Question #16

What does Ephesians 3:16 mean?

Does Ephesians 3:16 teach a direct strengthening of the Holy Spirit apart from the word?

The Answer:

The context of Ephesians 3:16 is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians. Does this mean a direct operation upon the inner man or the heart? Such a strengthening would be an operation of God in answer to Paul’s prayer apart from the exercise of the wills of the Ephesian Christians. Given this premise, if the Ephesians were not strong whose fault would it be? Does it not follow that such a failure must be laid either at the feet of God who did not answer Paul’s prayer, or at the feet of Paul for not being one whose prayers God would hear, or both? Another alternative might be to blame it on the Holy Spirit for not carrying out the wishes of God and the prayer of Paul.

How, then, was Paul’s prayer to be answered? Put differently, how were the Ephesian brethren to be strengthened? Fortunately, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was not over. In chapter 6, verses 10-11, Paul taught them, “ 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” In verses 13-17 Paul describes the armor of God. In that list he defines the “sword of the Spirit” as the “word of God.” It thus is clear that the Ephesians were to be made stronger by doing what the Spirit through Paul instructs them to do. The inner man is strengthened by the Spirit as he learns from the Spirit’s teaching how to be stronger. Indeed, Ephesians 3:17 instructs that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Of course, faith come by . . . the word of God. Rom. 10:17. That which the Spirit does, He does through his sword which is the word of God.


God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)