Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ephesians 3:14

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
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  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - God;   Intercession;   Jesus Continued;   Wisdom;   Thompson Chain Reference - Church;   Kneeling;   Prayer;   The Topic Concordance - Bowing;   God;   Holy Spirit;   Strength;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ministers;   Prayer;   Prayer, Intercessory;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Family;   Father;   Paul;   Prayer;   Worship;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Christians, Names of;   Corinthians, First and Second, Theology of;   God, Names of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Faith;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Bowing;   Fellowship;   Prayer;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ephesians, the Epistle to the;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ephesians, Book of;   Kneel;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - English Versions;   Gestures;   Perfection;   Prayer;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Colossians, Epistle to the;   Ephesians Epistle to the;   Example;   Gestures;   God;   Intercession;   Prayer;   Pre-Eminence ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Adoration;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Abba;   Brother;   Father;   Head;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Prayer;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Adoration;   Attitudes;   Cause;   Ephesians, Epistle to the;   Father, God the;   Intercession;   Prayer;   Sons of God (New Testament);   Trine (Triune) Immersion;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Adoration, Forms of;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for December 16;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 6;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

For this cause I bow my knees - That you may not faint, but persevere, I frequently pray to God, who is our God and the Father of our Lord Jesus. Some very ancient and excellent MSS. and versions omit the words του Κυριου ἡμων Ιησου Χριστου, of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in them the passage reads: I bow my knees unto the Father. The apostle prays to God the Father, that they may not faint; and he bows his knees in this praying. What can any man think of himself, who, in his addresses to God, can either sit on his seat or stand in the presence of the Maker and Judge of all men? Would they sit while addressing any person of ordinary respectability? If they did so they would be reckoned very rude indeed. Would they sit in the presence of the king of their own land? They would not be permitted so to do. Is God then to be treated with less respect than a fellow mortal? Paul kneeled in praying, Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5. Stephen kneeled when he was stoned, Acts 7:60. And Peter kneeled when he raised Tabitha, Acts 9:40.

Many parts of this prayer bear a strict resemblance to that offered up by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 6:1, etc., when dedicating the temple: He kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven; 2 Chronicles 6:13. The apostle was now dedicating the Christian Church, that then was and that ever should be, to God; and praying for those blessings which should ever rest on and distinguish it; and he kneels down after the example of Solomon, and invokes him to whom the first temple was dedicated, and who had made it a type of the Gospel Church.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

God's wisdom and love displayed (3:1-21)

It was because Paul had taken the gospel to the Gentiles that he was imprisoned in the first place (Acts 21:27-36). Yet he feels humbled to think that God should graciously choose him for such a noble work (3:1-2). As a Jew he was once proud of his belief that only Jews were God's people. Even if some of the 'far off' Gentiles believed in God, they were still not God's covenant people in the sense that Jews were. Now God's special revelation shows Paul clearly that no longer is this so. Jewish and Gentile believers are united in one body, the church, and as God's people they share equally in all God's blessings (3-6).

Paul believes that only by God's grace could one as unworthy as he be given the work of taking the gospel to the Gentiles. He believes also that only by God's power will he be fruitful in that work (7-8). God's plan of uniting all believers in one church in and through Christ displays to people and to angels his great wisdom (9-11). This encourages Christians in their everyday lives, for if God is so wise and powerful, they know that they can enter into his presence at all times without fear or doubt. They therefore should not be discouraged, as some in Ephesus were when they heard that their apostle was in prison (12-13).

The one to whom Paul prays is the Father of all who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles. This one is the true Father. Everything in the universe has its origin in him. Even earthly fathers and their families exist only because there is a heavenly Father and his family (14-15).

Paul asks this heavenly Father that those who are his children might be strengthened inwardly through allowing the Spirit of Christ within them to control them. As they understand more of Christ's love, they will grow to be more like him in their lives (16-19). They should not think that this goal is too high to reach, for God is able to do far more than they think possible (20-21).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.

I bow my knees ... Paul had begun to finish this prayer back in Ephesians 3:1, but he interrupted it for the magnificent digression regarding the great mystery in Christ; now he repeated the words, "For this cause," and completed the marvelous prayer.

The Jews often stood to pray (Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11-13); but kneeling for prayer is often indicated in the New Testament, although it was not unknown at all in the Old Testament. Solomon knelt in the prayer of dedication for the temple (1 Kings 8:54). Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:60), Peter when he raised Dorcas (Acts 9:40), Paul on farewell occasions (Acts 20:36; 21:5), and our Lord himself in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41) knelt in prayer. However, other acceptable attitudes or postures are also indicated, such as "lifting up the hands" (1 Timothy 2:8), "falling on the face" (Luke 5:12), etc.

Unto the Father ... Paul here prayed to God, not as the Father of mankind, generally, but in the spiritual sense of being the spiritual Father of his children in Christ. "In the spiritual, or redemptive sense, God is definitely not the Father of all men."[30] This is an important distinction. It is not the brotherhood of all mankind (in the sense of having the same Creator) that blesses human relationships. It is the brotherhood of man "in Christ" that brings peace and amity. "The brotherhood of man," apart from the qualifier of their being brothers "in Christ Jesus," is a sadistic joke. The Jewish-Arab conflict is a prime example of the brotherhood of man apart from Jesus Christ.

Of whom every family in heaven and on earth ... The English Revised Version (1885) has changed this from the KJV renditions, "the whole family in heaven and on earth," upon textual grounds which many scholars recognize as valid. However, Blaikie, in Pulpit Commentary, dogmatically declared that there are no constraining reasons for the change. "The context requires the sense of `whole family'."[31] He also cited examples of instances in Matthew 2:3; Luke 4:13; Acts 2:36,7:22, and Ephesians 2:21 where the absence of the article (as here) denoted the totality of a thing. As Hendriksen said, the trouble with the "every family" rendition is that there is hardly any way to know what may be meant by it. "How many families? ... are the Jews a family? ... the Gentiles? ... do the angels form a family? ... several families? etc., etc."[32] John Wesley's unique thought on this is quite interesting. Using the KJV rendition, he nevertheless came up with a number of different families, all one, in the sense of being God's children. He wrote:

The whole family of angels in heaven, saints in Paradise, and believers on earth is named (of the Father), being "the children of God," a more honorable title than children of Abraham, and depending on him as the Father of the family.[33]

Wesley's interpretation has the advantage of explaining the passage no matter which way it is translated, and this would seem to commend it as the most probable meaning of it.

[30] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 167.

[31] W. G. Blaikie, op. cit., p. 107.

[32] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 167.

[33] John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For this cause - Some suppose that this is a resumption of what he had commenced saying in Ephesians 3:1, but which had been interrupted by a long parenthesis. So Bloomfield explains it. But it seems to me more probable that he refers to what immediately precedes. “Wherefore, that the great work may be carried on, and that the purposes of these my sufferings may be answered in your benefit and glory, I bow my knees to God, and pray to him.”

I bow my knees - I pray. The usual, and the proper posture of prayer is to kneel; Compare 2 Chronicles 6:13; Daniel 6:10; Luke 22:21; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:26; Acts 21:5. It is a posture which indicates reverence, and should, therefore, be assumed when we come before God. It has been an unhappy thing that the custom of kneeling in public worship has ever been departed from in the Christian churches.

Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - To whom, undoubtedly, prayer should ordinarily be addressed. But this does not make it improper to address the Lord Jesus in prayer; see the notes; 7:59-60 on Acts 1:24.

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These files are public domain.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

This verse going back to the subject of Ephesians 3:1 is Figure of speech Anachoresis App-6.

Father. App-98.

of . . . Christ. The texts omit.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

14.For this cause. His prayers for them are mentioned, not only to testify his regard for them, but likewise to excite them to pray in the same manner; for the seed of the word is scattered in vain, unless the Lord render it fruitful by his blessing. Let pastors learn from Paul’s example, not only to admonish and exhort their people, but to entreat the Lord to bless their labors, that they may not be unfruitful. Nothing will be gained by their industry and toil, — all their study and application will be to no purpose, except so far as the Lord bestows his blessing. This ought not to be regarded by them as an encouragement to sloth. It is their duty, on the contrary, to labor earnestly in sowing and watering, provided they, at the same time, ask and expect the increase from the Lord.

We are thus enabled to refute the slanders of the Pelagians and Papists, who argue, that, if the grace of the Holy Spirit performs the whole work of enlightening our minds, and forming our hearts to obedience, all instruction will be superfluous. The only effect of the enlightening and renewing influences of the Holy Spirit is, to give to instruction its proper weight and efficacy, that we may not be blind to the light of heaven, or deaf to the strains of truth. While the Lord alone acts upon us, he acts by his own instruments. It is therefore the duty of pastors diligently to teach, — of the people, earnestly to receive instruction, — and of both, not to weary themselves in unprofitable exertions, but to look up for Divine aid.

I bow my knees. The bodily attitude is here put for the religious exercise itself. Not that prayer, in all cases, requires the bending of the knees, but because this expression of reverence is commonly employed, especially where it is not an incidental petition, but a continued prayer.

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These files are public domain.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro: God’s Splash Ball
    1. Remember there are 2 prayers in Ephesians (here and in 1:15-23) complement each other.
      1. The 1st, a prayer for enlightenment; the 2nd is for enablement.
      2. Paul wants the Ephesians to learn all they have in Christ and then live what they have learned.
    2. Last week: Paul unveiled the mystery of old...the new society, the combo of Jew & Gentile into one, a.k.a. the Church.
      1. The believing Jews & Gentiles are one & share the same spiritual riches.
      2. Jesus said, I will build My church (Mt.16:18). Paul reminds us, and God uses people to help get the job done.
        1. This week: Paul will explain his unique role in building up the church. Thus, the building of the church should be our motivation to pray & serve also.
  2. IT’S A MYSTERY (1-13)
    2. (1) Ever get interrupted in your prayers…Paul does here (see vs.1&14)
      1. He deviates on the subject of the divine mystery.
    3. Mystery - the ordinary English sense of this word implies knowledge withheld. The biblical sense is truth revealed. [mystery = formerly kept secret but now revealed]
      1. The mystery was made known only by divine revelation, to those illuminated by the Spirit.
    4. (6) Mystery summed up. No one could have foreseen the inclusion of the Gentiles, but here it is plainly revealed via Paul.
    5. The content of the mystery is Christ: Christ for us in giving His life on our behalf. Christ in us accomplishing His purpose by working in each member of His body.
    6. MYSTERY’S PURPOSE (8-13)
    7. (8) Unsearchable riches – they far surpass our human ability to understand.
      1. Paul used same word in Rom.11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.
      2. God’s riches are so vast no one can plumb their depths.
    8. (9) From the beginning of the ages – Paul traced this mystery all the way back to creation
      1. Paul’s purpose: To preach (8) & make plain/make all see (9).
    9. (10) Manifold wisdom – compound word (many + many sided).
      1. Or, very many-sided, or very many-faceted, or very many-colored.
      2. (William Barclay) The idea in this word is that the grace of God will match any situation which life may bring us. There is nothing of light or of dark, of sunshine or of shadow, for which it is not triumphantly adequate.
    10. (12) God’s plan was more than a successful operation. It became a personal experience. [in Christ we have a free approach to God - access]
      1. Trifecta: Boldness, access, & confidence to come to God in faith.
      2. C.H. Spurgeon once said, Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might.
  3. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​IV. Slide16a POWER PRAYER (14-21)
    1. ​​​​​​​(14) Paul moves towards a powerful prayer. I think he’s placing this prayer in the greater Roman context. He does it by subtly kind of rewriting what the Romans called...genius.
    2. Genius - How we define it today: an action so unbelievably creative, brilliantly, impressive. Or a person, he/she is genius.
      1. Defined: In Roman religion, the genius is the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. [picture a guardian angel, your protection spirit]
        1. The genius would follow each man from the hour of his birth until the day he died.
      2. Each individual place had a genius and so did powerful objects, such as volcanoes. It was thus extremely important in the Roman mind to propitiate the appropriate genii for the major undertakings and events of their lives.
      3. The Christian theologian Augustine equated the Christian soul with the Roman genius, citing the ancient Roman Scholar Varro as attributing the rational powers and abilities of every human being to their genius.
      4. So, in every person, house, wherever you went, there was some kind of genius in it.
      5. In the Roman Cults, the only genius that mattered, was the one that belonged to the father of the household.
        1. Genius manifested itself as the general life principle that governed the way families lived and how that life principle was passed on for generations. [where we get genes]
      6. The only genius that mattered was the father.
      7. The king of all geniuses belonged to [Slide17a no not Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius] but to the Emperor. The title for the father was pater familias (father of the family)
        1. eg. this is the Bronze genius depicted as pater familias (1st century CE).
        2. This is the Genius of Domitian. [Thus began the tradition of the Imperial cult, in which Romans worshipped the genius of the emperor rather than the person]
        3. Thus the Emperor was pater familias over all the Roman family. His genius was the most revered.
    3. Now I’ll read vs.14,15. [note: the Father...whole named.]
      1. Paul communicates...there is a higher, new (to them), bigger than Caesar, One who is The Pater Familias in whom everyone derives their name.
        1. Every identity given...comes from The Father (heavenly). And in Him is in whose name I am praying.
        2. Dads give people their identity & meaning. And thats who I am kneeling before...the Father.
    4. PRAYER FOR 5 THINGS (14-19)
    5. Finally back to the prayer – let me start over…For this reason…
      1. ​​​​​​​This prayer is for spiritual vision, to see & lay hold of the greatness of God’s love & power.
    6. Now he lists 5 resources which His people may draw upon in prayer.
      1. 1st we need Inner Strength/Power/might (16) which comes via His Spirit in the inner man. [inner man = the center of a person’s life]
        1. This is where we get our real strength. It comes from God, who is present & active in the believer’s life. His power works in & through us.
        2. A story is told of a woman who lived in a remote valley. She went to a great deal of trouble to have electrical power installed in her home. They noticed she didn't use very much electricity at all. In fact, her usage was minuscule. They sent a meter reader out to check on the matter. The man came to the door and said, "We've looked at the amount. Don't you use electricity?" "Oh yes" she said. "We turn it on every night to see how to light our lamps and then we switch it off again."
        3. This sounds like the way many Christians apply the power of God in their lives. [turn it on, switch it off again]
      2. Next we need Faith (17a) that Christ may dwell in your hearts thru faith.
        1. ​​​​​​​may dwell - the Greek word used here, carries the sense of residing permanently.
      3. Next we need Love (17b) rooted & grounded in love.
        1. ​​​​​​​Rooted and grounded - Paul uses these 2 metaphors: 1 agricultural (rooted) the other architectural (grounded/a foundation) reminder of the stability that Christ provides
        2. Too many Christians want the fruits of the Spirit without being rooted in spiritual things. wiersbe A new orientation toward others.
          1. Love is the foundation of the believer’s life.
      4. Next we need comprehension/spiritual understanding (18,19a) of Christ’s love.
        1. ​​​​​​​Comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love [wide/long/high/deep]
        2. Passes knowledge – compound word, beyond & to throw.
          1. To throw over & beyond. Not hitting the baseball over the fence, but knocking it deep into the stands.
      5. Slide20f Next we need the Fullness of God (19b) of God. Here is God’s ultimate purpose for the lives of His people. [Oh to experience the fullness of God]
        1. This could refer to the blessings of God, or to His perfection and completeness.
    7. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​PAUL’S DOXOLOGY OF PRAISE (20,21) a stirring benediction
    8. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​(20) Exceedingly abundantly – compound word made up of 3 words to show the highest form of comparison imaginable.
      1. Paul connected: above, out of, form this word.
      2. It means exceedingly abundantly, superabundantly, quite beyond all measure. It goes beyond the expression of language. Shepherd’s Notes, Ephesians, pg.41
      3. God’s power at work within us is able to carry out His work more abundantly, than we can even imagine.
        1. Behind right field of San Francisco’s AT&T Park is McCovey Cove, where fans sit in their boats & kayaks, waiting for a splash ball.
        2. So, this phrase exceedingly abundantly isn’t hitting the baseball over the fence, nor deep into the stands, but knocking it out of the park...this here is God’s splash ball!
    9. God gives us more than we ask:
      1. Abraham – said, I can’t expect Sarah to bear a child in her old age. God promised a seed. It must be in this child of Hagar. Oh that Ishmael might live before You.
        1. ​​​​​​​God granted him that, but He gave him Isaac as well, & all the blessings of the covenant.
      2. David – in Ps.21:4 David asked life from God. And God gave him more than length of days for himself, but a throne for his sons throughout all generations.
      3. Man w/palsy friends brought him to Jesus & asked for a physical healing. Jesus said, 1st healed him spiritually, son…your sins are forgiven. Then healed him physically.
        1. God gives greater things than we ask for.
      4. Dying thief – asked, Lord, remember me. Jesus’ reply, today you will be with me in paradise.
      5. The Prodigal – I’m not worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants. His father answered: Bring forth the best robe & put it on him; put a ring on his hand, & sandals on his feet.
        1. ​​​​​​​Once you get into the position of an asker, you shall have what you never asked for & never thought to receive. Spurgeon
    10. He says to ask all that we ask above all that we ask or think abundantly above all that we ask or think exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Let"s turn to the third chapter of Ephesians.

For this cause [Paul said] I, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles ( Ephesians 3:1 ),

It is interesting that Paul was actually a prisoner of Rome, but as far as he was concerned, he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, that is the one he was really bound to. "A prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." The reason why Paul was persecuted and the reason why Paul was in prison is because he was insisting that the Gentiles could be saved by their believing in Jesus Christ, and this upset the Jews, who felt that the Gentiles could only be saved by becoming Jews.

Thus, a Gentile could not be saved, only Jews could be saved and a Gentile had to become a Jew in order to be saved. So Paul"s insistence that God is now offering salvation to the Gentiles so incurred the wrath of the Jews that they persecuted him or stirred up persecution everywhere he went. So that the imprisonments were the result of this basic teaching of Paul that you Gentiles can have salvation. So, "a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."

Paul said, "If I didn"t preach this then the persecution would cease. They wouldn"t have anything against me anymore." But Paul stood by that message of God"s grace that had been given to him.

If you have heard [he said] of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you ( Ephesians 3:2 ):

Now, there are those who see seven dispensations. They see the dispensation of innocence, when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and God relating to man there in the garden in man"s innocence. Then they see the second dispensation, (I forget what they call it), but it is from the time of Adam"s sin unto the time of Noah, in which they see the third dispensation of the government of God which lasted until the time of the law, which they see the fourth dispensation of the law. And the fifth dispensation of Jesus here; the sixth dispensation, the dispensation of grace; the seventh dispensation, the millennial reign.

Paul is talking about the dispensation of grace, man has divided it up into those categories. I don"t know that God has. I think that man does a lot of things that God doesn"t necessarily endorse, even theologians.

We are living in an age in which God relates to we Gentiles by His grace. It is a dispensation of grace given to us.

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I already had written about in few words ( Ephesians 3:3 );

Now, in chapter1Paul speaks of this mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fullness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth, even in Him. This mystery that God has chosen that all things should be bound up in Jesus Christ; things which are in heaven, things which are on the earth. God has brought all things in subjection unto Him, will put all things in subjection.

Paul said, I wrote a little bit about this mystery already,

Whereby, when you read, you may have an understanding of my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit ( Ephesians 3:4-5 );

That is, this open door for the Gentiles to receive salvation is something that the Old Testament prophets did not foresee. This age of the church is something that was not seen by the Old Testament prophets. They felt that the coming of Christ would bring the immediate kingdom of God. They figured that the Messiah would usher in the kingdom age immediately and the Old Testament prophets did not really see this age of grace, when God would be drawing from among the Gentiles the body of Christ.

They really didn"t understand all that they saw or all that God revealed to them. They really wrote of things that they did not completely understand. But they wrote as the Holy Spirit inspired them. And thus, they themselves did not know the things that they were writing about or what their full significance was.

Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah, how that He will sit upon the throne of David and order it and establish it in righteousness and in judgment from henceforth even forever, the zeal of the Lord of Host shall perform this. And yet, Isaiah said that God"s righteous servant would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to our own way, and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. And how He would be numbered with the transgressors in His death. And so he wrote of these things not really understanding the apparent inconsistency of the things that he wrote.

Daniel, in prophesying the day that the Messiah would come, declared, and the Messiah will be cut off, and receive nothing for Himself, and the Jews will be dispersed.

Yet, there did remain that mental attitude that the Messiah is going to set up His kingdom, and it was very prevalent even among the disciples. They were constantly looking for the immediacy of the kingdom of God. When Jesus, after His resurrection, gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to come upon them in a few days, they said, "Lord, will this be the time when You restore the kingdom to Israel? Is this it, Lord?" They were constantly looking for the kingdom to be established immediately. They did not know that there was going to be this period of the dispensation of grace, where God would be reaching out to the Gentiles to draw out from the Gentiles the body of Christ, the church of Jesus Christ. Draw out, actually, from the world, because it was to include both Jews and Gentiles and make them one. The wall that had existed between them is going to be broken down and they are all going to become one body in Christ.

When Paul speaks of it as a mystery, he means not something that is like we think of mysteries today, difficult to solve. It is something that had not been revealed in the past, but God is now revealing and making known. So it is a new revelation from God. This place of the Gentiles in the body of Christ and how that God was going to offer freely unto the Gentiles the glorious promises of eternal life and of salvation and of a place in the kingdom of God.

Paul said, "I want to write this to you so that you will understand my understanding of the mystery which in other ages was not made known, but it is know revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles and to the prophets. This is the mystery:"

That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel ( Ephesians 3:6 ):

The glorious mystery of God now revealed. You Gentiles can have salvation, can have the promise of eternal life, can have the hope of the kingdom of God. You become a partaker in the grace and in the goodness of God. "Whereof [Paul said] I was made a minister, according the gift of the grace of God that was given to me by the effectual working of his power."

So God laid upon me the ministry of sharing this glorious mystery--God"s grace to the Gentiles.

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ ( Ephesians 3:7-8 );

"What a privilege," Paul said, "is given unto me the less of the least of all saints." Paul"s opinion of himself, this is the opinion of a man who has truly been called of God and really had a confirmation with Jesus Christ.

When I see the way some people strut as they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, my conclusion is that they really haven"t had a personal confrontation with Him. If I have the attitude, "Lord, You are so lucky that You have me proclaiming Your truths. You don"t know how fortunate You are, God. I could have been famous and I could have been great. I gave up fame and fortune. I am worth a lot to You, Lord." Those testimonies of what people have given up for Jesus Christ really don"t move me. What I could have been doesn"t really touch me.

Paul"s attitude toward himself, "Wow, God has given me this glorious ministry, the lessor than the least of all of the saints. The privilege given that I should be able to share the unsearchable riches of Christ, impart them unto the Gentiles."

Paul felt that because of his previous persecution of the church, his endeavor to waste it, that anything that God did for him was through grace and he was really always, I think, sort of haunted by the fact that he was so blind at one time that he was trying to destroy the church. He makes mention of this, "for I wasted the church of God." Here his attitude, less than the least of all of the saints. But God has chosen

that all men may see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 3:9 ):

Now, you notice that all that God has done for us is by Jesus Christ as we have been going through these first two chapters on into the third chapter. Anything and everything that God has done for you He has done in and through and by Jesus Christ. These glorious mysteries hid from the Old Testament prophets now revealed through the prophets and the apostles in the New Testament, these marvelous riches of Christ that are available to all men.

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God ( Ephesians 3:10 ),

You remember Peter writing of these things said, "Which things the angels even desire to look into." ( 1 Peter 1:12 ). You see, angels are not omniscient as is God. They do not know the full purposes or the plan of God. I am sure that they have interesting sessions and discussions as they see the purposes of God being unfolded. Now, the angels did have a better grasp of prophecy than did man. When God would reveal the things through the prophets, they did have a grasp of these things. But not a full understanding. It took the working out of the plan for them to come into a full understanding.

Peter in writing of these things said, "We have the more sure word of prophecy" ( 2 Peter 1:19 ). "He showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs" ( Acts 1:3 ), but we have the more sure word of prophecy and so forth, which things the angels desired to look into. Paul said, "That the principalities and powers, which are the angels, that they might know by what is happening in the church, the manifold wisdom of God."

I would imagine that it is a very shocking and awesome thing to the angels that God decided to come and indwell man. That God would actually come and dwell within man. This is that glorious mystery that God actually will indwell you by His Spirit through Jesus Christ.

My body can become the temple of the Holy Spirit, that Christ dwelling in me is my hope of glory. This marvelous mystery. The angels said, "Wow, can you believe that?" It is revealed, God didn"t reveal it to them, except, as it took place within the church.

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Ephesians 3:11 ):

That was God"s plan from the beginning.

In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him ( Ephesians 3:12 ).

In chapter1it says we have been accepted in the beloved. God accepts me. Now it says we have access unto God. That was, of course, something that was withheld even from the Jew. They did not have access to God. They came to God through the priest. He would enter into the presence of God for them. When God gave the law to Moses, He said, "Cordon off the mount. Don"t let man come close, lest he be destroyed." Moses went up and communed with God. When the people saw the awesome phenomena of the presence of God, they fled, and they said to Moses, "You go up and talk to Him and you come down and tell us what He said, but we don"t want to get near. That is awesome the fire rolling around the ground, the thunder and all of these things. And you go up and we will listen to you, and we will take what you tell us that God says, but we don"t want to approach that."

And as God established the law, then it was the high priest who went into the Holy of Holies before God for the people and that was only once in a year, one day in a year. But now we have access to God. There is no veil any longer to hold you out.

It was extremely significant that at the crucifixion of Jesus the veil was rent or torn from top to the bottom and God was just now saying through Jesus Christ you can all come. You have access to God. In Hebrews it says, "that we may come boldly before the throne of grace to make our petitions known." Through Jesus Christ we were once alienated from God and could not approach Him, and now have been brought close, been brought nigh, access to God. And then here again, boldness and access, as in Hebrews, "come boldly to the throne of grace."

That timidity that some people display, "Oh, I really don"t think that I am worthy to come to God. I will just go to one of the saints and ask him to go to God for me," is unscriptural and it"s wrong. When God opens the door and says, "Come on in," it is wrong for you to hold back. We come boldly. We have access, boldness and access, confidence by the faith of Him.

Wherefore [Paul said] I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory ( Ephesians 3:13 ).

Paul had gone through so much to bring them this message. The prisoner, beaten, scourged, buffeted, stoned. "Don"t faint at my tribulations, because it is all for your glory."

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

So Paul"s prayer for them, the attitude in prayer, physical, of bowing his knee, but there are many attitudes for prayer physically. It isn"t really the physical position that counts when I come to God; it is the position of my heart. "He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him" ( Hebrews 11:6 ).

So the people who have a hang up, "you"re not really praying unless you are on your knees," is not really a scriptural hang up, it is just their own hang up. The scripture talks about standing, lifting holy hands in prayer. David lying with his face in the dirt crying unto God. Many places they are lying prostrate before the Lord. So sitting, lying, kneeling, standing, that is not what counts, but what is the position of your heart as you come to God.

"I bow my knees unto the Father." Prayer is unto the Father, our Father, which art in heaven. Whatsoever things you ask the Father, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you [Paul"s prayer for them], according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ( Ephesians 3:15-16 );

How we need strength in our inner man. Satan is constantly setting before us temptations. He is a powerful foe. I do not have the strength within myself to stand against him, I need God"s strength by His Spirit in my inner man if I am to stand before the power of the enemy. Paul prays that you might be strengthened in the inner man by His Spirit.


That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ( Ephesians 3:17 );

The word dwell in the Greek is to settle down and to make himself at home, that Christ might really be at home, be comfortable, be at ease. There are places where you go and you feel out of place the moment you are there. You feel uncomfortable, you wish you had not come, you are not in harmony with what is going on. Then there are other places where you go and you feel so comfortable, so at ease, so relaxed.

Now, "that Christ might be at home in your hearts" means that your heart might be so in tune and all with Him that as He dwells within your heart there is no strain, there is no embarrassment for Him.

You remember how that Ezekiel, that interesting prophet, how God dealt with him in many strange ways, was taken by the Spirit to Jerusalem. There was this wall there and God said, "Dig a hole through the wall," and he dug a hole through the wall and crawled in. And he looked and here was all kinds of pornography all over the walls. Ezekiel said, "That is horrible, filthy pornography. What"s that all about?" God said, "I have allowed you to go within the minds of the leaders of Israel. These are the things that they are thinking, these are the things they are seeing."

When Christ dwells within your heart and looks on the walls, is He at home, is He comfortable with what He sees? Or when He knocks on the door, do we say, "Wait a minute," and we go around and try to cover everything, or turn things around backwards?

"That Christ may be at home in your hearts by faith;"

that you might be rooted and grounded in love ( Ephesians 3:17 ),

Oh that we would experience more of that love of God and the love of Jesus Christ and that it might really flow forth from our lives. Rooted and grounded in love.

That you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and the length, and the depth, and the height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge ( Ephesians 3:18-19 ),

Here is an interesting request, because how can you know something that passes knowledge? The word know is ginosko, which is know by experience.

Now his prayer: "God loves you so much, I pray that you might know the depths of Gods love for you, the length of God"s love, the height of God"s love. If you could only fathom the depths, if you could only explore the heights, if you could only see the length, to the length to which God was willing to go to save you. The depths to which Jesus was willing to come in order to redeem you. The heights to which God intends to bring you. That He might seat you together with Christ in heavenly places and make you a joint heir with Christ of His eternal kingdom. Oh the heights of the glory that God has for you. If you could only know," Paul said, "comprehend that which is beyond knowledge. Hey, you cannot know it, it is beyond knowledge."

The next request,

that you might be filled with the fullness of God ( Ephesians 3:19 ).

Now, again, that is something that in the physical is impossible. That I could be filled with the fullness of God. The heavens of heavens cannot contain God. How much less me? That I might be filled with the fullness of God. Now, realizing that he has asked some pretty tough things, he says,

Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think ( Ephesians 3:20 ),

How many times I think that we limit God by our own limitations. We carry our own limitations over into the spiritual realm. We are prone to place things in categories: that is very easy, that is simple, no problem, oh that is pretty tough, that one is difficult. Hey, that is impossible. We are prone to carry these over to God, and it reflects even many times in our attitude of prayer, "Lord, this is a simple thing. You can handle this one. Lord, this is pretty tough. I really don"t know. Forget it, Lord. It is impossible." We are prone to carry over unto God those human feelings that we have concerning situations. How many times God has done things that I thought were totally impossible, things that I had given up on. People that I had said, "Hey, no way." Then what does God do? Turns around and saves them. I can"t believe it.

Jonathan, waking up early in the morning, his mind playing with an interesting thought. "I wonder if God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today. If God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today, He doesn"t need a whole army. If God wants to do it, He could deliver them into the hands of one man just as easy as He could the whole army. I wonder if He wants to deliver them today?" This crazy thought running through his brain, he can"t get it out of his head. And so he wakes up his armor bearer and he says, "I"m having a crazy thought. You know, I was thinking, if God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel He doesn"t need the whole army, after all He is God. He could deliver the Philistines to Israel to just one man, just as easily as a whole army. Let"s go over and see if God wants to deliver the Philistines this morning." I love it, let"s see what God might want to do, let"s venture out in faith. Who knows what God might want to do? He doesn"t need a whole army. We measure things by our abilities. "Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."

We oftentimes are intimidated by certain diseases, by certain illnesses, because they have been diagnosed by man as incurable. Thus, we have a different prayer for Leukemia than we do earaches, or headaches. "Lord, he has got a headache, relieve him, Lord, help him to really be able to function today. Thank you, Lord." No problem. If God doesn"t come through, take an aspirin.

"Leukemia, No! Oh, God, help! God, oh Lord God of heaven." Man leukemia, you have got to really pray for that. You have . . . it takes really getting worked up into that one. That"s tough. Hey, it is no more difficult for God to heal leukemia than it is a common cold. God doesn"t have these categories of difficult or easy or impossible. They don"t exist with God. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly, and we need to remember this when we pray. We need in prayer to be freed from our human limitations and this idea of difficulty.

"Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." God can provide a million dollars for you just as easy as He can provide five cents. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think. Why do we limit Him? "Lord, I need a nickel." So I start looking around the ground. It shouldn"t be too hard to find a nickel. Flip the coin boxes in the telephones.

Paul as he prays, prays with that awareness, that confidence that God is able. We need to have that confidence when we pray.

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

This beautiful little benediction that he tacks onto his prayer. Glory in the church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, and so shall it be. So shall it be.

World without end, we will bring glory and praise unto God because of His grace towards us through Jesus Christ. In heaven we will be much the same things we are doing on the earth, as we are just giving thanks unto God for His mercy and grace to us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So many people are looking for heaven to bring so many radical changes in their lives. But you see, God wants to make those radical changes right now so that heaven will not be a shocking kind of a transition for you. God is working in us now. Those eternal things as He is preparing us for the eternal kingdom. They are not going to be as radical a change as you think. God wants it to be a smooth transition. It would be glorious to be in heaven for an hour or two before you realized you were there. To walk so close to the Lord, to live in such communion with Him, to walk so in His presence and in His love and all. Hey, wait a minute. Something is different here. Where am I? Wow!

Oh, God help us to so walk with Jesus in close communion. "

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Reasons for renewing the Prayer for Wisdom

1-13. A digression, which, however, could not be spared. As in Ephesians 1:15, he begins to speak of himself, and this time he explains his unique interest in the conversion of the Gentiles. 'Many of his readers had not seen him, but they must have heard of the special work assigned to him by God, of making known to all the mystery of the ages, so that even angelic powers learn through the Church the manysidedness of the Divine counsels.'

1. 'It was worth while becoming a prisoner in such a cause' (Philemon 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:8).

2. Again the sentence is broken: cp. Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:5. His being a prisoner on their behalf suggests a fresh train of thought. If he had been writing to Ephesians only, he could not have said 'if.' Ephesians had heard himself; cp. Colossians 1:25.

3. Afore in few words] in the first two chapters

5. 'The revelation is quite new; it has been hidden for many generations.' The Apostles and prophets are holy, as the readers are saints (Ephesians 1:1), as being set apart for God's service; they had accepted St. Paul's doctrine of salvation for the Gentiles. The prophets are the NT. prophets, as in Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.

6. This is the mystery that has been revealed.

7. The Apostle of the Gentiles enlarges on the greatness of his special mission. Thrice here he calls it a grace given to him: cp. Galatians 2:7-9; Colossians 1:24.

8. Unsearchable] inexplorable; that cannot be traced out. Riches] the comprehensiveness and power of the gospel.

9. 'That which for ages has been kept secret from the wisest and holiest is now brought to light for all to see.'

10. It is an amazing thought that, by means of the Church, God's varied wisdom in the scheme of redemption is made known to heavenly beings. 'Angels desire to look into' 'the manifold grace of God' (1 Peter 1:12; 1 Peter 4:10). 11, 12. God's eternal purpose accomplished in Christ, through faith in whom we have courage to draw near to God. 12. A repetition of Ephesians 2:18 : cp. Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39.

13. That ye faint not] It might mean 'that I may not faint.' But St. Paul is not afraid of losing heart; he rejoiced in tribulations (Romans 5:8), and took pleasure in weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:10). He is afraid that the Gentiles may lose heart, when they see him persecuted for helping them: they ought rather to glory in this.

Now he returns to Ephesians 3:1 after his magnificent digression, and at last gives in fulness the prayer for their enlightenment which he began Ephesians 1:17, It is a very bold intercession.

14-21. Prayer and doxology. 'May they have great spiritual power, may Christ dwell in their hearts, may they know His incomprehensible love, and be filled up to the measure of God's fulness. To Him, who can give in abundance blessings which we cannot even imagine, be glory for ever.'

14. For this cause] because of their union with the Jews in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22). The Jews stood to pray (Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11-13), prostration being exceptional; but Christians are said to kneel (Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5), perhaps after Luke 22:41.

15. 'All fatherhood, whether earthly or celestial, derives its name from the Fatherhood of God.'

16. The inner man] is the immaterial part of man's nature, the soul and spirit; 'the outward man' (2 Corinthians 4:16) being the flesh.

18. May be able] 'may have full strength to comprehend what is really incomprehensible.' The four dimensions represent the vastneas of the love of Christ towards us.

19. An audacious paradox: 'that ye may be filled up to all the fulness of God,' i.e. to the perfection of the Divine attributes (Matthew 5:48).

20. The doxology explains the audacity of the prayer. God can give superabundantly quite inconceivable boons.

21. In the Church by Christ Jesus] RV 'in the Church and in Christ Jesus,' in the Body and in the Head. The Church in this Epistle is always the Church universal, never a local Church. This Church completes the Christ (Ephesians 1:23), reveals God's wisdom to the angels (Ephesians 3:10), is, with Christ, the sphere in which God is glorified. It is indeed a glorious Church (Ephesians 5:27).

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

"For this reason" goes back to Ephesians 3:1, from which Paul departed in Ephesians 3:2-13 to give more information about the mystery. Bowing the knees and kneeling in prayer were postures that reflected an attitude of submission to God. Kneeling was not the most common posture for prayer in Paul"s culture. Usually people stood when they prayed (cf. Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13). Praying on one"s knees signified especially fervent praying (cf. Luke 22:41; Acts 7:40; Acts 7:60; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5). [Note: Foulkes, p101; Morris, pp100-101.] "Before" suggests intimate face-to-face contact with the heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 6:9).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

3. Future comprehension3:14-19

Paul had explained that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ ( Ephesians 2:15). Therefore he prayed that they might experience the unity that was theirs spiritually in their relations with one another. He turned from exposition to intercession (cf. ch1; John 13-17). Ephesians 3:14-19 are also one sentence in the Greek text.

"In the first prayer [ Ephesians 1:15-23], the emphasis is on enlightenment; but in this prayer, the emphasis is on enablement. It is not so much a matter of knowing as being-laying our hands on what God has for us and by faith making it a vital part of our lives." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:30-31.]

"Whereas the first prayer centers in knowledge, this prayer has its focal point in love." [Note: Martin, p1309.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

Ephesians Chapter 3

The whole of chapter 3 is a parenthesis unfolding the mystery; and presenting at the same time, in the prayer that concludes it, the second character of God set before us at the beginning of the epistle, namely, that of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this is the way in which it is here introduced. Chapter 1 gives the counsels of God as they are in themselves, adding His raising Christ and setting Him above all on high at the end. Chapter 2, His work in quickening others with Him and forming the whole assembly of those who are risen in Christ, taken by grace from among Jews and Gentiles; these are God’s thoughts and work. Chapter 3 is Paul’s administration of it; it speaks especially of the bringing in of the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews. This was the entirely new part of the ways of God.

Paul was a prisoner for having preached the gospel to the Gentiles-a circumstance that brought out his particular ministry very clearly. Thus ministry in the main is presented as in Colossians 1:1-29. Only in the latter epistle the whole subject is treated more briefly, and the essential principle and character of the mystery according to its place in the counsels of God is less explained, is viewed only on a special side of it, suited to the purpose of the epistle, that is, Christ and the Gentiles. Here the apostle assures us that he had received it by a special revelation, as he had already taught them in words which, though few, were suited to give a clear understanding of his knowledge of the mystery of Christ-a mystery never made known in the past ages, but now revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets. Here it will be observed that the prophets are most evidently those of the New Testament, since the communications made to them are put in contrast with the degree of light granted in the previous ages. Now the mystery had been hidden in all former times; and in fact it needed so to be; for to have put the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews would have been to demolish Judaism, such as God had Himself established it. In it He had carefully raised a middle wall of partition. The duty of the Jew was to respect this separation; he sinned, if he did not strictly observe it. The mystery set it aside. The Old Testament prophets, and Moses himself, had indeed shewn that the Gentiles should one day rejoice with the people: but the people remained a separate people. That they should be co-heirs, and of the same body, all distinction being lost, had indeed been entirely hid in God (part of His eternal purpose before the world was), but formed no part of the history of the world, nor of the ways of God respecting it, nor of the revealed promises of God.

It is a marvellous purpose of God which, uniting redeemed ones to Christ in heaven as a body to its head, gave them a place in heaven. For, although we are journeying on the earth, and although we are the habitation of God by the Spirit on the earth, yet in the mind of God our place is in heaven.

In the age to come the Gentiles will be blessed; but Israel will be a special and separate people.

In the assembly all earthly distinction is lost; we are all one in Christ, as risen with Him.

He made known to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, which gave them a portion in the counsels of God in grace. He enlightened all with regard, not precisely, to the mystery, but to the administration (14) of the mystery; that is to say, not only the counsel of God, but the accomplishment in time of that counsel by bringing the assembly together under Christ its head. He who had created all things, as the sphere of the development of His glory, had kept this secret in His own possession, in order that the administration of the mystery, now revealed by the establishment of the assembly on earth, should be in its time the means of making known to the most exalted of created beings the manifold and various wisdom of God. They had seen creation arise and expand before their eyes; they had seen the government of God, His providence, His judgment; His intervention in lovingkindness on the earth in Christ. Here was a kind of wisdom altogether new; a thing outside the world, hitherto shut up in the mind of God, hid in Himself so that there was no promise or prophecy of it, but the special object of His eternal purpose; connected in a peculiar way with the One who is the centre and the fulness of the mystery of godliness; which had its own place in union with Him; which, although it was manifested on earth and set with Christ at the head of creation, formed properly no part of it. It was a new part of it. It was a new creation, a distinct manifestation of the wisdom of God; a part of His thoughts which until then had been reserved in the secret of His counsels; the actual administration of which, on the earth in time by the apostle’s work, made known the wisdom of God according to His settled purpose, according to His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. “In whom,” the apostle adds, “we draw nigh with all boldness by faith in him”: and it is according to this relationship that we do so.

Therefore these Gentile believers were not to be discouraged on account of the imprisonment of him who had proclaimed to them this mystery; for it was the proof and the fruit of the glorious position which God had granted them, and of which the Jews were jealous.

This revelation of the ways of God does not, as the first chapter, present Christ to us as man raised up by God from the dead, in order that we should be raised up also to have part with Him, and that the administration of the counsels of God should thus be accomplished. It presents Him as the centre of all the ways of God, the Son of the Father, the Heir of all things as the Creator Son, and the centre of the counsels of God. It is to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that the apostle now addresses himself; as in chapter 1 it was to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every family (not “the whole family”) ranges itself under this name of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Under the name of Jehovah there were only the Jews. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth,” had Jehovah said to the Jews in Amos, “therefore will I punish you for your iniquities”; but under the name of Father of Jesus Christ all families-the assembly, angels, Jews, Gentiles, all-range themselves. All the ways of God in that which He had arranged for His glory were co-ordained under this name, and were in relation with it; and that which the apostle asked for the saints to whom he addressed himself was, that they should be enabled to apprehend the whole import of those counsels, and the love of Christ which formed the assured centre for their hearts.

For this purpose he desires that they should be strengthened with all might by the Spirit of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the Christ, who is the centre of all these things in the counsels of God the Father, should dwell also in their hearts, and thus be the intelligent centre of affection to all their knowledge-a centre which found no circle to limit the view that lost itself in infinitude which God alone filled-length, breadth, height, depth.(15) But this centre gave them at the same time a sure place, a support immovable and well known, in a love which was as infinite as the unknown extent of the glory of God in its display around Himself. “That Christ,” says the apostle, “may dwell in your hearts.” Thus He, who fills all things with His glory, fills the heart Himself, with a love more powerful than all the glory of which He is the centre. He is to us the strength which enables us in peace and love to contemplate all that He has done, the wisdom of His ways, and the universal glory of which He is the centre.

I repeat it-He who fills all things fills above all our hearts. God strengthens us according to the riches of that glory which He displays before our wondering eyes as rightly belonging to Christ. He does it, in that Christ dwells in us, with tenderest affection, and He is the strength of our heart. It is as rooted and grounded in love; and thus embracing as the first circle of our affections and thoughts, those who are so to Christ-all the saints the objects of His love: it is as being filled with Him, and ourselves as the centre of all His affections, and thinking His thoughts, that we throw ourselves into the whole extent of God’s glory; for it is the glory of Him whom we love. And what is its limit? It has none; it is the fulness of God. We find it in this revelation of Himself. In Christ He reveals Himself in all His glory. He is God over all things, blessed for ever.

But dwelling in love we dwell in God and God in us: and that in connection with the display of His glory, as He develops it in all that He has formed around Himself, to exhibit Himself in it, in order that Christ, and Christ in the assembly, His body, should be the centre of it, and the whole the manifestation of Himself in His entire glory. We are filled unto all the fulness of God; and it is in the assembly that He dwells for this purpose. He works in us by His Spirit with this object. Therefore Paul’s desire and prayer is that glory may be unto God in the assembly throughout all ages by Jesus Christ: Amen. And note, it is here realisation of what is spoken of that is desired. It is not, as chapter 1, objective, that they may know what is certainly true, but that it may be true for them, they being strengthened with might by His Spirit. It is very beautiful to see how, after launching us into the infinitude of God’s glory, he brings us back to a known centre in Christ-to know the love of Christ, but not to narrow us. It is more properly divine, though familiar to us, than theglory. It passes knowledge.

Observe too here, that the apostle does not now ask that God should act by a power, as it is often expressed, which works for us, but by a power that works in us.(16) He is able to do above all that we can ask or think according to His power that works in us. What a portion for us! What a place is this which is given us in Christ! But he returns thus to the thesis proposed at the end of chapter 2, God dwelling in the assembly by the Spirit, and Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, united in one. He desires that the Ephesian Christians (and all of us) should walk worthy of this vocation. Their vocation was to be one, the body of Christ; but this body in fact manifested on earth in its true unity by the presence of the Holy Ghost. We have seen (chap. 1) the Christian brought into the presence of God Himself; but the fact that these Christians formed the body of Christ, and that they were the dwelling-place of God here below, the house of God on the earth-in a word, their whole position-is comprised in the expression, “their vocation.” Chapter 1, note, gives the saints before God; the prayer of chapter 3, Christ in them.

Chapter 4. Now the apostle was in prison for the testimony which he had borne to this truth, for having maintained and preached the privileges that God had granted to the Gentiles, and in particular that of forming by faith, together with the believing Jews, one body united to Christ. In his exhortation he makes use of this fact as a touching motive. Now the first thing that he looked for on the part of his beloved children in the faith, as befitting this unity and as a means of maintaining it in practice, was the spirit of humility and meekness, forbearance with one another in love. This is the individual state which he desired to be realised among the Ephesians. It is the true fruit of nearness to God, and of the possession of privileges; if they are enjoyed in His presence.

At the end of chapter 2 the apostle had unfolded the result of the work of Christ in uniting the Jew and the Gentile, in making peace, and in thus forming the dwelling-place of God on the earth; Jew and Gentile having access to God by one Spirit through the mediation of Christ, both being reconciled to God in one body. To have access to God; to be the dwelling-place of God through His presence by the Holy Ghost; to be one body reconciled to God-such is the vocation of Christians. Chapter 3 had developed this in its whole extent. The apostle applies it in chapter 4.

Footnotes for Ephesians Chapter 3

14: This appears to me to be the true word, and not “the fellowship.”

15: Christ is the centre of all the display of divine glory, but He thus dwells in our hearts so as to set them, so to speak, in this centre, and make them look out thence on all the glory displayed. Here we might lose ourselves; but he brings them back to the well-known love of Christ, yet not as anything narrower, for He is God, and it passes knowledge, so that we are filled up to all the fulness of God.

16: This fully distinguishes the prayer of chapter I and this. There the calling and inheritance were in the sure purpose of God, and his prayer is that they may know them, and the power that brought them there. Here it is what is in us, and he prays that it may exist, and that as present power in the church.

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Bibliographical Information
Darby, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament". 1857-67.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Ephesians 3:14 “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father”.

“For this cause”: “With this in mind” (Knox). (; 3:1). Here Paul is “resuming his train of thought where he had left it in verse What ‘reason’ is in his mind? What is it that moves him to pray? Surely it is both the reconciling work of Christ and his own understanding of it by special revelation? These are the convictions that undergird his prayer. This being so, an important principle of prayer emerges. The basis of Paul"s prayer was his knowledge of God"s purpose...the indispensable prelude to all petition is the revelation of God"s will. We have no authority to pray for anything that God has not revealed to be His will. That is why Bible reading and prayer should always go together” (Stott p. 132). Compare with John 15:7 and 1 John 5:14)

“The people of Christ, he has said already, have access through Him ‘in one Spirit to the Father’ (Ephesians 2:18); and Paul avails himself of this access to make intercession for his friends” (Bruce p. 324). One is not done when they become a Christian. Actually the real work has just begun. “There is no need for a Gentile (Christian) to lead an impoverished life” (Spiritual Sword Lectureship p. 71). Since these Christians are "in Christ", it is only logical that Paul would desire that they take advantage and acquire every spiritual blessing. This section of Scripture reveals something about the Christian who remains miserable, apathetic and with just enough Christianity to make them unhappy. They have failed to take advantage of the rich blessings that are found in Christ. They need to seriously work on obtaining the riches found in 3:16-19. God not only wants people to become Christians, he wants Christians to thrive in this new relationship. Without a doubt God really wants us saved. He is saying here, “Take advantage of every blessing available, make the most of it, I want you to fully use, enjoy and experience all these wonderful things” (2 Peter 1:5-11).

“I bow my knees”: Most commentators note that the usual posture for praying throughout the Old Testament was to stand with one"s hands lifted toward heaven. Yet, even in the Old Testament we find various individuals kneeling in prayer (1 Kings 8:54; Daniel 6:10). In the Bible we really do not find one consistent posture for praying. We find people standing (Mark 11:25), bowing the head (Genesis 24:26), and even falling on the face (Luke 17:16). The tense here is present tense indicating that now and again Paul prays for the Ephesians. “An empathic way of denoting prayer; but not incidental, occasional prayer, inspired by some passing feeling; the attitude ‘bow my knees’ denotes deliberate prayer, making a business of it, approaching God with reverence and holy fear, with all the solemnities suitable to the occasion of making a specific and important request” (P.P. Comm. p. 107). We need to remember that no one specific posture in prayer is commanded. Keep this in mind when various groups try to argue that raising one"s hands while praying is a more "spiritual posture", than all others (1 Timothy 2:8), and consider the example of Jesus in the garden (Matthew 26:39).

“Unto the Father”: Christians have confidence to approach God as their Father (; 3:12). Jesus taught the same thing (Matthew 6:9; Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:18; Mark 14:36). We are never told to pray to some departed Christian, such as Mary or one of the apostles. Christianity is the religion of free and direct access to the Father. Caldwell reminds us: “He is not simply our Father because He created us. He is also concerned about us. As among men, there is a difference between paternity and fatherhood. We recognize that God is not simply a progenitor but is also our dearest benefactor (Matthew 7:11 f)” (p. 131). Occasionally the question of "praying to Jesus" arises. I think Caldwell said it well, when he said, “The Lord taught His apostles to petition the Father (Matthew 6:9) in the name of Christ (John 14:13-14; John 15:16; John 15:23; John 15:26). They, in turn, taught us to pray and render our acts of worship and sacrifice to the Father through Christ (Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Peter 2:5). In keeping with God"s eternal plan, Christ voluntarily subordinated Himself to the Father for the purpose of human redemption (Philippians 2:5-8). Therefore, it is fitting that prayers are offered to God the Father through God the Son. That is the gospel plan and is in keeping with Christ"s own purpose of glorifying the Father (cf. John 17:1-6)” (p. 131). John Stott in his book Christian Counter-Culture said, “The first three petitions in the Lord"s Prayer express our concern for God"s glory in relation to His name, rule and will. If our concept of God were of some impersonal force, then of course He would have no personal name, rule or will to be concerned about. Again, if we were to think of Him as ‘the Ultimate within ourselves’ or ‘the ground of our being’, it would be impossible to distinguish between His concerns and ours” (p. 146).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(14) Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.—The words “of our Lord Jesus Christ” appear, by both external and internal evidence, to be an interpolation—probably from a gloss indicating (in the true spirit of the Epistle) that the universal Fatherhood here spoken of is derived from the fatherly relation to Him in whom “all things are gathered up.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

The Father and the Families

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.—.

1. There are two great prayers in this Epistle. The first is in the first chapter. It seemed to Paul that the gospel was so wonderful that it was impossible for men to See the glory of it unless they were taught of God, and therefore after his lofty account of God’s purpose to bring the heavens and the earth into an eternal unity in Christ, he tells the Christians at Ephesus that he was continually praying that God would give them “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him,” and that the eyes of their heart might be enlightened that they might know the hope to which God had called them, and “the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Spiritual illumination is necessary if we are to know the contents of the Christian gospel; for the gospel reveals invisible and eternal things lying far beyond the frontiers of the common thoughts of men.

The second prayer takes another form. Its central idea is strength. Strength is necessary as well as light. We cannot know the gospel unless its glories are divinely revealed to us; and the spiritual energy necessary to receive it and to hold it fast must also come from God.

2. The prayer which he offers here is no less remarkable and unique in his Epistles than the act of praise in chapter 1. Addressing himself to God as the Father of angels and of men, the Apostle asks that He will endow the readers in a manner corresponding to “the riches of his glory”—in other words, that the gifts He bestows may be worthy of the universal Father, worthy of the august character in which God has now revealed Himself to mankind. According to this measure, St. Paul beseeches for the Church, in the first instance, two gifts, which after all are one,—viz., the inward strength of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), and the permanent indwelling of Christ (Ephesians 3:17). These gifts he asks on his readers’ behalf with a view to their gaining two further blessings, which are also one,—viz., the power to understand the Divine plan (Ephesians 3:18) as it has been expounded in this letter, and so to know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19). Still, beyond these there rises in the distance a further end for man and the Church: the reception of the entire fulness of God. Human desire and thought thus reach their limit; they grasp at the infinite.

Few of us can fail to have been struck with the solemnity and high tone of this prayer. It may be that some of us have thought that it contained a higher standard of feeling and life than we could hope to reach, and therefore have been tempted to abandon the consideration of it in silence; whilst others, striving to force the feelings which it recommends, have been betrayed into false excitement and unreality. The remedy for both these common cases is a careful consideration of the Apostle’s petition as a whole. Almost every word is a rich mine of thought, but there is a lesson contained in its general scope which we must carefully observe. It is indeed very spiritual; but it is not the less practical. It is a pattern for the most advanced Christian; but it is a lesson for the weakest believer. We are not to regard it only as an Apostle’s prayer for the early saints, who lived in days far different from our times. It is a prayer suitable for all ministers of the Gospel, for all times. It shows us what is the object of Church teaching, and therefore points out the state to which all Christians ought to be advancing. The Apostle did not pray for any blessing which his people could not receive; and therefore all he prayed for they were bound to seek. Hence this petition came to the Ephesians not only as an evidence of their pastor’s love and devotion, but with an implied command.

And so it is now: the prayers of the Church are exhortations to the faithful. For example: when the earnest petition arises from the altar, “that this congregation here present may with meek heart and due reverence hear and receive Thy holy word,” it is a solemn admonition to cultivate that very meekness and reverence for which we pray. And when the Apostle tells us: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father that he would grant you according to the riches of his exceeding glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man”; when he prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,” and that we may be skilled in the heavenly wisdom of the “love of Christ,” as the members of His mystical body should be—are not these several petitions so many loving exhortations to us to seek after spiritual strength, to acquire a constant faith, to study God’s attributes, especially His love in the Cross, that love which exceeds all other mysteries and surpasses all other knowledge; and to strive after all the perfection which God requires? The Apostle opens the door of his “closet” to show all Christian pastors how they should pray for their people; and all Christian people what they should seek for themselves. As in church solemn lessons are conveyed in the services, so here we are admitted into the awful privacy of an Apostle, to learn our duty whilst we catch his fervour. So beautifully is edification always mingled with devotion.1 [Note: J. Armstrong.]

3. The prayer is conveniently divided into four petitions: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man”—that is the first. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”—that is the second, the result of the first, and the preparation for the third. “That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge”—that is the third. And all lead up at last to that wonderful desire beyond which nothing is possible—“that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”


The Occasion of this Prayer

“For this cause.”

1. “For this cause,” says St. Paul, “I bow my knees,”—what is the cause on account of which he bows his knees? In order to ascertain this cause we must look back, first of all, to the beginning of the chapter. The chapter begins with the same words, “For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles.” Then there comes a parenthesis, which continues until the verse immediately preceding our text. Therefore, if we want to find the connexion, we must look at the close of the preceding chapter, where the cause is set forth in language beautifully and expressively instructive. There the Apostle has been speaking of those who were “builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit,” of those who, having been previously afar off, had been made nigh by the blood of Christ, who were “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God”; he had been speaking of those who were saved “by grace through faith,” who had been brought into covenant with God through Christ, through whom they had “access by one Spirit to the Father”; and then he says, “for this cause I bow my knees,” that is, as if he had said: God hath blessed my ministry to you—Ephesians; there was a time when you were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world”; but the God of all grace has reversed all this, and has now “created you anew in Christ Jesus”; and “for this cause I bow my knees to the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”

2. There is, however, an immediate and pressing necessity for this prayer, but it is rather implied than expressed. When he wrote this letter and offered this prayer, Paul was a prisoner in Rome, a circumstance which appears to have had a very depressing, if not a staggering effect on the newly-converted brethren at Ephesus. Retaining some of the follies of their former heathenism, they looked upon this calamity as an evil omen, and drew from it strange inferences. A prisoner in Rome, and an ambassador of the King of kings! A favourite of heaven and shut up in gaol! Can it be? Is Christianity of God? Is Paul true? So thought and so reasoned these novices in the Christian faith, as is evidently implied in the words immediately preceding our text—“Wherefore I ask that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which are your glory.” To save them from “fainting,” and to keep them steadfast in the faith, notwithstanding his imprisonment, he prayed for them. It is occasions that make prayer. We never pray as we ought without having definite cases before our minds, and seeking the Divine help, either for ourselves or others, according to the actual circumstances and the special needs of the time.

