3. The New People of God (Ephesians 2:22-3:21)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (28:56)

We humans struggle with being around people who are different from us -- different languages, different customs, different history, different skin color. The church, too, had to overcome this kind of problem that threatened to divide the church -- the seeming chasm between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers.

Paul tackles this perceived division head on, finding his answer in Christ himself. He says that bringing salvation to the Gentiles and making them a full part of the people of God has always been God's plan, a mystery hidden from everyone until God reveals it through the Church. Finally, Paul concludes this section of the letter with a marvelous prayer and doxology. Bring us together, Lord!

3.1 Fellow Citizens with the People of God (2:11-22)
3.2 The Mystery, Mission, and Ministry of the Church (3:1-13)
3.3 Paul's Prayer and Doxology (3:14-21)

3.1. Fellow Citizens with the People of God (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Detail from Edward Hicks (American Quaker painter, 1780-1849), 'The Peaceable Kingdom' (c. 1834), oil on canvas, 74.5x90.1 cm., National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
The lion shall lie down with the lamb in Messiah's Kingdom, Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 11:6). Detail from Edward Hicks (American Quaker painter, 1780-1849), 'The Peaceable Kingdom' (c. 1834), oil on canvas, 74.5x90.1 cm., National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

In the summers of my college years I worked in a factory in Oakland, California. Compared to the grizzled old workers who had spent a lifetime in that place, I was just a young upstart. I would just be there for a summer or two and they didn't spend much time getting to know me. I was tolerated, even occasionally appreciated, but that was as far as it went. I was the outsider and never made it inside.

If you've ever moved to a new community or entered a schoolroom where you didn't know a soul, then you know a little of what Gentile Christians must have felt like in a congregation dominated by those whose families had been Jewish from time immemorial. In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul recalls this sense of apartness, and writes with the intention of helping Gentile Christians -- and Jewish Christians -- to understand their essential oneness in Jesus Christ.

Separated from Christ (Ephesians 2:11-12)

"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) -- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:11-12)

Paul begins by listing the elements of the Gentiles' spiritual condition pre-Christ:

  • Uncircumcised, lacking that ancient mark of being part of the Covenant Family of God;
  • Separate from Christ, utterly cut off from the Messiah;
  • Excluded from citizenship among the people of God, aliens;
  • Foreigners to the covenants made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, which tied the people to God with responsibilities and gave them wonderful promises;
  • Without hope or certainty or promise for the present, or for the future; and
  • Without God in the world.

Pretty depressing. The phrase "with hope and without God in the world" echoes in my head as describing utter aloneness. Many of our friends and neighbors, co-workers and relatives could be described by these words. Maybe you, too, feel this way. A person who is not united to God through Christ is alone, is lost, is without hope.

We who know Christ have really Good News to share with people who are sometimes acutely aware of their loneliness. For people longing to belong, we offer inclusion into a loving family.

Q22. (Ephesians 2:11-12) Why does being out of touch with what it means to be "lost" impede our willingness to witness? In your own words, what is the spiritual condition of a friend or co-worker who doesn't know Christ?

When people who are estranged come back together we call it "being reconciled." That is what Christ did for us who were far away from God: he brought us back to God. This passage spells it out in detail.

Brought Near through His Blood (Ephesians 2:13)

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13)

"Brought near through the blood of Christ" is really a kind of shorthand to describe the process of our redemption. I want to explore this more fully, since the requirements of the Jewish sacrificial system described in the law of Moses fourteen centuries before Christ were fulfilled in this redemption. (You'll find these regulations spelled out in Exodus and Leviticus.)

God is a holy God, and requires righteousness and moral holiness in the lives of his people. To teach holiness to his people after their deliverance from Egypt, God had them set up a tabernacle in the wilderness surrounded by a curtained-off courtyard. The common people could not approach God's dwelling place in a casual manner; they brought with them a sacrifice, confessing their sins while laying their hands on the head of the animal sacrifice. Before their eyes the animal was killed in their stead, for their sins, and its blood sprinkled on the altar where part of the sacrifice was burned (Leviticus 4).

Only the priests could enter the tabernacle to care for the holy things, and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, the "throne room" of God where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16).

When Paul wrote that we have been "brought near through the blood of Christ," he means that Christ the Messiah has become the sacrifice for our sins, and because of his death on our behalf, we can approach God with our sins forgiven.

