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Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible Dunagan's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ dun/ ephesians-3.html. 1999-2014.
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
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I. The mystery of Christ now revealed: 3:1-13
A. The stewardship given to Paul to proclaim It: 3:1-5
B. The specific benefit to the Gentiles: 3:6
C. The unmerited nature of this stewardship: 3:7-8
D. This mystery includes the Church: 3:9-11
E. This mystery brings confident access to God: 3:12-13
I. Paul's payer for the Ephesians: 3:14-21
A. Prayer for inner strength: 3:16
B. Prayer for stability in love: 3:17
C. Prayer to comprehend Christ's love: 3:18-19
II. Praise to God: 3:20-21
“At this stage in his argument Paul introduces himself, and explains his unique personal role in God's purpose for the Gentiles. It is not for nothing that he has come to be known as the ‘apostle to the Gentiles’” (Stott pp. 113-114). This chapter really is a prayer with a long introduction. "For this cause" (3:1) starts the prayer (compare with 1:15,3:14), verses 1-13 constitute the introduction or reason for the prayer and verses 14-19 contain the actual prayer.
Paul now resumes the prayer that was started in 3:1. Considering how far these Gentiles had come, from being absolutely hopeless and godless (2:12), to being fellow members, fellow heirs and fellow partakers of God's promise (3:6), Paul now prays that these Christians would make full use of all the privileges and blessings that are found in a relationship with Jesus Christ (1:3).
Eph_3:1 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles”
“For this cause”: Resuming the prayer started in 1:15, which will actually be expressed in 3:14-19. “The prisoner of Christ Jesus”: When Paul wrote this letter he was a prisoner in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar ( Act_28:16 ; Act_28:30-31 ). “Any ordinary person would have said that Paul was the prisoner of the Roman government; and so he was. But Paul never thought of himself as the prisoner of Rome; he always thought of himself as the prisoner of Christ. One's point of view makes all the difference in the world” (Barclay p. 121). “Though imprisoned in Rome and awaiting trial by Caesar, Paul is the prisoner of Christ Jesus. Should his Lord decide that Paul must go free, all the armies of Nero could not stop him” (Boles p. 242). Jesus had the same perspective when standing before Pilate ( Joh_19:10-12 ). “He had come to be a prisoner, not one who had been arrested for only a few days, but one that had been bound for several years” (Lenski p. 462).
“In behalf of you Gentiles”: “For the sake of” (NASV). “The situation which led to Paul's arrest and subsequent detention in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome arose directly out of his Gentile ministry. It was while he was in Jerusalem with representatives of Gentile churches who were taking their churches' respective gifts that he was charged with violating the sanctity of the temple. This charge, and others associated with it, still hung over him as he waited in Rome for his appeal to come up for hearing in the supreme court” (Bruce pp. 309-310) . Compare with Act_21:17-36 . “It was because he had publicly proclaimed that the gospel was intended for all the world and that God had sent him to the Gentiles that Paul was detested by the Jews and persecuted by them. To this hatred and persecution, indeed, his present imprisonment was due” (Erdman p. 65) . See Act_22:22 .
Eph_3:2 “if so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward”.
“If so be”: “Surely you have heard” (Boles p. 242). “Dispensation”: “Stewardship responsibility” ( 1Co_9:17 ‘trust committed to me’; Col_1:25 ‘commission God gave me’)” (Boles p. 243) . See 1Co_4:1 . “ Dispensation from ‘house’ and ‘law’, carried the idea of the apostle's oversight, stewardship, or administration over God's message of grace to the Gentiles” (Spiritual Sword Lectureship p. 62). “I suppose, of the responsible charge with which God entrusted me for your benefit” (TCNT). “God had dispensed the administration of his grace toward the Gentiles into the hands of Paul” (Caldwell p. 108). God did not plan to reveal His truth directly to every individual, rather He chose men like Paul, who would speak it and record it accurately for all time. Paul knew the value of what had been entrusted to his care ( 2Co_4:7 ). He was fully aware of the fact that he was a steward entrusted with God's message of salvation to mankind ( 1Co_4:1 ). He knew that only one message existed which could lead people to Jesus Christ ( Rom_1:16 ). The idea that he corrupted it, inaccurately expressed it, or that God allowed Paul to express this priceless message with the words of Paul's own choosing, all fail to take into account the word "stewardship".
Eph_3:3 “how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words”
“By revelation”: “Modern theologians have argued much over whether Paul derived his thinking from Greek philosophers or Jewish rabbis, but Paul clearly states that it came from God” (Boles p. 243). Various truths about the Bible are learned from the word "revelation": It is understandable. It was designed (by divine wisdom) to be understood by all. It infers that unaided human wisdom is bankrupt (1 Corinthian 2:9; 1:21). It means that God's truth cannot be learned by "feelings" or intuition ( Pro_16:25 ). “Paul had not discovered God's mystery by natural means. He had not reasoned to it. Man had not whispered it into his ear” (Caldwell p. 108). Compare with Gal_1:11-12 . “Paul always emphasized that the wonderful truth he brought to men was from God, not of himself, that it was given to him by Christ, disclaiming any credit whatever as belonging to himself” (Coffman p. 166). Therefore Paul's letters are not "Paul's Theology". It is God's point of view and in God's own selected words ( 1Co_2:13 ). “Was made known to me”: Again, Paul had not reasoned it out or stumbled upon it. Everyone on the face of this planet would be completely ignorant of the gospel message and God's will for mankind, if God had not spoken ( 1Co_2:9 “and which entered not into the heart of man”; Jer_10:23 ). The gospel is not a product of the elite or super-smart. It had to be "made known" to Paul. This phrase contradicts the idea that Paul "invented" the gospel he preached or parts of it. “The mystery”: “Three times in this short paragraph Paul uses the word mystery (3:3,4,9). In English a mystery is something dark, obscure, secret, and puzzling. What is mysterious is inexplicable, even incomprehensible. The Greek word mysterion is different. Although still a secret, it is no longer closely guarded, but open. In Christianity there are no esoteric mysteries reserved for a spiritual elite. On the contrary the Christian mysteries are truths which, although beyond human discovery, have been revealed by God and so now belong openly to the whole church” (Stott p. 116). This mystery includes Christ and His new people, which would include both Jewish and Gentile believers (3:6; Col_4:3 ).
