Category Archives: EPHESIANS 3

The apostle explains that the church was a mystery to Old Testament saints, but is now revealed.

EPHESIANS 3

SURVEY OF THE PASSAGE
In this section the apostle sets out the details of one of the mysteries he was entrusted with, which he was given the task of revealing to God’s people. A mystery, in the New Testament sense, is truth that was previously hidden, but is now made known to those whom it concerns. This particular mystery, or hitherto unknown truth, has to do with the relationship between believers who had been Jews, and believers who had been Gentiles.
There are two passages of Scripture which are of special help if we wish to have an adequate grasp of God’s dealings with men. Those passages are Daniel chapter 9, and the one we are considering now. It was revealed to Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the reign of the Messiah would be a period of 490 years. That period was divided into three very unequal blocks of time. The first block was of 49 years, and extended down to the prophecy of Malachi, with which the Old Testament closes. The second block, consisting of 434 years, extended until the cutting off of Messiah at Calvary. At this point there remained one 7 year period still to elapse. Unknown to Daniel, it was God’s plan to have another period of time between the death of the Messiah and the final seven years. This is the present age. In Ephesians 3:1-13 and Colossians 1:23-29, the apostle explains the mystery about this church age of grace in more detail.

An appreciation of Daniel 9 and Ephesians 3 will show us the following:
1. That the church is not the subject of Old Testament prophecy.
2. That the church did not exist in the Old Testament.
3. That the promises made to Israel have not been transferred to the church, since the blessings for Israel are earthly, and the blessings for the church are heavenly.
4. That the present age is not included in the 490 years Daniel was told about, for they have to do with his people (Israel), and his city, (Jerusalem), Daniel 9:24.
5. That the church must be removed from the earth at the Rapture before God’s dealings with Israel can recommence.

The main subjects covered in chapter 3 are as follows:

The steward of the mystery:

Verse 1 Paul’s sufferings.
Verses 7,8 Paul’s humility
Verse 13 Paul’s endurance.

The hiding of the mystery:

Verse 5 It was not known in other ages.
Verse 5 It was not passed down the generations from father to son.
Verse 8 It was not searched out, even by the saints of Old Testament times.
Verse 9 It was hid in  God.

The revelation of the mystery:

Verse 2 Paul was given grace to reveal it.
Verse 3 It was revealed to Paul at first.
Verse 4 It has been written down so that we may understand.
Verse 5 It was revealed to other apostles and prophets as well.

The substance of the mystery:

Verse 6 The Gentiles are fellow-heirs with Jewish believers.
  The Gentiles are fellow-members of the body of Christ.
  The Gentiles are fellow-partakers of God’s promise by the gospel.

The result of the mystery:

Verse 4 Believers are able to understand.
Verse 8 Believers are able to appreciate the rich truth as  before they could not.
Verse 10 Angels are able to see the wisdom of God through the church.
Verse 11 God’s eternal purpose is put into effect.
Verse 11 The Lordship of Christ is made known.
Verse 12 Believers may confidently approach God,             conscious of their position.
Verse 13 Believers are saved from despair by the glorious  truth of the mystery.

The appreciation of the mystery:
Verses 14-19    The four desires of the apostle, beginning with “that”.

The worship stimulated by the mystery:
Verses 20,21    Paul worships God in a doxology.

SUMMARY OF VERSES 1 TO 13:

Verses 1-4 The mystery unveiled to Paul.
Verse 5 The mystery unknown by Old Testament saints.
Verse 6 The mystery unfolded to New Testament saints.
Verses 7-10 The mystery understood by the saints.
Verses 10,11 The mystery understood by the angels.
Verses 12,13 The mystery underpinning boldness and confidence.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 4:

3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3:3 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Verses 1-4 The mystery unveiled to Paul

3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

For this cause I Paul- by this expression the apostle means “for the sake of this”, and not simply “because”.
The prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles- in Acts 21:28,29, Paul was accused of taking Trophemus, (a believer from Ephesus), past the middle wall of partition in the temple at Jerusalem, and we read that “forthwith the doors were shut”, verse 30. From this point on in the book of the Acts, the apostle was a prisoner. The charge the Jews brought against him was as a result of his statement that the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles, Acts 22:21. Soon after this comes the first mention of the phrase “Paul the prisoner”, Acts 23:18. Rome may have bound Paul with a chain, but really he was a prisoner belonging to Christ Jesus, the man who is risen from the dead and ascended in glory to heaven. Because Christ is risen, the ultimate prison house, the grave, has been destroyed. All lesser imprisonments now become bearable.
Paul was prepared to suffer for the sake of the truth. We might well ask ourselves how much we are prepared to suffer for it? Or are we going to compromise in the face of opposition?

