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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Ephesians 3

Verses 1-13

The Son’s Blessings - The Riches of Our Glorious Inheritance Through Justification In Ephesians 2:1-10 Paul tells us that in His mercy God the Father saved us out of the bondage of darkness and sin and has prepared for us a work, or plan, to do for Him. He then tells us in Ephesians 2:11-22 how God would do this by Jesus’ redemptive work of reconciling all people back to Himself. This passage of Scripture expounds upon Ephesians 1:7-12. God called the Gentiles to become one with Israel, and thus, partakers of Israel’s inheritance. Before this calling the Gentiles were without hope (Ephesians 2:12). This plan is for all of the saints to work together in peace in order to build a habitation for God to dwell among us. In Ephesians 3:1-13 Paul elaborates on his personal calling as an apostle to the Gentile to reveal the “mystery” that he has just discussed in Ephesians 2:1-22. He explains that this mystery is found in Christ Jesus, in whom are hid “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Christ’s Work of Reconciliation Ephesians 2:11-22

Verses 1-21

The Father’s High Calling: God’s Role - In Ephesians 2:1 to Ephesians 3:21 Paul explains the Father’s high calling by expounding upon the three-fold office of the Trinity mentioned in the previous passage (Ephesians 1:3-23). This passage is discussed in light of God the Father’s redemptive plan for mankind. It explains how the Father gives us hope (Ephesians 2:1-10), while the Son gives us a glorious inheritance (Ephesians 2:11 to Ephesians 3:13), and the Spirit empowers us (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Outline - Note the proposed outline:

1. The Father - The Hope of Our Calling Ephesians 2:1-10

The Son The Riches of Our Glorious Inheritance Ephesians 2:11 to Ephesians 3:13

a. Christ’s Work of Reconciliation Ephesians 2:11-22

b. Paul’s Commission to Declare These Riches Ephesians 3:1-13

3. The Spirit - The Power Given to Every Believer Ephesians 3:14-21

In Ephesians 2:1-22 Paul will describe the person who is not partaking of the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3) that God’s children are now enjoying. Paul will describe the lifestyle of the Gentiles before their conversion to Christ Jesus.

Verses 14-21

The Spirit’s Blessings - The Power Given to Every Believer Through Sanctification In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul prays for God to work in the lives of the believers through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to know the love of Christ and to be filled with all of God’s fullness. This passage of Scripture expounds upon Ephesians 1:13-14.

A Comparison of the Prayers in Ephesians and Philippians - He asks that these believers might be empowered with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the calling that God has placed within each of their lives and thus to be equipped to fulfill the calling of the church itself as a corporate body. We find Paul asking the Philippians church to pray for him also to be empowered with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the calling that God has placed within him.

Philippians 1:19, “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,”

These two passages of Scripture are related in the fact that both Ephesians and Philippians have a common theme, which is the office and ministry of God the Father. While Ephesians places emphasis upon the Father’s role in planning all things by equipping the Church with spiritual blessings, the book of Philippians emphasizes the role of the believer in making sure that their spiritual leader fulfills his calling and this will ensure that God will fulfill the calling in each of their lives. The empowering of the Holy Spirit is part of God’s provision for enabling the believer to fulfill his personal divine calling in life.

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

Ephesians 3:14 “For this cause” Comments Paul says because of what God the Father has done through Christ Jesus making available redemption for the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:1-22), he prays for the Ephesians to come to the revelation of these divine truths. The AmpBible reads, “For this cause (seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ).”

Ephesians 3:14 Comments - Paul begins a new thought in Ephesians 3:1, but stops and takes a digression in Ephesians 3:2-14 in order to remind the Ephesians of his divine commission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He then picks up his thought in Ephesians 3:14 by repeating the phrase “For this cause.” Thus, we may well translate Ephesians 3:1 to read, “For this cause I Paul the servant of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles….bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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

Ephesians 3:15 “Of whom the whole family” - Comments - This is referring to the family of God. When we are born again, we become a part of one heavenly family. There are not two families of God, with one in heaven and one on earth. We are one family here on earth with the saints in heaven.

Julius Oyet said to Jesus, in his vision in heaven, “‘Dear Lord, Look! Help me Lord! How come all these brethren know me so well including all of my names? No Lord, I have never been here and never met them. But how come they know my name Lord?!!!..’....Jesus held my right hand and answered me saying, ‘My dear Julius, you are not new here. Heaven is your home land and everybody whose name is in the Book of Life is a citizen of heaven!’ Before He could continue I shouted Alleluia. Then He laughed over and over again after which He said, ‘Even these saints before they came here they were known in heaven the first time their names were written in the Book of Life.’” [109]

[109] Julius Peter Oyet, I Visited Heaven (Kampala, Uganda: Bezalel Design Studio, 1997), 70-1.

