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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Ephesians 3



Verse 1

Ephesians 3:1. τούτου χάριν ἐγὼ παῦλος δέσμιος τοῦ χριστοῦ ἰησοῦ: for this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus. The τούτου χάριν is referred by some (Mey., etc.) to the immediately preceding sentence; the fact that they are destined to make a habitation of God, and are being built together with a view to that end, being Paul’s reason for pleading with them and praying for them. It is best referred, however, to the purport of the whole statement just brought to its conclusion; the fact that they are now what God’s grace has made them and are meant by Him to form a spiritual habitation for Himself, being His reason for what He urges on them and what He does for them. ἐγὼ παῦλος, a solemn and emphatic designation of the writer by himself, expressive rather of his personal interest in them than the consciousness of his authority (Mey.). For similar occurrences of the emphatic personal designation, with different shades of meaning, see 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:2; Colossians 1:23; Philemon 1:19. The article with the δέσμιος expresses simply the character in which Paul appears at present or the class to which he belongs (cf. τιμόθεος ἀδελφός, Philemon 1:1); not his pre-eminence among the Lord’s prisoners, as if it = the prisoner par excellence (Mey.)—a claim surely which would neither be like Paul nor in harmony with the thought of the paragraph. The gen. χριστοῦ ἰησοῦ is probably that of originating cause—one who has been made a prisoner by Christ; cf. 2 Timothy 1:8; Philemon 1:9, as also Ephesians 4:1. The ἰησοῦ is omitted by Tisch. on the authority of such MSS. as (198) (199) (200)*(201); but it is rightly retained by most as found in (202) (203)-corr. (204) (205) (206)2, 3, Vulg., etc.— ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἔθνων: on behalf of you the Gentiles. Paul was called specially to be a minister of Christ to the Gentiles (Acts 21:21; Acts 21:28; Acts 22:21), and his preaching Christ as for the Gentiles equally with the Jews provoked that enmity of the Jews which led to his imprisonment. It was thus for the Gentiles that he was a prisoner; and there is probably also the further thought in the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν that Paul’s imprisonment was to be for their good, helpful to their Christian life. For the idea with which the paragraph closes is that his afflictions were their glory (Ephesians 3:13). But what of the construction and connection here? The simplest adjustment is to insert εἰμί after δέσμιος χριστοῦ ἰησοῦ: “I Paul am the prisoner,” etc. So the Syr., Chrys., Mey. and others. But this takes the point from the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν and makes Paul assert and exalt himself as a sufferer in a way unlike him. It is best to take it as a broken construction, the statement with which Paul begins being, as in so many other cases, diverted into a different channel by the introduction of some subsidiary remark. Here he is turned off from what he meant to say by the polite reference in the εἴγε clause. Where then have we the resumption? Not at chap. Ephesians 4:1 (with the AV, Mich., Winer, etc.), for chap. 3. is not part of a parenthesis, but a paragraph complete within itself; nor at Ephesians 3:13, which is of too limited scope and fails to meet the full force of the τούτου χάριν; but at Ephesians 3:14, where the τούτου χάριν is repeated.

Verses 1-13

Ephesians 3:1-13. These verses make a paragraph by themselves. Their main subject is the call of the Gentiles and Paul’s Apostolic vocation in relation thereto. He reminds his readers of the mystery of that call, its revelation to the Apostles and prophets, his own destination to the ministry of preaching among the Gentiles, and the grace given him to make known the Divine dispensation that opened the Church to those who were not of Israel. This with the view that they should not misunderstand his present position or be discouraged by it.

Verse 2

Ephesians 3:2. εἴγε ἠκούσατε τὴν οἰκονομίαν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι εἰς ἡμᾶς: if so be that ye did hear of the dispensation of the grace of God that was given me to you-ward. The comp. particle εἴγε, or εἴ γε (according to LTrWH), makes a supposition which is taken for granted, = “if, indeed, as I may assume”. Whether the certainty of the assumption is in the particle itself or is derived from the context is still debated among grammarians. Some hold that in this case as in others the γέ simply strengthens the force of the simple particle, while others think that this is its significance, if not in every instance, at least in a considerable number of occurrences; cf. Mey. and Ell., in loc.; Win.-Moult., p. 561; Bâumlein, Partikeln, p. 64. Here it introduces a polite reminder of what these Ephesians certainly had heard—“a gentle appeal, expressed in a hypothetical form, and conveying the hope that his words had not been quite forgotten” (Ell.). On οἰκονομίαν, which means the dispensation, the arrangement made in the matter of something, not “the apostolic office” (Wiesel.), see under Ephesians 1:10. The τῆς χάριτος is the gen. objecti or that of “the point of view” (Ell.) = the arrangement or disposition in respect of the grace of God. The χάρις itself is not the apostolic office (Est.), but the gift of grace that selected Paul and qualified him for that office; and so it (not the οἰκονομία, but the χάρις) is described as δοθείσης, given. The εἰς ὑμᾶς, admirably rendered by the AV “to you-ward,” denotes the “ethical direction” (Ell.) of the gift of grace—the fact that it was bestowed on Paul not for his own sake, but with a view to their position.

Verse 3

Ephesians 3:3. ὅτι κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνώρισέ μοι τὸ μυστήριον: how that by way of revelation he made known (was made known) to me the mystery. The ὅτι is omitted by (207) (208)-lat., Ambros., etc., and is bracketed by (209) and WH, but is retained by most. The ἐγνώρισε of the TR (supported by (210) (211) (212), etc.) must give place to ἐγνωρίσθη, which is the reading of (213) (214) (215) (216) (217) (218) 17, Lat., Syr., Copt., etc., and is adopted by LTTrWHRV. On μυστήριον see under Ephesians 1:9. Here it is the particular μυστήριον or “secret” of the admission of the Gentiles on equal terms with the chosen people—a disclosure of the Divine purpose which so often calls forth Paul’s adoring wonder. The sentence explains and develops the preceding statement, giving what they heard ( ἠκούσατε) of the peculiar dispensation made by God with Paul; and the prominent thing here, as indicated by the emphatic position of κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν, is the way in which the “mystery” was made known to him, viz., the way of revelation.— καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ: as I wrote afore in few words. The ἐν ὀλίγῳ is wrongly taken by some as = πρὸ ὀλίγου, “a short time before”. It is equivalent to the διʼ ὀλίγων or the ἐν βραχεῖ, ἐν βραχέσι, of classical Greek and means briefly (cf. Acts 26:28 and the συντόμως in Acts 24:4). But what is the writing referred to? It might be a previous letter now lost (Chrys., Calv., etc.). The aor. might so far favour this, and the ἀναγινώσκοντες of Ephesians 3:4, which Meyer thinks excludes it, is not necessarily inconsistent with it. The δύνασθε ἀναγινώσκοντες νοῆσαι need not be limited to the reading of the present Epistle, but might equally well apply to the act of reading any other letter, and the terms might suggest indeed a fuller statement of the “mystery” in question than is given anywhere in the first part of this Epistle. The reference, however, might also be to something already said in the present letter, in which case the προέγραψο would have the force of “I have written already above”. This is the generally accepted interpretation, the particular statement in view being that in chap. Ephesians 1:9-10, or rather (so Mey., etc.) that in chap. Ephesians 2:11-22, in which the inclusion of the Gentiles is the special topic.