3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God- a dispensation in everyday usage in Bible times was the handling of household affairs by a trusted steward. The word as used here does not denote a period of time, but rather, the administration of Divine things during a particular period of time.
The grace of God is a phrase used here to denote that God reveals the precious truths contained in this mystery as an expression of His favour towards them. It was Paul who was the channel through which this grace came to us.
Which is given me to you-ward- as the dispenser or administer of the benefits God had for His people in terms of instruction in His ways, Paul so served that what God had for them was duly passed on to them. The truth was given to Paul in view of the saints, (“to you-ward”), it was not purely for him alone.

Background information:
In chapter 2 the apostle had likened the church to a temple, which was a habitation of God through the Spirit, 2:21,22. Now in those times there was, in connection with the heathen temples, (and Ephesus was famed for its temple to Diana), a body of doctrine that was known as the mysteries of the god. Revelation 2:24 calls these the deep things of Satan, things that were revealed, not to the common worshippers, but only to a favoured few. The mysteries were mysterious only to those not initiated into them. But to those who were thus initiated, they were fully revealed. These doctrines were imparted by a specially selected interpreter of the gods, called a hierophant. When they had been instructed into the secrets of their god, the initiates would be allowed in to his immediate presence as those who were “perfected”. The Spirit of God lifts these concepts from their pagan setting, and sanctifies them to their proper use.

3:3,4 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery- Paul was the interpreter, and the saints, once instructed, would have perfect knowledge in those things imparted to the apostle. This is why he is able to describe believers as “perfect”, 1 Corinthians 2:6, for they have all been initiated into the mystery. Ananias said to Paul that “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be a witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard”, Acts 22:14,15.
Note that he received these things by revelation, for he could not study the Old Testament scriptures and discover them, for they were not found there. As far as saints of old time were concerned, these truths were hidden, but now that the apostle has exercised his stewardship, they are made known to church saints.
(as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)- the “few words” he speaks of would include the following:
The words of chapter 2, where he shows that the cross of Christ is the basis whereby Jew and Gentile may be brought together into unity. We learn there that Christ has reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross, verse 16.
The words of Galatians 3 where Gentiles are brought into blessing as heirs.
The words of 1 Corinthians 12 where Gentiles are shown to be part of the body of Christ, the church.
By reading these words, (Galatians and 1 Corinthians were written before the epistle to the Ephesians), the believers would realise that Paul had a full grasp of the truths contained in the mystery he refers to in the passage we are considering.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 5 TO 13:

3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:
3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.
3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
3:11 According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.
3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Verse 5   The mystery unknown by Old Testament saints

3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men- the word for ages originally meant a begetting, being derived from the word to become. The meaning was transferred from the people to the time in which they lived, inasmuch as a period of time is often described in terms of what happened to the people during it. Paul is emphasising the heavenly origin of these mysteries, and that they are unique to this particular age. The phrase “sons of men” reminds us that the truths in question were not handed down from father to son in Old Testament times.
As it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit- the apostle makes it clear that when he had visited Jerusalem after his conversion, he had deliberately avoided contact with most of the apostles. See Galatians 1:15-24. Fourteen years after his conversion, however, he went up “by revelation”. Now this may simply mean that he went to Jerusalem because Christ revealed to him that it was His will that he should go. Or it could mean that he went up according to, or in connection with, the revelation that he had been given about the mystery, which it was now the time to pass on to his fellow apostles. So this may have been part of what he told them when he “communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles”, Galatians 2:1,2. If this is correct, then it shows how the holy apostles and prophets had the truth of the mystery revealed to them. It also shows that Paul’s conception of the gospel was of far greater scope that we may sometimes think, for it included insight into God’s ways with men. This also disposes of the notion that the apostle Peter did not understand the church. When he describes some of Paul’s writings as being “hard to be understood”, 2 Peter 3:16, it does not mean that he found them hard to understand. It was “the unlearned and unstable” that failed to grasp them.
The order, “apostles and prophets” is significant, for it prevents us thinking that the prophets were those of Old Testament times. The prophets referred to here were the ones the church was built upon, as to its doctrine, 2:20. They were holy men, set apart to God’s interests, and not in the least inferior to the Old Testament “holy men of God” that Peter speaks about, 2 Peter 1:21.
Now that these hitherto unknown truths have been revealed, and also written down, we have no need for apostles and prophets.