Ephesians 3:15 “is named” - Comments - The saints of God each have a name that the Heavenly Father gives them.

Isaiah 62:2, “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.”

Revelation 2:17, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”

Revelation 3:12, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God , and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”

Ephesians 3:15 Comments - Because God’s eternal plan (Ephesians 3:11) is for all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, to become one in Christ Jesus, Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 3:15 that we have all proceeded from God the Father. Therefore, we carry His name because we all came from Him through Adam and Eve.

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

Ephesians 3:16 “according to” Comments H. A. Ironside says, “It does not say ‘out of’ His riches, but ‘according to’ His riches.” He illustrates by saying if you asked a millionaire for financial help, he would give to you “out of” his riches. If he gave you one hundred dollars, you might still have needed more, but God gives you access to his bank account with unlimited use. He is giving to you “according to” His riches. [110] God has given us in accordance to His wealth. That is, He made all of His wealth available to us as we have need.

[110] Jim Hylton, Just Sitting Pretty (Kalamazoo, MI: Master’s Press, 1976), 67-68.

Weymouth reads, “to grant you-- in accordance with the wealth of His glorious perfections--to be strengthened by His Spirit with power penetrating to your inmost being.”

Ephesians 3:16 “to be strengthened with might” Comments Kenneth Copeland teaches that the phrase “to be strengthened with might” means the God-given ability to accomplish the possible, as well as the impossible, by the anointing of the Spirit of God. [111] Creflo Dollars says the word might means the ability to do anything. [112]

[111] Kenneth Copeland, “Sermon,” ( Southwest Believers Convention, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Fort Worth, Texas), 8 August 2008.

[112] Creflo Dollar, Changing Your World (College Park, Georgia: Creflo Dollar Ministries), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program, 4 May 2012.

Ephesians 3:16 “by His Spirit” - Comments The focus of this prayer and the prayer of Ephesians 1:15-23 is the Holy Spirit working in the saints. Thus, Paul has said, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:” (Ephesians 1:17)

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

Ephesians 3:17 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” Comments Paul makes a similar statement to church at Rome by saying, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) When Christ dwells in us as we put our faith in Him as our Saviour, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, so that our inner man partakes of the divine nature of God. Since God is love, we partake of His love.

Ephesians 3:17 “that ye, being rooted and grounded in love” Comments Our acceptance of His love for us takes place as we base everything He does for us upon His love for us, and not our good works. His love for us is unconditional, and offers no more condemnation. This becomes the key to walking in His fullness. In other words, everything we receive from God, we receive by faith; but if we believe that we must earn God’s love and His gifts by our good performance, then we will always feel that we have come short of this, and thus have a difficult time believing we qualify to receive good things from Him. We must become rooted and grounded in His unconditional love for us, and not follow our former lifestyle of striving to please God and man through good works.

Our goal is to become rooted and established in godly conduct so that we always respond to life’s circumstances with godly love, which Paul describes in Ephesians 4:1 to Ephesians 6:9 as the “worthy walk.” Christian maturity is shown when we are not easily offended by others, because our security is in Christ’s love for us, and serving the Lord with a sincere heart and not out of hypocrisy. However, in order to get a plant that has grown up in bad soil to become rooted into good soil, it first must be uprooted. So it is with us; we must often make quality decisions to change things about our lives in order to position ourselves in good soil, or a place that is conducive to our Christian growth. For example, we should stop running with ungodly friends once we are saved. Such uprooting is often difficult and many people never make needful changes, so that their lives are never established in the ways of God and they cannot prosper in the Lord. For those who have become rooted in Christ’s love, they can look back and wonder how they ever behaved so ungodly in the past. Those old temptations no longer affect us, because our character has grown in the Lord.

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

Ephesians 3:18 “May be able to comprehend” Comments The word “comprehend” means a working knowledge of something. For example, a person may understand that airplanes fly, but he must go through flight school in order to comprehend how to fly.

Ephesians 3:18 “with all saints” Comments Paul is including all of the saints in every church on earth in this prayer. If we can prayer from groups of people corporately, why can we not prayer for every saint on earth? This appears to be what Paul is doing in this verse.

Ephesians 3:18 “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” - Comments Ed Young says the love of Christ is wide enough and deep enough to cover every need and every anguish in our daily lives. There is nothing in this life that we may face where His love is not there to take us through. For God so loved the world (the breadth of God’s love), that He gave His only begotten Son (the length of God’s love), that whosoever believeth in Him (the depth of God’s love), should not perish but have everlasting life (the height of God’s love). [113] Andrew Wommack says that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives us a description of God’s love, in which we are exhorted to walk. [114]

[113] Ed Young, “Winning Walk,” (Winning Walk, Houston, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program, 12 January 2003.