Verse 4

Ephesians 3:4. πρὸς δύνασθε ἀναγινώσκοντες νοῆσαι τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ χριστοῦ: in accordance with which, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of the Christ. The refers to the προγεγραμμένον indicated in the προέγραψα the πρός with acc. expressing here, as often, the idea of the standard or measure of the νοῆσαι (Win.-Moult., p. 505; Bernhardy, Synt., p. 205). Wicl. gives “as”; Cov., “like as”; Rhem., “according as”; Tynd., Gen., AV and RV, “whereby”. The aor. νοῆσαι follows the present ἀναγινώσκοντες, the perception being regarded as a single, accomplished act, the result of the process of reading. The verbs νοεῖν and συνιέναι when contrasted are supposed (cf. Tittmann, Syn., p. 191, and Ell., in loc.) to differ as merken, “perceive,” differs from verstehen, “understand”. But such distinctions are precarious as regards NT Greek. The noun σύνεσις, which is applied sometimes to the understanding mind (Mark 13:33; Wisdom of Solomon 4:11), occurs repeatedly in the NT in the sense of mental apprehension (Luke 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:19; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:7). It is defined as “insight depending on judgment and inference” (Mey. on Colossians 1:9), usually in the theoretical sense, but sometimes in the practical (cf. Mark 12:33). It appears to denote critical understanding, the apprehension of the bearings of things, while φρόνησις conveys the idea of practical, ethical understanding (cf. Light. on Colossians 1:9; Schmidt, Synonymik, chap. xiii., § 10, chap. cxlvii., § 8). Here σύνεσις is followed by ἐν (cf. also 3 Ezra 1:3), συνιέναι ἐν being a common phrase for having understanding in a matter (2 Chronicles 34:12; Joshua 1:7; Daniel 1:17). As the σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῶ. etc., makes one idea, the article is dispensed with after the prep. The τοῦ χριστοῦ is taken by some as that of originating cause (Hofm.), = the mystery of which Christ is the author; by others as the gen. objecti, = the mystery relating to the Christ (Abb., Haupt, etc.), by others still as the gen. of apposition (Mey., Alf., etc.), or of identity (Ell.), = the mystery which is the Christ, which He makes, or which is contained in Him. The latter is thought to be favoured by Colossians 1:27. But the idea there is that of the Christ in us, which is not quite the same; and it seems best on the whole to take the second view, “the mystery relating to the Christ,” i.e., the revelation of the long-hidden purpose of God regarding the Christ as not for Israel only, but also for the Gentiles.

Verse 5

Ephesians 3:5. ἐν ἑτέραις γενεαῖς οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων: which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men. The TR inserts ἐν before ἑτέραις, as in Syr.-Phil. and Copt. But the insertion is due probably to the double dative, and the ἐν (which is not found in (219) (220) (221) (222) (223) (224) (225) (226), etc.) is rightly omitted by LTTrWHRV. The γενεαῖς, therefore, is the dat. of time; the term γενεά, like the OT דּו̇ר (of which it is the usual rendering in the LXX), meaning the period covered by a generation of men (Luke 1:20; Acts 14:16; Acts 15:21; Colossians 1:26) as well as the generation or race itself. By τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων are to be understood, not the OT prophets (Beng.) as contrasted with the “Apostles and prophets” of the next clause, but men generally and in the absolute sense, in conformity with the γενεαῖς.— ὡς γῦν, ἀπεκαλύφθη τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις αὐτοῦ καὶ προφήταις ἐν πνεύματι: as now it was revealed to His holy Apostles and prophets in the Spirit. The ὡς has its proper comparative force. The fact of the revelation made in pre-Christian times to the fathers and the prophets is not questioned. The matter in view is the measure or manner of the revelation. The νῦν = “now,” in these Christian times, and the aor. ἀπεκαλύφθη defines the fuller revelation as made definitely at a former period in these times. The verb also has its proper force, as distinguished from the ἐγνωρίσθη and as describing the way, viz., by revelation, that the truth was made known. The prophets of the OT dispensation were designated ἅγιοι (2 Kings 4:9; Luke 1:20; 2 Peter 1:21). Those of these Christian times are in like manner designated ἅγιοι, as men separated and consecrated to the office and distinguished from the mass of the υἱοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. They are further described as His ( αὐτοῦ), i.e., God’s Apostles and prophets, God being the subject implied in the ἐγνωρίσθη and the ἀπεκαλύφθη. The terms ἀποστόλοις and προφήταις have the same sense here as in Ephesians 2:20, viz., the Christian Apostles and prophets. The clause ἐν πνεύματι defines the ἀπεκαλύφθη; not the προφήταις, as if = προφῆται θεόπνευστοι (Holzh., Koppe), for the προφῆται need no such definition. As in Ephesians 2:22 the πνεῦμα here is the Holy Spirit, and the ἐν would most naturally be taken in the same sense as these. Here, however, most understand it as the instrumental ἐν. It seems to combine the two ideas of agency and element or condition, and describes the revelation as having been made in and by the Spirit.

Verse 6

Ephesians 3:6. εἶναι τὰ ἔθνη συλκληρονόμα: [to wit], that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs. The εἶναι = are, not should be, the “mystery” or secret revealed being a fact, not a purpose. The obj. inf. expresses the contents or purport of the ἀποκεκαλυμμένον (Win.-Moult., p. 400). συγκληρονόμα (or συνκληρονόμα, LTTrWHRV) = fellow-heirs with the Jews; the only occurrence of the word in the NT in this application (for other applications cf. Romans 8:17; Hebrews 11:9; 1 Peter 3:7).— καὶ σύσσωμα: and fellow-members. σύσσωμος ( σύνσωμος, LTTrWHRV) in the NT occurs only here and is unknown to classical Greek, although Arist. uses συσσωματοποιεῖν (De Mundo, iv., 30). It was probably constructed by Paul for his present purpose. It means belonging jointly to the same body.— καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας: and fellow-partakers of the promise. συμμέτοχος ( συνμέτοχος, LTTrWHRV) is found in the NT only here and in Ephesians 5:7. It occurs also in Joseph. (Jew. Wars, i., 24, 6), and in Justin (Apol. ii., 13). The verb συμμετέχω, however, is used in classical Greek (Eurip., Supp., 648; Plato, Theaet., 181 c, etc.), although it is not found in the NT. τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, not specifically the promise of the Spirit, but, as undefined, the promise of Salvation, the Messianic promise in its length and breadth. The three terms describe the Gentiles, therefore, first generally as heirs together with the believing Jews in all things, and then more particularly as belonging equally with them to the same corporate body and sharing equally with them in the Messianic promise. The TR inserts αὐτοῦ after ἐπαγγελίας, It is wanting, however, in the best documents ((227) (228) (229) (230) (231), 17, etc.) and is to be omitted.— ἐν τῷ χριστῷ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου: in Christ through the Gospel. For the τῷ χριστῷ of the TR (with (232) (233) (234) (235), etc.) read χριστῷ ἰησοῦ (with (236) (237) (238), 17, etc.). These words are best taken as qualifying all the three former terms. The joint-heirship, membership, and participation had their objective ground and reason in Christ Jesus, and were made the actual possession of these Gentiles by the medium or agency of the Gospel that was preached to them.

Verse 7

Ephesians 3:7. οὗ ἐγενόμην διάκονος κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ: of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God. The TR reads ἐγενόμην (with (239) (240) (241) (242), etc.). The less usual form ἐγενήθην, however, is given by (243) (244) (245) (246), 17, etc., and is to be preferred. There is no difference, however, in the sense; ἐγενήθην being simply the Doric equivalent to ἐγενόμην, which reappeared in the LXX and in later Greek generally. διάκονος is a servant, attendant of any kind; also a deacon in particular (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:12), or a deaconess (Romans 16:1), and perhaps a waiter, one who serves at table (John 2:5; John 2:9). Here it has the general sense of minister, as Paul designates himself again in 2 Corinthians 3:6; Colossians 1:23. Once he calls himself ὑπηρέτης (1 Corinthians 4:1); but with no tangible difference in idea, except that ὑπηρέτης may suggest a still greater degree of subordination than διάκονος. The distinction drawn by some (Harless) between the two terms, as if διάκονος expressed activity in relation to the service and ὑπηρέτης activity in relation to the master, cannot be made good. τῆς χάριτος is probably the ger. of apposition or identity (as the χάρις in Ephesians 3:8 indicates), = the gift consisting in the grace; and the particular “grace” in view is the office of the apostleship or the ministry to the Gentiles (as Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:8 suggest), not the gift of tongues (Grot.) or the gift of the Holy Ghost (Flatt, etc.). That “grace,” too, was God’s gift ( τοῦ θεοῦ).— τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ: which was given to me according to the working of His power. F r the τὴν δοθεῖσαν, qualifying the δωρεάν, of the TR (with (247) (248) (249) (250), etc.) the better reading is τῆς δοθείσης, qualifying the χάριτος (with (251) (252) (253) (254) (255), 17, etc.; so LTTrWHRV). As the former sentence affirmed the gift of the grace, this one states the manner of the bestowal. The standard or proportion of the giving was the efficiency, the efficacious working ( ἐνέργειαν) of God’s own power. The change in Paul when God made him an Apostle of Christ to the Gentiles was so great that he saw in it nothing less than the result of the Divine omnipotence.

