We summarise the remainder of Ephesians chapter 3 in the following way. There are Notes on individual verses below the Outline and a set of Questions for when the material is used in groups.
A). HOW PAUL PRAYED. Verses 14-15.
1). Earnestly. Eph 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, (See Note 1 below).
2). To The Heavenly Father. 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. (Note 2)
B). WHAT PAUL PRAYED. Verses 16-19a.
1). That they might know inwardly the Spirit’s power. 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Notes 3 and 4)
2). That Christ might be “at home” in their hearts. 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (Note 5).
3). That they might have power to comprehend the love of Christ. 3:18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (Note 6)
4). That they might be able to know Christ’s love. 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, (Note 7).
C). THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THE PRAYER .Verse 3:19b.
That they might be filled with God’s presence. 3:19 …. that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Note 8).
D). Eph 3:20-21.PRAYER THAT LEADS TO THE DOXOLOGY. Verses 20-21. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Notes 9 and 10)
- ‘Bow my knees”. (“kamptō” for “bow” is only used 4 times in the New Testament. It is used to represent total submission and is used in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10 to indicate the total submission of people to God when Christ returns. In the other verse Romans 11:4 God told Elijah that He still had seven thousand men who had not “bowed” the knee to Baal.
- “Every family”. Paul had spoken of God as Father in verse 14 where the word is “patēr”. In verse 14 he uses a cognate of the word in using “patria” for “family”. Paul is inferring that all fatherhood derives its origin from God as Father. Fatherhood, indeed parenthood was His idea.
- “According to the riches…”. Not “out of” so that there is a diminishing supply of riches. Rather according to the measure of His riches, which we saw in Ephesians 3:8, are “unsearchable”.
- “Strengthened with power..” . Paul often combines different words for power in the same verse. Here he uses “krataioō” from “kratos” dominion. Here it is coupled with “dunamis” which was often used of the mighty works or miracles of Jesus. He has in mind the power of God being imparted to their inner beings by the Holy Spirit. Power indeed!
- “May dwell”. If believers are already indwelt by Christ why does Paul pray for Christ to indwell them? The answer is in the word he uses for “dwell”. The usual word for “dwell” is “oikeō”. Here the word is an intensified form of that word. It is “katoikeō” which means to abide, settle down, make one’s permanent home in. He prays that Christ might take up full residence in human hearts as they are opened wide to Him.
- “with all the saints”. No one can grasp the immensity of the love of God. But in fellowship with other saints we can be enriched by hearing of their grasp and experience of God’s love.
- Knowing the unknowable. Paul wants his readers to know more and more about the love of God whilst realising that they cannot fully comprehend or appropriate such love.
- “Filled with all the fulness of God”. King Solomon said in 1Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! If it is true that the heavens cannot contain God, how can believers be filled with the fulness of God? Some indication is given in Colossians 2:9-10 where Paul writes, For in him the whole fulness ( noun “plērōma”) of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled (verb “plēroō” ) in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. We need to see that the fulness of God is associated with Christ and that our being filled is dependent on our relationship with Him. The more He is allowed to occupy His home in our hearts, the more of the fulness of God we will receive.
- “Abundantly more”. (“huperekperissou”). The word is found only here and in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 where it is used for “earnest” prayer. It has the sense of “infinitely more”. Paul is affirming that God can do infinitely more than believers can ask or ever imagine.
- “His power at work within us”. How does God do more than believers ask or imagine? Paul tells us that it is by His power working within us. Again we have a combination of power words with “power” being “dunamis” and “work” being “energeō”. It is by God’s power operating within us in answer to believing prayer. Even then God’s power will always be beyond the capacity of humans to harness or receive.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- Some people have a problem with the description of God as “Father”. Why do you think that is so? Do we need to try to help them understand the concept? If so, how would the truths in verses 14 and 15 be a help?
- If we prayed for others what Paul prayed for the Ephesians in verse 16, what difference would we hope to see in the lives of those for whom we prayed?
- In verse 17 Paul writes, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”. Jesus does dwell in the hearts of all His followers. What deeper truth does this verse imply and how can we explain the difference to other people?
- In verse 19 Paul prays that they might be “filled with all the fullness of God”. Does this mean the same as being “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18? Give some reasons for your answer.
- In verse 20 Paul affirms that God can do “far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us”. What encouragement is that for our own prayer-lives?