[114] Andrew Wommack, “God’s Kind of Love to You: Unconditional Love,” Gospel Truth (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Andrew Wommack Ministries), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

Ephesians 3:18 Comments We find a similar phrase in the book of I Enoch, which book was familiar to the Jews and Christians of the first century. In fact, a passage from this book is even quoted in the epistle of Jude (Ephesians 1:14-15).

“For who is there of all the children of men that is able to hear the voice of the Holy One without being troubled? And who can think His thoughts? and who is there that can behold all the works of heaven? And how should there be one who could behold the heaven, and who is there that could understand the things of heaven and see a soul or a spirit and could tell thereof, or ascend and see all their ends and think them or do like them? And who is there of all men that could know what is the breadth and the length of the earth , and to whom has been shown the measure of all of them? Or is there any one who could discern the length of the heaven and how great is its height , and upon what it is founded, and how great is the number of the stars, and where all the luminaries rest?” ( I Enoch 93.11-14)

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

Ephesians 3:19 “And to know the love of Christ” Comments The phrase “and to know the love of Christ” is simply restating the previous phrase “may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Ephesians 3:18). In the Greek, these two phrases stand in apposition to one another, which means they are intended to define the same concept.

Ephesians 3:19 “which passeth knowledge” - Comments We might ask the question, “How can we know something that is beyond our knowing?” God’s love goes far beyond our knowledge or ability to understand with the natural mind. Therefore, this type of unconditional love must be imparted into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We cannot know something that is unknowable unless it comes by divine revelation, rather than by mental assent. As we come to know God on a personal, intimate basis, we come to know His nature and character of unconditional love.

The love of God is beyond man’s natural understanding, for it is supernatural revelation into the divine character of God. This revelation into the ways of God is the motive that drives His divine plan of redemption for mankind. This revelation into the love of Christ provides the framework that shapes our individual callings as we join in this divine plan to redeem mankind, a plan that shapes natural human history. We cannot answer His calling for us and walk in this plan without His love filling our lives each day of the journey. Therefore, we must continually pray for a divine revelation of the love of Christ to compel us in divine service. Thus, Paul writes, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Ephesians 3:19 “that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” - Comments Andrew Wommack says that if we are filled with all of the fullness of God (and no believer has fully achieved this walk), then it is because we do not have a full understanding of God’s love for us. In other words, we have not yet become rooted and grounded in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17). [115]

[115] Andrew Wommack, “God’s Kind of Love to You: Unconditional Love,” Gospel Truth (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Andrew Wommack Ministries), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

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

Ephesians 3:20 “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” - Word Study on “exceeding abundantly” - BDAG says the Greek word “exceeding abundantly” ( ύπερεκπερισσου ) means, “highest form of comparison imaginable.”

Comments - Note the emphasis in the use of these four adverbs “exceeding, abundantly, above, all.” One word would have said a lot, but four emphatic words are beyond our comprehension of God’s ability to answer prayer.

Ephesians 3:20 according to the power that worketh in us Comments - Many modern English versions read, “by the power…” This power is the means by which God is able to do above what we could ask or think in the natural. This phrase answers the question, “How is God able to do beyond what we could ask or think?” Andrew Wommack says this power is the believer’s faith in His Word. [116] The great works we do for God’s glory will happen through us as we walk according to God’s norm, obedience to His Word, and as we get in the flow with God’s Spirit. We cannot operate in this power without the impartation of the divine revelation of the love of Christ that Paul prays for us to receive in Ephesians 3:19; for our empowerment is measured by the revelation given to us and by our decision to walk in that revelation.

[116] Andrew Wommack, Living in the Balance of Grace and Faith: Combining Two Powerful Forces to Receive from God (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 2009), 19.

The power working in us is that of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14, Ephesians 3:16). God puts in us the want to and the ability to do work for the Glory of God (Philippians 2:13). The measure of the power of God working in us determines how much God can accomplish His divine plan of redemption through us.

Luke 4:14, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.”

Ephesians 3:16, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”

Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Illustrations:

Acts 4:33, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of faith and power , did great wonders and miracles among the people.”

Scripture References - The promise of this power:

Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Romans 15:13, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Romans 15:19, “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high .”

Ephesians 1:19, “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,”

Ephesians 3:16, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”

Colossians 1:11, “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power , unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;”

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power , and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Ephesians 3:20 Comments - God is able to do more, by means of His power in us, than we could possible accomplish in our lifetimes using our own reasoning, strength, etc. Our thinking and asking determines the size of the container that God is able to fill in our lives.

