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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Ephesians 3

 

 

Verse 1

1. Τούτου χάριν resumed in Ephesians 3:14. It is closely connected with Ephesians 2:22, the climax of the whole paragraph Ephesians 2:11-22.

ἐγὼ Παῦλος. This personal appeal is characteristic of the writer, and marks all the groups of his Epistles; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:2; Colossians 1:23; Philemon 1:9; Philemon 1:19. It is very difficult to explain except on the hypothesis of the genuineness of the letters.

ὁ δέσμιος τοῦ χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. Cf. Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; Colossians 4:18; Philemon 1:9-10; Philippians 1:12-14; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:9; Acts 21:13; Acts 26:29. St Paul seems to have felt both the restraint and the indignity. It is difficult for us, who have the experience of the Christian centuries behind us to help us to see the sufferings of Christian Martyrs in their true light, to judge their effect on public opinion in the first generation of Christians. There is a sublime originality in St Paul’s attitude with regard to his own experiences which it is easy to overlook. To his Jewish and to his Judaizing contemporaries outward success was a decisive criterion of Divine favour, and the capital that his opponents made out of St Paul’s sufferings can be measured by the passionate stress which he lays on them as his chief credentials in 2 Cor., e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:23. Here he seems to be afraid lest the fact of his imprisonment should be regarded as bringing discredit on his Gospel. The same thought underlies the assertion of his own joy in his sufferings in Colossians 1:24. In each case he claims an efficacious character for them. They were the direct result of his advocacy of the Gentile cause, and he is confident that good would come out of them. He does not of course claim any merit for them because they were his. The cause for the sake of which he suffered was the ground of his assurance that his sufferings would not be fruitless. The teaching of the Lord on the blessedness of enduring persecution for His sake and after His example (Matthew 5:10 f.; Mark 8:34; Mark 13:13; John 15:21) had sunk deep into the heart of him who had once been a persecutor, and he passed on the consolation of it to all who were called to drink of the same cup: 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 1:4 f.; Philippians 1:29. The same teaching underlies James 1:2 ff.; 1 Peter 2:20 ff; 1 Peter 4:14; Acts 5:41. But it is only in St Paul that blessings accruing to others from our sufferings form part of the consolation. Cf. Intr., p. xiv.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἐθνῶν. Cf. Ephesians 3:13, Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 1:24. Similarly the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:5) are taught that their sufferings are ‘on behalf of the kingdom of God.’ The quiet confidence with which St Paul claims the whole world as his parish would be startling, if it were not so familiar. The truth that had been revealed to him had a direct relation to every man, and, as he believed, the express commission of his Lord laid on him personally the burthen of giving the truth a world-wide dissemination (Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17). The consciousness of the work that he had to do is never far below the surface with him. It comes into clear expression whenever, as in Gal. (Ephesians 1:16, Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:8 f.) and in his letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:17), his thoughts go back to the fact of his commission, or, as here and in Colossians 1:27 and especially in Romans 1:5; Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16, he has to explain the interest that he taken in congregations as yet personally unknown to him. The Apostles as a body had received a similar world-wide commission (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19 f.), but the call of the heathen world does not, judging from the extant literature, seem to have come home to any of them with the same urgency; whereas this trait appears in every group of the Pauline Epp. (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:16).


Verses 1-21

Ephesians 3:1-21. A PRAYER FOR THE PERFECTING OF THE CHURCH CULMINATING IN A DOXOLOGY

1–21. St Paul has now completed his description of the new state into which the Gentiles had been called, and before passing on to appeal to them to respond to their privileges he pauses to offer yet one more prayer on their behalf that they may have spiritual strength to receive the indwelling Christ and grasp the full significance of the new revelation. On the way, however, the reference to himself and his present condition causes a digression in the course of which he restates the Truth, the championship of which has brought him as a prisoner to Rome.


Verse 2

2. εἴ γε ἠκούσατε. This claim to be conferring a benefit or at least to be suffering on behalf of his correspondents must be unintelligible except in the light of his special commission, and he cannot take a knowledge of that for granted. If he had been writing exclusively to the Ephesians he must have expressed himself differently.

