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Ephesians 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Ephesians 3:0


Paul's Ministry to the GentilesThe Mystery RevealedA Prayer for WisdomPaul's Work for the GentilesPaul, a Servant of the Mystery
Ephesians 3:1-13Ephesians 3:1-7Ephesians 3:1-6Ephesians 3:1-6Ephesians 3:1-13
Purpose of the MysteryEphesians 3:7-13Ephesians 3:7-13
Ephesians 3:8-13
To Know the Love of ChristAppreciation of the MysteryThe Love of ChristPaul's Prayer
Ephesians 3:14-19Ephesians 3:14-21Ephesians 3:14-19Ephesians 3:14-19Ephesians 3:14-19
Ephesians 3:20-21Ephesians 3:20-21Ephesians 3:20-21Ephesians 3:20-21

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Considering the theological purpose(s) for the cyclical letter of Paul known as Ephesians, it is clear that Paul's three main truths in the doctrinal section relate to the Gnostic false teachers. (See Introduction.)

1. Ephesians 1:0 praises the Father for His "before time" love expressed in Christ's substitutionary atonement and the Spirit's continuing presence.

2. Ephesians 2:1-10 reveals the Father's great love and mercy for fallen, helpless humanity.

3. Ephesians 2:11-13 reveals the eternal plan of God to include all humans in a free salvation through Christ (cf. Genesis 3:15), Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free.

In effect, Ephesians 2:11-13) reveals the eternal, universal redemptive plan of God (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan); Ephesians 2:1-10) reveals the loving heart of God and Ephesians 1:3-14) reveals the eternal purpose of God, mankind's Christlikeness. God was fully aware of mankind's rebellion and made plans for dealing with the problem, even before creation (cf. Ephesians 1:4).

B. Ephesians 3:2 and 3:2-13 specify one of several definitions of the mystery of God found in Paul's writings. Jew and Gentile were united in one new entity, the Church of Jesus Christ. See Special Topic at Ephesians 3:3

C. Paul begins a prayer of praise in Ephesians 3:1, but gets sidetracked concerning his ministry to the Gentiles and resumes his prayer in verses Ephesians 3:14-21.

D. The prayer which began in verse Ephesians 3:1 and finishes in Ephesians 3:14-21 divides into three clauses. (See full note at Ephesians 3:16-19)

1. believers receive inner strength, Ephesians 3:16-17a

a. by the Spirit's power

b. by Christ's indwelling

2. saints may fully comprehend the truth of the gospel and the mystery, Ephesians 3:17-19a

a. to grasp so as to hold on to

b. to know by experience

3. believers are filled with the fullness (plçrôma) of God, Ephesians 3:19b



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How did Paul learn his theology?

2. Why does Paul call himself "the least of the saints"?

3. Why was the mystery of God hidden in ages past?

4. What is the purpose of the church to the angelic realm?

5. List the three things Paul asked God to grant the believers in Ephesians 3:16-19.

6. What does it mean that Christians are indwelt?

Verses 1-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 3:1-13 1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-2if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; 3that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light what is the administration of the mysterywhich for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13Therefore, I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

Ephesians 3:1 "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 21:27-22). 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).

Ephesians 3:2 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Verses Ephesians 3:2-7 form one sentence in Greek. These believers had heard about Paul's ministry and calling. Paul was not the founder of all the churches in Asia Minor.

"of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you" Paul felt he had been entrusted with the gospel (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 came to Paul as a gift, vv. Ephesians 3:7-8, and as a stewardship, Ephesians 3:2. This is the twin aspect of God's covenant.

As a matter of fact, all believers have been gifted by the Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:7) and declared stewards of the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). It is not the Great Option! It involves both intentional evangelism and Christlike maturity. It is impossible to be a good and faithful steward and not comprehend the assignment!

Ephesians 3:3 "by revelation" This could refer to

1. his Damascus road experience (cf. Acts 9:3-8; Acts 22:6-11; Acts 26:12-18)

2. Ananias' teachings in Damascus (cf. Acts 9:10-19; Acts 22:12-16)

3. the vision in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 22:17)

4. Paul's training by the ascended and glorified Jesus in Arabia (cf. Galatians 1:12, Galatians 1:17-18)

"the mystery" Paul used the term "mystery" over twenty times with several different meanings. 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 2:11-13; Colossians 1:26-27).


NASB"as I wrote before in brief" NKJV"(as I wrote before in a few words)" NRSV"as I wrote above in a few words" TEV"(I have written briefly about this. . .)" NJB"as I just described it very shortly"

The great reformer, John Calvin, thought this referred to something Paul had written in a previous letter, but it may better 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.

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 a circular letter.

Ephesians 3:5

NASB"in other generations" NKJV"in other ages" NRSV"in former generations" TEV"in past times" NJB"In past generations"

God is now clearly revealing His age old plan of the redemption of all mankind (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9; Colossians 1:26a), 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!

"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, Acts 21:10; 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.