“As I wrote before in few words”: “As I have already shortly written to you” (Con). “As I have already briefly told you” (TCNT). “I have already written a brief account of this” (NEB). This statement probably refers back to verses 1:9-10 or 2:14-16, in which Paul had briefly mentioned or explained this mystery.
Eph_3:4 “whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ”
“Whereby”: “By reading what I have written” (TCNT). “And by referring to this” (NASV). “Looking to which” (Robertson p. 530). “When ye read”: When ye read the Scriptures (including what Paul wrote and what he had just penned in this letter), for that is where the mystery of Christ is recorded for all time ( 2Pe_3:15-16 ). Coffman points out, “The more radical critics have screamed themselves hoarse about such an interpretation; but it is logical, in keeping with other significant passages in the N.T.” (p. 167).
Reading the Scriptures is one thing that stands between me and eternal life, hence I'd better learn how to read. Learn to love to read the Bible, that is, develop a love for the truth ( Pro_23:23 ). Admit your own ignorance and be willing to learn ( Pro_9:8-9 ; Jam_1:21 ). God's plan is that He would reveal His truth to a select few (3:5), and then have those men write it down for all to read. A corrupted Bible would mean that we are all lost. Hence we must abandon such a ridiculous idea ( 1Pe_1:23-25 ). Knowledge about God and His truth only comes through this medium. All other methods of discovering God's truth are vain, such as feelings, emotions, human opinion, and unaided human wisdom. The promise of "inspiration" never applied to everyone ( Joh_14:26 ; Joh_16:13 ). One can "believe" in God by reading the Bible, no other "evidences" are necessary ( Joh_20:30-31 ). Everyone has access to the same truth since all can read and all can read the same exact message. Since the message doesn't change ( 1Pe_1:23-25 ), misinterpretation of the message is always man's fault ( 2Pe_3:16 ). Christianity is a "taught" religion and one cannot be saved unless one is willing to listen ( Joh_6:44-45 ; Mar_16:15-16 ). Therefore, the "attitude" in which one listens to the preaching or reading of the gospel is essential ( Jam_1:21 ). Some people read the Bible often and yet never understand the truth ( 2Ti_3:7 ). The word "read" also suggests that Paul conceived of this letter being "read" in public ( 1Ti_4:13 ; 1Th_5:27 ). “As Paul's readers read the first two chapters and continued on with this present chapter, they would understand the plan which had been so long secret. What is more, they would understand Paul's own perception of the plan” (Boles p. 244).
”Ye can perceive”: Comprehend and understand. “You will be able to judge how far I understand this hidden purpose of God” (TCNT). “My understanding in the mystery of Christ”: This means that no truth has been lost in the revelation process. We can understand the gospel as well as Paul did. Paul did not invent the gospel message and neither did it arise from his own intellect. We can have the exact same insight into the gospel that Paul had because both we and Paul depend upon the same precise information for understanding God’s will, that is, God’s revelation. God's word came to Paul in direct form. It comes to us in written form, but it is the same word of God. "Concept Inspiration", the idea that God revealed "concepts" to the Apostles but allowed them to express those concepts using the words and language of their own choosing, makes the Bible into nothing more than "uninspired" commentary, or "human wisdom" trying to explain Divine truth. Paul is very clear: God revealed the truth to him, he wrote it down, now when people read what he wrote they can understand it just like he did.
Exact or precise understanding of the writings of the apostles is possible. In fact, it is not only possible it is commanded ( Eph_5:17 ). Hence "interpretation" is not as complicated and hopeless as some people make it out to be. Correct understanding (interpretation) involves proper attitudes ( Mat_5:6 ; 2Th_2:10 ; Jam_1:21 ) and some diligent effort ( 2Ti_2:15 ). In addition, properly understanding the Bible also involves understanding some basic principles: God is God and we are not, He speaks we listen. Jesus has the final word in all religious matters ( Mat_28:18 ). His word takes precedence over any and every human authority that could be cited. The Bible is verbally inspired, God chose the exact words. Hence, respecting the place, meaning, and position of every word is mandatory ( 1Co_2:13 ; Gal_3:16 ). The Scriptures give us every truth that we need to effectively serve God (2 Timohty 3:16-17; 2Pe_1:3 ; Jud_1:3 ). Adding to or subtracting from the Scriptures is soundly condemned ( Pro_30:6 ; 2Jn_1:9 ; Rev_22:18-19 ) God is right, even when every human authority argues to the contrary ( Rom_3:4 ). The New Testament is the standard all will be judged by ( Joh_12:48 ). Time and culture do not change the truths found in the gospel ( Rev_21:8 ; Gal_5:19-21 ; 1Co_6:9-11 ).
Eph_3:5 “which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit”
“Which”: The above revealed mystery, the gospel revealed to Paul. “In other generations was not made known unto the sons of men”: “That God would bless the Gentiles was not a new revelation ( Gen_12:3 ; Gen_22:18 ; Gen_26:4 ; Isa_11:10 ; Isa_49:6 ; Isa_60:1-3 ; Hos_2:23 ; Hos_1:10 ; Deu_32:21 ; Isa_65:1 ; Rom_15:8-12 ). It was that God would bless the Gentiles directly through Christ, not as Jewish proselytes through the law” (Boles pp. 244-245). “In O.T. times it was commonly supposed that Gentiles would be saved, but that they first must become Jews in order to receive the benefits the Messiah would bring” (Erdman p. 66). In addition, this mystery also involved the complete setting aside of the First Covenant, including the favored status of the nation of Israel. “The Jewish nation under God's rule would be terminated, and replaced by a new international community, the church and that Jews and Gentiles would be incorporated into Christ and His church on equal terms without any distinction” (Stott p. 118). “As it hath now been revealed”: And this revelation was for all nations ( Rom_16:26 ; Col_1:26 ; Mar_16:15-16 ). “Holy apostles and prophets”: The prophets mentioned are New Testament prophets ( 1Pe_1:10-12 ; Eph_4:11 ; Eph_2:20 ). “He had already claimed this revelation for himself (3:3). Now he claims it for all the other apostles and prophets of God” (Robertson p. 530). Therefore all the apostles and first century prophets taught the same gospel ( Gal_2:6 ; Gal_2:9 ). Hence those who claim some supposed "rift" in teaching between Paul and Peter or Paul and any other New Testament writer, find themselves holding onto a false teaching.