τὴν οἰκονομίαν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς. Cf. Colossians 1:25. This parallel makes it clear that St Paul is thinking, not (as in Ephesians 3:9) of the Divine ordering in its widest sense, but of the special stewardship conferred upon himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 9:17) by the possession of the grace. St Peter (1 Peter 4:10) also regards the possession of grace as constituting ‘a stewardship,’ i.e. as implying a definite responsibility for the use of it for the benefit of others. The thought and the word seem to come in both cases from the word of the Lord in Luke 12:42. See Additional Note, p. 112. The thought may be illustrated by Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16. The stewardship implied in the grace given is closely parallel in thought to Romans 15:15, τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσανεἰς τὸ εἶναί με λειτουργὸν Χρ. . εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, and to his ‘call’ by means of the grace, of which St Paul speaks in Galatians 1:15. The grace given us implies in each case ‘gifts’ to be used for service (Romans 12:6).

τῆς χάριτος κ.τ.λ. Cf. Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15; Galatians 2:9.


Verse 3

3. ὄτι. R.V. ‘how that,’ dependent on ἠκούσατε. It may be ‘because,’ or ‘seeing that,’ defining the grace given.

κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν. St Paul was certain that the knowledge of the truth which he preached had come to him by a direct Divine illumination (Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16). He is not, however, here (as in Gal.) laying stress on the fact to vindicate his independence of the original Apostles. The revelation which had been granted to him was no badge of distinction from the rest, but rather a link uniting him to them, for they also showed the same illumination (cf. Ephesians 3:5).

τὸ μυστήριον,, Ephesians 3:4; Ephesians 3:9. See on Ephesians 1:9.

καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ. ‘As I have written above in brief,’ or ‘as I put forth publicly in a concise form.’ The reference is probably to the statement which follows in Ephesians 3:6, though it might refer to the section Ephesians 2:11-22, in which the same thought is written out at greater length. The epistolary aorist can refer to the passage on which the writer is actually engaged. The next clause which implies that the statement is put out as a standard of reference suggests that προγράφω implies as in Galatians 3:1 a public announcement.


Verse 4

4. πρὸς ὃ δύνασθε ἀναγινώσκοντες νοῆσαι. ‘By reference to which ye can as ye read the Scriptures understand.’ It seems, as Hort has pointed out (Rom. and Eph. 150 ff.), impossible to account for πρὸς ὅ if ἀναγινώσκοντες is taken in its obvious sense as referring to the reading of the letter itself. His alternative, to take ἀναγιν. in the technical sense of ‘the reading of the Scriptures,’ not only gives a clear meaning to πρὸς ὅ, but it also supplies that reference to the O.T. which St Paul’s habitual practice both in writing and preaching would lead us to expect. The parallel, if this interpretation is accepted, with the closely similar passage in Romans 16:25 f. becomes complete. It is true that no certain parallel to this absolute use of ἀναγινώσκειν can be produced from the N.T., but there are at least two other passages (Mark 13:14 and 1 Timothy 4:13) which seem to require it. Zahn’s suggestion that the Apostle is referring to an earlier letter, e.g. Gal., hardly fits the conditions of a circular letter, nor does it supply the criterion of an external standard by which the Apostle’s insight, as expressed in this statement, could be judged.

τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ χρ. Cf. (with Robinson) 1 [3] 3 Esdr. 1:31, τῆς συνέσεως αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ Κυρίου, and 2 Timothy 2:7, σύνεσιν ἐν πᾶσιν. συνιέναι and σύνεσις are specially used of the power to grasp the inner meaning of teaching and so especially of a parable or μυστήριον (Matthew 13:51; Matthew 15:10; Luke 24:45; &c.).

ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ χριστοῦ. The ‘mystery of the Christ’ as we know from the Acts was according to St Paul to be studied in the O.T. Cf. Acts 17:2 f., Acts 26:22 f.


Verse 5

5. ἑτέραις γενεαῖς. ‘In former generations.’ Cf. Ephesians 2:12; Romans 16:25.

τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων. Contrast Ephesians 3:10 (ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις).