Verse 8

Ephesians 3:8. ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων ἐδόθη χάρις αὕτη: to me, who am less then the least of all saints, was given this grace. The τῶν inserted by the TR, on slender documentary evidence, before ἁγίων must be omitted as wanting in (256) (257) (258) (259) (260) (261) (262) (263), etc. The thought of the dignity of the office he had received at the cost of such grace and power at once evokes the sense of his own utter unworthiness, to which he gives stronger expression here than even in 1 Corinthians 15:9, or 2 Corinthians 12:11. The form ἐλαχιστότερος, a comparative of the superlative ἔλαχιστος, is found only here. It belongs to a class of double comparisons which had a place probably in the popular modes of speech, but of which a considerable number are found in later literature, especially in poetry. The only other example in the NT is the double comparative μειζότερος in 3 John 1:4; cf. Buttm., Gram. of NT Greek, p. 28.— ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι τὸν ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτον τοῦ χριστοῦ: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. The TR inserts ἐν before τοῖς ἔθνεσιν with) (264) (265) (266) (267), etc.); but it is not found in (268) (269) (270) (271), etc., and is best omitted. The former reading would define the sphere assigned to Paul in his ministry; the latter, the subjects of that ministry. For τὸν πλοῦτον the better accredited form is τὸ πλοῦτος. The τοῦ χριστοῦ is prob. the gen. of possess., = the riches that Christ has, or that are in Him. The πλοῦτος thus contained in Christ is the whole wealth of the salvation He bestows; and this is “unsearchable,” i.e., not in the sense of inexhaustible, but rather in that of unfathomable, “past finding out,” such as cannot be fully comprehended by man; cf. Romans 11:33, the only other NT occurrence of ἀνεξιχνίαστον; also Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 34:24, the only occurrences in the LXX. It is a picturesque and suggestive word, meaning literally such as cannot be traced out by footprints.

Verse 9

Ephesians 3:9. καὶ φωτίσαι πάντας τίς κοινωνία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων: and to make all see what is the fellowship (dispensation) of the mystery which from all ages hath been hidden. The πάντας which the TR inserts after φωτίσαι is omitted by some MSS. (including (272)1(273)) and certain Fathers (Hil., Jer., Aug., etc.). It is rejected by Tisch., accepted by RV in the text, and dealt with by WH as a secondary reading. The κοινωνία of the TR, which has the slenderest possible authority, must give place to the οἰκονομία of the RV with LTTrWH, which is the reading of (274) (275) (276) (277) (278) (279) (280) (281), etc. If the πάντας is omitted the sense becomes, as it is given in the margin of the RV, “to bring to light what is” the dispensation. If it is retained, the idea will be that of the enlightenment of all as to what the dispensation is. The πάντας, however, which occupies an unemphatic position here, after the verb (in contrast with the emphatic position of τοῖς ἔθνεσιν before its verb) can scarcely bear the absolute sense of all men, Jew and Gentile alike, but refers to all the ἔθνη previously mentioned. The verb φωτίσαι is more than διδάξαι or κηρύξαι. It means to illuminate. Paul was not only to deliver his Apostolic message, but also to spiritually enlighten those who heard it, so that they should understand it. The particular thing in that message which is here in view is the οἰκονομία (on which see under Ephesians 1:10), that is, the dispensation or arrangement of the mystery, to wit the admission of the Gentiles on equal terms with the Jews; the μυστήριον here having the same application as in Ephesians 3:6. The formula ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων occurs in the NT only here and in Colossians 1:26; the forms ἀπὸ αἰῶνος and ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος also occur, the former in Luke 1:70 and Acts 3:21, the latter in John 9:32. It means literally “from the ages,” “from the world-periods,” that is, from the beginning, or since the world began. It is to be distinguished from πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων (1 Corinthians 2:7). The Divine decree was formed before the ages of the world began; the keeping of that decree hidden was since the ages of the world began, i.e., “from the commencement of the ages when intelligent beings from whom it could be concealed were called into existence” (Ell.). In Romans 16:25 we have the similar description of the μυστήριον as χρόνοις αἰωνίοις σεσιγημένου.— ἐν τῷ θεῷ τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι διὰ ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ: in God who created all things [through Jesus Christ]. The “mystery” had its place of concealment in God Himself, in the Divine mind. And God is designated specially in respect of His creative power—“God who created all things” (not “inasmuch as He created all things,” which would require the omission of the τῷ). The τὰ πάντα, which also occupies a somewhat emphatic position here, is not to be restricted either to the physical creation (Chrys.), or to the spiritual (Calv.), but has the absolute sense of all that exists. The TR adds διὰ ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ to the κτίσαντι (with (282) (283) (284), etc.); but these words must be omitted, as the best authorities ((285) (286) (287) (288) (289) (290), 17, etc.) do not give them. But why is this reference to God as the Creator of all things introduced at this point? By way of confirmation, say some, of what has just been said of the “mystery” as having been hidden from the beginning in God; the point being that He who created all things must have had the contents of this “mystery” in His eternal plan (Mey.). To “enhance the idea of His omnipotence,” say others; He who created all things having “ordained the mystery itself in the exercise of His undoubted prerogative of sovereign and creative power” (Ell.). Or, as others put it more precisely, its object is to take the wonder from the idea of the “mystery” having been so long unrevealed; the creation of all things by God being a fact which involves His perfect right to adjust all things as He will” (Alf.)—the Creator of all being “free to make what arrangements He pleased as to the concealment and revelation of His purpose” (Abb.). None of these interpretations can be said to be either very clear or very adequate. This designation of God as the Creator of all that exists is intended rather to express the greatness of the “mystery” that is now disclosed and of which Paul is to be a preacher. The main thought in the verse in question is the thought with which it starts, viz., the marvel of that Apostolic commission of which Paul had been put in trust by the grace of God; and the majesty and the wonder of that commission are made the greater by the grandeur of the “mystery” the Divine disposition of which he was appointed to declare to all men. This “mystery,” though long hidden, had been in the Divine mind from the first, and it had been there in such a sense that the whole scheme of created things had it in view, and in such wise that the knowledge of it was to be imparted even to the angelic world (cf. Haupt). Or, as it may be better put, the “mystery” now at last revealed by God and proclaimed by Paul to all men in all the sovereign and surpassing wisdom of the Divine dispensation by which it was hidden long and in the fulness of time at last disclosed, was one of God’s own eternal secrets, one of His unsearchable thoughts, a thing that had its place from the beginning in His creative plan, a reserve in the Eternal mind that purposed and formed all that exists. And to Paul’s hands did the surpassing grace of God commit the proclamation of a truth of such magnitude, the illumination ( φωτίσαι) of so unsearchable a disposition of the Divine wisdom!