“Holy”: Because they had been set apart for this purpose. “In the Spirit”: “By the Spirit” (KJV). Through the Holy Spirit this mystery was revealed ( 1Co_2:11-13 ). Jesus had promised what Paul here explains ( Joh_14:26 ; Joh_15:26-27 ; Joh_16:13 )
Eph_3:6 “To wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.
“To wit”: “That is to say or namely” (Coffman p. 169). Paul now gives one specific element of this formerly hidden truth. “Are fellow-heirs”: “Fully on a par with the original heirs, the believing Israelites. Many may be fellow heirs like a son and a servant, the latter being remembered in the will with a small portion. Not so the Gentiles” (Lenski p. 473) . Compare with Rom_8:17 ; Gal_3:26-29 ; Act_20:32 ; Act_26:18 . Gentiles are not "step-children" in the kingdom of God, rather obedient Gentiles are as much "sons" as are obedient Jews, and both will receive the exact same quality of inheritance ( 1Pe_1:4 ). “Fellow-heirs of the body”: “Members of the same body” (Con). “Gentiles have equal access with the Jews to become members of this body. While Old Testament proselytes were never fully accepted on the level of those who were Jews by birth, the church draws no lines of nationality, color or social status” (Boles p. 246-247). “Fellow-partakers of the promise”: “Partakers of the same promise” (Con). “Equal partners in God's promise” (Phi). Gentiles did not get a "second-rate" promise. They can obtain all the promises that the believing Jewish person obtains. “In Christ Jesus”: Only those "in Christ" actually obtain God's promises, which means that baptism stands between one and receiving God's promises ( Gal_3:26-27 ). “Through the gospel”: This is the message that informs Jews and Gentiles of this promise and how to obtain the benefits of it.
Eph_3:7 “whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of His power”.
“Whereof”: “For which” (Wms). “Of this Good News I became a minister” (TCNT). “Minister”: A servant. “According to the gift of that grace of God”: Paul realized that his selection to be an apostle was unmerited and undeserved ( 1Co_15:9-10 ; Gal_1:15 ). "He just cannot get over it", Hendriksen notes, "that God chose him, even himself, Paul, the great persecutor of the church, to proclaim the gospel" (Boles p. 247). “According to the working of His power”: “And by the power with which he equipped me” (Phi). “That working energy of God had been both exercised and exhibited in Paul's conversion (such as when Jesus appeared to Him, and when God forgave him upon being baptized ( Col_2:12 ), in the revelations made known to him, and in the powerful miraculous helps bestowed upon him to enable him to proclaim the truth. Paul spoke here of the special abilities given to him as an apostle. Paul did not work under his own power but under the power of God. He was a servant (minister) empowered by his Master” (Caldwell p. 115).
Eph_3:8 “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”.
“Unto me”: Over 20 years after his conversion and appointment, Paul still stands amazed that God choose him to be an apostle. “Who am less than the least of all saints”: “Less than the least of all Christians” (Phi). See 1Co_15:8 . “In affirming this he is neither indulging in hypocrisy nor grovelling in self-depreciation. He means it. He is deeply conscious both of his own unworthiness because he ‘formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted' Jesus Christ ( 1Ti_1:13 ). A good indication that his modesty was neither sham nor morbid is that it did not hinder him from taking responsibility as an apostle” (Stott p. 119). The above comment gives us an excellent measuring stick for humility. True humility will always assume its responsibilities as a Christian. True humility says, "I'm undeserving, but I still need to use my talents". False or mock humility uses the expression "I'm no good" as an excuse to cover its failure to do any good. Coffman makes a good point concerning those who claim that some disciple or admirer of Paul actually wrote this letter: “The falsehood inherent in the theory of pseudonymous authorship of Ephesians shines in a passage like this. As Bruce said, ‘No disciple of Paul's would have dreamed of giving the apostle so low a place’; furthermore, it is obvious to any thoughtful person that ‘no Christian who ever lived’ would have given Paul so low a place! That is, none expect the apostle himself who wrote the epistle” (p. 170).
“The unsearchable”: That which is past finding out, not tracked and untraceable. “Which cannot be tracked out” (Vincent p. 381). “Like a reservoir so deep that soundings cannot reach the bottom of it no limit can be placed on the resources of Christ. No sinner can be so foul, no multitude can be so huge, that the blood of Christ and the love of Christ are inadequate” (Boles p. 248). “Trackless, inexplorable, not in the sense that any part is inaccessible, but that the whole is too vast to be mapped out and measured” (Coffman p. 170). “Riches of Christ”: “Boundless wealth to be found in the Christ” (TCNT). “The endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Tay). “Usually precious things are rare, their rarity increasing their value; but here that which is most precious is boundless” (Coffman p. 170). “Jowett compared our effort to fathom the riches of God to a man starting to measure the dimensions of a lake and discovering that it is a cove on the edge of the ocean” (Caldwell p. 118).
Unfortunately, sometimes Christians apply "unsearchable" to the Word of God, and then conclude that the Bible can never be fully understood or understood correctly. Remember, Paul has already said that we can "perceive his insight" (3:4). Stott has some good comments concerning these "unsearchable riches":
“What these riches are we may judge from Paul's exposition in Eph_1:1-23 ; Eph_2:1-22 . They are riches freely available because of the cross. They include resurrection from the death of sin, victorious enthronement with Christ in the heavenlies, reconciliation with God, incorporation with Jewish believers in His new society, the end of hostility and the beginning of peace, access to the Father through Christ, membership of His kingdom and household, and all this only a foretaste of yet more riches to come” (p. 120).
