Click here to download study notes: Ephesians 3 14-21 Study Notes, pt2

Ephesians 3:14-21, Prayer for Spiritual Strength, pt2:

  • We have already established that in 3:14-19, there are three major requests of Paul: 1) that God would give them power both through his Spirit, and through the indwelling of Christ; 2) that God would strengthen them to grasp the greatness of Christ’s love; and 3) that they would be filled to the measure of God’s own fullness.
  • This structure cannot be seen in English translations but is obvious in the Greek original; “I kneel before the Father (to pray):
  • 1) that he might give you to be strengthened (3:16);
  • 2) that you may have power to grasp (3:18);
  • 3) that you may be filled” (3:19).

 

  • At the end of Paul’s prayer, he closes with a doxology, which gives glory to God “in the church and in Christ Jesus” (3:21). This doxology enlarges our vision of what God can do through us and supplements our understanding of the significance of the church.

 

  1. The Request for Power & Indwelling: (v14-17a)
  • We looked at Paul’s posture and his approach in prayer. He comes in humility and with knowledge about who God is. He also comes with an understanding of intimacy, as he refers to the “Father” from whom every “family” is named.
  • This reference is made because in the ancient world, the one who named something claimed authority over it. So if every grouping of created beings acquires its name from God the Father, then he is sovereign over all beings.

 

  • So the first request we see Paul make is for God to “give” the church “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit.” Paul prays that believers will be strengthened “in your inner being” (3:16). This does not mean that the Spirit’s work is only internal or that the Spirit works only in the hearts of individuals and nowhere else. But the power of the Spirit is also expressed externally.
  • Paul concludes this request includes “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (3:17). The Greek infinitive “to dwell in” is parallel to “to be strengthened” in 3:16. Therefore, Christ dwelling in our hearts in verse 17 represents the same experience as the Spirit present in our inner being in verse 16.

 

  1. The Request to Grasp Christ’s Love: (v17b-19a)
  • Paul’s second request is made on the basis that believers are “being rooted and established in love (3:17). The recipients of Ephesians had already been rooted and established in love before Paul prayed for them in this way.
  • And so on the basis of the fact that his readers have already been rooted and established in love, Paul prays in 3:18–19 that their knowledge of God’s love may increase.

 

  • Paul’s prayer is that believers would have the strength to grasp the measure of God’s love… as this love is so vast that it cannot be fully comprehended. It might even be overwhelming for someone to think through God’s measure of love, this is why Paul prays for the power to grasp it.
  • But the love of Christ can be known, however, never completely. There is always more of his love to be discovered. The verb “to know” suggests both intellectual understanding and personal experience. Paul does not want his readers simply to know more about God’s love. He wants them to be intimately familiar with it, to be embraced by it, and to embrace it in return.

 

  1. The Request to be Filled: (v19b)
  • Paul’s third request stretches our imagination. The request is that “you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” This request is introduced by a passive verb: “may be filled.” This means you don’t do the filling…
  • In addition, “to the measure” generally means “into” but can sometimes mean “with.” With what? The fullness of God. God’s fullness includes all of the goodness of God such as His grace, mercy, truth, wisdom, power, love, etc.

 

  • But the question that stands is? How could we, on this side of heaven, ever be filled to the measure of God’s own fullness? The seeming impossibility is made possible through prayer!
  • The example of such prayer is seen in the doxology we’ll look at next. The connection of this request for fullness and the profession that God can do amazing things through us, should remind us that we can experience the fullness of God, even in this life.

 

  1. The Doxology (v20-21):
  • This follows nicely on the heels of verse 19, which asks that we “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” This verse helps explain why Paul was able to pray so expansively in verses in these three requests.
  • Paul believes there is no limit to what God can do in and through us. Moreover, God is able to do the incomprehensible “according to his power that is at work within us” This echoes the description of God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” in 1:19. Yet in 3:20 God’s power is not just for us but in us – which should remind you of the first request that was made.

 

  • Paul’s praise goes further, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” There’s a few wonderful connections here.
  • God being glorified “in Christ Jesus” is theologically profound and we see a similar connection in 1:6, as God’s “glorious grace” is given in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 4:6 God’s glory is “displayed in the face of Christ.” And since Christ reveals God’s glory, it follows that God will be glorified in Christ.

 

  • But God is also glorified in the Church, as we exist for “the praise of his glory” (1:12, 14). The church makes the manifold wisdom of God known (3:10), demonstrating God’s glorious grace by word and by deed.
  • Therefore, this doxology connects the theology we’ve seen so far, with the responsibilities that flow from chapter 4 onwards. So God has saved us and created us anew for good works (2:10), we respond with good works and the out working of His grace. And in doing so, we fulfill our purpose, which is to be for “the praise of his glory” (1:12, 14).

 

  • I’ll add this important note, the “we” is not a collection of isolated individuals, it is the unified body of Christ, the church as we live faithfully as God’s people together to the praise of his glory. Meaning, we are to live for the praise of God’s glory—which is another way of saying that God receives glory in the church when everything we do is a response to God’s grace and shaped by God’s redemption story.
  • Therefore, the doxology that finishes the first half of Ephesians prepares the ground for the ethical teachings in the second half of the letter.