Completing the Law's Requirements (Ephesians 2:14-15)

"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace..." (Ephesians 2:14-15)

In Hebrew the word shālōm can mean "completion and fulfillment -- of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship."81 It carries the ideas of peace, wholeness, wholesomeness, reconciliation, blessing, restoration. It is a very wonderful and broad word. Paul says in Ephesians 2:14 that Christ himself is our peace, our Shalom, our healing and wholeness, and the one who brought an end to the tension between us and God that our sin had created.

But this Shalom was brought about by what we call today a "paradigm shift," a "sea change," a basic alteration in the whole way God was dealing with man. Prior to Christ, the Law was the barrier between Jew and Gentile. The Jews kept it rigorously; the Gentiles disregarded it. It had become a dividing wall between them: a source of pride to the Jews, an object of scorn to the Gentiles. Look at the finality of these words:

"He ... has destroyed the barrier ... by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and ordinances" (Ephesians 2:14-15)

Paul uses two powerful verbs in these verses

  • Destroyed. The Greek verb translated "destroyed" (NIV), "broken down" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) here means "to reduce something by violence into its components, destroy."82
  • Abolished. The Greek word translated "abolishing, abolished" carries the idea of "to cause something to lose its power or effectiveness, invalidate, make powerless," then "to cause something to come to an end or to be no longer in existence, abolish, wipe out, set aside something ... nullify."83

Wow! When Jesus had been accused of abolishing the commandments, he had affirmed in the Sermon on the Mount:

"I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18)

Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil Law

One way of looking at the Law in the Old Testament is as three basic components:

  1. The moral law, the enduring principles of righteousness which are timeless, such as the Ten Commandments.
  2. The ceremonial law, pertaining to the tabernacle, temple, priests, and sacrifices.
  3. The civil law, rules concerning property, crime, and punishment.

1. Moral Law

The moral law, of course, is woven into the fabric of the creation. It cannot be done away with any more than righteousness can become obsolete. But it was fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless man who lived the life of God before us in the flesh.

2. Ceremonial Law

As we have seen above, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law, which prescribed how sin was to be forgiven, and who should gain admittance to the Holiest of Holy Places, the very Presence of God. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of each of us. In the Old Testament, God permitted a lesser (an animal) to substitute or stand in for the punishment deserved by the greater (a sinful man). In the New Testament, the greater (God's very Son) became the substitute or stand in for the punishment deserved by the lesser (all men). In his own body, with his own blood, for all time, Jesus fulfilled the whole of the ceremonial law. When he died, the veil of the temple, separating people from the holy place of God, was rent in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), signifying that God had opened up the way to his very Presence through the Messiah.

After Jesus, temple sacrifices became superfluous. Every time an animal was sacrificed for sin after the Lamb of God had made the ultimate sacrifice, it was a kind of hollow mockery of what Christ had done. As the writer of Hebrews said, the Old Covenant is now "obsolete" (NIV, NRSV, Hebrews 8:13).84 Jesus fulfilled the religious, ceremonial law, and by completing it, rendered it obsolete.

3. Civil Law

The civil law, too, had been fulfilled when the Messiah came and the Old Covenant became obsolete. Its time was past. God had been Israel's King in the Wilderness. When the people had clamored for a king, God gave them Saul, and then David. But Israel's last king, last "son of David," had been taken into exile in 587 BC. Now in Jesus Christ, the "Son of David," "the Son of God," the ultimate King of the Jews had come. Heralded by angels and sought as King by wise men at his birth, Jesus had finally stood before Pontius Pilate and acknowledged that his Kingship was "not of this world."

Q23. (Ephesians 2:14-15) In what sense did Jesus as Messiah "fulfill" the Mosaic Law? What is the significance of that for Jewish people? For us Gentiles?

Jew and Gentile as the "New Israel"

The Messiah also decreed the end of the Jewish monopoly as the exclusive people of God:

"Therefore I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21:43)

Now he commanded his followers to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15), to "be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The Gentiles and Jews together became "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). The civil laws intended for the nation of Israel in the Promised Land, while good and useful, had become obsolete as the nation embraced believers throughout the world.

"... And in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near." (Ephesians 2:16-17)

I've spent some time explaining how Jesus "abolished in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations" (Ephesians 2:15), because this is often misunderstood and disregarded by us Gentile Christians. But know this: for you the Messiah (Christ, "Anointed One") changed his whole plan and now reconciles you to God together with his beloved Jewish people. Instead of treating Gentiles and Jews differently, now they have become in the Messiah "one new man out of the two," ending the Gentile-Jew hostility, "thus making peace" (Ephesians 2:15).