Ephesians 3:6

NASB"the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-members of the promise" NKJV"the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise" NRSV"the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise" TEV"the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God's blessings; they are members of the same body, and share in the promise" NJB"pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them"

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.

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.


Ephesians 3:7 This could refer to Paul's initial salvation, but in context it seems to refer to God's special gift for his apostolic Gentile mission (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).

"a 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).

"according to the working of His power" Salvation and effective ministry are of God, not Paul (cf. Ephesians 1:19; Colossians 1:29).

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

Ephesians 3:8 "the very least of all saints" 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.

NASB"unfathomable" NKJV"unsearchable" NRSV"boundless" TEV, NJB"infinite"

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.

"riches of Christ" "Riches" is one of Paul's favorite words (cf. Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16). In chapter 1 he spoke of the riches of God the Father. Here Paul transfers them to the Son! NT authors often allude to Jesus' deity by transferring to Him the titles and functions of YHWH (for example see "God our Savior" and "Christ Jesus our Savior" in Ephesians 3:3 and 1:4; 2:10 and Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 3:4 and 3:6).

Ephesians 3:9

NASB"to bring to light" NKJV"to make all people see" NRSV"to make everyone see" TEV"to make all men see" NJB"explaining"

This is literally "to turn on a light" (cf. Ephesians 1:18; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9). Only the Spirit can bring this revelation to a darkened heart (cf. John 1:4-5; John 6:44, John 6:65). We get the English term "photo" from the Greek word.

NASB"the administration of the mystery" NKJV"the fellowship of the mystery" NRSV"the plan of the mystery" TEV"God's secret plan is to be put into effect" NJB"how the mystery is to be dispensed"

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 P46, all uncial manuscripts, most minuscule manuscripts, all ancient versions, and all early church father quotes, therefore, "stewardship" is the original word. See the discussion of textual criticism in Appendix Two. For "mystery" se Special Topic at Ephesians 3:3.

"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).

Ephesians 3:10

NASB, NKJV"the manifold wisdom of God" NRSV"the wisdom of God in its rich variety" TEV"God's wisdom, in all its different forms" NJB"how comprehending God's wisdom really is"

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.

"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, Ephesians 5:24, Ephesians 5:25, 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 OT 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.

See Special Topic at Colossians 1:18.

"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 the 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 was a major theological aspect of the Gnosticism. For them, salvation was the procurement of secret knowledge so that one could pass through these angelic levels (aeons) to reach the high, good god.

A full list of the terms used in the NT for these angelic levels can be seen in George E. Ladd's A Theology of the New Testament, p. 401. These orders and ranks of angelic beings are not defined and discussed in detail anywhere in the NT. Be careful of curiosity and systems of theology that attempt to definitively answer that which the NT leaves ambiguous!

A good example of this caution relates to these angelic ranks. In some passages, they are not evil but possibly structures of this fallen world which enable humans to live apart from God. A good book on this theory would be Hendrik Berkhoff's Christ and the Powers, Herald Press. See Special Topics: Angels in Paul's Writings at Ephesians 6:12 and Archç at Colossians 1:16.

"in heavenly places" 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.

Ephesians 3:11 "eternal purposes" This is literally "purpose of ages" (cf. Ephesians 1:9-10). This term is used in the Greek Classics to refer to a set plan. God is not surprised and He has no plan B (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)!

What was God's eternal plan? This is clarified in Genesis 1-3. God created mankind for fellowship (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:8); that fellowship was broken by human rebellion (cf. Genesis 3:0). The restoration of God's image and fellowship with mankind (Jew and Gentile) is the goal of God's activity in the Bible. This goal is met through the work of Christ (cf. Genesis 3:15) and the ministry of the Spirit (cf. John 16:8-14).

Ephesians 3:12

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"boldness" TEV"freedom" NJB"bold"

This term is used for freedom of speech, but it came to mean confidence in approaching someone in authority (cf. Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:35; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:21). In Christ, believers have boldness!

NASB"confident access" NKJV"access with confidence" NRSV"confidence" TEV"with all confidence" NJB"in complete confidence"

This term is used in the Septuagint (LXX) for a personal introduction to royalty. The concept is emphasized in Ephesians 2:0 and Romans 5:2. Believers approach the Father through Christ alone (cf. 1 Peter 3:18). He is their only mediator (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5). In Christ, believers have confident access!

The Reformation emphasis on "the priesthood of the believer" was a reaction to the authoritarian approach of the Catholic Church. However, biblically, the focus is never on "the believer," but on "believers." Western Christianity has magnified the individual to the exclusion of the corporate body. Christians are to be priests in an evangelistic and corporate sense, not an individual privileged position. It is true that humans become believers individually, but Christianity is a corporate experience.

"Through faith in Him" Jesus is God's channel for all spiritual blessings (cf. Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 1:10 (twice), Ephesians 1:12, Ephesians 1:13 (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).