These Ephesian Christians have passed away, their city lies in ruins; the heron and the stork wander where once the multitude stood. The hand that wrote these lines has long since mouldered into dust; and yet to-day these words are as fresh and appropriate as when first penned. For the fundamental facts of human need and Divine grace remain through all generations, and are true of all nations. To the English Christians of the twentieth century, who represent the same Gentile Church as the Ephesians of the first, the message of the Apostle is suitable: “I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man.”1 [Note: J. W. Ewing, The Undying Christ, 69.]


The Apostle’s Attitude in Prayer

“I bow my knees.”

1. “I bow my knees.” Why is that mentioned? Is not posture a small thing compared with spirit? Why does the Apostle refer to the attitude? It is because of what that attitude meant to him and means to every sincere worshipper. Kneeling is the attitude of humility, of confession, of entreaty, of worship. Some have gone further, and thought that kneeling in prayer is a symbol of man’s fallen state, that he can no longer stand erect before God, but is broken and crushed in the presence of Jehovah. Certainly, kneeling is the natural position of man before the Almighty and All-Holy Creator. The holiest and highest of men have approached God thus. Solomon, the greatest, except David, of all Jewish kings, upon the day of the dedication of the Temple, knelt down before all his people and presented his prayer to God. Ezra, the priest, on receiving news of the people’s sin tells us: “I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God.” Daniel, the prophet, when, in the city of idolatry, he heard of the decree forbidding prayer, except to the king, for thirty days, went into his house and “kneeled upon his knees” as before.

But we have still higher authority; for did not Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, withdraw Himself from His disciples a stone’s throw and kneel down and pray? And, after Jesus, what a line of men—the greatest, the purest, the tenderest—we see kneeling in prayer. Stephen, with that stony rain beating out his life, kneels down and cries with a loud voice: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Peter, when Dorcas is dead, kneels down and prays for her restoration. And Paul, when bidding farewell to the elders of this very Church, knelt down on the seashore and poured out his heart to God for those he was leaving. Evidently it was the habit of his life.

I was touched by reading yesterday morning of Bishop Latimer, the martyr, that towards the end of his life he used to spend so much time kneeling in prayer that he had to be assisted to rise. He forgot his troubles when pouring out his soul before God. Robert McCheyne spent a large part of his time in prayer. As he said: “Prayer is the link between earth and Heaven.” These men stooped to conquer, knelt to prevail, humbled themselves that Christ might be exalted. I pity the man or the nation that knows not how to kneel in prayer to God.1 [Note: J. W. Ewing, The Undying Christ, 71.]

2. Yet no one could be less inclined than Paul to place any emphasis on any possible amount or variety of genuflexion. He knelt, but in assuming that attitude, and in mentioning it, he only gave expression to the humility, the reverence, the earnestness, the concentration of his spirit in devotion. Prayer lies in the heart only, but the words, the attitude, the place, the time, have all their influences directly or indirectly on our heart. We all kneel in private, and no doubt find the attitude helpful, at least to the fixedness of our attention on the work professedly in hand. Would not kneeling in public be equally helpful, and would not its general practice be as seemly as it would be helpful? But, whatever the attitude, let us not forget that the spirit fairly indicated by the Apostle’s expression, “I bow my knees,” is essential to the validity of prayer.

The old customary, seemly attitude in prayer was standing. So Jesus said when He described the penitent publican, “He stood afar off and prayed”; so when He commanded His disciples and said: “When ye stand praying, forgive!” So in the godly fear of our fathers I still remember the awe that seized me as a boy when the whole great congregation rose to its feet in prayer, when the feeble old man and the frail man lifted their worn faces uncovered in speechless reverence to the eternal light which descended and suffused them with a glory which makes the burnished nimbus with which the painter ever loved to decorate his saint seem tame and tawdry. So when the subject enters the presence of his sovereign he stands, and in the very act and attitude of his homage shows that he is a free-born citizen conscious of his dignity.

But prayer is too large and masterful a thing to be capable of being expressed in any single attitude. There are moments when collective worship is beautiful and seemly, and there are moments when a man is overpowered with a transcendent need and is forced to his knees. The man who is dazzled with excess of light finds that he lives and looks through a medium of vision too perfect for his dim eyes. So the man who for a moment is possessed by a great vision, or is conscious of a great need, may as it were be swept from his feet into the attitude of a suppliant before God. The year when I first entered the University was a year when the most learned of all Scottish thinkers died and passed away. As I saw him he was a frail and shrinking shadow, scarcely equal to the humblest act of articulation, yet round the benches the whisper passed that in strong manhood, when first he came to his Chair and wrestled with the problems of metaphysics, and seemed now and then to wrestle in vain, there would come such a torrent of passion and of intellectual conflict in him, that he would leap from his desk and away from his papers and fall prone before God, that light might come and he might, see.1 [Note: A. M. Fairbairn.]

Brother Lawrence told me that it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times: that we were as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in its season. His view of prayer was nothing else but a sense of the Presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine Love. When the appointed time of prayer was past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so he passed his life in continual joy; yet hoped that God would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should have grown stronger.2 [Note: Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, 21.]


The Father

“I bow my knees unto the Father.”

1. St. Paul says that he offered his prayer to “the Father.” He did not address a material image, a creation of his own fancy, a power, or even “the Divine totality of being.” He prayed to a Person. With St. Paul prayer was mind addressing mind; heart pleading with heart.

Madame Blavatsky, the founder of modern Theosophy, was asked: “Do you pray?” “No,” she replied, “we do not pray; the only Deity we know is an abstraction. We have no time to kneel to an abstraction.”1 [Note: J. W. Ewing, The Undying Christ, 71.]

2. The Authorized Version has an addition which we may well wish we could retain. “Unto the Father of our lord Jesus Christ.” There is something peculiarly tender and winning about this title of God. God is brought very near to us as the Father of Jesus. And we can still cherish that beautiful title, for it is used in several other places.

All nations, all men, who have cultivated religion, have given names and titles to God, in which they have expressed and embodied as well as they could their most exalted ideas concerning God. So the Jew called upon the God of his fathers by the name of Yahveh (“Jehovah”); and in that name called to mind a whole world of plighted troth, of faithfulness and tenderness. So the Moslem, as he tells his beads, recites the names of God, and passes into a kind of ecstasy as he recalls one by one the lofty titles of the beneficence and power of Allah. St. Paul, like all other Christians since, had no personal name for the God whom he adored, no long string of loud-sounding titles. You will not find in the New Testament any mention made of the Supreme Being, of the First Great Cause, of the Architect of the Universe, or anything else in that line. For St. Paul, and for us, God is simply and for ever “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is hardly too much to say, “that is all we know, and all we want to know, of Him.”

(1) The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ means “the Father” of our Lord’s teaching, of those good tidings which He came to bring home to our minds and hearts. That is quite good grammar, and quite good theology. It is (most emphatically) “the Father” of our Lord’s discourses and parables; it is the Father of the Prodigal Son, who went forth to meet him while he was yet a long way off, and fell on his neck and kissed him; it is the Father of whom our Lord testified, “I say not unto you that I will pray for you, for the Father himself loveth you”; it is He alone to whom we bow our knees, because we cannot help it, because His goodness and patience and amazing love are too much for us, because they have tamed our pride and broken down our obstinacy, and shamed us out of our indifference; and now we bow our knees to Him in adoring love, even if we have to add, “Father, I have sinned, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

There are many people nowadays who claim to know “the Father,” and in the strength of that knowledge they reject the Saviour, reject the Bible, reject Christianity. Yet it remains absolutely true that the New Testament is the one and only book that ever told them anything worth knowing about “the Father”; it is a fact that “the Father” to whom they bow their knees (if, indeed, they ever bow them at all) belongs exclusively to our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone knew Him; He alone revealed Him. Even they have to come to the Father by Christ: as a matter of history, as a matter of fact; there is no other way. And so their position is this: they embrace with effusion the one great and glorious revelation of the Book, and then they throw the Book aside with contempt; they acknowledge with enthusiasm “the Father” whom Christ (and only Christ) declared unto them, and then they dismiss Christ with scant courtesy.1 [Note: R. Winterbotham.]

(2) In the second place, it is impossible to doubt (if we believe Himself) that “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” means more than “the Father” of His discourses, of His gospel. There was an ineffable relationship, a mysterious unity, between our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father, which is as strongly marked in His own words as in any creeds which have been made since. Whatever fault may be found with those creeds, they do not assert more strongly than He did Himself a oneness with the Father which passes man’s understanding; which, assuredly, it had been impossible for any other, and intolerable in any other to assert.

If we understand that He is indeed the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in such wise that there is absolutely no difference or inequality; that such as the Son is in the Gospels, such is the Father also above us, and such the Holy Spirit within us; even so good, so loving, so pitiful, so faithful and true, so unyielding in the face of wrong, so careful for His own, so just and right in all His ways, so compassionate to error, so grieved for sufferers, so sorrowful for sin even unto death; if we understand this, I say, then we believe our Lord’s saying, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (and cannot possibly be mistaken concerning Him), and we bow our knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with the most joyful and complete assurance.1 [Note: R. Winterbotham.]

Trust My Father, saith the Eldest-born;

I did trust Him ere the earth began;

Not to know Him is to be forlorn;

Not to love Him is—not to be man.

He that knows Him loves Him altogether;

With My Father I am so content

That through all this dreary human weather

I am working, waiting, confident.

He is with Me; I am not alone;

Life is bliss, because I am His child;

Down in Hades will I lay the stone

Whence shall rise to Heaven His city piled.

Hearken, brothers, pray you, to my story!

Hear Me, sister; hearken, child, to Me:

Our one Father is a perfect glory;

He is light, and there is none but He.

Come then with Me; I will lead the way;

All of you, sore-hearted, heavy-shod,

Come to Father, yours and mine, I pray;

Little ones, I pray you, come to God!2 [Note: George MacDonald.]

3. When St. Paul said, “I call upon the Father,” he was not saying a truism; he was striking the note that was distinctive of Christianity. He was saying the very central thing which Christ, our Master, came into the world to say. “I call upon the Father.” What does it mean, this belief that God is our Father? We are in the hands of a great power. No one can be such a fool as to think that man is independent. We are in the hands of a vast and universal power on which moment by moment we depend, as for our life originally, so, moment by moment, for the breath we breathe. What is this power? Is it blind force? The Jew alone of all the races was taught to believe that the power which lay behind him was righteousness, and that God was just and righteous; so it was that he set to work to build up the foundations of human society—because he believed that God was righteous, and all this our Lord maintained and deepened. He deepened it into the belief that God was a Father.

(1) That means, first of all, that God is love, that behind all the suffering, the misery, the inequality, and the injustice which confront us in this wild and irregular scene of human life, there beats always and everywhere the heart of a Father, the heart of a personal and impartial love. You ask how it was that Christ persuaded men of this truth. It was because of what He was. It was because He was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” If some bright angel had come down from heaven with all the glory of miracles, and had flown to the earth and had proclaimed in a voice of thunder and with works of wonder that God was love, we might have shaken our heads and said, “It is all very curious and mysterious, and it is a very nice thing to listen to, but I know better.” Our Lord persuaded men that God was love because He came a man among men, hiding not Himself from His own flesh, moving among men in free and open contact, bearing men’s sicknesses and carrying their infirmities; because He went down Himself into the dark valley of failure and suffering; because He bore all the pains of body, all the racking agonies of mind, all the mysterious sense of failure and desolation, that, generation after generation, have turned philanthropists into cynics and made them mad; all the human history that has lain behind that bitter cry of righteous men forsaken—that cry which we hear in the Psalm, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—those words which rang out of the lips of Christ on the Cross.

In our great cities we seem as if we were lost in a crowd. What am I but a tiny little element in some vast human machine that sweeps along in the sway of great forces which move from one end of the industrial world to another and seem to annihilate any sense of the individuality of a single life? It is crushed under the great forces which rush along. So even the old Jew could feel years ago in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, where the writer says: “Say not thou, I shall be hidden from the Lord; and who shall remember me from on high? I shall not be known among so many people; for what is my soul in a boundless creation?” We feel it even more in our modern time, but the assurance of Christ is that it is not true; that there is no one of us lost in the crowd; that there is no one of us created by accident; that we were not turned out in hundreds or in thousands or in nations, that we were created individuals, that God is the Father of each and all; and that behind all the seeming inequalities of position and comfort there is the perfect rectifying justice and equality of God. I believe that God is my Father. That means that He knows all my circumstances, that He values me, not in proportion to my performance, but in proportion to how much I am tried; because, to keep my temper, if I am naturally an angry man, is worth in His sight ten thousand times more than to keep my temper if I am naturally an amiable person without a bad temper to contend with. He knows my circumstances. He knows me and cares about me with the infinite knowledge of the Creator and the Father of everything that goes to make the individuality of my lot, which means the individual love of God.1 [Note: Bishop Gore.]

(2) And then, the Fatherhood of God, St. Paul says, is the pattern and source of every fatherhood in heaven, and on earth. It means that God rules by a method of fatherhood. Men are set in groups and societies, and each group and society has one at the head of it, and the model of government is to be fatherhood. So it is in the family, and Christian civilization depends upon maintaining the sanctity and the dignity of the family. To believe in the Fatherhood of God is to set to work to be a good father, a good head of a household in our own families.

The other day I had occasion to find out, in very large works, about a great mass of very intelligent men who were workers there, that they were very unwilling that their wives should know how much money they were getting. I thought that was a very bad sign. There can be no sound and healthy married life where the wife does not know what money the husband is getting, because there can be no confidence; there can be nothing of that confidence of heart to heart, that real unity of life, that real fellowship and co-operation which means complete trust; and you know we have a great job to-day if we are to restore home life to its proper sanctity and dignity.1 [Note: Bishop Gore.]

Now, look for a moment how the small families of the earth are all made after the fashion of the heavenly family. Did it ever occur to you—surely it must—that God’s invention of the family in this world is just to compel our thoughts to rise up to the great Father, and to recognize the great family? Love is the secret of God; love is the creative power. It is symbolized in birth. See how the child comes into the world, dependent on the mother. See how the child has no notion of bliss but in the mother’s arms, surrounded with the protection of those arms, looking up into the heaven of her face, reading the infinite in her eyes. The child, I say, is compelled to love the mother. He cannot help himself. Of course, there is the faculty of loving in the child, or else he could not love. It is his Divine nature; he is born of love, and he is love; but it can be brought out only in this way—that he shall, through helplessness, passivity in bliss, feeding on the very body of the mother that bare him, seeking the shelter of her bosom at every dread or anxiety or fear that comes upon him, learn that there is an overshadowing, an upholding love, and that love is his very servant, and, I had almost said, Slave. Surely there is no servant in His house like God Himself, for He does everything for His little ones.2 [Note: George MacDonald.]


The Families

“Every family, in heaven and on earth.”

1. “I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom [not the whole family, but] every family in heaven and on earth is named.” The point of St. Paul’s original phrase is somewhat lost in translation. The Greek word for family (patria) is based on that for father (pater). A distinguished father anciently gave his name to his descendants; and this paternal name became the bond of family or tribal union, and the title which ennobled the race. So we have “the sons of Israel,” the “sons of Aaron” or “of Korah”; and in Greek history, the Atridae, the Alcaemonidae, who form a family of many kindred households—a clan, or gens, designated by their ancestral head. Thus Joseph (in Luke 2:4) is described as being “of the house and family [patria] of David”; and Jesus is “the Son of David.” Now Scripture speaks also of sons of God, and these of two chief orders. There are those “in heaven,” who form a race distinct from ourselves in origin—divided, it may be, amongst themselves into various orders and dwelling in their several homes in the heavenly places, and there are those “on earth.”

The various classes of men on earth, Jewish and Gentile, and the various orders of angels in heaven, are all related to God, the common Father, and only in virtue of that relation has any of them the name of family. The father makes the family; God is the Father of all; and if any community of intelligent beings, human or angelic, bears the great name of family, the reason for that lies in this relation of God to it. The significant name has its origin in the spiritual relationship.

This great and noble conception of the unity of heaven and earth in God is characteristic of that form of Christian theology which is illustrated in this Epistle and in the Epistle to the Colossians. It appears elsewhere; but in these two Epistles, which were written about the same time, it is developed with extraordinary boldness and with a vehement and glorious eloquence. As yet, according to Paul’s conception, the Divine idea is unfulfilled. Its orderly development has been troubled, thwarted, and delayed by sin, by sin in this world and in other worlds. But it will be fulfilled at last. In Christ “were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him”; and in union with Christ, the eternal Son of God, heaven and earth will be restored to the eternal Father.

During this tour in England (in 1894) Dr. Paton was invited by the Bishop of Durham—the late Bishop Westcott—to visit him at Auckland Castle. Both of the men of God who then met are gone, and we can speak more freely of the event. The Bishop received his Presbyterian brother as whole-heartedly as if he had been one of his own clergy. The missionary on his part was profoundly moved by the visit, and told his friend subsequently how the Bishop had led him away to his study, and there discussed, with evident eagerness of soul, the progress and hopes of the evangelization of the heathen in the South Sea Islands and in the world. Then they knelt together before God—those two warriors who, in such different fields and circumstances, had fought their great fight and well-nigh finished their course. They recognized that they were one in heart and purpose, and each poured out his soul in fervent petition for the other, and for the bringing in of the Kingdom of God.1 [Note: John G. Paton, iii. 52.]

Painful as it is to witness the ineffectual yearnings after unity on all hands of which you speak, still it is hopeful also. We may hope that our good God has not put it into the hearts of religious men to raise a prayer for unity without intending in His own time to fulfil the prayer. And since the bar against unity is a conscientious feeling, and a reverence for which each party holds itself to be the truth, and a desire to maintain the faith, we may humbly hope that in our day, and till He discloses to the hearts of men what the true faith is, He will, where hearts are honest, take the will for the deed.2 [Note: Cardinal Newman, in Life of David Brown, 239.]

2. The Greek words can grammatically mean only “every family” not “the whole family.” All such ideas, therefore, as that angels and men, or the blessed in heaven and the believing on earth, are in view as now making one great family, are excluded. The sense is “the Father, from whom all the related orders of intelligent beings, human and angelic, each by itself, get the significant name of family.”

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul lays open a vision of the spiritual origins and influences and issues of things temporal and confirms the truth which lies in the bold surmise of the poet that earth is in some sense a shadow of heaven. Now he sees in the future of the material Temple with its “wall of partition” a figure of the state of the world before the Advent, and then passes to the contemplation of its living antitype, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets with Christ for its head corner-stone. Now he traces in the organization of the natural body the pattern of a glorious society fitly framed together by the ministries of every part, and guided by the animating energy of a Divine Head. Now he shows how through the experience of the Church on earth the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the heavenly hierarchy. Now he declares that marriage, in which the distinctive gifts and graces of divided humanity are brought together in harmonious fellowship, is a sign, a sacrament, in his own language, of that perfect union in which the Incarnate Word takes to Himself His Bride, the first-fruits of creation. And so in the paragraph where the text occurs he touches with thankful exultation on the universality of the Gospel, by which the many races of men, Jews and Gentiles—the people and the nations—are reunited, and the purpose of God in the education of the world is at last made clear.

Not in one line but in many; not through a calm, uninterrupted growth but in sorrow and tribulation men were trained in the past—this is his thought—to receive the crowning truth, and justified their training by their faith. By the help of that most signal example we can see how every ordered commonwealth, every bond of kinsmanship, owes its strength to a Divine presence. From the one Father, every fatherhood, every family through which the grace of fatherhood is embodied, derives its essential virtue.1 [Note: B. F. Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, 161.]

3. Family relationship is therefore a very sacred thing, its root being not in the creation, but in God. And though we shall not find on earth any development worthy of its holy root, nevertheless the flower which fills the world with choicest fragrance is family affection. It is capable of becoming most heavenly, since the Eternal Father is Himself the spring of parental as His Eternal Son is of filial love. Therefore, also, family affections are capable of ceaseless cultivation. There is nothing to hinder family love from becoming evermore deeper, stronger, and lovelier. If it is so strong and so precious among fallen creatures, what must it be among the perfect? If family life on the earth gives rise, as it often does, to a very paradise of courtesies and tender sanctities, what must family life be in the immediate Presence, and under the direct influence, of the Infinite Father and His only begotten Son? Christian parents and their children should know, therefore, that in their families they have not a little world, but a little heaven, to cultivate. Their families derive their distinctions and peculiarities from relations in the Godhead. Their families have names not only in time, but in eternity. Every family in Christ is named according to its distinction, as a manifestation of a corresponding variety in the Divine Nature.

(1) The family is a kingdom.—It is not of our design. It is not of our making. It is not of our choosing. It is not dependent on our pleasure for its continuance. When complete it includes each typical relation of society, the relation of command, of obedience, of fellowship. The members of a family in simple intercourse learn, however imperfectly, the duty of service. The feeling of the family conquers self. It is enough to appeal to the experience of home to refute the cynical assertion that personal interest is man’s single or strongest motive. In the family the tenderest affection, the most watchful care, the largest forethought, are lavished, not on the strongest or the most helpful, but rather on the most helpless and weak, who can make no measureable return to their comforters. In the family, need is taken as the measure of help, and a principle is spontaneously acknowledged which in its widest application would be adequate to deal with the sorrows of the world.

On no subject has human thought more centred than upon the family. There is nothing more important in our entire social life. For a nation will not be better than its homes. Christianity did not invent the family or marriage, but it has been probably the greatest agency in giving ideals to the home. This is all the more remarkable when one recalls that Jesus was not married, and that so much of the New Testament literature was written by Paul who, like his Master, had no home. But how incomplete would the gospel be without the figures drawn from fatherhood, sonship, marriage, and childhood! The more one reads the New Testament the more does one feel how sacred the family is, because it so often serves as a symbol of the relations of the Church with Christ. When the New Testament writers wish to express the very closest and holiest union of believers with their Lord it is to the family that they turn for symbols.1 [Note: Shailer Mathews, The Social Gospel, 35.]

(2) The family is also a school, a school of character. The outer school cannot mould the whole of man’s nature. Character is shaped by action and not by words. What has been learnt by memory must be tested and embodied by experience. Under one aspect the outer school stimulates new and importunate wants, while the home is fitted to bring that social discipline which checks the selfish endeavour to satisfy them. At the same time the school offers new interests which may brighten home. Out of the home, too, must spring the spirit of purity. For home has its own proper warnings when the occasion comes. The knowledge of the elder may guard the innocent from falling; and the young have no better earthly safeguard than to carry with them the thought of mother or sister as the witness of all they do or say or think.

In September I saw a tree bearing roses, whilst others of the same kind, round about it, were barren; demanding the cause of the gardener, why that tree was an exception from the rule of the rest, this reason was rendered: because that alone being clipped close in May, was then hindered to spring and sprout, and therefore took this advantage by itself to bud in autumn. Lord, if I were curbed and snipped in my younger years by fear of my parents, from those vicious excrescences to which that age was subject, give me to have a godly jealousy over my heart, suspecting an autumn-spring, lest corrupt nature (which without Thy restraining grace will have a vent) break forth in my reduced years into youthful vanities.1 [Note: Thomas Fuller, Good Thoughts in Worse Times.]

Ah! not to be happy alone,

Are men sent, or to be glad.

Oft-times the sweetest music is made

By the voices of the sad.

The thinker oft is bent

By a too-great load of thought;

The discoverer’s soul grows sick

With the secret vainly sought:

Lonely may be the home,

No breath of fame may come,

Yet through their lives doth shine

A purple light Divine,

And a nobler pain they prove

Than the bloom of lower pleasures, or the fleeting spell of love.2 [Note: Sir Lewis Morris, “Songs of Two Worlds” (Works, 68).]

(3) The family becomes also a sanctuary.—The splendour of palaces does not secure innocence and holiness within their walls, but a sense of the presence of God does. Where God is welcomed as a guest there an atmosphere of sanctity is diffused around. A witness whose experience is unsurpassed writes: “I know numbers of the prettiest, happiest little homes which consist of a single room.” We ask then that His hallowing Presence should be habitually sought. We ask that “daily bread” should be received with some simple words of blessing; that work and rest should be consecrated by some simple words of prayer and praise. In these observances there is nothing forced or unnatural; nothing which is not possible under the commonest outward circumstances; nothing which does not answer to the promptings of the human heart. And for the fulfilment of this desire we claim woman’s help. There is a message even for the present age in the fact emphatically recorded by St. John, that a woman was divinely charged to be the first herald of the Resurrection, the herald of the new life.

The need of England, the need of every land, is “good mothers.” If they fail, it is not for lack of womanly endowments in those who are called to fulfil the duty. Poor and desolate outcasts, whom we are tempted to place lowest, are capable of every sacrifice to shield their children from bodily suffering or loss. Let them only feel, and let mothers of every class feel, that there are sicknesses of the soul which require the ministries of wise and tender affection, spiritual perils which need to be guarded against by watchful forethought, desires of the heart which crave the fullness of more than human love, and we shall be brought near to the consummation of our daily prayer in the advent of the Kingdom of God.1 [Note: B. F. Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, 168.]

“Father Endeavour Clark,” as the founder of the Christian Endeavour movement is sometimes called, tells the story of a mother, whose family is as remarkable in its influence as that of the Crossleys of Halifax. This is the Murray family of Graaf Reinet, in South Africa. The father of the family, Andrew Murray the first, was a young Scotch missionary. He wooed and won a Dutch girl of Huguenot extraction, and carried her off, a bride of sixteen years, to his parsonage at Graaf Reinet. She became the mother of seventeen children, twelve of whom lived to grow up to bless the world. From them three hundred and four descendants have sprung (including those who have married into the family). The total number of ministers in the family, either directly or by marriage, is forty-two. Three are now studying for the ministry, six are missionaries in Central Africa, four others are in Mashonaland and the Transvaal, and three in Nyassaland. Three grandsons are in the South African Parliament. Of the original family, five sons were ministers, and the daughters wives of pastors and heads of educational establishments; the most well known, outside of South Africa, by his writings, being the beloved Andrew Murray, his father’s namesake. The influence of the whole family in South Africa is incalculable. Never, says Dr. Clark, were children more fortunate in their mother. Hers was one of those sweet, persuasive natures which mould and guide and bless, without seeming to know it themselves, certainly without conscious effort. When asked, “How did you bring up such a wonderful family?” she replied, “Oh, I do not know; I didn’t do anything.” But every one else knew if she did not. She just lived herself the life she wanted her boys and girls to live. Her life was hid with Christ in God; and they, through her, saw the beauty of holiness. “Her chief characteristic,” said one of her children, “was a happy contentment with her lot. She was always exactly where she wished to be, because she was where her Father in heaven had placed her.” She outlived her husband by many years. It was felt that her serenity and gentleness and loveliness of character came not a little from the hours of long communion when she looked into the Face of the Invisible, and thus learned to endure as seeing Him.1 [Note: H. S. Dyer, The Ideal Christian Home, 77.]

No clever, brilliant thinker she,

With college record and degree;

She has not known the paths of fame;

The world has never heard her name;

She walks in old long-trodden ways,

The valleys of the yesterdays.

Home is her kingdom, love her dower;

She seeks no other wand of power

To make home sweet, bring heaven near,

To win a smile and wipe a tear

And do her duty day by day,

In her own quiet place and way.

Around her childish hearts are twined,

As round some reverend saint enshrined,

And following hers the childish feet

Are led to ideals true and sweet,

And find all purity and good

In her divinest motherhood.

She keeps her faith unshadowed still;

God rules the world in good and ill;

Men in her creed are brave and true

And women pure as pearls of dew,

And life for her is high and grand

By work and glad endeavour spanned.

This sad old earth’s a brighter place

All for the sunshine of her face;

Her very smile a blessing throws,

And hearts are happier where she goes;

A gentle, clear-eyed messenger,

To whisper love—thank God for her!1 [Note: L. M. Montgomery.]

4. What a solace to our hearts is the assurance that we shall never cease to be members of a family! The perfection of the great heavenly Household is that it is a Household of households. We are born into a family, we grow up in a family, we die in a family, and after death, we shall not simply go into the great heaven, but to our own family, in our Father’s House. “Abraham gave up the ghost, and was gathered to his people.” “Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace,” God had said to him. All in heaven will not know us, but our own people will know us. We shall go to them.

We are but babes in the household of God; and, moreover, we are in a very humble part of His House, rather in an adjoining house than in the very House. But we are loved as babes, by our numerous kindred; and quite as much by our own in heaven as by our own on earth. The sweet affections of our heavenly kindred are ever seeking to reveal themselves in our hearts. What are our family altars but means of communication between families on earth and families in heaven? They unite with us in saying, “Our Father.” And in the joy of our fellowship with Him, and with His Son Jesus Christ, they joy with us.2 [Note: J. Pulsford, Christ and His Seed, 110.]

The two communities of earth and heaven are united. They, as we, live by derivation of the one life; they, as we, are fed and Messed by the one Lord. The occupations and thoughts of Christian life on earth and of the perfect life of saints above are one. They look to Christ as we do, when we live as Christians, though the sun, which is the light of both regions, shows there a broader disc, and pours forth more fervid rays, and is never obscured by clouds, nor ever sets in night. Whether conscious of us or not, they are doing there, in perfect fashion, what we imperfectly attempt, and partially accomplish.1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]

5. But the members of families on the earth should see to it that they are members of the Household of God. Let there be no doubt touching their union with Christ, the First-born Son. Let them have clear evidence that they are born again, and partakers of the Divine Nature. Members of Christian families who are not personally in Christ should lay it to heart that they are not as yet members of any heavenly household, and that they will be separated from their own families, unless they enter in at the door of grace, while they may. Has the door been opened in vain? We have been resting in the affections of our parents and enjoying the comforts of their house; but are we with them in Christ, and members with them of their eternal family?

In one sense, and that a very important one, every family with all its members has God for its Father, for He made all and upholds all; and the thought should be a welcome one, that we share His love with all the world, and yet our own share in His love and His care is none the less, and that the family of God is made up of those who are loved by Him. But there is more than this—the admission into His family implies for us the recovery of a lost privilege. Sin separated and banished us, made us as though we were not God’s children, and unwilling to accept the love and the care and the will of God; we needed to be made the Sons of God again, and here came a provision of the Fatherly care which made the limits of the Family as wide as ever; the barrier of enmity was broken down by the great Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Since He died, it is now, not indeed, every one upon earth, but “whosoever will”—every one who feels that he would be a child of God. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.”

That we might know Him, Thou didst come and live;

That we might find Him, Thou didst come and die;

The son-heart, Brother, Thy son-being give—

We too would love the Father perfectly,

And to His bosom go back with the cry,

Father, into Thy hands I give the heart

Which left Thee but to learn how good Thou art!

There are but two in all the universe—

The Father and His children—not a third;

Nor, all the weary time, fell any curse!

Not once dropped from its nest an unfledged bird

But Thou wast with it! Never sorrow stirred

But a love-pull it was upon the chain

That draws the children to the Father again!

O Jesus Christ, babe, man, eternal Son,

Take pity! we are poor where Thou art rich:

Our hearts are small; and yet there is not one

In all Thy Father’s noisy nursery which,

Merry, or mourning in its narrow niche,

Needs not Thy Father’s heart, this very now,

With all his being’s being, even as Thou!1 [Note: George MacDonald, Poetical Works, ii. 335.]

The Father and the Families


Baring-Gould (S.), Our Parish Church, 129.

Boyd (A. K. H.), Sunday Afternoons in a University City, 279.

Brown (J. B.), The Home, 217.

Brown (J. B.), The Home Life, 288.

Chadwick (W. E.), Social Relationships in the Light of Christianity, 173.

Clarke (J. E.), Common-Life Sermons, 29, 52.

Ewing (J. W.), The Undying Christ, 68.

Harris (H.), Short Sermons, 268.

Hull (E. L.), Sermons, i. 121.

Laird (J.), Memorials, 167.

Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Epistle to the Ephesians, 128.

Magee (W. C.), Sermons (Contemporary Pulpit Library), i. 73.

Pulsford (J.), Christ and His Seed, 106.

Ridgeway (C. J.), Social Life, 103.

Robertson (F. W.), Sermons, iii. 181.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxii. No. 1309.

Spurgeon (C. H.), My Sermon Notes, iv. 272.

Vaughan (C. J.), Authorized or Revised? 315.

Westcott (B. F.), Social Aspects of Christianity, 19.

Westcott (B. F.), The Incarnation and Common Life, 161.

Christian World Pulpit, xl. 233 (MacDonald); lviii. 19 (Fairbairn); lxxiv. 241 (Gore).

Churchman’s Pulpit: Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, xii. 201 (Armstrong), 214 (Kempthorne), 216 (Heber).

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Christianity a Revelation

Ephesians 3:4-5

I. First of all, let us notice what is implied in this, when we say that Christianity is a revelation.

For one thing, there is implied a contrast. When we say that Christianity is a Revelation, we mean that it is not an induction or an invention.

Every religion purports to be a revelation. Ay and more, every religion in so far as it is true—and there is an element of truth in every religion—is what it purports to be, a revelation. We need not be surprised at the statement that there is an element of true self-revelation by God Himself to the hearts of men in even the crudest religions. Not only are the ideas of religion and Revelation, as Sabatier says, "correlative and religiously inseparable," but it is in line with Scripture. "God left not Himself without a witness." The Old and New Testaments are both full of this thought. The sun in the heavens is His herald. The recurring seasons, the gifts of harvest-tide, are His messengers. Conscience and the sense of right and wrong are His witness within. And when the Parsee worships the sun he has caught one ray, and reflected it, from the light Divine. The Greek worshipping Demeter, the great Earth-Mother, has caught and reflected another. Confucius heard a voice Divine in the call of duty. And the Furies with their lash for the transgressor were held in holy reverence because to their worshippers they seemed the vindicators of a law which, men discerned, had come into their hearts from God. It is where and when God shows Himself that men fall down and worship. Till then they are seekers with a void in their hearts which nothing earth-born can satisfy. But God appears; God reveals Himself; and they recognise Him and reverence and adore. A revelation alone can satisfy the religious instinct which is an essential element in our human nature.

II. Being satisfied that our religion is and must be a revelation if it is a religion at all, the second point for us to consider is the way in which the revelation has been made. How has God shown Himself?

(a) For one thing, God has revealed Himself progressively. He has come like the "sun shining more and more unto the perfect day". The history of Christianity is the history of a steadily enlarging understanding of the wealth of the revelation which there is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

(b) For a second thing, God"s revelation of Himself is not intellectual only, but personal.

(c) A third point to be noted about God"s method of revealing Himself is that He has revealed Himself first to individuals, and then through them to their fellows.

—R. J. Drummond, Faith"s Certainties, p3.

References.—III:6.—F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher"s Year, p19. III:7.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p375.

Wealth That Never Pails

Ephesians 3:8

"The unsearchable riches." The inexorable wealth, ranging vein beyond vein, mine beyond mine, in land beyond land, in continent beyond continent! And, then, side by side with this immeasurable glory, the Apostle puts himself. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given!" What an arresting and daring conjunction! Let us turn our contemplation to one or two aspects of this "unsearchable" wealth.

I. The Lord Jesus Christ has created so exacting a conception of Himself in the minds of men that no ministry of man can satisfy it. No human ministry can express it. In all our best representations of the Lord there is always a missing something, an "unsearchable" something, which the most masterly figures cannot span.

II. But it is not only that our Saviour has created an exacting conception of Himself, He has also, by His "unsearchable riches," created an exacting ideal of human possibility. Every summit brings a new Revelation, the reward of every attainment is a vision of further glory.

III. We cannot exhaust their powers of application to the ever-changing conditions in human life and destiny. In the Christian life new conditions never find us resourceless. Our wealth is inexhaustible, and always manifests itself as current coin.

IV. But it is not only that "the unsearchable riches of Christ adapt themselves, and reveal the wealth, to the changing condition of our years, it Isaiah, that in our personal crises, when life suddenly leaps into fierce emergency, their resources are all available, and never leave us in the lurch. There are three great crises in human life—the crisis of sin, the crisis of sorrow, and the crisis of death—and by its ability to cope with these crises every philosophy and every ministry must be finally determined and tried. We can never get to the end of "the unsearchable riches of Christ. They are our glory in time, they will be our endless surprise in eternity.

—J. H. Jowett, The British Congregationalist, 24th January1907, p84.

Ephesians 3:8

Christ gives us to possess not God only, but men also as our riches, the unsearchable riches which we have in Him.

—McLeod Campbell.

References.—III:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No745, and vol. xx. No1209. Bishop Westcott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p360. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p60. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. p398. III:8-11.—J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p209. III:9.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p32. III:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No448, and vol. xvi. No933. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. pp138, 153; ibid. vol. vi. p77. III:11.—Ibid. vol. i. p32. III:11, 20.—Llewelyn Davies, The Purpose of God, p28. III:12.—W. P. Du Bose, The Gospel According to St. Paul, p143.

Patriotism and Intercession

Ephesians 3:14-19

All great missionary pioneers, founders, and leaders seem to come to a time in their lives when God"s purposes and plans become unveiled to their vision, and, as in a moment, the future unfolds itself to their spiritual gaze. So it was with Noah after that great crisis in the world"s history at the Flood. By faith, in the spirit of simple obedience and holy, farseeing awe, he had prepared the Ark and entered it with his family. He had passed reverently through the discipline of his strange retreat, and was ready, after his sacrifice of thanksgiving, for the vision of God"s providential government and the future expansion of the race of man. So with Abraham, strong in the faith that boldly faces the unknown and "waits on the Lord to renew its strength". Step by step he approaches the crucial and unexpected trial of his belief. But the discipline of faith had prepared him. He offers his son in sacrifice, but stays his hand immediately at the Divine call. Then it is that the whole vision of the purpose of God in the family and tribal and national life of Israel opens before his mind. Think, too, of Moses and his training, all preparatory to that magnificent vision of God on Mount Sinai as a Moral Being having personal moral relations with mankind.

I. And St. Paul, the greatest of missionary pioneers, steeped in all the visions and hopes of Judaism, burning with zeal for its glorious Revelation, its secure privileges, and its inspired claims—when the eyes of his soul were opened on the Damascus road to see the glimmerings of a world-wide significance in the religion and history of his people, and see it all focussed in the incarnate personality of Jesus, immediately he "confers not with flesh and blood," but bursts through all conventional bonds and cautions and expediencies. He takes the yoke of Christ, becomes the Lord"s slave, submits his whole being, is led by the hand of Ananias, is healed, taught, and baptised. Then he goes into his retreat in the wilderness, hears unspeakable words, sees the meaning of the call to "go far hence unto the Gentiles," and simply goes. He founds Church after Church, leaving with each the Divine gifts of the Faith, the Ministry, and the Sacraments, with powers of self-government, self-support, and self-expansion. And he does this work, too, if in all simple joy of soul, yet in "much trembling," in much depression, in bodily infirmity, amidst the scorn of philosophers, the hatred of his own people, "fightings within and fears without," in "prisons frequent and deaths oft". He sees the incarnate life of Jesus becoming incarnate in all humanity. For God"s purposes there is one race, the human race; but one Saviour, His Son; one family, the Church; "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism," as there is and can be but "one God and father of us all". And within sound and sight of Caesar"s Palace, where was focussed, in the person of the Emperor, Rome"s Imperial and imperious world-wide sway, St. Paul sees and feels in it all a parable of the universal Kingship of Jesus, the universal brotherhood of mankind, in the one universal family of His Holy Catholic Church; and as the glorious vision lays hold of and enthrals his soul he "bows his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant unto the world to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that it might be filled with all the fulness of God."

II. In the second chapter of this Epistle to the Ephesian and other Churches of Asia St. Paul passes quite naturally from the fact and idea of the Fatherhood of all humanity to the idea of the family and then to the home, the house itself, the temple of the Triune God. "Through Christ we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father, and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner-stone, in Whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." Then suddenly his prison-chamber expands and becomes to his soul like some vast cathedral temple, and, as though ministering at its high altar, he lifts his hands and bows his knees unto the Father in heaven and raises the great intercession as the Imperial vision of Christ"s universal sovereignty holds him and claims and proclaims the Real Presence of God in, to, and for humanity in the Sacramental efficacy of the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the Son of God and Son of Prayer of Manasseh, "in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit". No wonder that it has been said of this Epistle that "in it St. Paul has given to his teaching a new centre, that of the Church of God". It is eucharistic in its visions and ideals and practical exhortations. It begins with thanksgiving and ends in a benediction, and its core and centre in the text is like a consecration prayer. There is the unity of all Creation, and the restored unity of humanity in Christ the Head of the Body—the Church. Christ, the Great High Priest of humanity, ministers the great salvation in and through His own Body, prepared from all eternity in and within the mystical Body which He was forming out of universal humanity, and wherein, as far as salvation or "saving health" was concerned, there was to be no individual privilege or preference, neither Jew nor Gentile, and yet wherein all differences of race, language, or circumstance, all varieties of genius, talent, or experience would find themselves unified, strengthened, perfected, and glorified in the manifold (many-coloured) "unity of the Spirit, which is the bond of peace".

Am I wrong in thinking of this Epistle to the Asian Churches as the account of a great Sacramental vision which had germinated and grown in the soul of the Apostle, and became incarnated in his life as the years went on? Again and again you can feel the heart of the great missionary pulsating to bursting-point as the thrill and throb of the infinite movement and purpose of the Blessed Trinity in Creation, Providence, and Grace, like some great drama set to music, possesses him, lightens and brightens his spiritual vision, enthrals and compels his will, inspires and inflames his soul, so that he could even "wish himself accursed from God" if only the Israel of Abraham could but see the vision and accept its destiny as the Israel of God, and if only Rome and the nations in their worship of force, and Greece in its worship of beauty and Wisdom of Solomon, could and would but see revealed as in a Sacrament, in the Incarnate Word, "Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God". "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye might be filled with the fulness of God."

He sees in Jesus Christ, the God- Prayer of Manasseh, the one and only principle of a universal brotherhood, a universal citizenship, and a universal Empire, demanding faith in the eternal justice of God, hope in His eternal mercy, and an all-embracing love shown in mutual service—

Each for his brethren, all for God.

Bishop W. T. Gaul, The Guardian, 16th September, 1910.

References.—III:14.—Bishop Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, p161. III:14, 15.—J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2Series), p95. III:14-16.—J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. ii. p148.

The Love of God

Ephesians 3:14-19

I. The fact that God feels a deep love for men is one hard to contemplate, still harder to realise. Yet it is the starting-point of Christianity. It is the very core of the revelation of Jesus. The inspired declaration that "God is Love" ( 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16) has changed the temper and life of every man and every community which has come to believe that the statement is true. It has been a thousand times more potent to produce right living than had been the previous belief that God is power. Therefore love is more potent than law, and love is the essence of the Gospel. It is true that in the case of an earthly ruler affection may be thrown away upon unworthy subjects, and that legal compulsion alone will produce results. Nevertheless, Jesus insists that God Himself is so constituted that He can never rest content until He has won for Himself the love of all His creatures. Jesus uncovers the love of God for men, and allows it to work. It may work by sharp methods, for love can be "cruel to be kind". But, we are taught, the object which God sets before Himself is not to break a recalcitrant will, or compel a sullen obedience to His laws, but to draw all men to Himself. But the fact that God loves men, though it may gain a certain amount of assent in the abstract, becomes difficult to realise, and raises grave doubts in the human mind, when men reflect on what the statement involves.

(1) The sense of one"s own individual insignificance in the universe of Existence—this thought presents one difficulty. That God should entertain affection towards humanity as a whole does not seem unreasonable, but we cannot realise the fact that God has a distinct and separate love for each single human soul which has ever lived. Yet, if this be not the truth, then His love for men becomes a mere phrase not worth contending about.

(2) Another difficulty is the fact of human unloveliness. Men, taking them as a whole, are not very lovable. Comparatively few inspire real affection. Alas! it is but too true that those who come personally into contact with multitudes, and have to deal with them officially or commercially, come to have a sort of contempt for humanity; they see too much of the foibles and petty faults of character to feel any general sentiment of affection; they have discovered the unloveliness of men.

(3) There is one other difficulty, and that the most formidable—the fact of human suffering.

If it be true that God loves His children, why does He leave them to suffer so? This has been the dark mystery of the ages; it is the difficulty with many still. It has led men to atheism. It has led them to attribute to God the qualities of the devil. It has driven them, in frantic despair, to curse God and die. It has led others to grovel before God as abject slaves before an Oriental despot. It has led others, again, to throw their children into the flames and the waters as propitiatory sacrifices to angry deities. It has led many among us to think of a Law, instead of a Person, as the Centre of things—has this apparent Divine indifference to the cries of human agony.

II. Now St. Paul looks these facts squarely in the face, and yet bursts out in praise of the goodness and lovingkindness of God. Why does he do so? What new light has he upon the "painful riddle of life"? He is not hazarding a mere opinion; it is not a conclusion thought out or discovered by any method common among men. Jesus had said not long before that any one who saw Him would see the Father. Now many beheld Him, but comparatively few recognised Him for what He was. In this minority was St Paul. (The Apostle Paul claimed for Himself an equal authority with the other Apostles, because he had seen the Lord, not in a mere vision, but "objectively"—after His Ascension—in glory). This sight of God in the Person of Jesus Christ changed his estimate of his fellowmen by changing his notion about God. It set all the facts of life with which he was familiar in a new light. They remained the same, but they no longer meant the same. As he learned from the Master what is the real disposition of God towards men—that all men are the sons of God, and that God has a personal interest in each individual soul, because of this relationship—this kindled in him that "enthusiasm of humanity" which is the great mark of Christianity. Real love for men is only possible in the Presence of God. So absolute is the Christian conviction of God"s lovingkindness that from it he educes an explanation of human pain, and he does it clearly: "My Song of Solomon, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord; for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth... (et seq.)" ( ). The Apostle"s assertion amounts to this—that the ills which assault men, and sometimes take the zest out of living, are no meaningless accidents, nor purposeless agonies caused by the crampings of a soulless "law," but that they are the smartings from the stripes of a rod laid on reluctantly, but intentionally by a Father. It is true that we see many an ill which we find it hard to account for on this theory; that we see sufferings which teach no lesson to the victim, because they do not leave the victim alive to learn, so terrible and swift are they. Nevertheless, while the theory of suffering must remain in some cases partly shrouded in mystery, as a trial of our faith, no other theories of life bring the same intellectual relief and moral uplifting as does the great Christian doctrine that God is love, and that He is slowly bringing His children by this mysterious discipline, among other things, into a recognition of their relationship to Him.

—S. D. M"Connell.

References.—III:14-19. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p216. A. M. Fairbairn, ibid. vol. lviii. p19.

God"s Family

Ephesians 3:15

There are many illustrations used in Holy Scripture to set forth the relationship in which the people of God stand to each other and to Him, but the most expressive of these is taken from domestic life. It is the one presented in our text, and under its familiar imagery the Church of God is described as one great family, the members of which are bound to each other by the possession of one common life, the distinction of one common name, and the union with the same parental head. It is a family, the members of which, though sundered by time and space, and divided into two great sections, the one in heaven and the other here on earth, are all bound together in one blessed bond, and linked to each other by special sympathies, and are looking forward to dwell together in one happy and eternal home.

I. Relationship with God.—It is only through that relationship that they can have communion with each other. To be united to each other they must first be united to Him. Just as in a family it is the possession of a common life, derived from the same parental source, which constitutes the bond of union, so in the family of God it is the spiritual life, derived from Him, which forms the basis of communion. St. John puts this beyond question when he says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1St. John 1:3). In another place he testifies that this fellowship of Christians with God as their common Father is through faith in His dear Son; for "as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe in His name" (St. John 1:12). Elsewhere we are clearly taught that the impartation of this Divine life is wrought through the Holy Spirit, "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," and the contrast is very solemn—"If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His" ( Romans 8:9; Romans 8:14). All true believers, then, are members of this family, and in that respect are designated "saints"—not only on account of their separation from the rest of the world, and the holy service to which they are called, but on account of the Divine life of which they are partakers.

II. The Ideal of the Christian Church.—To us who are not gifted with omniscience or discerning of spirits, the visible Church is the body of those who profess His truth, are baptised into His name, and observe His ordinances; but all who belong to it do not necessarily belong to that spiritual communion to which properly the name of Saints belongs. A visible Church with its external ordinances and terms of communion Isaiah, from the very nature of the case, indispensable in our present state; and the commands concerning our union with the visible Church and our observance of its appointed ordinances are clearly laid down in Scripture; but still we must not forget that this is not enough for our salvation. In order to that there must be vital union with Christ Himself; there must be forgiveness of sin through faith in His precious blood; there must be renewal of heart by His Holy Spirit; there must be willing and faithful service, which springs from love to Him. The judicious Hooker, who is so distinct and copious in speaking of the Church as a visible body, is equally clear in speaking of the Church as the mystical body of Christ. He says: "That Church of Christ, which we properly term His Body Mystical, can be but one; neither can that one be sensibly discerned by any Prayer of Manasseh, inasmuch as parts thereof are some in heaven already with Christ, and the rest that are on earth (albeit their natural persons are visible) we do not discern under this property, whether they are truly and infallibly of that body.... They who are of this society have such marks and notes of distinction from all others, as are not objects of our sense: only unto God, who seeth their hearts, and understandeth all their secret cogitations, unto Him they are clear and manifest.... If we profess, as Peter did, that we love the Lord, and profess it in the hearing of men, charity is prone to believe all things, and therefore charitable men are likely to think we do Song of Solomon, as long as they see no proof to the contrary. But that our love is sound and sincere, that it cometh from "a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned," who can pronounce saving alone the Searcher of all men"s hearts, who alone intuitively knows in this kind who are His?" So that while there Isaiah, and must be, a visible Church on earth, and in it a visible communion of saints, there is within that Church a still more sacred shrine, and a still more holy fellowship. There is a Church as seen of men; there is a Church as seen of God. We cannot ignore the one without a breach of duty and of charity. We cannot overlook the other without a forgetfulness of truth, and of our own salvation. We must beware, on the one hand, of that easy and fashionable but deceptive religion which contents itself with the profession of orthodox doctrines, or the observance of appointed ordinances; we must beware, on the other, of that arrogant and selfish spirit which, relying on its own strength or spirituality, considers itself independent of those visible means of grace which have been appointed by God for the personal and mutual benefit of ail His children.

III. This twofold view of the Church of God, if it seem on the one hand to narrow our view as to its extent, will help to widen and deepen our ideas as to "the communion of saints," for it will show us how manifold and how real that communion is. But does it really narrow our views as to the extent of the Church of God? Does it not rather expand them? Are we not too prone to ask, with the querulous disciples, "Lord, are there few that shall be saved?" Are we not too apt to exclude from our ideal of the Church those who do not belong to our own communion, or to include in it only those who agree with us in certain views concerning the doctrines or ordinances of religion? And do not our ideas enlarge when we come to think of all the saints of God who lived in all the ages before Christ"s birth, and of all who have lived in all the centuries ever since? Do they not take a wider range when we remember the great multitude which "no man can number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues," who shall stand at the last before the throne of God, having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb"? It is when we dwell on thoughts like these that we begin to realise that outside our own communions there are and have been saints of God, with whom perhaps we cannot sympathise in respect of all their views, but with whom we can and ought to sympathise in the best of bonds as members of the one great family of God. We come to recognise the family likeness even where we cannot trace the ecclesiastical genealogy, and gladly admit the spiritual relationship even where we cannot verify the mode of admission to it. And we can do all this without prejudice to our convictions or surrender of our principles.

The Church a Family

Ephesians 3:15

The name of the Church in the text I have selected is "the family". There are many names for the Church in the Bible; the family represents perhaps the sweetest.

I. What is the Church?—When the Church began, it was a family, with the love of a family, the cohesion of a family, the economy of a family, and very soon there came the quarrels that so often happen in a family. Yet a family that sometimes has moments of discord still is full of love. St. Paul calls the Church a brotherhood; it is the development of the idea of the family, for the Church, increasing in ever-widening circles, has names corresponding to that increase. The brotherhood is a wider term than family, it is a uniting of certain people from many families. And, as the Church grows, you find another name for the family in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is now more than a family, more than a brotherhood; it has become a city, with all the complications of a city, all the varied interest of a city, with its business, its pleasure, and sometimes its vices. But the Church is more than a family, more than a brotherhood, more than a city; it is a commonwealth, and that is the name I like the best The commonwealth. Every member of it is bound to kill selfishness, to work for the good of the community. "What is best for the people?" is the question of the Church, and the individual must always make his own interest subservient to the good of the whole community. But the Church is more than a family, more than a brotherhood, more than a city, more than a commonwealth; it becomes in the Bible a nation, a collection of nations, until the idea of the Catholic Church is the world converted.

II. The Foundation of the Church.—What is the Church founded on? What have we got? Now notice. We have a Person—Jesus Christ; we have a Book—this Bible; we have an Institution—the Church of God. A Person, a Book, an Institution—the world killed the Person, Jesus Christ, yet today He is alive and more at work than ever; the world tries to kill the Book, yet here it is in your pulpit today as strong as ever; the world has tried to kill the Church, yet, after two thousand years, it is getting larger than ever. Why do they not kill the Book, Why do they not kill the Church? Because they cannot Institutions that are not wanted, die. The Church lives because it is wanted. You want it, you know that Your home wants it That boy of yours in business wants it; that girl of yours, who is just getting married, she wants it The poor children in the slums, they want it The institution is wanted. The Church lives because it is wanted. The immortal part of man wants the Church, and so the Divine foundation fits the Divine need in Prayer of Manasseh, lays hold of your soul, and that is the reason that it lives. You cannot kill it. Churches have died, or in the language of the Book of the Revelation, their candlestick has been removed out of its place—churches, but not the Church. The Church lives.

References.—III:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No1249. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi. p75. C. H. Grundy, Luncheon Lectures at St. Paul"s Cathedral, p45. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p100. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p128.

The Inner Life of a Nation

Ephesians 3:16

Who would not desire to possess a strength as invincible as that which was the secret of St. Paul"s faith and hope and life? There is an inner and there is an outer man in every one of us. There is an inner and there is an outer life in the nation, in the family, and in the individual. In the nation the inner life is not always recognised, even by its own people, until some grave necessity sets the heart of the nation beating and throbbing, and the people are roused by a common feeling hitherto unsuspected.

I wish to point out four of the great characteristics that ought to mark the inner life of our nation.

I. No One ought to Forget that in whatever Position he has to Live he ought to be dominated by such a sense of responsibility that he never forgets that the people around him will judge not only his religion but will judge his nationality by the example and evidence which they have in him.

II. The Love of Duty must ever characterise every individual among us. It is well known that when Napoleon wrote his despatches he never forgot to mention the glory that he said attached to the achievements of his troops; it is equally well known that when the Duke of Wellington wrote his despatches he never mentioned the word glory, but he never failed to call attention to the duty which his men performed.

III. There must be Sympathy with those over whom we have any Authority and those among whom our lot is cast. If India is maintained for long as our great trust and the sphere of our beneficent rule, it will be due not only to the excellence of the rule but to the exhibition of the spirit of sympathy. And that which is true of that nation you may depend upon it is characteristic and true of all those over whom England has any rule.

IV. There must be Self-sacrifice.—We may thank God for the noble examples given of self-sacrifice by our troops, by our blue-jackets, by men who have done signal and noble service to the Empire. Whether standing, like Lord Cromer, almost alone in Egypt; whether standing like those great Viceroys of India who have maintained our rule and been loyal for our crown; whether it be the lonely hearts or whether it be in the most active spheres of operation; it has been by self-sacrifice, by not seeking their own but by seeking the good of others, that the name and the fame have been obtained.

It is the inner life of the family which begets the inner life of the nation.

References.—III:16.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p132. III:16-19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No707.

The Indwelling Christ

Ephesians 3:17

There is no religion in the whole world, except the religion of the Gospel, that hints even at such an idea as this—God, Christ, in my own self. It is the most wonderful and unexpected thought in the whole inspiration of God. The question that starts in our minds is this—"is this promise to be accepted, to be fulfilled, in anything like its literal meaning"? The answer is this—It is a personal and real fact. Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts and rules them, if we are children of God by faith. In proportion as simple faith takes hold of the living Christ, He becomes a real Person and a real Life. If we approach Jesus Christ critically, He will look another way; if we approach Jesus Christ doubtfully, He will look the other way, too; if we approach Jesus Christ sympathetically, the Holy Spirit will help us to know, and to see, and to feel that He is the Friend of our life.

I. The thought of Christ dwelling in our heart ought not to be a very difficult one for people like ourselves to grasp its conception. Let us think of an analogy. A widowed mother, with no child but one single boy. This boy, as he grows up, becomes increasingly dear to her heart. As he grows up, to her great sorrow he is overwhelmed with a passionate love of the sea. For years and years that poor lonely widowed soul never hears of him, and wonders whether he is living or dead. She never will leave his name out of her prayers. Is it very difficult for you to understand what is meant when it is said of such a person, "Her boy dwells in her heart?" Is it more difficult to think of Jesus Christ as the object of religious love dwelling in our hearts also?

II. But then Jesus dwells in our hearts in a much more real way than this. Jesus Christ in the believer"s heart not only as the object of his affection, but as the very life of his soul. You know, perhaps, the process of grafting, by which a little twig, with no root, is grafted into a tree till it becomes part of the tree, and the life of the tree flows into the twig, and the life of the tree becomes that of the twig. Is it difficult for you, with that analogy, to realise the conception of one person dwelling in another person"s heart as the power of that person"s soul and life? So the believer appropriates the life of Jesus, and the conception of Christ dwelling in your heart as the life of your soul is not a very difficult one for you to understand.

III. Another question arises to one to ask and to answer, which is this, How does Jesus Christ get admission into our hearts in such a way that He may be said to dwell in them? Is that a very difficult question to answer? Is it necessary even to ask the question? How does anybody get admission into our houses so as to dwell in them or to stay in them? By our consent, not otherwise, by no other way. How does Jesus Christ get admission into men"s hearts so as to rule and dwell in them? The answer is the same, by men"s consent, not otherwise, and in no other way possible or conceivable.