In connection with this, we should note the following:
1. The faith, or body of truth, has been once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3 (margin), so that they may earnestly contend for it.
2. The Lord Jesus promised the apostles in the upper room that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth, John 16:13, and this promise has been fulfilled.
3. The apostle Paul was the one who “fulfilled the word of God”, Colossians 1:25. That is, the doctrines he instructed the saints in was the climax, the fully filling up, of the body of truth we need to know whilst we are down here. “That which is perfect” has come, 1 Corinthians 13:10.
4. We should not expect fresh revelations of doctrine today. Those who declare they have a fresh word from the Lord, however acquired, should be asked what it is. If it turns out to be in the Scriptures anyway, their claim is pointless. If it is something outside of Scripture, then they fall foul of the curse pronounced on those who add to the word of God, Revelation 22:18.

Verse 6 The mystery unfolded to New Testament saints

3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:

We come now to the substance of the mystery. At first sight it might seem to be insignificant, until we realise how far-reaching and different these truths are. Each of the three expressions has the idea of togetherness about it, for the prefix “sun”, which means “together”, is found three times. So in effect the Gentiles are said to be fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the same body, and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.

Fellow-heirs
That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs- the apostle Paul had begun the epistle by describing the wealth God has given us in Christ. Using words and phrases such as “sonship”, (adoption of children), “redemption”, “obtained an inheritance”, “earnest of our inheritance”, “redemption of the purchased possession”, he is clearly speaking of the believer’s spiritual inheritance in heavenly places in language that was used of Israel’s earthly inheritance in Canaan.

Note the following contrasts, however:
1. Whereas their blessings depended on obedience to the law, as Moses made clear to them in Deuteronomy 28, ours are secured in Christ, by grace, verse 3.
2. The nation of Israel was chosen because of the fathers, Deuteronomy 7:8, whereas believers of this age are chosen “in Him”, verse 4.
3. Israel were accepted if they kept the law, whereas believers are accepted “in the Beloved”, verse 6.
4. Israel were redeemed nationally by the Passover lamb, whereas we have redemption “through His blood”, verse 7.
5. Israel’s continuance in the inheritance depended on their obedience to God, and their success in driving out the enemy, whereas we are sure of the inheritance, for the blessings are “in Christ”, and are therefore secure.

So those who formerly were Gentiles, but have now believed, come into the inheritance because they are heirs of God just as much as believers who formerly were Jews. Their relationship with these Jewish believers is not a one-sided one. The believing Gentiles have equal share with the one-time Jews, since they are all joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17, and He does not discriminate between them.
In Old Testament times, Gentiles came into blessing by being joined to Israel, whereas at this present time Gentiles come into blessing by being joined unto Christ first, and then to one another in virtue of that fact, for all the members are joined to the head, and are therefore in the same body, the church.

Fellow-members of the same body
And of the same body- the apostle Paul is the only one to use the figure of a human body and its head to illustrate the relation between Christ and the church. Now that He is risen from the dead and ascended, Christ has become head of the body, the church, Colossians 1:18. Every true believer of this present age is linked to the Head in heaven when he believes the gospel, for “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”, 1 Corinthians 6:17, and “He that established us with you in Christ, (or, as it may be rendered, ‘firmly joined us to Christ’), and hath anointed us, is God”, 2 Corinthians 1:21. The apostle builds upon this illustration in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 4.

Fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ
And partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel- in 2:12 we learn that the Gentiles had no claim on the covenants that God made with Israel when He promised them the land of Canaan, (the Abrahamic covenant, Genesis 12:1-3); blessings if they obeyed His law, (the Mosaic covenant, Deuteronomy 6:3); a king to reign over them, (the Davidic covenant, 2 Samuel 7:12-17), and restoration if they went away from Him, (the Palestinian covenant, Deuteronomy 29 and 30). And this was because they were “without Christ”, that is, apart from Christ, with no relationship with Israel’s Messiah. It is through the Christian gospel that they have arrived at their present happy position of having a share in the spiritual and heavenly blessings Christ secures and guarantees.

Verses 7-10 The mystery understood by the saints

3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.

Whereof I was made a minister- it was the apostle Paul who was entrusted with the ministry of unfolding these truths to the other apostles, and to the saints. Despite the greatness of the revelations given to him, the apostle was nothing more than a minister, or servant. He emphasises his nothingness in the next verse.
According to the gift of the grace of God given unto me- he could not make known these truths in his own strength, or by his own ability. He could not, for instance, rely on his expertise as a trained rabbi, for these truths were unknown to the rabbis. To discharge his stewardship in a spiritual manner he needed, not the skill of men, but the help of God in the form of grace. This would ensure that both he and his hearers and readers would be in a fit state to receive the truth available to them, and to respond suitably. By the effectual working of His power- this Divine power is needed, because Satan is opposed to the progress of Divine truth. The power of God which He put forth to raise Christ from the dead, Ephesians 1:19,20, (which is clearly effectual power), is put forth again, to thwart the Devil’s hindering tactics. Satan is actively opposed to anything that glorifies Christ, but the Spirit of God has superior power to thwart his efforts. The basis upon which he does it is the exaltation of Christ, the sure sign that the enemy’s power is broken.

3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given- the apostle is almost overwhelmed by the responsibility laid upon him. When it was a question of him being a sinner, he said he was chief, 1 Timothy 1:15, but now that he has been made an apostle by the glorified Christ, he is deeply humbled. So much so that he invents a word to describe his status- “leaster”. No doubt the thing which humbled him in this context was the exceptional character of the truth he was commissioned to make known. The rich truth about Christ, and in particular, His relationship with His people at the present time, filled him with awe.
That I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ- this truth was unsearchable, a word which literally means untraceable, untrackable. Paul was enabled to announce truths that it is impossible to either discover or understand with the unaided human mind, and which, moreover, were untraceable by Old Testament saints. Only the believer of this age, energised by the Spirit of God, can enter into the deep things of God, see 1 Corinthians 2:9-16.
Paul was specially commissioned to preach mainly to the Gentiles, as we see from Acts 22:21, Galatians 2:9, and Romans 11:13.

3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery- not only do we need to have the truth revealed to us, we need to be enlightened, (this is the sense of the word “see” here), as to how to handle the truth once we have got it. For it is to be worked out in fellowship with other believers, as is seen in the three-fold use of the word fellow in verse 6.
Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God- the mystery has been hid in God. It was not hidden in God’s word, but in His heart, ready to be disclosed at the moment of His choosing. It was hidden there during the whole of the Old Testament era, for it was hidden from the beginning of the world. Confusion will result if we try to read the church back into the Old Testament. We must not confuse the church with Israel. It is interesting to notice that it is Matthew’s gospel, the gospel of the King, which alone records the prophecy of Christ about the church. Interesting also, that after this has been done in chapter 16, the next chapter records the transfiguration of Christ, which confirmed to Peter that the Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom were still valid, 2 Peter 1:16-19. The kingdom is not cancelled, nor has the church replaced it.
Who created all things by Jesus Christ- through Jesus Christ all things had been created, including the ages of time, (for time is part of God’s creation). Now, as the Architect of the Ages, He chooses to tell His secret to His people. He was perfectly able to reveal it before if He chose, but He did not so choose.

