. They've been arrested in their spiritual infancy and are being blatantly disobedient to the New Testament demand that they become mature in their understanding.

Babes and evil, yes, but adults and mature in their understanding. And as long as we're in this world, we're called to apply ourselves to the best of our ability, which none of us ever does. Last night I was out for dinner, and I had a server, a young man who was working in a restaurant where I had never seen him before in that same restaurant. He said he was new, and I thanked him for his service, and he said to me, thank you. He said, I did my best. And when he said that to me, I could hear the words of my mentor echoing in my ear, young man, you've never done your best.

No matter how well you've done at anything, it could conceivably have been better. And when it comes to our search to know the things of God, we haven't come close to doing our best. In fact, probably our most sinful neglect in our lives is our failure to seek the deepest understanding we possibly can have of who God is. Again, the prayer is that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and the length, the depth and the height to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Would you like to be filled with all the fullness of God? Is there any greater blessedness than a Christian could experience than to be filled to capacity with God and the fullness of God?

That's Paul's prayer for us. And he's saying that we may do this by seeking to comprehend with all the saints what is the width. How wide is God? How far does His being extend?

What is the height? How high is God? How deep is God? How long is God? What he's saying here are the multi-dimensions of the very being and character of God. There used to be a popular song that you sometimes hear repeated.

Some of you remember it. How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? And the poetry of that lyric was to indicate the depth of romantic love that was being expressed. But here we're not talking about how deep is our love for our girlfriend, but we're talking about how deep is the love of God, how profound this is being, who He is, and that we as Christians are called to do everything in our power to explore everything there is to know about God. The whole width, the whole height, the whole length, the whole depth of who He is, that we may know the love of Christ that passes knowledge. That is, it sounds like a contradiction to know something that passes knowledge. Now obviously when Paul speaks of knowing something that passes knowledge, he's talking about something that transcends the ordinary categories of human inquiry and human achievement with the mind, but rather to rise up beyond the levels of normal human understanding to seek this transcendent love of Christ.

And then finally he ends this, as he frequently does, with doxology. Now to Him who is able, exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the very power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus in all generations forever and ever. Now to the One who is divinely able, omnipotently able, not only to do what we ask or ponder, but whose ability and power goes exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that we could ever think to ask or even think to think. Now to Him, Paul says, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, according to the Holy Spirit, to Him be glory in the church, that God is glorified in His church. When His church is strengthened by this deeper understanding of the character of God and by this indwelling love and union with Christ, then when that happens, Christ is glorified, and His church is glorified. And that's how He ends this prayer to all generations forever and ever.

Amen. This is an incredibly poignant and powerful prayer. It's from the Apostle Paul. I think the greatness of this prayer is only exceeded by the high priestly prayer of our Lord in John 17. But this may be Paul's deepest and most moving prayer, not only for the Ephesians but by extension for us. May God in His mercy answer the Apostle's prayer in our inner person.

That was R.C. Sproul, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. If you'd like to continue studying Ephesians with Dr. Sproul, until midnight you can request the hardcover edition of his newly released commentary on Ephesians when you give a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Take your time walking through Ephesians, verse by verse, and see the riches contained in this wonderful letter. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org, and we'll get a copy in the mail to you. And know that your generosity makes Renewing Your Mind possible and is fueling the spread of Ligonier's deep library of trusted teaching moving into the world's top 20 languages. Join us next time as R.C. Sproul moves to Ephesians chapter 4. That's next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-14 02:33:15 / 2024-04-14 02:40:45 / 8

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