Jesus Christ gains admission to our hearts by our own consent, but how does He enter? What is the opening through which, when you have invited your friends to your house, or given them permission to come, they enter? It is the door, and there must be some similar opening through which Jesus Christ enters the heart. What is the opening? What is the means? The opening, the means is this: it is our faith, our simple acceptance of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the sinner"s substitute and the believer"s Light.

It is the beginning of everything that is good to let Jesus into the heart. You cannot go far wrong when you do that. It only requires a little faith just to open the door. He will bring the Light with Him, pardon, strength for service, and hope, and glory.

The way to keep Christ is the way in which we get Him to come. He keeps in our hearts by continual acts of faith on the part of believers. That is the sum and substance of Christianity, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Christ in the soul of the child of God.

References.—III:17.—C. Brown, God and Prayer of Manasseh, p54. H. S. Holland, God"s City, p86. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. i. p138. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p120. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p142.

The Church"s Conception of Christ

Ephesians 3:17-19 (R.V.)

The true man desires to know, to understand, to apprehend. Paul was a man who wanted to know —to know the highest things. He made it his business in life, next to knowing for himself, to make others know, to be their teacher. At the same time, he was willing to know from others. Paul"s desire for these Ephesians was that they might be strong to apprehend with all saints the love of Christ in its breadth, and length, and height, and depth: that Isaiah, in its wholeness and fulness.

I. It has been said that Paul"s thought was something like this. From that old captivity of his in Rome, his mind went away, carried him to the gean Sea, whose blue waters lay in beauty about the yellow sand of the Ephesian shore; and, looking in thought upon the land, he seemed to see a mighty castle, a splendid fortress. There it was, beautiful, strong, capacious, majestic. But would all men look at it alike? Paul thought that every one looking upon it would not give the same judgment about it; not that they would disagree about any part of it, but each would be so struck by one part of it as almost to neglect the rest.

II. To Paul there was in history one Form, one Existence, one Personality, upon whom many men had been lavishing their thought after His appearance. That Form, that Person was Jesus Christ. He was Love. (1) Some saw the breadth of that love; they thought of "the nations lying beside each other on the earth, over all of whom the love of Christ would extend itself. (2) Others saw the length of it; they could not forget "the successive ages during which it will reach". (3) Others thought of the height of it, of "the glory at God"s throne and near His heart to which it could elevate all". (4) But others thought of the depth of it; they thought of "the misery and corruption of sin, into which it will descend".

III. And today in considering Christ, His character and work, men in various ways grasp special aspects of it. Now, it is well for us that we should, therefore, consider the belief of the saints as a whole. As a body, they preserve the symmetry of truth.

IV. What was Paul"s desire for these Ephesians, and for himself also? It was this—that they might be able to apprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of the love of Christ. He did not desire them to see aspects only of that love, but the whole of it.

V. The conception of Christ by the Church is larger than that of any specific Church. He is in each, but is fuller and finer than any one of them represents Him to be.

—J. Alford Davies, Seven Words of Love, p134.

References.—III:17-19.—R. W. Church, Village Sermons, (2Series), p287. F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, p94. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p95.

The Depth of Love

Ephesians 3:18

The love of Christ is the love of God. What we find in the heart of Christ, in His character, in His words and actions, is to be regarded as a revelation of the Invisible God. That indeed is the whole significance of Christ"s manifestation—"He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father". This manifestation was made, we may believe, because apart from it we were incapable of gazing into the heart of God. The aspect of things speaks with sufficient clearness of Law, of Intelligence, of Power working to an end; but it can hardly be said to bear on it the legend of love. Apart from Christ it is open to any man to maintain that God is an unknown Force, inexorable, indifferent to human suffering, regardless of human life, a concatenation of awful uniformities which move like a car of juggernaut over prostrate human beings to some unknown goal. Remembering, then, this incontestable fact, we shall examine with eager interest the evidences of the Love of Christ, and seek to know it, though it passes knowledge.

I. First of all there is the human life of Jesus, as it is recorded in the Gospels. However fragmentary the reports, however difficult the attempt may be to harmonise them into a consistent record of facts, or a harmonious combination of features, there can be no question that the records give us an unexampled impression of a heart of love. Not only is the love of Christ indisputable, in the Gospel narrative; but it stands out as a passion of a new type. Compare it with the love of which Plato"s Symposium treats, that love, not wholly free from sensual passion, and when free from sensual passion, losing itself in a cold intellectual atmosphere.

II. But the impression of His love, made by the course of His earthly life, is wrought to an extraordinary fulness and intensity by the cross. Whenever the cross is allowed to give its own witness, undisturbed by imperfect theories and dogmas, whenever Christ is evidently crucified before the eyes of men, a great appeal proceeds from the unique spectacle.

III. And yet, when we have made all allowance for the portrait of love, unexampled and affecting in the story of Christ"s life and death, can we say that these historic facts fully explain the language of the text? Surely not. This passion which echoes in the language of Paul and Revelation -echoes with undiminished force in the hymns of Bernard, and again, with even increased fulness and feeling in the letters of Samuel Rutherford; this passion, which is known at the present time, and rises beyond the power of language in millions of Christian hearts, is only to be explained by the interior movements of the Spirit

—R. F. Horton, The Trinity, p133.

References.—III:18, 19.—C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p146. Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p3. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p161.

The Fulness of God

Ephesians 3:19

These words form the conclusion of St. Paul"s prayer on behalf of the Ephesian Church. It is a very wonderful, one might almost say a very awful prayer. And what St. Paul prayed for on behalf of his Ephesian converts, that we too ought to seek for ourselves.

I. St. Paul takes for granted that a Real Christian is a Man who has been Made Over Again, and not merely a man of this world who is a little more moral, or a little more decent, or a little more outwardly attentive to his religious duties than other men of the world. Quite the contrary. According to this mighty prayer, the Christian is one upon whom all the powers of the Godhead have been brought to bear, so as to make him what may be termed a Divine Prayer of Manasseh, not a worldly man. See the orderly progression of the Divine work as thus prayed for by St. Paul. First of all St. Paul prays that God the Holy Ghost will give him strength; then that God the Son may dwell in him, giving him first the grace of love, and then the grace of knowledge of Divine things—that knowledge which passes or exceeds the comprehension of other men. And then, when the man has been thus prepared by the strengthening which the Spirit brings, and by the Divine love and the Divine knowledge which Christ brings—then St. Paul prays for the final grace of all—namely, that he may be filled with all the fulness of God the Father. None of us can fully enter into all that these words convey. Perhaps even those who come nearest to being filled with that fulness would be least able to speak about it or to explain it. But still we may try to set forth a little of what it must mean.

II. For a Person to be filled with anything, it is Plain that, first of all, he must be emptied of all Else.—Hence it is absurd for any of us to think of being filled with God"s fulness so long as he is under the dominion of any purely earthly or temporal wishes, or desires, or ambitions, or passions, or tastes. The words imply a totality of self-surrender to God. In praying to be filled with God the Father"s fulness, we pray that all our powers and faculties and desires and energies and likes and dislikes may be just what they would be if all our merely earthly desires were taken out of us, all that is selfish and mean and bad were emptied out of us, and the vacant space filled up by a pouring in of the character of God our Father. It is the same as praying that we may be just what God would be if we could imagine God to be put in our place.

III. This, then, is what St. Paul Prays for:—

(1) That each Christian man upon earth may be, each in his own way and in his own sphere, an "Image of God"; and (2) that each of us may have God"s approbation and God"s service as his chief end and aim, as an ever-present motive, as a thought never absent from our minds. After all, Christianity consists not so much in what we do as what we are, or rather what we become. Faith in God and Christ; faith in Christ and in the Holy Ghost raises us to a good hope that, if we will but empty ourselves of all that is earthly and selfish, and cling to Him in whatever walk of life He points out to us, God will take care of the growth of our Christian character; He will fill us with His own fulness.

References.—III:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No455, and vol. xxix. No1755. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p256. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p171.

Ephesians 3:20

Luther said: "No one believes how great is the force and efficacy of prayer, unless he has learned it from experience. It is a great thing when anyone feels a mighty need and then can lay hold on prayer. I know this, that as often as I have prayed with earnestness—with real earnestness—I have without doubt been abundantly answered, and have obtained more than I asked. Our Lord God may sometimes have delayed, but yet He heard me."

—E. Kroker, Luther"s Tischreden (1903), p338, No646.

References.—III:20.—W. F. Shaw, Sermon-Sketches for the Christian Year, p87. III:20, 21.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p273. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No1266. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p180. III:21.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p278.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

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

[318] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[319] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[320] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[321] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[322] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[323] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[324] Autograph of the original scribe of .

[325] Autograph of the original scribe of .

[326] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

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



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

For this cause; see note to verse Ephesians 3:1.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

HAVING PRESENTED US with this great unfolding of truth, Paul commences to exhort us to walk in a way that shall be worthy of such an exalted vocation. This may be seen if the first verses of chapters 3 and 4 are read together. The whole of chapter 3 excepting verse Ephesians 3:1, is a parenthesis, in which he points out how definitely the Lord had entrusted to him the ministry of all this truth—which he calls, “the mystery”—and in which he again puts on record that which he prayed for the Ephesian believers.

He evidently felt that his exhortation to walk worthy would come with greater force if we realised how fully the authority of the Lord was behind it. A “dispensation” or “administration,” of the grace of God towards such as ourselves had been committed to him, inasmuch as “the mystery” had been specially revealed to him, and he had just previously written concerning it in brief fashion. He alludes evidently to what he had written in Ephesians 1:19Ephesians 2:22. An even briefer summary of it is given in Ephesians 3:6 where again the wonderful place given to Gentiles is emphasized. The three words in that verse have been translated, “Joint-heirs, a joint-body and joint-partakers.” This may be clumsy English, but it has the merit of making us see the main thought of the Spirit of God in the verse. Now that was a feature, of God’s purpose in blessing, wholly unknown in earlier ages: necessarily unknown, of course; for once known the order of things established in connection with the law and Israel was destroyed. It was therefore a secret hid in God until Christ was exalted on high and the Holy Spirit given below.

Now however it is revealed, and the apostle Paul was made the minister of it. It was not only revealed to him but to the other apostles and prophets also. Thus the fact of it was placed beyond all doubt or dispute. Yet the ministry of it was given to Paul, as verse Ephesians 3:7 clearly states. In keeping with this we do not find any allusion to the mystery in any of the epistles save Paul’s.

How great a theme it is, we can realize if we have at all taken in the things we have just been superficially surveying. Paul himself was so impressed with its greatness that he alludes to his ministry of it as, evangelizing “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

If we read this expression, “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” in its context, we perceive that it refers, not to all the wealth that is personally His, but rather to all that which is in Him for His saints. Scanning Ephesians 1:1-23, we find that the term, “in Christ,” (or its equivalents, “in the Beloved,” “in Him,” “in whom”) occurs about twelve times. In Ephesians 2:1-22, it occurs about six times, and in Ephesians 3:1-21, about three. Let us take one item only, “Blessed... with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Can we search or trace those blessings out, so that we are thoroughly masters of the whole subject? We can do no such thing. They are too big for our little grasp. They are unsearchable; and so too is all that which we have in Christ. Yet though unsearchable they may be known by us, and so they were the subject of the Apostle’s ministry.

A second thing was covered by his ministry. He was commissioned to make all see, not only what the mystery is, but what is the “fellowship of the mystery,” or, “the administration of the mystery.” (N. Tr.). The mystery is concerning Christ and the church, and particularly concerning the place that Gentiles occupy in it, as has already been explained by Paul. The administration concerns the practical arrangements for assembly life and order and testimony, which Paul everywhere established. These arrangements were ordered by the Lord that there might be a representation, even today in the church’s time condition, of those things which are true and established concerning it in God’s eternal counsel.

The mystery itself was something entirely new, for from the beginning of the world up to that moment it had been hid in God. Consequently the administration of the mystery was entirely new. Previously God had been dealing with one special nation on the basis of law. Now God was calling out an election from all nations according to grace, and that which was merely national was submerged in this larger and fuller purpose. In the church of God everything has to be ordered or administrated according to these present purposes of God. The Apostle does not stop in this epistle to instruct us in the details of this divinely ordered administration; he does this in writing his first epistle to the Corinthians.

The assembly at Corinth was not walking in an orderly way, as were those at Ephesus and Colosse. There was a good deal of ignorance, error and disorder in their midst, and this furnished the occasion for the Spirit of God to enforce upon them the administration of the mystery, at least in a good many of its details, dealing with matters of a public nature which an ordinary onlooker might observe. That the point of this may not be missed we take up one detail out of the many, to serve as an illustration.

Our epistle lays it down that we, whether Jews or Gentiles, “are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” This is one of the great items included in the mystery. We turn to the Corinthian epistle and we discover that this is not a mere doctrine, an idea divorced from any practical effect in the present ordering of church life and behaviour. The very opposite. Paul declares that consequently the Spirit is supreme in that house where He dwells. He dwells there in order that He may operate to the glory of God— “All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). In 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 of the same epistle we find the Spirit ordering and energizing in the exercise of the various gifts, and we are bidden to acknowledge that the instructions given are “the commandments of the Lord.” The Lord, you see, is the great Administrator in the church of God, and Paul was the chosen servant to make known His administration to us.

The administration of the mystery is, we fear, very lightly brushed aside by many Christians today, even by good and earnest ones, but we are assured that they do so to their own great loss, both now and in the coming age. If we neglect any part of the truth we become undeveloped as to that part and like “a cake not turned,” as Hosea puts it. Also we have to take into consideration verses Ephesians 3:10-11 of our chapter, which tell us that the administration of the mystery, as worked out in the assembly, is a kind of lesson book before the eyes of angels. The lesson book of today on which the eyes of angels look down, is very sadly blotted and obscured. Yet, since angels do not die, those same eyes once looked down and saw the beauty of the manifold wisdom of God, when the excellence of the Divine administration, ministered through Paul, was first seen in the church’s earliest days.

Then for a brief moment things were “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now for many a long day they have mainly been according to the disconnected desires and arrangements of men, though many of the men who made the arrangements were doubtless godly and well-meaning people. May we have grace to adhere, as far as in us lies, to the administration as ordered by God, for it is evidently intended that what was “hid in God” should now be made “known by the church.” At the same time let us not expect to do so without opposition and trouble, for Paul was face to face with tribulation enough, as he hints in verse 13.

Moreover we do not very easily or speedily enter into the power and enjoyment of these things. Hence again at this point the Apostle betakes himself to prayer, and is led to record his prayer that we may be stirred up by it. The prayer is addressed to the Father, and it is concerned with the operations of the Spirit with a view to Christ having His due place in our hearts. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are thus involved in it.

The Father is addressed as imparting His own Name and character to every family that will ultimately fill the heavens and the earth. The Lord Jesus is our Head, and He is also in some sense the Head and Leader of every one of these different families. It should be “every family” and not “the whole family.” God will have many families, some for heaven and some for earth. Amongst the heavenly families will be the church and “the spirits of just men made perfect,” i.e. Old Testament saints. For the earth there will be Israel, redeemed Gentiles, and so on. Now amongst men every family takes its name from the one who is father to it, the one from whom it derives its origin. But fatherhood amongst men is only a reflection of the divine Fatherhood.

The main burden of the prayer is that Christ may dwell by faith in our hearts, that He may be abidingly the controlling centre of our deepest affections. This can only be as we are strengthened by the Spirit’s mighty power in the inner man, for naturally that which is selfish controls us, and we are fickle and uncertain. Christ dwelling in our hearts, we become rooted and grounded in love, His love not ours. Only as rooted and grounded in love can we proceed to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge.

Verse Ephesians 3:17 speaks of that which lies at the very centre of all, the indwelling Christ and the consequent rooting and grounding in love. Verses Ephesians 3:18-19 pass on to the widest possible circle of blessing, love and glory. A pair of compasses may serve as an illustration. It is not easy to draw a circle except one leg be firmly fixed. With one leg fixed the circle can easily be described. So it is here. Fixed and rooted in love, the mighty sweep of verse Ephesians 3:18 becomes possible.

If verse Ephesians 3:19 tells us we are to know that which passes all knowledge, verse Ephesians 3:18 infers we are to apprehend that which eludes all proper definition.

Four dimensions are enumerated, but we are not told to what they refer. The dimensions of what? Doubtless of all the great truth which Paul had been unfolding, the dimensions of the unsearchable riches of Christ. These things are only to be apprehended with all saints. We need one another as we begin to learn them. All saints should be keen to apprehend them, and they are only to be apprehended as all saints are kept in view. In these days of brokenness and division in the church of God we cannot bring all saints together, nor can we incite all saints to apprehend these things, but we can cling very tenaciously to the divine thought of all saints, and, as far as in us lies, live and act in view of all saints. They who do this are more likely than others to apprehend the mighty scope of the unsearchable riches of

Christ, to know His love which is centred upon all saints, and to be filled with all the fulness of God.

The contemplation, in prayer, of such heights of spiritual light and affections and blessing moved the heart of the Apostle to worship, and the chapter closes with a doxology ascribing glory to the Father. That which he had desired in his prayer would be impossible of accomplishment were it not that there is power that worketh in us, the Holy Spirit of God. By that Power the Father can accomplish that which overwhelmingly surpasses all our thoughts or desires. Many of us, reading the Apostle’s desires for us, may have said to ourselves—Very wonderful, but altogether beyond me. Yet, be it remembered, not beyond the Power that works in us. All this blessing may be really and consciously ours: ours in present possession.

The glory which the last verse ascribes to God will certainly be His. Throughout all ages the church will irradiate His glory. As the bride, the Lamb’s wife, it will be said of her, “Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11). And all that the church is, and all that she ever will be, is by and in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the most glorious Minister of the glory of God. He has wrought out the glory, and covered Himself with glory in doing it. Thus it is that we can so happily sing,

There Christ the Centre of the throng,

Shall in His glory shine,

But not an eye those hosts among,

But sees His glory Thine.

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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Ephesians 3:14-21

The kernel of this prayer is in the clause that Christ may make His home in the believer’s heart through faith. The previous petitions lead up to this. Note the Apostle’s attitude-with bended knee; his plea with God-that He is the Father from whom all family love emanates; his measure-the wealth of God’s glorious perfection; the necessary preliminary to Christ’s indwelling-the penetration of our inmost being with the strength of the Holy Spirit. And then note the outcome: The indwelling Christ means that we shall be rooted and grounded in love. When this is the case we shall understand His love; and when we experience and know Christ’s love, we shall be as completely filled in our little measure as God is in His great measure.

A dying veteran in Napoleon’s army, when the surgeon was probing for the fatal bullet, said, “A little deeper and you will find the Emperor.” Faith opens the door to the Spirit; the Spirit reveals Christ; Christ fills the heart; the heart begins to understand love; and love is the medium through which we become infilled with God, for God is love. It is staggering to ask all this; but the God who works in us with such power is able to do more than we ask, more than we think-abundantly more, exceeding abundantly more.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

God's dwelling in the Church is not finality. It is equipment for the fulfillment of the divine purpose. The apostle claims a stewardship in the mystery of the Church, and declares the astounding fact that "unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God." In his Corinthian letter the apostle showed that the Word of the Cross is the wisdom of God. Therefore, through the Church is to come the proclamation to the unfallen ones of the infinite Grace of God. Heaven will have much music, but none so full of infinite meaning as the song of the ransomed.

Called forth by the stupendous magnitude of his theme, the apostle again speaks of the fact that he is praying for them. Through a series of consecutive petitions he reaches the statement of his final desire. It is "that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God."

The doctrinal section of the letter ends with the doxology, "Unto Him, the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus." Thus the inherent blessedness referred to in the opening benediction (1:3) finds its expression in the Church and in Christ Jesus. So stupendous are the ideas developed in this letter that in the presence of them faith must stagger, save as it is recognized that God bestows power equal to the accomplishment of the great purpose. He is One "that is able to do," and that, moreover, "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Finally, he declares that this ability is "according to the power that worketh in us."

This doxology is full of a sublimity which is characterized by simplicity. "Unto Him be the glory," that is, the great purpose; "in the Church and in Christ Jesus," such the wondrous medium; "unto all the generations of the age of the ages," that the immeasurable duration.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father,.... That is, pray unto him for the perseverance of the saints; for nothing is more desirable to the ministers of Christ than that; which is the pure gift of God, and is what he has promised, and therefore should be prayed to for it; for what God has designed and promised to his people, he will be sought to; and the apostle's view might be also to stir up these saints to pray for themselves: the gesture he used in prayer was bowing the knees; a man is not tied to any particular gesture or posture in prayer, the main thing is the heart; mere postures and gestures are insignificant things with God; though where the mind is affected, the body will be moved; and this gesture may be expressive of reverence, humility, and submission in prayer: the object he prayed unto is the Father; that is, as follows,

of our Lord Jesus; though these words are wanting in the Alexandrian copy, and Ethiopic version, yet are rightly retained in others; for God is the Father of Christ, not by creation, nor adoption, but by generation, being the only begotten of the Father; and as such he is rightly prayed to, since not only Christ prayed to him as such; but he is the Father of his people in and through Christ; and there is no other way of coming to him but by Christ; and all spiritual blessings come though Christ, and from God, as the Father of Christ.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament



8. This statement of the apostle, involving the widest hyperbole, is to be understood purely experimentally. While Paul was doubtless intellectually, spiritually, educationally, heroically, and experimentally, the greatest saint on the earth, why did he say he was less than the least? He was not speaking exegetically, but experimentally. Humility is the fundamental and most important Christian grace. When John Fletcher was asked, “What is the most important grace?” he responded, “Humility.” Then they asked him what was next in importance. He answered, “Humility;” and likewise to the third question, he still said, “Humility.” Fletcher was so meek and lowly that he seemed more like an angel than a man. When John Wesley preached his funeral, he said: “There lies in that coffin the most saintly man I ever saw, neither expect to meet another such till I go to glory.” While Paul was great in learning, experience, labors, persecutions, and sufferings, he was proportionately great in humility, feeling as every truly humble saint that he was the least of all, and indulging the quaint Oriental hyperbole, “less than the least.”

9-12. Christ himself is the incarnation of the entire plan of salvation. His birth in Bethlehem is regeneration incarnate, and his death on the cross is sanctification.

11. According to the plan of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eden was the first age, followed by the Antediluvian, the Patriarchal, the Mosaic, the Messianic, and, finally, the Apostolic, all consecutively preparing the world for the millennial kingdom and the endless reign of Christ, unanimously illustrating the universally patent fact of man’s redemption under the most encouraging circumstances, and indisputably confirming the sad conclusion of man’s hopeless failure under most auspicious omens, and establishing beyond all possible controversy his absolute dependence on God. While man’s hopeless failure sends a mournful wail around the world, reverberating down the ages from Eden to the millennium, echo takes up the glad refrain, and roars round the world, “God is a success, and has never known failure.”

12. In whom we have boldness and access in confidence through the faith of himself.In the justified experience we have faith in God more or less encumbered by doubt. In the sanctified experience, we have the faith of God perfectly free from doubt; i.e., the faith of Jesus himself, which was never contaminated.

13. Paul here certifies that all of his persecutions and tribulations only added richer luster and glory to the Church of Christ.

14. We here see that Paul was a stickler for genuflection indefatigable in the knee-drill. In Hebrews 12:11, Apollos exhorts the people to bend their “paralyzed knees.” Satan’s knee-paralysis has just about robbed the popular Churches of the last vestige of Christian devotion. The angels in heaven not only bow the knee, but fall prostrate in delectable devotion to the great Jehovah. All whoever shall go up to live with God in heaven must reach the heavenly state in this life, which makes us worship, not like proud Pharisees, but adoring angels.

15. Here we find that the same cognomen designates God’s people in heaven and in earth, one unbroken family temporarily partitioned by the starry firmament. That name is given (Isaiah 62:10): They shall be called the holy people.It is wonderful how this blind, wicked world pertinaciously, though ignorantly, fulfills the prophecies. It is a significant fact that the “second-blessing people” alone are denominated in worldly parlance, the holiness people. Others may claim to be holy, but the world stubbornly refuses to call them “holy.” It is a striking and universal fulfillment of prophecy.

16. In order that he may grant unto you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with dynamite by his Spirit in the inner man.

This “inner man” is created in the heart by the Holy Ghost in regeneration, the rival of the carnal man born in you by natural regeneration transmitted from Adam. God’s wonderful dynamite not only gives the “inner man” dominion over his old rival, but when utilized by sanctifying faith actually explodes him into smithereens.

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

An Introduction to Paul"s Prayer

In, Paul resumes the approach to God"s throne which he had begun in Ephesians 3:1. The things that caused him to bow in prayer are primarily found in chapter 2. Some of those are: the grace of God toward lost men, reconciliation between Jew and Gentile, making both friends again with God and the great privileges the Gentiles now have under Christ"s law.

The bending of ones" knees is a sign of reverence, or respect. One of the words for worship in the New Testament is proskuneo and suggests making obeisance, or bowing, or even to kiss the ground toward one. Others knelt in prayer to show their respect for God (Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:35; Acts 21:5). However, such is not the only position for prayer which is mentioned in scripture (1 Timothy 2:8; Luke 18:13; Acts 16:24-25). Paul"s prayer was directed to the Father in heaven, in accord with Jesus" model (Matthew 6:9). The whole family of God would seem to include angels, faithful men of the past and the faithful on earth. They are sons of God (3:15).

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

The Spirit's Blessings- The Power Given to Every Believer Through Sanctification - In 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 3:14Comments- 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 3:15Comments- 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 Isaiah, 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, 4May 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, 12January 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 3:18Comments - 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 9311-14)

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 Judges, 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."


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 3:20Comments- 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.

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 3:21Comments- 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 Song of Solomon, 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.

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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Geneva Study Bible

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

(3) He teaches by his own example that the efficacy of the doctrine depends upon the grace of God, and therefore we ought to join prayers with the preaching and hearing of the word. And these are needful not only to those who are youngsters in religion, but even to the oldest also, that as they grow up more and more by faith in Christ, and are confirmed with all spiritual gifts, they may be grounded and rooted in the knowledge of that immeasurable love, with which God the Father has loved us in Christ. And this is because the whole family, of which a part is already received into heaven, and part is yet here on earth, depends upon that adoption of the heavenly Father, in his only Son.
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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

1–21.] AIM AND END OF THE CHURCH IN THE SPIRIT. And herein, the revelation to it of the mystery of Christ, through those ministers who wrought in the Spirit: primarily, as regarded the Ephesians, through himself. Thus first, of HIS OFFICE AS APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES (1–13): secondly, under the form of a prayer for them, THE AIM AND END OF THAT OFFICE AS RESPECTED THE CHURCH: its becoming strong in the power of the Spirit (14–19). Then (20, 21) doxology, concluding this first division of the Epistle.

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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

14.] On this account (resumes the τούτου χάριν of Ephesians 3:1 (see note there):—viz. ‘because ye are so built in, have such a standing in God’s Church’) I bend my knees (scil. in prayer: see reff.; and cf. 3 Kings 19:18) towards (directing my prayer to Him: see Winer, § 49, h) the Father (on the words here interpolated, see var. readd.), from whom (as the source of the name: so Hom. II. κ. 68, πατρόθεν ἐκ γενεῆς ὀνομάζων ἄνδρα ἕκαστον:—Soph., Œd. Tyr. 1036, ὥστʼ ὠνομάσθης ἐκ τύχης ταύτης, ὃς εἶ:—Xen. Mem. iv. 5. 8, ἔφη δὲ καὶ τὸ διαλέγεσθαι ὀνομασθῆναι ἐκ τοῦ συνιόντας κοινῇ βουλεύεσθαι διαλέγοντας:—Cic. de Amicitia, 8, ‘amor, ex quo amicitia nominata’) every family (not ‘the whole family’ ( πᾶσα ἡ πα. , or, less strictly, πᾶσα πατρ ἡ), as E. V. The sense, see below) in the heavens and on earth is named (it is difficult to convey in another language any trace of the deep connexion of πατήρ and πατριά here expressed. Had the sentence been ‘the Creator, after whom every creature in heaven and earth is named,’ all would be plain to the English reader. But we must not thus render; for it is not in virtue of God’s creative power that the Apostle here prays to Him, but in virtue of His adoptive love in Christ. It is best therefore to keep the simple sense of the words, and leave it to exegesis to convey the idea, πατριά is the family, or in a wider sense the gens, named so from its all having one πατήρ. Some (Est., Grot., Wetst., al.) have supposed St. Paul to allude to the rabbinical expression, ‘the family of earth and the family of heaven:’ but as Harl. observes, in this case he would have said π. ἡ πατρ., ἡ ἐν οὐρ. κ. ἡ ἐπὶ γ. Others (Vulg., Jer., Thdrt.,— ὂς ἀληθῶς ὑπάρχει πατήρ, ὃς οὐ παρʼ ἄλλου τοῦτο λαβὼν ἔχει, ἀλλʼ αὐτὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις μεταδέδωκε τοῦτο,—Corn.-a-lap.) have attempted to give πατριά the sense of paternitas, which it can certainly never have. But it is not so easy to say, to what the reference is, or why the idea is here introduced. The former of these will be found very fully discussed in Stier, pp. 487–99: and the latter more shortly treated. The Apostle seems, regarding God as the Father of us His adopted children in Christ, to go forth into the fact, that He, in this His relation to us, is in reality the great original and prototype of the paternal relation, wherever found. And this he does, by observing that every πατριά, compaternity, body of persons, having a common father, is thus named (in Greek), from that father,—and so every earthly (and heavenly) family reflects in its name (and constitution) the being and sourceship of the great Father Himself. But then, what are πατριαί in heaven? Some have treated the idea of paternity there as absurd: but is it not necessarily involved in any explanation of this passage? He Himself is the Father of spirits, Hebrews 12:9, the Father of lights, James 1:17 :—may there not be fathers in the heavenly Israel, as in the earthly? May not the holy Angels be bound up in spiritual πατριαί, though they marry not nor are given in marriage? Observe, we must not miss the sense of ὀνομάζεται, nor render, nor understand it, as meaning ‘is constituted.’ This is the fact, but not brought out here),

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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

14–19.] His prayer for them, setting forth the aim and end of the ministerial office as respected the Church, viz. its becoming strong in the power of the Spirit.

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George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary


For this cause I pray and bow my knees to the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity (or fatherhood(5)) in heaven an dearth is named. The Greek word oftentimes signifies a family, and therefore may signify, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; and thus the sense will be, that God is not only the Father of his eternal Son, but (as not only the Latin text, but even the Greek may signify) of all angelical spirits in heaven, and of all men, especially Christians, made his adoptive sons in baptism. But here may be signified not only a family, but those in particular who are honoured with the name and dignity of fathers; so that the name which they have of fathers, or patriarchs, is derived from God the Father of all, and communicated to them in an inferior degree. This exposition is found in St. Jerome, in Theodoret, Theophylactus, St. John Damascene, &c. (Witham) --- All paternity, or the whole family; Greek: patria. God is the Father both of angels and men: whosoever besides is named father, is so named with subordination to him. (Challoner)



Omnis paternitas, Greek: patria. See St. Jerome on this verse: Deus....paternitatis nomen ex seipso largitus est omnibus....præstat cæteris ut patres esse dicantur. Theodoret, tom. 3. p. 305. Ed. Par. an. 1642. Alii patres, sive corporales, sive spirituales, desuper traxerunt appellationem: Greek: oi de alloi pateres....anothen ten prosegorian []ilkusan. See St. John Damascene, lib. 1. Ortho. fid. chap. ix. Ed. Bas. p. 32. Greek: touto de istion, &c. See Theophylactus, &c.


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George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

For this cause I pray and bow my knees to the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity (or fatherhood(5)) in heaven an dearth is named. The Greek word oftentimes signifies a family, and therefore may signify, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; and thus the sense will be, that God is not only the Father of his eternal Son, but (as not only the Latin text, but even the Greek may signify) of all angelical spirits in heaven, and of all men, especially Christians, made his adoptive sons in baptism. But here may be signified not only a family, but those in particular who are honoured with the name and dignity of fathers; so that the name which they have of fathers, or patriarchs, is derived from God the Father of all, and communicated to them in an inferior degree. This exposition is found in St. Jerome, in Theodoret, Theophylactus, St. John Damascene, &c. (Witham) --- All paternity, or the whole family; Greek: patria. God is the Father both of angels and men: whosoever besides is named father, is so named with subordination to him. (Challoner)



Omnis paternitas, Greek: patria. See St. Jerome on this verse: Deus....paternitatis nomen ex seipso largitus est omnibus....præstat cæteris ut patres esse dicantur. Theodoret, tom. 3. p. 305. Ed. Par. an. 1642. Alii patres, sive corporales, sive spirituales, desuper traxerunt appellationem: Greek: oi de alloi pateres....anothen ten prosegorian []ilkusan. See St. John Damascene, lib. 1. Ortho. fid. chap. ix. Ed. Bas. p. 32. Greek: touto de istion, &c. See Theophylactus, &c.


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Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians


The prayer of the apostle is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is also in him our Father. He offers but one petition, viz. that his readers might be strengthened by the Holy Ghost in the inner man; or that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. The consequence of this would be, that they would be confirmed in love, and thus enabled in some measure to comprehend the infinite love of Christ, which would enlarge their capacity unto the fullness of God; that is, ultimately render them, in their measure, as full of holiness and blessedness, as God is in his.


This verse resumes the connection interrupted in Ephesians 3:1.

1. The prayer which the apostle there commenced, he here begins anew. For this cause, τούτου χάριν, repeated from Ephesians 3:1, and therefore the connection is the same here as there, i.e. because you Ephesians are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ. I bow my knees. The posture of prayer, for prayer itself. Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.‹10›

2. The peculiar Christian designation of God, as expressing the covenant relation in which he stands to believers. It is because he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our incarnate God and Savior, that he is our Father, and accessible to us in prayer. We can approach him acceptably in no other character than as the God who sent the Lord Jesus to be our propitiation and mediator. It is therefore by faith in him as reconciled, that we address him as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Ephesians 3:14-15.(182) τούτου χάριν] on this account, in order that ye may not become disheartened, Ephesians 3:13. Against the view that there is here a resumption of Ephesians 3:1, see on that verse.

κάμπτω κ. τ. λ.] τὴν κατανενυγμένην δέησιν ἐδήλωσεν, Chrysostom. See on Philippians 2:10. “A signo rem denotat,” Calvin; so that we have not, with Calovius and others, to think of an actual falling on his knees during the writing. Comp. Jerome, who makes reference to the genua mentis.

πρός] direction of the activity: before the Father.

ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα πατριὰ κ. τ. λ.] Instead of saying: before the Father of all angels and men (a designation of God which naturally suggested itself to him as an echo of the great thoughts, Ephesians 3:10 and Ephesians 3:6), Paul expresses himself more graphically by an ingenious paronomasia, which cannot be reproduced in German ( πατέραπατριά): from whom every family in heaven and upon earth bears the name, namely, the name πατριά, because God is πατήρ of all these πατριαί. Less simple and exact, because not rendering justice to the purposely chosen expression employed by Paul only here, is the view of de Wette: “every race, i.e. every class of beings which have arisen (?), bears the name of God as its Creator and Father, just as human races bear the name from their ancestor, e.g. the race of David from David.”

ἐξ οὗ] forth from whom; origin of the name, which is derived from God as πατήρ. On ὀνομάζεσθαι ἐκ, comp. Hom. Il. x. 68: πατρόθεν ἐκ γενεῆς ὀνομάζων ἄνδρα ἕκαστον. Xen. Mem. iv. 5. 12: ἔφη δὲ καὶ τὸ διαλέγεσθαι ὀνομασθῆναι ἐκ τοῦ συνιόντας κοινῇ βουλεύεσθαι. Soph. Oed. R. 1036.

πᾶσα πατριά] πατριά, with classical writers ordinarily πάτρα, is equivalent to gens, a body belonging to a common stock, whether it be meant in the narrower sense of a family,(183) or in the wider, national sense of a tribe (Acts 3:25; 1 Chronicles 16:28; Psalms 22:27; Herod. i. 200). In the latter sense here; for every gens in the heavens can only apply to the various classes of angels (which are called πατριαί, not as though there were propagation among them, Matthew 22:30, but because they have God as their Creator and Lord for a Father); as a suitable analogue, however, to the classes of angels, appear on earth not the particular families, but the nationalities. Rightly Chrysostom and his successors explain the word by γενεαί or γένη. The Vulgate has paternitas, a sense indicated also by Jerome, Theodoret, and others. Theodoret says: ὃς ἀληθῶς ὑπάρχει πατὴρ, ὃς οὐ παρʼ ἄλλου τοῦτο λοβὼν ἔχει, ἀλλʼ αὐτὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις μεταδέδωκε τοῦτο. This view (comp. Goth.: “all fadreinis”) is expressed by Luther (approved in the main by Harless): Who is the true Father over all that are called children, etc. But πατριά never means fathership or fatherliness ( πατρότης), and what could be the meaning of that. fathership in heaven?(184) πᾶσα, every, shows that Paul did not think only of two πατριαί, the totality of the angels and the totality of men (Calvin, Grotius, Wetstein, Koppe, and others), or of the blessed in heaven and the elect on earth (Calovius, Wolf), but of a plurality, as well of angelic as of human πατριαί; and to this extent his conception is, as regards the numerical form, though not as regards the idea of πατριά, different from that of the Rabbins, according to which the angels (with the Cabbalists, the Sephiroth) are designated as familia superior (see Wetstein, p. 247 f.; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 1753; Schoettgen, Horae, p. 1237 f.). Some have even explained πᾶσα πατριά as the whole family, in which case likewise either the angels and men (Michaelis, Zachariae, Morus, Meier, Olshausen, and earlier expositors), or the blessed in heaven and Christians on earth (Beza), have been thought of: but this is on the ground of linguistic usage erroneous. Comp. on Ephesians 2:21.

ὀνομάζεται] bears the name, namely, the name πατριά; see above. The text does not yield anything else;(185) and if many (Beza, Piscator, Grotius, Wolf, Bengel, Michaelis, Zachariae, Morus, Koppe, and others, including Flatt and Olshausen) have understood the name children of God, this is purely imported. Others have taken “nomen pro re” (Zanchius, Menochius, Estius, et al.), so that ὀνομάζεσθαι would denote existere. So, too, Rückert, according to whom Paul designs to express the thought that God is called the Father, inasmuch as all that lives in heaven and upon earth has from Him existence and name (i.e. dignity and peculiarity of nature). Contrary to linguistic usage; εἶναι ὀνομάζεται must at least have been used in that case instead of ὀνομάζεται (comp. Isaeus, de Menecl. her. 41: τὸν πατέρα, οὗ εἶναι ὠνομάσθην, Plat. Pol. iv. p. 428 E: ὀνομάζονταί τινες εἶναι). Incorrectly also Holzhausen: ὀνομάζειν means to call into existence. Reiche takes ἐξ οὗ ὀνομάζεται (of whom it bears the name) as the expression of the highest dominion and of the befitting reverence due, and refers πᾶσα πατριὰ ἐν οὐρ. to the pairings of the Aeons. The former without linguistic evidence: the latter a hysteroproteron.


In ἐξ οὗὀνομάζεται God is certainly characterized as universal Father, as Father of all angel-classes in heaven and all peoples upon earth. Comp. Luther’s gloss: “All angels, all Christians, yea, all men, are God’s children, for He created them all.” But it is not at all meant by the apostle in the bare sense of creation, nor in the rationalistic conception of the all-fatherhood, when he says that every πατριά derives this name ἐκ θεοῦ, as from its father; but in the higher spiritual sense of the divine Fatherhood and the sonship of God. He thinks, in connection with the ἐξ οὗ, of a higher πατρόθεν than that of the mere creation. For πατριαί, so termed from God as their πατήρ, are not merely all the communities of angels, since these were indeed υἱοὶ θεοῦ from the beginning, and have not fallen from this υἱότης; but also all nationalities among men, inasmuch as not only the Jews, but also all Gentile nations, have obtained part in the Christian υἱοθεσία, and the latter are συγκληρονόμα καὶ σύσσωμα καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας ἐν τῷ χριστῷ (Ephesians 3:6). If this has not yet become completely realized, it has at any rate already been so partially, while Paul writes; and in God’s counsel it stands ideally as an accomplished fact. On that account Paul says with reason also of every nationality upon earth, that it bears the name πατριά, because God is its Father. Without cause, therefore, Harless has taken offence at the notion of the All-fatherhood, which is here withal clearly though ideally expressed, and given to the passage a limitation to which the all-embracing mode of expression is entirely opposed: “whose name every child [i.e. every true child] in heaven and upon earth bears.” Consequently, as though Paul had written something like: ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα ἀληθινὴ πατριὰ κ. τ. λ. With a like imported limitation Erasmus, Paraphr.: “omnis cognatio spiritualis, qua conglutinantur sive angeli in coelis, sive fideles in terris.”


With the non-genuineness of τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ι. χ. (see the critical remarks) falls also the possibility of referring ἐξ οὗ to Christ (Beza, although with hesitation, Calvin, Zanchius, Hammond, Cramer, Reiche, and others). But if those words were genuine (de Wette, among others, defends them), ἐξ οὗ would still apply to God, because ἐξ οὗ κ. τ. λ. characterizes the fatherly relation, and ἵνα δῷ κ. τ. λ. applies to the Father.

Lastly, polemic references, whether in opposition to the particularism of the Jews (Chrysostom, Calvin, Zanchius, and others), or even in opposition to “scholam Simonis, qui plura principia velut plures Deos introducebat” (Estius), or in opposition to the worship of angels (Michaelis), or in opposition to the Gnostic doctrine of Syzygies (Reiche), are to be utterly dismissed, because arbitrary in themselves and inappropriate to the character and contents of the prayer before us.

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Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Holy treasure in earthen vessels

Ephesians 3:8-21

The apostle Paul was a very humble man. The choice servants of God are, generally speaking, the most humble. The reasons for their humility are that they are most aware of their own sinfulness, they have greater discoveries of God's love and grace in Christ and, being more sorely tried, they lean more completely on the arm of grace.

Ephesians 3:8. Paul saw great grace in being trusted with the ministry of the gospel and having such treasure put in an earthen vessel. He was appointed to take the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles.

Ephesians 3:9. The mystery mentioned in this verse is the gospel of Christ (Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8). Natural men do not understand the gospel of substitution, do not see the wisdom of the cross and therefore must be born again, regenerated and taught of God (John 3:3; John 6:44-45). The ministry of the word is the means God uses to enlighten men (Romans 10:13-15). The gospel was there from the beginning in the counsel and covenant of God; for he created all things in, by and for Christ (Colossians 1:14-17); but it was hidden in some measure from the elect angels, from even the Old Testament saints and altogether from natural men.

Ephesians 3:10. The purpose is that through and by the church of the Lord Jesus Christ the complex, many-sided wisdom of God in justifying the ungodly by Christ Jesus might be made known to the angels and powers even in heaven (l Peter l:12). The angels are witnesses of God's mercy to the church in Christ (Hebrews 1:14).

Ephesians 3:11. All of the salvation of sinners in Christ (which displays the wisdom and mercy of God) is according to his own eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ before the world began. Christ the Redeemer and the time of his incarnation, sufferings and resurrection were all decreed by God (Acts 4:26-28). The persons for whom he became incarnate, suffered and died were chosen in him (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Ephesians 3:12. Therefore, because we are redeemed by Christ, our Representative (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) and Substitute, and God has enabled us to believe on Christ (who is the object of saving faith), we have boldness to enter into the very presence of God with courage and confidence (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Ephesians 3:13. ‘So I ask you not to be discouraged because of the trials and troubles I have gone through to preach the gospel to you. I am not ashamed to be identified with Christ in reproach (Hebrews 13:13) and hatred (John 15:18-19). It is an honour to be counted worthy to suffer with him (Hebrews 11:24-26; 2 Corinthians 1:6).

Ephesians 3:14. ‘For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father.’ The awesome responsibility of ministering the gospel, the privilege of access to the throne of grace and the perseverance of the believers in Ephesus led Paul to pray for them (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Ephesians 3:15. He is the Father of all believers, all the elect in heaven and earth (John 1:12; John 20:17).

Ephesians 3:16-19. This is the prayer Paul prayed for them:

1. That God would strengthen them so that they would not faint under trial. That the Holy Spirit would strengthen their spirits, their hearts and their inner selves with fresh supplies of grace. Strength to live for God's glory is from within (John 7:37-39).

2. This is the true source of all spiritual life, the key to union with the Father, the fountainhead of all blessings and the hope of eternal life – ‘Christ in you’ (Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:27). That they might be rooted and grounded deep in love for Christ. This is our security – his love for us and our love for him.

3. That they might be able, with all believers, to have a greater understanding of the great love of God for us – what is the breadth, the length, the height and the depth of his love (Romans 5:8).

4. That they might understand more of the special and peculiar love of Christ for his church, which is beyond perfect knowledge (his engaging to be Surety for them, his assumption of their nature, his payment for their debts, his giving them a perfect righteousness, his intercession, his constant supply of mercy and grace). We have some knowledge of it, but the more of it we know, the more we will be filled and flooded with Christ himself.

Ephesians 3:20-21. The prayer closes with a celebration of the perfection, power and glory of God. God begins, carries on and finishes the work he purposed to do for his people. This work of eternal redemption will be infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams.

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Hamilton Smith's Writings


God"s Way in Making Known His Purpose

( Ephesians 3)

We have seen that Ephesians 1 presents the counsels of God as to the church, while Ephesians 2 presents the work of God in and with believers to fulfil His counsels. Ephesians 3 presents the administration of the truth of the church, or the way that God has taken to make known the truth to the Gentiles through the instrumentality of the apostle Paul.

Comparing Ephesians 3:1 with Ephesians 4:1, it will be clearly seen that Ephesians 3 is parenthetical. Ephesians 2 presents the doctrine and Ephesians 4 the practice consistent with the doctrine. Between the doctrine and the practice we have this important digression in which the Holy Spirit presents the special administration, or service, committed to the apostle. In the second verse this service is referred to as "the dispensation of the grace of God", and in verse9 as "the fellowship of the mystery". In both verses the word is the same in the original language. The best translation is "administration", an administration being a particular service. This service was to proclaim the Gospel and make known the truth among the saints. In the course of this parenthesis we have the presentation of further great truths in connection with the church.

(1) The effect of ministering the truth of the church

(Vv1, 2). The apostle tells us that the immediate effect of ministering the truth of the church was to bring the one who proclaimed it into reproach with the religious world. This great truth aroused the special hostility of the Jew, inasmuch as it not only viewed Jew and Gentile in the same position before God- dead in trespasses and sins- but it in no wise exalted the Jew to a place of blessing above the Gentile. Moreover, as the truth of the church set aside the whole Jewish system, with its appeal to the natural man by means of an outward worship in temples made with hands, it raised the opposition of those who upheld that system. As then, so now, the maintenance of the truth of the church as revealed to, and ministered by, the apostle Paul will involve reproach and opposition from those who seek to maintain an outward religious profession, or an ecclesiastical system after the Jewish pattern.

It was, then, the carrying out of this special service, which proclaimed the Gospel of the grace of God to the Gentiles, that raised the malice of the prejudiced Jew and brought the apostle into prison. In the estimation of the Jew, a man who could talk of going to the Gentiles was not fit to live ( Acts 22:21; Acts 22:22). Paul, however, did not view himself as a prisoner of men for any wrong-doing, but as a prisoner of Jesus Christ because of his service of love in making known the truth to the Gentiles.

(2) The truth of the church made known by revelation

(Vv3, 4). In order that we may receive the great truth of the church on divine authority, the apostle is careful to explain that he acquired his knowledge of "the mystery" of the church, not through communications from men, but by direct revelation from God, even as he says, "By revelation He made known unto me the mystery." This meets a difficulty that may rise in connection with the truth of the mystery. When Paul preached the Gospel in the Jewish synagogues he invariably appealed to the Scriptures (see Acts 13:27; Acts 13:29; Acts 13:32; Acts 13:35; Acts 13:47; Acts 17:2, etc.), and the Jews of Berœa are expressly commended inasmuch as they searched the Scriptures to see if the word preached by Paul was in accord with them. But directly the apostle ministered the truth of the church, he could no longer appeal to the Old Testament for confirmation. It would be useless for his hearers to search the Scriptures to see if these things were so. The unbelief of the Jews made it difficult for them to accept many truths that were in their Scriptures, even as Nicodemus failed to grasp the truth of the new birth, but to accept something that was not there, and which set aside the whole Jewish system that was there and had existed with the sanction of God for centuries, was to the Jew, as such, an insuperable difficulty.

Many Christians can hardly appreciate this difficulty, inasmuch as the truth of the church is largely obscured in their minds, or even totally lost. Viewing the church as the aggregate of believers through all time, they have no difficulty in finding what they believe to be the church in the Old Testament. That this has been the thought of godly men is amply proved by the headings that have been given to many Old Testament chapters in the Authorised Version. Accept, however, the truth of the church as unfolded in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and at once we are faced with this difficulty which can only be met by the fact that the truth of the church is an entirely fresh revelation.

(V:5). This great truth, which Paul received by Revelation, he speaks of as "the mystery", and again in verse4as "the mystery of the Christ". In using the term "mystery" the apostle does not wish to convey the thought of anything mysterious- a purely human use of the word. In Scripture a mystery is something which has hitherto been kept secret, that could not be otherwise known than by Revelation, and when revealed can only be apprehended by faith. The apostle proceeds to explain that this mystery was not made known to the sons of men in the Old Testament days, but now is made known by revelation unto Christ"s "holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit". The prophets referred to in this verse are clearly not Old Testament prophets, but rather those referred to in Ephesians 2:20. In both cases the order is "apostles and prophets", not "prophets and apostles", as might be expected had the reference been to prophets of the Old Testament. Moreover, the apostle is speaking of what is "now" revealed, in contrast with what was formerly revealed.

(3) The truth of the church thus revealed

(V:6). Having shown that the truth of the church was made known by Revelation, the apostle, in a brief passage, sums up the truth of the church, and explains why it is referred to as "the mystery". Clearly the mystery is not the Gospel, which was not hidden in other ages, for the Old Testament is full of allusions to the coming Saviour, however little these allusions were understood.

What, then, is the mystery? We are plainly told, in verse6, that this new revelation is that the Gentiles "should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings." The Gentiles are made joint heirs with the Jews, not only in Christ"s earthly kingdom, but in the inheritance that includes both things in heaven and things on earth. And more, the Gentile believers are formed with Jewish believers into a joint body of which Christ is the Head in heaven. Moreover, they jointly partake of God"s promises in Christ Jesus. The Gentile is not raised to the Jewish level on earth, nor is the Jew brought down to the Gentile level, both are taken off their old standing and raised to an immeasurably higher plane, united to one another on entirely new ground, even heavenly ground in Christ. All this is brought to pass by the Gospel which addresses both on one common level of guilt and utter ruin. The three great facts referred to in this verse have already come before us in Ephesians 1. The promise in Christ includes all the blessings unfolded in the first seven verses of that chapter, the inheritance is opened out before us in verses8 to21, and the truth of the "one body" in verses22,23.

(4) The truth revealed to and ministered by Paul

(V:7). Not only was the mystery revealed to Paul; he was also made the minister of the truth. The mystery was also revealed to the other apostles (verse5) but to him was committed the special service of ministering this truth to the saints. Hence, only in the Epistles of Paul do we find any unfolding of the mystery. The grace of God had given this ministry to the apostle; the power of God enabled him to exercise the gift of grace. God"s gifts can only be used in God"s power.

(V:8). Moreover, the apostle tells us the effect that this great truth had upon himself. In the presence of the greatness of God"s grace he sees that he is the chief of sinners ( 1 Timothy 1:15): in the presence of the immense vista of blessing unfolded by the mystery he feels that he is less than the least of all saints. The greater the glories that are opened to our vision, the smaller we become in our own eyes. The man who had the largest apprehension of this great mystery, in all its vast extent, was the man who owned that he was less than the least of all saints.

In order to fulfil his ministry, the apostle not only proclaimed the irretrievable ruin of Prayer of Manasseh, but the unsearchable riches of Christ, riches beyond all human computation, carrying blessings that have no limit.

(5) The end in view in the ministry of the truth

(Vv9-11). The preaching of the Gospel was in view of the second part of Paul"s service- to enlighten all with the knowledge of the mystery, to show all men how the counsel of God from eternity to eternity is brought about in time by the formation of the assembly on earth, and thus to bring to light that which has hitherto been hidden in God from the foundation of the world.

Further, not only would God have all men enlightened as to the formation of the assembly on earth, but it is His intent that now all the heavenly beings should learn in the church His manifold wisdom. These heavenly beings had seen the creation come fresh from the hand of God, and, as they beheld His wisdom in creation, they shouted for joy. Now in the formation of the church they see "the all-various wisdom of God". Creation was the most perfect expression of creatorial Wisdom of Solomon, but in the formation of the church God"s wisdom is displayed in every form. Before the church could be formed, God"s glory had to be vindicated, man"s need met, sin put away, death abolished, and the power of Satan annulled. The barrier between Jew and Gentile had to be removed, heaven be opened, Christ be seated as Man in the glory, the Holy Spirit come to earth, and the Gospel be preached. All this and more is involved in the formation of the church. These various ends could only be attained by the all-various wisdom of God, wisdom displayed, not only in one direction, but in every direction. Nor has the failure of the church in its responsibilities altered the fact that in the church the angels learn the wisdom of God. On the contrary, it only makes more manifest the marvellous wisdom that, rising above all man"s failure, overcoming every obstacle, at last brings the church to glory "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

(6) The practical effect of ministering the truth

(Vv12, 13). The apostle turns aside from the unfolding of the mystery to give a brief word as to its practical effect. These wonders are not unrolled before our vision simply to be admired, admirable indeed as they are. The mystery is also exceedingly practical when rightly apprehended and acted upon. To act in the light of the truth will make us at home in God"s world, but will put us outside man"s world. As the blind man of John 9, when cast out by the religious world, finds himself in the presence of the Son of God, so the apostle, while in man"s prison on earth, has access to the Father"s presence in heaven.

Christ Jesus, the One through whom all these eternal purposes will be fulfilled, is the One by whom we have access to the Father with confidence. If this great truth gives us boldness and makes us at home in the Father"s presence, in the world it will lead to tribulation. This Paul found, but he says, "Faint not at my tribulations." To accept the truth of the mystery- to walk in the light of it- will at once put us outside the religious world. Act upon this truth, and at once we shall meet with opposition from the Christian profession. It will be, as it was with Paul, a continual conflict, and especially with all that judaizes.

Opposition there must be, for these great truths entirely undermine the worldly constitution of every Prayer of Manasseh -made religious system. Is the truth of the mystery, with the knowledge of which Paul sought to enlighten all men, proclaimed from the pulpits of Christendom, holiness conventions, or even from evangelical platforms? Is the truth of the mystery, involving the total ruin of Prayer of Manasseh, the utter rejection of Christ by the world, the session of Christ in the glory, the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth, the separation of the believer from the world, and the calling of the saints to heaven- is this great truth proclaimed, or acted upon, in the national churches and religious denominations of Christendom? Alas! it has no place in their creeds, their prayers or their teaching. Nay, more, and worse, it is denied by their very constitution, their teaching and their practice.

(7) The prayer that these truths may be made good in the believer

(Vv14-21). The great truths unfolded in these chapters very naturally lead to the second prayer of the apostle. In the second chapter of the Epistle the apostle has unfolded the great truth that believers, from amongst Jews and Gentiles, have been builded together to form the dwelling place of God. In the third chapter the apostle has presented the truth of the mystery, showing that believers, also taken from Jews and Gentiles, are brought on to entirely new ground to form a joint-body in Christ. We then learn that this mystery has been disclosed to the intent that the manifold wisdom of God should now be displayed, according to the eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:11).

Having this great end in view, the apostle turns to the Father in prayer, that the saints may be in a right spiritual condition to enter into the fulness of God. To bring about this spiritual condition in the saints we see, in the course of the prayer, that every divine Person is engaged in connection with the saints. The Father is the source of all blessing, the Spirit strengthens us that the Christ may dwell in us to fill us with the fulness of God, so that God may be glorified by being displayed in the saints now, and throughout all ages.

(V:14). As the prayer has in view the eternal purpose which has been "purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord", it is addressed to "the Father" who is the source of these eternal counsels. For the same reason there is no mention of death or resurrection in the prayer. The eternal counsels were all settled before death came in, and the complete fulfilment of these counsels, to which the prayer looks on, will be in a scene where death can never enter.

(V:15). This new scene of glory being in view, we are told that in this coming world of blessing every family in heaven and earth will be named of the Father. In the first creation all the animals were passed before Adam, who gave them names that set forth the distinguishing characteristics to be displayed in each family. So in connection with the eternal counsels for the new creation, every family in heaven and earth- angelic beings, the church in heaven, and the saints on earth- will be named of the Father, and thus each family has its distinguishing character according to the eternal counsels of the Father.

The prayer is therefore in view of all that will be brought to light in eternal ages, according to the counsels of God before the foundation of the world- a scene of which the Father is the source of all, the Son the centre of all, and every family in heaven and earth displays some special glory of the Father.

(V:16). The first request is that the Father would grant us according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. The apostle does not say "according to the riches of His grace", as in Ephesians 1:7, but "according to the riches of His glory", because the prayer is not connected with meeting our need, but rather with the fulfilment of the counsels of the Father"s heart.

In the prayer of chapter1the request is that we may know the power of God toward us; here it is that we may have the power in us to strengthen us in the inner man. The outer man is the visible, natural man by which we are in touch with the things of the world. The inner man is the unseen and spiritual Prayer of Manasseh, formed by the work of the Spirit in us, and by which we are in touch with unseen and eternal things. Just as the outer man needs to be strengthened by material things of this life, so the inner man needs to be strengthened by the Spirit to enter into the spiritual blessings of the new world of God"s counsels.