Verses 10,11   The mystery understood by the angels

3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places- the angels had desired to look into the things that the prophets wrote concerning the sufferings and glory of the Messiah, 1 Peter 1:10-12. Now they are able to plainly see the results of His sufferings. The wisdom of God is His complete insight into the true nature of things. In the present context, it has to do with His ways in this age.
Might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God- the angels had witnessed the way that Eve had by-passed the authority of Adam, and accepted the authority of Satan. The church is that company which accepts the authority of Christ, and expresses it in obedience to His will. The angels take great interest in those who, despite the fact that Christ left the earth 2000 years ago, having been given insight by God into the true nature of things through Christ who is the wisdom of God, express that wisdom in obedience and love. For instance, the covered head and long hair of the sisters is an object lesson to the angels, for they thereby see Christian women acting contrary to the first woman, who failed to submit to Divine order with disastrous results. We should never underestimate the value of this testimony by the sisters, for they maintain this testimony “because of the angels”, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

3:11 According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord- not only is the mystery hid in God, and hid from ages and generations, but it has been His purpose eternally to bless Gentiles this way. It is not an emergency plan devised after Israel refused its Messiah and crucified Him. Rather, that rejection of Christ as their Messiah was foreknown, and part of the plan. They still bear the full burden of guilt for slaying Him, but He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2:23.

Verses 12,13   The mystery underpinning boldness and confidence

3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.

In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him- those who were initiated into the mysteries were allowed to approach into the immediate presence of the heathen idol, behind which lurked an evil spirit. The believer’s privilege is far purer and greater, even that of approaching the true God with boldness, and with confidence. Boldness is literally the “absence of fear in speaking”, and would refer to the fact that, instructed in apostolic doctrine, the believer is able to speak to God with intelligence. He also has confidence too, for the truth unfolded by the apostles serve to strengthen the believer’s faith, and assure him of the dignity of the privilege that is his. Heathen idol-worshippers were driven by fear and ignorance- how different is the attitude of the believer!

3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory- having set forth the truth about the mystery in the previous verses, the apostle is now in a position to appeal to them to be encouraged in the Christian pathway. They should not allow the fact that he went through tribulations and distress as he went about ministering, to make them think that what he taught was not of God. Far from being a sign of God’s disapproval, the trials of the apostle were occasioned in the main by Jewish opponents, who were angry at his emphasis on Gentiles coming into blessing. This blessing was a glorious thing, for it linked them to Christ in glory. Far from being downcast, therefore, because of the apostle’s sufferings, they should see in them a sign present and coming glories were assured.
In the parallel passage to this, Colossians 1:23-29, the apostle rejoices in his sufferings for them. He knew from the outset that he would have to suffer for the sake of Christ, being told it a few days after his conversion, Acts 9:16. He knew also that the full complement of those sufferings had not been reached, for there was “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ”. This does not mean, of course, that there was shortfall in the sufferings of Christ. The shortfall was with Paul, for he had not yet endured the full complement of sufferings which being associated with Christ entailed. He rejoiced also in the riches of the glory of the mystery, verse 27. And so should we rejoice, as we contemplate the glorious things God has done, and will yet do.

The apostle now does two things as a result of setting out the truth of the mystery. He first of all requests four things may be real in the experience of the believers, verses 14-19, and then he closes the section with an expression of worship, as he bows his knees to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the contrast between what he asks for in chapter 1, and his requests in chapter 3:

Chapter 1 Chapter 3
He had heard of their faith  He knew their position.
He addresses the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. He addresses the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He emphasises power. He emphasises love.
God is the God of glory. God is the Father of the family.
Three things to be known, beginning with “what”. Four requests, beginning with “that”.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 14 TO 21:

3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
3:16 That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man;
3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
3:20 Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
3:21 Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Verses 14-19 Paul’s four requests