“To preach unto the Gentiles”: “Indirectly in these past verses the apostle has indicated two of the strongest incentives to evangelism. All revealed truth is held in stewardship. It is given to be shared not monopolized . If men cannot keep their scientific discoveries to themselves, how much less should we keep to ourselves the divine disclosures? Paul then went on to emphasize the valuable content of the message itself. He was convinced, as we must be, that Christ never impoverishes those who put their trust in him. Once we are sure that the gospel is both truth from God and riches for mankind, nobody will be able to silence us” (Stott pp. 120-121). The phrase "unsearchable riches" should cause us to turn a deaf ear to those who claim that Christianity has caused all the world's problems. True Christianity, when applied, always makes a better person.
Eph_3:9 “and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things”.
“And to make all men see”: “And to enlighten all men” (Alf). “And to bring to light” (Rhm). See Act_26:17-18 . “All men”: The gospel is for all men ( Mar_16:15-16 ). No Calvinistic predestination or limited atonement here. The purpose of preaching isn't to entertain or make people merely feel good, rather the purpose of preaching the gospel is to open the eyes of sinners to reality ( Eph_1:18 ; Eph_5:7-9 ; Col_1:26 ; 2Co_4:4 ). “Dispensation”: “The administration (as in v. 2) was the ‘stewardship’ or ‘responsibility’ of how the plan was to be worked out. The focus is on how God has chosen to work out his secret purpose” (Boles p. 249). “Of the mystery”: “To make clear what is God's way of working out that hidden purpose” (TCNT). “Of bringing to light how this hidden purpose was to be put into effect” (NEB). 1Ti_3:16 well sums up this previously hidden truth. “Which for ages hath been hid in God”: Col_1:26 .It was so hidden that even angels were ignorant of God's plan ( 1Pe_1:10-12 ). “That the gospel of Christ was intended for the whole world is no new idea. This mystery has always been in the mind of God. The evangelization of the world is no modern project. The Jews, to whom God gave His divine revelation, narrowly concluded that salvation was for themselves, and possibly for some Gentiles who might ally themselves with them. However God opened the eyes of Paul, and others to understand the wideness of His mercy” (Erdman p. 69).
“Who created all things”: “He is not required to answer to any being, least of all to man. He had the right to choose the time for making known His purposes because He had created all things” (Caldwell p. 119). “This is no trifling matter; it connects with God's grandest operations” (Coffman p. 171). The same God who created the universe is the same God who has brought salvation to mankind. Therefore true science and true religion will always harmonize seeing that God is the author of both realms.
Eph_3:10 “to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God”
“To the intent”: “And His reason?” (Tay). “In order that now” (Rhm). “The purpose is” (Phi). “A special kind of manifestation has been declared by Paul. In one verse he explains who sees it, ‘through whom’ they see it, and exactly ‘what’ they see” (Caldwell p. 120). “Principalities and powers in the heavenly places”: Various views exist concerning "who" is included in the above phrase. The phrase "heavenly places" would rule out earthly governments or the Jewish religious leaders (1:3). Angels have longed to look into this plan ( 1Pe_1:12 ). The only question is, does this passage include evil powers? (6:12) “Made known”: Spiritual beings such as angels, and even the devil are not "all-knowing". The good news is that the devil, does have some "blind spots". God's plan was even hidden from the prince of darkness and even the devil didn't know what God was really up to. “Through the church”: “By means of the Church” (Vincent p. 382). “Manifold”: Much variegated.
The church is the pillar and ground of the truth ( 1Ti_3:15 ). The church does preach and proclaim God's wisdom, that is the wisdom revealed in the gospel message. But the church also demonstrates the wisdom of God, by it's very existence. "The fact that God had done the seemingly impossible--reconciling and organically uniting Jews and Gentiles in the church--makes the church the perfect means of displaying God's wisdom" (Boles p. 250). “Thus, the church does not exist for itself; it exists for God and His glory” (p. 250). “And in this new phenomenon, this new multi-racial humanity, the wisdom of God was being displayed. Indeed, the coming into existence of the church, as a community of saved and reconciled people, is at one and the same time a public demonstration of God's power, grace and wisdom” (Stott p. 123).
“This church of Christ is designed to be an object of wonder and amazement to heavenly beings of every station and rank” (Erdman p. 70). “God's wisdom has been seen and continues to be seen in the spirit realm and by all on earth who reflect upon the Lord's provisions. Paul did not say that the wisdom of God is seen in our imperfect human activity in the church . It is seen in the infinite plan of God and in His ability to match any situation of life with which we are faced, nonetheless bringing us together in one body unto Himself. Our absurd stupidity is made known when we disregard any aspect of His plan, challenge His authority in the church, or question His revelation of truth” (Caldwell p. 122).
God's wisdom is only seen in the church when we follow His plan. Human innovation, addition or subtraction, "makes known" human shortsightedness. Every aspect of the church reflects God's wisdom such as the terms of entrance and exit (yes, church discipline, when properly carried out, demonstrates how wise God's plan is), its organization, worship, and work. Every time a church departs from God's revelation in a particular area, it is refusing to listen to God's wisdom, Hence, if we love God and if we want to see Him get all the credit ( Mat_5:16 ) and the glory due His name, then we will be content and happy to follow His revelation and only His revelation ( Joh_14:15 ).
Eph_3:11 “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
“According”: “This was in accordance” (NASV). “This was according to” (RSV). “In conformity to that timeless purpose which He centered in Christ Jesus” (Phi). “The eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord”: “God has not had to change His plans in reaction to unexpected opposition from men or angels” (Boles p. 251). The church is an essential part of God's eternal purpose . It is the "one body" in which God planned to save all believers (2:16; 5:23). “The church was not substituted for the kingdom because the Jews rejected His initial proposals. The church was not a stop-gap measure until the kingdom could be introduced at the second-coming of the Lord. He has no new plans. He has no plans revised because of man's rejection of his Son” (Caldwell p. 122). Caldwell makes some good observations concerning the "Church" and the "Kingdom of God": They share a common origin in date and place ( Isa_2:2-3 ; Act_2:1-47 ). Identical boundary and territory ( Dan_2:44 ; Mar_16:15 ). The same ownership ( Joh_18:36 ; Mat_16:18 ). Common rulership ( 1Ti_6:15 ; Eph_5:23 ). The same requirements for entrance ( Joh_3:5 ; Act_2:38 ). Common membership for citizenship in fellowship ( Col_1:13-14 ). And the same memorial supper ( Mat_26:29 ; 1Co_11:20-27 ) and anticipate the same time of deliverance (1 Corinthians15:24; 1Th_4:16-17 )” (p. 123).
