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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 3

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Verse 1

Ephesians 3:1

Eph 3:1-13 The Mystery Of The Ages

prisoner of Jesus Christ -- The one Christ had put in fetters. Or, A prisoner of Rome for Jesus Christ’s sake.

for this reason -- Ephesians 3:2-13 is a theological continuation of Ephesians 2:11-22. Paul repeats this phrase in Ephesians 3:14, where he returns to his prayer to God. (After a parenthesis of Ephesians 2:2-13 about his call and ministry to Gentiles).

the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of the Gentiles -- When Paul wrote this book he was imprisoned at Rome because of a riot in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 21:27 to Acts 22:22). The riot occurred when the Jews accused Paul of taking Trophimus, an Ephesian convert, into the Temple. The Jews knew him to be a Gentile and were outraged (cf. Ephesians 2:14).

Paul felt a specific call to the Gentiles (cf. Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:8; Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:16; Acts 26:18; Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:17).

on behalf of you Gentiles -- For the sake of you Gentiles.

Verse 2

Ephesians 3:2

Ephesians 3:2-7 form one sentence in Greek.

if ye have heard -- "ei" with indicative leaves no doubt they had heard. Since. Acts 20:31 Paul spent three years there and in the area and they had heard of his ministry and calling.

stewardship [dispensation; economy; administration] -- Paul had been entrusted with the gospel by the Lord Himself. Acts 9:15; Acts 26:16-20; (cf. Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7; Colossians 1:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Peter 4:10).

God’s grace -- God’s arrangement for extending His salvation to all men. see Ephesians 1:10, See Ephesians 3:7.

given to me for you -- Paul was God’s chosen instrument to relay this wonderful news of the gospel to Gentiles. Acts 9:15; Acts 26:16-20;

Verse 3

Ephesians 3:3

revelation -- 1 Corinthians 2:10 ; Galatians 1:11 ; Just as the twelve apostles received teaching (revelation) from the Lord personally, so Paul also was three years in God’s preparation of him to preach the gospel, Galatians 1:15-18.

See notes on Ephesians 3:4-6

mystery -- Paul not only wrote of the mystery that, in Christ, Jew and Gentile become one in God’s sight and in His kingdom and family, but also explained and clarified that truth. - MSB

Paul used the term "mystery" over twenty times. Most often it is associated with the how and why of the union of believing Jews and Gentiles into one new community, the church, (cf. Ephesians 2:11 to Ephesians 3:13; Colossians 1:26-27).

wrote afore -- Some think Paul had written a previous letter, but it seems best to be understood to refer to a previous part of Ephesians, probably Ephesians 2:11-22. This common use of the aorist tense is called an epistolary aorist.

Verse 4

Ephesians 3:4

When you read -- This probably refers to the public readings of Paul’s letters in the churches (cf. Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Revelation 1:3). Remember that Ephesians was undoubtedly a circular letter.

read -- God’s word, revelation, in written format; the Holy Spirit speaks to us today through the pages of the Holy Scriptures.

understand -- God’s word can be read and understood. We may have to pay attention to it.

mystery -- God’s plan for man’s redemption, hidden through the ages (v.5). The mystery of how God was going to reconcile Jew and Gentile into one body.

the mystery of Christ -- Paul explains this phrase in Ephesians 3:6. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God has invited Gentiles (non-Jews) to join His people—expanding the scope of His salvation to include the entire world, not just Israel (compare Isaiah 49:6; Galatians 3:8). This stunning revelation is the heart of Paul’s gospel and missionary work. Compare Romans 11:13-16. - FSB

Verse 5

Ephesians 3:5

revealed -- Paul emphasizes that God’s mystery had now been revealed. A sacred thing hidden in the past but now revealed.