3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

For this cause- this is the same phrase as began the chapter, with verses 2-13 being a parenthesis, as we have seen. It does not mean “because”, but “to advance this cause”. The cause being the holy temple in the Lord which the saints make up. He has already initiated them into the mystery of God’s purpose for the church, and now he is going to pray that the saints may be able to grasp the import of it.
I bow my knees- he anticipates what he will expect believers will do once they have appreciated the greatness of God’s workings. They will bow in worship. But Paul first bows in supplication, that this end result of worship might be realised.
Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ- in chapter 1 it was a question of the display of mighty power, so it was appropriate for him to address God as God, and in particular the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one whom He has exalted with power. Here it is likewise appropriate for him to address God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the fatherhood of God, as expressed in His relationship with His Son, is to the fore.
We are reminded by these two titles, God of our Lord Jesus Christ and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the words of Christ in resurrection, “I ascend to My Father and your Father; and to My God, and your God”, John 20:17. We are assured of the same powerful support, and tender love, as He knew when down here. Of course He is Son of the Father in a unique way, but God graciously brings us into His family.

3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named- the concept of fatherhood originates with God, and finds it full and eternal expression in His relationship as Father with His Son. When the Son was here, the apostle saw the glory of the out-working of that relationship in the life of Christ, called by John “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”, John 1:14.
Satan is against the expression of fatherhood and sonship, and so he directs his opposition to any expression of it, either in Christian families, or in the household of faith.
The apostle now makes a clear distinction between the family on earth and the family in heaven, for the Textus Receptus is translated “every family”. In 2:19 he has spoken of the church as the household of God, the environment in which the Father expresses Himself, and over which the Lord Jesus is Son, Hebrews 3:6. This is the family in heaven for in chapter 2:6, Paul has described believers of this church age as “seated in heavenly places in Christ”.
The family on earth is the believing seed of Abraham from Old Testament times, and also from the Tribulation period. God described Israel as His Son, even His firstborn, Exodus 4:22, and when He brought that nation out of Egypt it is said, “When Israel was a child I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt”, Hosea 11:1; see also Matthew 2:15.

3:16 That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man;

First request:
That He would grant you- believers of themselves have no resources to enable them to be strong.
According to the riches of His glory- the prayer is based on the fact that God is rich and abundant in His perfections.
To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man- the Spirit of God gives the necessary spiritual energy to enable us to appreciate Divine things. The inner man is the real self, not the external man which is simply a tabernacle for the person. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day”, 2 Corinthians 3:16. This is why the Spirit is called the Comforter, for He fortifies those who believe. No matter how weak and frail the outward man may become, the inner man is strengthened spiritually as we allow the Spirit to have His way with us.

3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Second request:
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith- the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, and this is the same as Christ indwelling, for each of the persons of the Godhead may represent the other. So Romans 8:9,10 reads, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you…” And again, when the Spirit comes, it is the Father and the Son who come, John 14:16,23. The Spirit is able to make the Father and the Son real to us as He dwells within us and we respond to His guidance.
The emphasis is on the word dwell. The apostle is desirous that the Spirit of God, who indwells every believer as a matter of fact, may really make His home in our hearts because He is comfortable there, and as a result, make Christ real to us. This is the opposite of grieving the Holy Spirit, 4:30.
The expression “inner man” is now replaced by “hearts”, for this is a heart-matter. The pre-condition for an appreciation of these things is given by the Lord Jesus as “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him”, John 14:23.
So we see that the first request of the apostle about the power of the Spirit was in view of his second request, for the answer to the first ensures the answer to the second.

Third request:
That ye, being rooted and grounded in love- a plant first of puts down roots, then those roots explore the surrounding soil, and by this means the plant is stabilised. We need to be practically rooted into the love of Christ, for this will enable us to explore it more, so that we are stabilised by it.