Ephesians 3:13 "I ask you not to lose heart" This is present middle indicative, meaning "you, yourselves, continue to not lose heart." Grammatically, this can refer to Paul or to the Ephesian church. Most commentators agree that it refers to the churches Paul is addressing in this cyclical letter. Paul uses this phrase often (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13).

"at my tribulation on your behalf" See Special Topic below.


"for they are your glory" Exactly how Paul's sufferings (cf. Ephesians 3:1) are the glory of these Gentile churches is not revealed. Possibly they refer to Paul's salvation and ministry assignment in Acts 9:15-16 (cf. Acts 20:23). Paul was fulfilling his ministry among the Gentiles, therefore, his sufferings opened the door to their salvation. See fuller note on "glory" at Ephesians 1:6.

Verses 14-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 3:14-19 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14 "For this reason" Paul returns to his initial purpose (cf. Ephesians 3:1, i.e. his prayer): Notice the doctrinal section opens with a prayer to the Triune God (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14) and closes with prayer.

"I bow my knees" Standing, not bowing, was the usual position for Jewish prayer. This shows Paul's intensity (cf. Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, Luke 18:12; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Philippians 2:10).

Ephesians 3:14-15 "Father. . .family" 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).

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; Jude 1:20-21). See Special Topic: The Trinity.

The KJV translation adds "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," but this phrase is not in the ancient Greek manuscripts P46, א, A, B, C, nor the Greek texts used by Jerome and Augustine. The addition does occur in the uncial manuscripts א 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. See Special Topic The Trinity at Ephesians 1:3.

Ephesians 3:15 "in heaven and on earth" This refers to believers alive and dead (cf. Philippians 2:10).

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 3:19b, 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.

Ephesians 3:16 "according to the riches of His glory" "Riches" is one of Paul's favorite terms to describe the grace of God in Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16). God's nature is the key to God's power and provisions.

"in the inner man" Spiritual growth is internal, but it is stimulated by external pressure. 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. The inner man is already part of the New Age, the kingdom of God, but the outer man is still dying and struggling with the old age, the old fallen nature, and the fallen world system (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3).

Ephesians 3:17 "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" This is an aorist active infinitive which points toward a specific act of faith. There is a fluidity in the NT between the indwelling of the Son and the Spirit. The Spirit's task (cf. John 14-16) is to

1. reveal the need for Jesus (i.e., human sin)

2. reveal Jesus (i.e., the gospel)

3. draw to Jesus

4. baptize into Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13)

5. form Jesus in believers (i.e., Christlikeness), see Special Topic: Heart at Colossians 2:2

See Special Topic: Jesus and the Spirit at Colossians 1:26.

"being deeply rooted" This is a perfect passive participle which could be translated "have been and continue to be rooted by God." Paul uses this agricultural metaphor only here and in Colossians 2:7. These two perfect passive participles are a way of showing his confidence in these believers and these churches.

"and grounded" This is a second perfect passive participle. This is a construction metaphor. The same mixing of agriculture and construction metaphors is found in Ephesians 2:20-22 and 1 Corinthians 3:9.

Ephesians 3:18-19 "to comprehend. . .to know" These are both aorist infinitives (i.e., there are four aorist infinitives in this prayer, Ephesians 3:16-19). 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).

Ephesians 3:18 "may be able" This is the second purpose clause. Paul is praying that all believers be strengthened and enabled to fully understand the gospel (i.e., "comprehend" and "know").

"with all the saints" This term is always plural, except in Philippians 4:21, which also has a corporate context. To be a Christian is to be in community. Also, notice that God's will is the maturity of all believers (cf. Ephesians 4:13). See Special Topic: Saints at Colossians 1:2.

Ephesians 3:19 "surpasses" Christ's love is greater than human knowledge! Huperballô. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Ephesians 1:19. This word is used in Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 2:7; and Ephesians 3:19. Another huper compound is used in Ephesians 3:20 (huperekperissou), which is also used in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 and Ephesians 5:13.

"filled up to all the fullness of God" This is the third purpose clause in this prayer. This does not refer to the indwelling Christ or Spirit, Ephesians 3:17, but 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).

Verses 20-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 3:20-21 20Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20 "to Him who is able" This begins one of Paul's marvelous doxologies which closes the doctrinal section of this circular letter. This is a wonderful title for God used three times in the NT (cf. Romans 16:25; Jude 1:24). Each of these texts deal with different aspects of God's activities.


NASB, NKJV"exceeding abundantly" NRSV"abundantly far more" TEV"so much more" NJB"infinitely more"

This is a characteristic Pauline compound superlative meaning, "exceeding, abundantly more" (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13). See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Ephesians 1:19. It is bad grammar, but great theology!

"according to the power that works within us," This is a reference to the indwelling Christ through the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 3:7, Ephesians 3:16-17; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). This permanent indwelling Spirit in each and every believer is the difference between the Old Covenant and the New, i.e. "new heart," "new mind," "new spirit" (cf. Ezekiel 36:26-27).

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).

"forever and ever" See Special Topic following.


"amen" See Special Topic following.


Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ephesians-3.html. 2021.
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