God is now clearly revealing His age old plan of the redemption of all mankind (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9; Colossians 1:26 a), Jew and Greek, rich and poor, slave and free, male and female (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28).

was not made known ... has now been revealed -- These are two passive verbs, which show God’s actions in the revelation of this great truth before time (Ephesians 1:3-6), in time (Ephesians 1:7-12), and through time (Ephesians 1:13-14). NT believers know more about God and His plan and His Messiah than any OT person!

prophets -- A reference to prophets of this new covenant times. Men such as Mark, and Luke were not apostles, but they were New Testament prophets, that is, inspired by the Holy Spirit in their message. cf. Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32;

to His holy apostles and prophets -- This phrase is also found in Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11. They are "holy" because they were set apart for a specific task. This refers to NT prophets (see Special Topic at Ephesians 2:20, cf. Ephesians 4:11; Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32; Acts 21:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40). Both groups, Apostles and prophets (along with evangelists and pastor/teachers, cf. Ephesians 4:11), proclaimed this newly revealed mystery of the gospel, that believing Jew and Gentile now formed one new body, the church.

Verse 6

Ephesians 3:6

Verse 6 The Mystery of God in a nutshell! Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15.

mystery -- What a startling revelation of the age-old mystery of God’s redemptive plan. In Christ there is no more Jew or Greek (cf. Romans 2:28-29; Romans 3:22; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:28-29; Colossians 3:11). This same word, "fellow-heirs," is also used in Romans 8:17; Hebrews 11:9 and 1 Peter 3:7.

Gentiles are fellow heirs -- There are three syn compounds here: (1) "fellow-heirs"; (2) "fellow members of one body"; and (3) "fellow partakers of the promise." Paul uses these syn compounds often to describe the believer’s new life in Christ. This is very similar to the three compounds with syn in Ephesians 2:5-6.

members of the same body -- Better, "fellow-members" of the one body, the church, the living temple of God.

partakers of the promise -- Better, "fellow-partakers" Ephesians 2:12 "the covenants of promise", cf. 1 John 2:25; Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 11:10.

in Christ Jesus through the gospel -- This is become possible only "in Christ" in whom there is no distinctions of nationality, no male or female, but all are "one", and this is made possible, and proclaimed, through the "gospel" of Christ.

Verse 7

Ephesians 3:7

See Ephesians 3:2, for like expression of the grace God gave to Paul for the benefit, blessing, of Gentiles.

I was made -- This could refer to Paul’s initial salvation, but in context it seems to refer to his apostolic Gentile mission given him by God. (cf. Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 6:20; Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15-16; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:9; Colossians 1:25).

minister -- We get the English word "deacon" from this generic Greek verb for minister (diakoneô, cf. Matthew 8:15 or diakonia, cf. Ephesians 4:12). A servant.

given to me -- Paul was called to be an apostles to the Gentiles by Christ Himself.

by the working of his power -- Often the word "power" indicates something miraculous power from God that enabled Paul to work signs and miracles.

Verse 8

Ephesians 3:8

Two infinites state Paul’s ministry

1) v.8 To preach - to both Jew and Gentile but esp Gentiles, Romans 11:13.

2) v. 9 To make plain - "bring to light"

#4 The UnSearchable Riches of Christ

Ephesians 3:8-12 This is one Greek sentence. These long sentences are characteristic of Ephesians.

the very least of all saints -- This is one of the class of expressions unique to Paul. The ordinary terms of language do not express the idea which he wishes to convey, and a word is therefore coined to convey an idea more emphatically.

This is literally "most least," which is a comparative of a superlative (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was humbled by his previous life of religious self-righteousness, and aggressive persecution. He was also amazed by God’s love for such a persecutor of His church. See Special Topic: Saints at Colossians 1:2.

unsearchable -- Literally = "not capable of being traced by foot prints." Only here and Romans 11:33. "Trackless, inexplorable," - too vast to be mapped and measured.

What a powerful word to describe God’s riches in Christ (cf. Romans 11:33 and the Septuagint translation of Job 5:9; Job 9:10). Mankind cannot discover God, but God has chosen to reveal Himself. - Utley

riches -- cf. note Ephesians 1:7. A key word in the book of Ephesians.