Verse 10

Ephesians 3:10. ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις: in order that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenlies might be made known. To make the manifold wisdom of God known where formerly it was not understood is now declared to be the object in view. But the object of what? The creation of all things, says Harless; who connects the ἵνα γνωρισθῇ immediately with the τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι. But, while it is true that redemption is sometimes exhibited in relation to creation (John 1:1-14, etc.), and while Christ Himself is presented at times not only as the author and ground of creation but also as its end or object (Colossians 1:16), the idea resulting here on that view would be that the purpose of God in creating all things was the proclamation of His wisdom to the angelic world by the Church. This, however, would be a statement without any parallel elsewhere in the NT. It is better, therefore, to connect the sentence immediately with the τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου, as is done by Meyer and many more. In that case the idea would be that the “mystery” was long hidden indeed, but hidden only with the design of being made known, and that on the widest possible scale—to angels no less than to men—in due time (cf. the general statement of principle in Mark 4:22). There is much to be said in support of this, e.g., the antithesis of the νῦν to the ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων, and the γνωρισθῇ to the ἀποκεκρυμμένου, etc. But it is best to take the verse as referring to the previous ἐδόθη χάρις αὕτη, etc. (Ell., Alf.; and substantially De Wette, Hofm., etc.). The main idea in the paragraph from Ephesians 3:7 onwards is unmistakably that of the marvellous call and commission of Paul, and the wonder of the grace that made an Apostle and preacher of him is magnified the more by the Divine purpose revealed in that commission, to wit, the making known the manifold wisdom of God in His ways with sinful men and with the outcasts of the Gentile world in particular. It is objected indeed that this is to make Paul claim for his own preaching and as his own special work what belonged to other Apostles and preachers no less than to him. But all that is stated here goes in point of fact to enhance the idea of Paul’s own personal insignificance, the extraordinary and unmerited nature of his call, and his absolute indebtedness to grace. “For this sublime cause,” as Alford admirably expresses it, “the humble Paul was raised up—to bring about—he, the least worthy of the saints—that to the heavenly powers themselves should be made known, by means of those whom he was empowered to enlighten”—the manifold wisdom of God. The ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι can only mean good angels (cf. under Ephesians 1:21 above); and these names of dignity (the term ἄγγελος is not used in this Epistle) are appropriate here as suggesting again the greatness of Paul’s commission, and perhaps also (as Mey. thinks) the glory put upon the ἐκκλησία. That the ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι cannot mean any orders of earthly powers—Jewish, Gentile or Christian rulers or the like, is shown by the ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. Nor can they refer to demonic powers, whether by themselves alone or as part of the angelic world, for this would scarcely be consistent with the mention of the Church, and further the Divine power would in that case be more in point than the Divine wisdom. Nor again is there anything in the context to suggest that Paul has in view the angels that ministered the law and the elemental powers honoured by the heathen (V. Soden). The ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις here, as elsewhere in the Epistle, has the sense = in heaven; see under Ephesians 1:3 above. The ἐν, therefore, has its proper local sense, and is not = in respect of, as if the clause meant “in the case of the heavenly things”. As the phrase makes one idea, too, with the ἀρχαῖς and ἐξουσίαις, defining them as heavenly, it requires no ταῖς after the ἐξουσίαις.— διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας: through the Church. The Church, therefore, that is, as is evidently meant here, the whole body of believers in the unity in which Jew and Gentile are now made one, is the means by which the Divine wisdom is to be made known and Paul’s commission in that respect made good. The Church, which it was his high Apostolic vocation to build up by bringing multitudes of Gentile believers into its membership—the Church in which the breaking down of ancient barriers and the removal of the old enmity were now seen, was itself the living witness to the Divine σοφία, the “mirror,” as Calvin puts it, “in which angels contemplate the wonderful wisdom of God”. And that Divine wisdom is described as πολυποίκιλος (a word found only this once in the NT)—not with any reference to Gnostic ideas of σοφία (as Baur imagined), for the use of such a term as this in that connection is of later date (Iren., Haer., i., 4, 1); nor simply in the sense of very wise, for which Aesch., Prom., 1308, is mistakenly cited; but as = multivarius, multiformis (Vulg.), having a great variety of forms. The adj. is used of the rich variety of colours in cloths, flowers, paintings, etc. (Eurip., Iph. T., 1149; Eubulus, ap. Athen., 15, p. 679 D Orph. Hym., vi., 11; lxi., 4). In different ways had God dealt with men, with the Jew in one way and with the Gentile in another, in the long course of the ages. But in all these He had had one great end in view. Now in the Church the realisation of that end is seen, and in that great spiritual harmony angels can perceive the manifoldness and majesty of that Divine wisdom which by ways so diverse had been working to this great result. That angels have an interest in man’s redemption and desire to look into it is stated in 1 Peter 1:12. Here it is indicated that they are capable of an enlargement of insight into it.

Verse 11

Ephesians 3:11. κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων: according to the eternal purpose. Literally, “according to the purpose of the ages” or “world-periods”; but represented with substantial accuracy by the “eternal” of the AV and the other old English Versions with exception of Wicl. and the Rhemish. The term πρόθεσις must be taken here as elsewhere in the proper sense of purpose, not in that of foreknowledge (Chrys.); and the clause is to be connected neither with the σοφία nor with the πολυποίκιλος in particular, but with the γνωρισθῇ. The disclosure of the manifold wisdom of God to the angelic world, contemplated in the commission given by God’s grace to Paul, was of further-reaching moment than that. It was contemplated in God’s eternal purpose and took place in accordance with that. The gen. αἰώνων may be a gen. of time (cf. Judges 1:6); Alf. compares our phrase “an opinion of years”; or it may rather be one of the many forms of the gen. of possession—“the purpose pertaining to the ages,” formed before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3), long hidden in the Divine Mind (Ephesians 3:9), but existent and in God’s view from the beginning till now (cf. 2 Timothy 1:9).— ἣν ἐποίησεν ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν: which he wrought in Christ Jesus our Lord. The subject of the ἐποίησεν is the πρόθεσις, not the σοφία (Jer., Luth., etc.). The verb is rendered “purposed” by the RV as it is also taken by many to mean formed, constituted (Calv., Harl., Hofm., De Wette, Alf., Abb., etc.). This use of the verb is somewhat like that in Mark 3:6; Mark 15:1 ( συμβούλιον ποιεῖν), etc., and gives a good sense. On the other hand, the use of ποιεῖν in such connections as θέλημα ποιεῖν (Matthew 21:31; John 6:38; Ephesians 2:3), γνώμην ποιεῖν (Revelation 17:17), etc., seems to be sufficient justification for giving it the sense of fulfilling, carrying out; and the designation Christ Jesus (not Christ simply), pointing as it does to the historical Person, suggests that what is in view now is the realisation of the purpose rather than its formation. On the whole, therefore, it is perhaps best to render it “which He wrought, or carried into effect, in Him whom we preach as Christ Jesus our Lord” (Mey., Ell., etc.). The TR (with (291)1–3(292)3(293) (294) (295), etc.) gives ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ; the best critics (LTTrWHRV), on the authority of (296) (297) (298) (299) (300) 17, etc., insert τῷ before χριστῷ. The designation χριστὸς ἰησοῦς κύριος ἡμῶν is singular; cf., however, the τὸν χριστὸν ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον of Colossians 2:6.

Verse 12

Ephesians 3:12. ἐν ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ τὴν προσαγωγήν: in whom we have boldness and access. The second τήν, which is inserted by the TR, has the support of some good authorities, (301) (302)3 (303) (304) (305), Chrys., etc.; but is not found in (306) (307) (308) 17, etc., and is to be omitted (with LTTrWHRV). As the παρρησία and the προσαγωγή meet in one idea the τήν does not require to be repeated. The article before the nouns has much the force of “our boldness and access”. The παρρησίαν is not to be limited to freedom of speech, freedom in preaching, or boldness in prayer, but is to be taken in the large sense which it has in Philippians 1:20; 1 Timothy 3:13; Hebrews 10:19; and especially in 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:17; 1 John 5:14freedom of spirit, cheerful boldness, “the joyful mood of those reconciled to God” (Mey.). The conjunction of the προσαγωγή with the intrans. παρρησία makes the intrans. sense of access more appropriate here than the trans. sense of introduction; cf. under Ephesians 2:18.— ἐν πεποιθήσει: in confidence. The noun πεποίθησις belongs to late Greek (Joseph., Philo., Sext. Empir., etc.). In the LXX it occurs once (2 Kings 18:19); in the NT it is found only in Paul (2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 8:22; 2 Corinthians 10:2; Philippians 3:4, and here). It indicates the disposition in which the παρρησία and προσαγωγή are made good.— διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ: through our faith in Him. The αὐτοῦ is best taken as the gen. objecti; cf. Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16. Thus, as the ἐν expresses the fact that Christ is the ground of our παρρησία and προσαγωγή, and the ἐν πεποιθήσει the state of mind in which we enjoy these blessings, so this clause declares the means by which they become our actual possession. The whole verse, moreover, is not so much a simple addition to the preceding statement as rather an indirect appeal to personal experience, in confirmation of what was said of the fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord, the ἐν having, as Ell. explains it, much the same force as ἐν αὐτῷ γάρ.

