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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Ephesians 3

Verse 1

For this cause (τουτου χαριν). Use of χαριν (accusative of χαρις) as a preposition with the genitive and referring to the preceding argument about God's elective grace. It is possible that Paul started to make the prayer that comes in verses Ephesians 3:14-21 when he repeats τουτου χαριν. If so, he is diverted by his own words "the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles" (ο δεσμιος του Χριστου Ιησου υπερ υμων των εθνων) to set forth in a rich paragraph (Ephesians 3:1-13) God's use of him for the Gentiles.

Verse 2

If so be that ye have heard (ε γε ηκουσατε). Condition of first class with ε and first aorist active indicative and with the intensive particle γε that gives a delicate touch to it all. On οικονομιαν (stewardship, dispensation) see Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:25.

Verse 3

By revelation (κατα αποκαλυψιν). Not essentially different from δι' αποκαλυψεως (Galatians 1:12). This was Paul's qualification for preaching "the mystery" (το μυστηριον. See Ephesians 1:9).

As I wrote afore (καθως προεγραψα). First aorist active indicative of προγραφω as in Romans 15:4, not picture forth as Galatians 3:1. But when and where? Epistolary aorist for this Epistle? That is possible. A previous and lost Epistle as in 1 Corinthians 5:9? That also is abstractly possible. To the preceding discussion of the Gentiles? Possible and also probable.

In few words (εν ολιγω). Not = προ ολιγου, shortly before, but as in Acts 26:28 "in brief space or time" = συντονως (Acts 24:4), "briefly."

Verse 4

Whereby (προς ο). "Looking to which," "according to which."

When ye read (αναγινωσκοντες). This Epistle will be read in public.

My understanding in the mystery of Christ (την συνεσιν μου εν τω μυστηριω του Χριστου). My "comprehension" (συνεσιν, Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2). Every sermon reveals the preacher's grasp of "the mystery of Christ." If he has no insight into Christ, he has no call to preach.

Verse 5

In other generations (ετεραις γενεαις). Locative case of time. He had already claimed this revelation for himself (verse Ephesians 3:3). Now he claims it for all the other apostles and prophets of God.

Verse 6

To wit . Not in the Greek. But the infinitive (εινα) clause is epexegetical and gives the content of the revelation, a common idiom in the N.T. Τα εθνη is in the accusative of general reference. Paul is fond of compounds with συν and here uses three of them.

Fellow-heirs (συνκληρονομα). Late and rare (Philo, inscriptions and papyri). See also Romans 8:17.

Fellow-members of the body (συνσωμα). First found here and only here save in later ecclesiastical writers. Preuschen argues that it is equivalent to συνδουλος in Colossians 1:7 (σωμα in sense of δουλος).

Fellow-partakers (συνμετοχα). Another late and rare word (Josephus). Only here in N.T. In one papyrus in sense of joint possessor of a house.

Verse 7

For this verse see Colossians 1:25; Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 3:2.

Verse 8

Unto me who am less than the least of all saints (εμο τω ελαχιστοτερω παντων αγιων). Dative case εμο with ελοθη. The peculiar form ελαχιστοτερω (in apposition with εμο) is a comparative (-τερος) formed on the superlative ελαχιστος. This sort of thing was already done in the older Greek like εσχατοτερος in Xenophon. It became more common in the Koine. So the double comparative μειζοτεραν in 3 John 1:4. The case of αγιων is ablative. This was not mock humility (Ephesians 15:19), for on occasion Paul stood up for his rights as an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5).

The unsearchable riches of Christ (το ανεξιχνιαστον πλουτος του Χριστου). Ανεξιχνιαστος (α privative and verbal of εξιχνιαζω, to track out, εξ and ιχνος, track) appears first in Job 5:9; Job 9:10. Paul apparently got it from Job. Nowhere else in N.T. except Romans 11:33. In later Christian writers. Paul undertook to track out the untrackable in Christ.

Verse 9

To make see (φωτισα). First aorist active infinitive of φοτιζω, late verb, to turn the light on. With the eyes of the heart enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) one can then turn the light for others to see. See Colossians 1:26.

Verse 10

To the intent that (ινα). Final clause.

Might be made known (γνωρισθη). First aorist passive subjunctive of γνωριζω with ινα. The mystery was made known to Paul (Ephesians 3:3) and now he wants it blazoned forth to all powers (Gnostic aeons or what not).

Through the church (δια της εκκλησιας). The wonderful body of Christ described in chapter Ephesians 3:2.

The manifold wisdom of God (η πολυποικιλος σοφια του θεου). Old and rare word, much-variegated, with many colours. Only here in N.T. Ποικιλος (variegated) is more common (Matthew 4:24).

Verse 11

According to the eternal purpose (κατα προθεσιν των αιωνων). "According to the purpose (Ephesians 1:11) of the ages." God's purpose runs on through the ages. "Through the ages one eternal purpose runs."

Verse 12

In confidence (εν πεποιθησε). Late and rare word from πεποιθα. See 2 Corinthians 1:15.

Through our faith in him (δια της πιστεως αυτου). Clearly objective genitive αυτου (in him).