ὡς νῦν ἀπεκαλύφθη. For the ignorance even of the O.T. Prophets, cf. 1 Peter 1:10. For νῦν with aor. cf. Hort on 1 Peter 1:12.

τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις αὐτοῦ καὶ προφήταις. Cf. Colossians 1:26. It is not easy to say when this revelation was granted. St Paul felt that it was included in the revelation that he received at his conversion. But it does not seem to have been fully accepted at Jerusalem before the conference in Acts 15. The terms of the letter to Antioch written in the name of the Apostles and Elders (including at least Judas and Silas who were prophets, Acts 15:32), ἔδοξεν γὰρ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁλίῳ καὶ ἡμῖν, would satisfy St Paul’s language here exactly. Everything in fact falls naturally into its place if we may suppose that St Paul had the decision of such a representative gathering in mind from which he was himself excluded (cf. Hort Chris. Eccl., p. 166). If the Western reading τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ ἀπ. καὶ προφ. be adopted, it would be possible to take ἁγίοις as a substantive, as in Colossians 1:26. The punctuation of Lachm. and Treg., retaining the common text with a comma after ἁγίοις, is surely impossible. ἁγίοις, epithet constantly applied to prophets (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2; Wisdom of Solomon 11:1). Here only with ἀπόστολοι (cf. Revelation 18:20).

ἐν πνεύματι. To be connected with ἀπεκαλύφθη. The truth was one which it needed special illumination to apprehend.


Verse 6

6. συνκληρονόμα. Cf. on κληρονομία, Ephesians 1:14.

σύνσωμα, ἅπ. λεγ. Cf. ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι, Ephesians 2:16.

συνμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας. Cf. Ephesians 2:12 (τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας), Ephesians 1:13 (τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας).

διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Cf. on Ephesians 1:13. The Gospel enshrines ‘the mystery,’ and is the means by which it is made effectual in bringing men to their inheritance. St Paul almost personifies it (cf. Ephesians 6:19).


Verse 7

7. οὗ ἐγενήθην διάκονος. Cf. Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18; 1 Timothy 1:12. A humble word for servant which may have owed its attractiveness for St Paul to its use in words of the Lord (Mark 10:43; Luke 22:26; John 12:26).

κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ. Cf. Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 3:20. St Paul is conscious in himself of the working of the power which he prays that others may know. Cf. Colossians 1:29.


Verse 8

8. ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων. The thought of the commission instinctively wakens a sense of his own unworthiness. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8. The same trait is noticeable in the Pastorals (1 Timothy 1:12 f.; cf. Ephesians 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). A strong note of genuineness.

The commission included first a direct work in preaching to the Gentiles, opening their eyes and so introducing them to the fulness of their inheritance, as described in Ephesians 3:6 and in the prayer Ephesians 1:18 f. The inheritance presents itself as ‘unsearchable riches.’

ἀνεξιχνίαστον. ‘Unsearchable’ or ‘inscrutable’ (Romans 11:33; Job 5:9; Prayer of Manas. 2).

πλοῦτος. See on Ephesians 1:7. Cf. Colossians 2:3.


Verse 9

9. The second effect of the commission has a yet wider range. Ultimately it reaches the whole universe of created being by bringing into clear light an eternal fact of boundless issues.

φωτίσαι. The Gospel has an illuminating power ‘bringing life and immortality to light’ (2 Timothy 1:10) and piercing the gloom in which our hearts are shrouded (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Here it is the Divine ordering of the universe that at last stands revealed.

ἡ οἰκονομία τοῦ μνστηρίου. In its widest sense, as perhaps in Ephesians 1:10. No longer the special office committed to St Paul (Ephesians 3:2).

τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου. Cf. on Ephesians 3:5.

ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων. Cf. Colossians 1:26; Luke 1:70; and χρόνοις αἰωνίοις, Romans 16:25.

ἐν τῷ θεῷ. Cf. Colossians 3:3. For the thought cf. Mark 13:32.

τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι. Cf. Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 2:10.


