In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul returns to the thought he began in chapter 3, verse 1. After his parenthesis about his ministry and God’s plan to demonstrate His Great Plan through the church, he now prays that the Ephesians will experience even more of the “glorious riches” of the Father. He prays that they will be strengthened, that Christ will permanently dwell within them, and that they will be able to fully grasp how great God’s love for them is.
Every epistle by Paul except II Corinthians and Titus contains one or more explicit prayers by him. One such list can be found here. Our present passage is the second of three prayers found here in Ephesians (1:15-23; 6:19-20). He will then complete his “theological” teaching, and begin the next chapter with how the believers should live out God’s Great Plan in their lives and in His church.
- This section of study, Ephesians 3:14-21 contains a great prayer which really amounts to a set of promises.
- These prayer-wrapped promises are more of the “riches beyond measure” we have in Christ.
- This marks the end of the “theological” section of Ephesians. This material is:
- Essential to all that follows
- Crucial to our understanding and faith
- So far in these three chapters we have focused on
- God’s purpose and plan
- God’s power
- God’s riches provided in and through Jesus Christ
- But we need to briefly go back through and see the Church in all this.
THE CHURCH IN GOD’S GREAT PLAN:
- The study of the Church is commonly called “Ecclesiology” (ekklesia = the called out, the church; ology = study or knowledge)
- While we often focus on things like the organization, origin, leadership and practices of the church, Paul presents aspects of the church even more fundamental in these first three chapters of Ephesians.
- In Chapter 1, the Church is:
- the blessed – 1:3
- the adopted – 1:5
- the redeemed – 1:7
- the chosen – 1:11
- the heirs – 1:14
- the body of Christ (the physical expression of the Lord on earth) – 1:23
- the “called out”… the Church – 1:22
- In Chapter 2, the Church is:
- the beloved of God – 2:5
- the saved or rescued – 2:6
- the honored & elevated – 2:6
- the masterpiece work of God – 2:10
- the reconciled & united – 2:13-14
- the household of God – 2:19
- the Temple in which God through His Spirit dwells – 2:21-22
- In Chapter 3, the Church is:
- the divine mystery fulfilled – 3:4
- the manifold (Gk. polupoikilos = many-colored, variegated) wisdom of God revealed – 3:10
- a revelation to the angelic and demonic beings in the spiritual realm – 3:10
- those who with boldness can access the throne of grace – 3:12; Hebrews 4:16
- “For this reason…” (3:1,16) – What reason? I think because of all that believers are (both individually and collectively, i.e, the Church) as described just above in the first three chapters, it is based on what the Church is that Paul can confidently lift up his hands in prayer to God for them.
- “His whole family in heaven and on earth.” Earlier Paul called them God’s “household” (Gk. oikeios); now he calls them God’s family (Gk. patria). God’s family in heaven and on earth might well be His Son (in Heaven) and His children (believers on earth).
- “I kneel before the Father” – one of several ways Jewish men might pray.
- “His whole family… derives its name” – only legitimate children are given the Father’s name.
- “That out of His glorious riches” (NIV) or “the riches of His glory” (NASB, ESV) – this “glory (Gk. doxa) 8 times in Ephesians by Paul: the glory of God’s grace (1:6), the Father’s glory (1:12,14,17), the riches of the glory of our inheritance (1:18), and the glory God receives in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all ages (3:21). I think Paul is praying that God will take from the riches we have as our inheritance (1:18) and bless us with the things he is about to describe. It is like an older brother telling his siblings that they together have inherited the unimaginable riches of their Father… and then proceeds the describe one by one what some of those riches are that now belong to them!
- And here those riches are:
- Strengthened with power within by His Spirit (3:16) – another thing the Holy Spirit is doing in God’s Great Plan (see 1:13-14; 1:17; 2:18; 2:22; 3:5 for other actions of the Spirit)
- So that Christ may permanently dwell (Gk. katoikeo) in our hearts by faith,
- And being permanently attached (rooted and grounded) to Him by means of His love,
- May be able, together with all the saints, to grasp just how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is… doing so goes way beyond just knowing about His love
- So that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. I would paraphrase this to, “So that we may be filled to the full with everything God has for us.”
- Paul is paying that the Ephesians and all believers will open themselves up to receive the fullness of all the riches that God has for us. That was God’s Great Plan!
- In closing, let me share this story from John MacArthur’s commentary on this passage:
“J. Wilbur Chapman often told of the testimony given by a certain man in one of his meetings:
‘I got off at the Pennsylvania depot as a tramp, and for a year I begged on the streets for a living. One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, “Hey, mister, can you give me a dime?” As soon as I saw his face I was shocked to see that it was my own father. I said, “Father, Father, do you know me?” Throwing his arms around me and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Oh my son, at last I’ve found you! I’ve found you. You want a dime? Everything I have is yours.” Think of it. I was a tramp. I stood begging my own father for ten cents, when for 18 years he had been looking for me to give me all that he had.’
That is a small picture of what God wants to do for His children. His supreme goal in bringing us to Himself is to make us like Himself by filling us with Himself, with all that He is and has.”
Our image is a still photo taken from the 2018 movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ” with James Faulkner as Paul (praying in this image) and Jim Caviezel.