Verse 13

Ephesians 3:13. διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσί μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν: wherefore I ask that ye lose not heart in my tribulations in your behalf. The διό is referred by some (Mey., etc.) to the immediately preceding verse, the possession of these great privileges of “boldness and access” on the part of the Ephesians being Paul’s reason for urging on them the request which follows. It is better, however, to refer the διό to the great thought of the whole paragraph, to which the statement in Ephesians 3:12 is subordinate, viz., the dignity of the office committed to Paul and its significance for them. Because the great trust of the Apostleship among the Gentiles is what he has declared it to be for himself and for them, he puts this request before them. The αἰτεῖν, which sometimes expresses a demand (Luke 1:63; 1 Corinthians 1:22), has the simple sense of asking here; and in such connections as the present αἰτοῦμαι has the full sense of asking for one’s self. It is followed sometimes by the acc. and inf. (Luke 23:23; Acts 3:14), and sometimes, as here, by the simple inf. (Acts 7:46). The idea in the verb ἐγκακεῖν is that of losing courage, becoming faint of heart. The form ἐκκακεῖν, which is given in the TR, appears in (309) (310)3(311) (312) (313), etc. It is doubtful, however, whether that form occurs anywhere in ordinary Greek. It may have had a place in popular, oral use. The written form was ἐγκακεῖν, and that form appears here in most of the best MSS. ((314) (315) (316) (317)1, etc.). Hence LTrRV adopt ἐγκακεῖν; TWH, ἐνκακεῖν. But what is the construction here? Some supply θεόν, and make the sense either (1) “I pray God that ye faint not,” or (2) “I pray God that I faint not”. But if the subject of the αἰτοῦμαι had been God, the θεόν could scarcely have been omitted, as there is nothing in the context clearly to suggest it. And that it is the readers, not Paul himself, whose possible faint-heartedness is referred to appears from the force of the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν and the ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν. Paul himself rejoiced in his tribulations (2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:10 : Colossians 1:24, etc.), and a prayer in such circumstances as the present betraying any fear about himself would be utterly unlike him. But he might have cause enough to apprehend that these converts might not all view painful things as he did. Hence ὑμᾶς is to be understood as the subject of αἰτοῦμαι (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20; Hebrews 13:19). The ἐν before θλίψεσι has the proper sense of in (not “at” as RV puts it), pointing to the circumstances, sphere, or relation in which the faint-heartedness ought not to show itself (cf. Win.-Moult., pp. 482, 483, and Ell., in loc.). These θλίψεις were ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν (the phrase ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν going surely with the θλίψεσί μου, not with αἰτοῦμαι as Harless strangely puts it), as sufferings endured in virtue of Paul’s Apostleship among the Gentiles; cf. Philippians 1:17. The defining article again is not required before ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, as the phrase makes in reality one idea.— ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν: which are your glory. The distinction between the definite or objective rel. ὅς and the indefinite, generic, or qualitative rel. ὅστις (cf. Jelf, Gr. Gram., 816) is not always maintained in the NT, and indeed the use of ὅστις for ὅς is as old as Herod. (ii., 92) and Ionic Greek generally (Kühner, Gr. Gram., ii., 906). In the Pauline Epistles, however, the distinction seems to be fairly maintained (Blass, Gram. of N. T. Greek, p. 173), and ἥτις appears here to have the force of an explanation—“inasmuch as they are,” “for indeed they are”. The rel. is referred by some (Theod., Olsh., Harl.) to the μὴ ἐγκακεῖν, or to the whole sentence beginning with that; in which case ἥτις would stand for . But it is most naturally referred to the θλίψεσι. It is a case of attraction, but one in which the noun of the rel. clause gives its number (cf. Dem. c. Aphob., p. 853, 31, and in the NT itself, Acts 24:11; Philippians 3:20) as well as its gender to the rel. (Win.-Moult., p. 206; Buttm., Gram. of NT Greek, p. 281; Donald., Gr. Gram., p. 362; Madvig, Syn., § 98). The clause, therefore, gives the readers a reason or motive for not yielding to faintness of heart. Paul’s tribulations were endured in their behalf, and were of value for them. The greater the office of the sufferer, the more did the afflictions which he was content to endure for them redound to their honour; and the better this was understood by them, the less should they give way to weakness and discouragement.

Verse 14

Ephesians 3:14. τούτου χάριν: for this cause. The sentence begun at Ephesians 3:1 and interrupted at Ephesians 3:2 is now taken up again. The τούτου χάριν, therefore, refers to the great statement of privilege in the latter part of the previous chapter. The ideas which came to expression in the digression in Ephesians 3:2-13, are also no doubt in view in some measure. The thought of the new relations into which the Ephesians had been brought by grace toward God and toward the Jews—the reconciliation of the Cross, peace effected where once there was only enmity, the place given them in the household of God—gave Paul cause for prayer in their behalf.— κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου: I bow my knees. A simple, natural figure for prayer; earnest prayer (Calv.)—not as if Paul actually knelt as he wrote (Calov.). The standing posture in prayer and the kneeling are both mentioned in the NT (e.g., Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13, for the former, and Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5, for the latter). For kneeling in the OT see 1 Kings 8:54; Daniel 6:10; cf. also 1 Kings 19:18.— πρὸς τὸν πατέρα: to the Father. The πρὸς takes the place of the simple dat. which usually follows the phrase κάμπτω γόνυ (Romans 11:4; Romans 14:11), the idea here being that of prayer, and of God as the Hearer to whom it was directed. The TR, following (318)3(319) (320) (321) (322), Lat., Syr., Goth., etc., adds τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ. This is an addition which might very readily find a place in the text, the designation being a familiar one, occurring already indeed in this Epistle (Ephesians 1:3). It does not appear, however, in (323) (324) (325) (326), 17, Copt., Eth., etc., and it is omitted by the best critics (LTTrWHRV).

Verses 14-19

Ephesians 3:14-19. A paragraph containing an earnest prayer for the inward strengthening of the readers, the presence of Christ in them, their enlargement in the knowledge of the love of Christ, and the realisation in them of the Divine perfections.

Verse 15

Ephesians 3:15. ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα πατριὰ ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς ὀνομάζεται: from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. The ἐξ οὗ denotes the origin of the name, the source whence it is derived (cf. Hom., Il., x., 68; Xen., Mem., iv., 5, 8; Soph., (Œd. R., 1036). The verb ὀνομάζομαι is also followed by ἀπό (Herod., vi., 129); but ἐκ conveys the idea of more direct origination (cf. Ell., in loc.). The noun πατριά, for which πάτρα is the more usual form in classical Greek, never has the sense of πατρότης, paternitas (Syr., Goth., Vulg., Luth., and, so far, also Harl.). It means sometimes ancestry (Herod., ii., 143; iii., 75), but usually family (Exodus 6:15; Exodus 12:3; Numbers 1:2; Luke 2:4), race or tribe, i.e., a number of families descended from a common stock (Herod., i., 200; Numbers 1:16), nation or people (1 Chronicles 16:28; Psalms 22:28; Acts 3:25). In the LXX the πατριαί are the מִשְׁפָּחוֹת as distinguished from the φυλαί, מִטּוֹת. The Israelites were constituted of twelve φυλαί divided into a number of πατριαί, each of these latter again consisting of so many οἶκοι. Here the word seems to have the widest sense of class, order, nation, community, as the idea of family in the proper sense of the term is inapplicable to the case of the angels, who are indicated by ἐν οὐρανοῖς. Further, the anarthrous πᾶσα πατριά grammatically can only mean “every family” (see under Ephesians 2:21 above), not “the whole family” (Mich., Olsh., etc.). All such ideas, therefore, as that angels and men, or the blessed in heaven and the believing on earth, are in view as now making one great family, are excluded. Nor can ὀνομάζεται be made to mean anything else than “are named”—certainly not exist, or called into existence (Estius, etc.), or “are named the children of God” (Beng., etc.). The sense, therefore, is “the Father, from whom all the related orders of intelligent beings, human and angelic, each by itself, get the significant name of family, community”. The various classes of men on earth, Jewish, Gentile, and others, and the various orders of angels in heaven, are all related to God, the common Father, and only in virtue of that relation has any of them the name of family. The father makes the family; God is the Father of all; and if any community of intelligent beings, human or angelic, bears the great name of family, the reason for that lies in this relation of God to it. The significant name has its origin in the spiritual relationship. It is not possible, however, to give proper expression to the thought in English. In the Greek there is a play upon the words πατήρ, πατριά, which cannot be reproduced. Some have supposed that Paul has certain Rabbinical notions in view here, or that he is glancing at certain Gnostic theories, or at the vain worship of angels. But there is no ground for such far-fetched suppositions. The Rabbinical conceits regarding angels and the Gnostic speculations were both very different from anything suggested here.