One cannot separate Christ from His church (1:22-23). Stott adds: “The major lesson taught by this first half of Eph_3:1-21 is the biblical centrality of the church. Some people construct a Christianity which consists entirely of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and has virtually nothing to do with the church. Others make a grudging concession to the need for church membership” (p. 126).
Eph_3:12 “in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him”.
“In whom”: In Christ. Again, Christ is the only access to God ( Joh_14:6 ; Eph_2:16 ; 1Ti_2:5 ). “Boldness”: “Christian boldness is revealed as being at least partially the responsibility of the Christian himself to maintain it, and encourage it in others. It is the spiritual equivalent of the confidence displayed by a good athlete manifesting at all times a winning attitude” (Coffman p. 173). This "boldness" is not based in worldly pride. Some people approach God with boldness, because they think that God owes them something, God is a sentimental old man, or that God just approves of everyone. This boldness rather is rooted in the fact that we have become Christians, the barrier of sin has been removed (a barrier we created) and through Jesus Christ we are admitted into His presence ( Heb_10:17-22 ). The word "boldness" suggests an "all-telling". “It was the classical Greek word for freedom of speech, the right ‘to say everything’ one wished to say. Only those with the status of citizen had this right” (Boles p. 252). Therefore the Christian has the "right" or privilege to cast "all" their cares upon God ( 1Pe_5:7 ), and to be heard. The person outside of Christ does not have this right. God is under no moral obligation to respond to the prayers of the disobedient and unbelieving. “Access”: Admission. “In confidence”: “Confident access” (NASV). “Can approach without fear to God in trustful confidence” (Con). “We can come fearlessly right into God's presence, assured of His glad welcome” (Tay). ( Heb_4:16 ). “Through our faith in Him”: Rom_5:1-2 .
Unbelief cuts off "access to God" ( Jam_1:6-8 ). Lack of faith will stop us dead in our tracks. This "access" to God is conditional. God has enabled the Christian to approach Him, but the Christian must exercise his or her own faith. We must draw nigh with "a sincere heart" ( Heb_10:22-23 ). Caldwell reminds us: “We must remember that pagan idolaters are confident and bold in prayer while practicing the most heathen rites of worship. With that in mind, we realize that our confidence is only as good as our information” (p. 128). Other passages mention the confidence and access of which the Christian is to take advantage ( 1Jn_5:14 ; Heb_10:35 ; 1Jn_3:21-22 ; 1Jn_4:17 ).
Eph_3:13 “Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory”
“Wherefore”: In view of all the blessings available to Christians, including the Christians in Ephesus. “I ask”: Paul could not keep Christians from fainting or giving up, rather all he can do is exhort them with great objective truths. “May not faint”: To become weary or give up ( Gal_6:9 ; 2Co_4:1 ; 2Co_4:16 ). “At my tribulations”: “I beg you not to be disheartened at the sufferings” (TCNT). “So please do not lose heart at what they are doing to me here” (Tay).
“Paul also had to encourage the Philippians (1:12-14 and 2:17-18) and the Colossians (1:24) in regard to his imprisonment. Paul wants the Ephesian believers to see that imprisonment does not mean defeat” (Boles p. 253). “Paul's readers might have lost heart. They might have supposed that the cause of Christ was failing. His work seemed to have ended. The Gentile believers might well have been discouraged. The apostle reasoned otherwise. However, painful imprisonment and distress must argue a great cause; they must signify an enterprise worthy of such a price. Unless some great purpose was being accomplished the Master would not allow his servant to suffer such pain. It indicated the dignity of their position, the exalted character of their destiny, which was being secured at so great a cost” (Erdman p. 71).
“For you, which are your glory”: “For it does you honor” (Gspd). “They could feel honored that one who was accomplishing so divine a mission was suffering for them” (Erdman p. 71).
“Indeed, Paul was defending their full and unhindered access to blessings in Christ for which every Gentile should be grateful!” (Spiritual Sword Lectureship p. 69). “If Paul is willing to endure everything for his work's sake, that work must be great and valuable indeed; if God permitted Paul to endure so much as the consequence of his work, this showed God's own estimate of his work” (Lenski p. 488). As a result Paul informs these Gentile Christians that the very existence of his suffering should greatly encourage them, because God knew that every effort should be made in affirming the right of Gentiles to be saved. We are reminded here that the souls of Gentiles have great worth ( Mat_16:26 ). If we are to spread the message, we must be prepared to endure some suffering ( 2Ti_3:12 ; Act_14:22 ). Erdman reminds us, “Suffering is ever involved in the enterprise of evangelizing the world. So it is in all great causes . The most priceless possessions of mankind have ever been secured by peril, toil, and pain. Opposition, difficulty, even apparent failure, are not reasons for abandoning a divinely appointed task” (pp. 71-72).
“If the church is central to God's purpose it must surely also be central to our lives . How dare we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center? No, we shall seek to become responsible church members, active in some local manifestation of the universal church. We shall not be able to acquiesce in low standards which fall far short of the New Testament ideals for God's new society, whether mechanical, meaningless worship services, or fellowship which is icy cold and even spoiled by rivalries which make the Lord's Supper a farce, or such inward-looking isolationism as to turn the church into a ghetto which is indifferent to the outside world. If instead (like Paul) we keep before us the vision of God's new society as His family , His dwelling place, and His instrument in the world, then we shall constantly be seeking to make our church's worship more authentic, its fellowship more caring and its outreach more compassionate. In other words (like Paul again), we shall be ready to pray, to work and if necessary to suffer in order to turn the vision into a reality” (Stott pp. 129-130).
Eph_3:14 “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father”.