Note that Ephesians 3:20 teaches us that our minds were not created to understand the direction and destiny that God places in our lives. This divine work takes place in our spirits. Our minds are limited and still in their mortal states. But our spirit has already been recreated into the exact image of God. It is within our spirit that God places His message to us. Paul is praying that we will be able to bring these spiritual revelations into our mortal minds so that we can understand them enough to pursue them for our lives. When a man pursues the Christian life strictly by his natural reasoning, which is the voice of the mind, he greatly limits himself with God and will never come to the fullness of blessings that God intended him to walk in. Paul calls such saints “carnal minded” in another place. However, we are to become “spiritual minded,” which is the focus of Paul’s prayer here in Ephesians 3:14-21.

We find a number of examples in the Scriptures where God commissioned men to a job and their minds contradicted God’s ability to do it through them. (1) Moses - When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush to go deliver His people Israel, Moses made excuses until he angered the Lord (Exodus 3:1 to Exodus 4:17). (2) Gideon - When the angel of the Lord met Gideon under an oak tree in Ophrah he said, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour,” and proceeded to explain to him that he was going to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites. To this Gideon wanted a sign from God before he would believe the angel (Judges 6:11-24). (3) Jeremiah - We have the story of Jeremiah’s divine commission in which the Lord said, “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms.” Jeremiah told the Lord that he was but a child. (4) Leah - We see Leah, the wife of Jacob, simply wanting her husband’s love. She thought she was winning his love by giving him a multitude of sons, when in fact she was destined to become the mother of six tribes of Israel. She had no idea that a nation was in her womb. Nor did she understand how much more important was her favor with God than her favor with her husband, which she never really received. Leah’s greatness is found in her favor with God who gave her six sons rather than in her favor with Jacob; for there was nothing great about her relationship with her husband.

As I write these notes, I am sitting in a church service listening to an elderly woman named Irene, who founded an orphanage in the dangerous region of northern Uganda. She is introducing some of her children who lost their parents in war and were raised in this orphanage. They are now healthy and strong, and some of them are going to the university with dreams of becoming a doctor. As a side note, she once testified how she and her husband first traveled to northern Uganda during the hot summer with the dry semiarid desert wind blowing sand in their faces for weeks at a time. She tells how her husband soon left her alone there and married a local native girl. Thus, Irene’s greatness was not found in her relationship with her husband’s love, which failed, but in the orphans that she has loved and cared for through these years.

Ephesians 3:18-20 Comments - God’s Infinite Love Compels Us Towards Our Destinies - Ephesians 3:18-19 gives us a description of God’s infinite wisdom that He desires to impart into His Church, so that every believer can fulfill his/her divine destiny according to Ephesians 3:20.

Ephesians 3:18 - Perhaps the breadth and length refer to the fullness of the destiny that the Father has ordained for each of us, and the depth may refer to the deep things of God and are imparted unto us by the anointing and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the height may refer to our own exaltation with Christ Jesus in the heavenlies. These verses may say that our comprehension of these aspects of our Christian life will determine how far we are able to go in fulfilling the Father’s destiny in our lives.

Ephesians 3:19 - It will be Christ’s love, which is beyond our comprehension, that will keep us on this journey to fulfill our destiny. Finally, Paul prays that these three dimensions of our Christian life are completed in us when he says, “that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:20 - We see from Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to take us way beyond what any man of God will actually achieve in this life; for His grace and love are unlimited. The child of God is able to fulfill his destiny by conforming to Ephesians 4-6, joining God the Father in implementing His divine plan of redemption upon earth. I believe that we will continue our destinies in Heaven, as we serve Him for eternity.

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

Ephesians 3:21 Comments - In the phrase “unto him,” Paul again takes up from the phrase in Ephesians 3:20, “now unto Him.”

In the phrase “unto him be glory,” Paul is saying that all the praise and glory because of all the “exceeding abundantly above all” works done in the body of Christ, which is Christ Jesus at work in us, belongs to God the Father (John 17:1).

John 17:1, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:”

We read in Ephesians 3:10 that God would display His manifold wisdom through the Church. Therefore, He receives glory when His wisdom is wrought in and through His people, which is exactly what Ephesians 3:21 is saying.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Comments Church Unity - Ephesians 3:20-21 speaks of “we” and “us” and “the church” rather than “I” and “me.” God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think when He has a church that is working together in unity. No great work of the ministry takes place with one person along. It always involves teamwork. The book of Acts refers to the church as being in one mind and of one accord. This unity allowed the Spirit of God to move mightily through the early church. Without this unity, God cannot bring His marvelous plans to fullness. This is why it has taken two thousand years for the church to evangelize the world.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/ephesians-3.html. 2013.