RICHES

1) Grace - Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7

2) Glory - Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:16

3) Mercy - Ephesians 2:4

4) Unsearchable - Ephesians 3:8

Verse 9

Ephesians 3:9

to bring light -- This is literally "to turn on a light" (cf. Ephesians 1:18; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9). We get the English term "photo" from the Greek word.

the plan [administration; fellowship] of the mystery -- This is literally "stewardship of a household (oikonomia)." This is one of Paul’s favorite words for God’s eternal plan of redemption in Christ for all the children of Adam (cf. Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:25).

There is a Greek manuscript problem with the term "stewardship" versus "fellowship." "Stewardship" is found in all uncial manuscripts, most minuscule manuscripts, all ancient versions, and all early church father quotes, therefore, "stewardship" seems undoubtedly the original word.

God, who created all things -- This refuted the Gnostic dualism between matter and spirit (cf. Ephesians 2:10). In the Colossian parallel, Jesus is identified as God the Father’s agent in creation (cf. John 1:3; John 1:10; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:2-3; Hebrews 2:10).

Verse 10

Ephesians 3:10

through the church -- God’s plan of uniting all man-kind in one body, the church, reveals something about the wisdom of God. The church itself reveals God’s wisdom by His wise arrangment to gather all people together to Him.

the church -- Ekklesia was used in the Septuagint (LXX) to translate the Hebrew term "assembly (qahal) of Israel" (cf. Exodus 12:6; Exodus 16:3; Numbers 20:4; Leviticus 4:13). This is one of several uses of this term in Ephesians (cf. Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:21; Ephesians 5:23-25; Ephesians 5:27; Ephesians 5:29; Ephesians 5:32).

Paul calls the church the body of Christ both in Ephesians 1:22-23 and in Colossians 1:24. The early church saw itself as the true people of God with Christ Jesus the Messiah as Head.

One of the unusual literary relationships between Ephesians and Colossians is that in Ephesians this term refers to the church universal (cf. Matthew 16:18; Galatians 1:13), while in Colossians it usually refers to the local church (1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:12; Philippians 3:6). This points toward Ephesians as a circular letter. - Utley

the manifold wisdom -- Literally, “much-variegated.” It means the “greatly-diversified wisdom.” It does not mean merely that there was “great” wisdom, but that the wisdom shown was diversified and varied.

This is a compound word stressing the "many-colored" wisdom of God. In 1 Peter 1:6 it refers to the manifold sufferings and in 1 Peter 4:10 it refers to the manifold graces of God. This great multi-faceted truth of God can best be seen in Paul’s doxologies in Romans 11:33-36 and Ephesians 3:18-21.

be made known -- The angels longed to know God’s plan (cf. 1 Peter 1:12). God used His love for the Church to reveal Himself to mankind and to angels (cf. Ephesians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 4:9).

to the rulers and authorities -- This refers to angelic levels of authority, both good and evil (cf. Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15; Colossians 2:20). This is a contradiction to some theological opinions held by the Gnosticism.

Heavenly places -- Occurrences, Ephesians 1:3 Ephesians 1:20 Ephesians 2:6 Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12

This locative (of sphere) neuter plural adjective (epouranious) "in the heavenly places" is only used in Ephesians (cf.; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12). From the context of all of its usages, it must mean the spiritual realm in which believers live here and now, not heaven. - Utley

Verse 11

Ephesians 3:11

eternal purpose -- cf. Ephesians 1:5. It was God’s plan to save all nationalities (Jews were intended to be a light to the Gentiles for their salvation, but they failed) from the beginning.

the eternal purpose -- The supreme purpose of the church is to glorify God, which includes the displaying of His wisdom (v. 10) before the angels, who then honor Him with even greater praise.

the realized [purposed] -- "which he accomplished in Christ Jesus" NKJV, NIV

Verse 12

Ephesians 3:12

in whom -- i.e. in Christ.

we have boldnes -- The word used here - παῤῥησίαν parrēsian - means, properly, boldness of speaking; 2 Corinthians 7:4; John 7:26; Acts 4:13, Acts 4:29, Acts 4:31. Here it seems to mean “freedom of utterance;” and the idea is, that we may come to God now in prayer with confidence through the Lord Jesus; see Hebrews 4:16.

and access -- see Ephesians 2:18. The sense is, that we may now come confidently and boldly to the throne of grace for mercy in the name of the Redeemer. Boldness is not rashness; and faith is not presumption; but we may come without hesitating, and with an assurance that our prayers will be heard. - BN

through [by] our faith in him -- Jesus is God’s channel for all spiritual blessings (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:9-10 (twice), Ephesians 1:12-13 (twice).

