Excerpt from The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey
Chapter XII. The Holy Spirit Forming Christ Within Us.
It is a wonderful and deeply significant prayer that Paul offers in Eph. iii. 16-19 for the believers in Ephesus and for all believers who read the Epistle. Paul writes, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, that ye 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 ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length, and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God” (R. V.). We have here an advance in the thought over that which we have just been studying in the preceding chapter. It is the carrying out of the former work to its completion. Here the power of the Spirit manifests itself, not merely in giving us victory over sin but in four things:
I. In Christ dwelling in our hearts. The word translated “dwell” in this passage is a very strong word. It means literally, “to dwell down,” “to settle,” “to dwell deep.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit to form the living Christ within us, dwelling deep down [pg 123]in the deepest depths of our being. We have already seen that this was a part of the significance of the name sometimes used of the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Christ.” In Christ on the cross of Calvary, made an atoning sacrifice for sin, bearing the curse of the broken law in our place, we have Christ for us. But by the power of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us by the risen Christ we have Christ in us. Herein lies the secret of a Christlike life. We hear a great deal in these days about doing as Jesus would do. Certainly we ought as Christians to live like Christ. “He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk even as He walked” (1 John ii. 6). But any attempt on our part to imitate Christ in our own strength will only result in utter disappointment and despair. There is nothing more futile that we can possibly attempt than to imitate Christ in the power of our own will. If we fancy that we succeed it will be simply because we have a very incomplete knowledge of Christ. The more we study Him, and the more perfectly we understand His conduct, the more clearly will we see how far short we have come from imitating Him. But God does not demand of us the impossible, He does not demand of us that we imitate Christ in our own strength. He offers to us something infinitely better, He offers to form Christ in us by the power of His Holy Spirit. And when Christ is thus formed in us by the Holy Spirit's power, all we have to do is to let this indwelling Christ live out His own life in us, and then we shall be like Christ without struggle and effort of our own. A woman, who had a deep knowledge of the Word and [pg 124]a rare experience of the fullness that there is in Christ, stood one morning before a body of ministers as they plied her with questions. “Do you mean to say, Mrs. H——,” one of the ministers asked, “that you are holy?” Quickly but very meekly and gently, the elect lady replied, “Christ in me is holy.” No, we are not holy. To the end of the chapter in and of ourselves we are full of weakness and failure, but the Holy Spirit is able to form within us the Holy One of God, the indwelling Christ, and He will live out His life through us in all the humblest relations of life as well as in those relations of life that are considered greater. He will live out His life through the mother in the home, through the day-labourer in the pit, through the business man in his office—everywhere.
II. In our being rooted and grounded in love (v. 17). Paul multiplies figures here. The first figure is taken from the tree shooting its roots down deep into the earth and taking fast hold upon it. The second figure is taken from a great building with its foundations laid deep in the earth on the rock. Paul therefore tells us that by the strengthening of the Spirit in the inward man we send the roots of our life down deep into the soil of love and also that the foundations of the superstructure of our character are built upon the rock of love. Love is the sum of holiness, the fulfilling of the law (Rom. xiii. 10); love is what we all most need in our relations to God, to Jesus Christ and to one another; and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to root and ground our lives in love. There is the most intimate relation between Christ being formed within us, or [pg 125]made to dwell in us, and our being rooted and grounded in love, for Jesus Christ Himself is the absolutely perfect embodiment of divine love.
The more we study Him, and the more perfectly we understand His conduct, the more clearly will we see how far short we have come from imitating Him.
III. In our being made strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. It is not enough that we love, we must know the love of Christ, but that love passeth knowledge. It is so broad, so long, so high, so deep, that no one can comprehend it. But we can “apprehend” it, we can lay hold upon it; we can make it our own; we can hold it before us as the object of our meditation, our wonder, and our joy. But it is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can thus apprehend it. The mind cannot grasp it at all, in its own native strength. A man untaught and unstrengthened by the Spirit of God may talk about the love of Christ, he may write poetry about it, he may go into rhapsodies over it, but it is only words, words, words. There is no real apprehension. But the Spirit of God makes us strong to really apprehend it in all its breadth, in all its length, in all its depth, and in all its height.
IV. In our being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” There is a very important change between the Authorized and Revised Version. The Authorized Version reads “Filled with all the fullness of God.” The Revised Version reads more exactly “filled untoall the fullness of God.” It is no wonder that the translators of the Authorized Version staggered at what Paul said and sought to tone down the full force of his words. To be filled with all the fullness of God would not be [pg 126]so wonderful, for it is an easy matter to fill a pint cup with all the fullness of the ocean, a single dip will do it. But it would be an impossibility indeed to fill a pint cup unto all the fullness of the ocean, until all the fullness that there is in the ocean is in that pint cup. But it is seemingly a more impossible task that the Holy Spirit undertakes to do for us, to fill us “unto all the fullness” of the infinite God, to fill us until all the intellectual and moral fullness that there is in God is in us. But this is the believer's destiny, we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ”(Rom. viii. 17), i. e., we are heirs of God to the extent that Jesus Christ is an heir of God; that is, we are heirs to all God is and all God has. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to apply to us that which is already ours in Christ. It is His work to make ours experimentally all God has and all God is, until the work is consummated in our being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” This is not the work of a moment, nor a day, nor a week, nor a month, nor a year, but the Holy Spirit day by day puts His hand, as it were, into the fullness of God and conveys to us what He has taken therefrom and puts it into us, and then again He puts His hand into the fullness that there is in God and conveys to us what is taken therefrom, and puts it into us, and this wonderful process goes on day after day and week after week and month after month, and year after year, and never ends until we are “filled unto all the fullness of God.”