We Christians, who have such a tendency toward pride, division, denominationalism, and separatism from fellow Christians, need to pay special heed. There are two rich words here -- "peace" (Greek eirēnē, Hebrew shalom, which we examined above) and "reconcile."85 Reconciliation happens when an estrangement is healed, a separation is removed. God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus' death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).

Access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)

The next verse contains a wonderful promise:

"For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (2:18)

Yes, on its face it means that Jew and Gentile are now on equal footing before God.

But I want us to think about the concept of "access."86 In the Near East, a monarch's presence was exclusive. Only a few courtiers had the privilege of being with him. If a person had a petition -- and he were a citizen -- he might have an appointment to bring the need to the king. Non-citizens had no standing whatsoever. No rights. No access. They could write their requests and hope that the king would consider them, but he had no obligation to do so. They were not citizens.

We Christians have a special access to God not granted to others. Yes, they can pray and hope, but they have no privilege. Their prayers are based on hope and desperation. Our prayers are offered "through faith in him" and spring from "freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:12).

In our desire to be inclusive and believe in the Brotherhood of Man, we need to realize that Jesus taught an exclusive relationship with God through His Spirit, which results in answered prayer and spiritual power (John 14:12-14; 15:7). The world resists the exclusivity of Christianity and resents it, but it is clearly taught in the Scripture. In the midst of the now-universal scope of the gospel, people still need to embrace Christ and the gospel with faith to be able to come to God.

Q24. (Ephesians 2:17) What does it mean to have "access to the Father"? In what way does the Holy Spirit facilitate this access? In what way does Jesus enable this access?

Made One in Christ (Ephesians 2:18-22)

"18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:18-22)

In contrast to our old place outside of God's blessing and privilege, we now have been given wonderful blessings:

  • Access to the Father by the Spirit through Christ (a Trinitarian concept)
  • Citizenship with God's people
  • Family membership in God's household

Notice that our privileges are with God's people, not instead of God's people. All who put their faith in Christ, Jews and Gentiles, are part of the same people of God now.

A Dwelling Place for God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)

"And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22)

The final part of this passage contains a play on words in Greek. Verse 19b says we are members of God's house (oikos). Both in Greek and in English, the word "house" can mean both "dwelling place" as well as "household." In verse 19, Paul uses the word first with the idea of "household," "fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household," but then consciously shifts over in verses 20-22 to a related word, "dwelling place".87 The dwelling place in this passage is not the individual heart of the believer, but the congregation itself. Our churches are to be "a dwelling place for God" -- an awesome thought!

God's "house" is also a "holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:21) which is spiritual and metaphorical, rather than physical. The apostles and prophets make up the spiritual foundation. Christ is the chief cornerstone which determines and joins together the building. We are perceived as "living stones" (1 Peter 2:4-5) which are "built together" (Ephesians 2:22a).

Notice that the theme is unity with other believers. Some people act as if they were "Lone Ranger" Christians. They isolate themselves from the other believers, don't attend church or support the ministry, and parrot the unscriptural excuse they learned from the world, "You don't have to go to church to be a Christian." As I read Ephesians and the rest of the New Testament, not loving our brothers and sisters enough to get together with them is a mark of non-Christianity. The Apostle John wrote:

"Dear friends, let us love one another [i.e. other Christian believers], for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

The Bible knows no "Lone Ranger" Christians, only believers in fellowship with the other believers in their locality. Yes, there is a place and time for spiritual retreat. Jesus and others drew away for a time of spiritual solitude, fasting, and prayer, but then came back again to be with God's people. But being a perpetual hermit is an aberration, not our command. Our sense of identity according to Ephesians is as part of God's people, part of God's household, stones "being built together" to become a temple.

The Church as a Temple (Ephesians 2:21-22)

"21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:21-22)

Several times in the New Testament people are spoken of as being a "temple." In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says clearly, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" Clearly, he is speaking of the individual Christian here.

But in each of the other instances, the reference to the "temple" is to the church body collectively. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 warns against destroying the church which has been built by a builder such as Apollos or Paul. 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 is spoken to a people among whom God lives and walks. "We are the temple" rather than "You (singular) are a temple." In 1 Peter 2:4-5 believers are likened to "living stones," which are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices. The context here is clearly of a temple, now with spiritual sacrifices rather than physical ones.