(V:17). The second request is that the Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. The first request leads to the second, for only as we are strengthened by the Spirit will Christ dwell in our hearts by faith. The effect of the Spirit, who has come from the Father, working in our souls, will be to fill us with the Father"s thoughts of Christ- to think with the Father about the Son.

The request is not that we may be strengthened with might to perform some miracle, or to undertake some arduous work, but that a spiritual condition may be wrought in our souls by Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. The power of the world around us, of the flesh within us, and the devil against us, is so great, that, if Christ is to have His true place in our hearts it will only be as we are strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man.

Moreover, the prayer is that the Christ may "dwell" in our hearts. We are not to treat Him as a visitor to be entertained on some special occasion, but as One who has an abiding place in our hearts. This can only be by faith, for faith looks out to Christ, and as He is before us as an object He will have a dwelling-place in our hearts. The One who is the centre of all God"s counsels will thus become the centre of our thoughts. As one has said, "The supreme object to God becomes the supreme object to us." What a witness for God we each should be if our lives were governed by one engrossing object, and that object Christ! Too often we are like Martha of old, distracted with "much serving", and "careful and troubled about many things". "One thing" only is "needful", to have Christ as the sole Object of our lives, then service and all else will follow without distraction. May we, like Mary, choose this "good part".

The result of Christ dwelling in the heart is to root and ground us in love. If Christ, the One in whom, and through whom, all the love of the Father has been made known, is dwelling in our hearts, He will surely fill the heart with a knowledge and enjoyment of divine love.

(V:18). Christ dwelling in the heart prepares the way for the third great request, that we may be "fully able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height." God teaches us through our affections, so that the way to this apprehension is not only by faith, but by "being rooted and grounded in love". Through the work of the Spirit, Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; dwelling there by faith He fills our hearts with love, and love prepares us to apprehend. Further, this love leads us to embrace "all saints", for the more we enjoy the love of Christ, the more our hearts will go out to all who are loved by Christ.

Then the apostle desires that we may apprehend "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height". This would appear to be the whole range of God"s "eternal purpose", already referred to in verse11. This eternal purpose in its breadth embraces "all saints", in its length stretches into the age of ages, in its depth reached down to us in all our need, and in its height brings us into a scene of glory.

(V:19). All this scene of blessedness is secured for us by the love of Christ- the One who "loved the church, and gave Himself for it." Hence the fourth request is that we may "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." It is a love that can be known and enjoyed, and yet it passes knowing. If we cannot measure the height of glory from which Christ came, or fathom the depth of sorrow into which He has been, still less can we measure the love that has wrought for us, that takes in the vast host of the redeemed, small and great, that is caring for us in our passage through time, and that is coming for us to bring us into the home of love to be there with Him, and like Him, for the gratification of His heart of love. Such love can be known, and yet will forever remain a love that passes knowing.

The fifth request is that we may be filled with all the fulness of God. The fulness of God is all that God is as revealed and made known in Christ. The Son has fully declared the Father in His love and holiness, in His grace and truth; and the apostle desires that we should receive, in full measure, of the divine fulness that it may be displayed in the saints.

(V:20). The sixth request is that all the apostle has been praying for the saints may be wrought in them by the power of God. God Isaiah, indeed, able to do exceeding abundantly "for us", as is often said. Here, however, where the leading thought throughout the prayer is the spiritual condition of the saints, it is neither what God can do for us or with us that is in view, but rather His ability and willingness to work "in us" in answer to these requests, and to do this "above all that we ask or think".

(V:21). The seventh and last desire is that there may be glory in the church unto God by Christ Jesus throughout all ages. Every request in the prayer leads up to this wonderful thought that through all the ages the saints should set forth the fulness of God, and thus be for His glory. The whole prayer clearly shows that it is God"s desire that what will be true of the saints throughout the eternal ages should mark them in their passage through time- that all that God is should shine forth in His people.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". 1832.

The Bible Study New Testament

14. For this reason. “Because of the great privileges God offers to all of us including you Gentiles, and because I do not want you to be discouraged by the things I am suffering, I fall on my knees before the Father in prayer for you all!” [Early Christians sometimes kneeled in prayer, but usually stood, with arms outstretched and hands palm upward, with their eyes raised to the sky.]




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Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Paul’s Second Prayer for the Saints (Ephesians 3:14-21)

In the first chapter of this precious Epistle we have Paul’s prayer for knowledge, and in the third, his prayer for love. After reading the first prayer we naturally find ourselves looking out over the great sphere of God’s eternal purpose, trying to take in the scope of His wonderful pre-arranged divine plan. But, as we read the second prayer and meditate on it, we find ourselves looking up in adoring gratitude, with our hearts going out in love to the One who first loved us.

We read in verse Ephesians 3:14, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “For this cause”-For what cause? What motivated Paul to pray for these people? It was his deep interest in the people of God. He desired that they should fully experience their privileges in Christ and understand the great mystery of which he had spoken.

The expression, “I bow my knees,” is a very beautiful one and suggests intensity of feeling. Have you ever noticed that if you are just quietly engaged in prayer or meditation, you may sit, perhaps as I often do, in a comfortable big chair with your open Bible before you, and as one thought or another comes, you close your eyes and lift your heart to God in prayer? Or when you come together with God’s people, you love to stand in holy silence before God, joining with someone who is leading in prayer. But when you are intensely in earnest, when something has fairly gripped you that stirs you to deepest supplication, you find yourself almost irresistibly forced to your knees.

“I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We noticed that the first prayer is addressed to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, for God is the source of all knowledge. But this second prayer, which has to do more with family relationship, is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Divine titles are used most discriminate^ in the Word of God; never in the careless way that we so often use them. We might not think it made any difference whether one said, “I address myself to the God of our Lord Jesus,” or, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus,” but it made a great deal of difference to the apostle. It indicated the different thoughts that were in his mind. When I think of God, I think of the maker of all things, the planner of all things who fitted the ages together. But I think of the Father as the One from whose bosom the eternal Son came into this world, becoming man for our salvation. Before He left this world Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). There you have the two thoughts: God, the source of all counsels; the Father, the source of all family affections-the very center of family relationship.

“The Father… Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” “The whole family” is undoubtedly a correct rendering here, and yet “every family” would be just as correct. “The whole family,” however, conveys the most precious thought. This phrase means that all saints in earth and Heaven constitute one great family of born-again ones, of whom God is the father. But I am thinking too of the great hosts of angels never redeemed by the blood of Christ because they have never fallen; even those who fell found no Savior. The angels also acknowledge the fatherhood of God, but they are servants, waiting on the family. Then there is the family of the Old Testament saints. There was the antediluvian family, the patriarchal family, the Israelites, those who were truly of Israel. All these were families through the past dispensations. Today there is the church of this age of grace, and in the future there will be the glorious kingdom family. There are dispensational distinctions, but all receive life from the same blessed Person, and all together adore and worship Him. Notice that the whole family is located in Heaven and on earth. Those who are dead to us are alive to God above.

As we try to understand this prayer I want you to think of seven words that I believe will help us to grasp its scope. First, there is our endowment. “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory.” You may come to God in prayer for anything, and realize that since you have such a marvelous endowment from which to draw, you do not need to fear to present your petitions to God. You cannot ask too much. We are reminded of the man who came to a king asking for something, and the king gave to him out of his abundant treasure until the man said, “Your majesty, that is too much! That is too much!” The king smiled and said, “It may seem too much for you to take, but it is not too much for me to give.” And so our blessed God gives out of His abundance.

He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” He does not say, as we sometimes suppose, “Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think,” for we might be like little children asking for the moon. But Paul said that God does for us, “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” When we come to Him in the name of Jesus, bringing our petitions, there is more in that great endowment fund than we can ever exhaust.

“According to the riches of his glory.” “According to,” not “out of the riches of His glory.” We have noticed the difference between these two expressions when commenting on a similar passage found in Ephesians 1:7, so we need not repeat the illustration used then. But it means much to the soul when one truly sees this distinction.

Next Paul prayed that the Ephesians “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” This speaks of our enduement or empowerment. Do you sometimes feel your limitations, your weakness, your lack of purpose, your powerlessness when it comes to living for God and witnessing for Him? Do you feel as though you might as well give up for the little you accomplish? Do you say, “If I only had more strength, how different it might be”? Listen! The excellency of the power is of God, not of us, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us is ready to work in and through us to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So the prayer is that we may be “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Some people have an idea that a Christian is a walking storage battery. You hear people pray, “O God, give me more power, fill me with power.” The idea they have is that the old battery is pretty well run down. “Put another one in, Lord,” is what they seem to say. No, you are not a storage battery; you are in connection with the great eternal dynamo, and the Holy Spirit works in and through you to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ as you yield yourself to Him. He Himself is the source of all power, and that power is to be used by the people of God.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” The next word is enthronement. It is Christ sitting on the throne of our hearts dominating, controlling us for the glory of God, His blessed pierced hands guiding and directing everything. It is not Christ received as an occasional visitor, not Christ recognized merely as a guest, but Christ abiding within as our living, loving Lord: Christ dwelling in the heart by faith. You remember the saying, “If Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” He does not want second place. He must be first if your life is going to be that which it should.

“That ye, being rooted and grounded in love.” This phrase suggests our establishment. Rooted and grounded are two very different terms. When I was a boy, the schoolteacher used to tell me that I must not mix my metaphors. For instance, I should not start with the figure of a ship and change to that of a railroad in the same sentence. But the Holy Ghost is wonderfully independent in His use of metaphors. He speaks of being rooted like a tree, and grounded like a building that is raised on a great foundation. Rooted and grounded in what? In love. What is love? It is the great rock foundation on which we build, for God is love. He who is rooted in love is rooted in God, and therefore, “the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalms 92:12). The believer is like the trees, for they draw their nourishment from the living God Himself. Great Christian character will be established when one is founded on this Rock, building on God Himself, “rooted and grounded in love”!

“That ye…May be able to comprehend with all saints.” This speaks of our enlightenment. Individually, you will never be able to completely understand God’s purposes in grace. But you comprehend a little, and another Christian a little, and I a little, and with all the saints together we begin to get some idea of God’s wonderful purpose of grace. Therefore, we need one another; we need fellowship; we need to be helpers of each other’s faith. The feeblest, weakest member of the body of Christ is necessary, for God may give understanding to some weak brother that some strong active Christian may never get at all. Paul prayed that we be enabled “to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” Of what? Some say love. But previously in the chapter he had been speaking about God’s wonderful purpose of the ages, God’s great plan. Paul was praying that by the Spirit you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the vast system of grace that God is working out through the ages of time, and which will be consummated in the ages to come.

In school I was told that no solid could have more than three dimensions-length, breadth, and thickness. But we have here length, breadth, depth, and height-four dimensions. Could you draw a picture of this? Could you draw an illustration of length, breadth, depth, and height? How would you do it? Some of the old Greek philosophers used to reason about a possible fourth dimension, and with them it was a kind of weird spiritual dimension. That is not such a bad idea. When Napoleon’s soldiers opened the prison of the Inquisition, in an underground dungeon they found the skeleton of a prisoner. The flesh and clothing had long since gone, but the remnants of an ankle bone with a chain attached to it were still there. On the wall they saw cut into the rock with a sharp piece of metal a cross. Above the cross in Spanish was the word for height, and below it the word for depth, and on one arm the word for length, and on the other the word for breadth. As that poor prisoner of so long ago was starving to death, his soul was contemplating the wonder of God’s purpose of grace, and to Him the figure of the cross summed it all up-the length, the breadth, the depth, the height!

Next Paul prayed that we may “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” Surely this is our enlargement. We glory as we comprehend the knowledge of the love of Christ. But what a strange expression is Paul’s petition! He prayed that we may know the unknowable: “The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” See that darling little baby in the mother’s arms, looking up and cooing and responding to the mother’s smile? You or I might say, “May I hold the baby?” and hold out our hands, and he would look at us and cling the more tightly to the mother. If we insist on taking him, he might utter a piercing cry that would say, “I do not know you; I do not know whether you love babies or not, but I know my mother’s love and can trust her.” And yet, what does the baby really know of the love of a mother? What does he understand about the reasons behind a mother’s love? But he enjoys it nevertheless. And so the youngest saint in Christ knows the love of the Savior, and the most mature saint is seeking to know in greater fullness that love that passeth knowledge.

Oh, the love of Christ is boundless,

Broad and long and deep and high!

Every doubt and fear is groundless,

Now the Word of faith is nigh.

Jesus Christ for our salvation,

Came and shed His precious blood;

Clear we stand from condemnation,

In the risen Son of God.

Then notice the last point in Paul’s prayer, “That ye might be filled [unto] all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). This is our enrichment. The King James version, “Filled with all the fulness of God,” is not totally accurate for you could not hold all the fullness of God. Solomon said, “Behold the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee” (1 Kings 8:27). Yet we read that He dwells in the heart of him that is humble and contrite. Walking by the seaside one time, someone touched on the real meaning of this word. He picked up one of the beautiful seashells and put it down in the sand where the water had ebbed for a moment or two. Then as they watched, the sea came rolling in and the shell was filled, and he said, “See! Filled unto all the fullness of the ocean.” So you and I as we live in fellowship with God may be filled unto His fullness. We are in Him and He is in us, and thus Paul’s prayer is answered.

And now notice the closing wonderful benediction of Paul’s prayer: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Does it say “Now unto him that is able to do above all we ask”? No, that is not enough. Is it, “Able to do abundantly above all that we ask”? That is not enough. Is it, “Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask?” No, still that does not reach the limit. “Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” You need not fear to come to God about anything.

Are you troubled about present circumstances? Have you availed yourself of the abundant resources of God? If your heart is right with God and you come to Him and make effective use of the power He has for you, you can be sure of a wonderful answer. “According to the power that worketh in us”-this is the divine energy that works through poor feeble creatures such as we are. “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” He is the One in whom God will find His pleasure throughout all eternity.






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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Ephesians 3:14. κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου, I bend my knees) If Paul had been present, he would have bent his knees with a breast kindling into a glow of devotion. Acts 20:36.— πατέρα) Its conjugate is πατριά.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament


CH. 3:14-21.

For this cause I bow my knees to the Father from whom every family in heaven and upon earth is named, in order that He may give to you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit to the inward man, that Christ may dwell through faith in your hearts; in order that, being rooted and foundationed in love, ye may be strong to apprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; in order that ye may be filled to all the fulness of God.

To Him that is able to do beyond all things abundantly beyond the things which we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, to all the generations of the age of the ages. Amen.

This section contains in Ephesians 3:14-19 a sublime prayer for the readers, consisting of three petitions, viz. Ephesians 3:16-17 and Ephesians 3:18-19 a and Ephesians 3:19 b, each leading up to the petition following; and in Ephesians 3:20-21 a doxology of praise to Him who is able to surpass in fulfilment our loftiest prayer or thought.

Ephesians 3:14-15. For which cause; takes up the same words in Ephesians 3:1, after the digression prompted by the latter part of Ephesians 3:1, and continues the line of thought there broken off. That the Christians at Ephesus who were once far off; are now (Ephesians 2:21-22) stones built into the rising walls of the temple of God, was prompting Paul in Ephesians 3:1, while in prison through his loyalty to their spiritual interests, to pray for them. But his prayer was delayed to make way for an account of his Apostolic commission for the Gentiles. This account he closes by an assertion that in Christ his readers and himself have confident access to God. He begs them not to lose heart through his persecutions; and declares that these, by revealing the grandeur of the grace of God, cover them with splendour. And now comes the postponed prayer, introduced by a repetition of the words of the broken-off sentence, for this cause: i.e. because of his readers’ confident access to God by faith and the glory which is theirs through the sufferings of Paul. Thus both § 7 and § 8 were prompted by the actual spiritual life of those to whom he writes.

Bow… knee: same phrase in Romans 11:4; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10 : slightly different from Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5. So intensely real, so deliberate and solemn, is Paul’s approach to God for his readers that even while writing he forgets his actual posture and says I bow my knees. He turns in prayer to the Father from whom etc.

Family: same word in Exodus 6:15, These are the families of the sons of Simeon; and in Numbers 1:16, leaders of the tribes according to their families, etc.

Every family in heaven: the various classes of angels, e.g. those mentioned in Ephesians 1:21. So in Job 1:6; Job 2:1 the sons of God can be no other than angels: and the word is so rendered by the LXX. They are sons of God as sharing, by derivation from Him, His moral and intellectual nature; not by adoption, which is always the reception of a stranger’s child, but by creation and continuance in the image of God.

Every family… on earth: Jews and Gentiles, or any other classes into which the race is divided. Not all men indiscriminately, but the adopted sons, according to Paul’s constant teaching: see under Romans 8:17. With the various families of heaven are associated, as children of one divine Father, families of adopted sons on earth. And, from the one Father, all these bear the same name: cp. Ephesians 1:21.

Notice that, in harmony with the exalted standpoint of the whole Epistle, when Paul approaches God in prayer his eye passes the limits of earth and sees other races sharing with himself a name which enables them to call God their Father. Thus the cry, My Father God, unites earth to heaven.

Ephesians 3:16-19. Contents of Paul’s prayer. It consists of three parts, Ephesians 3:16-17; Ephesians 3:18-19 a; Ephesians 3:19 b; each under the same conjunction, which represents the contents of the prayer as also its aim; in order that God may give… in order that ye may be strong… in order that ye may be filled.

Ephesians 3:16. In order that He may give to you: same words and sense in Ephesians 1:17.

The riches of His glory: the abundance of the splendour of God. Same words in Romans 9:23. Similarly Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 4:19. Conscious that the answer to his prayer will reveal the grandeur of God and thus evoke the admiration of men, and that there is in God an infinity of grandeur ready to reveal itself, Paul asks that this infinite grandeur may be the measure of the answer to his prayer.

Strengthened: fitted for the intellectual and moral effort and work and battle of the Christian life. Same word and sense in 1 Corinthians 16:13; Luke 1:80; Luke 2:40. It is practically the same as the similar word in Colossians 1:11; Philippians 4:13. This strengthening is to come by contact with divine power, which enters into us and makes us strong. Similar connection of thought in Colossians 1:11.

Through (or by means of) His Spirit: the Bearer of the presence and power of God. Same or similar words and same sense in Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 12:8; 2 Timothy 1:14.

The inward man: that in man which is furthest removed from the outer world and its influence, the secret chamber in which man’s personality dwells alone. Same words and sense in Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16. Paul prays that, by contact with the might of God and by the agency of the Holy Spirit, the inward Bearer to man’s spirit of all divine influences, divine strength may reach and fill this inmost chamber, making his readers strong indeed.

Ephesians 3:17. A clause exactly parallel to that preceding it.

Dwell: or make His home: same word in Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 11:9; Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:13. In Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11 and 1 Corinthians 3:16 cognate words describe the indwelling of the Spirit of God: cp. also 2 Corinthians 6:16 and Colossians 3:16.

In your hearts: the locality of spiritual life: same words and sense in Colossians 3:15-16; Romans 5:5; cp. Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 6:5; Galatians 4:6. The heart is the inmost chamber of our nature, whence come our thoughts, words, and actions: see under Romans 1:21. It is, therefore, practically identical with the inner man. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is the divine person through whose agency Christ dwells in man. For the coming of the other Helper is the coming of Christ to His disciples: John 14:18. Hence the indwelling of the Spirit is practically the indwelling of Christ: Romans 8:9-11; cp. Galatians 2:20. Now Christ has all power. Therefore, for Him to make His home in our heart, is for God to give us, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, the Bearer of the presence of Christ, a strength reaching to the inmost chamber of our being. Moreover, faith is the constant condition of the gift of the Spirit: Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:14. Consequently, it is through faith that Christ makes His home in our hearts. Thus each of these parallel clauses explains the other. This unexpected reference to faith is in complete accord with Ephesians 2:8, and with the importance everywhere given to faith in the theology of Paul as the means of salvation.

The above exposition is better than to take the indwelling of Christ as a result of the strengthening wrought by the Spirit; a connection of thought not found elsewhere. The presence of Christ in us is not a result, but a means, of the spiritual strength for which Paul prays.

Ephesians 3:18-19 a. Second petition of Paul’s prayer.

Love: to our fellows, as always when not otherwise defined: see under 1 Corinthians 13:1. It is a reflection in man of God’s love to man.

Rooted: same word and sense in Colossians 2:7.

Foundationed, i.e. placed upon a solid foundation: same word in Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 1:10; Matthew 7:25. Notice the double metaphor: a similar combination in Colossians 2:7. A man animated by Christian love has therein good soil in which his spiritual life may take firm hold and raise its head securely, and from which it may derive nourishment and growth. He has also a firm rock on which may rest and rise a solid structure of immoveable perseverance. Cp. 1 John 2:10. Where love does not reign, the Christian life is always unstable.

The above words may grammatically be joined either to those preceding or to those following. In the former case, they would further describe the state of those in whom Christ dwells: in the latter, they would state a condition needful in order to comprehend the love of Christ. The latter seems the more likely: so A.V. and R.V. For the strength implied in this root and foundation seems to lead up to the strength needful to comprehend etc. [This would also more easily explain the nominative participles, rooted and foundationed. For the construction, cp. 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10.] But the difference is slight. For Paul’s first petition, in Ephesians 3:16-17, leads up to the second as a means to an end; so that in any case the firmness developed by Christian love is a condition of the spiritual strength needful to comprehend the love of Christ.

That ye may etc.: immediate object of the second petition.

May-be-strong: an emphatic Greek word, found in the Greek Bible only here and Sirach vii. 6, denoting strength to carry us through and out of difficulty. It suggests the difficulty of comprehending the love of Christ.

Comprehend: same word and sense in Acts 4:13; Acts 10:34; Acts 25:25. It denotes firm mental grasp. And what Paul desires for his readers he desires for all the saints. This desire is prompted by remembrance that it is designed equally for all.

What is the breadth etc.: an indirect question suggesting wonder and adoring curiosity.

Breadth and length etc.: as though Paul attempted to measure the love of Christ in each direction, e.g. how wide is its compass, how far it will carry us, how high it will raise, and from what depth it will rescue. But these must not be taken as the intended distinction of the four dimensions. They are altogether indefinite, simply noting measurement in every direction. Cp. Job 11:7-9. What Paul desires his readers to comprehend, he does not in Ephesians 3:18 say, but interrupts his sentence to suggest its manysidedness and vastness. The matter to be grasped is stated in Ephesians 3:19 a.

To know: already implied in comprehend, but inserted for marked contrast to the words which follow.

The love of Christ: to us, revealed (2 Corinthians 5:15) in His death for all, and well known to Paul as a constraining power and as the ground (Galatians 2:20) of his faith in Christ.

Surpassing: as in Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 2:7 : passing all limits and all measurement; and doing this, as implied in Ephesians 3:18, in every direction. This love surpassing knowledge, Paul desires his readers to comprehend and to know. Nor was this an empty wish. For, though human knowledge cannot fathom it, a determined effort to fathom it ever leads to blessed result by revealing its immeasurable depth. Thus in a very real sense men may know that which in its fulness surpasses knowledge. The greatness and difficulty of this attempt to fathom the unfathomable prompted the emphatic word rendered may-be-strong. And, since this strength is possible only to those whose Christian life is made firm by, and draws nourishment from, love to their brethren, and rests upon this love as on a solid foundation, Paul prefaces this second petition by the words rooted and foundationed in love.

Ephesians 3:19 b. Third and culminating petition. Paul desires his readers (1) to be strengthened by the indwelling of Christ, in order that thus (2) they may know the love of Christ, and in order that thus finally (3) they may be filled etc.

Filled: made full or fully developed so as to attain the goal of their being. Fulness: result of being filled or fulfilled: see under Colossians 1:19. The fulness of God: either that with which God is Himself full or the fulness which He gives, filling others or working in them a realisation of the possibilities of their being. These senses are closely allied. For all good in man is an outflow of the eternal excellence of God. And only by being filled with blessing from God can we attain our own complete development. This divinely-given and full development is the measure and aim of the fulness with which Paul prays that his readers may be filled: to all the fulness of God. [The preposition εις has the same sense of a goal to be reached in Ephesians 4:13.] Such fulness leaves in man no aching void and no defect. It is God’s gift and is an impartation to man, according as he is able to contain it, of that infinite abundance in which every desire of the nature of God finds ever complete satisfaction.

Such is Paul’s prayer. It begins and ends with an appeal to the infinite wealth of God. This is, as he approaches the one Father of angels and men, the measure of his desire and his faith. For, to answer his prayer, will reveal the abundance of the splendour of God. His first petition is that his readers be strengthened by the agency of the Holy Spirit, even to the inmost chamber of their being: or, what is practically the same, that Christ may make His home in their hearts. He remembers that this inward presence of Christ is, like all Gospel blessings, through faith. This first petition is but a stepping stone to others greater. Paul desires that Christ may dwell in his readers’ hearts in order that by personal and inward contact with Him they may know the infinite greatness of His love. To form any worthy conception of this love, passes so completely all human intellectual power that before asking for this knowledge Paul prays that his readers may receive from the Spirit of God divine strength for this arduous spiritual task. And he reminds them that this strength needs the nourishment and support found in Christian love. He wishes them to measure in every direction the love of Christ, that the failure of their measurement may reveal a vastness which leaves behind the utmost limits of human and created thought. Yet even this is not the ultimate aim of Paul’s prayer. Knowledge, even of God, is but a means to a further end. Paul desires his readers to know in order that thus they may be made full, or rather that thus they may attain the goal of their being. And this goal is God Himself. He prays that, by the impartation of that fulness in which are realised the possibilities of God’s own nature, his readers may attain the satisfaction of every spiritual instinct and the aim of their being.

Ephesians 3:20. Rising by three successive stages, Paul has now reached the summit of his mighty prayer. Conscious of the greatness and difficulty of that for which he has asked, he remembers that the omnipotence of God passes infinitely all human word or thought. In this surpassing power of God his faith now takes refuge.

To Him that is able: cp. Romans 16:25; Judges 1:24. Paul has prayed that his readers be strengthened by the power of God so as to have strength to comprehend the surpassing love of Christ. He now appeals to the only source of this strength, the infinite power of God.

Beyond all things: passing all limits. This is further expounded by the parallel phrase, exceedingly beyond etc.

The things which we ask or think: specific details included in all things. God’s power to do goes not only beyond these but exceedingly beyond them.

Think: as in Romans 1:20 : a looking through things around to the realities underlying them. Of such mental sight, Paul is conscious: we think. His thoughts go beyond his prayers. But God’s ability to perform goes infinitely beyond both prayers and thoughts.

This appeal to the power of God to perform this great petition is in harmony with the truth that already His power is at work in His people’s hearts: according to the power which is at work in us. Close parallel of thought and expression in Ephesians 1:19-20. The power already at work in them, a power surpassing all word and thought of man, stimulates Paul’s faith that the great prayer just offered will be answered.

Glory: manifested grandeur evoking admiration. See under Romans 1:21. The infinite power of God assures Paul that his great prayer will be answered. He knows that the answer will be an outshining of the grandeur of God and will evoke the adoring admiration of His creatures. And this is his heartfelt desire: to Him be the glory.

In the Church: the human locality of this admiration. Only in the company of the saved is the grandeur of God recognised. To the outer and human sphere of this praise is now added its inner and divine sphere: and in Christ Jesus. A somewhat similar combination in Ephesians 1:3. Only through the historic facts of Christ and so far as we are inwardly united to Him do we recognise the grandeur of God.

The age of the ages: Hebrew superlative, like song of songs. Eternity is here represented as one superlative age; the one age in which all ages culminate. Slightly different in Galatians 1:5.

Generations: as in Ephesians 3:5. Since the men living together on earth are ever changing by death, this word receives sometimes a temporal sense. And Paul here projects into eternity the most conspicuous feature of our conception of time, viz. the passing by of successive generations. Even where generations cannot pass away, and where we cannot easily conceive fresh generations rising, Paul uses a term derived from human life on earth in order to describe in the clearest colours possible the endlessness of the song of praise which the manifested power of God will evoke: to all the generations of the age of the ages.

The mention of the Church in this endless song implies that it will itself endure for ever. This is also clearly implied in Ephesians 5:27. For the bride of the eternal King can never die. We may therefore conceive the glorified human race to continue for ever as a definite and glorious part of the Kingdom of God.

This doxology is the climax of the Epistle. Taking up his pen to write, the prisoner’s first thought is praise to God for blessings already given to his readers. All these he traces to their ultimate source in an eternal purpose of God, a purpose embracing the universe. In the spiritual life of the servants of Christ, the realisation of this purpose has already begun. This moves Paul to pray that his readers may know the infinite greatness of the power already at work in them. As a measure of it, he points to the power which raised Christ from the grave to the throne of God; and declares that spiritually they are already raised from the dead and seated with Christ in heaven. Having thus described their salvation from beneath upwards, Paul further describes it laterally as a bringing near those who were once far away from the people of God, and as a building together of Jews and Gentiles upon one foundation into one glorious temple.

All this moves Paul again to pray for his readers. But he delays his prayer, in view of the just-described union of Jews and Gentiles, to expound his own commission to the Gentiles. Like the blessings for which Paul gave thanks in his first outburst of praise, this commission also has its source in an eternal purpose; and is wider in its scope than the human race, embracing even angels in their successive ranks. The Apostle then, deliberately and solemnly, betakes himself to prayer. He prays to the Father of angels and of men; and appeals to the wealth of splendour ever waiting to reveal itself in Him. He prays that, by the agency of the Spirit and by the indwelling of Christ, his readers may receive, in the inmost chamber of their being, strength to grasp the immeasurable love of Christ, that thus by knowing that which passes knowledge they may themselves be made full to an extent measured by the fulness which God waits to give. The vastness of his prayer compels Paul to appeal to the all-surpassing power of God: and this power evokes from him a song of adoring praise. Thus from praise to prayer and prayer to praise, in the light of the eternal past and the eternal future and in view of a universe to be united under the sway of Christ, in stately and increasing grandeur, rolls forward this glorious anthem, till it culminates in a song of praise begun in the Church on earth but destined to continue through the successive periods of the age of ages.

Notice that each of the two prayers is dominated by thought of the power of God (Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 3:20) already working in Christians and able to work in them blessings beyond their utmost thought.

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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Joseph Beet's Commentary. 1877-90.

John Brown's Commentary on Selected Book of the Bible

John Brown

Ephesians 3

Equality in Christ


A. Last week, in Chapter2of Ephesians we took a look at the Lord"s "Never Ending Grace."

1. And although the Apostle Paul was speaking specifically to Gentiles, we saw how the cross has united us all into one body and as verse19 puts it, we "are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God".

2. Tonight Paul continues that discussion by explaining the equality that the Gentiles had in Christ.

a) Of course, the Jews didn"t feel that the Gentiles were equal.

(1) You know, bigotry and hatred can make you "blind".

(a) Not necessarily physically, but spiritually blind.

(b) It can keep you from "seeing" things the way the Lord does.

(c) The Jews, because of their bigotry and hatred couldn"t fathom that the Lord would allow "those Gentile dogs" the same grace that he did them!!!

(d) But Paul wants to reassure the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they were every bit equal!

b) Let"s take a look.


A. Ephesians 3:1 (NKJV) For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles--

1. Paul starts with his explanation of equality based upon the previous Chapter of God"s grace.

a) That is why he starts the verse with "For this reason."

(1) In other words, "Based upon the reasons already stated!"

b) As he makes this statement about being in prison, he feels the need to explain to the Ephesian believers why he is a prisoner!

(1) No doubt, he felt that they would be stumbled with "why" the Lord would allow Paul to suffer as a prisoner in Rome, and ultimately die a martyr"s death.

(a) You see, even back then, there were those who believed in the "prosperity doctrine".

(i) "If Paul is a Christian and the Lord is on his side, then what is he doing in prison?"

(ii)"After all, Christians are supposed to live in perfect health, and wealth, aren"t they?"

(2) Song of Solomon, he digresses until verse14, where he picks up his original thought and purpose.

2. Please notice that Paul does not consider himself a prisoner of Rome!

a) He is the prisoner of Christ Jesus!

(1) He is helping them to deal with his trial the way he deals with it.

(a) He want them to see it the way he does!

(b) And Paul sees this as God"s work!

3. Then he tells them that his imprisonment was at least in part for their glory.

a) You see, if he hadn"t preached that the Gentiles were "equal" to the Jews, he probably wouldn"t be in prison.

(1) They would let him get by with just about anything but saying that the Gentiles were equal to the Jew!!!!!

b) Song of Solomon, he starts his digression:

B. if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,

3how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,

4by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:

6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,

7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

1. The word "dispensation" in verse2means = "stewardship."

a) In other words, Paul had been given a "stewardship " to preach grace to the Gentiles!

b) He tells the Ephesians that this "mystery" had been withheld prior to the cross, but had now been revealed to the Apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit.

c) And that he was called by the Lord to deliver that message.

(1) Also that he had been vested with a certain amount of spiritual power to enforce this message with signs and wonders done among the Gentiles.

C. (NKJV) To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

9 and to make all see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly [places],

11according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

1. Paul is overwhelmed to think that he has been called to be a part of all this!

a) To tell the Gentiles about the Lord"s unsearchable riches.

(1) Which God had kept hidden since the beginning of time, in order to reveal it during Paul"s life.

(2) He got to participate in making it known to the church the amazing grace that came with Jesus!

(a) The cross was and Isaiah, the great "equalizer!"

(b) And now, any believer can have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him!

D. Ephesians 3:13 (NKJV) Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

1. Paul love these believers and doesn"t want them to be stumbled because of his imprisonment!

2. He reminds them that with all this in view, they should glory in his tribulations knowing what it represents and Whom is behind it all!

E. Ephesians 3:14 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. As far as Paul is concerned, he will gladly submit to such a noble calling!

a) Even if it meant imprisonment and death!

F. (NKJV) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner Prayer of Manasseh,

17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height--

19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

1. Paul prays that they will be strengthened in faith and that the Lord will give them the ability to understand this awesome truth.

2. illustrates that truth even further! But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

10 who once [were] not a people but [are] now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

3. And then, Paul closes with a prayer:

G. (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

21to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

1. He reminds them that although he is in prison, it doesn"t in any way diminish God"s power.

2. He is still Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!

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Brown, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". John Brown's Commentary on Selected Books of the Bible.

John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians

(Ephesians 3:14.) τούτου χάριν κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου—“For this cause I bow my knees.” The attitude, which Kant has ventured to call einen knechtischen (servile) Orientalismus, is described instead of the act, or, as Calvin says-a signo rem denotat. The phrase is followed here by πρός-but by a simple dative in Romans 11:4; while γονυπετεῖν has an accusative in Matthew 17:14; Mark 1:40; Mark 10:17. This compound and γονυκλινεῖν represent in the Septuagint the Hebrew כָּרַע, H4156. The posture is the instinctive expression of homage, humility, and petition: the suppliant offers his worship and entreaty on bended knee. 2 Chronicles 6:13; Psalms 95:6; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5. See Suicer's Thesaurus, sub voce γονυκλισία. He does not simply say, “I pray,” adds Chrysostom- ἀλλὰ τὴν κατανενυγμένην δέησιν ἐδήλωσεν. τούτου χάριν is repeated from Ephesians 3:1, “Because ye are inbuilt in the spiritual temple.” I bow my knees-

πρὸς τὸν πατέρα—“toward the Father.” Winer, § 49, h. The genitives, τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾿ιησοῦ χριστοῦ, of the common text are pronounced by many critics to be spurious. That there was an early variation of reading is evident from Jerome's note-non ut in Latinis codicibus additum est, ad Patrem Domini nostri Jesu Christi, sed simpliciter ad Patrem, legendum. The words are wanting in A, B, C, and some of the Patristic citations, are omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf, and rejected by Rückert, Harless, Olshausen, Meyer, Stier, Ellicott, and Alford. In this opinion we are now inclined to concur. Still the words are found in other Codices, and those of no mean authority, such as D, E, F, G, I, K, etc. They occur, too, in the Syriac and Vulgate, are not disowned by the Greek fathers Chrysostom and Theodoret, and they are retained by Knapp, Scholz, Tittmann, and Hahn, and vindicated by de Wette. The evidence for them is strong, but not conclusive. They may have been interpolated from the common formula, and their insertion weakens the rhythmical connection between πατέρα and the following πατριά. The question is yet somewhat doubtful. The object of Paul's prayer is the Father-the universal Father-

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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

For this cause — Resuming the thread of Ephesians 3:1, “For this cause.” Because ye have such a standing in God‘s Church [Alford].

bow my knees — the proper attitude in humble prayer. Posture affects the mind, and is not therefore unimportant. See Paul‘s practice (Acts 20:36); and that of the Lord Himself on earth (Luke 22:41).

unto the Father — The oldest manuscripts omit “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But Vulgate and some very old authorities retain them: Ephesians 3:15, “From whom,” in either case, refers to “the Father” ({Patera}), as “family” ({patria}, akin in sound and etymology) plainly refers to Him. Still the foundation of all sonship is in Jesus Christ.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

For this cause - resuming Ephesians 3:1, "For this cause." Because ye are so loved and favoured by God.

Bow my knees - the proper attitude in prayer. Posture affects the mind, and is therefore not unimportant. See Paul's practice, Acts 20:36; and that of the Lord Himself, Luke 22:41.

Unto the Father. Delta G f g, Vulgate, support, but 'Aleph (') A B C, Origen, omit, "of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 3:15, 'From whom,' in either case, refers to "the Father" ( Patera (Greek #3962)), as "family" ( patria (Greek #3965), akin in etymology) refers to Him. Still, the foundation of sonship is in Jesus Christ.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary


At the beginning of this chapter, Paul is about to exhort the church in a practical application of the doctrine he had expounded. Indeed, he has gotten as far as, “For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of .Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,” when the divine impulse leads him to digress. This digression, covering the remainder of the chapter, is an explanation of the special ministry given him for the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:2-4). This ministry was a “mystery” unrevealed in the Old Testament, for the reference to the “prophets” in Ephesians 3:5 means the New Testament prophets particularly Paul himself. That the apostle is not referring merely to the gospel of salvation is clear because that was no “mystery” (Romans 9:24-33; Romans 10:19-21).

What he is referring to is (Ephesians 3:6), “that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body,” i.e., the body of Christ, the church, of which he has been speaking. This unique “body” was a mystery “hid in God” from the beginning of the world (Ephesians 3:9), whose revelation at this time was for the purpose stated in Ephesians 3:10. That verse shows the church to be

“the lesson-book for the angels.” They had seen God’s ways in creation, and at the deluge, and in Israel, but here is something that not even the Scriptures had hinted at, that was never promised in the Old Testament, something kept entirely secret between the Father and the Son.


Some conception of the nature and greatness of this truth thus revealed, may be gathered from the prayer that follows. As that in chapter 1 was for spiritual enlightenment, this is for spiritual strength. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” the apostle says in another place, and earthen vessels break easily, and are unable to stand too great a strain. To contain such a truth, we need the aid of the Holy Spirit, hence the language of verses 16-19. The prayer in chapter 1 was for a deep and real apprehension of their standing before God; here, it is rather for practical, inward power, by the Holy Ghost. In a word, it is here a question of actual state, of the affections having Christ within, of being rooted and grounded in love, that they might be thoroughly able (for so it means), to lay hold of that which is indeed measureless. The apostle does not say what it is of which they are to lay hold, for Ephesians 3:18 has no ending. It brings you into infinity. It can be nothing else, indeed, than the grandeur of that “mystery” of the believer’s oneness with Jesus Christ. All things are for the glory of the Son, and the saints in Him are to have the very highest place with him over all.

Hence the ascription (Ephesians 3:20-21). In this, He does not say above all that we can ask or think, but all that we do ask or think. We can ask more than we do ask, because of “the power that worketh in us,” i.e., power of God. In chapter 1, we saw the power of God working for us; here, we see it working in us. In chapter 1, it raised us from the dead; here, it gives us entrance into his love and fulness. No wonder the grateful apostle exclaims, “Unto Him be glory!”


1. What is the literary character of chapter 3?

2. What is the nature of this digression?

3. What is meant by the “mystery”?

4. What is the subject of this prayer in comparison with that in chapter 1?

5. What added thought have we here concerning the Divine power in relation to the believer?

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910.

Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books

Now, let's look at this prayer just briefly for a moment. In : "For this cause"— because the purpose of God had been made known to Paul and to you and to me through His word, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," and then he goes on to make his request.

May I suggest, to whet your appetites for the prayer of Paul, that you go back over the first two chapters, to read and reread and think and meditate upon what we have said about the revelation of the church, the riches of His grace, the riches of His glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ, the riches of His mercy, access into the presence of God, one with Him in His purpose, in His counsel. And then, what do you find?

"For this cause—" because the purpose of God in Christ in the church is going to be consummated and completed in spite of all the attacks of men and hell.

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

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

In other words, it produced worship and praise and adoration and thanksgiving. My friend, when you see these truths, do your knees bow before Him? Do you bow your head and bow your heart in the presence of God and thank Him and worship Him? To think that God should pick up you and me and transform us into children of God and that through us He's going to display His grace and His wisdom through the countless ages of eternity.

To think that you and I can come into His presence and as Revelation 22:4 says, "And they shall see His face." And when we see Him, we're going to be just like Him for we shall see Him as He is. Does it drive you to your knees? For this cause, says Paul, I bow my knees unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing today if you and I would spend a little time in the presence of God and bow our knees before Him and thank Him for His mercy and rejoice in the riches of His mercy, in the riches of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. Let us magnify Him today in our lives by our words, by our actions, that we might reveal something to our present generation of the wonderful, wonderful grace of God.

Oh, the Lord bless you today, and may you come into His presence with confidence, having access through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Did you ever stop to think of it, that we are His by creation? That we are His by right of redemption?

"Well, Mr. Mitchell, don't you believe that every person is a member of the family of God?"

No, no. "The whole family in heaven and earth is named." That doesn't take everybody in. Galatians 3:26 says, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." John 1:12 says, "But as many as received him gave he the power (to them He gives the right) to become the sons of God." Romans 8:14 says, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." 1 John 3:1, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons (children) of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not."

No, the only ones who are really the children of God are those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ—"To as many as received HIM"—to them God gives the right to become His children, nobody else—not to those born of flesh and blood, but to those born of the Spirit of God, born of God.

You see, again I want to make it very clear to you; there's no such thing in the scriptures as the common fatherhood of God and the common brotherhood of man. Jesus didn't teach that. Jesus didn't even come to bring that into being. He could say in John 8:44; John 8:42, to the Jews of His day, "You are of your father the devil. If God were your Father, you would believe in me."

The Apostle John, writing of this in his epistle (), said, "In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil." In the second chapter of Ephesians, you remember, Paul speaks of those "who were children of wrath like the rest." No, those who are the children of God are those who have come to God, who have been brought into relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. And when he speaks here of the "whole family in heaven and earth is named," he's talking about the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and everyone who is in Christ. There are a great many in heaven who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and there are a great many on earth who belong to the same Saviour, redeemed by His precious blood. They've been brought into relationship with Christ.

I remember dear Dr. Bach, who at one time, in fact, for many years was the head of the Evangelical Alliance Mission. One day he was in my home, and he put his arm around me and said, "Brother, what did the Apostle Paul mean when he spoke in Ephesians, ‘Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named'?"

"Well," I said, "Brother Bach, I think you'd better tell me. You're asking me; but I think you want to tell me, don't you?"

He kind of smiled and said, "You know, (and by the way, Mr. Bach at that time was seventy-some years of age and was having quite a bit of heart trouble and was very frail) it's just like this, the family in heaven is saying, ‘Brother Bach, come home;' and the family on earth is saying, ‘Brother Bach, stay here.' Now what can a fellow do?"

And I said, "Well, I think you, dear fellow, better go back and lie down and get some rest." I always enjoy that because it reveals the fact that there is a family in heaven and a family on earth. We belong to the same family.

Those who have put their trust through past centuries, having put their trust in the Saviour, are with their Lord today; that's the family in heaven. And we on earth who have put our trust in the Saviour, we are part of His family here on earth. And Paul here says,

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

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

That's why I say, to those of us who are saved, we are in the family of God; we are His by right of creation, and we are His especially by right of redemption.

Now note, first, to whom he is praying. So many of God's people direct their prayers to "Jesus," saying, "Dear Jesus." He was "Jesus" as He walked this earth. Following the resurrection, our Prince and our Saviour has become the "Lord Jesus." True, He is our Advocate, our Intercessor, and we may pray to Him as "Lord." But as you listen, you will find mature believers are praying to "the Father."

And now we come to the prayer of Paul, starting in Ephesians 3:16, and I'll take up the very first thing, the first request. You'll notice, if I might be allowed to do this, in Ephesians 3:16, the first request is that he would according to the riches of his glory be "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man."

The second request is that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.

The third request is that we might be rooted and grounded in love; we might be able to comprehend "what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."

The fourth request is "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." And then verse20 tells us how it's going to be accomplished.

Bibliographical Information
Mitchell, John G. D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books".

Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books

And starting in at verse14of chapter3, and running down to the end of the chapter, we have here before us this second prayer of Paul. You remember in the first chapter, we had his prayer for knowledge, that we might know the purpose of God, that we might know the riches of the glory of His inheritance, that we might know what is the hope of His calling, that we might know what is the greatness of His power to usward who believe. That power was manifested in resurrection and exaltation. This is the first chapter, his first prayer.

Now when you come to the third chapter, the second prayer covers the truth of the first three chapters. The first prayer in the first chapter covers the question of knowledge of redemption; likewise, when we come to the third chapter, his second prayer is a prayer for strength and fellowship.

Allow me to read it to you, verse14:

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

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

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

Ephesians 3:18. May be able to comprehend (to lay hold of) with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and the depth, and height;

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 3:20. 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 3:21. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end (or unto the ages of the ages of the ages). Amen.

Bibliographical Information
Mitchell, John G. D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books".

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

God"s Ability

Ephesians 3:20

The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, expresses himself with a redundance of thankfulness and appreciation which shows the wonderful depth and richness of his nature. He does not mete out his words as if by constraint. He lavishes his heart upon his theme, and, with holy impatience, he urges word upon word, description upon description, that he may give some faint hint at least of the sublimity by which he is dazzled, and of the joy which lifts him almost to heaven. In this chapter we find such expressions as these:—"The unsearchable riches of Christ," "the manifold riches of God," "the riches of his glory," "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Never was language so inadequate to express the thought which inspired his mind, and which threw his heart into ecstasies of inconceivable and unutterable delight. The Christian mediation seemed constantly to enlarge upon the vision of the Apostle. It was never to him a diminishing quantity. Every day he saw in the scheme of the Christian redemption some new point of light—felt in it some new pulse of eternal love. Hence it is a most stimulating and instructive study to follow the intellectual and spiritual development of Paul, to find how he grew in grace and knowledge and Wisdom of Solomon,—yet how at the very last he said, "I count not myself to have attained." Beyond the giddy peak on which he stood there were sublimer heights, and he pressed towards the Mark, if haply he might scale those glittering, heavenly steeps. In the text he seemed utterly at a loss to express the fulness of his conception of the grandeur, the riches, the Wisdom of Solomon, the power, and the love of God. We shall miss the force of these words unless we understand the prayer, in connection with which they were uttered.

The Apostle does not give this text as I have given it, namely, as a detached sentence. It is the culmination of a statement; it is something that comes after a serious, anxious effort, which he himself has made; and we must look into the preliminary statement if we would know how Paul was dazzled, overwhelmed, made speechless, by the infinite capacity of God to transcend all mortal prayer and all finite imagination. The Apostle has been uttering a prayer which reads thus:—

"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask]. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask]. That ye, being rooted and grounded in love [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask], may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask], that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask].

Perhaps this may be difficult of realisation to some minds. I must therefore set it in a lower light. Suppose that a number of petitioners should go to the legislature with a petition worded thus: "We humbly pray your honourable house to do everything for the nation, to take infinite care of it, to let the affairs of the nation tax your attention day and night, and lavish all your resources upon the people." Suppose that a petition like that should be handed into the House of Commons, what would be the fate of it? It would be laughed down, and the only reason, the only good reason, why the petitioners should not be confined to Bedlam would be, lest their insanity should alarm the inmates. That is not a petition. It is void by generality; by referring to all it misses everything. We must specify what we want when we go to the legislature. We must state our case with clearness of definition, and with somewhat of argument. If it be so in our social, political prayers, shall we go to Almighty God with a vagueness which means nothing, with a generality which makes no special demand upon his heart? Read the text in the light of the gospel, and you will see the fulness of its glory, so far as it can be seen by mortal vision. Ask anything of God, and I am prepared to quote these words of the text in reply. What will you ask? Let us in the first instance ask what we all want—whatever may be our condition, age, circumstances. Let us ask for pardon. Is your prayer, God forgive my sins? Now you may apply the Apostle"s words: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask."

You cannot conceive God"s notion of pardon. You have an idea of what you mean by forgiveness; but when you have exhausted your own notion of the term forgiveness, you have not shown the Divine intent concerning the soul that is to be forgiven. When God forgives, he does not merely pardon, barely pardon,—he does not by some great straining effort of his love, just come within reach of the suppliant, and lay upon his heart the blessing which is besought. He pardons with pardons! When he casts our sins away, it is not into a shallow pool, it is into the depths of the sea; when he throws it away, it is not on one side, it is behind him. Will you arithmeticians measure the distance which is meant by behind the infinite? When God takes a man"s sins away from him, he puts them as far from him as the east is from the west. Can you tell how far the east is from the west? It is an expression that is often upon your lips. Have you ever measured the distance? You cannot; it is an immeasurable line. Song of Solomon, when God comes to pardon us, he pardons with pardons, with pardons again and again, wave upon wave, until we say, "Thou hast done exceeding abundantly above all that we ask." The finite can never grasp the infinite, and our poor mortal capacities cannot hold God"s idea of pardon. We have, thank God, some notion of forgiveness; but not until you yourself have entered personally into the mystery of this forgiveness, can you understand or have any hint of the depth of the sea into which God has cast the sins of which we have repented.

What will you ask for now? Ask for sanctification. Is your prayer, Sanctify me, body, soul, and spirit? Then I once more quote the Apostle"s text: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." What is your notion of sanctification? You have thought about it: it is soon exhausted. When you leave reason and get into the region of fancy, your imagination soon wearies, and the description which you give of holiness is after all a negative description. When I read of God"s holiness, I read of holiness that is glorious. God is said to be glorious in holiness. Do you understand the emphasis of that redundance? Holiness would have been a great word to have uttered concerning him, but when you add glorious in holiness—

We know the meaning of innocence; we know what is implied by the terms "not guilty"; we can describe negatively a high condition of character. But God"s notion of sanctification! When we have made our notion of sanctification clear and plain he sets his own holiness beside it, and in contrast our purity of development, and our sublimest moral acquisitions become corrupt in the presence of the blazing glory of the divine purity. This is our destiny, if so be we are in Jesus Christ. Holiness is not something we can describe with sufficiency of terms. It is not a quantity we can see in its completeness. We cannot walk round about it and say, This is the limit thereof. There is always another ray of splendour which we have not seen, and a brighter beam of the ineffable effulgence which has not yet struck upon our vision. So when we ask God to sanctify us, we are to remember that "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."

Now, if this be Song of Solomon, it ought to stimulate us in all saintly progress, to inspire us in the study of divine truth, to recover our jaded energies, and tempt, lure, and draw us by the mighty compulsion of inexhaustible reward. This is the peculiar glory of Christian study, that it does not exhaust the student. His weakness becomes his strength. At sunset he is stronger than at sunrise; because Christian study does not tax any one power of the mind unduly. It trains the whole being, the imagination, the fancy, the will, the emotion; lifts up the whole nature equally, with all the equability of complete power,—not by snatches and spasms of strength, but with the sufficiency, breadth, and compass of power which sustains the balance always. This ought to rebuke those of us who imagine that we have finished our Christian education. I believe there are some persons in the world who are under the impression that they have finished God"s book. They say they have "read it through." There is a poor sense in which it may be read through; but there is a deeper, truer sense in which we can never get through the Book of God. It is an inexhaustible study,—new every day, like morning light. You have seen splendour before, but until this morning you never saw this light. So it is with this great wonderful Book of God in the study of it God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. The hoariest-headed student who has spent his days in study, and his nights in prayer, will be the first and most emphatic to declare, that the more he has dwelt upon the wonderfulness of God"s Revelation, the more and more wonderful it has become to all the highest powers of his nature.

Here then is a stimulus, a spur to progress, a call to deeper study. We think we have attained truth. We have not attained all that is meant by the word truth. No man who knows himself and who knows God will say that he has been led into all the chambers of God"s great palace of truth. This is the sign of progress; this is the charter of the profoundest humility. The more we know the less we know. We see certain points of light here and there, but the great unexplored regions of truth stretch mile on mile, beyond all our power to traverse the wondrous plain. How is it with us to-day then? Are we fagged men, exhausted students? Do we sit down under the impression that there is nothing more to be known? If we have that idea, let us seek to renew our strength and to recover our inspiration by the word,—"He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." There are attainments we have not made, depths we have not sounded, and heights, oh, heights! We can but look up and wonder, expect, adore. If this be Song of Solomon, we ought to look calmly, with a feeling of chastened triumph, upon all hindrances, difficulties, and obstacles in the way of Christ"s kingdom upon the earth. We may look at these in relation to our own puny strength, and quail before them. We are not to depend upon our own resources, but upon God"s, in attempting the removal of everything that would intercept the progress of his kingdom in the world. There is a great mountain: I cannot beat it down, all the instruments I can bring to bear upon it seem utterly powerless. But God touches the mountains and they smoke. The Alps, the Apennines, the Pyrenees, and great Himalayas, shall go up like incense before him, and his kingdom shall have a smooth uninterrupted way. There are combinations which I cannot disentangle: conspiracies of the heathen against God and his Song of Solomon, political conspiracies, social combinations, of which I can make nothing as a poor solitary worker. I can but kneel down before them and pray God to show the greatness of his strength. In a peculiar manner he will touch the reason of such conspirators, and they will become jabbering maniacs in a moment. Sometimes he will touch the speech of such conspirators, and they will not understand what they are saying to one another. Sometimes in passing by, he will touch the earth with his finger: silently it will open and swallow them up.

I say, in my hours of weakness, Yonder is a stone which I cannot remove. If I could get clear of that obstacle all would be right; but the stone is heavy, the stone is sealed, the stone is watched. What can I do? I go up the hill wearily, almost hopelessly, and behold! the stone is rolled away, and on the obstacle there sits the angel of God. "Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" What then is our Christian hope about the world? Look at ministers, at missionaries, at Sunday-school teachers; look at writers, and at all the efforts made for the progress of divine truth upon the earth. Then, on the other hand, look at all the Paganism that remains unsubdued; at the idol temples which debase and corrupt the world; look at all the institutions that live upon the badness of the human heart! You say, the instrumentality is not equal to the work. You are right. The straw cannot beat the mountain into flying dust. The hand of man cannot crumble the great gigantic bulwarks behind which error has entrenched itself. You are quite right. But God hath chosen the weak things to throw down the mighty. It is not the straw that does it; it is the hand that wields it. Shakespeare dips his pen into the ink and writes "Hamlet." I take up the same pen, dip into the same ink, but I cannot write "Hamlet." It is not the pen that does it; it is the writer. It is not the little instrumentality; it is the God who is able to do, and who has done, exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. It is therefore because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, that we now expect to triumph over the world, and speak of all nations as if they belonged to the Son of God. If the doctrine of the text be true, then it should fill all bad men with terror. We should regard this text as a two-sided text We are always accustomed to regard it as affording comfort to the Christian heart, strength to the toiling pilgrim who moves heavenward day by day. The text does supply all that is needful for the encouragement and strength of such. But it has a tremendous back-stroke. The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword—mighty for the gaining of victories, but terrible to those who feel its cutting power.

You have a certain notion of hell. We cannot tell what is meant by that awful word. We speak of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. But what do we know about the words which involve so much? We cannot tell what is meant by everlasting punishment. Modify the doctrine of hell as you will,—dilute the term "everlasting punishment" as you like,—avail yourselves of all the resources of etymology to the furthest possible extent, that you may reduce the limit and application of certain words;—when you have done all, it must remain a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! There are moments that are eternities. It is the nature of all pain to have itself described as an everlasting punishment. Inflict some wound upon yourself now, and the next hour will feel as if it were a day: you feel as if it would never, never pass away. It is of the nature of punishment to force itself upon the sufferer as everlasting penalty. Joy hath wings. Joy filling the hour, the hour flies away, and we say, It cannot be gone already! Yes, already! Yes. It is there we read the meaning of the words "eternal life." Do not let us imagine that because we may have this notion, or that peculiar or heterodox exception, about the punishment that awaits the sinner, that therefore we have diluted the notion to nothing. When we have done our utmost in that direction, God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we think. The oppressor says, "Well, if it has come to this I am prepared to bear it." No, you are not prepared to bear it! When I say it is this, I use human words in a human sense; but when God says it is this, I cannot tell all his meaning. When the poor man who has twelve shillings a week says that a certain person is rich, that is one meaning of the word rich. When the man who has ten thousand pounds a year speaks of the same individual, perhaps he might say he is poor. So words have different meanings as used by different persons. Every man must be his own dictionary. You must look at the speaker before you can understand some speeches. You must look at the etymologist before you can understand the etymology. So when God says he will utterly destroy the wicked, remember that it is God who says Song of Solomon, and do not measure the word by your poor lexicography.

It may be difficult for some minds to follow the argument out spiritually; we must therefore descend to illustration. Here is a very clever artist, who has made a beautiful thing he brings before us, and we gather round it and say, "It is most exquisitely done. What is this, sir?" "That," replies the artist, "is my notion of a flower, and I am going to call that flower a rose." "Well, it is a beautiful thing,—very graceful, and altogether beautifully executed: you are very clever." So he Isaiah, and now that exhausts his notion of the rose. But let God just hand in a full-blown rose from the commonest garden in the world, and where is your waxen beauty? Underneath every leaf is written, "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Let him just send the sweet spring morning in upon us, with the first violet, and all your artificial florists, if they have one spark of wit left, will pick up their goods and go off as soon as possible. "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." The meanest insect that flutters in the warm sunlight is a grander thing than the finest marble statue ever chiselled by the proudest sculptor.