Verse 16

Ephesians 3:16. ἵνα δῴη ὑμῖν κατὰ τὸν πλοῦτον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ: that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory. The ἵνα introduces the subject of the prayer, representing it, however, also as the thing which he had in view in praying and which made the purpose of his prayer (see under Ephesians 1:17 above). For the δῴη of the TR (with (327) (328) (329), etc.), the RV (with LTTrWH) gives δῷ as in (330) (331) (332) (333) (334), 17, etc. (see under Ephesians 1:17 above). For τὸν πλοῦτον (TR, with (335)3(336) (337), etc.) read again to τὸ πλοῦτος, with (338) (339) (340) (341) (342) (343), etc. The δόξα is the whole revealed perfections of God, not merely His grace or His power; and the clause belongs more fitly to the δῷ than to the following δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι. The measure of the gift for which Paul prays on behalf of the Ephesians is nothing short of those perfections of God which are revealed now in their glorious fulness and inexhaustible wealth (cf. Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 2:7).— δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ: to be strengthened by power through His Spirit. The δυνάμει is taken by some as the dat. of manner, or as an adverbial expression = mightily. But the former mention of the ἐγκακεῖν suggests that the power is regarded here as in the subjects rather than as put forth by God. Others make it the dat. of reference, or take it to denote the particular form in which the strengthening was to take effect, viz., in the form of power as contrasted with knowledge or other kinds of gifts. But there is nothing to suggest limitation to one special capacity. Such limitation indeed would be inconsistent with the comprehensive εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον. It is best understood as the dat. instrum. The strengthening was to take effect by means of power imparted or infused, and this impartation of power was to be made through the Spirit of God.— εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον: into the inward man. The “inward man” is viewed here as the recipient, that into which the strengthening was to be poured, or the object towards which the gift was directed. The εἰς, therefore, has its full force of “into,” and is not to be reduced either to “in” (RV), or to “in regard of” (Mey.). The phrase ἔσω ἄνθρωπος has certain parallels in classical Greek, e.g., ἐντὸς ἄνθρωπος (Plato, Rep., ix., p. 589), εἴσω ἄνθρωπος (Plotin., Enn., v., 1, 10); and it is conceivable that these philosophical expressions had become popularised in course of time, and had penetrated even into the common speech of Jews, or at least into the vocabulary of educated Jews. But the question is—What is the force of the phrase in the NT itself? The two terms ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, ἔξω ἄνθρωπος denote the two sides or aspects of the nature of man, soul and body, real and phenomenal, enduring and perishable (cf. the contrast in 2 Corinthians 4:16); as the terms παλαιὸς ἄνθρωπος, καινὸς ( νέος) ἄνθρωπος denote his twofold moral nature. The ἔσω ἄνθρωπος itself occurs only thrice in the NT, and all three occurrences are in the Pauline Epistles (Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16). It has different shades of meaning there, but the same general sense, viz., that of the personal subject, the rational, moral self, somewhat similar to the νοῦς in Romans 7:23, and the κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος of 1 Peter 3:4. In this ἔσω ἄνθρωπος the goodness of the law of God can be recognised so that one can delight in that law. But there is another law that wars against it and brings it into subjection (Romans 7:19-23). Hence the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος has to be regenerated, and so becomes “the new man,” καινὸς ἄνθρωπος, that is created after God ( κατὰ θεὸν κτισθείς, Ephesians 4:24), or νέος ἄνθρωπος, that is renewed ( ἀνακαινούμενος, Colossians 3:10). The strength, therefore, which was to be communicated by the impartation of new spiritual power through the Holy Spirit was a gift to enrich and invigorate the deepest and most central thing in them—their whole conscious, personal being.

Verse 17

Ephesians 3:17. κατοικῆσαι τὸν χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. The presence of Christ, His stated presence ( κατοικεῖν as contrasted with παροικεῖν = sojourn, cf. Genesis 37:1), the taking up of His abode in them (cf. the use of κατοικεῖν in Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26; 2 Peter 3:13; and also its application to Christ Himself in another relation in Colossians 1:19), is also embraced in the scope of Paul’s prayer. The indwelling expressed here by the comp. κατοικεῖν is also expressed by the simple οἰκεῖν (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Its seat is the καρδία—the centre of feeling, thinking, willing (cf. Delitzsch, Bib. Psych., iv., 5). And the means or channel through which it takes possession of the heart is faith, the διὰ πίστεως indicating the receptivity which is the condition on our side. There remains, however, the question of the construction. The κατοικῆσαι, etc., may be taken as dependent on the δῷ and as forming a second boon contemplated in the gift prayed for, as if = “and that He may grant you also that Christ may dwell in your hearts” (Mey., Abb., etc.). Or it may be taken as dependent on the κραταιωθῆναι, etc., expressing the contemplated result of the gift of strength (inf. of consequence; cf. Acts 5:3; Hebrews 6:10; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 16:9, etc.), = “to the effect that Christ may dwell in your hearts”. The omission of the connecting καί is no insuperable objection to the former; for cases of asyndeton are sufficiently common. But the second view (so Ell., Alf., etc.) is on the whole to be preferred, as it deals better both with the grammatical connection and with the emphatic position of the κατοικῆσαι. The former view has the difficulty of taking two somewhat different grammatical constructions as parallels, and it fails to bring out as the latter does the advance in the thought. The indwelling of Christ is the higher boon which is in view as the end and effect of the strengthening.— ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι: ye having been rooted and grounded in love. Nothing can legitimately be made of the anarthrous ἀγάπῃ, the article being often dropped before abstract nouns, and especially after a preposition (Win.-Moult., pp. 148, 149). As the ἀγάπῃ is also without any αὐτοῦ or other defining gen., it appears to have its most general sense here, not “the love of God” or “the love of Christ” in particular, but love, the Christian principle or grace which is “the bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:14). In this love they are described (by two perf. parties.) as “having been rooted and grounded”. If the terms ἐῤῥιζεμένοι, τεθεμελιωμένοι, were used in their proper etymological connotation, they might suggest much. The former might convey the idea of subjects deriving their life and growth from love; and the latter the idea of subjects built up on the basis of love as living stones in the Divine temple. But the terms are also used without any reference to their original, etymological sense— ῥιζοῦν, e.g., in Soph., Œd. C., 1591, means simply to establish something firmly. So here the two words probably express the one simple idea of being securely settled and deeply founded. Thoroughly established in love, having it not as an uncertain feeling changing with every change of experience, but as the constant principle of their life—this they must be if they are fully to apprehend the magnitude of Christ’s love. Here, again, the construction is a difficult question. Westcott and Hort attach ἐν ἀγάπῃ to the κατοικῆσαι clause and the ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι to the ἵνα clause. But the ἐν καρδίαις ὑμῶν seems a proper and adequate conclusion and completion of the idea of the indwelling. Many (including Meyer, Winer, Buttm., AV, RV, etc.) connect the whole clause with the ἵνα, = “in order that, being rooted and grounded in love, ye may be able”. This gives an excellent sense, and examples of the transposition of part of a sentence from the natural place after the ἵνα to one before it are found elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Acts 19:4; 1 Corinthians 9:15; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10; Colossians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; cf. Buttm., Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 389). On the other hand, the relevancy of most, if not all, of these examples is not above suspicion (cf. Ell. and Abb. in loc.), and it does not appear that in the present passage there is any such emphasis on the ἐν ἀγάπῃ as can explain its peculiar position. Hence it is better on the whole to connect it with the preceding (as is done in one way or other by Chrys., Luth., Harl., Bleek, De Wette, Alf., Ell., Abb., etc.), and take it as another instance of the nom. absol. or participial anacolouthon (cf. Win.-Moult., p. 715; Krüger, Sprachl., § 56, 9, 4; Buttm., Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 298; Blass, Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 285). So we translate it—“ye having been rooted and grounded in love in order that ye may be able,” etc. The rooting and grounding are expressed by the perf. part., as they indicate the state which must be realised in connection with the indwelling of Christ before the ability for comprehending the love of Christ can be acquired.

