Question: "How can we be rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17)?"
Answer: After explaining to the believers at Ephesus the incredible new life that God has given them by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:1—3:13), Paul adds that he prays for them (Ephesians 3:14). Part of Paul’s prayer includes the statement that they are rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17).
Part of Paul’s prayer is this: “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 3:17–19, ESV).
Paul recounts how he is praying for the Ephesians to the God who is the Creator of all of humanity—the One from whom every family on earth derives its name (Ephesians 3:15). This One has the power to fulfill a prayer request, so Paul is emphasizing that this is not an empty prayer, nor is it offered to someone who cannot grant the request. This One has riches and glory—another evidence that God has the power to answer prayer (Ephesians 3:16a). Paul asks this Great One that He would grant the Ephesian believers “to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). Paul understood that God has given His Holy Spirit to every person who has believed in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13–14), and he understood that the power of God in a person’s life would come through that Holy Spirit within (see 1 Corinthians 12:7). Paul asks that the believers would be strengthened in their inner persons by the Spirit within them.
Paul also recognized that the strengthening he was asking for comes through knowing Christ and His love better (Ephesians 3:19). He is not asking that God do something mystical or miraculous, but that He would allow them to really understand the things of God and of Christ that had already been revealed to them. Paul asks God that they be strengthened in this knowledge but acknowledges that they have already been rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17).
This rooting and grounding in love was something God had already accomplished for the Ephesians (and for all believers), as Paul has explained, especially in Ephesians 1:4–14. As indicated by the verbs errizomenoi (“being rooted”) and tethemeliomenoi (“being grounded”) in Ephesians 3:17 and the perfect passive participle usage of both, God Himself has accomplished our rooting and grounding in love. Because we are rooted and grounded in love, and we have this incredible new life by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), Christ can be at home in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17a).
There is some responsibility on our part, though, as Paul exhorts that we should let the word of Christ dwell richly in us—we should actively be pursuing fellowship with Him through His word. Christ already dwells in us (through His Holy Spirit), and we should allow Him to be at home in us. One of the results of this kind of growth and maturing is that we may be able to comprehend how great is His love—so great, in fact that it surpasses being known, yet Paul prays that we will truly know it (Ephesians 3:18–19).
Because God has rooted and grounded us in His own love, we can live in relationship and fellowship with Him, getting to know His amazing love better each day. That is what Paul is praying for the Ephesians, and that is the richness of our inheritance in God, as He has blessed us also with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). One of those great blessings is the fact that God has rooted and grounded us in His love.