Now we are going to have a very festive day. We are going to pluck flowers and fashion them into arches, and we shall make our arches very high, very beautiful,—and, so far as the flowers go, they are most gorgeously and exquisitely beautiful. We have put up the wires; we have festooned these wires, and we say, "Now, is not that very beautifully done?" and of course, we who always drink the toast, "Our noble selves," say, Yes. But God has only to take a few rain-drops and strike through them the sunlight, and where are your paste-board arches and your skilful working! "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." Fellow-students in this holy mystery, believe me, as in nature, so in the higher kingdom of grace. As in matter he surpasses all your sculptors, and is in all schools infinitely superior to men, so in the revelation of truth to the heart, in the way of redeeming man from sin, in the way of sanctifying fallen corrupt human nature,—all your theorists and speculators, all your plaster dealers and social reformers, and philanthropic regenerators, must get out of the way as artificial florists when God comes to us with the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valley.

Then, let us leave all inferior teachers and go straight to the Master himself. We have to deal with sin, and the only answer to sin, which answer is comprehended in one word, is the Cross. God"s foolishness is better than our wisdom. God"s weakness is infinitely superior to our strength. " Hosea, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." If you choose to make your own cisterns, broken cisterns, to hold no water, you may do so. Let others of us say, As for us and our house, we will go—poor, guilty, heart-thirsty sinners as we are—to the fountain of living waters, and if we perish, we will pray and perish only there! No dead man was ever found at that fountain. No dead man was ever found with his hand on the Cross,—with his lips at the well of life.


Almighty God, do thou give unto us the spirit of hearing. Give us a wise and understanding heart, that nothing of the good seed of thy Word maybe lost upon us; may we return abundantly for thy goodness. Herein art thou glorified, Father of us all, that we bear much fruit. But how can we bear fruit except we abide in the Vine? Christ is the Vine, we are the branches: as the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine, neither can we bear fruit except we abide in Christ. May we know this by the teaching of thy Holy Spirit, and may our one desire be for deeper, more vital union with the Son of God. We bless thee it we bear any fruit at all. This is the Lord"s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Help us to be fruitful unto all good works. Keep back thy servants from presumptuous sins; say to each of us in the time of conscious power and elevation, Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe; encompass our souls; for one moment do not leave us to ourselves, or in that moment the enemy will overpower us and bring us to ruin. That we may abide in thy Word, do thou minister unto us constantly by the Holy Spirit. May he abide with us, may he love to be in our hearts as in living temples: every day may he take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, in new lights, in new aspects; the same truth, but with a new beauty, by reason of the ministry of the Eternal Spirit. Thou knowest the perilous road of life: O Christ, thou hast gone before us, thou didst go to the Cross. There is not an affliction which we feel thou dost not understand better than we do; every temptation thou hast encountered. We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are. Thou knowest our frame, thou rememberest that we are but dust. Art not thou the Shepherd of the universe? Wilt thou not gather the lambs in thy bosom? Wilt thou not protect the helpless more and more? Say yes to our heart"s burning cry, and we shall attempt the world again with a new energy and a new hope. Amen.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ephesians 3:1. Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ. He was indeed the prisoner of Caesar, but a greater than Cæsar had said to him in the castle at Jerusalem, “Be of good cheer, Paul, for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23, 11. My bonds therefore prove that Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. The kings of the earth, who thought to do me harm, are overruled to be my protectors.

Ephesians 3:2. If ye have heard of the dispensation [economy] of the grace of God which is given to me, to call the gentiles, though uncircumcised, into the fold and family of Christ. He doubted not but they had heard, having long preached in Ephesus, and the provinces of proconsular Asia. But the words imply, if you have fully been informed and believed in this economy of the grace of God; and as multitudes were now crowding into the church, the more recent christians had need to be reminded of it.

Ephesians 3:3-4. How that by revelation he made known to me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words. He wrote the same to the Galatians: Galatians 1:12. But though many short letters of the apostle may possibly be lost, the holy scriptures give us this mystery without impairs.

Ephesians 3:5. Which in other ages was not made known — as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. He here avows that the Hebrew prophets were inspired by the Spirit to speak of Christ, and preach the doctrines of the gospel to the ancient church; but that God, in conformity to the scheme of gradual revelation, had now made known the truth in more luminous characters; truths of unspeakable value, as regarding the full birthright of the gentiles to the glorious liberty of the children of God. Romans 8:21.

Ephesians 3:8. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints. The apostle speaks of himself with similar sentiments of self-abasement in other passages. 1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Timothy 1:11-15. Grotius remarks the ελαχστερον is a comparison made of the superlative degree, and he quotes seven examples of the use of the word from the poets. Paul’s heart was ever touched, that he should be selected as the first of apostles, to publish this enlarged revelation, and to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; the riches of divine wisdom and knowledge, which none of the princes of this world knew, neither the philosophers of Grecian schools. The mysteries and purposes of grace were indeed hidden in the Father’s bosom before the foundation of the world, to give his Son as an atoning sacrifice, to reconcile us to God. These are not the devices of human wisdom, but the doctrines of the gospel of the blessed God, publishing full forgiveness to rebels of every class, adoption for aliens, the glory of sanctifying grace to supersede all the impurity of our nature, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit conferred according to the riches of his glory, thrones for sinners raised from the dust, eternal life in the enjoyment of the kingdom that cannot be moved.

Ephesians 3:10. Principalities and powers in heavenly places. The Greek, epourania, is translated by Tertullian, supercœlestibus, and followed by Jerome. It occurs also in Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6. It is here understood of angels who fill the thrones of heaven. It is a mistake to apply the text to princes, for their souls are not better than the poor, and they were the last to listen to the gospel. Saints are by the redemption raised to angelic rank, and have the promise of thrones and crowns in the kingdom of their Father.

Ephesians 3:12-13. In whom we have boldness and access. Freedom of speech in prayer, and the privilege to enjoy all the blessings consequent on embracing the Saviour. And I give you, as if the apostle had said, this cup of consolation, while weeping for my bonds, that you faint not.

Ephesians 3:14-15. For this cause, and that you may enjoy the plenitude of sanctifying grace, the best support under afflictions, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fountain of deity and the source of love. Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, for he is Lord of all: Ephesians 1:20-23. This form of speech teaches us that God cannot be invoked except through Jesus Christ, as is often noted by the fathers. Christ is here understood, in whom the Godhead is adored. Believers are called by his name, angels are his worshippers, and thrones, dominions, and powers are put under him.

Ephesians 3:16. That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory. Other forms are used of equivalent import, as, according to his mercy, to his abundant mercy, and according to the fulness of the promises, which we are authorized to interpret in the largest sense; for “as is his majesty, so is his mercy.”

Ephesians 3:17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Dwell in you as his living temple, conformably to the promise in John 14:23, where the Father and Son engage to come and make his abode with those that keep his word. The religion of such shall be constant as a stream, firm as a building, or flourishing as a tree rooted in a genial soil; for “they who are planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Christ in all his graces, and in all the habitudes of the christian temper, is formed in the heart, the hope of glory.

Ephesians 3:18. Able to comprehend [apprehend, as the same word is rendered in Philippians 3:12] with all saints. Jehovah comprehends all, but none can comprehend him. The soul of Paul was so expanded here, that he looked on the horizon above, the depths below, the ocean without a shore; but he recovered himself by the admission, that man can only know the love of Christ so as to be filled with the fulness of God. He viewed the Saviour on the throne, uncircumscribed in charity, from whom the emanations of grace incessantly flow.

Ephesians 3:20-21. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think — be glory throughout all ages. The apostle closes this full view of sanctifying grace as he ought to close it, in doxologies, unceasing doxologies of praise, through every age of the church, world without end. Amen. Who now, that calmly reads these words, can doubt that we may attain in this life to the whole christian temper, and a growing perfection in every virtue. Who can scruple to use that prayer, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name.”

Such indeed has been the profession of the Greek fathers, and of all the more eminent saints of the Roman catholic communion, through all the dark ages of the church. And is it not infinitely better to preach this doctrine, and set heights and depths of religion before the church, to which they have not as yet attained, than bitterly to detail the quotations on Romans 7:24. That St. Paul, while groveling here on earth, never ceased to be loaded with much of the defilement and ordure of sin.

Ostervald, in his book on the ministry, apologizes for Calvin’s institutes, as the work of his younger years. But those institutes contain dogmas to which every student, in some sort, is obliged to subscribe; and hence arise a thousand sneers and reproaches on holy men, who preach the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Hence also believers are checked and chilled with maxims which freeze the warmer ardours of the heart.

Jeremiah Burroughs, who in 1600 was father to the ministers of London, says, “My soul longs for perfection: it is already washed and perfect, as to its justification, and I look for a time when it shall be perfect in respect of its sanctification. Oh that the time were now come.” — Sermon on Matthew 5:8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Page 389.


St. Paul having enlarged on the glory of Christ, justly accounts it the highest honour any creature could enjoy to be made a minister of his gospel. Hence fainting not himself at his chain, he prayed that the saints might not faint, it being their glory to have a minister endued with a martyr’s constancy. And especially as one grand branch of his ministry was a manifestation of the mystery hid in ages past, that the gentiles, without circumcision, should be fellow heirs with the jews of the promises in Christ. This was a recent subject of divine revelation to the holy apostles and prophets.

Divine favours conferred on the regenerate do not puff up, but humble the soul in the sight of God. St. Paul magnified his ministry, but abused himself on the other hand, as less than the least of all saints, and classed himself with the chief of sinners, because he had persecuted and wasted the church. A conscious mind prefers a suppliant condition, and makes all filial acknowledgment to God the giver of all good.

St. Paul was not only the first of men in knowledge, but the best of men in piety. He had prayed, in Ephesians 1:15, for the illumination of the Ephesians: and here he prays for their entire sanctification, as the best support against fainting at afflictions. He could not deliver a dry cold discourse, nor talk of grace without breaking out in prayer or praise. What a model of imitation both in our sermons, and in our addresses to the throne of grace.

His prayer has every character of reverential invocation, propriety, and fervour. He bended the knee, for standing is allowable only where it is inconvenient to kneel. His invocation exalts the deity as the Father of glory, and the source of redemption by Jesus Christ. The subject of his prayer is all propriety. It is that God would bless the church, according to the riches of his glory; and if a poor man give a little, and a rich man much, what may we expect from God? Wishing the perfection of the saints, he prays for the might of the Holy Ghost to strengthen them, and for Christ to dwell in the heart by faith, as the source of righteousness, purity, and eternal life.

The grand point of christian perfection is love, enrooted, habitual love, as the source of all obedience, and good fruits. We must dwell in love, and then we shall dwell in God, and the fragrance is paradise shed abroad on earth. The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart. — Christian perfection especially consists in knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. All men have admired the beauty and sublimity of this passage. Here is the perfection of wisdom attained, not by human teaching, but by divine experience. The breadth of Christ’s love is omnipotence encircling all mankind with mercy. The length is eternity, ever flowing with grace and goodness to man. The height of his love is the sublime majesty, elevating the victorious to thrones in heaven. The depth of it regards the abyss of wisdom stooping to death for man, and his profound ways in turning evils to the advantage of his people.

To know this love so as to be filled with all the fulness of God, is to be filled with all the wisdom, the virtue, and perfection of the divine nature. To him therefore be glory throughout all ages, Amen. How just is this doxology! Eternity can never repay our still encreasing debt. If this therefore be the sum and substance of the christian religion, what God is like unto our God? What religion is so gracious, holy and happy as ours? And who can boast of a Redeemer like the Lord of glory? And if these be his perfections, we will hear no more talk against his being one substance with the Father, and coëval in existence. May we all enter into the apostle’s piety and views of real religion.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 14. For this cause] sc. That ye faint not, but gather strength.

I bow my knees] A most seemly and suitable gesture, usual among all nations but Turks, who kneel not, nor uncover the head at prayer, as holding those postures unmanly. And yet they pray five times every day (saith Mr Terry), what occasion soever they have either by profit or pleasure to divert them.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Second Prayer (I)

Eph 3:14. The great truths that Paul has been able to present till here also fill his own heart. Overwhelmed by all that he received from God, he falls on his knees before "the Father" of our Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 1 he already went into prayer to God. There he focused on "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:17). I already clarified the distinction between 'the God of' and 'the Father of' in the study of chapter 1:3.

In chapter 1 Paul prays that the Ephesians would also learn to understand and enjoy the riches that he has described. He surely could write to them that they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, but he didn't have the ability to make them capable of making those blessings their own and also to enjoy them. 'The God of our Lord Jesus Christ' had to make them capable for that. That's why he lifts up his eyes to Him and asks if He will grant them 'the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened'.

The blessings Paul speaks about here are the possessions of every believer individually. It's wonderful to see how Paul commits himself to make them aware of these blessings and that they enjoy them. For him it is not a matter of delivering a message and going further afterwards. He wants what he has passed on, to 'arrive' in the hearts of the believers.

Although it is hard to understand some things, he is very decided not to adjust his message. That is still often the tendency in Christianity today. The message becomes a product that is being adjusted to the desires of the 'client'. But when Paul proclaims the Word, he does that as it is given to him and simultaneously he asks his Sender, in Whose Name he preaches, if he would work out that the Word that has been preached, would also be understood. This example should be followed by every preacher.

Paul was certainly aware of the needs of his 'audience'. He knew that he could not write the contents of the letter to the Ephesians to the believers in Corinth for example. They were not ready to receive this message yet, because they were fleshly-minded. That he could tell the Ephesians about the tremendous blessings – to the individual believer and to the church – doesn't mean that they were able to understand all this on their own. It is actually not about intellectual capacities, a great intelligence, but about the heart. When it is understood with the heart, it will have its effect in life. It is Paul's desire that this happens and he prays for that, in chapter 1 as well as in chapter 3.

The motive for his prayer here is what he said in the previous part. The essence of that is the "unfathomable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8). This is what he means by "for this reason". It is his desire that the believers will also understand the blessings they have received collectively, as the church, besides their personal blessings. The blessings of the church are perhaps even greater than those of the individual believers.

An example may clarify this. You can throw a big number of stones on one stack, but you can also build a house of those stones. In both cases you have the same number of stones, but when a house is built of it, that stack of stones has an enormous added value.

That is also the case with the church. All who know the Lord Jesus are living stones, because they have Him as their life. But they represent more. Together they are the house of God, that is the church of the living God (1Tim 3:15; 1Pet 2:5). The same goes for the church as a body. Every believer is a member of that body. They are not members who each live for themselves. Together they are the body of Christ. Of that body He is the Head. Paul just told about the wonderful blessings that are connected to it.

Here also he is aware of his incapacity to make them capable to take the blessings with their heart and to enjoy them. For that he starts to pray. He is now praying to 'the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' because the following part is about the Lord Jesus, Who, as the eternal Son, is the Center of all God's purposes. In chapter 1 he wanted the believers to be aware of all that God had done for them through Christ. Now he desires that the believers will be aware of what the Father works in them through His Spirit.

Eph 3:15. The glory of the Father is very great. It reflects from all families that finally will fill the heavens and the earth. All those families are named after Him because they come forth from Him. He is the 'Author' of it. He gave them all a place in His plans.

These families can be families of angels and all sorts of families of people, both Jews and Gentiles. Not that all families call Him Father. That is only applicable for those who became His children by faith in the Lord Jesus. We are brought to that intimate relationship. The Lord Jesus is the Son of the Father from eternity. That's why He also – in a way – is the Head of those various families. The church, however, is directly related to Him. All who belong to it are the family of God in a special way. That will be expressed in the most wonderful way when we soon enter the Father's house to stay there forever with the Father and the Son (Jn 14:1-3).

Eph 3:16. Here Paul is asking the Father to work in accordance with His glory in the believers "through His Spirit". They have the Spirit as a guarantee (Eph 1:13). It is also only possible through the Spirit "to be strengthened with power … in the inner man". Something must happen in the believer and not only with or for him.

By "the inner man" are meant the mind and the sense of man, his considerations, everything that is not visible (cf. 1Cor 2:11). What Paul desires, is that the Spirit of the Father gets the opportunity to fill up that whole 'area' with His power. Wouldn't that be wonderful if you and I would pray that for each other? And what a consequence it would have!

Eph 3:17. "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Oh, may that happen to us, yes, to each child of God. Paul desires that Christ will continuously be the predominating Center of your deepest emotions and affections. That is only possible 'through faith' which means that this place is given to Him in full confidence. Through faith you focus with all you have, on Him.

Also in your life He would be the Center, as He eternally was and is and will be to the Father. Then Christ is not 'just visiting' you, a temporary Guest, but He can 'dwell', which also means that He finds rest there. About this 'dwelling' the Lord makes a wonderful remark in John 14 (Jn 14:23).

Inseparably linked with this, is "love", which is the true embedding of the previous. God is love. His love is the origin of all His counsels. He, who has his roots in the Divine love ("rooted"), extracts from there the juices for life; he has this love as the foundation for his life ("grounded"), and is capable of enjoying all the glories that Paul has summarized. In the following verses we will have a further look at that.

Now read Ephesians 3:14-17 again.

Reflection: How can it be realized that Christ dwells in your heart through faith?

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ephesians 3:14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

The apostle's petition for the Church, which includes an exhortation:

v. 14. for this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

v. 15. of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

v. 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;

v. 17. that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

v. 18. may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

v. 19. and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

The apostle now resumes the thread of his discourse, which he interrupted after v. 1 to speak of the ministry of his apostleship: For this reason I bend my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, after whom every family in heaven and earth is named. Because the Ephesian Christians have, by the labor of Paul, been added to the Church of Christ, because he is their teacher, their apostle, therefore he feels it his duty to bend his knees in prayer for these souls entrusted to his care. Luther expresses Paul's thoughts as follows: "I must lie here a prisoner and cannot be with yon nor help you in any other way, only that I can bend my knees, that is, with all humility and seriousness pray to God that He might give you, and work in you, what neither I nor any other person can do, even if I had my liberty and were with you always. " The God to whom Paul addresses his urgent intercession is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore the true Father of every believer. Particularly, however, is He the Father after whom every generation, or family, of God's children, all people who through Christ Jesus have been reborn to a new spiritual life, is named. All the assemblies of the children of God, whether here on earth or in heaven, in the midst of the holy angels, bear their name from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; they all stand in the same, in the equal relation of children to Him; they all form one great family, every member of which may ask and expect only the highest and richest of blessings from the Parent above.

In this sense Paul introduces the subject of his prayer: That He would grant you according to the wealth of His glory to be strengthened in might through His Spirit into the inner man. God has a wealth, a great amount, of excellence, majesty, and perfection; from His fullness we can always receive, and grace for grace, Joh_1:16. Paul boldly asks the measure of the gift of God's perfection which will bring into full play this inexhaustible wealth. For only thus can the Christians grow mightily in strength, in spiritual power, only thus, namely, through the working of His Spirit, can the new inner man, the regenerated self of the Christians, make progress in faith and in holiness. God's strengthening grace must be poured into the inner man day after day, the gift of His power must be directed toward this object without ceasing, otherwise the new spiritual life will soon become extinguished.

This idea is developed still further: That Christ may dwell through faith in your hearts. Not only the gifts and virtues of Christ, but the exalted Christ personally lives in the hearts of His believers, Gal_2:20. There is the most intimate, the most happy communion between Christ and the Christians, begun in conversion, but in need of daily growth and strengthening, for it is through faith that Christ dwells in the heart, and the loss of faith in the forgiveness of sins means the loss of Christ Himself. If Christ does not live in us, grow in us, day after day, His power will soon diminish and His picture fade away. But with Christ in the heart, there is steady progress: That you, firmly rooted and grounded in love, be fully able to comprehend with all the saints what the breadth and the length and the depth and the height is. Love is the proof and test of faith. If Christ lives in the heart by faith, then love toward God and love toward one's neighbor will follow as a matter of course. And with the growth of faith in the form of firm confidence, love will also take a firmer hold on the Christian; it will be set as solidly as a root takes hold of the ground from which it derives strength and life. Thus the condition is obtained which enables the believer fully to understand, to get a mental grasp of, what is the breadth and length and height and depth. ALL the saints should have this understanding, all the believers should grow in Christian knowledge. And in the connection in which the apostle here writes, he undoubtedly has in mind the Church with its immense dimensions. This building extends over the entire world from North to South, from East to West, through all periods of time until the last day; it includes the believers that are now sleeping in their graves, and reaches to the heavens, where its exalted Ruler sits at the right hand of God. The Church embraces the fullness of the elect, not only of Israel, but also of the Gentile world—a poor, small crew in the sight of men, but a mighty assembly before the omniscient eye of God.

And finally, Paul prays for the Christians that they might be strengthened: To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. It is an incomprehensible, indescribable, immeasurable love by which Christ has founded the Church, by which He builds and extends it, a love which overcomes the hardest hearts, which influences even the greatest criminals, and always with the aim of building up the Church. This love is beyond the capacity of the human mind and intelligence, but the enlightened Christian will be able to get at least some idea of its extent and power, of its miraculous power in gaining lost sinners for Christ and the Church. And with the growth in this knowledge the hope and prayer of the apostle will finally be fulfilled, namely, that the Christians will be filled unto all the fullness of God, that this goal may be reached in them. It is a fullness of grace possessed and bestowed by God, the full measure of His gracious gifts to which the apostle has reference. Upon this measureless source the believers draw, increasing daily in virtues and blessings, as vessels of God's mercy; themselves the possessors of boundless love and expending freely therefrom to the praise and honor of God. Though this ideal fail of full realization in this life, it is worth striving for with untiring energy.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

             2. The Apostle’s petition with an exhortation for the church

( Ephesians 3:14-19)

14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [omit 15of our Lord Jesus Christ],[FN33] Of [From] whom the whole [every] family in heaven and [on] earth is named, 16That he would grant[FN34] you, according to the riches[FN35] of his glory, to be strengthened with might by [through] his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by [through] faith; that ye, being rooted 18 and grounded in love,[FN36] May be [fully] able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;[FN37] 19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge [or the knowledge-surpassing-love of Christ], that ye might be filled with [may be filled up to] all the fulness of God.


[Eadie: “The prayer must be regarded as immediately following that section, and its architectural terms and allusions will thus be more clearly understood.” Meyer however explains: on this account that you faint not, etc.—R.]

The prayer, Ephesians 3:14-15.

I bow my knees, κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου.—So Philippians 2:10. It describes τὴν κατανενυγμένην δέησιν (Chrysostom). Bengel: “Si præsens adfuisset Paulus, genua flexisset, exardescente pectore. Acts 20:36. Here the reference is to genua mentis (Jerome); the idea of “praying” is so prominent, that the accusative sometimes follows the verb γονυπετεῖν ( Matthew 17:14; Mark 10:17).

Unto the Father, πρὸς τὸν πατέρα.—The phrase is found thus without any qualification in [On πρός, denoting the direction, see Winer, p378. The metaphorical sense of the phrase justifies the preposition; were the idea merely that of bending the knee, a dative would probably follow.—On the phrase: of our Lord Jesus Christ, see Textual Note1.—R.]

From whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.[FN38]—Ἐξ οὑ̄ πᾶσα πατριὰ—ὀνομάζεται is a paronomasia to πατέρα, which cannot be reproduced, except as Luther (1545) has so beautifully and correctly expressed it: Der der rechte Vater ist über Alles, was da kinder heisst; all editions from1522–1541read: was Vater heisst. Evidently “from whom,” ἐξ οὑ̄, refers to “Father,” from Him (ἐξ) originates the name borne (ὀνομάζεται) by him who stands at the head of a group, πατριά, which is thus termed from πατήρ. The etymology must be well considered here. While φυλαί (מַטּוֹת) designates the tribes descending from the sons of Jacob, πατριαί (מִשְׁפָחוֹת) denotes the families in the several tribes, descending from the sons of Jacob’s sons; οἶκοι (בֶּית־חָאָבוֹת) is yet more special in its meaning. Hence the reference here is to larger groups. The word designates a lineage, family, springing from one father and bearing his name. [Eadie: “Every circle of holy and intelligent creatures having the name of πατριά takes that name from God as ΙΙατήρ.” So Alford, Ellicott.—R.] Accordingly something concrete and living is treated of, so that it is not=πατρότης, Fatherhood (Theodoret, John of Damascus, Anselm, Luther, 1522–41; Meyer: He is the original Father, the Father of all fathers; Tholuck, Sermon on the Mount, p394; Nitzsch, Prakt. Theol. 1. p269).

ΙΙᾶσα without the article (Winer, p110) necessarily refers to the multiplicity of the families: every family. Bengel is excellent: omnis, angelorum, hominum ceterorum, ex ipso, ut patre, pendens; as David’s family from David ( Luke 2:4) and from Abraham, so the blessing comes, like that of a father upon all the families of the earth ( Acts 3:25). The phrase: “in heaven and on earth,” ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς, joined closely to πατριά without the article, points to the world of angels and of men, referring to the groups dependent on heads and chiefs. We must then understand here classes of angels (comp. on Ephesians 1:21), since the angels also are called sons, children of God ( Job 38:7; Luke 20:36) and call God their Father, not merely their Creator, and races of people as national families, although “children of disobedience” ( Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 5:6) are not wanting. For “all angels, all Christians, aye, all children of men are God’s children, for He has created them all” (Luther) in Christ, the Son of filiation. The word πατριά, which by the addition of πᾶσα and ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς, has received an extension of meaning reaching far beyond bodily descent, must be understood not merely in a natural, but also in an ethical sense, as indeed the idea: “Father” is thus used. Since “fatherhood” has not a concrete meaning, it cannot be translated by this word, but Stier thus attempts to preserve the concrete force, der rechte Vater uber Alles, was nach Vätern heisst.

It is incorrect and ungrammatical to understand by it the whole world family (Meyer, Olshausen and others), or only two groups, angels and men (Calvin), or the saints in heaven and the elect on the earth (Calov.),[FN39] since in that case the article would be found before ἐν οὐρανοῖς and before ἐπὶ γῆς, as in the first case it should stand after πᾶσα. It is incorrect to ignore altogether the idea of groups, families, which Luther’s version throws into the background, and to make of God an “All-father” (Meyer). Luther has given occasion to this mistake, but corrected it through his translation; for he says there that God is Father over all, that is called children, of course maintained, cared for, as we are, in Christ. It respects more the right Father than the right children (Harless). Finally all polemical reference, such as against the particularism of the Jews (Calvin), angel-worship (Michael), must be rejected. The passage is ironical rather. Comp. Doctr. Note 2.

[The subject and the purpose thus blended as so often when ἵνα follows a verb signifying (even metaphorically) to pray.—R.]

According to the riches of his glory.—Κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ defines the δῷ more closely, as a rich and glorious giving. He should give, not merely announce, according to, in the proportion of His riches in glory. See Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:11. “Glory” here embraces the whole glorious perfection of God (Meyer); there is no ground for limiting it to power (Grotius) or grace (Calvin).

To be strengthened with might.—Δυνάμει, “with might,” placed first for emphasis, cannot anticipate either the phrase “by his spirit,” or “in the inner Prayer of Manasseh,” nor can it be an instrumental dative (Meyer), nor does it refer to the will or moral being over against knowledge (Harless), which also belongs to the inner man and is given prominence in Ephesians 3:18-19. It qualifies the verb “strengthened,” κραταιωθῆναι, which is antithetical to the term ἐγκακεῖν, “faint” ( Ephesians 3:13) thus not merely excluding discouragement and weakness, but marking also the external efficiency, the influence on the world, the overcoming as well as the standing fast, like ἀνδρίζεσθε before κραταιοῦσθε ( 1 Corinthians 16:13) See Ephesians 6:10; Colossians 1:11; 1 Peter 5:10. Hence the passage does not refer to mere passivity, so that δυνάμει is merely a strengthening of the verb (Rueckert). Luther is incorrect: “That he may give you strength—to become strong.” [The instrumental sense is adopted by Ellicott, Hodge, Alford, Eadie and many others. Braune’s view virtually resolves the dative into an adverb. Ellicott: It defines “the element or influence of which the spirit is the ‘causa medians.’ ” The contrast with ἐγκακεῖν, though plausible, must not be pressed. Eadie. who finds a reference to the figure of the temple in Ephesians 3:18, sees an architectural allusion here.—R.]

Through his Spirit [διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ].—The means of imparting such strength is indicated thus (αὐτοῦ=θεοῦ, who is implored); God’s Holy Spirit makes us strong within, and thus prepares not only the actual fellowship in the kingdom of God, but also the powerful demonstration of the same; hence Bengel well says: δυνάμεί bene congruit cum mentione spiritus.

In the inner man.—[Εἰς here is not=ἐν, nor=in regard of (Meyer, Winer, De Wette, Hodge: as to), but “to and into,” marking “the direction and destination of the prayer for gift of infused strength” (Ellicott).—R.] ‘Ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος (so also Romans 7:22) is the antithesis of ἔξω ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος ( 2 Corinthians 4:16), which “perishes,” while “the inward man is renewed day by day.” It is not something physical, but moral, hence too, not=νοῦς, which can have a “vanity” ( Ephesians 4:17), of which “corrupt” can be predicated ( 1 Timothy 6:5), which is impossible in the case of the inner man. It is rather=“the hidden man of the heart” ( 1 Peter 3:4) and refers to the concealed, displaced and obscured image of God within us. Accordingly the Apostle says εἰς τὸν ἔσω, to become strong so far as to reach within to this; the preposition thus marking the aim towards which the becoming strong should be constantly and renewedly directed. See Winer, p389. Accordingly “the inner man” cannot be used interchangeably with “the new man” ( Ephesians 4:24); the latter is the new creature, in which the former lives again, rises anew out of the death of sin which has come upon it: “the inner man” does not stand in antithesis to the “body,” but includes so much of it as God in the creation has prepared and designed for the life in glory, in the new creation ‘for the resurrection of the body. See Doctr. Note 3. [Comp. Lange, Romans 7:7-25, especially my Excursus, pp232–236.[FN40]—R.]

Ephesians 3:17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.—This verse forms an explanatory, further developing, parallel to the infinitive clause of Ephesians 3:16. We have here a second petition, in continuation of the first, hence Luther is not altogether incorrect in inserting an epexegetical “and.” [See below.] Κατοικῆσαι denotes a permanent indwelling of one taking entire possession, as Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26; 2 Peter 3:13; James 4:5. The expression οἰκεῖν, Romans 7:20 ( Ephesians 3:17 : ἐνοικοῦσα), Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16, is weaker. Here it stands first for emphasis and refers to κατοικητήριον, Ephesians 2:21-22. Comp. John 14:21-23. Bengel is excellent: in perpetuum. It corresponds to “strengthened with might,” which precedes it; as the former is marked as an effect from without, from above, by “into the inner Prayer of Manasseh,” so the latter is distinguished by “in your hearts,” as an internal condition.

Διὰ τῆς πίστεως [almost=through your faith] denotes in any case a power of the Spirit which has been appropriated by the Christian; accordingly the previous petition was διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, “through the Spirit,” to whom the initiative belongs, the Spirit of Christ, preparing for Him (Bengel: ubi spiritus Dei, ibi etiam Christus), while πίστις, “faith,” is wrought by the Spirit in the human spirit, is the power of Prayer of Manasseh, awakened, directed, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, to appropriate Christ, to become Christ’s. Hence it is neither idem per idem (Matthies), nor something entirely different (Rueckert), nor yet a consequence from what precedes, independent of δῷ, but dependent on κραταιωθῆναι (Bleek).

[The connection has been much discussed. Meyer (following Calvin: declarat, quale sit interioris hominis robur) takes the clause as Braune does: parallel to the last clause of Ephesians 3:16, with an explanatory force. De Wette explains the infinitive as one of design, an opinion to which Eadie formerly inclined. Notwithstanding Braune’s objection, the simplest explanation is that of Bleek, adopted previously however by Alford and Ellicott among others. This accepts the clause as one expressive of the result (“so that”) of the inward strengthening. The emphasis resting on the infinitive seems to demand this (Alford). This is a somewhat lax construction, but clearly admissible (Winer, p298).—The view which connects “the inner man” with this verse (Syriac, Ambrosiaster, Pelagius): “In order that Christ may inhabit the inner man by the faith which is in your hearts,” is altogether untenable. On καρδία, comp. Ephesians 1:18; Delitzsch, Bib. Psychologie, II. p203 f.: “the seat and centre of the moral life viewed on the side of the affections.” Calvin: “Partem etiam designat ubi legitima est Christus sedes; nempe cor: ut sciamus, non satis esse, si in lingua versatur, aut in cerebro volitet.”]

The end of the supplication; Ephesians 3:18-19 a.

Ephesians 3:18. That ye.—Ἵνα, “that,” is placed after the closer definition of the subject, as ἕως, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and as ἵνα is put after the object in 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10; Acts 19:4. Similarly 1 Corinthians 11:14-15; 1 Corinthians 14:7 (ἐάν), 16 (πῶς). [So Romans 11:31, where however Dr. Lange denies the trajection. This view of the construction is accepted by Beza, Camerarius, Grotius, Calixtus, Semler, Storr, Rosenmueller, Flatt, Meier, Meyer, Winer (eds6, 7), Buttmann, Schenkel, Hodge. It is however adopted by none of the ancient versions except the Gothic, is rejected by Origen expressly. The other view joins this clause to what precedes, as a consequence of the indwelling of Christ, accepting an irregular nominative. So in the main: Chrysostom, Erasmus, Luther, Estius, Morus, Koppe, Rueckert, Matthies, Harless, Olshausen, B-Crusius, De Wette, Bleek, Eadie, Ellicott, Alford. Our preference is for the former construction. See below.—R.][FN41]

Being rooted and grounded in love.—The perfect participles, ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι, denote a state, in which they already are and continue to be, which is the pre-supposition, in order that they may be able to know. This state is effected by what has been prayed for in Ephesians 3:15-16; hence according to the sense and the context it is impossible to connect these participles with what precedes (Chrysostom, Luther: “and to become rooted and grounded through love,” Rueckert, Harless, Bleek and others), even if it were grammatically admissible to join a nominative to ὑμῶν, as in Ephesians 4:23 : ὑμᾶς—ἀνεχόμενοι—σ̔πουδάζοντες. Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:16. See Winer, p532. This position gives especial weight to the participles, which introduce two figures borrowed from a tree and a building. They mark that a profoundly penetrating life (ἐῤῥιζωμένοι) and a well-grounded, permanent character (τεθεμελιωμένοι) are necessary. [The first may be regarded as used “without any other allusion to its primitive meaning than that of fixedness, firmness at the base or foundation” (Ellicott).—R.]. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:9; Colossians 2:7.

The double figure strengthens the notion of the relation to love; this latter (ἐν ἀγάπῃ) is made prominent by being placed first. “In” marks “love” as the soil, in which they are rooted, and as the foundation, on which they are grounded. This implies moreover that it is not their own love which is referred to, but one which corresponds with the soil afforded to the tree, the foundation given to the house; and this would undoubtedly be, in accordance with the context, the love of Christ (Bengel), were not all closer definition wanting, even the article. Accordingly this substantive rendered general by the absence of the article corresponds with the verbal idea: in loving, i.e. in that love, which is first God’s in Christ and then that of men who become Christians, who are rooted in Him and grounded on Him through faith. [The reference to the Christian grace of love (Eadie, Alford, Ellicott) is preferable since it does not lay too much stress on the absence of the article, as is done by both Meyer (in amando) and Harless (subjective, because anarthrous), and does not confound two things (God’s love to us and our love in response), either of which might be represented as soil and foundation, scarcely both.—R.] But it is not necessary to supply “in Christ” (Harless) in thought, as if “in love” could be instrumental and the preposition could be repeated with two different references and used in joining two distinct definitions. Nor should it be limited to “love of the brethren” (Calvin, Schenkel, Bleek and others), as is still further evident from what follows.

May be fully able to comprehend [ἴνα εξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι.—Καταλαβέσθαι here means more than a mere intellectual apprehension, a perception, as in Acts 4:13; Acts 25:25; Acts 10:34, but pre-eminently an inward experience: it corresponds with γνῶναι, which is conjoined to it with τε; but differs from it however, the first word denoting the inward experience, the latter the spiritual perception [The tense of this verb perhaps implies the singleness of the Acts, and the voice the exercise of the mental power, a dynamic middle (Krueger), indicating the earnestness or spiritual energy with which the action is performed (Ellicott).—R.] The verb έξισχύσητε, placed in emphatic position, adds the idea of exertion, an energetic pressing through; Bengel: evaleatis.

Something important is treated of, which cannot be comprehended in solitude, for one’s self alone, but only in fellowship: with all saints, σὺν πᾶσι τοῖς ἁγίοις.—Like all science, the science of God’s love, the study of God, is a joint labor.

What is the breadth and length and depth and height, τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ βάθος καὶ ὕψος.—The lively, roused spirit of the Apostle here borrows the figure of a body, a mathematical magnitude [sacra illa Pauli mathematica], as in Job 11:8-9, it is applied to God’s wisdom and perfection; it is instead of and=τί τὸ μέγεθος, what is the greatness. Since the article occurs but once, the unity of the object referred to is strongly indicated. Very naturally the “breadth” comes first, to this the “length” corresponds; then the “depth” is the nearest dimension, and the “height” closes the series: what is the object then whose dimensions Paul notices here? It is not directly designated, and hence must be taken from the context. The added clause connected with this by τε points at once to “the love of Christ.” The dimensions set forth here then become clear: “breadth” refers to the nations lying beside each other on the earth, over all of whom the love of Christ will extend itself; “length,” to the successive ages during which it will reach; “depth,” to the misery and corruption of sin, into which it will descend; “height” to the glory at God’s throne and near His heart to which it would elevate all.

To return to Ephesians 3:9 and accept “the mystery” as the object (Chrysostom, Calovius, Rueckert, Harless and others) is as unfounded as to find a reference to “the fulness of God” ( Ephesians 3:19), and with Revelation 11:1; Revelation 21:15-16, to understand the Church of Christ, the temple of God (Bengel, Stier, [Eadie], and others), or merely to supply “of God” or “of Christ” (Matthies, and others); Holzhausen alone suggests “our love!” Arbitrary as many of the explanations of the four dimensions undoubtedly are, the opinion of Meyer, that every special interpretation is unpsychological, only opening the door to subjective speculations, is equally unjustifiable. Abusus non tollit usum. The thought of the Apostle is clear: Loved and loving thou knowest the love of Christ. Certainly it is not: In the love to the brethren thou wilt know God’s love. Comp. 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:16; John 15:9-11.

[This simple view of the object whose dimensions are here predicated is held in the main by Calvin, Calixtus, Morus, Storr, Hodge, Meyer, Ellicott. Eadie strangely enough opposes it because τε follows: see his notes for a good resumé of opinions. Ellicott says: “The consequent clause, without being dependent or explanatory, still practically supplies the defining genitive: Paul pauses on the word ὕψος, and then, perhaps feeling it the most appropriate characteristic of Christ’s love, he appends, without finishing the construction, a parallel thought which hints at the same conception (ὑπερβάλλουσαν), and suggests the required genitive.” Alford, less correctly, leaves the object indefinite: “of all that God has revealed or done in or for us,” a view which results from his insisting on the subordinate character of the clause introduced by τε. This little word really settles the question the other way.—An allusion to the temple of Diana (Macknight, Chandler) is exceedingly improbable, and the reference to the Christian Church finds no support in the context, foregoing or subsequent. Augustine gives the fanciful explanation: sacramentum cruces, which Estius elaborates. Comp. that of Severianus (in Alford), and the various homiletical applications given in Hom, Notes.—R.]

Ephesians 3:19. And to know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ [γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγἀπην τοῦ Χρ̄ιστοῦ.—Τνῶναί τε adds something closely related, giving prominence to the perception of what has become a matter of internal experience. The object is “the love of Christ,” obviously Christ’s love, not our love to Him. To the former alone is the attribute “knowledge-surpassing” applicable. Bengel: Suavissima hæc quasi correctio est; dixerat: cognoscere, statim negat cognitionem idoneam haberi posse. The participle, which is here placed between the article and substantive, must evidently be taken as an adjective, governing with its comparative meaning the genitive which follows, superiorem cognitione. See Winer, p324. It is=ὑπέχουσαν πάντα νοῦν, “which passeth all understanding” ( Philippians 4:7). Comp. Philippians 3:8-10. It is an oxymoron, like 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:25; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Galatians 2:19; 1 Timothy 5:6, and refers to an (adequate) apprehension of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (i.e., the particular abstract knowledge, which is possible to man of himself). Harless: “Love fully solves the mystery of love; only love experiences love and knows love. The γνῶσις of the reflecting understanding finds its limit here; the γνῶσις of love understands the love of Christ, which otherwise far transcended γνῶσις.” Luther (1522–41): also to know the love of Christ, which yet exceeds all knowledge; in1545 the incorrect rendering first appeared, which goes too far in the attempt to popularize the Scriptural language: and to know that to love Christ is better than all knowing. This is contrary both to the language and the context. Yet it cannot be said, that the love of Christ is the object of a knowledge, which never attains its full end (Rueckert). Against this is the previous expression: “that ye may be able,” as well as the remainder of the verse. [Nor can we accept the view of Harless and Olshausen: “that ye may know that the love of Christ is knowledge-surpassing,” since the participle, which is properly taken as an adjective, is thus twisted into an infinitive, and since the Apostle’s prayer is thus unnecessarily shorn of its fulness.—R.]

The final end of the supplication; Ephesians 3:19 b.

That ye may be filled up.—This phrase connects itself with “that ye may be able … to know,” and designates the highest, last favor which the Apostle implores for the Church. With what are they to be filled?

To all the fulness of God [εις πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ.]—Ἐἰς designates that toward and unto which the becoming filled proceeds, and πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, meta est (Bengel), to which the Church should attain, when it is filled. It is therefore in her, not without her. Hence the Apostle is treating of a fulness in them which God grants, and which is unincumbered, unabridged. They must themselves, through the experience and knowledge of the love of Christ, be prepared, expanded, strengthened and fitted to receive πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, “all the fulness,” which God will impart, has determined and ordained to impart. What God imparts is indeed in Him, from His own character and glory He imparts. Luther: “That is according to the Hebrew mode of speech as much as to say, that we are filled in every way, by which He makes full—that He alone completely rules and works in us.”

It is a bolder expression than 2 Peter 1:4 : “partakers of the Divine nature.” Comp. Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 2:9-10. Chrysostom: πληροῦσθαι πάσης ἀρετῆς, ἦς πλήρης ἐστὶν θεός. Theodoret: ἵνα τελείως αὐτὸν ἔνοικον δέξησθε. It is not to be limited to the presence of grace (Harless), or to charisms (Meyer), nor to be pantheistically extended or applied to the universe, filling itself in God, i.e., reaching the highest expression of its perfection, and reflecting itself in the Church, so that in it there is no more defect to be discovered (Schenkel). A fulness of God, which complements His Godhead, as though God’s Being were first perfected through the Church, is as little the subject treated of as a pantheistic deification of men. See Ephesians 1:23. The Apostle undoubtedly refers to the persons and personal culture of the individual members of the Church. See Doctr. Note. 4.

[Meyer and De Wette take πλήρωμα in the sense of πλῆθος, and the genitive as that of origin. But the Greek Fathers, and Olshausen, Alford, Ellicott, Hodge, among late commentators, prefer to take πλήρωμα in the strict sense of id quo res impletur, and the genitive as a possessive, implying: “that ye may be so filled as God is filled,” the reference being not to charismatic gifts, but to the spiritual perfections of God. The only objection Isaiah, that such a fulness could not be realized here in a state of imperfection, but εἰς shows that a standard is here set up, and none but a perfect one would be thus held before them. The other view is too tame for the climactic position and force of the clause. Alford: “All the fulness of the Godhead abides in Christ, Colossians 2:9. Christ then abiding in your hearts, ye, being raised up to the comprehension of God’s mercy in Him and of His love, will be filled, even as God is full—each in your degree, but all to your utmost capacity, with Divine Wisdom of Solomon, might and love.”—R.]


1. The fervency of the worship (κάμπτω τἀ γόνατά μου) does not lose itself in the joyous sense of the love of God (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα), but becomes more deep and clear in love to the neighbor, in unselfish supplication, which in the scale of prayer rises above the lowest grade, which is a cry of need, a cry for help, above the grade of a pupil, the petition for supply of needed good and protection from threatening evil, and approaches in its best feature the master-prayer of thanksgiving, which is so often forgotten, and of praise, that so often is not understood.

2. The Father who is here supplicated is not the All-father of the 18 th century or of the rationalists, nor the Father of the heathen. For He is not that weak father, who on account of His goodness consents to withdraw all the demands of His righteousness; nor is He merely the Creator, as if He were, like Jupiter, a father of the trees and animals, of the flowers of earth and the stars of heaven, as well as of angels and men, and as if the idea of “Father” included only that of the Creator, who calls into being. The father is more than the begetter, he is also the provider, the teacher, the guardian in preserving sacred love. Where such paternal care exists, it comes from God, it points to Him, the original Father. Even the most scanty traces of such fatherhood, i.e., of such companies with a father at their hand, point to Him, who has ordained and still sustains such relations. The children may be lost and not permit Him to work within them; still traces of Him, kindnesses from Him are so little wanting, that even among the heathen “an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God,” points to them. The Church sings and speaks of a λόγος σπερματικός, and sees a great family in different groups, in different circumstances, conditions and attitudes, but at the head, over all and for all the One Father in Christ.

3. The inner man ( ἔσω ἄνθρωπος) is the remnant of the man created in the image of God, which is found in all men, even though extremely disfigured or shrivelled up into insignificance. On this account is Redemption possible, man is capable as well as in need of redemption. Hence the inner man is to be thus distinguished from the new man ( καινὸς ἄνθρωπος): the former is the remnant of the original man as created by God in His own image, the latter is the beginning of the regenerated Prayer of Manasseh, new born in Christ; that is still present in all men, this not yet existing in all, though it might and should be; that is found without the Church also, this begins only within it; the former is the starting-point for the latter, the latter is the result of the reviving of the former obtained in Christ; that is the first creation, conceived in retrospect, this the “new creature,” conceived as rising; the former is accordingly of nature, which God in holy love has created, preserved and guided, the latter of grace, in which He has had mercy upon the former. But universal as the need of redemption and the capacity for redemption are, man Isaiah, on account of this need and in spite of this capability, not in a condition to win the gracious right of sonship, or obligated thereto (Schenkel), but on account of this need notwithstanding this capability only in a state to receive the gift of renewed sonship. See Exeg. Notes, Ephesians 3:16.

4. In the economy of salvation,—in which our passage, being addressed to believers, presupposes justification and antecedent repentance, and regards only the growing renewal, the strengthening of the inner Prayer of Manasseh, his growth in the grace and truth of Christ—the Father constantly, at every stage, takes the initiative, and the recovering man takes no step forward without power received from God. Hence the supplication, that He would “grant” and that too “through His Spirit” to the inner man: thus the renewal within begins from above. Then the awakened, renewed power of the inner man appears in faith, in dependence draws Christ into himself, into his heart, as a guest into his house, for continued intercourse with Him, carefully directing himself by Him in all respects. The inner Prayer of Manasseh, when once, he has actually, with saving effect, become the object (εἰς) of the working of the Holy Ghost, becomes the subject of transforming activity in faith, which like a screw binds Christ to the soul. Though we may not, with the mystics, accept a union essentialis et corporalis, still we should not, with the rationalists, deny the conjunctio substantiæ hominis fidelis cum substantia sanctæ trinitatis and affirm only a dynamic or operative presence of Christ.

5. The work of salvation is a difficult one, and demands the power of God and man. Of God: hence Paul prays ( Ephesians 3:16): “that he would grant you according to the riches of His glory.” Of man: hence Ephesians 3:18 : “that ye may be fully able.”

6. Knowledge and Love are not to be separated. There is not merely an “illumination” before conversion and repentance, but also after justification through faith. In the enjoyment of the love of Christ, which we experience, our lovers strengthened, forgetting itself and yet with a profound remembrance of itself it knows what it has experienced, denying itself it is thus strengthened to a clear knowledge of the love of Christ. Human things one must know, in order to love but Divine things one must love, in order to know (Pascal). Love, hastening before, ever gains new material and light for knowledge. “The more I love, the more I find that I ought to love Thee.”

7. The connection of faith and love is also presupposed here, and in such a way that the former is the mother’s lap for the latter; the faith in that love of God in Christ, which we experience and enjoy, must impel to love, to love in return again and again.

8. Christ’s Love surpasses all knowledge and understanding, that only toilsomely attains to seeing. Hofmann: “There is really but one love in the world, because but one actual entering in of person into person. The eternally personal God, who is Love, who has entered into humanity as the personal Christ, who in the Holy Ghost personally flows into the personal life of men, so that we have Him and are His, He loves and is loved. Only where this archetypal fountain of love exists, can man exercise toward his fellow man a copied love.” Only so far as it is felt, can it be known in our weakness.

9. The completion of fellowship with God points into eternity, from the militant to the triumphant church; there the children become heritors, are taken on His throne and heart. Here many radial lines already proceed from the circumference, grace, peace and joy, truth and freedom, sonship and the sense of sonship, life-power and life-fulness, yet they come together in the center only above. Let us only hold fast to the unity of the family of God in heaven and on earth, the oneness of the Father through Christ in the Holy Ghost.


Had not the Apostle said Song of Solomon, no one would have discovered from his tone, that he was in bonds and chains, looking death in the face. To him affliction is a clear winter night, in which the stars of promise only shine the brighter. Has he tears in his eyes, they become a telescope to carry his sight into the far distant heavens, to open heaven to him and permit him to gaze into the depth of its wonders. It does not occur to him, to pray for release; he asks only for the perfecting and ennobling of the church.—In outward woe he thinks, feels and prays about inward weal alone; in evil, that concerns himself, about the good of the church alone.—God, the true Father, is not nearer to heaven with its angels and saints than to earth with its sons of men; were we but nearer to Him!—He is the Rich One, who can and will give; we are the poor ones, who should receive and—will not!—It were better if thou didst not care so much how to adorn the outer man through the spirit of the world and of fashion; God can through His Spirit Revelation -animate and strengthen the inner man.—Above all see how it stands within thee, so that what God has created after His image in thee be not stunted and starved out. Thine outer man may laugh and sing and dance, while the inner man laments and sighs and goes to destruction.

Christ wishes to dwell with thee, not as a mere passing guest; so order thy work and recreation and mode of life after His example, that it may please Him to dwell there and not to hasten away. He is willing to belong to thee; it is not enough then that thou hearest Him, hearkenest to Him, thou must also belong to Him as His possession, must submit thyself and all thou hast to His disposal.—Bind thyself in faith to Him and hold communion with those who believe in Him, that thou mayest grow in the knowledge of His love. Root thyself ever deeper in that love, ground thyself ever more firmly upon it.—Do like Ernest the Pious, who in1636 had a medal struck in commemoration of his marriage with Elizabeth Sophia of Altenburg, with this inscription on the one side: Christum lieben ist das beste wissen (Living Christ is the best knowledge), and on the other: Gott, lehr erkennen mich und Dich (God, teach me to know myself and Thee)!—Holy love alone lets us understand and use the Scriptures ever better and better! If we look at God’s word and world without love; we see them only remotely.—Three-fold aim of Christian supplication: 1. Strengthening of the inner man; 2. Knowledge of the love of Christ; 3. Fulness of Divine glory.

Starke:—In praying the outward posture is indeed of little importance; it is left to Christian liberty to take this or that position with the body; yet no kind of posture seems better fitted for fervent, earnest prayer, than kneeling.—Thou hast indeed a merciful, gracious and loving Father: Thinkest thou, He can ever forsake thee? That is an idle thought. As little as He can take Love out of His heart so little can He forget thee. See, what is the best thing a teacher can ask for his flock; but also what thou too, O soul, must seek after, to be strengthened through the Spirit of God in the inner man.—It is not enough to have come into a state of grace through conversion, there must be added a strengthening and fortifying, which however is not the work of Prayer of Manasseh, since Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Though our sins were so broad, so long, so deep, so high, as heaven and earth, yet is the grace and mercy of God deeper, broader, higher and longer, so that it cannot be measured.—The mystery of the love of God is incomprehensible: in future perfection we will understand it. Because we still await that time, let us meanwhile imitate such love in its depth, by helping those who are in the deepest misery and least deserving; in its breadth, by showing to all men without distinction, for God’s sake, kindness and affection, in its length, by never ceasing or becoming weary; in its height, by looking up to God, devoting to Him all our efforts, and having His glory as our purpose.—In Christianity more depends upon taking in faith, than upon giving and doing in love. For the more we take of the fulness of God, the more we can give.

A. Mueller:—He who lets Christ dwell in his heart, only that, he may have from Him a household blessing or a joyful consolation, sells Him his heart; but he who surrenders himself to Christ out of pure love, at the same time thinking himself unworthy of the least look of His grace, gives Him his heart.

Rieger:—God oftentimes indeed begins in a very small way in His works of grace, because He will effect nothing according to absolute power, but so as to lead men to faith and obedience.—Christ dwelling in the heart, and His Spirit lay claim also to the members of the body, putting them into the service of righteousness, to bring forth fruit unto God in holiness.—Being rooted and grounded in love we obtain the ability to comprehend, not merely to know, but also with other powers of soul so to appropriate something as to be filled therewith. Faith widens the heart, so that more and more can be grasped. But with these enlarged views, which are imparted to us, we should not sunder ourselves from other saints, nor attach to anything such an immoderate value, as to sever the bond which unites us with other saints, but apply all to the edification of the body of Christ.

Heubner:—It is a truly proud misery of Kant’s, his denying kneeling as a slavish Orientalism. He can scarcely have felt the impulse of a praying heart. Lichtenberg judges very differently, when he says: “When the body falls upon its knees, the spirit lifts itself to God.”—We have too little bending of the knee; the Catholics perhaps too much, so that a Catholic may occasionally be recognized by the looks of his clothes at the knees. Spener wished that kneeling devotion was more common among us.—What a comfort for fatherless children and widows, what hope for affectionate fathers, to know that their dear children hare in heaven a better Father than themselves. Still the human relation can best teach the true “Father-theology.”—A church can be good outwardly and apparently and yet be without inward life. This inward life comes from the Spirit of God. Christianity should be learned not by heart, but in the heart.[FN42]—Christ will dwell, not in stone churches, but in living hearts; the heart should live and move in Him, His Spirit should animate our spirit in constant intercourse with Him.—When Christ dwells in the heart, every one has his Christ in his neighbor.—Breadth: the Church of Christ should stretch itself over the whole circle of the earth, over all lands. The length refers to time; she continues throughout all centuries. The depth points to her foundation; she has it in the unfathomable abyss of Divine mercy, and her height reaches into heaven, it is unassailable, for the church on earth and in the spirit world is one. This is the greatness and the origin of the spiritual temple.—Love to Christ, a simple heart full of faith and love to Him, is better than all science. This love has an unconditioned value, is in itself the highest: not so with knowledge; it can give a kind of enlightenment, without at all affecting the heart. The heart excels the understanding. Science should not be over-estimated, and made an idol. Science can never conquer the enemies of the Kingdom of God, she should be a handmaid. The true science is only where the cross is. Only the theologus crucis is the theologus lucis.

Passavant:—With a narrow heart we cannot pray with confidence. Hence everything demands that we should receive Divine riches, which enlightens our mind, expands our heart and makes God great in us.—How worthy of admiration, how highly exalted above man is this inner man of the heart! Faith is his reason and his light; love his heart and his life; the Holy Ghost his soul and strength; Jesus Christ his ego and his nature; God his Father and at the same time his heritage, his glory, his riches, his eternal dwelling-place; God makes him, His work in His own good time, and this through a power whose working corresponds with the riches and the glory of His grace.—Did Christ dwell in us, what would we become to our friends, to our enemies, to the world, to the heavens!—Only the Spirit of God in us can disclose to us what God is; only faith, through the Holy Ghost, can apprehend Christ and His life in us; only pure, holy love in us can comprehend what is transcendent and blissful, the wonders of the love of God in Jesus Christ.—There is a breadth and length and depth and height; for this no worlds are too broad, no paths too long, no space too wide, no abyss, no hell too deep, no heaven too high, that it may not reach thither, and penetrate there with might and almightiness, with light and life, with comfort and salvation and peace from eternal compassion—“fulness of God” the destination and end of Prayer of Manasseh, the aim and end of all the decrees of God, of all the mysteries of Christ. Canst thou not satisfy man? Must he still fill himself with a thousand trifles besides, that his happiness may be complete?

Stier:—The higher his petition seeks to ascend above all understanding to Him, who is able to do above all, the deeper he bows himself.—The indwelling of Christ: Its beginning—through faith; means—Christ’s love, which becomes ours; aim—according to the widest extension of the plan (knowledge) and inmost depths of the foundation (Christ’s love).

Gerlach:—The love of Christ to us precedes all our love and knowledge.

Nitzsch:—The essential petition, which we, each for all and all for each, should bear in our hearts, during the varieties and vicissitudes of our life-path1. Its purport: a) To become strong in the inner man; b) To have vital fellowship with the Redeemer; c) To know His love2. The effect.

Wolters (Dedication sermon at Godesberg): The proper prayer for a young congregation: 1) that its members become strong in the inner man: 2) that Christ lives in their hearts; 3) that they understand His love in its greatness and blessedness.

Genzken (Preparatory Lecture[FN43] on Ephesians 3:13-21): St. Paul our example in prayer1) He bows his knees, so we under the burden of our guilt; 2) He addresses himself to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; so there is no other name for us; 3) He asks power for the inner man to strengthen in faith, in love, and for every good work; so we.

