The second of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christ might dwell in Believer’s hearts by faith in verse 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love. Paul gives three pictures in verse 17 that show us what spiritual depth is and how we can have it. We’ve look at the first two: Christ must dwell in our hearts and we must be rooted…in love.
Third, we must be grounded…in love. “Mixed metaphors” are different metaphors that are used to express the same concept. We’ve all heard or read them. I ran across these doozies, each of which various people actually uttered, no doubt to their eventual embarrassment: (1) Once you open a can of worms, they always come home to roost; (2) Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box of worms here; (3) He’s been burning the midnight oil at both ends; (4) He’s one brick short of the whole nine yards; (5) I’m sweating like a stuck pig; (6) It’s as American as killing two birds with one apple pie.
Those absurd examples are what are called “impermissible mixed metaphors,” metaphors that conflict because they serve different purposes. There are, however, “permissible mixed metaphors,” which do not conflict with each other because they serve the same purpose and exhibit a correlation with each other. Paul’s statement rooted and grounded in love is an example of a permissible mixed metaphor. Yes, “the first metaphor is botanical and the second is architectural,” as the same commentator points out, but they both serve the same purpose and exhibit a correlation with each other. Their common purpose is to picture spiritual depth and they correlate because they are both in the soil of love of Christ. In other words, not only are we to be rooted in our love for Christ, but we are also to be grounded in our love of Christ. Again, the metaphors have the same purpose and are corollaries. Here’s the corollary: a Tree ‑ stable and productive in the soil; a Building ‑ sturdy and permanent in the soil.
Now, the most important part of a building is, of course, the foundation. Any building will only be as sturdy as its foundation. An expression in the construction world is, “If you don’t go deep, you can’t go high.” I saw this first hand many years ago as I worked as an electrician on big construction sites. A vivid example of this, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, points out, is the difference in the height of buildings allowed in New York City and Los Angeles. Manhattan Island is more or less solid rock, which permits the buildings to go high. This is not permitted in Los Angeles, however, because of the more unstable soil.
So, the picture Paul gives here is that the Christian is to have a deep foundation. Why? Because if we don’t go deep, we can’t go high. As the Lord Jesus Himself taught, It’s the wise man who “built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock” (Lk. 6:48). If we are not firmly and deeply grounded in the things of God, then whatever we then build will soon crumble. And once again, the foundation is the love of Christ and His Word.
The story is told of a soldier in Napoleon’s army who was wounded one day by a bullet entering his chest just above his heart. As the surgeon was probing the wound with his knife, another on-looking soldier said, “An inch deeper, and you will find the emperor.” The metaphor is obvious: so committed was that soldier to his master that the master’s very name was virtually engraved on his heart. Likewise, engraved on the true Christian soldier’s heart, is the name of our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, and when the enemy wounds us, it is that name he will see.