Verse 10

10. ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν. Dependent perhaps on ἀποκεκρυμμένου (so Lightfoot), cf. Mark 4:22; or on φωτίσαι (so Hort apparently).

ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. Superhuman intelligences either good (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 2:10) or evil (Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15). For the interest of Angels in human concerns cf. Mark 13:32; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:12. Cf. Angels as fellow servants, Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:6-9.

διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας,, Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 3:21, Ephesians 5:23-32. The Society made up of the two now harmonized elements, and so embodying God’s purpose of love. See Hort on 1 Peter 1:12, who says: ‘St Peter’s words receive important illustration from their often noticed affinity to Ephesians 3:10. St Paul there represents the present making known of the manifold wisdom of God through the Church to the principalities and powers as one purpose of his preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles: and the remarkable phrase “through the Church” is explained by part of the preceding paragraph (Ephesians 2:14-18) on the founding of the two, “Israel and the Nations,” in Christ into one new man, the reconciliation of them both in one body to God, and the announcement of peace to them that were far off and peace to them that were nigh. The Church in virtue of this its Catholicity was not only the herald of God’s all-embracing peace to the ears of men, but its visible embodiment in the eyes of men and of angels. Its very existence was a memorial of Divinely appointed barriers Divinely broken down, and a living sign of a Will and a Power which would work on till the victory of love was universal and complete. Neither to angels nor to men were the last resources of the manifold Wisdom as yet disclosed: but a sufficient pledge of the “unsearchable riches” contained in it was already given in the Gospel, and in the living community created by the Gospel.’

ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ. ‘The very complex wisdom of God’ as displayed in His ordering of human affairs in ways which baffle human powers of anticipation. See 1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 11:33; Matthew 11:19 = Luke 7:35. Cf. ποικίλης χάριτος, 1 Peter 4:10.


Verse 11

11. κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων. ‘In accordance with a plan for the ages.’ Cf. on Ephesians 1:9.

ἣν ἐποίησεν. This may be taken in two ways; either [1] ‘which He formed,’ i.e. to which He gave a definite objective existence. ἣν ἐποιήσατο = προέθετο would have left the plan purely ‘subjective.’ This would correspond to the first clause in 2 Timothy 1:9 and with Ephesians 1:4. Cf. Isaiah 29:15; Isaiah 30:1. Or [2] ‘fulfilled,’ ‘wrought out.’ Cf. ποιεῖν τὰ θελήματα (Ephesians 2:3), τὸ θέλημα (Matthew 21:31). But Robinson is clearly right in urging that for this sense a stronger word than ποιεῖν would be required. If this sense were adopted it might be illustrated by the second clause in 2 Timothy 1:9 f., διὰ τῆς ἐπιφανείας τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χρ. .

ἐν τῷ χρ. . τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. The full phrase is found elsewhere only in Colossians 2:6. ‘In the Christ, that is, Jesus our Lord.’ It is given here in full because of the stress that is to be laid on the power of faith in the verses that follow, and to connect the eternal purpose with its historic manifestation.


Verse 12

12. Here we come back to the position established in Ephesians 2:18, but the thought of the freedom and fulness of communion with the Father which is ours in Him is brought out in greater detail.

παρρησίαν. Of freedom in approaching God, characteristic of Heb. (Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19) and 1 Jn (1 John 3:21, 1 John 5:14). Elsewhere in St Paul it seems to be used only of the relation of a man to men.

ἐν πεποιθήσει. Of confidence towards God as in 2 Corinthians 3:4.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. Cf. Ephesians 4:13. ‘Through our faith in Him’ (Romans 3:22; Romans 3:26; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9). Faith in Christ is the source of ‘justification,’ i.e. of the consciousness that God is on our side, and that ‘through Him we have obtained our access by faith into the grace wherein we stand’ (Romans 5:2, τῇ πίστει om. by BDG lat vt).


Verse 13

13. Διὸ. Such being the occasion and the effect of my sufferings.

αἰτοῦμαι. Elsewhere in St Paul only Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 1:9; in each case of a request from God. But the context is on the whole in favour of translating ‘I beg you not.’ Otherwise ‘I pray that there be no failing’ is possible. Robinson conjectures that ὑμᾶς has dropped out after αἰτοῦμαι, but cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20; Hebrews 13:19.