Verse 18

Ephesians 3:18. ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σῦν πᾶσι τοῖς ἁγίοις: that ye may be fully able to comprehend with all the saints. The “may be strong” of the RV is a less happy rendering than usual, as it obscures the fact that the verb is different from that expressing the strengthened in Ephesians 3:16. The strong compound ἐξισχύειν, = to be eminently able, to have full capacity, occurs only this once in the NT and is rare in ordinary Greek. καταλαμβάνειν, = “take hold of” (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:12, etc.) or in the sense of mental grasp (Plato, Phaedr., 250 D), in its various NT occurrences in the Middle Voice (Acts 4:13; Acts 10:34; Acts 25:25) has only the latter meaning. Here, therefore, it is = understand, not = occupare, take possession of (Goth., Kypke). The RV substitutes the more neutral apprehend—a word capable of either sense—for the “comprehend” of the AV. This gift of spiritual comprehension is contemplated further as to be possessed and exercised σῦν πᾶσι τοῖς ἁγίοις, not as a matter of private experience, the peculiar faculty of some, or an exceptional bestowment like the rare privilege of visions, but as a gift proper to the whole community of believers and one in which these Ephesians might share together with all God’s people; for the phrase cf. Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Philemon 1:5; Revelation 8:3; and for the sense of ἅγιος see under Ephesians 1:1 above.— τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ βάθος καὶ ὕψος: what is the breadth and length and depth and height. So the AV. But height and depth, according to the RV. The order of the TR, βάθος καὶ ὕψος, is that of (344) (345) (346), Syr., etc.; ὕψος καὶ βάθος is that of (347) (348) (349) (350), 17, Vulg., Boh., etc. The latter is preferred by LTrWH, the former getting a place in the margin with Tr and WH. What is the object in view in the mention of these dimensions? It is left unnamed. Hence the many conjectures on the subject; e.g., that it is the Christian Church (Mich., Koppe, etc.), or Temple (Bengel), the work of redemption, or the mystery previously noticed (Theophy., Harl., Olsh., Bleek, etc.), the mystery of the Cross (Est.), the love of God (Chrys., Erasm., Grot., etc.), the wisdom of God (De Wette), love (Moule), all that God has revealed or done in us and for us (Alf.). But the context naturally suggests the love of Christ (Calv., Mey., Ell.), that being the supreme theme and the one which is immediately set before us in express terms. The imagination of the Fathers, Augustine, Gregory Nyss., Jerome and others, ran riot in the endeavour to find some distinctive, spiritual meaning in each of the four things here named, the shape of the Cross, e.g., being supposed to be signified (Estius), the Divinity of Christ being found in the figure of the height, His human nature in the depth, the extent of the Apostolic Commission in the length and breadth, etc. Nor are the feats of interpretation less forced or fanciful which have been performed by some more modern exegetes. But the terms length, breadth, depth, height are introduced with no other purpose than the simple and consistent one of setting forth the surpassing magnitude of Christ’s love for us. The power to comprehend that love in its utmost conceivable grandeur and its furthest-reaching relations is what Paul prays God to grant his Ephesians.

Verse 19

Ephesians 3:19. γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ χριστοῦ: and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Literally, “the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ”. The gen. γνώσεως is due to the ὑπερβάλλουσαν having the force of a comparative (cf. Aesch., Prom., 944; Hom., Il., xxiii., 847; Bernhardy, Synt., iii., 48 B). That the χριστοῦ is the gen. subj., Christ’s love to us, is made clear by the description of it as surpassing knowledge, which could not be said of our love to Him. The repetition of the same idea in contrasting senses in the γνῶναι and the γνώσεως has its point not in any antithesis between theoretical or discursive knowledge (Ell.) and practical knowledge, or between false knowledge and true (Holz), or between human knowledge and divine (Chrys.), but in the simple fact that there is a real knowledge of Christ’s love possible to us, a knowledge that is capable of increase as we are the more strengthened by power in the inner man, while a complete or exhaustive knowledge must ever remain beyond our capacity. This petition for the gift of a true and enlarging knowledge (a knowledge which is obviously not a matter of mere intellect but of conscious, personal experience) is connected with the former petition for spiritual comprehension by τε, and this is presented in the character, not of a climax, but of an adjunct, an additional statement in supplement of the former. The simple τε (as distinguished from τεκαί) occurs rarely in the Gospels, with greater comparative frequency in Romans and Hebrews, but oftenest by far in Acts. It is used to connect single ideas in Greek poetry (seldom in Greek prose), and is occasionally so used in the NT (cf. Acts 2:37; Acts 2:40; Acts 27:4; and see Bernh., Synt., xx., 17). In this case it seems to indicate a “closer connection and affinity” than καί (cf. Blass, Gr. of N. T. Greek, p. 263).— ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ: that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God (or, into the whole fulness of God). The great Vatican Codex (followed by 17, 73, 116) has an interesting variety of reading here, viz., πληρωθῇ for πληρωθῆτε, the εἰς being also dropped. This reading gets a place in the margin of WH. On the difficult term πλήρωμα see under Ephesians 1:10 and especially Ephesians 1:23 above. The interpretation of this clause is much disputed. The εἰς cannot mean with or in, as it is taken by some, but must = “into” or “unto,” expressing the measure up to which the being filled is to take effect, the limit of the filling, or the goal it has before it. The AV and the other Old English Versions erroneously give “with”; except Wicl., who makes it “in,” Cov., who renders “into,” and Rhem., “unto”. The θεοῦ may be the gen. of originating cause, = the fulness bestowed by God; or, better, the poss. gen., = the fulness possessed by God. The main difficulty is the sense of the πλήρωμα itself. Some explanations may be set aside as paraphrases rather than interpretations; e.g., that πλήρωμα = the Church (Koppe, etc.); the gracious presence of God, the Divine δόξα, filling the people (Harl.); the perfection of God, in the sense of the highest moral ideal that can be presented to him “in whose heart Christ dwells” (Oltr.), etc. Nor can any good sense be legitimately got by taking it as = πλήρωσις—“that ye may be filled with the gifts with which God is wont to furnish men” (Grot.)—an interpretation that cannot be adjusted to the εἰς. The choice lies between two views, viz., (1) that πλήρωμα has its primary, pass, sense—the fulness that is in God, or with which God Himself is filled; or (2) that it has the sense derived from this, viz., fulness, copia, πλοῦτος, πλῆθος. The latter is preferred by Meyer, who appeals to such passages as Song of Solomon 5:12; Romans 15:29; Ephesians 4:13, etc., in support of it, and understands it to convey the special idea of charismatic fulness as bestowed by God. So he renders it, “in order that ye may be filled with Divine gifts of grace to such extent that the whole fulness of them ( πᾶν has the emphasis) shall have passed over upon you”. So also substantially De Wette, Abbott, and others, who refer to 2 Peter 1:4. But there are weighty reasons for preferring the former view with Alf., Ell., Haupt, etc. It gives πλήρωμα the largest and profoundest sense, not restricting it to gifts of grace bestowed, but taking it to express the sum of the Divine perfections (so substantially Chrys., Rück., etc.), the whole ἀρετή or excellence that is in God; cf. Chrysostom’s ὥστε πληροῦσθαι πάσης ἀρετῆς ἧς πλήρης ἐστὶν θεός. It brings the whole paragraph to a conclusion worthy of itself, lifting us to a conception which surpasses all that has preceded it, and carrying us from the great idea of the fulness in Christ to the still greater idea of the fulness in God. Nor is it any valid objection to it that what is thus put before us is what can never be attained in this life. It is an ideal, essentially the same as that contained in the injunction to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). This interpretation also is most in harmony with the great idea of the indwelling of Christ in our hearts, expressing indeed what is implied in that. In Christ the πλήρωμα of God dwells; so far as Christ dwells in us the πλήρωμα of God is in us. In that indwelling lies the possibility of our growing in moral excellence on to the very limit of all that is in God Himself. That they might be strengthened in the inner man so as to have Christ’s living and abiding presence in them, and be lifted thereby to the comprehension of His love and the personal knowledge of that which yet surpasses all knowledge, and at last be filled with all spiritual excellence even up to the measure of the complete perfection that is in God Himself—this is the sweep of what Paul in his prayer desires for these Ephesians so late sunk in heathen hopelessness and godlessness.