This is literally "faithfulness of him" (cf. Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:22). If it is an objective genitive, believers trust in Christ. He is the trustworthy One! If it is a subjective genItive, it refers to Christ’s "faithfulness" (OT sense or the term). Faithfulness in fulfilling the OT Law (His life) and offering Himself as a sacrifice for sins (His death). - Utley

Verse 13

Ephesians 3:13

not to lose heart -- Paul was a prisoner at Rome at this time. His zeal for the gospel had roused the wrath of the Jews and had led to his imprisonment (see Acts). Yet, Paul was not down-cast, or broken, and with coming peresecution to all Christians, Paul wants them to be strong in the faith also.

over what I am suffering -- Paul was in Roman custody. Acts 28:30-31.

which is your glory -- Rejoice that you have a friend who is willing to put his life on the line for you. Ephesians 3:1; Paul was fulfilling his ministry among the Gentiles, therefore, his sufferings opened the door to their salvation. See "glorious grace" Ephesians 1:6.

which are your glory -- Indicates that Paul’s hardships have contributed to the believers’ life with Christ in the age to come— when Jesus returns and makes all things right.

Verse 14

Ephesians 3:14

Four Requests (like a telescope - each section leads to the next).

Ephesians 3:14-21

1) The Invocation - v.14-15

2) The Petition - v. 16-19

3) The Benediction - 20-21

For this reason -- The same phrase as that of Ephesians 3:1. Paul returns to his initial purpose (cf. Ephesians 3:1, i.e. his prayer): Notice the doctrinal section opens with a prayer to the God (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14) and closes with prayer. Here the broken connexion is resumed.

I bow my knees -- The attitude of prayer, Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5. See also Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10. The words do not impose a special bodily posture as a necessity in spiritual worship; physical conditions may make kneeling impossible, or undesirable, on occasion. But they do impose the spiritual attitude of which the bodily is type and expression; profound and submissive reverence.

In the temple, standing, not bowing, was the usual position for Jewish prayer. Here "kneeling" shows Paul’s intensity (cf. Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11-12; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Philippians 2:10).

the Father -- The words, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” are omitted in many MSS. They appear in very ancient documents, including the Syriac and Latin versions.

The KJV translation adds "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," but this phrase is not in the ancient Greek manuscripts P46, à, A, B, C, nor the Greek texts used by Jerome and Augustine. The addition does occur in the uncial manuscripts à c, D, G, K, and the Greek text used by Chrysostom.

The concept of three divine persons with one divine essence (i.e., monotheism) is difficult to understand. Yet, if Jesus is deity and the Spirit is a person, then Bible believers are forced to affirm a triune unity. - Utley

Verse 15

Ephesians 3:15

Father ... family -- [Ephesians 3:14-15] This is a play on the Greek name pater and patria. Notice the emphasis on the Father, as in Ephesians 1:3-14. The Creator God is the paradigm for all living beings and their social units (i.e. tribes/nations). - Utley

Ephesians 3:14-17 "Father. . .Spirit. . .Christ" Notice the work of the Trinity as in Ephesians 1:3-14. It is true that the term "Trinity" is not used in the NT. However, there are numerous passages where the three divine persons are mentioned in a unified context (cf. Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 28:19; John 14:26; Acts 2:33-34; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 1:4-5; Romans 5:15; Romans 8:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:14-17; Ephesians 4:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; Judges 1:20-21). - Utley

every family in heaven and on earth -- This refers to all believers, whether dead or alive. Philippians 2:10.