“For this cause”: “With this in mind” (Knox). (1:15; 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 Joh_15:7 and 1Jn_5:14 )
“The people of Christ, he has said already, have access through Him ‘in one Spirit to the Father’ ( Eph_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” ( 2Pe_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 ( 1Ki_8:54 ; Dan_6:10 ). In the Bible we really do not find one consistent posture for praying. We find people standing ( Mar_11:25 ), bowing the head ( Gen_24:26 ), and even falling on the face ( Luk_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 ( 1Ti_2:8 ), and consider the example of Jesus in the garden ( Mat_26:39 ).
“Unto the Father”: Christians have confidence to approach God as their Father (2:18; 3:12). Jesus taught the same thing ( Mat_6:9 ; Mat_7:11 ; Luk_11:18 ; Mar_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 ( Mat_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 ( Mat_6:9 ) in the name of Christ ( Joh_14:13-14 ; Joh_15:16 ; Joh_15:23 ; Joh_15:26 ). They, in turn, taught us to pray and render our acts of worship and sacrifice to the Father through Christ ( Col_3:17 ; Heb_13:15 ; 1Ti_2:5 ; 1Co_8:6 ; 1Pe_2:5 ). In keeping with God's eternal plan, Christ voluntarily subordinated Himself to the Father for the purpose of human redemption ( Php_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. Joh_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).
Eph_3:15 “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”.
“From whom”: From the Father. “After whom” (Vincent p. 382). Denoting source and origin. “Every family”: Side reference NASV, “the whole family”. This letter has already informed us that God has only one family, composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers (2:19). “Since the dominant theme of these chapters is that through Christ the ‘one God and Father of us all’ (4:6) has only one family or household to which Jewish and Gentile believers equally belong. It seems better, therefore, to translate His whole family or ‘the whole family of believers’ (NIV)” (Stott p. 133). Occasionally you will run into someone that tries to argue that we are all God's children and that one does not need to become a Christian to be a child of God. Sadly, this is exactly what the devil desires that people would believe. Compare with Joh_1:12 ; Gal_3:26-27 ; Eph_1:5 ; Eph_2:18-19 ; Joh_8:44 . “In heaven and on earth”: Those "in heaven" would be Christians who have passed from this life ( Heb_12:22-24 ), and the Old Testament faithful who also have been reconciled through the blood of Christ ( Col_1:20 ; Heb_9:15 ). Hence all the faithful of both testaments, and all the faithful dead and those alive presently compose one great family. It is into "this family" that Christians, even from a Gentile past, have been added. This is one grand reason to be thankful ( Col_3:15 ). “Is named”: “Derives its name” (NASV). “Implies that we have derived identification, meaning, character, and position from God” (Caldwell p. 134). Since God is the Father of one common family of believers, therefore we all share the same designation, that is, “children of God”. We are all "fellow-heirs" (3:6).
Stott makes an interesting comment when he says, “It may be, then, that Paul is saying not only that the whole Christian family is named from the Father, but that the very notion of fatherhood is derived from the Fatherhood of God. In this case, the true relation between human fatherhood and the divine fatherhood is neither one of analogy (‘God is a father like human fathers’), nor one of projection (Freud's theory that we have invented God because we needed a heavenly father figure), but rather one of derivation (God's fatherhood being the archetypal reality, ‘ the source of all conceivable fatherhood’” (Stott p. 134).
Eph_3:16 “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 He would grant you”: The word "grant" simply means to "give". God wants us to have wisdom, confidence, boldness, spiritual maturity, spiritual strength, and hope but we must cooperate ( Heb_5:12-14 ; Jam_1:5-6 ). “According to the riches of His glory”: “Out of His wealth of glory” (Gspd). “His own infinite perfections” (Alford p. 1226). “According to His glorious wealth, the infinite resources of God's wisdom, power, and love may be spoken of as His ‘wealth’ or His ‘glory’” (Bruce p. 325). “Paul is not asking God to do something beyond His resources. God's treasure store of rich blessings is inexhaustible (1:7,18; 2:4)” (Boles p. 255). “God's standard of giving is liberal, bountiful, and overflowing” (P.P. Comm. p. 108). We need to be impressed with the fact that God wants all Christians to have the level or quality of spiritual growth and strength mentioned in this prayer. God definitely is on our side ( Rom_8:32 ). Hence, the only thing standing between us and this reality is our own freewill choice. “I like to think of the apostle's petition as a staircase by which he climbs higher and higher in his aspiration for his readers. His prayer-staircase has four steps, whose key words are ‘strength’, ‘love’, ‘knowledge’, and ‘fullness’” (Stott p. 134).
“Strengthened”: To empower and increase in vigor. The Bible often talks about Christians being "strengthened" ( Act_14:22 ; Act_15:41 ; Act_16:5 ). This reveals the truth, that by our own "wits" we are no match for temptation. Caldwell said, “Surely all of us have felt weak spiritually and sensed that we could not survive on our own strength” (p. 134). “With power through His Spirit”: Which reveals the "medium, channel or source" of this strength. “The mighty inner strengthening of His Holy Spirit.” (Tay). “In the inward man”: The soul or spirit, as opposed to the physical body ( 2Co_4:16 ).
Man is composed of more than just a physical body and man has more of an existence than just mere physical life ( Ecc_12:7 ; Mat_10:28 ; Jam_2:26 ). The "inner man" includes the heart, mind, conscience, will, and reason. This is the "real" person inside the physical body and every command in the Bible is addressed to this inner man ( 1Co_6:19 ; Eph_4:22-32 ). More is needed to live a Christian life than "sheer" unaided human determination. We cannot bring about our own salvation, apart from God's encouragement, guidance, and grace. The "strengthening" mentioned in this passage is not mysterious or miraculous. Paul is praying for something that would be true and can be true in the life of all Christians and not all Christians even in the first century had a miraculous manifestation of the Spirit ( 1Co_12:29-30 ). In addition, a miraculous strengthening, or a strengthening that overrides human freewill, would violate the very basis of the gospel message ( Act_10:34-35 ; Rom_2:6-11 ). The medium or tool that the Holy Spirit uses to strengthen Christians is the revelation He delivered to mankind, The gospel is called the power of God for salvation ( Rom_1:16 ). It is praised for its ability to penetrate the human heart ( Heb_4:12 ) and to get people back on the right track ( 2Ti_4:2 ; 2Ti_3:16-17 ). This is the means that the apostles used to strengthen new converts ( Act_14:22 ; Act_15:41 ; Act_16:4-5 ).