Q25. (Ephesians 2:22) What is the significance that your congregation was made to be "a dwelling place for God in the Spirit"? What hinders that from being fully experienced? What can you do to help that become more fully experienced and appreciated?

Spiritual Masonry

Verses 21 and 22 use three interesting words which describe Jesus' spiritual masonry:

  • "Joined together" (NIV, ESV, NRSV) and "fitly framed together" (KJV) speaks of laying one piece upon another.88 Have you ever laid a brick or stone walkway? Or built a block wall? Then you know how important and exacting the joinery process is.
  • "Grows into" (NRSV, ESV, KJV), "rises to become" (NIV) speaks of the building gradually rising, becoming greater and greater as it is formed."89
  • "Built together" suggests "build up (together) or construct various parts."90

Ephesians 2:22 has always meant a great deal to me. It says that when Christians gather, we become together a "dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (RSV). There is a special sense in which God meets with his people when they are gathered in his name.

Jesus spoke of the spiritual power of the gathered church:

"For where two or three come together in my name,
there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

It's not that he isn't with us as individuals, but that in a very special sense he meets with us when we gather to honor him with brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe that God wishes to fill our gatherings with his presence as powerfully as he did the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and the temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) when the Shekinah glory of God became so great that the priests could not perform their ministry because of the greatness of the glory of God in his house.

We have been called to be building blocks in a temple that becomes "the dwelling place of God in the Spirit." From alienation and separateness, we have truly been brought inside God's house to become part of its very structure, to see him in his glory. What a wonderful and high calling!


Lord Jesus, bring each of us into the unity for which you lived and died and now intercede before the throne of God. Amen.

Key Verses

"For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:18)

"And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22)

3.2. The Mystery, Mission, and Ministry of the Church (Ephesians 3:1-13)

Audio (28:57)

Detail of St. Paul, Catacombs of Praetextatus, fresco, fourth century.
Detail of St. Paul, Catacombs of Praetextatus, fresco, fourth century.

Have you ever had a secret that you didn't tell anyone? A secret that explains your otherwise incomprehensible actions? Perhaps you have. But our secrets tend to be shameful. The secret we're going to study in this passage is anything but that. It is a wonderful secret plan that God has had since the beginning of time and is now ready to reveal. Are you ready?

Exercise: Paul is explaining in the passage the mystery that has surrounded the Gospel. To begin to understand it:

First, Circle the keywords words verses 1-9.

  • "Mystery"
  • "Grace"

The third word, "administration" (NIV) is translated variously:

  • "Administration" (NIV)
  • "Stewardship" and "plan" (ESV)
  • "Commission" and "plan" (NRSV)
  • "Dispensation" (KJV)

Second: Then Connect the like words with each other with lines to see relationships.

Paul the Prisoner (Ephesians 3:1)

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

Paul refers back ("for this reason") to what he has just said in Ephesians 2:11-22, that God has broken down the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles, making Gentile Christians one with God's people, full citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Revelation of the Mystery to Paul and the Apostles (Ephesians 3:2-5)

We in the twenty-first century take it for granted that Gentile Christians are full citizens, but for a Jewish Pharisee in the first century, this would have been considered impossible -- indeed a mystery.

"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation...." (Ephesians 3:2-3a)

One obvious keyword in this passage is "mystery." What does it mean? What did it mean to Paul and the recipients of this letter? We see the Greek word mystērion in Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-4, 9; 5:32; and 6:19. "Mystery" in Paul's writings is not a puzzle to be solved by detectives studying the clues, such as in a mystery novel. Among the abundant Greco-Roman mystery religions it meant a secret rite or teaching that only the initiated could know. But Paul uses it quite differently, as "the unmanifested or private counsel of God, (God's) secret," which are hidden from human reason and ingenuity, and can only be known by revelation.91 Paul is talking about a secret, hidden for the ages and only now ready to be revealed.

Before we get into the text, let's consider another word that is used twice in our passage, in verses 2 and 9. Its translation can disguise the fact that it is the same word: administration (NIV), dispensation (KJV), stewardship, plan (NRSV), commission, plan (NASB).