Verse 16

Ephesians 3:16

riches of his glory -- cf. "Our Riches In Christ" is one of Paul’s favorite phrases. cf. Ephesians 1:7

strengthened -- With power (strength); How? The means is through his Spirit. The Word of God is used by the Holy Spirit to strengthen the inner man. Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17 Acts 7:51

in your inner being [man] -- Paul often uses the contrast between the inner man and the outer man. The inner man is the spiritual aspect, while the outer man is the physical aspect.

Ephesians 3:16-19 Paul’s prayer can be outlined using two grammatical features.

1. Three purpose clauses (hina)

a. Ephesians 3:16, God would grant (aorist subjunctive)

b. Ephesians 3:18, God would fully enable (aorist subjunctive)

c. Ephesians 3:19 b, God would fill (aorist subjunctive)

2. Four aorist infinitives

a. Ephesians 3:16, "you to be strengthened"

b. Ephesians 3:17, "Christ to dwell in your hearts"

c. Ephesians 3:18, "you to comprehend"

d. Ephesians 3:19, "you to know"

This paragraph reflects Paul’s prayer for the believers in all these churches that they be stable and established by God’s power through Christ’s acts and the Holy Spirit’s empowering to resist (1) the false teachers and (2) the persecution of a fallen world.

II. Petition - v. 16-19

1) For Strength - v.16

2) For Foundation (rooted and grounded) v. 17

Dwell - to settle down and be at home

Rooted - spiritual roots deep; Where do I get my nourishment?

Grounded - foundation we build upon.

3) For Comprehension - v. 18

Able to grasp, lay hold on, the cross, upward, horizontal, downward.

4) For Fulness - v. 19

Life abhors a vacuum.

Verse 17

Ephesians 3:17

II. Petition - v. 16-19 (continued, see Ephesians 3:16)

1) For Strength - v.16

2) For Foundation (rooted and grounded) v. 17

dwell -- to settle down and be at home (Thayer). The Greek word used here, katoikeō, carries the sense of residing permanently.

in your hearts -- The heart in ancient Greek and Jewish thought represents the essential aspects of existence and identity: the inner being, will, and intelligence

firmly rooted and established -- Paul uses these two metaphors— one agricultural (“rooted”) and the other architectural (“established”)— as a reminder of the stability that Christ provides. Paul’s ultimate hope is that Christ dwelling in the heart will deepen the our understanding and faith in God’s love.

rooted -- spiritual roots deep; Where do I get my nourishment?

grounded -- foundation we build upon.

Christ may dwell --

dwell . . HOW does Deity dwell in us? He tells us here, "by faith!" cf. "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Galatians 3:2

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

1) God Dwells In Us

2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:15;

2) Christ Dwells In Us

Ephesians 3:16-17; Colossians 1:27; Romans 8:10; 1 John 5:12; Galatians 4:19 John 14:23

3) The Holy Spirit Dwells In Us

(See comments Acts 5:32); Romans 8:11; Romans 8:9;

4) The Word of God Dwells In Us

1 John 2:14; 2 John 1:9; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 3:16

5) Sin Dwells In Us

Romans 7:17; Romans 7:20

6) Satan in Judas

John 13:27; (Cf. Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33)

HOW

How does God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit in us?

Through following the teaching they give us:

Colossians 3:16; 2 John 1:9; Philippians 2:5 Romans 8:14

Notice John 14:23 Christ abiding in us is dependent upon us keeping His word.

(See also the note on John 16:8.)

Led by the Spirit

Romans 8:14;

Men resist the Spirit

Acts 7:51;

NOTE ALSO:

1) We Dwell In God

1 John 4:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1

2) We Dwell In Christ

Romans 6:3; Romans 8:1 ff; Galatians 3:27; John 14:20

3) We In the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:13; Matthew 28:19; Jo 10:38; John 10.17; John 10.21

4) Christ In the Father

John 14:20 John 14:10-11;

Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17 Acts 7:51 The Word of God is used by the Holy Spirit to strengthen the inner man. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a figurative expression (often imployed by eastern writers) to indicate the holy dispoition one acquires from being taught by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 ; 2 Peter 1:21.

Note how the Holy Spirit today works by using the words of inspired men.