Verse 13

That ye faint not (μη ενκακειν). Object infinitive with μη after αιτουμα. The infinitive (present active) ενκακειν is a late and rare word (see already Luke 18:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9) and means to behave badly in, to give in to evil (εν, κακος). Paul urges all his apostolic authority to keep the readers from giving in to evil because of his tribulations for them.

Your glory (δοξα υμων). As they could see.

Verse 14

I bow my knees (καμπτω τα γονατα μου). He now prays whether he had at first intended to do so at Ephesians 3:1 or not. Calvin supposes that Paul knelt as he dictated this prayer, but this is not necessary. This was a common attitude in prayer (Luke 22:41; Acts 7:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5), though standing is also frequent (Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13).

Verse 15

Every family (πασα πατρια). Old word (πατρα is the usual form) from πατηρ, descent from a common ancestor as a tribe or race. Some take it here as = πατροτης, fatherhood, but that is most unlikely. Paul seems to mean that all the various classes of men on earth and of angels in heaven get the name of family from God the Father of all.

Verse 16

That he would grant you (ινα δω υμιν). Sub-final clause with ινα and the second aorist active subjunctive of διδωμ, to give. There are really five petitions in this greatest of all Paul's prayers (one already in Ephesians 1:16-23), two by the infinitives after ινα δω (κραταιωθηναι, κατοικησα), two infinitives after ινα εξισχυσητε (καταλαβεσθαι, γνωνα), and the last clause ινα πληρωθητε. Nowhere does Paul sound such depths of spiritual emotion or rise to such heights of spiritual passion as here. The whole seems to be coloured with "the riches of His glory."

That ye may be strengthened (κραταιωθηνα). First aorist passive infinitive of κραταιοω, late and rare (LXX, N.T.) from κραταιος, late form from κρατος (strength). See Luke 1:80. Paul adds δυναμε (with the Spirit). Instrumental case.

In the inward man (εις τον εσω ανθρωπον). Same expression in 2 Corinthians 4:16 (in contrast with the outward εξω, man) and in Romans 7:22.

Verse 17

That Christ may dwell (κατοικησα τον Χριστον). Another infinitive (first aorist active) after ινα δω. Κατοικεω is an old verb to make one's home, to be at home. Christ (Χριστον accusative of general reference) is asked to make his home in our hearts. This is the ideal, but a deal of fixing would have to be done in our hearts for Christ.

Being rooted and grounded in love (εν αγαπη ερριζωμενο κα τεθεμελιωμενο). But it is not certain whether εν αγαπη should go with these participles or with the preceding infinitive κατοικησα (dwell). Besides, these two perfect passive participles (from ριζοω, old verb, in N.T. only here and Colossians 2:7, and from θεμελιοω, see also Colossians 1:23) are in the nominative case and are to be taken with ινα εξισχυσητε and are proleptically placed before ινα. Verse Ephesians 3:18 should really begin with these participles. Paul piles up metaphors (dwelling, rooted, grounded).

Verse 18

That ye may be strong (ινα εξισχυσητε). Sub-final clause again with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive of εξισχυω, a late and rare compound (from εξ, ισχυω) to have full strength. Here only in N.T.

To apprehend (καταλαβεσθα). Second aorist middle infinitive of καταλαμβανω, old and common verb, to lay hold of effectively (κατα-), here with the mind, to grasp (Acts 25:25).

With all the saints (συν πασιν τοις αγιοις). No isolated privilege. Fellowship open to all. Paul gives a rectangular (four dimension) measure of love (breadth πλατος, length μηκος, height υψος, depth βαθος, all common enough words).

Verse 19

And to know (γνωνα τε). Second aorist active infinitive with εξισχυσητε.

Which passeth knowledge (την υπερβαλλουσαν της γνωσεως). Ablative case γνωσεως after υπερβαλλουσαν (from υπερβαλλω). All the same Paul dares to scale this peak.

That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God (ινα πληρωθητε εις παν το πληρωμα του θεου). Final clause again (third use of ινα in the sentence) with first aorist passive subjunctive of πληροω and the use of εις after it. One hesitates to comment on this sublime climax in Paul's prayer, the ultimate goal for followers of Christ in harmony with the injunction in Matthew 5:48 to be perfect (τελειο) as our heavenly Father is perfect. There is nothing that any one can add to these words. One can turn to Romans 8:29 again for our final likeness to God in Christ.

Verse 20

That is able to do (τω δυναμενω ποιησα). Dative case of the articular participle (present middle of δυναμα). Paul is fully aware of the greatness of the blessings asked for, but the Doxology ascribes to God the power to do them for us.

Above all (υπερ παντα). Not simply παντα, but υπερ beyond and above all.

Exceedingly abundantly (υπερεκπερισσου). Late and rare double compound (υπερ, εκ, περισσου) adverb (LXX, 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Ephesians 3:20). It suits well Paul's effort to pile Pelion on Ossa.

That we ask (ων αιτουμεθα). Ablative of the relative pronoun attracted from the accusative α to the case of the unexpressed antecedent τουτων. Middle voice (αιτουμεθα) "we ask for ourselves."

Or think (η νοουμεν). The highest aspiration is not beyond God's "power" (δυναμιν) to bestow.

Verse 21

In the church (εν τη εκκλησια). The general church, the body of Christ.

And in Christ Jesus (κα εν Χριστω Ιησου). The Head of the glorious church.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/ephesians-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.