The Holy Spirit can offer the Christian tremendous spiritual reinforcement for the inner man, but all such reinforcement is found in the Word of God ( Psa_119:105 ), and such makes perfect sense, because every bit of encouragement, incentive, and exhortation which God could give us, must already be revealed so that all Christians of all ages have equal access to such motivational truths. This means that Bible study should always be more than a mere learning of facts and figures. We should look for God's incentives, exhortations and encouragement. A good parallel to this passage would be the Psalms. David said that God "restores my soul" ( Psa_23:3 ), and yet he points out that such was accomplished through the "law of the Lord" ( Psa_19:7 ). Unfortunately many religious people want "inner strengthening" apart from the Word of God. They complain that the above view that I have just presented limits the role of the Holy Spirit. I strongly disagree. When I respond to God's encouragement found in the Scriptures, I am allowing the Spirit to do His work and I am not limiting Him. But when I want "strength" to come from some mysterious feeling, experience, or emotional high, then all of a sudden I am simply trying to strengthen myself through mere human means. The reason for this is because all such things are of a subjective nature, which in turn means that the individual is allowed to believe what they want to believe about such "feelings". That is, the individual is allowed to play the role of God. If they want a certain "feeling" to mean that God approves of them, then that is what that feeling means. In contrast, the Christian wants God to strengthen them, and that means that the Christian always wants to listen to objective encouragement, or encouragement and incentives that He knows are 100% from God. To find that encouragement, you must turn to the Scriptures.
Eph_3:17 “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love”
“May dwell”: To house permanently, to reside or inhabit. “That Christ may take up residence in your hearts” (Bruce p. 327). “To make one's home, to be at home” (Robertson p. 533). “Settle down and abide. Take up His permanent abode, so that ye may be a habitation” (Vincent p. 383). Stott points out that of the various Greek words used to mean "dwell", God had Paul write a word which meant to "settle down somewhere”. It refers to a permanent, as opposed to a temporary, abode. Thus Paul prays to the Father that Christ by His Spirit will be allowed to settle down in their hearts , and from His throne there both control and strengthen them” (pp. 135-136). “In your hearts”: “The center of feeling, thinking, and willing” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 314). “Through faith”: “And the means or channel through which it takes possession of the heart is faith... indicating the receptivity which is the condition on our side” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 314).
Paul is speaking to Christians. This "indwelling" is conditional and is not automatic. Neither is this indwelling against our will. Most realize that Christ dwelling in us and our being strengthened through the Spirit are not two different experiences. Compare with Rom_8:9-10 . Note: Even in those passages, which are addressed to Christians the "indwelling" is conditional for people who are already Christians. Caldwell makes a good observation concerning those passages that talk about deity "indwelling" the Christian ( 1Co_6:19 ; Eph_5:18 ). “Not only does God dwell in some men, but the same passages teach that we abide in the Father . That should make it obvious that literal, personal possession of our persons is not being considered. We do not literally inhabit the person of the Father. Neither does He abide in us by physically possessing our bodies” (pp. 136-137). On this point consider 1Jn_4:13 “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us” (4:15,16; 1Jn_3:24 ; Joh_15:4 “Abide in Me and I in you” (5-6) ; Joh_17:21 . Caldwell further says, “Strikingly, the passages which deal with Christ's indwelling in us also repeatedly affirm that we dwell in Christ. The question to be asked again is this: ‘Is the indwelling literally personal referring to direct possession of another's personhood?’ Reading the passages impresses the reader with the representative character of divine indwelling. The Lord is speaking of the intimate relationship or communion between the Divine Being and obedient, loving Christians. The relationship is so strong and close that each is said to dwell in the other! Christ ‘dwelling in us’ is, therefore, metaphorical suggesting oneness, harmony, unity of purpose, communion and close association . Christ dwells in us through His words abiding in us (compare Joh_15:4 ; Joh_15:7 ; Eph_5:18 and Col_3:16 )” (pp. 138-139).
As stated above this "indwelling" is conditional even for the person who is a Christian. It demands that we fully trust Christ, that we keep His commandments ( 1Jn_3:24 ; Joh_14:23 ) love other Christians (4:12), confess Jesus (4:15); follow the teachings of the Holy Spirit ( Rom_8:5-10 ); remain in the faith ( 2Co_13:5 ); and completely give up selfish living ( Gal_2:20 ). When God is truly influencing you, when His words are being allowed to "settle down" in our hearts the following happens: You think about God and His will all the time ( Col_3:17 ). You are constantly talking to God in prayer ( 1Th_5:17 ). You have the very same attitudes, views, and opinions that God has expressed in His word, and you do not argue, criticize, or complain about anything that the apostles wrote. You gratefully embrace and accept it ( 1Co_14:37 ; Joh_17:17 ). God and His will is always placed first ( Mat_6:33 ). You treat others in the same way that God treats them, which means that you love your brethren fervently ( 1Pe_1:22 ). When Christians become lax in attendance, it is proof that Christ is no longer influencing them. You are "eager" to do God's will. “When another dwells in you, you readily respond when he asks you to do something”. Apathy towards the church or the will of God is another proof that Christ hasn't been allowed to settle down in the life of a Christian.
“To the end that ye”: “Those in whose hearts Christ has made His abode are ‘rooted and well founded in love’” (Bruce p. 327). When Jesus is allowed to "settle down" in our lives, when we allow His will to control us ( Gal_2:20 ), the results are great ( Gal_5:22-23 ). We cannot escape the connection in this passage. The necessary inference is, if we are failing to properly "love" God, others, and especially our own brethren, then we are refusing to let Christ control our lives. Hence, a failure to properly love other Christians is proof that one does not really love God. The apostles would agree ( 1Jn_4:8 ; 1Jn_4:20-21 ). “Rooted”: “So that having your roots deep and your foundations strong in love” (Wey). “Grounded”: At this point Paul uses two figurative expressions, one from agriculture and the other from architecture. “It means simply to establish something firmly . So here the two words probably express the one simple idea of being securely settled and deeply founded . Thoroughly established in love, having it not as an uncertain feeling changing with every change of experience, but as the constant principle of their life” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 314).