1) He produces faith - Romans 10:17

2) He begets - 1 Corinthians 4:15

3) He quickens - Psalms 119:50

4) He causes to be born of the Spirit - 1 Peter 1:23

5) He cleanses - John 15:3

6) He purifies - 1 Peter 1:22

7) He sanctified - John 17:17

8) He leads - Psalms 119:105 ; Galatians 5:18; Ephesians 1:3; Acts 8:14 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 John 2:5;

9) He comforts - 1 Thessalonians 4:18

10) He builds us up - Acts 20:32

The Spirit does exactly for us what He did in the first century . Then He used inspired men, the words of inspired speakers, today He used the writings of inspired men!

Everything the Bible affirms the Spirit does, the Bible affirms He does it through the inspired Word.

- - - - - - -

The Jewish mind often spoke metaphorically of a "characteristic" dwelling in a person, and sometimes calling him the "son of ... " that characteristic. Thus, of Barnabas as "son of consolation" Acts 4:36, and James and John as "sons of thunder" Mark 3:17; and the term "son of perdition" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

(3) The word “son” is used with a following genitive of quality to indicate some characteristic of the person or persons described. In the English the word “son” is usually omitted and the phrase is paraphrased as in 2 Samuel 3:34, where the words translated “wicked men” in the King James Version mean literally, sons or children of wickedness. - ISBE, "Son; Sons" (3)

- - - - - -

Which Person of the Trinity indwells believers? [Utley, Romans 8:11]

Most Christians would answer the Spirit. This is certainly true, but in reality, all three Persons of the Trinity indwell believers.

1. the Spirit, John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14

2. the Son, Matthew 28:20; John 14:20, John 14:23; John 15:4-5; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27

3. the Father, John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16

This phrase is an excellent opportunity to show that the NT often attributes the works of redemption to all three persons of the Trinity:

(1) God the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:30, Acts 13:33-34, Acts 13:37; Acts 17:31; Romans 6:4, Romans 1:1; Romans 8:11; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10);

(2) God the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; John 10:17-18);

(3) God the Spirit raised Jesus (cf. Romans 8:11)

This same Trinitarian emphasis can be seen in Romans 8:9-10.

- - - - - -

J. Noel Merideth writes: As a father today indwells his son is a figurative expression, God is said to dwell in Christians (2 Corinthians 6:16), and Christ dwells in Christians (Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27), and the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians. We understand that Christ does not personally dwell in Christians. Christ dwells in Christians to the extent that they live like him. There is no indication that the Holy Spirit dwells in us differently. The same expressions that describe Christ’s indwelling also describe the Spirit’s indwelling. When the words [teachings] thoughts and Spirit of God are controlling in our lives, God dwells in us; when the gospel controls us, Christ dwells in us; when we receive the gospel by the hearing of faith, the Spirit dwells in us. As long as Christians are true to the words of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, then God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are in them.

- - - - - - - -

Verse 18

Ephesians 3:18

strength to comprehend -- "able to know" -- Paul’s desire was that all others (probably especiall the Jews), as well as the recipients of the letter, might appreciate the wonders of God’s plan for the redemption of all men.

This emphasis on knowledge counteracted the exclusive intellectual claims of the Gnostic false teachers. It may refer to the newly revealed mystery of God, the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in Christ (cf. Ephesians 3:9).

with all the saints -- For the phrase cf. Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Philemon 1:5; Revelation 8:3,

width … length … depth … height -- Not four different features of love, but an effort to suggest its vastness and completeness.

breadth . . . length . . . depth . . . height -- namely, the full dimensions of the spiritual temple, answering to "the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), to which the Church, according to its capacity, ought to correspond (compare Ephesians 4:10, Ephesians 4:13) as to "the fulness of Christ."

The "breadth" implies Christ’s world-wide love, embracing all men: the "length," its being extended through all ages (Ephesians 3:21); the "depth," its profound wisdom which no creature can fathom (Romans 11:33); the "height," its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us of (Ephesians 4:8) [BENGEL].