Löhe:—St. Paul’s request to the Ephesians, his prayer to God, his song of praise to Him, all in relation to the great mystery of building the church on earth.

Westermeier:—The best prayer: 1) to whom it is addressed; 2) the gifts it desires; 3) the basis on which it rests.

Kluge:—Seek the kingdom of God, not in external things, but in the inner man—1) in judging of the contest of the gospel against the world; 2) of the blessing of the gospel in yourselves.

Rabus:—A glance into the closet of the Apostle: 1) How we should approach God in prayer; 2) how supplicate Him; 3) how praise Him.

Rautenberg:—What Paul does in his tribulations, that his disciples may not become weary in the walk of faith: 1) He is far from them—yet sends them his mighty word; 2) He suffers the contempt of the world—but endures it for their glory; 3) He cannot give them his hand, but he bows his knee for them.

Dr. Meier (Baptismal discourse on Ephesians 3:18): On the breadth, length, depth, height of the love of God.

Pröhle:—Paul’s pious wish for the Church at Ephesus: 1. That they might not become weary in their Christian course ( Ephesians 3:13). 2. That God would give them power to become strong in the inner man ( Ephesians 3:14-16). 3. That Christ may dwell in their hearts ( Ephesians 3:17). 4. That they may be able to comprehend with all saints the breadth=the universality, embracing all, the length=the endlessness from eternity to eternity, the depth and height=the immeasurable and incomprehensible greatness of the love of Christ.

[Hodge:—The most beautiful object might be in the apartment of a blind Prayer of Manasseh, and he not be sensible of its presence; or if by any means made aware of its nearness, he could have no delight in its beauty. Christ dwells in us by faith, because it is by faith we perceive His presence, His excellence and His glory, and because it is by faith we appropriate and reciprocate the manifestations of His love. Faith is to this spiritual communion what esteem and affection are to the fellowship of domestic life.—The love of Christ is infinite; not only because it inheres in an infinite subject, but because the condescension and sufferings to which it led, and the blessings which it secures for its objects, are beyond our comprehension.—R.]


Ephesians 3:15. They lose the cold and official name of subjects in the familiar and endearing appellation of sons, and they are united to one another not dimly and unconsciously, as different products of the same Divine workman-ship, but they merge into one family—“all they are brethren.”

Ephesians 3:17. When Ignatius was asked, on his trial, by the Emperor, what was the meaning of his name—Theophorus—he promptly replied, “He who has Christ in his breast.”—Love is the fundamental grace.

Ephesians 3:19. As the attachment of a Prayer of Manasseh, it may be gauged; but as the love of a God, who can by searching find it out? Uncaused itself, it originated salvation; unresponded to amidst the “contradiction of sinners,” it neither pined nor collapsed. It led from Divine immortality to human agonies and dissolution, for the victim was bound to the cross, not by the nails of the military executioner, but by the “cords of love.” It loved repulsive unloveliness, and, unnourished by reciprocated attachment, its ardor was unquenched, nay, is unquenchable, for it is changeless as the bosom in which it dwells. Thus it may be known, while yet it “passeth knowledge;” thus it may be experimentally known, while still in its origin and glory it surpasses comprehension, and presents new and newer phases to the loving and inquiring spirit. For one may drink of the spring and be refreshed, and his eye may take in at one view its extent and circuit, while he may be able neither to fathom the depth nor mete out the volume of the ocean whence it has its origin.—R.]


FN#33 - Ephesians 3:14.—[The phrase: τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, which follows πατήρ in Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Romans 15:6, should be rejected here. The weight of diplomatic authority is against it (omitted in א1 A. B. C17, 67; found in א3 D. F. K. L. and all other cursives). A number of fathers reject it (Jerome expressly speaks of the omission), while the best versions retain it. It is scarcely credible, as De Wette urges, that it was omitted because coming between παρέρα and πατριά, since it really disturbs the rhythmical connection; while on the other hand no addition would be more likely than this from the common formula. If internal grounds have any weight, it must be rejected. So Lachmann, Tischendorf, Rückert, Harless, Meyer, Olshausen, Alford, Ellicott; Eadie inclines to this view. Reiche and De Wette retain it, as does Hodge, who says: “the majority of recent editions and commentators retain them,” a statement surprisingly unwarranted.—R.]

FN#34 - Ephesians 3:16.—[The Rec. reads δῴη with D. K. L, and most fathers, but δῷ (א. A. B. C. F.) is to be preferred. Comp. Ephesians 1:17.—R.]

FN#35 - Ephesians 3:16.—[Here also as in Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8, the Rec. gives the masculine form (D3 K. L, cursives), but א. A. B. C. D1 F. support the neuter.—R.]

FN#36 - Ephesians 3:17.—[Another view of the construction requires the following translation: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, ye having been rooted and grounded in love, in order that,” etc. See Exegetical Notes.—R.]

FN#37 - Ephesians 3:18.—[The order of the Rec. (βάθος καὶ ὕψος) is sustained by א. A. K. L, most cursives; adopted by Tischendorf, Ellicott, Meyer and Braune, as lectio difficilior. B. C. D. E. F. G, most versions, give the reverse order, which as more natural and prevalent ( Romans 8:39) is open to suspicion. It is accepted by Lachmann, Alford and others.—R.]

FN#38 - Ellicott renders: “From whom every race in heaven and on earth is thus named,” while the German text of Braune runs thus in a literal translation: “whose name every family in heaven and on earth bears.”—R.]

FN#39 - So Bodius and Hodge, both insisting upon the exclusive reference to the redeemed. The argument of the latter rests altogether on the incorrect reading he accepts. Admitting that the omission of the article favors the rendering: “every family,” he adds that it may still be omitted where the sense is “the whole family,” provided the context is so clear as to prevent mistake. But it is not so clear, else the great body of commentators would not have mistaken it; hence the condition is not met. Besides the context does not teach, except critical judgments are to give way to exegetical preferences, “that those who are here contemplated as children, are those who are by Jesus Christ brought into this relation to God.” “Consequently” it ought not to be affirmed that “the word πατριά cannot include any but the subjects of redemption.”—Undoubtedly there is an underlying thought of redemption; “it is not in virtue of God’s creative power that the Apostle here prays to Him, but in virtue of His adoptive love in Christ” (Alford). The thought of an “All-Father” is remote enough, but any unnecessary limitation of πᾶσα πατριά is at the same time a limitation of the wider results of Redemptive Love so frequently hinted at by Paul and not very remote here ( Ephesians 3:10). Alford: “The Apostle seems, regarding God as the Father of us His adopted children, to go forth into the fact, that Hebrews, in this His relation to us, is in reality the great original and proto-type of the paternal relation, wherever found.” And in an ethical sense this relation may be readily conceived of as existing in heaven among other than those redeemed from earth—R.]

FN#40 - Dr. Hodge, very sweepingly, intimates that all those interpretations which distinguish this “inner man” from the renewed Prayer of Manasseh, belong to “the theory of Semi-Pelagianism, embodied and developed in the theology of the Church of Rome.” But this is based on a mere assumption, viz, that this view of “the inner man” as the seat of spiritual influences implies the actual sinlessness and unfallen status of “that inner Prayer of Manasseh,” an implication distinctly denied by many of the supporters of this theory, among whom are expositors, who cannot be classed among the advocates of Semi-Pelagianism. I append the statement of Ellicott, which agrees with my own view, referred to above: “The expression ἔσω ἄνθρωπος ( Romans 7:22) is nearly identical with, but somewhat more inclusive than κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος ( 1 Peter 3:4), and stands in antithesis to ἔξω ἄνθρωπος ( 2 Corinthians 4:16); the former being practically equivalent to the νοῦς or higher nature of man ( Romans 7:23), the latter to the σάρξ or μέλη: see Beck, Seelenlehre, III:21, 3, p68. It is within this ἔσω ἄνθρωπος that the powers of regeneration are exercised (Harless, Christl. Ethik, § 22a), and it is from their operation in this province that the whole man (‘secunda interna spectatus,’ Bengel) becomes a νέος ἄνθρωπος (as opposed to a former state), or a καινὸς ἄνθρωπος (as opposed to a former corrupt state), and is either κατὰ Θεὸν κτισθείς ( Ephesians 4:24), or ἀνακαινούμενος εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατʼ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν ( Colossians 3:10), according to the point of view under which regeneration is regarded. The distinction between this and the partially synonymous terms πνεῦμα and νοῦς may perhaps be thus roughly stated: πνεῦμα is simply the highest of the three parts of which man is composed; νοῦς the πνεῦμα regarded more in its moral and intellectual aspects, ‘quatenus intelligit, cogitat, et vult; ἔσω ἄνθρωπος the πνεῦμα or rather the whole immaterial portion, considered in its theological aspects, and as the seat of the inworking powers of grace.” To which may be added that owing to the fact that πνεῦμα has also a second meaning (the human spirit as inwrought upon by the Divine Spirit), Paul does not use it in Romans 7:7-25, but rather νοῦς and ἔσω ἄνθρωπος. This view of the phrase is adopted by Eadie and Alford, and may be regarded as the prevalent one in Germany, perhaps now among English commentators.—R.]

FN#41 - Eadie thus states his view: The change of syntax indicates a change of connection, and the use of the irregular nominative makes the transition easy to the form adopted with ἵνα. The clause thus changed becomes a species of independent proposition, giving a marked prominence to the sense, and connected at once with the preceding context as its result, and with the following context as its starting idea. So Ellicott, who in his translation puts a dash before and after the clause. The course of thought then is: “Christ dwelling in their hearts—they are supposed, as the effect of this inhabitation, to have been now rooted and grounded in love; and as the design of this confirmation in love—they are then and there qualified to comprehend,” etc. This construction is certainly admissible, although Harless is fanciful in accounting for it by the reference to both the dative and genitive which precede. Meyer presents the forcible objection that the present participles would occur were this the connection. When to this it is replied, “that the clause does express the state which must ensue upon the indwelling of Christ before what is expressed in the next clause can in any way be realized, and that therefore the perf. part. is correctly used” (Ellicott), I find in this but a confession of that subordinate relation of the clause to the next one, which is implied in the other view. If the ideas are so nearly similar, a trajection seems a better explanation, than to complicate the relation of the clauses further (we have already a leading clause in Ephesians 3:14, a clause of purport in Ephesians 3:16, containing a finite verb followed by an infinitive, on which infinitive a clause of result depends, Ephesians 3:17. The view under discussion would make an irregular sub-subordinate clause of result to be followed ( Ephesians 3:18) by a clause of design, which the other view would append directly to the purport of the prayer). On the other hand this metathesis is open to objection. Such a trajection implies an emphasis on the words thrown in advance, and it is asserted that there is no necesssity for such emphasis here, but this is no real objection, since the words can be emphatic (notwithstanding Alford’s denial). Again, it is said that the premised words in all such cases form the objective factor of the sentence and are not connected with the subject as here (Ellicott). Ellicott’s remark is true as regards the other cases where ἵνα is trajected, but in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, ἕως is put after the subject, which it not strictly parallel, is certainly analogous.—R.]

FN#42 - The German has a similar paronomasia: Man soll das Christenthum nicht auswendig, sondern inwendig lernen.—R.]

FN#43 - Beichtrede is literally a discourse at confession but among Protestants means the service preparatory to the communion, during the previous week. The etymology confirms the view, that our preparatory lecture is borrowed from the Romanist usage of confessing before the communion, though in reality a proper mode of obeying the injunction: Let a man examine himself.—R.]

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible



"For this cause" -- because of the marvelous greatness of the work God had accomplished for and in His saints -- Paul preached "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (v.8). He was the prisoner, not of Rome, but of Jesus Christ. Men sought to confine him and his ministry, but the Lord Jesus used even his imprisonment for good . Thus he was a prisoner "for you Gentiles," for it was Jewish antagonism against his going to the Gentiles that led to his imprisonment.

"The dispensation of the grace of God" (v.2) is God's special way of dealing with mankind at the present time. It is in contrast to the administration of law in the Old Testament. It began with the Lord Jesus manifested among men, He whose blessed death and resurrection gives the purest, fullest character to the abounding grace of God. This dispensation has lasted almost 2000 years, and will continue until the coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church at the Rapture. No other dispensation has lasted this long, and even the Millennium will be only 1000 years. The truth of this dispensation was given to the Apostle Paul particularly for Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1-11), though Jews are not excluded for Paul himself was a Jew.

God made known the mystery of this dispensation by special revelation to Paul. His knowledge then was not from keen human discernment but directly as a result of a revelation from God. Verse 5 shows why the Church dispensation was called a mystery. In earlier ages this truth concerning the Church was not revealed. Therefore it was a mystery, not Mystical but unknown in Old Testament times. In the Old Testament there were various types (or pictures) of the Church as the bride of Christ or as the building of God or as the priestly company, and others too, although not at that time understood as pictures of the Church. However, not one type of the truth of the one body is seen in the Old Testament. Jews and Gentiles are always separated there as distinct groups. Only now is it revealed that "in Christ" the Gentiles are fellowheirs and of the same body as Jewish believers and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Such unity of Jews and Gentiles is totally new, and when revealed it was strongly resisted by the Jews who had zealously maintained a strong line of demarcation between themselves and Gentile "dogs" as they were considered.

How appropriate it is that the chief messenger of this was himself Jewish, one who had to be laid hold of by God in a compelling way. Paul is emphatically "minister" (not simply a minister) of these great truths (Colossians 1:24-25. JND), not by natural ability, but by the gift of the grace of God. This gift required the effective working of God's power, the same power spoken of in chapter 1:19 in connection with the resurrection of Christ.

Paul insists that God's choice of him was not because of his worth but because of his insignificance, so that attention should not be drawn to the vessel but to the unsearchable riches of Christ (v.8). He never forgot that the pure grace of God had lifted him out of a proud, rebellious state (1 Timothy 1:12-14) to use him to proclaim such -- riches of grace among the Gentiles.

Paul's object in preaching was to enlighten everyone as to these truths which had been in the past "hidden in God" (v.9). It was not even hidden in scripture, but totally unrevealed. Such a matter is worthy of the supreme majesty of Him who created all things by Jesus Christ. God reserved such a revelation until Christ came, suffered and died, was raised and returned to heaven. Only in this way could a Man in glory be Head of His body, the Church, and then use a weak, dependent vessel to declare this mystery, the more effectively to magnify the great glory of the revelation.

Verse 10 shows an even higher object than that of enlightening people, for "principalities and powers in heavenly places" -- angelic beings -- are seen to be vitally interested in this unique dispensation of God. In the Assembly they observe the all-various wisdom of God, wisdom infinitely higher than could have been imagined by any creature. For in the Church they see unity established by God among a redeemed people, comparatively small in number and scattered throughout all nations. National, racial, social and cultural barriers have all been done away between them, though these exist as positively as ever in their respective nations. So the Church (the Assembly) is a unique people gathered out of all nations and made one in Christ Jesus. Marvelous triumph of the wisdom, grace and power of God!

This Assembly was not a thought conceived by God after nations appeared on earth. It was in God's eternal purpose, purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord from eternity past (v.11). Just as individuals in the Assembly where chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (ch.1:4), so the Assembly itself was in the purposes of God from eternity. This to us is totally inconceivable, but faith gladly accepts it and adores Him. Further, it encourages the confidence of bold, unquestioning faith to enter into the blessedness of all this revelation. Though it is marvelously wonderful, yet it is to be understood, valued and enjoyed by every Christian.

In comparison to the wonder and greatness of such a revelation, Paul considered his many tribulations as nothing. The Ephesians were not to be discouraged because he was in prison for their sake, because thus he could declare such riches to the Gentiles. Rather they were to glory in the fact that such suffering was well worthwhile when borne for so glorious a cause.



"For this reason" (v.14) involves both the marvel of the revelation given to Paul and his willing suffering for it. These two things move him to bow his knees in intercessory prayer for the Ephesians and by implication for all the saints of God. In contrast to chapter 1:17, this prayer is addressed to "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" rather than to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ is therefore seen here as the Son of the Father, His deity emphasized rather than His humanity. Also, the prayer is not for their knowledge (as in chapter 1), but for the proper spiritual state of their souls.

Verse 15 is rightly "every family" (JND), for in the wise counsels of God the Father, there are various families in which this grace will be displayed in the millennial age. In heaven will be the bride (the Church) as well as Old Testament saints and also the martyrs from the tribulation (Revelation 20:4). On earth will be Israel in a distinct place of glory and believing Gentile nations who have come out of the Great tribulation and are given earthly blessing in the Millennium (Revelation 7:9-17). All these are distinct families of God, with which God has had, or will have, special dealings.

If we have known "the riches of His glory" then this is to have some present real effect, for it is according to these riches that Paul entreats the Father to strengthen His saints with might through His Spirit in the inner man (v.16). Proper objects have wonderful effects on our innermost being. This mighlt is living, spiritual strength, miraculously higher than what appears to be strength in mere human estimation.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 it is plain that Christ is in all believers, but here in Ephesians 3:17 it is the practical experiencing of this for which the apostle prays - the precious sense of His abiding presence in each believer.

We are not to be rooted and grounded simply in knowledge, but in love, that principle of genuine concern for the blessing of its objects. Love is not to be simply a surface matter, but with roots reaching into the inmost being. "Grounded" would infer that love is solidly based on what does not give way -- the truth of God's Word.

In verse 18, to comprehend or apprehend is not merely to know about something, but to apply it in experience to the heart. Although the apostle speaks of love in verse 17, verse 18 is not confined to love, but embraces all the counsels of God in which His great love is manifested. Therefore, to apprehend the width is to take in, in some measure, the truth of God that is infinite, unlimited in its scope. More than this, the length of God's revelation is eternal, a matter too that staggers our imagination. The depth also is greater than we can imagine, for this is measured only by the depths of the suffering and anguish the Lord Jesus endured on the cross, therefore immeasurable so far as we are concerned. The height of such a revelation is seen in the present exaltation of the Lord Jesus above all heavens and in the blessing with which He has blessed His saints in Himself, so great as to be unsearchable.

Yet in all these things we are privileged to know the love of Christ, not merely intellectually, but in living power and reality. One may breathe deeply of the pure atmosphere of fresh mountain air, yet that breath is immeasurably short of using all the air available. One may drink deeply of a never failing fountain, its supply immeasurably beyond the capacity of the drinker. How precious indeed in such a way to "be filled with all the fullness of God!" (v.19). Whatever our capacity, we have no right- reason not to be filled at all times. Let us make a habit of daily living in this refreshing atmosphere.

In such experiences of the fullness of God we shall learn God's great ability to more than meet every need. He not only gives as we ask or think, but above all of this, and greater still, "abundantly above all, and yet greater, "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (v.20). Nor is He speaking only of power that works for us, but power which works in us. This power is certainly to be realized and enjoyed in present experience, though the full blessedness of it will require eternity for its display.

This display of glory will be seen in the Assembly collectively, not only in the millennial age when all things are first gathered under the Headship of Christ, but "to all generations forever and ever" (v.21). For Paul is speaking here of that which is based on the very nature of God and therefore eternal, rather than of God's dispensational, administrative counsels. "Forever and ever" may be translated, "to the age of ages." That eternal age outlasts all passing ages.

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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Apostle's Prayer. A. D. 61.

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 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 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 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, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

We now come to the second part of this chapter, which contains Paul's devout and affectionate prayer to God for his beloved Ephesians.--For this cause. This may be referred either to the immediately Ephesians 3:13, That you faint not, &c., or, rather, the apostle is here resuming what he began at the Ephesians 3:1, from which he digressed in those which are interposed. Observe,

I. To whom he prays--to God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which see Ephesians 1:3.

II. His outward posture in prayer, which was humble and reverent: I bow my knees. Note, When we draw nigh to God, we should reverence him in our hearts, and express our reverence in the most suitable and becoming behaviour and gesture. Here, having mentioned Christ, he cannot pass without an honourable encomium of his love, Ephesians 3:15. The universal church has a dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. The Jews were wont to boast of Abraham as their father, but now Jews and Gentiles are both denominated from Christ (so some) while others understand it of the saints in heaven, who wear the crown of glory, and of saints on earth who are going on in the work of grace here. Both the one and the other make but one family, one household and from him they are named CHRISTIANS, as they really are such, acknowledging their dependence upon, and their relation to, Christ.

III. What the apostle asks of God for these his friends--spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings, and the most earnestly to be sought and prayed for by every one of us, both for ourselves and for our friends. 1. Spiritual strength for the work and duty to which they were called, and in which they were employed: That he would grant you, according to the riches of his grace, to be strengthened, &c. The inner man is the heart or soul. To be strengthened with might is to be mightily strengthened, much more than they were at present to be endued with a high degree of grace, and spiritual abilities for discharging duty, resisting temptations, enduring persecutions, &c. And the apostle prays that this may be according to the riches of his glory, or according to his glorious riches--answerable to that great abundance of grace, mercy, and power, which resides in God, and is his glory: and this by his Spirit, who is the immediate worker of grace in the souls of God's people. Observe from these things, That strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man is the best and most desirable strength, strength in the soul, the strength of faith and other graces, strength to serve God and to do our duty, and to persevere in our Christian course with vigour and with cheerfulness. And let us further observe that as the work of grace is first begun so it is continued and carried on, by the blessed Spirit of God. 2. The indwelling of Christ in their hearts, Ephesians 3:17. Christ is said to dwell in his people, as he is always present with them by his gracious influences and operations. Observe, It is a desirable thing to have Christ dwell in our hearts and if the law of Christ be written there, and the love of Christ be shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Christ is an inhabitant in the soul of every good Christian. Where his spirit dwells, there he swells and he dwells in the heart by faith, by means of the continual exercise of faith upon him. Faith opens the door of the soul, to receive Christ faith admits him, and submits to him. By faith we are united to Christ, and have an interest in him. 3. The fixing of pious and devout affections in the soul: That you being rooted and grounded in love, stedfastly fixed in your love to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to all the saints, the beloved of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many have some love to God and to his servants, but it is a flash, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, it makes a great noise, but is gone presently. We should earnestly desire that good affections may be fixed in us, that we may be rooted and grounded in love. Some understand it of their being settled and established in the sense of God's love to them, which would inspire them with greater ardours of holy love to him, and to one another. And how very desirable is it to have a settled fixed sense of the love of God and Christ to our souls, so as to be able to say with the apostle at all times, He has loved me! Now the best way to attain this is to be careful that we maintain a constant love to God in our souls this will be the evidence of the love of God to us. We love him, because he first loved us. In order to this he prays, 4. For their experimental acquaintance with the love of Jesus Christ. The more intimate acquaintance we have with Christ's love to us, the more our love will be drawn out to him, and to those who are his, for his sake: That you may be able to comprehend with all saints, &c. (Ephesians 3:18,19) that is, more clearly to understand, and firmly to believe, the wonderful love of Christ to his, which the saints do understand and believe in some measure, and shall understand more hereafter. Christians should not aim to comprehend above all saints but be content that God deals with them as he uses to do with those who love and fear his name: we should desire to comprehend with all saints, to have so much knowledge as the saints are allowed to have in this world. We should be ambitious of coming up with the first three but not of going beyond what is the measure of the stature of other saints. It is observable how magnificently the apostle speaks of the love of Christ. The dimensions of redeeming love are admirable: The breadth, and length, and depth, and height. By enumerating these dimensions, the apostle designs to signify the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea, Job 11:8,9. Some describe the particulars thus: By the breadth of it we may understand the extent of it to all ages, nations, and ranks of men by the length of it, its continuance from everlasting to everlasting by the depth of it, its stooping to the lowest condition, with a design to relieve and save those who have sunk into the depths of sin and misery by its height, its entitling and raising us up to the heavenly happiness and glory. We should desire to comprehend this love: it is the character of all the saints that they do so for they all have a complacency and a confidence in the love of Christ: And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, Ephesians 3:19. If it passeth knowledge, how can we know it? We must pray and endeavour to know something, and should still covet and strive to know more and more of it, though, after the best endeavours, none can fully comprehend it: in its full extent it surpasses knowledge. Though the love of Christ may be better perceived and known by Christians than it generally is, yet it cannot be fully understood on this side heaven. 5. He prays that they may be filled with all the fulness of God. It is a high expression: we should not dare to use it if we did not find it in the scriptures. It is like those other expressions, of being partakers of a divine nature, and of being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. We are not to understand it of his fulness as God in himself, but of his fulness as a God in covenant with us, as a God to his people: such a fulness as God is ready to bestow, who is willing to fill them all to the utmost of their capacity, and that with all those gifts and graces which he sees they need. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness may be said to be filled with the fulness of God, according to their capacity, all which is in order to their arriving at the highest degree of the knowledge and enjoyment of God, and an entire conformity to him.

The apostle closes the chapter with a doxology, Ephesians 3:20,21. It is proper to conclude our prayers with praises. Our blessed Saviour has taught us to do so. Take notice how he describes God, and how he ascribes glory to him. He describes him as a God that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. There is an inexhaustible fulness of grace and mercy in God, which the prayers of all the saints can never draw dry. Whatever we may ask, or think to ask, still God is still able to do more, abundantly more, exceedingly abundantly more. Open thy mouth ever so wide, still he hath wherewithal to fill it. Note, In our applications to God we should encourage our faith by a consideration of his all-sufficiency and almighty power. According to the power which worketh in us. As if he had said, We have already had a proof of this power of God, in what he hath wrought in us and done for us, having quickened us by his grace, and converted us to himself. The power that still worketh for the saints is according to that power that hath wrought in them. Wherever God gives of his fulness he gives to experience his power. Having thus described God, he ascribes glory to him. When we come to ask for grace from God, we ought to give glory to God. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus. In ascribing glory to God, we ascribe all excellences and perfections to him, glory being the effulgency and result of them all. Observe, The seat of God's praises is in the church. That little rent of praise which God receives from this world is from the church, a sacred society constituted for the glory of God, every particular member of which, both Jew and Gentile, concurs in this work of praising God. The Mediator of these praises is Jesus Christ. All God's gifts come from his to us through the hand of Christ and all our praises pass from us to him through the same hand. And God should and will be praised thus throughout all ages, world without end for he will ever have a church to praise him, and he will ever have his tribute of praise from his church. Amen. So be it and so it will certainly be.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

For this cause; this may be referred either to the former verse: {Ephesians 3:13} For this cause, viz. that ye faint not, & c.; or rather to the 1st verse, {Ephesians 3:1} the apostle here resuming what he had been beginning there.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘For this reason I bow my knees to the Father from whom every Fatherhood in Heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.’

Paul now feels constrained to express his prayer on their behalf. Prison gave much time for praying and Paul used it to the full. Aware of the future they faced he prayed for their divine empowering without which they could not hope to succeed.

‘For this reason.’ Because of the wonder of what God is doing, and because He has made them all one on Christ.

‘I bow my knees to the Father.’ Father He may be, but He is the divine Father. Thus Paul kneels in submission and worship. Boldness and confident access do not make him careless in his approach. Besides he has deep matters to deal with.

‘To the Father from Whom every fatherhood situation in Heaven and on earth is named.’ There is a play of words here between ‘pater’ (father) and ‘patria’ (family, fatherhood situation). The whole hierarchy of existence went down through fatherhood. God was Father of all. Then reflecting His Fatherhood came national and tribal leaders, including Abraham. Then came heads of the sub-tribes and families. Then the head of the individual family. And the same was so among the heavenly beings (‘in Heaven’). It is the whole pattern of existence. And the whole pattern of fatherhood is based on God’s Fatherhood. He is the supreme example of Fatherhood.

In all cases ‘the father’ was responsible for maintenance of unity, for justice and for the well-being of his family. Thus here the supreme Father is being approached about the well-being of His family (compare John 17:11).

‘That he would grant you according to the riches of His glory.’ He calls on all the resources of the Godhead, ‘the riches of His glory’, confident that He will supply from the riches of His glory and in accordance with it.

‘That you may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.’ The unique feature of the new people of God is that the Spirit of God has come among them and has entered in to them. They are born of the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit. They are Spirit possessed (in the right sense), filled with the dynamic of the Spirit. And this by the Spiritof God. Thus he prays that each member may learn to so yield to the Spirit that His full empowering might understay their whole being.

‘Strengthened.’ To be fortified, braced, invigorated.

‘In the inner man.’ The inner depths of a man that some call the soul, the centre of his being. In the Christian it is being renewed day by day, and delights in the precepts of God. Compare Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16.

‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.’ He is addressing the whole church, and yet each individual member of that church. Each individual heart is in mind. To Paul the church is not an organisation or a society. It is a living body composed of individual living members. It throbs with the life of its members. And his prayer is that they may each experience the indwelling of Christ to the full, Christ revealing Himself in them, Christ living through them, Christ in them the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27; Galatians 2:20; John 14:18; John 14:20; John 14:23; John 17:23; John 17:26). Each member is daily to allow Christ to reveal Himself through their lives. Thus will the whole reveal Him in greater fullness.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Paul’s Prayer for His Readers (3:14-21).

‘For this reason -.’ Compare Ephesians 3:1 which begins in the same way. Does this mean that this is the continuation that he would have made had he not made a diversion? There are good grounds for suggesting that that occurs in Ephesians 4:1 when he returns to the theme of the prisoner of the Lord, and exhorts them to walk worthily of their calling and maintain the unity of the Spirit.

We may equally see the prayer here as resulting from his outlining of the mystery of God to be revealed through the church of Christ. In order to complete their destiny they will need divine empowering in order to fulfil their responsibilities and fulfil His eternal purpose.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. The Writer's Prayer for his Readers.—Kneeling, in a very ecstasy of prayer, before the Father who is the source and prototype of all fatherly relationship whether on earth or in heaven, the writer prays that, in a degree commensurate with the wealth of the Divine glory, his readers may be granted power and strength through the Spirit unto inner spiritual growth; that the indwelling of Christ in their hearts may through faith be realised; that Christian love may come to be the very root and foundation of their being; and that so they may be given strength to share with all God's holy people the comprehension of the length and breadth and height and depth (of God's glorious purpose) and the knowledge of that love of Christ which is beyond all knowledge, and be made spiritually full unto the measure of the fulness of God Himself (Ephesians 3:14-19). God can do that and more: His power—the power of that Divine energy of His which is at work in us—far exceeds all capacity of human prayer or imagination. Glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever! (Ephesians 3:20).

Ephesians 3:14. The writer prostrates himself; the ancients ordinarily prayed standing.

Ephesians 3:15. every family: i.e. angelic or human. The Greek involves a word-play (pater-patria) which suggests the translation "fatherhood." To the writer human fatherhood is a metaphor from Divine, not vice versa.

Ephesians 3:16. the inward man: the spiritual as opposed to the physical side of man's nature (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16).

Ephesians 3:19. All "fulness," i.e. all true reality, dwells in God: unto the complete attainment of reality and truth the working out of the Divine purpose in Christ and Christians is to lead. "In Christ" and "through the Church" the restoration of a disordered universe to its true order is to be achieved. The word "fulness" (pleroma) became later on a catchword of Gnosticism, and the prominence both of the word and the idea in Eph. and Col. may point to its having already played a part in the theosophic speculations attacked in the latter epistle.

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Eph . The whole family.—R.V. "every family." The word for "family" is only found in the New Testament in St. Luk 2:4 and Act 3:25; in one translated "lineage," in the other "kindreds" in A.V.; consistently as "family" by R.V. Chrysostom, and others who followed him, have surely a special claim to be heard. They translate it "races." Bishop Alexander contends for the A.V. translation, "the whole." He says, "A special force and signification in the expression make this translation necessary" (cf. Eph 2:19).

Eph . The riches of His glory.—"The whole glorious perfection of God." To be strengthened with might.—There may be a verbal connection with the "fainting" of Eph 3:13, but the thought goes far out beyond that. In the inner man.—We are reminded again of the text quoted above (2Co 4:16). A mode of expression derived from the Platonic school, not necessarily presupposing any acquaintance with that system of philosophy.

Eph . That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.—The condition of this, declared by Christ Himself, is that a man should keep the word of Christ. Being rooted and grounded.—A double metaphor—of a tree that has struck its roots deep into the crevices of the rock, and of a building with a foundation of bed-rock. "Every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God" (1Jn 4:7). Love conditions knowledge of things divine (see Eph 3:18).

Eph . May be able.—Perfectly able. With all saints.—The highest and most precious knowledge Paul can desire only as a common possession of all Christians. What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.—"The deeply affected mind with its poetico-imaginative intuition looks upon the metaphysical magnitude as a physical, mathematical one. Every special attempt at interpretation is unpsychological, and only gives scope to that caprice which profanes by dissecting the outpouring of enthusiasm" (Meyer).

Eph . And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.—"An adequate knowledge of the love of Christ transcends human capacity, but the relative knowledge of the same opens up in a higher degree the more the heart is filled with the Spirit of Christ, and thereby is strengthened in loving. This knowledge is not discursive, but based in the consciousness of experience" (Meyer).

Eph . Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly.—After his prayer proper is ended the full heart of the apostle swells out into a solemn doxology The frequent and bold compound expressions of St. Paul (Farrar says twenty of the New Testament twenty-eight with ὑπέρ are St. Paul's) spring from the endeavours adequately to express his energetic thought. According to the power that worketh in us.—"The measure of a man" or "of an angel" is insufficient here. Things are not achieved by creaturely mensuration where God works (cf. Eph 1:19-23).

Eph . To Him be the glory.—"The honour due to His name." By Christ Jesus.—He that "climbeth up some other way" with his offering courts his own destruction. Throughout all ages, world without end.—R.V. "Unto all generations, for ever and ever." A good specimen of the "exceeding abundantly above all that we … understand" as regarded under the aspect of time. It carries our thoughts along the vista of the future, till time melts into eternity.


A Sublime and Comprehensive Prayer—

I. For spiritual strengthening (Eph ).—The first necessity of the new convert is strength. The change from the former life is so new and strange. The spiritual faculties are but recently called into exercise; and though they are thrilled with the vigour of youth, they possess the inherent weakness and are exposed to the temptations of youth. Their newly acquired strength is at once their glory and their danger—their glory in giving them the capacity and impulse for the highest kind of work; their danger because they are tempted to rely upon their own conscious power rather than upon the grace of God within them, which is the source of their best strength. If that strength is once undermined or eaten away, it can never be replaced. The strength of youth, physical or spiritual, belongs only to the period of youth; if lost in youth, it can never be regained in maturer life. Whatever strength we may gain in after-years will never be what it might have been if we had never lost the strength of our first love. The apostle here prays that his converts may be invigorated with a manful courage, the moral strength to meet dangers and to battle with difficulties without quailing.

1. This spiritual strengthening is achieved by the indwelling Christ welcomed and retained in the heart by faith.—"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph ). The source of this strength is not in us; we cannot evoke it by any voluntary effort of our own. It is a divine power working in us (Eph 3:20). It is the Christ within us making Himself felt in our otherwise enfeebled powers. We are invested with the strength of Christ by our faith in Christ; and increase of strength comes with increase of faith. The faith that receives Christ into the heart must be constantly exercised to keep Him there, and to derive inspiration and help from Him in attaining spiritual growth and in doing useful work.

2. This spiritual strengthening is cherished by an accession of Christian love.—"That ye, being rooted and grounded in love" (Eph ). The double metaphor gives emphasis to the idea—"rooted," a tree; "grounded" a building. When Christ is planted and settled in our hearts, love is shed abroad there, and becomes the genial soil in which our graces grow, and the basis of all our thought and action. Love is strength, the most reliable, sustaining, and victorious kind of strength.

II. For a clearer comprehension of the immeasurable love of Christ (Eph ).—Here the prayer rises in sublimity and comprehensiveness. The apostle prays that we may know the unknowable—"know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." There is nothing so fascinating as the love of Christ, ever leading us on by fresh revelations, and ever leaving the impression that there are unfathomable depths and inaccessible heights yet to be discovered. "Oh that Christ would," exclaimed the saintly Rutherford, "arrest and comprise my love and my heart for all. I am a bankrupt who have no more free goods in the world for Christ, save that it is both the whole heritage I have, and all my moveables besides. Lord, give the thirsty manna drink. Oh to be over ears in the well! Oh to be swimming over head and ears in Christ's love! I would not have Christ's love entering in me, but I would enter into it, and be swallowed up of that love. But I see not myself here, for I fear I make more of His love than of Himself, whereas He Himself is far beyond and much better than His love. Oh, if I had my sinful arms filled with that lovely one Christ! Blessed be my rich Lord Jesus, who sendeth not away beggars from His house with an empty dish. He filleth the vessel of such as will come and seek. We might beg ourselves rich, if we were wise, if we would but hold out our withered hands to Christ, and learn to seek, ask, and knock." The highest conceptions of the love of Christ are realised by the soul that prays.

III. For the attainment of the most complete endowment of the divine fulness.—"That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph ). The prayer asks that man may gain the sum-total of God's gifts, be filled in every capacity of his nature with the whole plenitude (the πλήρωμα) of God. To reach this glorious result, we need, indeed, special spiritual strengthening. New wine bursts old bottles; and a large and sudden inflow of divine grace would be disastrous to the soul unprepared to receive it. What is wanted is strength—strength of the highest and purest kind. Muscular strength—a magnificent healthy physique—is a great gift; but it is one of our lowest endowments, and its abuse sinks us to a worse than brutish sensuality. Intellectual strength is a still higher gift, and if rightly used will lift us into a loftier world of wonders, of beauty, of purity and joy; but if abused will drag us down to the base level of the vapouring, scoffing sceptic, whose attempts to glorify error are instigated by a savage but utterly powerless hatred of truth. Spiritual strength is the highest gift of all. It is the motive-power that gives movement and direction to thought and action. Without it man is the plaything and victim of unrestrained passions. A short time ago I inspected one of the finest ocean-going steamships, a marvellous combination of strength and elegance. Everything seemed as perfect as engineering science could make it. But there was something wanting; it was a fatal defect. The giant shaft and powerful screw, the triple expansion cylinders, the cranks, pistons, and wheels were all there, but the noble vessel was useless, heaving helplessly on the rolling tide. The fires were out, and the active driving-power was lacking. What steam is to that great floating mass of complicated mechanism, giving it life, movement, direction, purpose—that spiritual strength is to our mental and physical organism. To receive the fulness of indwelling Deity the soul must be strengthened with spiritual strength. We cannot pray too earnestly for this.

IV. Uttered with a reverential recognition of the great Giver of all blessing.—

1. Beginning with the submissive awe of a humble suppliant. "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father," etc. (Eph ). The apostle is overwhelmed with the contemplation of the rich blessings stored up for man in Christ Jesus, and prostrates himself with lowly homage in the conscious presence of the great Donor of all spiritual good. Nothing humbles us more than a sight of the blessings possible of attainment by the greatest sinner.

2. Ending with an outburst of triumphant praise (Eph ).—Praise soars higher than prayer. Man's desires will never overtake God's bounty. When the apostle desires that God's praise may resound in the Church "throughout all ages," he no longer supposes that the mystery of God may be finished speedily as men count years. The history of mankind stretches before his gaze into its dim futurity. The successive generations gather themselves into that consummate age of the kingdom of God, the grand cycle in which all the ages are contained. With its completion time itself is no more. Its swelling current, laden with the tribute of all the worlds and all their histories, reaches the eternal ocean. The end comes; God is all in all. At this furthest horizon of thought, Christ and His own are seen together rendering to God unceasing glory (Findlay).


1. Prayer is the cry of conscious need.

2. Increases in importunity as it is strengthened by faith.

3. Finds its sublimest themes in the culture of the spiritual life.


Eph . The Christian Church a Family.

I. The definition here given of the Christian Church.—

1. A society founded upon natural affinities—"a family." A family is built on affinities which are natural, not artificial; it is not a combination, but a society. In ancient times an association of interest combined men in one guild or corporation for protecting the common persons in that corporation from oppression. In modern times identity of political creed or opinion has bound men together in one league in order to establish those political principles which appeared to them of importance. Similarity of taste has united men together in what is called an association, or a society, in order by this means to attain more completely the ends of that science to which they had devoted themselves. But, as these have been raised artificially, so their end is, inevitably, dissolution. Society passes on, and guilds and corporations die; principles are established, and leagues become dissolved; tastes change, and then the association or society breaks up and comes to nothing. It is upon another principle altogether that that which we call a family, or true society, is formed. It is not built upon similarity of taste nor identity of opinion, but upon affinities of nature. You do not choose who shall be your brother; you cannot exclude your mother or your sister; it does not depend upon choice or arbitrary opinion at all, but is founded upon the eternal nature of things. And precisely in the same way is the Christian Church formed—upon natural affinity, and not upon artificial combination.

2. The Church of Christ is a whole made up of manifold diversities.—We are told here it is "the whole family," taking into it the great and good of ages past now in heaven, and also the struggling, the humble, and the weak now existing upon earth. Here, again, the analogy holds good between the Church and the family. Never more than in the family is the true entirety of our nature seen. Observe how all the diversities of human condition and character manifest themselves in the family. First of all, there are the two opposite pales of masculine and feminine, which contain within them the entire of our humanity; which together, not separately, make up the whole of man. Then there are the diversities in the degrees and kinds of affection. For, when we speak of family affection, we must remember that it is made up of many diversities. There is nothing more different than the love which the sister bears towards the brother, compared with that which the brother bears towards the sister. The affection which a man bears towards his father is quite distinct from that which he feels towards his mother; it is something quite different towards his sister; totally diverse, again, towards his brother. And then there are diversities of character. First, the mature wisdom and stern integrity of the father, then the exuberant tenderness of the mother. And then one is brave and enthusiastic, another thoughtful, and another tender. One is remarkable for being full of rich humour; another is sad, mournful, even melancholy. Again, besides these, there are diversities of condition in life. First, there is the heir, sustaining the name and honour of the family; then perchance the soldier, in whose career all the anxiety and solicitude of the family is centred; then the man of business, to whom they look up, trusting his advice, expecting his counsel; lastly, perhaps, there is the invalid, from the very cradle trembling between life and death, drawing out all the sympathies and anxieties of each member of the family, and so uniting them all more closely, from their having one common point of sympathy and solicitude. Now, you will observe that these are not accidental, but absolutely essential to the idea of a family; for so far as any one of them is lost, so far the family is incomplete. And precisely in the same way all these diversities of character and condition are necessary to constitute and complete the idea of a Christian Church.

3. The Church of Christ is a society which is for ever shifting its locality and altering its forms.—It is the whole Church, "the whole family in heaven and earth." So, then, those who were on earth and are now in heaven are members of the same family still. Those who had their home here, now have it there. The Church of Christ is a society ever altering and changing its external forms. "The whole family"—the Church of the patriarchs and of ages before them; and yet the same family. Remember, I pray you, the diversities of form through which, in so many ages and generations, this Church has passed. Consider the difference there was between the patriarchal Church of the time of Abraham and Isaac and its condition under David; or the difference between the Church so existing and its state in the days of the apostles and the marvellous difference between that and the same Church four or five centuries later; or, once again, the difference between that, externally one, and the Church as it exists in the present day, broken into so many fragments. Yet, diversified as these states may be, they are not more so than the various stages of a family.

II. Consider the name by which this Church is named.—"Our Lord Jesus Christ," the apostle says, of whom "the whole family in heaven and earth is named."

1. First, the recognition of a common father.—That is the sacred truth proclaimed by the Epiphany. God revealed in Christ—not the Father of the Jew only, but also of the Gentile. The Father of a whole family. Not the partial Father, loving one alone—the elder—but the younger son besides; the outcast prodigal who had spent his living with harlots and sinners, but the child still, and the child of a Father's love.

2. The recognition of a common humanity.—He from whom the Church is named took upon Him not the nature merely of the noble, of kings, or of the intellectual philosopher, but of the beggar, the slave, the outcast, the infidel, the sinner, and the nature of every one struggling in various ways.

3. The Church of Christ proceeds out of and rests upon the belief in a common Sacrifice.—F. W. Robertson.

The Family in Heaven and Earth.—With the boldness of a true and inspired nature the apostle Paul speaks with incidental ease of one family distributed between heaven and earth. There is, it seems, domesticity that cannot be absorbed by the interval between two spheres of being—a love that cannot be lost amidst the immensity, but finds the surest track across the void—a home affinity that penetrates the skies, and enters as the morning or evening guest. And it is Jesus of Nazareth who has effected this; has entered under the same household name, and formed into the same class, the dwellers above and those beneath. Spirits there, and spirits here, are gathered by Him into one group; and where before was saddest exile, He has made a blest fraternity.

I. Members of the same home cannot dwell together, without either the memory or the expectation of some mutual and mortal farewell.—All we who dwell in this visible scene can think of kindred souls that have vanished from us into the invisible. These, in the first place, does Jesus keep dwelling near our hearts; making still one family of those in heaven and those on earth. This He would do, if by no other means, by the prospect He has opened, of actual restoration. And since the grave can bury no affection now, but only the mortal and familiar shape of their object, death has changed its whole aspect and relation to us; and we may regard it, not with passionate hate, but with quiet reverence. It is a divine message from above, not an invasion from the abyss beneath; not the fiendish hand of darkness thrust up to clutch our gladness enviously away, but a rainbow gleam that descends through Jesus, without which we should not know the various beauties that are woven into the pure light of life. Once let the Christian promise be taken to the heart, and as we walk through the solemn forest of our existence, every leaf of love that falls, while it proclaims the winter near, lets in another patch of God's sunshine to paint the glade beneath our feet and give a glory to the grass. Tell me that I shall stand face to face with the sainted dead; and, whenever it may be, shall I not desire to be ready, and to meet them with clear eye and spirit unabashed? Such and so much encouragement would Christianity give to the faithful conversation of all true affections, if it only assured us of some distant and undefinable restoration. But it appears to me to assure us of much more than this; to discountenance the idea of any, even the most temporary, extinction of life in the grave; and to sanction our faith in the absolute immortality of the mind. Rightly understood, it teaches not only that the departed will live, but that they do live, and indeed have never died, but simply vanished and passed away.

II. But it is not merely the members of the same literal home that Christ unites in one, whether in earth or heaven. He makes the good of every age into a glorious family of the children of God; and inspires them with a fellow-feeling, whatever the department of service which they fill. Keeping us ever in the mental presence of the divinest wisdom and in veneration of a perfect goodness, it accustoms us to the aspect of every grace that can adorn and consecrate our nature; trains our perceptions instantly to recognise its influence or to feel its want. It looks with an eye of full and clear affection over the wide circle of human excellence. Such hope tends to give us a prompt and large congeniality with them; to cherish the healthful affections which are domestic in every place and obsolete in no time; to prepare us for entering any new scene, and joining any new society where goodness, truth, and beauty dwell.—Martineau.

The Christian Brotherhood of Man.—The brotherhood of man has been the dream of old philosophers, and its attainment the endeavour of modern reformers. Man can only reach his highest life when he forms part of a society bound together by common sympathies and common aims, for by a great law of our nature it is true that he who lives utterly apart from his fellows must lose all true nobleness in selfish degradation. There is no real progress for the individual but through social sympathy. There is no strong and enduring aspiration but in the fellowship of aspiring souls. That conviction which men have so strongly felt and so vainly endeavoured to realise is perpetually asserted in the Book of God.

I. The brotherhood of man in Christ.—

1. The Christian brotherhood is a unity of spirit under a diversity of form. Thus with the Church of the first century. At first it was one band of brotherhood; but as it grew and individual thought expanded and experience deepened there arose infinite diversities. The more men think and the more they grow, the more will they differ.

2. There are spiritual ties in action which in Christ bind man to man.—Paul's words imply a threefold unity.

1. The fellowship of devotion to a common Father.

2. The fellowship with Christ our common Brother.

3. That fellowship is unbroken by the change of worlds.

II. Results of realising this fact of brotherhood.—

1. Earnestness of life.

2. Power and grandeur of hope.—Some complain that their ideas of heaven are vague and ineffective. Only realise the brotherhood of man, and then the hope of the future will become a power in life.—E. L. Hull.

The One Family.—

1. Believers on earth and saints and angels in heaven spring from the same common parent.

2. Are governed by the same general laws.

3. Share in the same pleasures and enjoyments.

4. Have the same general temper, the same distinguishing complexion.

5. Have one common interest.

6. Look to, rely upon, and are guided by the same Head.

7. Are all objects of God's love.

8. At the last day will meet in God's presence, be openly acknowledged as His children, and admitted to dwell in His house for ever.


1. If we estimate the dignity of men from the families with which they are connected, how honourable is the believer!

2. We see our obligations to mutual condescension, peaceableness, and love.

3. Let those who are not of this family be solicitous to obtain a place in it.—Lathrop.

Eph . Paul's Prayer for the Ephesians.

I. For spiritual strength.—It was not bodily strength, civil power, or worldly distinction; it was the grace of fortitude and patience.

II. For an indwelling Christ.—As we become united to Christ by faith, so by faith He dwells in our hearts.

III. For establishment in love.—True love is rooted in the heart. It is a spiritual affection towards Christ. Its fruits are love to men, imitation of Christ's example, obedience to His commands, zeal for His honour, and diligence in His service.

IV. For increase of knowledge in the love of Christ.—The love of Christ passeth all known examples of love. This love passeth our comprehension in respect of its breadth or extent, its length, its depth, as the benefits it has procured exceed all human estimate. Though the love of Christ passeth knowledge, there is a sense in which it is known to the saints. They have an experimental knowledge, an influential knowledge, an assimilating knowledge of the love of Christ.

V. For the fulness of God.—That they may have such a supply of divine influence as would cause them to abound in knowledge, faith, love, and all virtues and good works.—Lathrop.

Eph . The Love of Christ.

I. The love of Christ passeth knowledge.—

1. He Himself furnishes an illustrative instance when He says, "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die"—a merely just and righteous man would be admired; but he would not so take hold of the heart of another to produce a willingness to die for him;—"yet peradventure," in some rare case, "for a good man," a man of benevolence, adorned with the softer virtues and abounding in the distribution of his favours—for such a one "some would even dare to die"; some one, overcoming even the love of life in the fulness of his gratitude, might venture to give his own life to preserve that of such a one. But we were neither just nor good; we were sinners, and "God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Passes it not, then, all knowledge, all reasonable conception and probability, that this fallen nature should be so sympathised with that these flagrant rebellions should excite, not an inexorable anger, but pity and love? And such love that our Saviour—looking not so much on man as offending, but as His creature, and as His creature still capable of restoration—should melt in compassion and die to effect his redemption; this is indeed love "that passeth knowledge."

2. The manner in which this love is manifested carries the principle beyond all conception and expression.—It was love to the death. It was death for sinners, death in their stead; death, that the penal claims of law, and that law the unchangeable, unrelaxable law of God, might be fully satisfied. The redemption price was fixed by a spotless justice, and the love of Christ to the sinner was to be tested by the vastness of the claims to be made upon Him. But the wages of sin is death; and His love shrank not from the full and awful satisfaction required. It was death in our stead. Then it must be attended with anxious forebodings. Of what mysteries have I suggested the recollection to you? Can you comprehend them? That feeling with which He spoke of the baptism of blood? That last mysterious agony? That complaint of being forsaken of God? You feel you cannot. They transcend all your thought; and the love which made Him stoop to them is therefore love "which passeth knowledge."

3. The love of Christ passeth knowledge if we consider it as illustrated by that care for us which signalises His administration.

4. The subject is further illustrated by the nature of the blessings which result to men from the love of Christ.—We usually estimate the strength of love by the blessings it conveys or, at any rate, would convey. And if the benefits be beyond all estimate, neither can we measure the love.

5. The love of Christ passeth knowledge because it is the love of an infinite nature. Love rises with the other qualities and perfections of the being in whom it is found. Among animals the social attachments are slight, and the instinctive affection dies away when its purposes are answered. In man love arises with his intellect. In him it is often only limited by his nature, and when rightly directed shall be eternal. Many that love on earth shall doubtless love for ever. Were Christ merely a man His love could not pass knowledge. What man has felt man can conceive. Love can be measured by the nature which exercises it. But this love passeth all knowledge but that of the divine nature, because itself is divine. Christ is God, and he who would fully know His love must be able to span immensity and to grasp the Infinite Himself.

II. But while it is true that the love of Christ passeth all knowledge, it is equally true that it is to be known by us.—To know the love of Christ is:

1. To recognise it in its various forms and expressions in our constant meditations. And where shall we turn and not be met by this, to us, most important subject? How delightful an occupation, to track all the streams of mercy up to their source. We are surrounded by the proof of the love of Christ. Let us see to it that the blinding veil be not on our heart, that our eyes be not holden that we should not know Him. We are called to know the love of Christ. Let us accustom ourselves to reflect upon it, to see it in its various forms and results; and then shall our meditation of Him be sweet.

2. To know the love of Christ is to perceive it in its adaptation to our own personal condition.

3. To know the love of Christ is to experience it in its practical results. He offers you pardon, and the offer is a proof and manifestation of His love; but properly to know it pardon itself must be accepted and embraced. This is to know His love. Seek it, and you must find it. Rest without it, and you are but "as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal."

4. To know the love of Christ we must put forth those efforts through which that love is appointed to express itself in our daily experience.


1. The rejection of love, especially of redeeming love, involves the deepest guilt.

2. Remember that the grace is common to you all.—R. Watson.

The Unknown and Known Love of Christ.

I. There are some respects in which the love of Christ passeth our knowledge.—

1. In its objects; so unworthy and degraded.

2. In its sufferings; love to the death.

3. In its care.

4. In its blessings.

5. In its degree. It is the love of an infinite nature.

II. There are some respects in which the love of Christ may be known.—

1. Our views of it may be clearer and more consistent.

2. Our views of it may be more confidential and appropriating.

3. Our views of it may be more impressive and more influential.—G. Brooks.

The Transcendent Love of Christ.

I. This representation must be confirmed.—

1. This love is divine.

2. Consider the objects it embraced.

3. The means by which it manifested itself.

4. The blessings it secured.

II. The perception the Christian may acquire of this love, notwithstanding its divine infinitude.—

1. It is the great interpreting principle which he applies to all the tremendous facts of redemption.

2. The sacred element and incentive of all piety—the theme of contemplation, the ground of confidence, the motive of obedience.

3. The impulse and model of all benevolence and zeal.

III. Conclusions from a review of the subject.—

1. It is only natural to expect a transcendent character in Christianity.

2. No better test exists of what is genuine Christianity than the level of the views which it exhibits concerning the person and work of Christ and the tone of the affections which it encourages towards Him.

3. There is much of implicit as well as declarative evidence in support of the Saviour's supreme divinity.

4. How necessary is it that we should live habitually under the influence of this transcendent love.—R. W. Hamilton.

Eph . A Devout Doxology.

I. The acknowledgment the apostle makes of God's all-sufficiency.—

1. God often does for men those favours which they never thought of asking for themselves.

2. God answers prayers in ways we think not of.

3. The mercies God is pleased to grant often produce consequences far beyond what we asked or thought.

4. The worth of the blessings we ask and God bestows infinitely exceeds all our thought.

II. The ascription of glory the apostle makes to this all-sufficient God.—

1. God is glorified by the increase of His Church. 2. God is glorified in the Church when a devout regard is paid to the ordinances He has instituted.

3. By the observance of good order in the Church, and by the decent attendance of the members on their respective duties.

4. That God may be glorified there must be peace and unity in the Church.—Lathrop.

God's Infinite Liberality.

I. The object of this doxology.—The God of all grace. Whatever we think we ask. No limit to our asking but our thinking. God gives beyond our thinking. Here, take all this! Ah, poor thing, that transcends thine asking and even thy thinking, but take it. If it transcend all communicated power of mind, I say, "I thank Thee, my God, for it. I know it is exceeding good, but I cannot understand it. Keep it among Thy treasures. My blessedness rests not in my intellect, but in Thy favour. Remember Thou hast given it me. It may come I shall be able to understand it better and appreciate it more." I shall never have asked too much, I shall never have thought too much, till I have asked beyond God's ability, till I have thought beyond God's ability. That ability is not a bare abstraction of the omnipotence of God, but it is the omnipotence of God as working in the Church and in the people of God. He is not omnipotent in heaven, and impotent in thee, or partially powerful in thee.

II. The doxology itself (Eph ).—All should glorify God, but all will not. In the Church alone will God get glory. It is as the name of Christ is glorified in us that we are glorified in Him. It is when the glory that God reflects on the creature is by the creature ascribed as due only to God when He is glorified as the Author of it, transcendently and infinitely glorious, it is then that the glory rests. When it is appropriated it is lost, but it is possessed when it is tossed back and fro between God and the creature. When the creature gives it to God, God of His rich grace sends it back in greater measure; but the humble creature, emulous of God's glory, sends it all back again to Him, and as it reciprocates so it increases. God gives not to end by enriching us—that is an immediate end; but the ultimate end is that He may be glorified. Be ashamed to get little—get all things. Get out of your poverty, not by fancying you are rich, but by coming and getting. The more you get always give glory, and come and ask and receive.—Dr. John Duncan.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(13) Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (14) ¶ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (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; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (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, (21) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

I include all that remains in this Chapter under one view, because the several parts are woven into one piece, and form a beautiful whole. The Apostle begins the paragraph with desiring that the Church would lose sight of everything which related to his personal state and circumstances. That he was a prisoner, it was true; but, at the same time, he was the Lord's free man. And though, the enemy shut him in, yet no enemy could shut the Lord out. And, as to his afflictions, they were all sanctified. And, as the Lord sweetened them to his soul, they ought to be the subject of real joy to their hearts. Having thus dispatched all consideration as to himself, he now proceeds to show them the affection he had for them in his heart, and how he was continually employed for them. It forms a lovely representation of the faithful pastor and minister of Christ's flock, and serves at least to show what such should be, though, it is to be feared, few are so, in the present awful day of a declining ministry.