Verse 20

Ephesians 3:20. τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθα νοοῦμεν: Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. So both AV and RV as also the old English Versions, excepting Wicl. (“more plenteously than we axen”), Cov. and Rhem. (“more abundantly than we desire”). More exactly it = “able to do beyond all things, superabundantly beyond what we ask or think” (Ell.). The τῷ refers naturally to God, the main subject of the whole paragraph. The δέ has something of its proper adversative force, the contrast between the subjects of the Divine grace and the Divine Giver of the grace being to some extent in view. The doxology brings the whole preceding paragraph and the first main division of the Epistle to a fitting close. Its best parallel is in Romans 16:25-27. The ὑπὲρ cannot be taken as an adverb (Beng.), but governs the πάντα. The πάντα again is not to be connected with the ὧν as if = “all that we ask”; the gen. ὧν is due to the comparative in the ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, as in the previous case of the ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως. Further, the ὑπὲρ πάντα does not belong to the δυναμένῳ, but makes one idea with the ποιῆσαι. Thus we have two distinct descriptions of God here, the second of which explains and develops the thought of the first. He is described first generally in respect of the absoluteness of His power, as “able to do beyond all things,” “able to do more than all,” i.e., One to whose efficiency there is no limit; and then with more particular reference to the case of Paul and his fellow-believers, as able to do above measure beyond anything with which our asking or even our thinking is conversant; superabundantly beyond the utmost requests we can make in prayer, nay beyond all that can suggest itself to our minds in their highest ventures. The verb νοεῖν, here used of thinking of as distinguished from asking for, has two main lines of meaning, viz., to understand and to ponder or consider. The latter is in view here. The strong, cumulative ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ occurs again in 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13. Such compounds with ὑπέρ ( ὑπερλίαν, ὑπερπερισσεύω, ὑπερινικάω, ὑπερυψόω, ὑπεραυξάνω, ὑπερπλεονάζω) are characteristic of Paul. They are not entirely limited to him (e.g., ὑπερπερισσῶς, Mark 7:37; ὑπερεκχυννόμενον, Luke 6:38). But they are much more used by him than by any other NT writer, occurring nearly thrice as often in the Pauline Epistles and the Epistle to the Hebrews as in all the other NT books (cf. Ell., in loc.). Such bold compounds are “in keeping with the intensity of his pious feeling, which struggles after adequate expression” (Mey.).— κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν: according to the power that worketh in us. The “power” in question is doubtless the inward operation of the Holy Spirit. The ἐν ἡμῖν has the force of an appeal to consciousness. The power that we know to be operative in ourselves is a witness to God’s ability to do superabundantly beyond what we ask or think. The efficient power of which we have experience in ourselves represents the measure and mode of the limitless capacity that is in God, and by the one we can conceive of the other and trust it. The ἐνεργουμένην must be taken here not as pass., but as middle (cf. Galatians 5:6). In Colossians 1:29 we have the similar phrase κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν αὐτοῦ τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἐμοὶ ἐν δυνάμει. There it is used with reference to the Apostle’s labour and striving at the time; here with reference to the possibilities of God’s future dealings with his converts.

Verse 20-21

Ephesians 3:20-21. A fervent ascription of praise to God evoked by the thought of the great things which His grace has already wrought in these Gentiles, and the greater things of the future which the same grace destines for them and would have them attain to.

Verse 21

Ephesians 3:21. αὐτῷ δόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ: unto Him be the glory in the Church in Christ Jesus (better, “and in Christ Jesus”). In the αὐτῷ the great Subject of the ascription is named the second time with rhetorical emphasis, and as it stands first in the sentence εἴη (not ἐστί) is to be supplied. The article with δόξα defines it as the glory that is due to Him, or that befits Him. And that “glory” is to be given Him ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, the Church being the domain in which the praise that belongs to Him is to be rendered Him. The reading of the TR, ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν χριστῷ, ιησοῦ, follows such authorities as (351)2(352) (353) (354), Syr., Eth., Arm., Goth. It is rendered by some “in the Church which is in Christ Jesus”. But there is no evident reason for defining the Church here specifically as in Christ; for it is the Christian Church that is obviously meant, and there is no need to distinguish it from the Church of Israel. Such a construction, too, distinguishing one Church from another, would have been clearer if τῇ had appeared before ἐν χριστῷ, although the absence of the article is not fatal to it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1, etc.). Hence those who follow the TR take the words as two distinct clauses, ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ, understanding them to mean that the praise which is given in the Church is praise given in Christ in virtue of her union with Him as her Head, or taking them to point first to the Church as “the outward domain in which God is to be praised” and then to Christ as the “spiritual sphere in which this ascription of praise is to take place” (Mey.), it being only in Christ that believer or Church can really praise God. There is, however, a small, but important addition made to the text by some of the oldest and best authorities, by the insertion of καί before the ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ. The evidence is so strong ((355) (356) (357) (358), 17, Vulg., Boh., etc.) that the καί can scarcely be refused, and it is accepted by LTTrWHRV. So the sentence becomes “in the Church and in Christ Jesus,” and the idea is that praise is to be given to God and His glorious perfections shown forth both in the Church which is the body, and in Christ who is the Head—in the Church as chosen by Him, and in the Christ as given, raised, and exalted by Him. So Haupt, with a somewhat similar idea, understands the sense to be that the glorifying of God takes place in outward-wise in the circle of the Church and at the same time in such inward-wise that it is in Christ.— εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων. ἀμήν: unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen. More exactly “unto all the generations of the age of the ages. Amen.” Another of these reduplicated, cumulative expressions by which the mind of man working with the ideas of time labours to convey the idea of the eternal. The formula may be, as was suggested by Grotius, a combination of two distinct phrases of similar meaning, one in which continuance, endless continuance, is expressed in terms of γενεά, γενεαί (cf. e.g., Luke 1:50; εἰς γενεὰς γενεῶν, or εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς with LTTrWHRV); and another in which the same idea is expressed in terms of αἰών, αἰῶνες (cf. εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων, Revelation 14:11; εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, Galatians 1:5, etc.). The peculiarity here is the conjunction of the two formulæ and the use of the sing. αἰών in the latter; cf. εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, 3 Esdr. 4:38; ἕως αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, Daniel 7:18; εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα [ τοῦ αἰῶνος], Hebrews 1:8; εἰς ἡμέραν αἰῶνος, 2 Peter 3:18. The precise idea underlying the phrase is not quite clear. It may be that the everlasting future is thought of as one long “age” embracing in it an unnumbered succession of “generations” and making the sum and crown of all possible “ages”. Or the “age of the ages” may have the force of a superlative, “the age par excellence,” the “age beside which there is none other to be named,” and that regarded as containing in itself all conceivable “generations”. More precisely, the idea of the Parousia may be behind all, the age ( αἰών) being the Messianic age which opens with the Parousia, brings all other “ages” with the “generations” belonging to them to an end, and is itself to endure for ever. Thus, as Meyer puts it, the idea is that the glory to be given to God in the Church and in Christ its Head is to “endure not only up to the Parousia, but then also ever onward from generation to generation in the Messianic æon—consequently to last not merely εἰς τὸ παρόν, but also εἰς τὸ ἀΐδιον”. The ἀμήν, which occurs so frequently in our Lord’s discourses at the beginning of an affirmation, is used here, as so often in the OT, at the close of the sentence in the sense of so be it (LXX, γένοιτο; cf. Numbers 5:22, etc.). It was the people’s assent in OT times to declarations made at solemn assemblies (Deuteronomy 27:15; Nehemiah 5:13; Nehemiah 8:6, etc.). It was also their response to the prayers offered in the synagogue, and from 1 Corinthians 14:16 we gather that this use of the word was continued in the Christian Church.


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

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