Strength So That

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV

We studied this prayer together during the recent church retreat. This part of it is one big run-on sentence–that’s one way to know that you’re reading a letter from Paul.

The first thing Paul asks God for is that the church be “strengthened with power” through the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. Some commentators think that the “so that” should be an “and that,” because why would we need strength so that Christ can dwell in us? Doesn’t Jesus take us as we are? Isn’t faith in Christ all we need for salvation?

Yes, and yes. The “formula” for salvation is simple: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! But salvation is the beginning, not the end, of the Christian journey. As God works in us, and as we work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), we start to look more like His Son, both inside and out. Christ dwells more and more deeply in our hearts, reversing our sin and brokenness. This is sanctification, and it’s a lifelong process. 

Sanctification is a beautiful thing, but it’s not always easy. Jesus suffered and died, and that suffering is part of who He is. He bears the scars to this day, on his hands, on his feet, on his side, by choice. So for Christ to dwell fully in us, we should expect to share in His suffering and in His death, not just in his resurrection life. Paul knew that the life of faith involves both light and darkness, suffering and glory: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10, NIV).

And I think that’s what Paul acknowledges in the beginning of this prayer–the weight of sanctification. We don’t have what it takes for all of Jesus to dwell in our hearts. We need strength from the Holy Spirit so that we’re not crushed by the immensity of all Christ is–both his glory and his pain–as he dwells more and more deeply in us.
So which translation is the most accurate? Should it say so that or should it say and that? I don’t know, nor do I know how important it is. But today, I hear our Father speaking to me through the so that. He’s inviting me to search for Jesus in my suffering, and to seek His strength for my ongoing sanctification.