“In love”: “Love is the soil in which believers are ‘rooted’ and on which foundation is ‘established’. The two-fold metaphor of a tree and a building emphasize that love is the necessary base to support the superstructure” (Boles p. 257).
Remember that when we see the word "love" we always are to think of the definition of "love" given in 1Co_13:4-8 . This is true love, the type of love that obeys God at all costs ( Joh_14:15 ). When Christ is really being allowed to settle down in our lives, we start placing God and the spiritual interests of others as a top priority ( Mat_22:36-40 ). Being rooted and grounded "in love" means that we place the spiritual interests of others ahead of what we may want ( Joh_13:35 ). We serve God because we love Him, rather than merely serving Him out of the fear of going to hell. We cannot call sin the loving thing to do ( Rom_13:8-10 ). We place the spiritual needs of others ahead of our own personal feelings and comforts ( Mat_18:15-17 ; Gal_6:1-2 ). We refuse to let anger, bitterness, resentment, and envy rule or fester in our hearts ( Eph_4:31-32 ). We tell people what they need to hear and not what they want to hear ( Eph_4:25 ), and we place the unity of the body of Christ ahead of our own personal opinions.
Eph_3:18 “may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth”
“We observe that the apostle now passes from our love (in which we are to be rooted and grounded) to Christ's love (which he prays we may know” (Stott p. 137). “May be strong”: “May be able to comprehend” (NASV). “May be fully able’ (Alf). “To be eminently able, to have Full capacity” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 315). “To have full strength” (Robertson p. 533). “The preposition has the force of fully or eminently” (Vincent p. 384). “Apprehend”: Take eagerly, mentally seize and perceive. “To lay hold on with the mind, to grasp mentally. It carries the idea of personally taking mental possession” (Caldwell p. 145). This "full" comprehension is conditional. If you refuse to allow Christ to direct your life, if you spurn the opportunities to be strengthened by the Spirit's revelation and if you are apathetic about loving God or other Christians more, then you will never really realize the greatness of His love. “With all the saints”: With all other Christians.
“When Paul spoke of Christians comprehending the riches of God, he did not have in mind that only a few select saints could understand truth. Comprehension is available to all who obey Christ . Every Christian may know the greatest mysteries of Christ and obtain the fullest prize awarded to the faithful ( 1Co_9:24 )” (Caldwell p. 145). Compare with 2Ti_4:8 ). “The disclosure of this mystery is the heritage of all the people of God: it is fitting that they should have an intelligent appreciation of it. There may be the further thought that the deep things of God are more likely to be apprehended by His children in fellowship one with another than in isolation. The idea that spiritual illumination is most likely to be received by followers of the solitary life has been widely held. Paul does not appear to have favored it either for himself or for his Christian friends” (Bruce p. 328). I think Bruce made a good point. Paul does not ever conceive of a relationship with God, apart from God's people. Something is wrong if I profess to be a Christian, but I refuse to be "with the saints" ( Heb_10:24-25 ).
“What is the breadth and length and height and depth”: Of Jesus’ love for us (3:19). “In all its width and length and height and depth” (TCNT). “Paul was simply referring to the great vastness or fullness of divine goodness . Together they express the grandeur of the love of Christ” (Caldwell p. 146). “It seems to me legitimate to say that the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind (especially Jews and Gentiles, the theme of these chapters), ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner ( 1Ti_1:13-15 ), and ‘high’ enough to exalt him to heaven” (Stott p. 137 ). “It is as if Paul invited us to look at the universe--to the limitless sky above, to the limitless horizons on every side, to the depth of the earth and of the seas beneath us, and said, ‘The love of Christ is as vast as that’” (Barclay p. 132). Of course, we always need to remember that receiving the benefits of such love is conditioned upon obedient faith ( Mar_16:16 ).
Eph_3:19 “and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God”
“And to know the love of Christ”: “Paul wished for brethren to realize what it means to love Him, and what it means for Christ to love us, and what it means to love others because of Him” (Caldwell p. 146). “Which passeth knowledge”: “Literally, the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 315). Paul is not exhorting us to engage in a fruitless exercise. We must be careful to avoid all interpretations that suggest that we really cannot know Christ's love for us. Bruce comments, “To speak of knowing something that ‘surpasses knowledge’ is to be deliberately paradoxical; but however much one comes to know of the love of Christ, there is always more to know” (p. 329). I would add "more to appreciate". God's love demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son for sinners, “surpasses the knowledge” of the world ( Rom_5:6-8 ). In other words, God's revelation to us has helped us comprehend something that unaided human wisdom cannot. We learn here that people who do not want to understand why Jesus had to die or why hell exists, are missing something very special. “Simpson has compared Paul's seeming contradiction to an Alpine peak, inaccessible to the mountain climber, but conquered by means of a secret track whereby it can be scaled. Paul has opened that secret passageway to us by serving as the Spirit's instrument to make known that which human knowledge cannot discover through its own reason and philosophy. Man can know something of the otherwise unknowable when he participates in that which has been revealed of the mind of God ( 1Co_2:6-16 )” (Caldwell p. 147). The love demonstrated by Christ, is a "love" of which this world is not familiar ( 1Jn_3:1 “what manner of love”).
“Filled unto all the fullness of God”: “With all the completion God has to give” (Knox).
The word filled means to complete or bring to a complete end, to perfectly supply.
To be filled with all the fullness of God does not mean that we will become divine ourselves ( Rev_22:3 ), rather this is the result of being reinforced by the Spirit's teachings, allowing Christ to settle down in and rule our lives, and to let the foundation of our life be to love God and to love others. “The Greek preposition is ‘eis’ which indicates that we are to be filled not ‘with’ so much as ‘unto’ the fullness of God. God's fullness or perfection becomes the standard or level up to which we pray to be filled. The aspiration is the same in principle as that implied by the commands to be holy as God is holy, and to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect ( 1Pe_1:15-16 ; Mat_5:48 )” (Stott p. 138).