The basic meaning of oikonomia (from which we get our word "economy") is "responsibility of management, management of a household, work of an estate manager," then more generally, "direction, office." Paul applies the idea of administration to the office of an apostle, "You have heard about the administration of grace that was given to me for you...." (Ephesians 3:2, NIV) The word meaning begins with the planning, administrative process, but then moves to the plan itself. It can mean, "the state of being arranged, arrangement, order, plan," and in this sense is used in 3:9, "the plan of the mystery hidden for ages...." (NRSV, ESV).92

Now let's look at the passage again:

"2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight93 into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known94 to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 3:2-5)

Paul tells us that he has been particularly chosen for this mission of revealing God's hidden secret. He makes it a point that it isn't his idea or his discovery or something he figured out, but that "the mystery was made known to me by revelation95" (Ephesians 3:3), that is, that God revealed it to him.

Revelation to Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 2:5)

The means of this revelation is "by the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). The direct recipients of this revelation are God's "holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:5).

Christianity is not a religion that men figured out or inferred. It comes to us by revelation, that is, God revealed it directly to us through inspired writers of Scripture -- "holy apostles and prophets."

The Gospels are Jesus' words and actions conveyed to us by apostolic teaching -- that is, from the message and with the authority of Christ's appointed apostles.96 The Old Testament is Scripture because it is a revelation of God through his prophets. The New Testament epistles are Scripture because they are the teaching of the apostles, who were given by Christ the specific task of establishing the church. Scripture is a product of the Holy Spirit's revelation through apostles and prophets. Paul wrote to Timothy:

"... From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed[97] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

This quality of being "God-breathed" (NIV), "inspired" (NRSV, NASB), "breathed out by God" (ESV), or "given by inspiration" (KJV) is what makes Scripture authoritative for us in all matters of faith and practice. The sacred teachings of the "holy prophets and apostles" should inform our traditions rather than be subject to our traditions. Where our traditions are in conflict with the spirit and teaching of the Word -- as has been the case many times in history -- then our traditions need to change, not the other way around. We are an apostolic church only when we follow the teachings of Christ as given through his appointed apostles without dilution or compromise.

Having said that, Paul's epistles clearly teach us to expect and honor the gift of prophecy98 and the ministry prophets -- those whose primary spiritual gift is prophecy.99 In Ephesians 4:11 Paul sees the ministry of prophet as a key one in the church. The post-apostolic church also recognized the gift and ministry of prophet.100

As much as we are to honor the gift of prophecy, however, the accredited teaching of Christ and his apostles as given in the New Testament Scriptures is our authority and the standard by which any other revelation or prophecy -- real or supposed -- is to be measured and judged.

Q26. (Ephesians 3:2-5) Why is God's revelation to "his holy apostles and prophets" our authority for faith and practice? What is the danger of minimizing or straying from that revelation? What is the danger of superseding that revelation? What is the danger of denying that God reveals himself to us and to his church today?

What Is the Mystery? (Ephesians 3:6)

Okay, but what is this mystery Paul is talking about?

"This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3:6)

That's it! Gentiles are equally the people of God with God's chosen people, the Jews. That may not be a revelation to you, but it certainly was an eye-opener to the early Jewish believers -- and to the Gentile believers, who were sometimes made to feel like second-class citizens around Jewish Christians.

The Gentiles are described in relationship to Israel with three compound words, starting with the preposition syn-, "together with."

  1. "Heirs together" (sygklēronomos), "inheriting together with, co-heir."101
  2. "Members together of one body" (syssōmos), "belonging to the same body,"102 used only here in the New Testament.
  3. "Sharers together" (symmetoxos), "having a share with another in some possession or relationship, sharing with,"103 here and in Ephesians 5:7.

Lest we Gentiles get big-headed, in Romans 9-11 Paul makes the point that we are not to look with enmity on the Jews, even the unbelieving Jews.

"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved..." (Romans 10:25-26a).

Anti-Semitism is evil -- and dangerous -- since unbelieving Jews "are loved on account of the patriarchs" (Romans 11:28). If we despise and persecute unbelieving Jews who are loved by God, we make ourselves enemies of God's purposes.

Q27. (Ephesians 3:6) Just what is the "mystery" that Paul is talking about? Why was it important to the Gentile Christians in Paul's day?