μὴ ἐνκακεῖν., 2 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 4:1; Galatians 6:9; Luke 18:1. (So always in the true reading, never ἐκκακεῖν.) ‘Lose heart,’ ‘fail in perseverance.’ Cf. Lightfoot on Galatians 6:9.

ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου, i.e. his imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1). Notice how in Philippians 1:12-30 he puts a brave face on facts outwardly discouraging. Cf. Colossians 1:24. For ἐν, cf. Philippians 1:28, μὴ πτυρόμενοι ἐν μηδενί.

ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. Cf. 1 Peter 4:14. The antecedent is either [1] ‘my sufferings on your behalf, which are,’ or [2] ‘that ye faint not … which is’ (so Lightfoot). ἥτις in any case is attracted into agreement with δόξα. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:17; Philippians 1:28. For [1] cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:12.


Verse 14

14. Τούτου χάριν. Resuming Ephesians 3:1. Such being the prospect open before you.

κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου. The attitude of adoration (Romans 11:4; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10; cf. Isaiah 45:23), but also of prayer (Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5).

πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. Cf. on Ephesians 2:18. Note the absolute use (see 5:l). The Fatherhood of God is the ground of Prayer (Matthew 6:8; Matthew 7:11; Romans 8:15, &c.).


Verse 15

15. πᾶσα πατριὰ. Lit. ‘every family’ or ‘father’s house’ (a sub-division of a tribe). Cf. Exodus 6:15; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 1:4; Luke 2:4; Acts 3:25.

ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς. Cf. Matthew 6:10. God’s heart is revealed in every true father on earth (cf. Luke 11:11 ff.). The bond of ‘fatherhood’ is not necessarily physical (e.g. 1 Corinthians 4:15), so that it is no objection to this interpretation that we cannot tell in what way Angels may be connected in ‘families.’ ‘All the family’ would imply a unity of all creation which can hardly as yet be said to have received a name, even if the absence of the article were not a conclusive objection.

ὀνομάζεται. Cf. Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 5:3. ‘Derives its nature and its name.’ To bear a name implies both a position and the power to fill it. So though πατριά is not strictly abstract (= paternitas, i.e. fatherhood) yet ‘fatherhood’ is at the heart of the conception of a family. Each family exists qua family in proportion as it embodies the principle of fatherhood. And all created fatherhood is derived from the Divine, so that ‘fatherhood’ would be the best rendering of the sense.


Verse 16

16. κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. ‘According to the riches of His glory.’ We have the remission of sius ‘according to the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:7), for the power to live the new life we draw on the riches of His glory—the spiritual force inherent in His revealed and realized presence with His people, filling His new temple. See Additional Note on ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης.

δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι. ‘To be strengthened with power.’ The thought of glory is linked with the thought of power Ephesians 1:19, Colossians 1:11.

κραταιωθῆναι. The fundamental need of these Gentile Christians, as St Paul sees it, is not quickening or conversion. In spite of the presence of grievous moral evil to which he is to call attention later on, he assumes that their hearts are right with God. But they are immature. They need strengthening in mind and heart and will. So he opens their eyes to a power not their own by which their need can be supplied. Cf. ἐνδυναμοῦσθαι in Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1. Notice that ἐκραταιοῦτο is used both of the Baptist and of our Lord in the early stages of their development (Luke 1:80; Luke 2:40).

διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ. The Spirit is characteristically the source of power. See esp. Acts 1:8.

εἰς. Pregnant construction: ‘sent into and working in.’

τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον. Cf. Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Peter 3:4. Here it is virtually identical with ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν (Ephesians 3:17).