He first tells them, that he bowed his knees unto the God and Father of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, as the Father of the whole family of Christ, in heaven and in earth. There is somewhat very blessed in this. God the Father is, indeed, in every sense of the word, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is revealed, under this character, in the Scriptures of truth. This is the name, in the essential nature of the Godhead, as One of the Holy Three which bear record in heaven. It is his name also in the economy of the Covenant of grace. And it is his name as the God the Father of the Church, for it is He who hath given the Church to Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. Jesus sweetly speaks of this as his particular pleasure and delight. John 17:6. Well might Paul, therefore, say that of Him, the whole family in heaven and earth is named. And well might he bow the knee before Him. I also would say, Lord! bow the knee of my heart before Him, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Oh! that I may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent. John 17:3.

Secondly. What a blessed prayer this is ? Paul having mentioned his adorable name, before whom be bent the knee, next seeks strength and grace from God the Holy Ghost, for forming all his of prayers aright, and for helping him in his infirmities of prayer, that he might make all his supplications according to the will of God. How truly Scriptural this is? Paul well knew, that without the influences of the Spirit, he could neither know how to pray, nor what to pray for. Neither prayers could he present, nor praises offer, until God the Spirit taught him. To God, therefore, he looks for those influences. And he felt full confidence, that the Lord would grant him, according to his riches in glory, grace to be so strengthened, that his inner man would find, the blessed, communications of the Spirit to this end.

And what was the great subject of his prayer. It was short, but comprehensive. It all centered in Christ. All Paul prayed for himself; and all he asked for the Church, was Christ. Christ and his fullness, Christ and his all-sufficiency. That Christ (said he) may dwell in your hearts by faith. Reader! do not overlook the fullness and comprehensiveness of Paul's prayer. Christ cannot dwell in the heart of the unregenerate. Christ cannot dwell in the heart of any whom the Father hath not given to his dear Son. So, that in every heart where Christ dwells, there the Lord hath given testimony, that that precious soul is a child of God, given by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost. Reader! is it not your prayer, as it is mine, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith?

And where Christ dwells in the heart by faith, there all the other blessings follow. Rooted in Christ, we are one with Christ. Grounded in love, we feel all the sweet influences of love. And, though the love of Christ is unsearchable, and past finding out, yet we can in some measure comprehend, that it reacheth from one eternity to, another; and though its dimensions are infinite, in breadth and length, and depth, and height, and it is a love which passeth knowledge, yet is it a special, peculiar, free, and gracious love, and runs through all time, and to all eternity, to his people. Oh! the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge! Reader! what are your apprehensions of this love ? Hath Paul's prayer been heard for you? Hath God granted you a token of this love ?

The Apostle's prayer in recommendation of the Church to God, and his referring all unto him, that is alone able to answer it, is very striking and beautiful. The ability of God, not only to answer, but to exceed all beyond thought or expression, is most just and true. Oh! who shall say what God can perform ? Who shall limit the Holy One of Israel! Reader! You and I may safely refer all to Him, and leave all with Him. He that hath given the greatest of all possible gifts, what can he, what will he not give ? Well might the same Apostle elsewhere say, For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Romans 11:36.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

People's New Testament

For this cause I. See Ephesians 3:1. He now resumes the thought of that verse.

Bow my knees. In the attitude of prayer.

Unto the Father. The Fountain of all mercies. The words, "Of our Lord Jesus Christ," are not found in the best manuscripts and are omitted in the Revision.

Of whom. The Father is referred to.

The whole family in heaven and earth. In the Revision, "Every family." The idea is that the Father is the Father of all the families of his children, whether Jews or Gentiles on earth, or in heaven. He is "Our Father in heaven" to the believer of every race, in this world or the world to come. All, as far as creation is concerned, derive their being from him, like children from a parent, and all the good are his spiritual children.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "People's New Testament". 1891.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ephesians 3:13-16. Wherefore — Since by my ministry you have been called to the fellowship of the gospel; I desire that ye faint not — Be not discouraged or disheartened; at my tribulations for preaching the gospel to you, which is your glory — A cause of glorying and rejoicing to you, inasmuch as hereby it appears how much God regards you, in that he not only sends his apostles to preach the gospel to you, but to do this notwithstanding the great variety of extreme sufferings to which they are hereby exposed. For this cause — That ye may not faint, either on account of my sufferings or your own, and that the great work in which I am engaged may more successfully be carried on, and the purposes of these my sufferings maybe answered in your consolation and the divine glory; I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — I present my sincere and ardent supplications before him. Or rather, the apostle here returns to the subject which he began in Ephesians 3:1, (where see the note,) the intervening verses coming in by way of parenthesis. Of whom — The Father; the whole family of angels in heaven — Saints in paradise, and believers on earth, is named — Are acknowledged by him as his children, a more honourable title than children of Abraham; and acknowledge their dependance upon, and relation to him. Or, in the family here spoken of, all rational beings in heaven and earth may be considered as included, because they derive their being from him, and are supported by him. That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory — The immense fulness of his glorious wisdom, power, mercy, and love; to be strengthened with might — Or mightily strengthened, that is, endowed with courage, fortitude, and power, to withstand all your spiritual enemies, to do with cheerfulness, and suffer with patience, his whole will; by his Spirit — the great source of all power and might, grace and goodness; in the inner man — The soul.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

I bow my knees (καμπτω τα γονατα μουkamptō ta gonata mou). 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).

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 3:14". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Ephesians 3:14-15

One Family in Heaven and Earth.

Of God, the universal Father, the whole family in heaven and earth is named. He is Father to them all. They all feel the comfort of His love. And we may be sure that whatever needs to be done in those heavenly worlds in sustaining weakness, in guiding inexperience, in the leading of young spirits, or in the comforting of those that are discouraged by the mysteries of the universe—all will be done by the universal Father, who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

I. These views ought somewhat to overcome the depressing effect naturally produced on us by the vastness and the grandeur of the material universe. Magnitudes and distances and millenniums are nothing to Him, and He would not have us sink under the weight of them.

II. This passage will do us good if it confirms our faith in the actual objective existence of heaven as a place, a chosen favoured place, where God and His children meet and dwell. Our friends have gone to the old ancestral home, which Christ has enlarged and beautified and fitted in every way for the reception of the redeemed from among men. They have gone from the mere colony, lying far out from the seat of government and the central city, into the better country and within the gates of the bright metropolis.

III. Heaven has great priority and pre-eminence over earth, and we may well yield up our best and dearest to swell its numbers and enhance its glories and felicities.

IV. If we thus regard heaven, we shall find it by so much easier to bear some of our heaviest sorrows and to understand some of the deepest mysteries of life. Among the deepest is death, the premature death, as we say, of those who are just prepared to live, who are greatly gifted, greatly needed, greatly loved. When to live is Christ, then to die must be gain.

V. It surely ought with each one of us to be the great ambition of our life and the very chief of all our cares to belong heart and soul to this great family of God.

A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 46.

References: Ephesians 3:14, Ephesians 3:15.—Archbishop Magee, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 145; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 181; E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 121. Ephesians 3:14-16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 313; W. Anderson, Discourses, p. 19. Ephesians 3:14-19. A. J. Parry, Phases of Truth, p. 249.

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Sermon Bible Commentary

Ephesians 3:14-21

Filled with all the Fulness of God.

I. Perhaps it would be well to leave this phrase in its vague sublimity without any attempt to explain it as it stands. It appeals to the imagination, touches lofty sentiment, and seems to suggest a grandeur belonging to worlds as yet unvisited by human thought. But though the phrase stands for an idea which passes beyond the limits of all definitions, the idea will be better apprehended if we attempt to get an exact conception of the phrase.

II. There are plants which we sometimes see in these Northern latitudes, but which are native to the more generous soil and the warmer skies of Southern lands. In their true home they grow to a greater height; their leaves are larger, their blossoms more luxuriant and of a colour more intense: the power of the life of the plant is more fully expressed. And as the visible plant is the more or less adequate translation into stem and leaf and flower of its invisible life, so the whole created universe is the more or less adequate translation of the invisible thought and power and goodness of God. He stands apart from it. His personal life is not involved in its immense processes of development, but the forces by which it moves through pain and conflict and tempest towards its consummate perfection are a revelation of His eternal power and Godhead. For the Divine idea to reach its complete expression and an expression adequate to the energy of the Divine life, we ourselves must reach a large and harmonious perfection. As yet we are like plants growing in an alien soil and under alien skies, and the measures of strength and grace which are possible to us even in this mortal life are not attained. The Divine power which is working in us is obstructed. But a larger knowledge of the love of Christ will increase the fervour of every devout and generous affection; it will exalt every form of spiritual energy; it will deepen our spiritual joy; it will add strength to every element of righteousness, and will thus advance us towards that ideal perfection which will be the complete expression of the Divine power and grace, and which Paul describes as the fulness of God.

R. W. Dale, Lectures on the Ephesians, p. 242.

References: Ephesians 3:14-21.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 356; Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 266; vol. xxx., p. 225; A. D. Davidson, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 227.

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Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Ephesians 3:14. For this cause. On the resumption and connection, see last section.

I bow my knees. So Philippians 2:10. The full form is rhetorical. The reference is not to the actual bending of the knees, but to his earnest prayer.

Unto the Father. God the Father, so in chaps. Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 1:12, without any added phrase, since the words ‘of our Lord Jesus Christ’ are not found in the oldest and best manuscripts, are rejected expressly by some of the Fathers, and by nearly every modern editor of any critical judgment. The grand thought of the passage is obscured by the insertion.

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Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

The Apostles Prayer for the Church, and the concluding Doxology.

As stated in the last section, the thought begun in Ephesians 3:1 is here resumed, and the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of the Gentiles utters his prayer for these Gentile readers. The prayer is to the Father (Ephesians 3:14-15); its purport is that they may be strengthened (Ephesians 3:16); its result that Christ may dwell in them (Ephesians 3:17 a); its end that they may know His love (Ephesians 3:17-18), and hence be filled unto the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

A doxology is added, describing God’s omnipotence (Ephesians 3:20), but so worded as to form an appropriate conclusion to the doctrinal part of the Epistle, since the ascription of the glory is ‘in the Church and in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 3:21).

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Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books


1. I would like to look at two things here.

a. Verses fourteen and fifteen speak of our relationship to the Father. I would suggest for your thinking and contemplation the fact that the single female parent family that is in our society, lacking a father image, is not. God the Father is our father. Any single female parent needs to understand this and apply it to their lives and their children"s lives. Yes, a man in the house is great and needed but the Father can supply many of those things that the child will need. He is their support, He is their strength, and He is their comfort and all those fatherly items.

What is needed is for the child to be trained properly to understand God"s purpose in their lives. This passage totally speaks to this aspect of God having a plan and Him supplying that which is lacking in each of us to accomplish that plan - that goes for kids as well as seniors and all between.

b. The passage mentions, "the whole family in heaven and earth" and some relate this to not only humans, but also to the angelic host. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown mention that the angels are sons by creation and we by adoption. Whether the angels are included or not I am not entirely convinced. I don"t know that it makes a lot of doctrinal difference either way, it is impressive enough to me that I am a brother same as Paul, same as Abraham, and the same as Moses. If you want to include Michael and the other archangels, I"m even more impressed that such as I can be in the same family as such as we have named.

2. It is of note that this whole section is full of doctrine and it leads to Paul"s grand doxology in the final verses of the section. When is the last time doctrine moved you to praise and worship? Many pastors criticize doctrine as being to "super saintly" and a waste of time, but Paul found it vital and it brought him to great praise for the God that set all these doctrines into existence.

When you study doctrine, always take time to contemplate God and how it relates to Him and His glory. Doctrine is not and should not be treated like a four-letter word. It is the meat that the believer ought to be feeding on daily.

It is no wander the church is full of screaming babies and problems, all they are getting is milk - they need meat so they can grow and be nourished into adulthood.

3. We mentioned that bowing if not prostrating one"s self in prayer was preferable to other positions. This is due to the concentration of the mind on what we are doing. When sitting or standing our minds tend to wander off into oblivion, while kneeling or laying face down tends to remind us of what we are supposed to be doing.

Many there are that have joked about the fact that when fishing and hunting, they can worship God just as easily as when in church, but I have never seen a fisherman fish or hunter hunt kneeling or prone with his face to the ground.

HE IS OUR LIFE, NOT HIS CREATION! Is this not what Romans one is about - worshiping the creation rather than the creator? (Romans 1:19-25)

Of course we can praise God without being in a building with a cross on top, but we seldom do if we are all really honest. Making a conscious effort to be with Him is the key.

4. In verses sixteen through nineteen we see, "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; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."

This seems to describe super saint in our day and age, that one that walks with God daily, moment by moment and the one that is always in the Lord"s control to do what is right at every turn. It describes the one that is able to answer every question with Scripture and defend against every detractor with the Word.

However - note that he is not speaking to a few, or an individual, but he is speaking to every believer at the church at Ephesus. Today in our churches, we seem to have a few super saints, that are really those average saints that Paul is speaking about, and then we have a lot of superficial saints that are far from living up to this Scriptural standard. This is wrong. We all should be as those Paul is speaking of - filled with the love of Christ, empowered with strength for the spiritual battles before us.

"Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" - Does that really sound like the run of the mill Christian today that has every self help book ever published, the run of the mill Christian today that watches the Dr. Phil Show in the hope of finding strength to go on, or the run of the mill Christian today that attempts to live by the quack of the day advice on the television - those that can"t get their life together enough to function in life.

God stands ready to strengthen each and every one to the task at hand if we will only walk with Him and allow Him to do the work He wants to do within us and around us. God desires a powerful church not a church that is poorly balanced on the brink of emotional collapse.

In nineteen eighties I was told by a friend that was part of the leadership in a fairly large church in one of our large cities that his church has a hard time keeping enough families emotionally healthy enough to minister to the unhealthy. He was speaking in the context of the many divorces, drug and drinking problems, and the child rearing problems. The churches entire emotional strength was being drained by those Christians that were unable to operate in the strength of the Lord.

It is wonderful that the church had healthy members to minister, but oh how sad that so few were there that could have the freedom to do the work of the Lord outside the church due to their total immersion in ministering in the church to faltering believers.

Where is the strength in the church today? Where is the power in the church today? These passages of Paul"s are for us today as well as to the Ephesians - we need to be teaching these principles to our believers and getting them on track for use by God in His work inside and outside the church.

5. Verse nineteen states, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." Filled with the "fullness of God." Does that sound like the average believer today? Does the temper ridden believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the cheating believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the lying believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the swearing believer show forth the fullness of God?

I might ask whether the famous believer that commits adultery shows forth the fullness of God. Does the famous believer that swears on the sports field show forth the fullness of God? Does the famous believer that takes acting roles of immorality show forth the fullness of God? Does the famous believer that is in the political arena that uses the tactics of the world show forth the fullness of God?

One further question. Are you showing forth the fullness of God in your life?

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books

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

Ouch, if you are old and have damaged knees you know what the old apostle might have gone through. I"d guess with all the walking, all the cold damp nights and all the heavy work over the years that his knees are in about as bad a shape as mine and I hurt when I bow, yet Paul was still getting on his knees before the Lord.

It was my privilege to attend a Bible study prayer time with three other men. Three of us were in our sixties and on bended knees is how we prayed. I must admit there was a lot of shuffling during prayer to find a more comfortable spot, but I"m sure God could hear over the background noise. Not that we were super spiritual, just that four men on their knees before their God was quite a unifying factor amongst us.

It has surprised me that more prayer meetings aren"t conducted on the knee. In all my years of church life, I have only been part of two churches where the men knelt for prayer times. If you study the term worship in the Bible, you will find that many of the references include the thought of being on one"s face before God. It is placing ourselves in a position of waiting upon Him for His will, not our own.

Now, notice the phrase "Lord Jesus Christ" and make a mental note to yourself to notice the words that are used with the term Jesus. You will find the majority of the time, outside of the time He spent on earth living as a man, that the name Jesus is also accompanied by either or both of the terms Lord and Christ. I have to wonder when people constantly use the term Jesus if they really understand that that is His earthly name, but his rightful office and position is Christ and Lord.

It seems to constantly use the name Jesus is to dwell upon His earthly ministry rather than all that He really is as Lord and Christ.

Barnes suggests the following texts for further information on prayer. "2 Chronicles 6:13, Daniel 6:10; Lu 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36;Acts 21:5"

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Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Ephesians 3:14-19. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

MANY who espouse the cause of religion when it is in flourishing circumstances, are apt to decline from it when their profession exposes them to any great trouble. The Ephesians had heard of Paul’s imprisonment at Rome, and were in danger of turning from the faith through the fear of persecution. St. Paul cautions them against being intimidated by the tribulations which he endured for their sakes; and assures them, that they ought rather to consider it as an honour, that their cause had been so vigorously maintained by him; and that he was suffering persecution for asserting their rights in opposition to the bigoted and blood-thirsty Jews. Precluded as he was from prosecuting his ministerial labours for their good, he spent the more time in prayer for them. This was a liberty of which none could deprive him: yea, rather, the more his body was confined, the more his spirit was enlarged on their behalf. He considered them as members of the same family with all the Church militant and Church triumphant, of which Christ is the Head; and, with the profoundest reverence and humility, he implored for them all those blessings which he desired for himself, and which were suited to their state:

I. The strengthening communications of the Spirit—

[The first blessing which a child of God would desire, is strength; because he longs as much to execute his Father’s will, as he does to enjoy his favour. The occasions on which he needs an increase of strength, are many and urgent. He has many trials to endure; many temptations to withstand; many duties to perform: and in himself he is insufficient for any one of these things. But “God will give his Holy Spirit unto them that ask him.” He will “strengthen us in our inner man,” so that our wills shall be active, our affections lively, our resolutions firm, our exertions effectual. It is no small measure of “might with which he will strengthen us:” the greater our necessities, the more abundant will be his liberality towards us: he will bestow “according to the riches of his own glory:” so that, if the utmost efforts of Omnipotence were necessary for us, they should be put forth in our behalf; and God’s own ability should be the measure of his communications to us.]

II. An abiding sense of Christ’s presence—

[“The believer longs to enjoy the presence of God in his soul, because he finds by experience that the “joy of the Lord is his strength.” Nor shall he be disappointed of his hope, if he only spread his desires in prayer before God. There is no habitation, not even heaven itself, in which Christ more delights to dwell, than in the heart of a believer. He has promised to “come and make his abode with his people,” as he did of old in the tabernacle and temple, or as he did in the flesh that he assumed. In them he will exert his power; and to them he will reveal his glory: he will “manifest himself to them, as he does not unto the world.”

But, in order to bring him into the soul, we must exercise faith. It is faith that apprehends, and pleads his promise: it is faith that brings him down from heaven: it is faith which opens the door of the heart for his admission into it: it is faith which detains him there; and which gives us a realizing sense of his presence. It is by prayer that we must obtain this blessing, and by faith that we must enjoy it.]

III. An enlarged discovery of his love—

[The presence of Christ in the soul is desired, in order to a more lively sense of his love. Now “the love of Christ has a breadth and length, a depth and height,” which are utterly unsearchable [Note: Properly speaking, nothing has more than three dimensions; length, breadth, and thickness. The Apostle divides the last into two, in order the more strongly to express his idea.]: it extends to the remotest corners of the earth: it reaches “from everlasting to everlasting:” it descends to the very confines of hell itself, and exalts to thrones of glory those who are its favoured objects. In its full extent, it “passes the knowledge” of men or angels; but in a measure it is “comprehended by all the saints.” Men’s capacity to comprehend it, is proportioned to their growth and stature in the Church of Christ; those who are but infants, hare only narrow and contracted views of it; while those who are advanced to manhood, stand amazed at its immeasurable dimensions.

But in order that we “may be able to comprehend it,” we ourselves should be “rooted and grounded in love” to him. As a sense of his love is necessary to beget a holy affection in us towards him, so a love to him disposes our mind to contemplate, and enlarges our capacity to comprehend, his love to us. Each in its turn is subservient to the promotion of the other: but under circumstances of trial, which endanger the steadfastness of our profession, we are more especially called to have our love to him “rooted and grounded,” so as to be immoveable amidst all the storms with which it may be assailed: and then, from every exercise of our own love, we shall acquire a greater enlargement of heart to admire and adore his love to us.]

IV. A repletion with all the fulness of God—

[The Apostle’s prayer rises at every successive step, till he arrives at a height of expression, which, if it had not been dictated by inspiration, one should have been ready to condemn as blasphemy. Amazing thought! May we offer such a petition. as this? Yes: there is indeed in the Deity an essential fulness, which is incommunicable to his creatures: but there is also a fulness which he does and will communicate [Note: πλήρωμαθεότητοςwe cannot have, Colossians 2:9. This is πλήρωμαθεοῦ.]. In him are all the perfections of wisdom and goodness, of justice and mercy, of patience and love, of truth and faithfulness: and with these he will “fill” his people, according to the measure of their capacity; so that they shall be “holy as he is holy, and perfect as their Father which is in heaven is perfect.” If any possess but a small portion of his perfections, it is owing to their being “straitened in themselves; for none are straitened in him.”

But how is this to be attained? Will repentance effect it? No. Will mortification procure it? No: that which alone will avail for this end, is an enlarged discovery of the love of Christ; and therefore the Apostle prays for the one in order to the other. Indeed, high thoughts of a creature’s kindness to us have a natural tendency to produce in us a resemblance to him: but a sense of Christ’s love has an irresistible influence [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14. συνέχει.] to transform us into his image, and to “fill us with all his fulness.”]


1. How much do the saints in general live below their privileges!

[Who that is conversant with the religious world, would imagine that such things as are mentioned in the text were ever to be attained? One is complaining of his weakness and insufficiency; another, of his darkness and distance from Christ: one is harassed with doubts and fears; another bewails his emptiness and the prevalence of sin. Alas!. alas!. how different would be their experience, if they were more constant and importunate in prayer! What strength and comfort, what light and holiness, might they not enjoy! Beloved brethren, do but contemplate the state to which the Ephesians were taught to aspire, and you will blush at your low attainments, and be confounded before God for your partial acquaintance with his mercies.]

2. How rich is the benefit of prayer!

[There is nothing for which “effectual and fervent prayer will not avail [Note: James 5:16.].” However “wide we open our mouths, God will fill them [Note: Psalms 81:10.].” We may search out all the promises in the Bible, and take them, like notes of hand, for payment: our God will never refuse what is good for us: his generosity is unwearied, his faithfulness inviolate, his treasury inexhaustible. O that there were in us such a heart, that we could go to him at all times, renewing our petitions, and taking occasion, from every fresh grant, to enlarge our desires, and be more importunate in our entreaties! Beyond the Apostle’s request we cannot perhaps extend our conceptions: but short of them we would not stop. Ambition here is virtue. Let no strength but omnipotence, content us: no presence but the actual dwelling of Christ in our hearts, satisfy us: no view of his love but a comprehension of it in all its dimensions, limit our researches: nor any communication short of all the fulness of God, allay our appetite for his blessings.]


See Sermons on 1 Timothy 1:11. where it forms the fourth Sermon of a series.

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The Biblical Illustrator

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 3:14". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.

A pattern of prayer

The worldly proverb is, “Every man for himself and God for us all”; the true Christian practice is, to follow Christ:--“I have prayed for thee, that thy strength fall not”; “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” And in following the Lord, to follow St. Paul’s advice and example:--“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What an intercession this is which St. Paul makes for the Ephesians! It is a pattern of intercessory prayer; it is rightly grounded; it seeks the most precious gifts on behalf of his brethren; it has the highest designs in view in asking their bestowment.

I. The faith on which his prayer was founded.

1. The Fatherhood of God. This is the foundation thought of the Lord’s prayer--“Our Father.” The Father will not fail us.

2. The brotherhood of the saints in Christ. Heaven and earth are knit into one in Jesus. “Of whom the whole family,” every race, “in heaven and earth is named.” The sense is that all the classes and communities of heaven and earth own a common paternity.

II. The great gifts St. Paul sought for others in this prayer.

1. The infusion of spiritual strength--“to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.”

2. The indwelling of Christ--“that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”

3. The establishment of their hearts in the love of God “rooted and grounded in love.”

III. The design of his prayer for the bestowment on them of these gifts. Such spiritual strength, and such an indwelling, were to lead to--

1. Their comprehension of the love of Christ. This is St. Paul’s paradox; to know the unknowable, to know the nature, if we cannot know the extent, of the love of Christ.

2. Their being “filled with the fulness of God.” Where the Son of God dwells, there is the fulness of God. Such is a brief outline of an exposition of this most precious of prayers. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)

St. Paul’s prayer for Gentile Christians

A great prayer all through. This may be seen from--

I. The ideal it presents. The loftiest possibilities of the Christian life are conceived of as open to Gentile equally with Jew.

II. The petition it embodies.

1. Spiritual life as a whole is besought of God as His gift.

2. It is through the continuous operation of the Divine Being that spiritual life is sustained and advanced.

3. Yet is the growth of the spiritual life conceived of as involving the activity of the subject in whom it is manifested. Faith, love, and hope, are active principles in every child of God.

III. The plea it urges. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Christian prayer

1. Our prayers should be addressed to God the Father.

2. Our prayers should be addressed to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Our prayers should be addressed to God with deep humility.

4. Our prayers should be addressed to God for Christian eminence.

5. Prayers should be addressed to God both by ministers and people. (G. Brooks.)

The ladder of prayer

1. You see that the prayer begins with the gracious petition that we may be strengthened--“strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, according to the riches of His glory”; the object being, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. Before the Lord can dwell in us we must be strengthened--mentally and spiritually strengthened. To entertain the high and holy one--to receive into our soul the indwelling Christ--it is necessary that the temple be strengthened, that there be more power put into every pillar and into every stone of the edifice. It is taken for granted that we have already been washed and cleansed, and so made fit for Christ to come and dwell within us. But we need also to be strengthened; for, unless we become stronger in all spiritual life, how is Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith? Unless we become stronger in love, and in all the graces of the Spirit, how can we worthily entertain such a guest as the Lord Jesus? Ay, and we even need that our spiritual perception should be strengthened, that we may be able to know Him when He does come and dwell in us. We must be strengthened into stability of mind, that so Christ may dwell, abide, reside in our hearts by faith.

2. Now, having stood on the first step of the ladder, Paul goes on to pray that, when we are strengthened, we may be inhabited: that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. When the house is ready to receive Him, and strong enough for such a wondrous inhabitant, may Jesus come, not to look about Him as He did when He went into the temple, but to abide with us--to “dwell in our hearts by faith.”

3. This third step is a broad one, and it has three parts to it.

The top of the ladder

“To know the love of Christ.”

I. What it is to know the love of Christ.

1. The way in which we come by our knowledge. Personal acquaintance, by having Christ dwelling in you so that you see Him, hear Him, feel His touch, and enjoy His blessed company.

2. The certainty there is in it. “We cannot be certain of anything,” says someone. Well, perhaps you cannot. But the man who has Christ dwelling in him says, “There is one thing I am certain of, and that is the love of Christ to me. I am assured of the loveliness of His character and the affection of His heart. He would not cheer and encourage me; He would not rebuke and chasten me, as He does, if He did not love me. He gives me every proof of His love, and therefore I am sure of it.”

3. What a blessed knowledge this is! Talk they of science? No science can rival the science of Christ crucified. Knowledge? No knowledge can compare with the knowledge of the love that passeth knowledge. How sweet it is to know love! Who wants a better subject to exercise his mind upon? Who would not be a scholar, when the book he reads in is the heart of Christ?

II. To know so as to be filled. It is not every kind of knowledge that will fill a man. Many forms of knowledge make a man more empty than he was before. But if you get a knowledge of Christ’s love, it is a filling knowledge, for it contents the soul. Imagination itself is content with Jesus. Hope cannot conceive anything more lovely; she gives up all attempts to paint a fairer than He; and she cries, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” Once more, when the love of Christ comes to work upon the soul, when it brings with it all its choice treasures, then the mind of the believer is filled with the fulness of God. Christ does not long dwell in an unfurnished house. Oh, the blessedness of knowing the love of Christ! It fills the spirit to the full.

III. What it is to be filled with all the fulness of God. Does it not mean that self is banished; for if the fulness of God has filled you, where is room for self? Does it not mean that the soul is perfectly charmed with all that God does for it? “Filled with all the fulness of God.” Does it not mean that every power of the entire nature is solaced and satisfied?

IV. Wherever Christ dwells in the heart by faith we receive the fulness of God into our spirit, with the design that we may overflow. If you go forth filled with God, you are provided for every emergency. Come calamity or prosperity, whatever shape the temptation may assume, if the love of Christ has filled you with the fulness of God you are ready for it. If you are full with a Divine fulness, your lips scatter gems more precious than pearls and diamonds. Filled with all the fulness of God, your paths, like God’s paths, drop fatness. Do you not know Christian men of that sort? They are millionaire Christians who make others rich. If the Lord has brought us to His fulness, it is a very high state to be in. Oh, that the Holy Ghost would fill us also according to our capacity! If the water carts go along the road in dusty weather with nothing in them, they will not lay the dust; and if you Christians go about the world empty, you will not lay the dust of sin which blinds and defiles society. If you go to a fountain and find no water flowing, that fountain mocks your thirst; it is worse than useless: therefore do not forget that if you ever become empty of grace, you mock those who look to you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians

I. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women. There exists a prejudice against strong-minded men, and a still greater prejudice against strong-minded women. This may be attributable to the circumstance that many strong-minded men and women are also strong-willed, and somewhat disposed to domineer. There exists, also, a prejudice, for which expression has been found in the assertion, that “ignorance is the mother of devotion.” With none of these prejudices had the apostle any sympathy. He considered nothing so likely to awaken true worship as far-reaching, clear, comprehensive, and correct views of truth; and it was his desire that they to whom he wrote might have all the intellectual vigour necessary to the full enjoying of all the blessings of Christianity. Of “James Wait, the Pious Shepherd”--I quote from memory the title of his memoir, published many years ago, by Mr. Maclaurin of Coldingham--it is stated, that when seated at the Lord’s table at Stitchel Brae, and subsequently at Kelso, there was vouchsafed to him an overpowering revelation of the glory of the Lord, and of His love to mankind sinners. He said, “I was no sooner set down at the table, than I found such a flood of the Spirit’s consolation poured in upon my soul, that I was obliged to cover myself with my plaid, to keep it from the eyes of others. I found myself obliged to plead that the Lord would strengthen the vessel or hold His hand; for I found that I could not bear up.” He felt that it was becoming more than he could stand, and that if carried further, he must expire in an agony of bliss. Thus would I illustrate what I mean. Yes I there are needed strong-minded men and women to sustain the conceptions which may be formed of infinite and eternal verities! Mark the phraseology employed by the apostle: “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” When the ship by which he sailed from Myra was in peril at Clauda, they undergirded the ship. The expression before us is suggestive of strengthening by bracings within, as well as by girdings without; and it is expressive of a desire, that they to whom he wrote might be strong-minded men and women. But this exhausts not the expression of the apostle’s desire on behalf of his brethren.

II. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit. Mark his expression! “Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” What is it that is meant, when it is said, as sometimes it is, by persons who do not hesitate to speak profanely, “The devil is in the man”? Is it not this: the man acts as if the devil had taken possession of his heart, and was influencing him in his every act? Corresponding to this seems the import of the expression employed--“that Christ may dwell in your hearts”--that you may be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit--strengthened with all might in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.

III. That they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit, and understanding how comprehensive religion is. The views entertained by many in regard to what is comprehended in religion, are very narrow indeed. What is the love of Christ? Our love to Christ may be called the love of Christ: thus do we speak of the love of gold. Christ’s love to us may be called the love of Christ: thus do we speak of a mother’s love to her child. But there is yet another idea which may be expressed by the phrase, “the love of Christ;” and to express this idea, does it appear to me, that the phrase is employed by the apostle here. That idea I would illustrate thus: one doctrine of the apostle was, that the whole duty of man to man was comprehended in love. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” To this love, apparently, the apostle refers--the love inculcated by Christ, and manifested by Christ--a love embracing every duty of man, to himself, to his fellowmen, and to his God. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit; that they, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend how all-comprehensive religion is, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, extending, as it did, far far beyond what they knew or dreamed of. He says not, as many seem to suppose, that it cannot be known--on the contrary, he wished and prayed that it might be known by them. His wish was: Oh that they but knew how all-comprehensive religion is, and would live up to the conception which they attained! or, as I have expressed it, that they might be--

IV. Strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit, understanding how comprehensive religion is, and maintaining a corresponding God-like walk and conversation. It is to such a manifestation of godliness that we are destined and called. A captious objector, or a careless unconcerned reader, may say, How can man be filled with all the fulness of God?--how can the finite comprehend the infinite? In a volume entitled, “The Tongue of Fire,” there was given a beautiful illustration of the import of the apostle’s figure. The illustration was double. The phraseology employed has long since escaped me, but the effect produced upon my mind remains. In substance the illustration was as follows:--There is a dewdrop hanging suspended from a blade of grass bent and pendent with its weight. While we are yet gazing on it, there falls upon it the slanting rays of the morning sun, and it shines as if it were itself a thing of light. It contains not, nor can it contain, the whole of the rays streaming from the orb of day. These illumine the whole hemisphere, and penetrate far on all sides into the depths of space--creating a sphere of light, sustained by successive rays, which it may require thousands of years to traverse, with all the velocity for which light is famous, the radius from the centre to the circumference, so vast the sphere; but that little dewdrop is filled with that fulness of light--to the full extent of its limited capacity full! Again: There is a marble cistern, filled to overflowing with the pellucid water of a perennial spring. It contains not, nor can it contain, all the waters of the fountain; it has been overflowing for years; but it is itself full--to its limited capacity filled--filled to overflowing--filled with the fulness of the fountain! Such is the illustration employed by the apostle: “filled with all the fulness of God.” It is an illustration or expression suggestive, at least, of two ideas, both of them calling for consideration. “That ye might be filled,” every faculty and affection of the soul sanctified--“filled.” “Filled with all the fulness of God”--every Divine perfection having its counterpart in the life and spirit of the man; the justice of God having its counterpart in the justice of the man; the holiness of God its counterpart in the holiness of the man; the truthfulness of God in the truthfulness of the man; the long suffering of God its counterpart in long suffering manifested by the man. Every faculty and affection sanctified, and every perfection of God having its counterpart in the life and spirit of the man--the result of all being a God-like walk and conversation. (J. C. Brown, LL. D.)

The Christian temple: its material and magnitude

I. The peculiar fitness requested for them as forming the material of the spiritual temple (verses 16, 17). It is very clear that the “building” idea pervades this passage throughout. The reference to the dwelling of Christ in the heart decides this. The apostle’s mind was so engrossed by this figure of a temple--the knowledge that he was writing to people who were familiar with temple architecture having possibly something to do with it--that each individual Christian presents himself to his mind as a stone in a glorious temple. And all his thoughts assume a corresponding form and colouring. He asks that they “might be strengthened with might in the inner man.” In this he shows his anxiety that they might prove true stones, possessing qualities befitting the glory and the character of the building; that they might be subjected to such a process as would impart to them the quality of soundness, a most desirable quality in a stone. Upon its soundness depends its capability of bearing strain, of carrying weight, and resisting the ravages of the elements. The quality of the stones composing a building determines the strength and stability of the building itself. Two things are declared respecting this process, namely, its manner and means.

1. The manner of it--“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” The strengthening is secured by the indwelling of Christ. This is not a literal or physical indwelling. The nature of the indwelling is implied by the expression “by faith.” Contact of Christians with Him by faith results in the transmission to them of His qualities.

2. The text describes the means of the indwelling--by faith” and “by the Spirit.” Here we have both the agent and the instrument employed to secure the indwelling. There is a beautiful interblending of the human and Divine in this transaction. The Spirit promotes faith; faith receives Christ; and Christ constitutes the strengthening. The strengthening consists in the transfusion of the soul with Christ’s characteristic traits of strength and firmness. This process is effected by the operation of faith; faith, again, is a mental act prompted by the spirit. If we adhere to the figure of a house, as the term “dwell” seems to suggest, the whole process may be represented thus--Christ comes to “dwell in the heart” with a view to impart strength to it, but He must be admitted into it through the door, which is “faith”; then, again, this door must be opened by the porter, the Spirit, as in the example of Lydia, whose heart, we are expressly told, the Lord opened to the reception of the things spoken by Paul.

II. We notice the second request of this prayer, that they might have enlarged and Christ-honouring conceptions of the magnitude of the temple of which they formed a part. Most people connect the words in verse 18 with the love of Christ referred to in the following verse. The structure of the Greek seems opposed to this interpretation; also the logic of the passage. Can it be true that the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of which we are so definitely to comprehend, is beyond our knowledge? We must look, then, for some other reference to fit the words. What had the apostle uppermost in his mind? Was it not the Christian temple so beautifully described in the last words of chapter 2 as being in course of building? The purport of the thought would seem to be this temple. The apostle knew how narrow and contracted the thoughts of many Jewish Christians, especially, were respecting this glorious institution. He is, therefore, anxious to lift their minds cut of the narrow rut of their traditional exclusiveness. He wants them to rise to a truer and nobler conception of this glorious spiritual temple--“to comprehend its breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” By its breadth and length he describes its area as covering the whole earth, as contemplating all nations within its scope. By its depth and height he measures its elevation; it includes the whole family on earth and in heaven, the Church militant and the Church triumphant. In a word, then, we have the area and elevation of the spiritual temple, the Church, in the one ease covering the earth, in the other reaching to the heavens.

1. The source of it. The comprehension indicated comes as the result of being “rooted and grounded in love.” A strange interblending of figures. Not only has the heart penetrated into the love, but the love penetrates into the heart, transfusing it with its own qualities. What is the result? It is that the heart, so affected, so wrought upon, possesses in its new instinct of love a key to all God’s ways and operations.

2. The universality of its comprehension. It is implied that to comprehend the magnitude of the aim of the Christian Church was a matter which the Ephesian Christians were to attain to in common with all saints. It is the duty of every Christian to attain to clear views on this important matter. It is men who have comprehended this most clearly and appreciated it most fully who have succeeded best in doing great things for God. It is only by the inspiration and enthusiasm born of this great fact that such heroes of the faith as Wesley in England, Carey in India, and Livingstone in Africa, were stimulated and emboldened to attempt the mighty things they achieved in their day.

3. The use of it--“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” Here the apostle tells us that one of the advantages of the realization of the wide-reaching aims and benevolent purposes of the Church was the help it gives to realize the transcendent love of Christ. It sounds paradoxical to speak of knowing that which passeth knowledge. There is a sense, nevertheless, in which it is consistent. The fact of the love being Divine at once places it beyond the utmost stretch of the human mind to measure its force, to fathom its depth, or to scale its height. He to whom, both by reason of sympathy of nature and power of inspiration, was given more than to any other human being the power of fathoming its depth, and measuring its height, represents it as of the very essence of God. Yet this knowledge-defying love, the text tells us, we may know.

This knowledge consists of two things.

1. In being convinced of it as a fact. As Intimated, this conviction, the apostle tells us, comes of duly comprehending the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the Church. The Church, in the magnitude of its conception and comprehensive benevolence, is a standing monument of Christ’s love, a proof indisputable of its existence and operative force. This much we know of the love of Christ. The sun far surpasses our power of comprehension. We can form no idea of its bulk, of the extent of its forces, of the influence it exerts upon myriad objects embraced by its light and heat. Nevertheless, there is nothing of the existence of which we are more convinced, or with the power of which we are more impressed. Thus it is with the love of Christ.

2. To know the love of Christ means also an assurance of a personal interest in it. It means the conviction that, however it may defy the utmost power of our imagination to measure its magnitude, we are, nevertheless, embraced by it; that it is our moral atmosphere in which we breathe inspiration and power; the spiritual light which infuses, sunlike, gladness and joy into the very core of our life, giving serene rest, and creating unflinching confidence in the midst of universal unrest, and of myriads of turbulent and conflicting elements.

3. The knowledge of Christ’s love is a qualification for the reception of all the fulness of God. The love of Christ, apprehended in the sense explained, unlocks the soul for the entrance into it of all God’s fulness. This is the apostle’s climax thought. Here he describes the highest point of spiritual attainment the believing soul is capable of reaching, that is, becoming a depository for all the fulness of God. The love of Christ, apprehended in this deeper manner, brings the whole man under the complete sway of God. For this being filled with all the fulness of God means--

An ascending prayer

You will see that this prayer is an ascending one. Each petition rises higher than the preceding. Meditating on this prayer is something like ascending an Alpine peak. The first hour or so is comparatively easy work. The giant flanks of the mountain are steep, but still their ascent is not over difficult; but the higher you go, the steeper it becomes, until at last there is just that one glittering pinnacle towering above your head, and it seems to say, “Thus far, but no farther! Scale me if you can.” With the aid, though, of a trusty guide, who cuts steps in the very ice for us, and who lends us the strength of his arm, we are able to gain the summit, and drink in with our eyes the grandeur of the scene. Oh that the Spirit of God might come upon us, and, taking us by the hand, help us by His own mighty power to reach the very topmost pinnacle of the apostle’s prayer, and understand in some measure what it is to be filled with all the fulness of God.

1. There must be an inward strengthening. Spiritual power must be developed to qualify us for attaining to eminence in the knowledge and service of Christ. Not life only, but vitality.

2. There must be an ever-acting faith on your part, so that a whole Christ may be received, and a whole Christ retained within the soul. A glorious realization of the person of the Lord Jesus, and by faith a living Christ dwelling within the breast. Not a portrait merely, but Christ Himself enshrined in the soul.

3. Then, you see, how naturally comes the next petition, “That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ah! I am certain of this, that if I am filled with a living Christ, I am not far off being filled with all the fulness of God. If I am strengthened with all might by the Holy Ghost, and have a living Jesus within the soul, only one step higher and the pinnacle of the prayer is reached.

(a) Fulness of joy (John 15:11; John 16:24; John 17:13). No piety in being miserable. It is no token of grace to be depressed or disconsolate. It rather shows there is something wrong somewhere, because, included in the all-fulness that Christ has to supply His saints, there is the fulness of joy.

(b) Fulness of peace (Romans 15:13). Joy is peace singing; peace is joy reposing.

(c) Fulness of hope.

(d) The fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:2). Not just a stray fruit here and there upon your boughs, but all your boughs filled with fruit, until through the very weight of their load they bend down and kiss the ground. The more fruitful the branch, the lower it will hang; and the more fruit there is upon a believer, the less conceit and pride there will be about him.

(e) The knowledge of God’s will (Colossians 1:9).

All these are but a few items of the different things with which the Lord is willing to fill us. Would you lead a calm, restful life? Then you must know the meaning of being filled. To use a very simple illustration--take a water bottle, and if that water bottle be only half full, every time you move the bottle the water in it washes to and fro. Why? How is it that it feels every motion? Because it is not full. But if you fill that water bottle right up until it cannot hold another drop, and then cork it in, you may turn the bottle which way you like, and the water within it will not move. There is no movement, no washing about. Why? Because it is too full to be agitated. The reason why you and I live such poor restless lives is that we are not filled up with the fulness of God. Do you also want to live a life of power? Then remember that the measure of any man’s power is in proportion to the measure with which he is filled with God. (A. G. Brown.)

Prayer a self-revelation

The deepest thoughts of the heart of a spiritual man are sure to come out in his prayer. Hear a man of God pray, and you hear the real man speaking. I suppose there are none of us here who have not often had cause to confess with shame that we should not like to be judged by our converse with man. How often in society and amongst friends we are led to talk and chat in a way quite sufficient to mislead those who are with us, and make them think we are very different men from what we really are. But when after such a season we have gone to our own home, and dropped down on our knees before God, and begun to speak to Him, then, perhaps with bitter tears, we have told Him that it was not the true self speaking a few hours back. If you could only overhear the talk which a saintly heart has with its God, then you would know the man himself. And you may also rest assured that that which a man prays for, for his friends, is in his estimation the choicest blessing they can receive. Only know what your dearest friend asks God to give you, and you know what, in his opinion, is your greatest need. Oh, if we could but sometimes hear those who love us best, and those who know us best, pray for us, it would be a revelation to us. We should then see what, in their judgment, was our deficiency--what, in their estimation, our greatest requirement. Now, if there be so deep an interest attaching itself to the prayers of all, surely, without fear of contradiction, we may say that when it is an apostle who bends the knee, and when it is such an apostle as Paul who prays, we may well be all attention to catch every syllable. If the deepest thoughts of the heart come out in prayer, let there be a holy hush as we hear the apostle of the Gentiles pray. What, in his mind, is the chiefest thing to be desired for a saint? What, according to his judgment, is the choicest blessing that a believer can receive? We have only to listen to his prayer, and we shall discover. (A. G. Brown.)

St. Paul’s example as to prayer

1. Ministers must pray for their people as well as teach them.

2. In prayer we must compose our outward man to due reverance, for the body as well as the soul has been redeemed.

3. Kneeling is the most fitting attitude.

4. Yet there are some cautions to which we must pay attention.

Kneeling in prayer

There was an old clergyman who was much troubled because his wife would sit in church instead of kneeling. He spoke about it to her, but she gave no heed. No; she was more comfortable sitting, and she thought she could pray just as well in one position as another. “You may pray as well,” he said, “but I doubt you’re being heard as well.” However, it was no good; he might just as well have spoken to a stone wall. So then he went one day to his wife’s old servant, and said to her, “Hannah, I will give you a crown if you will go to my wife, and sit down on the sofa at her side, and ask her to give you a holiday tomorrow, because you want to go home to your friends.” Hannah was shy. However, the prospect of the crown encouraged her, and she opened the door timidly, went in, and walking up to the sofa, where her mistress was knitting, sat down at her side. The old lady looked up in great astonishment, and asked what in the world she wanted. “A holiday tomorrow, ma’am.” “Leave the room instantly, you impudent woman,” exclaimed the old lady, “and if you want to have a request granted, learn to ask it in a proper manner.” Then the husband put his head in and said, “My dear! is not this preaching to Hannah the lesson I have been preaching to you for years? If you want to have a request granted, learn to ask it in a proper manner.” Next Sunday, and ever after, the old lady knelt in church. She saw it would not do to treat Jesus Christ in that way in which she did not like at all to be treated herself.


Philip the Third of Spain would never be addressed but on the knees, for which he gave the excuse, that as he was of low stature everyone would have appeared too high for him. And if men claim to be approached in this way, how shall we draw near to the living God, the Maker of heaven and earth?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 3:14". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ephesians 3:14. Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, In the foregoing chapter, Ephesians 3:19. St. Paul tells the Ephesians, that now they believe in Christ, they are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Here he goes on, and tells them, they are of the family, or lineage of God, being, jointly with Jesus Christ, the sons of God. Nothing could be of greater force to continue them steadfast in the doctrine which he had preached to them, and in which he makes it his principal business here to confirm them; namely, that they needed not be circumcised, and submit to the law of Moses, as they were already, by faith in Christ, the sons of God, and of the same family with Christ himself

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Chapter 14


Ephesians 3:14-18

IN Ephesians 3:14 the prayer is resumed which the apostle was about to offer at the beginning of the chapter, when the current of his thoughts carried him away. The supplication is offered "for this cause" (Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 3:14)-it arises out of the teachings of the preceding pages. Thinking of all that God has wrought in the Christ, and has accomplished by means of His gospel in multitudes of Gentiles as well as Jews, reconciling them to Himself in one body and forming them together into a temple for His Spirit, the apostle bows his knees before God on their behalf. So much he had in mind when at the end of the second chapter he was in act to pray for the Asian Christians that they might be enabled to enter into this far-reaching purpose. Other aspects of the great design of God arose upon the writer’s mind before his prayer could find expression. He has told us of his own part in disclosing it to the world, and of the interest it excites amongst the dwellers in heavenly places, -thoughts full of comfort for the Gentile believers troubled by his imprisonment and continued sufferings. These further reflections add new meaning to the "For this cause" repeated from Ephesians 3:1.

The prayer which he offers here is no less remarkable and unique in his epistles than the act of praise in chapter 1. Addressing himself to God as the Father of angels and of men, the apostle asks that He will endow the readers in a manner corresponding to the wealth of His glory-in other words, that the gifts he bestows may be worthy of the universal Father, worthy of the august character in which God has now revealed Himself to mankind. According to this measure, St. Paul beseeches for the Church, in the first instance, two gifts, which after all are one, -viz., the inward strength of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), and the permanent indwelling of Christ (Ephesians 3:17). These gifts he asks on his readers’ behalf. with a view to their gaining two further blessings, which are also one, -viz., the power to understand the Divine plan (Ephesians 3:18) as it has been expounded in this letter, and so to know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19). Still, beyond these there rises in the distance a further end for man and the Church: the reception of the entire fulness of God. Human desire and thought thus reach their limit: they grasp at the infinite.

In this chapter we will strive to follow the apostle’s prayer to the end of the eighteenth verse, where it arrives at its chief aim and touches the main thought of the epistle, expressing the desire that all believers may have power to realise the full scope of the salvation of Christ in which they participate.

Let us pause for a moment to join in St. Paul’s invocation: "I bow my knees to the Father, of whom [not the whole family, but] every family in heaven and upon earth is named." The point of St. Paul’s original phrase is somewhat lost in translation. The Greek word for family (patria) is based on that for father (pater). A distinguished father anciently gave his name to his descendants; and this paternal name became the bond of family or tribal union, and the title which ennobled the race. So we have "the sons of Israel," the "sons of Aaron" or "of Korah"; and in Greek history the Atridae, the Alcmae-onidae, who form a family of many kindred households -a clan, or gens, designated by their ancestral head. Thus Joseph {in Luke 2:4} is described as "being of the house and family [patrio] of David"; and Jesus is "the Son of David." Now Scripture speaks also of sons of God; and these of two chief orders. There are those "in heaven," who form a race distinct from ourselves in origin-divided, it may be, amongst themselves into various orders and dwelling in their several homes in the heavenly places.

Of these are the sons of God whom the book of Job pictures appearing in the Divine court and forming a "family in heaven." When Christ promises [Luke 20:36] that His disciples in their immortal state will be "equal to the angels," because they are "sons of God," it is implied that the angels are already and by birthright sons of God. Hence in Hebrews 12:22-23 the angels are described as "the festal gathering and assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven." We, the sons of Adam, with our many tribes and kindreds, through Jesus Christ our Elder Brother constitute a new family of God. God becomes our Name-father, and permits us also to call ourselves His sons through faith. Thus the Church of believers in the Son of God constitutes the "family on earth named" from the same Father who gave His name to the holy angels, our wise and strong and brilliant elder brothers. They and we are alike God’s offspring. Heaven and earth are kindred spheres.

This passage gives to God’s Fatherhood the same extension that Ephesians 1:21 has given to Christ’s Lordship. Every order of creaturely intelligence acknowledges God for the Author of its being, and bows to Christ as its sovereign Lord. In God’s name of Father the entire wealth of love that streams forth from Him through endless ages and unmeasured worlds is hidden; and in the name of sons of God there is contained the blessedness of all creatures that can bear His image.

I. What, therefore, shall the universal Father be asked to give to His needy children upon earth? They have newly learnt His name; they are barely recovered from the malady of their sin, fearful of trial, weak to meet temptation. Strength is their first necessity: "I bow my knees to the Father of heaven and earth, praying that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened by the entering of the Spirit into your inward man." The apostle asked them in Ephesians 3:13, in view of the greatness of his own calling, to be of good courage on his account; now he entreats God so to reveal to them His glory and to pour into their hearts His Spirit, that no weakness and fear may remain in them. The strengthening of which he speaks is the opposite of the faintness of heart, the failure of courage deprecated in Ephesians 3:13. Using the same word, the apostle bids the Corinthians "Quit themselves like men, be strong". [1 Corinthians 16:13] He desires for the Asian believers a manful heart, the strength that meets battle and danger without quailing. The source of this strength is not in ourselves. We are to be "strengthened with [or by] power, "- by "the power" of God "working in us" (Ephesians 3:20), the very same "power exceeding great," that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. [Ephesians 1:19] This superhuman might of God operating in men is always referred to the Holy Spirit: "by power made strong," he says, "through the Spirit." Nothing is more familiar in Scripture than the conception of the indwelling Spirit of God as the source of moral strength. The special power that belongs to the gospel Christ ascribes altogether to this cause. "Ye shall receive power," He said to His disciples, "after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you." Hence is derived the vigour of a strong faith, the valour of the good soldier of Christ Jesus, the courage of the martyrs, the cheerful and indomitable patience of multitudes of obscure sufferers for righteousness’ sake. There is a great truth expressed when we describe a brave and. enterprising man as a man of spirit. All high and commanding qualities of soul come from this invisible source. They are inspirations. In the human will, with its vis vivida, its elasticity and buoyancy, its steadfastness and resolved purpose, is the highest type of force and the image of the almighty Will. When that will is animated and filled with "the Spirit," the man so possessed is the embodiment of an inconceivable power. Firm principle, hope and constancy, self-mastery, superiority to pleasure and pain, -all the elements of a noble courage are proper to the man of the Spirit. Such power is not neutralised by our infirmities; it asserts itself under their limiting conditions and makes them its contributories. "My grace is sufficient for thee," said Christ to His disabled servant; "for power is perfected in weakness." In privation and loneliness, in old age and bodily decay, the strength of God in the human spirit shines with its purest lustre. Never did St. Paul rise to such a height of moral ascendency as at the time when he was "smitten down" and all but destroyed by persecution and affliction. "That the excellency of the power," he says, "may be of God and not from ourselves". [2 Corinthians 4:7-11]

The apostle points to "the inner man" as the seat of this invigoration, thinking perhaps of its secrecy. While the world buffets and dismays the Christian, new vigour and joy are infused into his soul. The surface waters and summer brooks of comfort fail; but there opens in the heart a spring fed by the river of life proceeding from the throne of God. Beneath the toil worn frame, the mean attire, and friendless condition of the prisoner Paul - a mark for the world’s scorn- there lives a strength of thought and will mightier than the empire of the Caesars, a power of the Spirit that is to dominate the centuries to come. Of this omnipotent power dwelling in the Church of God, the apostle prays that every one of his readers may partake.

II. Parallel to the first petition, and in substance identical with it, is the second: "that the Christ may make His dwelling through faith in your hearts." Such, it seems to us, is the relation of Ephesians 3:16-17. Christ’s residence in the heart is to be viewed neither as the result, nor the antecedent of the strength given by the Spirit to the inward man: the two are simultaneous: they are the same things seen in a varying light.

We observe in this prayer the same vein of Trinitarian thought which marks the doxology of chapter 1., and other leading passages in this epistle. The Father, the Spirit, and the Christ are unitedly the object of the apostle’s devout supplication.

As in the previous clause, the verb of Ephesians 3:17 bears emphasis and conveys the point of St. Paul’s entreaty; he asks that "the Christ may take up His abode, -may settle in your hearts." The word signifies to set up one’s house or make one’s home in a place, by way of contrast with a temporary and uncertain sojourn. {comp. Ephesians 2:19} The same verb in Colossians 2:9 asserts that in Christ "dwells all the fulness of the Godhead"; and in Colossians 1:19 it declares, used in the same tense as here, how it was God’s "pleasure that all the fulness should make its dwelling in Him" now raised from the dead, who had emptied and humbled Himself to fulfil the purpose of the Father’s love. So it is desired that Christ should take His seat within us. He is never again to stand at the door and knock, nor to have a doubtful and disputed footing in the house. Let the Master come in, and claim His own. Let Him become the heart’s fixed tenant and full occupier. Let Him, if He will thus condescend, make Himself at home within us and there rest in His love. For He promised: "If any man love me, my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

And "the Christ," not Christ alone. Why does the apostle say this? There is a reason for the definite article, as we have found elsewhere. The apostle is asking for his Asian brethren something beyond that possession of Christ which belongs to every true Christian, -more even than the permanence and certainty of this indwelling indicated by the verb. "The Christ" is Christ in the significance of His name. It is Christ not only possessed, but understood, -Christ realised in the import of His work, in the light of His relationship to the Father and the Spirit, and to men. It is the Christ of the Church and the ages-known and accepted for all this-that St. Paul would fain have dwelling in the heart of each of his Gentile disciples. He is endeavouring to raise them to an adequate comprehension of the greatness of the Redeemer’s person and offices; he longs to have their minds possessed by his own views of Christ Jesus the Lord.

The heart, in the language of the Bible, never denotes the emotional nature by itself. The antithesis of "heart and head," the divorce of feeling and understanding in our modern speech is foreign to Scripture. The heart is our interior, conscious self-thought, feeling, will in their personal unity. It needs the whole Christ to fill and rule the whole heart, -a Christ who is the Lord of the intellect, the Light of the reason, no less than the Master of the feelings and desires. The difference in significance between "Christ" or "Christ Jesus" and "the Christ" in such a sentence as this, is not unlike the difference between "Queen Victoria" and "the Queen." The latter phrase brings Her Majesty before us in the grandeur and splendour of her Queen-ship. We think of her vast dominion, of her line of royal and famous ancestry, of her beneficent and memorable reign. So, to know the Christ is to apprehend Him in the height of His Godhead, in the breadth of His humanity, in the plenitude of His nature and His powers. And this is the object to which the teaching and the prayers of St. Paul for the Churches at the present time are directed. Understanding in this larger sense the indwelling of the Christ for which he prays, we see how naturally his supplication expands into the "height and depth" of the ensuing verse.

But however large the mental conception of Christ that St. Paul desires to impart to us, it is to be grasped "through faith." All real understanding and appropriation of Christ, the simplest and the most advanced come in by this channel, through the faith of the heart in which knowledge, will, and feeling blend in that one act of trustful apprehension of the truth concerning Jesus Christ by which the soul commits itself to Him.