3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

May be able to comprehend- if the Spirit enables us, (in answer to the first request), if Christ is at home in our hearts, (in answer to the second request), then, being established in His love, we are fully equipped to appreciate the greatness of the purpose of God. Note that we are not fitted by the exercise of the intellect, but by our affections for Christ.
To comprehend would suggest an all-round grasp, for the purpose of God is of wide dimensions, and we need Divine help to take it in.
With all saints- the apostle does not limit his desires to the assembly at Ephesus. The whole household of faith should aspire to spiritual progress, and we should pray for one another to this end. Not only would “all saints” mean all believers on the earth at the time of writing, but all saints down through the centuries of this age.
What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height- there are many who believe that these words relate to the love of Christ. The love of Christ is indeed deep and wide, but we must note that the next verse speaks of knowing the love of Christ, so it cannot be the subject of verse 18. We should remember the long parenthesis of verses 2 to 13 in this chapter. Notice, too, that the apostle has not made any request relevant to the content of that parenthesis. We may conclude therefore that he is referring now to the subject of the end of chapter 1, namely, the “holy temple in the Lord”, a reference to the church. After all, buildings have length, breadth, depth of foundations and height. In fact, we are told the dimensions of Solomon’s temple, including the size of the foundation stones, 1 Kings 6 2; 7:10. The apostle is desiring that we have an adequate understanding of the greatness of the church, forming, as it does, a sphere wherein God may be worshipped.
The temple has breadth, for it takes in believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
The temple has length because it includes all the saints during the whole of the age.
The temple has depth because it is founded upon the rock, even the truths about the person of Christ, who said, in response to Peter’s confession of Him as the Son of God, “Upon this rock I will build My church”, Matthew 16:18. Can there be a deeper foundation?
The temple has height because it is central to God’s lofty purpose.

3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge- as already suggested, because the sentence begins with and, it is about a different subject to the previous verse. So this is a further thing. And it is also a better thing, as is clear, because the love of Christ surpasses the knowledge of the length, breadth, depth and height of the purpose of God in relation to the church. Good as it is to have a grasp of such things, to know the love of Christ in a personal and experimental way, is much better. The word “passeth” contains a preposition which would indicate that the love of Christ is above and beyond knowledge about the church.

Fourth request:
That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God- the phrase is literally, “filled unto all the fullness of God”. In other words, this is to happen now, in view of something on ahead. We should be being filled now, in view of eternity, when the fulness of that which God will reveal shall be ours. This is not yet attained, or else the apostle would not pray for it, but he prayed that it might be our aim.
All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, bodily, Colossians 2:9, so to be filled with all the fullness of God is the equivalent to saying, “to have minds full of the knowledge of Christ”. It is the Son of God who makes the Godhead real to us in every way. This is His Firstborn role. The apostle himself expressed the desire to know Him, Philippians 3:10. And he referred to this theme again in Ephesians 4:13 when he saw the church complete, and having the “(full) knowledge of the Son of God”.

3:20,21 Paul’s closing doxology

3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly- not merely “do”, not even “do abundantly”, but exceeding abundantly. God’s surpassing desire is to overwhelm us with the His riches of His glory.
Above all that we ask- not “can ask”, for we could ask for the infinite. It is what we are currently asking for that is referred to by the apostle. He knows that we now ask with limited grasp. Thankfully our God puts forth His power to do much more than we ask Him to do. He answers according to His will, and not according to our asking.
Or think- even our thinking, the act behind the asking, is limited and poor. We have little idea of what God will unfold to us in eternity. Notice the apostle is including himself in these statements, for even he needed help in these matters.
According to the power that worketh in us- this is the power of the Holy Spirit, who “maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”, Romans 8:26. And “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”, verse 27. So we have a Divine intercessor within, who interprets the real desires of our hearts, and presents them to God in such a way that they are in line with the will of God.

3:21 Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus- the church is the sphere in which God will be glorified, for it grows unto a holy temple in the Lord, 2:21. Both the tabernacle and the temple were filled with the glory of God once they had been completed. We are not able of ourselves to make the glory appear, but Christ Jesus, who is the brightness of the glory of God, Hebrews 1:3, fills the temple with the glory of His presence. And when he does that, we shall be constrained to bow the knee alongside of the apostle, as the magnificence of the glory of God is made known to us in Christ.
Throughout all ages, world without end- the literal rendering of these words is “to all the generations of the age of the ages”. Eternity will be a series of ages, strange as it may seem, because we usually thing of an age as a period of time. The word is being used here of eternity in such a way that we may understand it a little now. Each age shall generate another, in an infinite succession, each one unfolding somewhat of the glory of God. In each of these ages God will be glorified as He reveals Himself in all the wonder of His person.