Verse 17

17. κατοικῆσαι κ.τ.λ. The result of the spiritual strengthening is to enable men to satisfy the conditions for the indwelling of the Christ in personal presence and power in the centre of their being. See on ἐν Χριστῷ (p. lxii ff.). κατοικῆσαι takes up the idea of the κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ (Β χριστοῦ) from Ephesians 2:22. The indwelling of God in the Church is ‘moral not mechanical.’ The whole Body is His temple. But He enters no heart that does not open to Him from within; cf. Revelation 3:20. The conditions on which He will enter are laid down in John 14:23. These conditions correspond closely to the διά τῆς πίστεως ἐν ἀγάπῃ which St Paul specifies here. For ‘faith’ in St Paul is quickened by love (Galatians 5:6; Galatians 2:20) and issues in obedience. The indwelling here is represented as consequent on the strengthening, for the surrender of faith on our part, while essentially our own act, is yet beyond our power without the Divine assistance. Cf. Ephesians 2:8.

ἐν ἀγάπῃ. Cf. on Ephesians 1:4. Love is according to John 14:23 the all-embracing condition of the Divine indwelling. The word that the disciple must keep is the new commandment of love to the brethren, and love for Him who gave the commandment is the spring of obedience to it. So here our faith in Him who loved us, issuing in love to our brethren, creates as it were an atmosphere of love, which at once emanates from Him and binds us to Him in a mutual bond.

Cf. on the whole passage the letter to D. J. Vaughan in the Life and Letters of F. D. Maurice (II. p. 349).

ἑρριζωμένοι κ.τ.λ. Cf. Colossians 2:7. For the anacoluthon, cf. (with Robinson) Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 9:11. The use of the nominative in Apoc. seems to be an exaggeration of this habit. It would be possible on the analogy of 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:7 &c. to regard the ἵνα as belated. It makes no substantial difference to the sense, as ἐρρ. καὶ τεθ. simply sum up the effect of the strengthening and the indwelling described in Ephesians 3:16-17. ἐρριζωμένοι, the thought of being ‘rooted’ in Christ has an O.T. foundation in Isaiah 11:10, quoted by St Paul in Romans 15:12 (cf. Revelation 5:5; Revelation 22:16). St Paul uses the figure to illustrate the ‘grafting in’ of the Gentiles (Romans 11:16 ff.). It is used by our Lord in the similitude of the Vine (John 15) as an illustration of mutual indwelling.

καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι. Cf. Ephesians 2:20. Here as in 1 Peter 2:4 the thought is of a personal relationship between each stone in the building and the Foundation.


Verse 18

18. ἐξισχύσητε. ‘That ye may be strong enough.’ Just as we need spiritual strengthening to enable us to believe, because faith in the Christ revealed in Jesus our Lord must tax to the uttermost every faculty of mind and heart and will that we possess, so the fuller revelations that He has in store as we grow to maturity in Him can only be apprehended by faculties developed by ‘abiding in Him’ and in communion through Him with all who are His. The truth may be regarded in two aspects and must be approached by us in two ways, from ‘without’ as a mighty all-inclusive Whole, and from within in detail in its personal relation to ourselves.

καταλαβέσθαι. Of mental comprehension (Acts 4:13; Acts 10:34; Acts 25:25).

σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις., Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 6:18; cf. Ephesians 4:13. The whole truth is too vast for the comprehension of any individual isolated from his fellows. As it takes the whole Church with the appointed contributions from every tribe and kindred and tongue to embody the Christ, so it takes the whole Church to apprehend all the stores of wisdom and knowledge that are hid in Him. The thought is deep and striking. It is strange that it does not come to the surface anywhere else. Cf. Du Bose, Ecumenical Councils, pp. 43 f.

τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος. These words which are left without precise definition present the truth in its objective aspect. It fills space and time and reaches to the utmost bounds of Heaven and Hell. If we must give a name to it, it is ‘the gracious purpose of God’ (Lightfoot) or more precisely, as defined in the next clause, ‘the love of Christ’ in its relation to the Universe. Greek Theologians, e.g. Athanasius De Inc., found these four dimensions symbolized by the four arms of the cross.


Verse 19

19. γνῶναί τε. We pass now to the second method of approach, the personal appropriation of the universal Truth. γινώσκειν has characteristically in St Paul, as in the Bible generally, a personal object, e.g. Philippians 3:10. The Hebrew mind was not interested in abstract speculation.