How much is contained in this petition of the apostle that we need to ask for ourselves. Christ Jesus dwells now as then in the hearts of all who love Him. But how little do we know our heavenly Guest! how poor a Christ is ours, compared to the Christ of Paul’s experience! how slight and. empty a word is His name to multitudes of those who bear it! If men have once attained a sense of His salvation, and are satisfied of their interest in His atonement and their right to hope for eternal life through Him, their minds are at rest. They have accepted Christ and received what He has to give them; they turn their attention to other things. They do not love Christ enough to study Him. They have other mental interests, -scientific, literary, political, or industrial; but the knowledge of Christ has no intellectual attraction for them. With St. Paul’s passionate ardour, the ceaseless craving of his mind to "know Him, " these complacent believers have no sympathy whatever. This, they think, belongs only to a few, to men of metaphysical bias or of religious genius like the great apostle. Theology is regarded as a subject for specialists. The laity, with a lamentable and disastrous neglect, leave the study of Christian doctrine to the ministry. The Christ cannot take His due place in His people’s heart, He will not reveal to them the wealth of His glory, while they know so little and care to know so little of Him. Now many can be found, outside the ranks of the ordained, that make a sacrifice of other favourite pursuits to meditate on Christ? what prosperous merchant, what active man of affairs is there who will spare an hour each day from his other gains "for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord"?-"If at the present time the religious life of the Church is languid, and if in its enterprises there is little of audacity and vehemence, a partial explanation is to be found in that decline of intellectual interest in the contents of the Christian Faith which has characterised the last hundred or hundred and fifty years of our history."

It is a knowledge that when pursued grows upon the mind without limit. St. Paul, who knew so much, for that reason felt that all he had attained was but in the bud and beginning. "The Christ" is a subject infinite as nature, large and wide as history. With our enlarged apprehension of Him, the heart enlarges in capacity and moral power. Not unfrequently, the study of Christ in Scripture and experience gives to unlettered men, to men whose mind before their conversion was dull and uninformed, an intellectual quality, a power of discernment and apprehension that trained scholars might envy. By such thoughtful, constant fellowship with Him the vigour of spirit and courage in affliction are sustained, that the apostle first asked from God on behalf of his anxious Gentile friends:

III. The prayers now offered might suffice, if St. Paul were concerned only for the individual needs of those to whom he writes and their personal advancement in the new life. But it is otherwise. The Church fills his mind. Its lofty claims at every turn he has pressed on our attention. This is God’s holy temple and the habitation of His Spirit; it is the body in which Christ dwells, the bride that He has chosen. The Church is the object that draws the eyes of heaven; through it the angelic powers are learning undreamed-of lessons of God’s wisdom. Round this centre the apostle’s intercession must needs revolve. When he asks for his readers added strength of heart and a richer fellowship with Christ, it is in order that they may be the better able to enter into the Church’s life and to apprehend God’s great designs for mankind.

This object so much absorbs the writer’s thoughts and has been so constantly in view from the outset, that it does not occur to him, in Ephesians 3:18, to say precisely what that is whose "breadth and length and height and depth" the readers are to measure. The vast building stands before us and needs not to be named; we have only not to look away from it, not to forget what we have been reading all this time. It is God’s plan for the world in Christ; it is the purpose of the ages realised in the building of His Church. This conception was so impressive to the original readers and has held their attention so closely since the apostle unfolded it in the course of the second chapter, that they would have no difficulty in supplying the ellipsis which has given so much trouble to the commentators since.

If we are asked to interpret the four several magnitudes that are assigned to this building of God, we may say with Hofmann: "It stretches wide over all the world of the nations, east and west. In its length, it reaches through all time unto the end of things. In depth, it penetrates to the region where the faithful sleep in death. {comp. Ephesians 4:9} And it rises to heaven’s height where Christ lives." In the like strain Bernardine a Piconio, most genial and spiritual of Romanist interpreters: "Wide as the furthest limits of the inhabited world, long as the ages of eternity through which God’s love to His people will endure, deep as the abyss of misery and ruin from which He has raised us, high as the throne of Christ in the heavens where He has placed us." Such is the commonwealth to which we belong, such the dimensions of this city of God built on the foundation of the apostles, "that lieth four-square."

Do we not need to be strong- to "gain full strength," as the apostle prays, in order to grasp in its substance and import this immense revelation and to handle it with practical effect? Narrowness is feebleness. The greatness of the Church, as God designed it, matches the greatness of the Christ Himself. It needs a firm spiritual faith, a far-seeing intelligence, and a charity broad as the love of Christ to comprehend this mystery. From many believing eyes it is still hidden. Alas for our cold hearts, our weak and partial judgments! alas for the materialism that infects our Church theories, and that limits God’s free grace and the sovereign action of His Spirit to visible channels and ministrations "wrought by hand." Those who call themselves Churchmen and Catholics contradict the titles they boast when they bar out their loyal Christian brethren from the covenant rights of faith, when they deny churchly standing to communities with a love to Christ as warm and fruitful in good works, a gospel as pure and saving, a discipline at least as faithful as their own. Who are we that we dare to forbid those who are doing mighty works in the name of Christ, because they follow not with us? When we are fain to pull down every building of God that does not square with our own ecclesiastical plans, we do not apprehend "what is the breadth"! We draw close about us the walls of Christ’s wide house, as if to confine Him in our single chamber. We call our particular communion "the Church," and the rest "the sects"; and disfranchise, so far as our word and judgment go, a multitude of Christ’s freemen and God’s elect, our fellow-citizens in the new Jerusalem-saints, some of them, whose feet we well might deem ourselves unworthy to wash. A Church theory that leads to such results as these, that condemns Nonconformists to be strangers in the House of God, is self-condemned. It will perish of its own chillness and formalism. Happily, many of those who hold the doctrine of exclusive Roman or Anglican, or Baptist or Presbyterian legitimacy, are in feeling and practice more catholic than in their creed.

"With all the saints" the Asian Christians are called to enter into St. Paul’s wider view of God’s work in the world. For this is a collective idea, to be shared by many minds and that should sway all Christian hearts at once. It is the collective aim of Christianity that St. Paul wants his readers to understand, its mission to save humanity and to reconstruct the world for a temple of God. This is a calling for all the saints; but only for saints, -for men devoted to God and renewed by His Spirit. It was "revealed to His holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:5); and it needs men of the same quality for its bearers and interpreters.

But the first condition for this largeness of sympathy and aim is that stated at the beginning of the verse, thrown forward there with an emphasis that almost does violence to grammar: "in love being fast rooted and grounded." Where Christ dwells abidingly in the heart, love enters with Him and becomes the ground of our nature, the basis on which our thought and action rest, the soil in which our purposes grow. Love is. the mark of the true Broad Churchman in all Churches, the man to whom Christ is all things and in all, and who, wherever he sees a Christlike man, loves him and counts him a brother.

When such love to Christ fills all our hearts and penetrates to their depths, we shall have strength to shake off our prejudices, strength to master our intellectual difficulties and limitations. We shall have the courage to adopt Christ’s simple rule of fellowship: "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother."

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:14". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


Ephesians 3:1-13


Ephesians 3:1

For this cause. The reference is not merely to the last statement or illustration, but to the whole view of the purpose of God toward the Gentiles unfolded in Ephesians it. The apodosis does not come in till verse 14, at the beginning of which this conjunctive clause is repeated. I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles. He introduces himself in order to make known the feelings which were roused in his soul towards them by the consideration of the privileges just enlarged on—especially to acquaint them with the prayers he offered for them (see verses 14-19), and apparently with the indirect object of getting them to offer similar prayers for themselves. To justify this introduction of himself, he delicately introduces the fact of his being a prisoner on their behalf. What had brought him to Rome, what had made him appeal to Caesar, was his preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; indeed, the immediate occasion of his arrest at Jerusalem was the suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, one of themselves, into the temple (Acts 21:29). By this allusion to the condition into which his regard for them had brought him, be conciliates sympathetic consideration of what is to follow.

Ephesians 3:2

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God. Here begins the digression. The words, "if ye have heard," etc., do not denote an uncertainty, but are a delicate reminder. Doubtless they had heard of the matter when he was at Ephesus, and, as he remarks in Ephesians 3:3, he had already written briefly on it. Grace is here used in a more restricted sense than in Ephesians 1:2—in the sense of Divine favor, honor, privilege—the same as in Ephesians 1:8, "To me... is this favor given." Which is given me to you-ward. The grace or favor meant is that whereby Paul was constituted the apostle of the Gentiles. Deeply though he felt his being sent away from preaching to his countrymen (Acts 22:18), he took kindly to the new sphere allotted to him, and magnified his office (Romans 11:13).

Ephesians 3:3

How that, by revelation, was made known unto me the mystery. The mystery, as is explained afterwards (Ephesians 3:6), was not the gospel itself, but its destination to the Gentiles as much as to the Jews; although, as appears afterwards, this fullness of blessing is really the great glory of the gospel. Mystery, that which is known only to the initiated, does not denote here a thing obscure in its own nature, but only something that had been concealed from view. It was only the initiated that now knew that God designed the gospel for Gentile and Jew alike. Paul had been initiated "by revelation"—not by his own reflecting power, not by his study of Scripture, not by communication from ether men, but by a special communication from God (Galatians 1:12). As I wrote before in few words. Where? In another Epistle? No; but in the earlier part of this Epistle (see Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 2:18, etc.). If it be said the allusions in these places to the topic in question are rather vague and general, the apostle virtually admits it—he wrote of it "in few words;" but, as it is a great and glorious truth, he returns to it to amplify it and place it in a brighter light.

Ephesians 3:4

In accordance with which, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. προς ὂ, with reference to which, i.e. to what I wrote afore: to make that more intelligible I write on the subject more fully now, so that you shall see that your instructor is thoroughly informed in this matter of the mystery in Christ—this once concealed but now revealed purpose of his grace.

Ephesians 3:5

Which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations. Though not a new purpose, the knowledge of it is new. Abraham, David, and the prophets, however much they knew of Christ and the fullness of blessing in him for all the families of the earth, did not know the full extent of God's grace to the Gentries—did not know that the middle wall was to be wholly broken down, and all inequality removed. This might seem to throw some doubt on the reality of this doctrine; but it was on purpose that God kept it secret, and those by whom he has now revealed it are worthy of all regard. As it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. It is not revealed to Paul only, although he has got the privilege of announcing it to the Gentiles, but to the whole body of "holy apostles and prophets." The designation, "holy apostles," is rare; it is used here to magnify the office, to show that those whom the Head of the Church had set apart for himself were fit instruments to receive so important a revelation. "Prophets" here are undoubtedly New Testament prophets (see Ephesians 2:20), the contrast being with "sons of men in other generations." Reference may be made to the experience and decree of the Council of Jerusalem, guided by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 15:28).

Ephesians 3:6

That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs—heirs with the Jews of the same inheritance (see Ephesians 1:11)—and fellow-members of the body (this figure is repeated and applied in Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:16, Ephesians 4:25), and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel—the promise to Abraham, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles; and they become fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers "in Christ Jesus," enjoying all privileges in him, in a state of union and fellowship with him. To this state they are invited and admitted through the gospel; by receiving the glad tidings they enter on these blessings (comp. Romans 10:15, Romans 10:18). This statement of religious equality between Jews and Gentiles is strong, clear, complete; the more remarkable that Paul himself had bad so strong Jewish prejudices; only one of dearest insight and highest courage could proclaim the truth so emphatically; it is little wonder if many believing Jews, less enlightened and less courageous, shrank from his statements as too strong.

Ephesians 3:7

Of which I became a minister; did not gradually grow up to the office, but became, at a given time and place, a minister, a διάκονος, a servant. According to the gift of the grace of God. The office of serving Christ was a gift, most undeserved on Paul's part, who had been a persecutor and injurious, but flowing from the free grace of God, his sovereign, unmerited mercy. Which was given me according to the working of his power. This denotes the manner of the gift; the gift itself, apostleship to the Gentiles, would have been little had it not been accompanied with Divine power. Spiritual office without spiritual power is miserable; but in Paul's case there was the power as well as the office; not merely the power of working miracles, as some have held, but besides this, the power of spiritual insight into the meaning of Scripture—power of exposition, power of demonstration, power of persuasion. Paul gratefully acknowledged that all the power of his ministry was God's, not his own (1 Corinthians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 3:7).

Ephesians 3:8

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints; not only of apostles and prophets, but even of all believers—a profound expression of humility, founded not only on his persecuting career, but on his consciousness of sin, of inborn rebellion against God's Law, of fountains of unlawful desire in his flesh (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15), making him feel himself to be, in heart and essence, the chief of sinners. The sense of sin is not usually in proportion to the acts of outward transgression, but to the insight into the springs of evil in one's heart, and the true nature of sin as direct antagonism to the holy God. Was this grace given. The third time in this chapter that he speaks of his office as a fruit of grace, showing that, notwithstanding his being a prisoner on account of it, and all the perils it involved (2 Corinthians 11:24-27), he was overwhelmed with God's unmerited goodness in conferring it on him. It was substantially the post of a foreign missionary, with hardly one human comfort! To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; εὐγγελίσασθαι, to evangelize, to proclaim good tidings. The force of the ευ) is not given in "preach," but the idea is amply conveyed by the words that follow. The balance of authority for τοῖς ἔθνεσι, "to the Gentiles," and ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι, "among the Gentiles," is about equal; the meaning really the same. ἔθνος, heathen, was almost an offensive name; yet with that name the apostle associates the highest blessings of God. The unsearchable riches of Christ; two attractive words, riches and unsearchable, conveying the idea of the things that are most precious being infinitely abundant. Usually precious things are rare; their very rarity increases their price; but here that which is most precious is also boundless—riches of compassion and love, of merit, of sanctifying, comforting, and transforming power, all without limit, and capable of satisfying every want, craving, and yearning of the heart, now and evermore. The thought of his having such riches to offer to all made him regard his office as most glorious, raised him far above the point of view from which the world would despise it, and filled him with adoring gratitude to God for having conferred it on him.

Ephesians 3:9

And to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery. Another branch of his office, and another fruit of God's grace in conferring it. He was not only to benefit man, but also to vindicate God. For "fellowship of the mystery" (A.V.), the R.V. has "dispensation of the mystery," founded on the preference of the reading οἰκονομια, for which there is a great preponderance of authority over κοινωνία. It was the apostle's function to show how this mystery had been dispensed—concealed for a long time and at last revealed. Which from the beginning of the ages hath been hid in God. The counsel itself was πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων, before the foundation of the world; the concealment of it ἀπό τῶν αἰώνων, from the beginning of the ages, when there were intelligent beings capable of understanding it—whether angels or men. Whatever the angels may have known of the Divine plans, this feature of them was not known till revealed to the New Testament Church. Who created all things. The reason for adding this particular designation of God is not obvious; probably it is to indicate the relation of the matter in hand to the mightiest works of God. This is no trifling matter; it connects itself with God's grandest operations; it has supremely glorious bearings. It might be supposed to have relations only to one race and to one period of time; but it has relations to "all things;" it is an integral element in God's plan. The words, by Jesus Christ (A.V.), are not found in a great preponderance of textual authorities.

Ephesians 3:10

To the intent—indicative of the purpose of the remarkable arrangement or dispensation according to which the eternal Divine purpose, which had been concealed from the beginning of the ages, was now made known—that there might b e made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places; that a lesson might be given to the unfallen angels. Their interest in the scheme of man's redemption is often referred to (1 Peter 1:12). Even the highest powers of heaven have yet much to learn respecting God. The dispensation of God's grace to man is one of their lesson-books. Dr. Chalmers shows ('Astronomical Discourses') how this meets the objection that so dread a sacrifice as the life of God's Son could not have been made for one poor planet; in its indirect bearings we do not know what other orders of beings have derived most vital lessons from this manifestation of the attributes of God. However men may scorn the salvation of Christ and all that belongs to it, the highest intelligences regard it with profound interest. By the Church the manifold wisdom of God. Through the Church, now constituted, according' to the revealed mystery, of Jew and Gentile, all redeemed by Christ's blood and renewed by his Spirit, there is exhibited to the angels the manifold wisdom of God. The precise line of thought is this: God from eternity, had a purpose to put Jew anti Gentile on precisely the same footing, but concealed it for many ages, until he revealed it in the apostolic age, when he appointed Paul his minister to announce it. The purpose of this whole arrangement was to enlighten the principalities and powers of heaven in the manifold wisdom of God. How in his manifold wisdom? In this way. During these preparatory ages, when God's gracious dealings were with the Jews only, all kinds of false religions were developing among the heathen, and their diversified influence and effects were becoming apparent in many ways—the divergent tendencies of men, especially in religious matters, were being developed; but in the new turn given to things by the breaking down of the middle wall in Christ, the manifold wisdom of God was shown in transforming many of these most diverse elements, unifying them, building them up into a great spiritual body, into a holy, most beautiful, most symmetrical temple. When all things seem to be flying asunder into the most diverse and antagonistic elements, God gives a new turn, as it were, to providence, and lo! a glorious symmetrical and harmonious structure begins to rise.

Ephesians 3:11

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. The apostle is ever anxious that we should connect these operations, of God with the profundity, deliberation, and awfulness of an eternal decree, and that we should thus contrast them in our minds with many even of the most important works of man which are often determined, on his part, by a passing event or other trivial cause. The verb in this clause is ἐποίησε, which he made, and it has been debated whether it denotes the original formation of the purpose, or the execution of it under Christ. With A.V. and R.V., we prefer the former. The object of the apostle is to indicate that the purpose existed from eternity; but, besides, the meaning of "fulfilled" or "executed" can hardly be sustained by &retype. The closing formula, "in Christ Jesus," is perfectly applicable to the eternal formation of the purpose; it is the constantly returning indication of the element in which the whole scheme of grace had its beginning, its progress, and its end.

Ephesians 3:12

In whom we have our boldness and access. παῤῥησία literally means "boldness" or "freedom of speech," but is used here in a more ample sense for want of restraint, ease of feeling, comfortable self-possession, in our access to God. Contrast with Adam hiding himself among the trees of the garden, and the lost calling on the mountains to fall on them, and the rocks to cover them. The "we" in this verse includes both Jews and Gentiles. The "access," or introduction (see Ephesians 2:18), is like that of the high priest into the holy of holies—we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19). In confidence through the faith of him. The confidence of being welcomed and accepted when we go into God's presence springs from our faith in him. We believe in him as the Propitiation, as our Peace, as the Reconciler, and we go before God with confidence. The clause, "through faith in him," influences the whole verse. And, as before, we have at the beginning of the verse, "in whom"—an express-ion denoting generally our union with Christ, and at the end, "through the faith of him"—a specification of the instrument by which flint union is formed and by which it operates.

Ephesians 3:13

Wherefore I beg that ye faint not at my tribulations for you. A very delicate and touching request, that they would not be too much distressed by what he was suffering for them (comp. Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:26). Paul knew that the sympathy was so strong that what was suffered by him was endured sympathetically by them. Two expressions denote that the sufferings were great: "My tribulations for you"—a word expressing intense and protracted suffering; "that ye faint not," or that ye do not lose heart, as if the power of evil had got the upper hand. Which is your glory. That is, the character or capacity of the apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, in which I suffer tribulation, is one of such exalted dignity as to reflect glory on you. Take that view of my sufferings; I suffer because I hold so glorious an office, and the glory of that office is reflected on you.

Ephesians 3:14-21


Ephesians 3:14

For this cause. The digression being ended, the apostle takes up the thread broken at ver.

1. We must seek the "cause" in Ephesians

2. Seeing that the Gentiles have now equal privileges with the Jews; seeing that by faith in Christ Gentile Christians have been brought as near to God, and have as good a right to the good things of the covenant;—I take the steps now to be specified for enabling them actually to possess these good things. On the one hand, the apostle saw the believing Ephesians still comparatively poor and needy; on the other hand, he saw all spiritual stores provided for them: the question was how to get the one into contact with the other. For this cause, he says, I bow my knees unto the Father. An emphatic way of denoting prayer; but not incidental, occasional prayer, inspired by some passing feeling; the attitude "bow my knees" denotes deliberate prayer (comp. Daniel 6:10), making a business of it, approaching God with reverence and holy fear, with all the solemnities suitable to the occasion of making a specific and important request. In the A.V. it is "unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The R.V., some of the oldest manuscripts, and most recent commentators omit the latter words, which are supposed to have been taken from Ephesians 1:3. On internal grounds, the omission of the wends seems to yield the best sense, for in Ephesians 2:18 our having access to "the Father" is spoken of, and when the apostle proceeded to show how he availed himself of that privilege, he is not likely to have used more than that expression. Further, there is such a close connection between πατέρα and πατριὰ in Ephesians 2:15, that they are not likely to have been far separated as the apostle used them.

Ephesians 3:15

From whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named. So A.V., but R.V. has "every family," holding, doubtless, that the want of the article— πᾶσα πατριὰ not πᾶσαἡπατριὰ—requires this sense. But as in Matthew 2:3; Luke 4:13; Acts 2:1-47.36; Acts 7:22, and Ephesians 2:21; so here, πᾶσα without the article may denote the totality of the thing; πᾶσα πατριὰ corresponding to πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ.;And this seems more in accord with the scope of the passage, for here the apostle is not distributing into groups, but gathering into one. But what is the precise import of the statement, and for what reason is it introduced? The apostle recognizes all saints, whether in heaven or on earth, as forming one family, and as the whole family derives its name from God, so God may ha expected and appealed to to make full and corresponding provision for the wants of its various sections. The implied appeal is not to the fact that the family is God's family, but to the fact, less important in itself but really including the other, that it is named after him. Among men, one would be held emphatically bound to take an interest in those who are not only his relations but bear his very name. Now, that part of the family which is housed in heaven is gloriously provided for; the apostle proceeds to intercede for the portion still on earth. As the whole family is named after the same Father, is conspicuous before the eyes of all as God's, so it may well be expected that the more needy, feeble, exposed, and tempted part of the family will be treated in every way worthy of its Father.

"Let saints on earth unite to sing

With those to glory gone;

For all the servants of our King,

In earth and heaven, are one.

"One family we dwell in him,

One Church above, beneath;

Though now divided by the stream,

The narrow stream, of death."

Ephesians 3:16

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory. The standard or measure of the Divine giving is brought into view. "Riches of his glory" is a more emphatic expression than "glorious riches," though substantially the same in meaning. God's standard of giving is liberal, bountiful, overflowing. An image of the riches of his glory is seen in the starry heavens, which proclaim at once the vast riches and surpassing glory of God. Or in the beautiful appearance of an autumn sunset, where the whole sky is flecked with clouds brightened into a sea of glory. In prayer, it is both useful for ourselves and glorifying to God to recognize his bountifulness—to remember that he gives us a King (2 Samuel 24:23). To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. The inner man is the seat of influence, but with us it is the scat of spiritual feebleness. Most men may contrive to order their outward conduct suitably; but who has control of the inner man? Faith, trust, humility, love, patience, and the like graces which belong to the inner man, are what we are weakest in, and what we have least power to make strong. In this very region it is sought that the Ephesians might be strengthened with might by the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is available for this very purpose for all that ask him.

Ephesians 3:17

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Reversing the usual order, the prayer begins (Ephesians 3:16) by asking the blessing of the Third Person of the Godhead; now we have a cluster of petitions connected with the Second Person. The first of these is for the indwelling of Christ in their hearts, as opposed to mere occasional visits or influences from Christ; the instrument by which this blessing is attained being their faith. Christ exercising a constant power within them, both in the active and passive movements of the heart, giving the sense of pardon and acceptance, molding the will, sweetening the emotions, enlightening and confirming the conscience, purifying the whole springs and principles of action. This to be secured by their faith, opening the door, receiving Christ in all his fullness, resting and living on him, believing his promises, and longing for his appearing the second time. In order that ye, having been rooted and grounded in love. Two images are combined to make the idea emphatic—that of a tree and that of a building; denoting what is both the starting-point and the support of the Christian's life, viz. love. In what sense? The love of Christ is specified afterwards (Ephesians 3:19), but this may be as a pre-eminent branch of that manifold love which bears on the Christian life—the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the love of the brethren to one another; and the reciprocal love evoked from the believer by the reception of this love. Evidently it is implied that the Christian life can begin and flourish only in such an atmosphere of love; as warm sunshine is needed to start and advance the life of a plant, so love is needed to start and carry on the life of the soul. Experience of Divine love is a great quickening and propelling power. "One glance of God, a touch of his love, will free and enlarge the heart, so that it can deny all and part with all and make an entire renunciation of all to follow him" (Archbishop Leighton).

Ephesians 3:18

May be made strong to comprehend with all the saints. The subject to be comprehended is not only beyond man's natural capacity, but beyond the ordinary force of his spiritual capacity. The tiring to be grasped needs a special strength of heart and soul; the heart needs to be enlarged, the mental "hands of the arms" need to be made strong (Genesis 49:24). But the attainment is not impossible—it is the experience of "all the saints;" all God's children are enabled to grasp something of this. What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. No genitive being given, it has been a difficult point to settle to what these dimensions must be held to be applicable. Some think that the love of Christ in the following clause must be meant; but surely when that is made the subject of a separate part of the prayer, and is not in the genitive but the objective case, governed by a verb of its own, this explanation is not to be enter-rained. Others, with more reason, think that the idea of a temple was in the mind of the writer, as it certainly was in Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22, and that it is the dimensions of the temple he had here in his eye, the prayer being that the Ephesians might comprehend the vastness and glory of that spiritual temple which is constituted by all believers, and in which God dwells by the Spirit. Even this, however, would not divest the construction of abruptness, and it would fit in but poorly with the context, in which the tenor o f the apostle's prayer is that a profusion of Divine blessing might be enjoyed by the Ephesians. If a genitive must be supplied, may we not conceive the apostle to have had in his view the entire provision God has made in Christ for the good of his people, so that the dimensions would be those of the gospel storehouse, the vast reservoir out of which the Church is filled? "Breadth" might denote the manifoldness of that provision; "length," its eternal duration; its "depth" might be represented by the profundity of Christ's humiliation; and its "height" by the loftiness of the condition to which his people are to be raised. To comprehend this, to understand its existence and its richness, is to get our faith enlarged, our expectations expanded; it is through this comprehension that "all the saints" have got their wants supplied, and their souls filled as with marrow and fatness.

Ephesians 3:19

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The love here is evidently the love of Christ to us, and this may well be specified as a special matter of prayer. Knowledge of Christ's love, in the sense of an inward personal experience of it—its freeness, its tenderness, its depth, its patience—is the great dynamic of the gospel. This love is transmuted into spiritual force. As the breeze fills the sails and bears forward the ship, so the love of Christ fills the soul and moves it in the direction of God's will. But in its fullness it passeth knowledge; it is infinite, not to be grasped by mortal man, and therefore always presenting new fields to be explored, new depths to be fathomed. That ye may be filled with all the fullness of God; that is, that ye may be filled with spiritual grace and blessing to an extent corresponding to all the fullness of God. Though the finite cannot compare with the infinite, there may be a correspondence between them according to the capacity of each. There is a fullness of gracious attainment in every advanced believer that corresponds to all the fullness of God; every part of his nature is supplied from the Divine fountain, and, so far as a creature can, he presents the image of the Divine fullness. In the human nature of Christ this correspondence was perfect: "In him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;" in the soul of the believer there may be a progressive movement towards this fullness. No higher view can be conceived of the dignity of man's nature, and the glorious privileges conferred on him by the gospel, than that he is susceptible of such conformity to God. Who can conceive that man should have attained to such a capacity by a mere process of evolution? "So God made man in his own image;" and in Christ man is "renewed in righteousness and holiness after the image of him who created him."

Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 3:21

DOXOLOGY. The study and exposition of the amazing riches of the grace of God gives birth to an outburst of praise toward the Divine Source of all this mercy, past, present, and to come. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. In thinking of God it is as if we thought of space—however far our conceptions may travel, there is still infinity beyond. Paul had asked much in this prayer, and thoughts can always travel beyond words, yet the excess of God's power beyond both was infinite. This excess is denoted by a double term of abundance ( ποιῆσαι ὑπὲρ πάντα and ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ), as if the apostle wished to fill our minds with the idea of absolute infinity of gracious power in God. According to the power that worketh in us, which is none other than the power "which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead" (Ephesians 1:20). The power that is actually at work in us has only to be exerted a little more to accomplish wonders of sanctification, and confer on us immense spiritual strength. Unto him be the glory in the Church in Christ Jesus, world without end. Amen. To God the whole credit of the scheme of grace and the work of grace as carried out in his people is due ("Not of works, lest any man should boast"); therefore let the Church acknowledge this, and cordially and openly ascribe to God his due. Let this feeling be universally encouraged and cherished in the Church, and let it find in the Church services suitable occasions of breaking forth in song and prayer. Again the apostle's favorite formula comes in" in Christ Jesus," to denote that this act of adoration is to be done in immediate connection with the work and person of Christ; for it is he who has brought about the whole condition of things from which the act of adoration springs. And this ascription of praise is not transitory; this view of the Divine character and actings will never become obsolete or be superseded by other views; it will claim their cordial ascriptions forever—literally, to all the generations of the age of the ages.


Ephesians 3:1-13

God's purpose as to the Gentiles.

This passage a parenthesis after Ephesians 3:1—a reference to Paul's personal history. It contains the explanation of his whole career, the secret of his wonderful zeal. Why was he a prisoner? Generally, for the Gentiles. Why for them? Because the Divine purpose regarding them had been revealed to him, and through him to the world, and the enmity of the Jews to that purpose had brought Paul into captivity. Looking at the passage as a whole, it may show us how Paul found compensation for his captivity in the privileges connected with his office as apostle of the Gentiles. This compensation lay chiefly in three things.

I. The precious insight he obtained into the glory of the Divine purpose in reference to the Gentiles, giving him a high conception of the far-reaching generosity of God.

1. There is a high intellectual pleasure in the discovery of any great truth.

2. A profound emotional pleasure in discovering a truth of vast benefit to mankind.

3. A still higher pleasure in receiving such a truth direct from God. This truth did not involve a case of leveling down, but of leveling up. Though the Jews, as a nation, were no longer to occupy a higher platform than the Gentiles, yet all were to be invited to equal nearness to God, and if any should reject the invitation, the blame and the loss would be all their own.

II. The remarkably high qualifications given to him for his office (see Ephesians 3:7)—great love, faith, courage, perseverance, hope; great intellectual insight; great spiritual power. Others got frightened (Mark, Demas, etc.); Paul went on. The human spirit was often depressed, but God comforted him. The thorn in the side was annoying, but "my grace is sufficient for thee."

III. The great honor and privilege of being called to so blessed a work. The work had a glory on earth and a glory in heaven.

1. On earth. He preached to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. He proclaimed his riches of grace, and showed them to be unsearchable. He not only proclaimed them, but in a sense imparted them—brought them into contact with the Ephesians, so that they got the good of them, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

2. In heaven. The gospel has aspects of blessing beyond this world. It carries important lessons to the principalities and powers. It shows the manifold wisdom of God, shows how all classes and varieties of mankind are brought to God by the cross of Christ, assimilating all characters, overcoming all alienations, demolishing all wails of separation, and building up all together in Christ Jesus. One great conclusion. In every sense the success of the gospel is very glorifying to God; it illustrates his perfections; it glorifies his Son; it educates the very angels; and thus it carries forward the grand purpose of God in the creation of the worlds. "To him be glory forever. Amen."

Ephesians 3:8

The unsearchable riches of Christ.

"Riches" an attractive word. Human heart leaps towards them. Ceaseless disappointments of most who follow after them. Here the riches that moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through to steal.

1. There are in Christ unsearchable riches of compassion. Case of the lost, proper object of pity. Christ's pity boundless. Human pity often quenched by great wickedness, troublesomeness, loathsomeness. Not so Christ's! Pity for thief on cross, Saul, Corinthians, and other gross sinners.

2. Unsearchable riches of merit. His blood cleanseth us from all sin. He is "able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him"—Augustine, Bunyan, Lord Rochester, John Newton, and such like.

3. Unsearchable riches of sanctifying grace. Great change needed to make men meet for kingdom of heaven. This includes grace to enlighten, guide, strengthen, and to restore from declension.

4. Unsearchable riches of comforting grace. No sorrow to which we are liable for which the gospel has not a comfort; no wound for which there is no balm. The Third Person, "the Comforter," is sent by Christ.

5. Unsearchable riches of glorifying grace. Can make provision for the full satisfaction and infinite enjoyment of every soul forever and ever. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; .. for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them;" "He that hath the Son hath life;" "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."

Ephesians 3:14-21

Prayer for spiritual enrichment. qualities already noted as belonging to Paul's prayer.

This prayer remarkable for Three parts in this prayer—


1. The attitude: "I bow my knees;" humility, earnestness.

2. The designation of God: "the Father;" the character in which Christ taught us to approach God in prayer, and which gives us most encouragement.

3. The name of the family is derived from God, constituting an additional plea. That which bears God's Name must be an object of special interest to him.

II. THE PETITIONS. Three centers of petition, according as the grace

I., Ephesians 3:16 : connected with the Spirit.

2., Ephesians 3:17-19 : connected with the Son.

3., Ephesians 3:19 : connected with the Father. "Filled with all the fullness of God." The renewed heart has a capacity to receive the things of God—to be plunged, as it were, into his fullness and filled there from. This can never be fully reached; as our capacities increase there is more to be enjoyed.


1. The Being praised. "Him that is able," etc. View of Divine infinity, for much has been asked and more thought about; yet, like space and time, God's ability to bless extends infinitely beyond. The blessing is in the direction of what has been already conferred: "According to the power that worketh in us."

2. The ascription offered.


Ephesians 3:1

"The prisoner of Jesus Christ."

The apostle often refers to his prison-life, and here presents himself to the Churches as "an ambassador in bonds" (Ephesians 6:20).

I. HE WAS A MOST CELEBRATED PRISONER. Perhaps he was regarded as of no great account by his Roman jailors, who could have known nothing of the secret of his greatness; but viewed in the light of Christian history, Paul is the most distinguished of men. He did more than any other apostle to shape the theology of Western Christendom, which, in its turn, has left the deepest imprint on the civilization of the world. The world would not be today what it is if Paul of Tarsus had not lived. His influence has long survived the empire of Rome, which held him captive. We sympathize with the prison-sorrows of the great. Alas! that the best of men, "of whom the world was not worthy," have spent so many weary days and years in prison!

II. HE WAS NOT A PRISONER FOR CRIME OR FOR THE BREACH OF THE ROMAN LAWS, BUT AS THE EFFECT OF THE UNSLEEPING HATRED OF THE JEWS. It was his ministry to the Gentiles which brought down upon him the vindictive anger of his countrymen, and led them to accuse him before the Roman magistrates. The suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, into the temple at Jerusalem had, indeed, an immediate connection with his first arrest. "He was at once Christ's prisoner, the Jews' prisoner, the Romans' prisoner, the Gentiles' prisoner: Christ's prisoner, as suffering for his gospel; the Jews' prisoner, as suffering by their accusation; the Romans' prisoner, as suffering by their sentence; the Gentiles' prisoner, as suffering for his labor's unto their salvation." His imprisonment was thus a higher honor than his rapture into the third Heavens.

III. HIS IMPRISONMENT HAD ITS PROVIDENTIAL ADVANTAGES. Just as John Huss had leisure during his imprisonment in the fortress on the Rhine to write words that fired the hearts of his countrymen ages after his martyrdom at Constance, and as Martin Luther's one year's imprisonment in the Wartburg enabled him to give the Scriptures to Germany in the tongue of the people, so the Apostle Paul was enabled in the leisure of his Roman imprisonment to throw off those beautiful Epistles of the captivity—to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, to Philemon—which have s, largely contributed to the edification and comfort of the Church. He still held the threads of a hundred interests in his hands, and felt in his prison at Rome the throbbing of thousands of Christian hearts in all parts of Asia and Europe.

IV. PRISON-LIFE IS ALMOST NECESSARILY SAD, BECAUSE OF ITS ISOLATION FROM HUMAN RELATIONS, ITS SOLITUDE, ITS SUSPENSION OF ACTIVE AND ACCUSTOMED LABOR, AND ITS USUALLY HARD CONDITIONS. It must have been a sore trial to the apostle to submit to an enforced inactivity, while the world was everywhere, in so sad a sense, "ripe for the harvest." It would seem as if, at a certain point, the sympathy of Asiatic Christians failed him (2 Timothy 1:15); and there was an unaccountable indifference to his wants marking the relations of the Roman Christians themselves, which argued that much was not to be expected from their affection. So his prison-experience must have had its dark moments.

V. MARK THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE APOSTLE LIVED THROUGH THIS PRISON-EXPERIENCE. The solitude of such a life often breeds a morbid spirit, which throws a darker coloring into the thoughts of the prisoner. Yet the Epistles of the captivity breathe a beautiful spirit of Christian courage and resignation, not to speak of absolute rejoicing. Compare the letters of the apostle with those of Cicero, Seneca, and Ovid in their exile, and we see at a glance the different effects of Christianity and paganism upon the happiness of man. As the prisoner of Jesus Christ, he abounded in the consolations of his Divine Master, while he must have been greatly encouraged by the visits of disciples like Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and others, who carried to him the prayers and benefactions of the Churches.

VI. WE OUGHT TO REMEMBER PRISONERS IN OUR PRAYERS, AS "BOUND WITH THEM." Most prisoners in our day are in jail for crime, but we ought to remember that they are men, that they are our brothers, that they must feel their separation from wife and children and home as keenly as we should. Perhaps, but for restraining grace, we should have been in their position. But we are bound specially to remember in our prayers those suffering for the cause of Christ, and especially those occupied with great service for the Lord.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:2-5

Dispensational privileges of the Gentiles.

The apostle recurs to a subject already treated in few words" in the first chapter—words which he requests them to read, that they may fully understand his meaning—respecting the new position of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. Their position was determined by a dispensation, that is, by an arrangement organized in all its parts in relation to space and time; for God works by order in grace as well as in nature. Consider—

I. THE ORIGIN OF THIS DISPENSATION. "The grace of God given to me to you-ward." It was an act of Divine favor to select the apostle as the person through whom "the mystery" of the dispensation was to be, not only revealed, but applied in its redeeming effects to the Ephesian heathens. It was not the honor or the authority involved in it that made it precious in his eyes; it was the privilege of making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. Thus, as a good steward of the mysteries of God, it was the delight of his life to dispense them in all their gracious manifoldness to the family of God.


1. It is called "the mystery of Christ," not because he is its Author, but because he is the Center or Subject of it; for it included far more than the truth that the Gentiles were fellow-citizens of the saints. Christ is the Mystery of godliness, as he is God manifest in the flesh, but he is emphatically so as "Christ the Hope of glory" for the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27).

2. It was hidden for ages from the sons of men, both Jew and Gentile. A mystery is either something which has been concealed, perhaps for ages, and which probably would never have been discovered unless the voice of revelation had proclaimed it; or something which, even when revealed, transcends the power of the human faculties to comprehend it. Now, the Incarnation is a mystery in this double sense; but the call of the Gentiles, as part of "the mystery of Christ," is a mystery only in the first-named sense. It was known to the Jews for ages that the Gentiles would share in the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom—and the Apostle Paul quotes Old Testament predictions to prove the fact (Romans 9:25-33); but it was not known that the Gentiles would be included within the circle of religious privilege by the complete sacrifice of the Hebrew theocracy and the reconstitution of religion on a perfectly new basis, designed equally for all mankind, under which the old distinctions of Jew and. Gentile would be done away. There was to be no further room for Jewish particularism. The dispensation which was to carry the world to its last destinies was to be as universal as that embodied in the first promise made to our first parents.

3. The revelation of the mystery. So far as it involved a mission to the Gentiles, it was revealed first to the Apostle Paul at his conversion; for when Christ appeared to him on his journey to Damascus, he said, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness... delivering thee from the people, and. from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:16-18). But the fuller exhibition of Gentile privilege is made in this glorious Epistle as well as elsewhere. It was a revelation made by the Lord himself (Galatians 1:12). But it was made especially to "apostles and prophets," both of them belonging to the new dispensation the only class of inspired men connected with it who received special information from the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, respecting the new development of the kingdom. The revelation was, indeed, one of facts as well as of truths. The calling of the Gentiles was made manifest in the Spirit's falling upon Cornelius, and in the widespread success of the gospel among the Gentiles, so that the logic of facts beautifully reinforced the more formal revelations of "apostles and prophets."

4. The substance of the revelation. "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." These are the three points of Gentile privilege. They were not to receive the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom by being merged as proselytes into the old theocracy, which was to abide in all its narrow ritualism.

Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:9

The apostle's high privilege.

Very often does he refer, with a sort of grateful humility, to the Divine favor in attaching him to the service of the gospel.

I. MARK THE CONTRAST BETWEEN HIS CALL AND HIS SENSE OF PERSONAL NOTHINGNESS. "Less than the least of all saints." The expression is exceedingly emphatic, being a comparative formed upon a superlative. He could never forget his share in the death of Stephen, and his fierce persecutions of the Church of God. This was the sin which, though forgiven by God, could never be forgiven by himself. But he was likewise conscious of his own weakness and sinfulness, as we know by the very forcible phrase, "of sinners I am chief," which he uses as a presently believing man. Such language of self abasement is a mark of true saintship. The highest saints are usually the most distinguished by their humility. The term by which he describes himself implies that there are saints in Christ's kingdom—little, less, least; not that there is any difference in their title, but a difference at once in their realization of their own unworthiness and in the degree of their conformity to him who was at once "meek and lowly." Now, while the consciousness of his own unworthiness steed out in marked contrast to the high function to which he was called in God's grace, he does not shrink from asserting his authority as an ambassador of Christ in the strongest terms, but always with the conviction of one who ascribes all his success, not to his own merits, but to "the gift of the grace of God? His call to the apostleship involved his conversion, and his conversion was "by the effectual working of God's power."

II. CONSIDER HIS MESSAGE TO THE GENTILES. "The unsearchable riches of Christ." We read of riches of grace and riches of glory, but the plenitude of all Divine blessings is in him.

1. The apostle does not specify what is included in the riches of Christ." He who was rich for our sakes became poor that "ye through his poverty might be made rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). We see the source of all the riches—it is in himself. But Scripture shows that, while in him there was all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, with the real design of his filling us eventually with all the fullness of God, "the riches of Christ" are scattered over the whole path of a believer, from its starting-point in conversion till it is lost in the glories of the eternal inheritance. He is rich in love, rich in compassion, rich in mercy, rich in grace, rich in peace, rich in promise, rich in reward, rich in all the blessings of the new and better covenant, as he must be because he is "made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption."

2. The riches of Christ are "unsearchable." The word suggests the idea of the difficulty of tracing footsteps. Who can trace the footsteps of God? Whatever of power is infinite power; whatever of wisdom is infinite wisdom; whatever of love is infinite love.

3. Consider his larger message to the whole world of man. "And to make all men see the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God." The apostle's object was to enlighten the Jew as well as the Gentile upon the true nature of the dispensation which displaced so much that was dear to the Jewish heart in order that the true glory of the Lord might shine forth, not as a mere minister of the circumcision, but as the uniter of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female, in his own body. The mystery was hid for ages, but was now made known by apostles and prophets. We see how revelation was an historical movement, subject to the usual laws of historical development; for the redemptive purpose," hid for ages," was evolved by a gradual process of growth, till in Christianity it became a full-grown fact. It was part of the discipline of man to go through all these stages of imperfect knowledge till "the perfect day" dawned upon the world. But it was through all the ages "the mystery of redemption," going back to the ages that date from creation—"creation building the platform on which the strange mystery of redemption was disclosed."—T.C.

Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:11

The Church the means of angelic enlightenment.

The Divine purpose in the dispensation already described was to make known to the angels the manifold wisdom of God.


1. That the angels are not omniscient, for they have something still to learn.

2. That the angels are in communication with the Church on earth as well as in heaven. They rejoice over the conversion of sinners; they minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14); they stand in immediate relation to the individual man (Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:10; Luke 16:22). The apostles regard themselves as "spectacles to angels" as well as men, in the insults heaped upon them by an ungrateful world (1 Corinthians 4:9). The Apostle Peter was liberated from prison by an angel. Angels are present in the assembly of the saints (1 Corinthians 11:10). They are associated with the redeemed in heaven (Hebrews 12:22), so as to derive much information concerning the kingdom of God.

3. The angels desire increased knowledge of the ways of God with man. This might be inferred from the fact that they come specially into the foreground at great turning-points in the history of the kingdom of God, such as the founding of the old and new covenants, and the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. But they are expressly represented as desiring "to look into" the great realities of redemption (1 Peter 1:12), and here they are instructed in the manifold wisdom of God by means of the Church.

II. THE INSTRUCTION CONVEYED BY THE CHURCH IS "THE GREATLY DIVERSIFIED WISDOM OF GOD." It is a curious fact that the interest of the angels is not in the power or the goodness of God, but in his wisdom, as if to imply that the work of redemption represents the highest order of intelligence. It is also a high honor to man that he should first receive the knowledge which the angels are to receive through man. But the angels, by their great age—for they may be thousands of years old—have advantages that short-lived man does not possess for comparing the wisdom of God as manifest in widely distant ages. But the wisdom here referred to centers in the Church—the spiritual body constituted in Christ, and its variety is manifest in the original plan of salvation, in the selection of a Redeemer, in the incarnation, in the atonement, in the application of salvation to Gentile and Jew, in the spread el the Greek language, in the triumph of the Roman law, and in all the dispensations by which the Church has been led onward to her final destiny. Thus our earth, though a mere speck in space, becomes, in the eyes of angels, the brightest of stars; for it is the platform of that Church which mirrors forth "the manifold wisdom of God."

III. IT IS THE CHURCH WHICH IS THE MEDIUM OF ANGELIC INSTRUCTION. Not specifically the preaching of apostles, nor human preaching, but the Church as the exhibition in its long and checkered history of the wisdom of God.

IV. THIS EXHIBITION OF THE MANIFOLD WISDOM WAS INVOLVED IN THE ORIGINAL PLAN OF SALVATION. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The scheme was fixed in the counsel of peace; it was executed in all its parts in and through Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and it found historical realization in the progress and kingdom of God, apart from all dispensational limitations.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:12

The new spirit of a approach to God.

As the effect of the work of redemption, we stand in a new relation to God, which entitles us to a continuous access to him, free, unrestricted, and confiding.

1. WE HAVE BOLDNESS AND ACCESS TO GOD. There is an open, intrepid speaking which springs from a mind confident in itself and strong in the justice of the cause it espouses; but the freedom of speech here referred to is based upon a true appreciation of our relation to Christ and the security enjoyed by the believer in the midst of all his tremors and dubieties. Our God is indeed a consuming fire, yet the believer can approach him without servile fear, simply because Christ is the way of access, and the heart has been sprinkled from an evil conscience through his blood.

II. IT IS IN CHRIST WE HAVE THIS CHANGED DISPOSITION IN PRAYER. He died that we might have "boldness to enter into the holiest." We see in his atonement, not a means of deliverance out of the bands of God, but the strongest of all reasons for casting ourselves into the bands of God as the very best Friend we have in all the universe. Our security from the wrath of God is in the bosom of God. It is Jesus who gives us audience with God, dispelling at the same time from the mind of the worshipper those suggestions which would restrict or narrow the riches of God's love.

III. IT IS BY FAITH IN CHRIST WE REACH THIS NEW TEMPER OF BOLDNESS. It is by the faith of which Christ is both the Object and the Author, discovering to us the dignity of his person, the efficacy of his work, the security of his love, that we are enabled joyfully to approach God. It is thus we have confidence in our approaches to God. Christ's sacrifice, as it has given infinite satisfaction to God, is fitted to inspire the soul of the believer with perfect confidence. He sees that nothing more is needed to, ensure his everlasting acceptance, and is thus led to tread with boldness the entrance into the sanctuary of God's presence. He has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has confidence in regard to his interest in God's love, in regard to the power and faithfulness of God to fulfill his promises, and in regard to the continuousness of the supply of grace necessary to his final salvation.

IV. THE EFFECTS OF THIS BOLDNESS AND ACCESS TO GOD ARE TO MAKE US SUPERIOR TO ALL THE AFFLICTIONS OF LIFE. The apostle beseeches the Ephesians, on this ground, not to lose heart on account of the afflictions that had come to himself on their account. The cynical philosopher represents most as easily reconciled to the misfortunes of their friends, but Christianity not only enjoins but sustains a nobler temper. So close was the relationship that existed between the apostle and the saints at Ephesus, that his afflictions had fallen upon them like almost the reality of a personal experience. They were not to be discouraged by his tribulations, which were, after all, the price paid for his uncompromising assertion of their rights as Gentiles.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:15

"The family in heaven and in earth."

The prayer of the apostle, which includes a reference to the whole family interest of the universe under the blessed Father, is one of the most fervent, comprehensive, and sublime to be found in all Scripture. Let us consider the force and beauty of the expression, "the family in heaven and in earth." The primary reference is to the Church of God, brat it likewise includes the angels, who merge with the saints into one family; for "all they are brethren." The Church is the family of God in many respects.

I. IT IS SO IN THE TIE THAT BINDS ALL THE MEMBERS TOGETHER. A family has its constitution in nature, not in similarity of opinion, or interest, or taste. We cannot choose who shall be our brothers or sisters. There are relationships in human life into which we can enter or not enter at will, such as political associations, literary fellowships, social bonds of various kinds. The family is not of this character. Now, the Church is a family unlike these merely voluntary associations, for it is founded by God himself, in which we have our place by his own adopting grace, and once we are there, our relations to everything internal and external are determined, not by ourselves, but by the laws of family life. We become "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). There may be members in this family who may not recognize us as fellow-members at all, but we are members notwithstanding, by ties which they have done nothing to create and which they cannot undo by their exclusiveness or their bigotry. Yet all the members are really bound to each other by the tie of a common life, for they live by faith in Christ Jesus, and of a common love; for faith worketh by love, and never works without it. Jesus says, "Love one another, as I have loved you." That is, we are to love with a love practical, humble, bountiful, patient, gentle, all-embracing, and lasting as Christ's own love.

II. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY BY ITS UNITY. There is but one Father in the Divine family, who unites in himself the perfection of fatherly and motherly affection. There is but one Church on earth, "one body," as there is but one faith, one baptism, one hope. Wherever there is union with Christ, there is membership in his body the Church. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity in the Church. It follows, therefore, that believers must be one in faith, love, and obedience.

III. THE CHURCH AS A FAMILY ADMITS OF GREAT DIVERSITIES. There are great diversities of affection, of temperament, of character, in the same family, contributing, indeed, to the fullness and happiness of its life. The completeness of the family depends, indeed, on the beautiful fusion of its masculine and feminine elements. Now, the Church similarly, though one, exists under great diversities of form and condition. There are, first, the two great divisions of the Church into the heavenly and the earthly membership. It is a mistake to say, as some do, that the Church consists only of living saints, as if the dead ceased to he in its unity. God does not set members in the body that they may die out of it again; he is the God, not of the dead, but of the living; and if such members are not in the body, they are without a Head, that is, without Jesus Christ, who is the only Head of the body. Can "the whole body" grow to the measure of the stature of a perfect man without including the growth of the entire Church of God? Then, again, there are the diversities of dispensations. Believers of every age, no matter under what dispensation they lived, are members of the Divine family. The way of salvation was always the same (Romans 4:1-25.). The one Lamb of God who took away the sin of man was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 8:8). The variety of dispensations marks the onward stages of the family life. Then, again, there are the diversities of opinion which have existed within the Church of God without destroying its unity; and endless diversities of character and temperament, all governed more or less by the subduing grace of God; and the diversities of lot, service, and event, illustrated in the career of the members of this family.

IV. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WITH A FINAL GATHERING AND A HOME FOR ALL ITS SEPARATED MEMBERS. There is a house of" many mansions," which our Savior has gone before to prepare (John 14:2)—"the holy places made without hands;" the grand metropolis of God's moral rule, "whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord," from every realm of earth, from every age of time. There angels will mingle with saints, and interchange experiences of the love of God. The fatherhood of God is thus seen to connect different orders of beings by a new and loving tie. Happy family, whose names are written in heaven! Happy family, whose ranks are unbroken, whose hearts are one! Gathered home at last, to be forever with the Lord, and forever with one another!—T.C.

Ephesians 3:16

A prayer for spiritual strength.

This beautiful supplication suggests several interesting points.

I. IT IS A PRAYER FOR THE SAINTS. It is not for their conversion, but that they might have life still more abundantly. The apostle's desire was to make men eminent Christians, to quicken them in the heavenly race, to promote in them a growth in grace and knowledge which would contribute to their spiritual robustness.

II. THE BLESSING SOUGHT IS REGARDED AS A FREE GIFT, "That he would grant you... to be strengthened." All true prayer proceeds upon the supposition that we can expect nothing from God but as a free gift through Jesus Christ. There must be a sense of want along with a spirit of entire dependence on the Lord, so that the believer may realize the sweetness of the promise, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

III. THE BLESSING IS SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. "Strengthened with might… in the inner man." It is not a prayer for physical strength, which is a matter of slight moment in God's sight, though it is often made the subject of foolish boasting among men; nor for intellectual strength, which is a much more important factor in human life; but for "strength in the inner man." This is not to be confounded with "the new man." It is rather "the hidden man of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4); the man "created after God" (Ephesians 4:24) in righteousness and holiness; the interior principle of spiritual life; the personification of out' intellectual and spiritual life, with its impulses, its feelings, its struggles. This is the sphere, the direction, the destination, of the strength prayed for. It is a prayer that God would make us eminent in grace and goodness, that our souls may prosper and. be in health like our bodies, that we may be able to grapple with all our spiritual enemies, to resist temptation, to endure afflictions, to perform the duties of our Christian calling. If we have strength, we shall be able to run in the way of God's commandments (Isaiah 40:31). Our physical strength is renewed from day to day by food and rest. So is our spiritual strength daily renewed by the Bread of life; and thus the apostle could say of himself, "I can do all things through Christ; which strengtheneth me."

IV. THE SOURCE OF THIS STRENGTH IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD. "By the Spirit." Here is the Fountain of spiritual energy. The Spirit strengthens the believer by leading him to the fullness of grace that is in Christ, by shedding abroad the love of God in his heart, by applying the promises of the gospel, by making the Scriptures sources of that "joy of the Lord which is our strength," and thus causing us to go from strength to strength till at last we stand before God in Zion. It is easy to see, indeed, that the Fountain of strength is in the Spirit; for all the nine graces of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22)—are so many factors of this inward power. They promote the freedom and efficiency of life.

V. THE MEASURE OF THIS STRENGTH. "According to the riches of his glory." The apostle asks it in no limited measures; he asks it in the measure of the riches of that glory which is seen in his blended and harmonious attributes. God will act up to the dignity of his infinite perfections. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it, saith the Lord;" "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." There is an inexhaustible source of mercy upon which we may draw at pleasure in the supreme exigencies of our life.

VI. CONSIDER THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BLESSING ASKED FOR. There is happiness in strength, there is misery in weakness; there is efficiency in strength, there is futility in weakness.

1. Our usefulness depends on large supplies of spiritual strength. If we are weak, what good can we do in the world? "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing."

2. We glorify God by this fuller strength. It is not enough to have grace enough to carry us to heaven; we must abound in the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God, Let us, then, pray earnestly that we may become "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and that our inward man may be renewed day by day, even though our outward man show signs of weakness and decay.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:17

The indwelling of Christ in believers.

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Whether we regard this clause of the prayer as representing the result, or the purpose, or the source of the spiritual strength spoken of in the previous clause, it is in very close relationship with it. Its own meaning is perfectly clear.

I. THE INDWELLERCHRIST. There is a threefold idea suggested by the term.

1. The believer is regarded as a temple or house to be divinely inhabited. It is originally a house in ruins, to be restored as a beautiful temple of the Lord. Judging by the analogy of restoring a ruined house, the first operation is a cleansing out of the rubbish; the second, an opening of the windows to admit the pure air of heaven, and a kindling of a fire on the hearth; the third is a closing up or all the cracks or openings in the walls by which the wind or air finds access; and the fourth is the furnishing of the rooms with such articles of convenience as our taste and our means may enable us to procure. Similarly, when the Lord takes up his abode in the sinner's heart, the process, though not successive in point of time, includes, first, the application of the blood of Christ to "the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience;" second, the opening of the windows of the understanding to displace the tainted atmosphere of man's thoughts, and the kindling of the fire of love Divine in the heart; third, the watchful closing up of those avenues in the soul through which sin so easily finds access; and fourth, the furnishing of the soul with the needed graces of the Spirit.

2. The indwelling is here ascribed to Christ. It is elsewhere ascribed to the Holy Spirit: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). It is likewise ascribed to the Father: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). These varying forms of expression find their solution in the doctrine of the Trinity. He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father, and be that hath the Son hath the Father; then, again, he that hath the Son hath the Spirit of Christ: "The Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you .. the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:9, Romans 8:10). Therefore, when the apostle speaks of Christ dwelling in our hearts, he refers to the Spirit's indwelling, for Christ dwells in his people by his Spirit. But there is a distinction in the modes of this indwelling: the Father dwells in us by love (1 John 4:16); the Son by faith (Ephesians 3:17); the Spirit lies hid in the heart, working the faith in the one case anti the love in the other.

3. It implies an abiding habit of life. Christ does not come as a sojourner or as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for the night, but as a constant dweller. Herein lies our security for the continuance, the power, the comfort, of this life.

II. THE SEAT OF INDWELLINGTHE HEART. This is the true shrine. The word signifies the seat of religious knowledge as well as feeling. Thus Christ sits at the very center of spiritual life, himself the very Life of that life (Galatians 2:20), controlling all its impulses and movements. The objects we most desire we treasure in the heart. The heart wearies of many things, but can never weary of this Divine Visitant, who can speak with commanding voice when the soul is disturbed by suggestions of sin. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart" (1 John 3:20). The Lord is the supreme Possessor of the heart "now sprinkled from an evil conscience."

III. THE SUBJECTIVE MEANS OF THE INDWELLINGFAITH. This is not to be regarded merely as the means of our justification, or as the root of our spiritual life, but as its continuously sustaining principle, according to the apostle's teaching: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and. the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). This is the faith that worketh by love, that purifies the heart, that overcometh the world. It is the principle of spiritual communion; it is that by which we realize the presence, the excellence, the power, of Christ in us; it is that which radiates al