I prefer to understand "the breadth," &c., to refer to the whole of the vast mystery of free salvation in Christ for all, Gentile and Jew alike, of which Paul had been speaking (Ephesians 3:3-9), and of which he now prays they may have a fuller comprehension. As subsidiary to this, and the most essential part of it, he adds, "and to know the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:19). GROTIUS understands depth and height of God’s goodness raising us from the lowest depression to the greatest height. - JFB

breadth and length and height and depth -- The Object is left unnamed. What is it? We understand it is that which has just been named, Divine Lore and which is to be named (as the Love of Christ) immediately again. At least, it is that Work, Purpose, Covenant, of God in Christ which is ultimately resolved into the Eternal and Sovereign Love. (CBSC)

Verse 19

Ephesians 3:19

the love of Christ -- The love of Christ toward us; the immensity of redeeming love. Not merely the love showed including Gentiles, but here the love that is shown in giving himself or the whole lost world, John 3:16.

which passes knowledge -- Christ’s love is far beyond the capability of human reason and experience to explaine. (cf. Phil. 4:7).

surpasses knowledge -- This implies that when he says "know," he does not mean that we can adequately know; all we know is, that His love far exceeds our knowledge of it, and with even our fresh accession of knowledge hereafter, will still exceed them. Even as God’s power exceeds our thoughts (Ephesians 3:20).

filled with -- The Greek means "filled even unto all the fulness of God", that is, filled, each according to your capacity, with the divine wisdom, knowledge, and love; "even as God is full," and as Christ who dwells in your hearts, hath "all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily" (Colossians 2:9). (JFB)

filled with all the fullness of God -- Barnes says, "What an expression! How rich and glorious Who can comprehend all that it implies?"

It seems to mean that as God loves and is merciful, so his followers ought to be filled with the same character and attitudes that we know God possesses. - WG

Utley says this " is a play on the false teachings of the Gnostics, who emphasized fullness (plçrôma) as special knowledge which enabled one to pass through all the angelic spheres (aeons) to heaven. Christ is the true "fullness of God" (cf. Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 2:9)."

Verse 20

Ephesians 3:20

him -- Christ in our hearts by faith, cf. Ephesians 3:17.

who is able -- This is a wonderful title for God used three times in the NT (cf. Romans 16:25; Judges 1:24). Each of these texts deal with different aspects of God’s activities.

far more abundantly ... -- It is characteristic of Paul to use compound superlatives, meaning "exceeding, abundantly more" (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13) It is bad English grammar, but great divine theology!

power -- The Holy Spirit working in us. [Note Eph 3:17 how the Holy Spirit works within us today. In the days of the apostles, he also worked miraculously. 1 Corinthians 12:7 "But the manifestations of the Sprit is given to every man to ..."]

Verse 21

Ephesians 3:21

be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus -- Here is the exalted place of Jesus’ Bride and Body, the Church (cf. Ephesians 1:23), His blood-bought, Spirit-filled people!

The term "church" is from two Greek terms, "out of" and "to call." It was used in Greco-Roman culture for town meetings (cf. Acts 19:32). In Jewish life this term was used to translate the significant theological concepts of "the assembly of Israel" or qahal (cf. Exodus 12:6; Exodus 16:3; Leviticus 4:13; Numbers 14:5; Numbers 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:4; Deuteronomy 18:16). The early believers saw themselves as the true and ongoing "People of God" (cf. Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:6). - Utley

in the church -- Or, by the church; Ephesians 3:10. The church was to be the instrument by which the glory of God would be shown; and it was by the church that his praise would be celebrated.

throughout all ages, world without end -- There is a richness and amplification of language here which shows that Paul’s heart was full of the subject, and that it was difficult to find words to express his conceptions. It means, in the strongest sense, forever. (BN)

throughout all ages -- Literally unto all the generations of the age of the ages. Such is the length of prospect revealed for the Church of Christ, as the “habitation of God” (Ephesians 2:22). The meaning manifestly is, “to all eternity,” whatever manifestations the eternal Future may bring. (CBSC)

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/ephesians-3.html. 2021.
 
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