τὴνἀγαπὴν τοῦ χριστοῦ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14; Romans 8:35; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25 : see also Romans 8:37. This love was decisively manifested in His self-surrender on our behalf (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25). By His Death on behalf of all (2 Corinthians 5:14) it has become the source of the new life (Galatians 2:20) of the believer, and the constraining power (2 Corinthians 5:14) by which every act in that life is determined. Here the personal apprehension of that love is the fruit of the indwelling of Christ Himself in our hearts, and becomes the spring of our perfecting in the final consummation, cf. on ἐν ἀγάπῃ, Ephesians 3:17.

ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως. St Paul is not here, as in 1 Corinthians 8:2 f., comparing the relative values of love and knowledge. The love of Christ transcends our faculty of comprehending it, as the wisdom of God remains (Romans 11:33) to the end too deep for any plummets of ours to sound. He seems instinctively to shrink from any language that would minister to intellectual self-satisfaction. See e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Galatians 4:9.

ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς (or πληρωθῇ) πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ. See Additional Note on πλήρωμα. ‘That ye may be perfected up to the standard of the perfect fulfilment of God,’ or ‘That all the perfection of God may be perfectly displayed.’ The Ephesians 3:1 preferred by Westcott is attractive by its boldness and as supplying in relation to the perfect manifestation of God through the Universe a thought strictly complementary to the perfecting of the manifestation of the Christ through the Church in Ephesians 1:23. Hort rejected it because he could not (somewhat strangely) see any sign that St Paul was here thinking of the Church in its universal aspect. It is perhaps safest to retain the common reading. ‘Knowledge’ even from within of the transcendent love of Christ must issue in the moral transformation of each individual before ‘the perfection of God’ can come.

πληρωθῆτε. Cf. Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 1:9; Philippians 1:11.

εἰς, ‘up to the standard of,’ ‘till you reach the goal of.’ Cf. εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα, Ephesians 4:13.

πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα. Cf. Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9.


Verse 20

20. Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ. This recalls Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 3:16. The ascription of power to God is found also in the Doxology of Romans 16:25 : cf. Judges 1:24, and note the addition of κράτος (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:13) and δύναμις (Revelation 4:11, Revelation 19:1) in Doxologies.

ὑπὲρ πάντα. ‘More than all,’ ‘beyond everything.’ This phrase is then picked up by ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὦν, ‘transcendently beyond what we ask or think.’ The Western reading gives a smoother but less Pauline cast to the sentence by dropping ὑπὲρ.

ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, governing ὦν, i.e. τούτων ἄ. A characteristically Pauline word, 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; cf. Daniel 3:22 (Theod.).

αἰτούμεθα ἤ νοοῦμεν. What we put into words falls short of the image in our mind and that falls short of the reality. Cf. Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 4:7 ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν.

κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν. ‘The power that is at work—quickened into activity within us.’ Cf. on Ephesians 1:11. What is to be done for us is in fact to be done ‘in’ us, and the power which is capable of producing the final transformation is already at work, Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 3:7.


Verse 21

21. αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα. ‘His is,’ or ‘To Him be’ the glory. The acknowledgement of the fact is perhaps stronger than the prayer for its recognition by men. Cf. the liturgical conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thine is the kingdom &c.’

ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, cf. Ephesians 3:10, διὰ τῆς ἑκκλησίας. The ‘glory’ has its permanent home on earth in the Church as the shrine of the Spirit.

καὶ ἐν Χ. Ἰη. In Judges 1:25; Romans 16:27, we have διἀ Ἰ. Χ., Jesus Christ being regarded as our High Priest and presenting our praises to the Father. Here ‘the glory’ dwells in Him and is manifested in Him to men. Note the recurrence of both forms in 2 Corinthians 1:20, and cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; Philippians 4:19.

εἰς πάσας τἀς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων. Each age is composed of many generations. St Paul’s language here suggests the conception of an age, the constituent parts of which are not generations only but each a complete age. There is no exact parallel.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Ephesians 3:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/ephesians-3.html. 1896.


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Monday, July 24th, 2017
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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