The Apostolic Servant of This Gospel (Ephesians 3:7-9)

Now Paul talks about the immense sense of privilege that he feels as the primary conveyor of this mystery:

"7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things." (Ephesians 3:7-9)

Paul, as you know, was not one of the original twelve apostles. Rather, he was an arch enemy of the fledgling church, hunting down Christians so they might be tried and put to death for apostasy to Judaism. It was on just such a "search and destroy" expedition that Christ appeared to Paul and gave him a particular commission to the Gentiles:

"I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:16b-18; see also Acts 9:15)

That "place among those" is the mystery that God would gradually make known to Paul, that Gentile believers had every bit as much a place among God's saints as did Jewish believers.

Though Jesus personally appointed Paul to be an apostle,104 he is humbled that he would be chosen. Notice how he describes his ministry:

  • "Servant" (diakanos, from which we get our English word "deacon") refers to an "agent, courier, one who serves as an intermediary in a transaction."105 A servant only has the power of the one whom he serves, not because of anything in himself.
  • "Gift" (dōrea) is a "gift, bounty, that which is given or transferred freely by one person to another," carrying the idea of "without payment, gratis."106 Ministry is a gift, not something we earn or deserve. It is not an office to lord over others, but a gift to them from God.
  • "Less than the least" pertains to "being the lowest in status, least."107 Paul is quite conscious that he had "persecuted of the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9), "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13). He told Timothy, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the worst" (1 Timothy 1:15). Of anybody, he is the last to deserve such an honor. He never forgot who he had been, but he did not wallow in it. Rather, he humbly accepted his task and moved on to God's will for his life.
  • "Preach" (euangelizō) means literally, "to bring good news, announce good news." Here probably, "proclaim the divine message of salvation, proclaim the gospel, preach."108 Paul is a bringer-of-Good-News whether that news is accepted or not.

Q28. (Ephesians 3:7-9) Why is Paul so careful to be humble about his call and apostleship? How can his example help us remain as humble servants?

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)

Meditate for a moment on the phrase "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (verse 8).

"Unsearchable" (NIV, KJV) or "boundless" (NRSV) means "inscrutable, incomprehensible, fathomless" (as in Romans 11:33).109 We can't figure God out with our minds and our logical deduction. That's why sometimes theology can become merely speculative the farther it gets away from what the Scripture reveals. The Scripture doesn't tell us everything we wonder about. Thus, we need to be careful not to speak dogmatically where the Scripture does not clearly teach something.

Christ's revelation is beyond what we can understand, but it is also rich. "Riches" here has the basic meaning, "abundance of many earthly goods, wealth." Applied to Christ it means "a wealth, abundance."110 Paul mentions Christ's riches often.111 If we have no concept of Christ's riches, we don't desire them or him. But Paul had caught a glimpse of a different kind of riches than worldly wealth, was captivated by it, and bids us come to explore Christ's riches for ourselves.

The Church Is to Make It Known (Ephesians 3:10-11)

Now Paul comes to the Church's place in all this:

"10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold112 wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:10-11)

The church is the agent of making known God's wisdom.113 But our audience in declaring the Gospel is not only humans who are lost. But it is also the evil spiritual powers114 that have usurped God's authority here on earth. Perhaps we are to remind them of Christ's victory over them. But Paul is clearly saying that the Church's proclamation of the Gospel is not merely local and temporal, but cosmic in its importance. 

Approaching God through Faith (Ephesians 3:12-13)

Paul has been assuring the Gentile Christians of their full status and full citizenship in the Kingdom of God. On the basis of that status, he encourages them to draw near to God:

"12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory." (Ephesians 3:12-13)

Verse 12 contains three words which describe the freedom and wonder of our relationship with the Almighty God through faith:

  1. "Access" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "approach" (NIV) is means "a way of approach, access to someone"115 that we discussed in Ephesians 2:18. We "commoners" have access to come before the throne the King of the Universe with our petitions and our hearts of praise. Remarkable!
  2. "Boldness" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) or "confidence" (NIV)refers to "a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank."116 We are not to be timid before God.
  3. "Confidence" describes "a state of certainty about something to the extent of placing reliance on, trust, confidence."117 We can be confident of his favor and love. He delights in us. Like a father who enjoys his children, your Heavenly Father delights in you and longs to spend more time with you.

The writer of Hebrews describes this glorious access to God:

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Q29. What does Ephesians 3:12 teach us about the manner of approaching God? What happens if we try to pray without these qualities?

Paul the persecutor was surprised by the grace of God. Gentile Christians are surprised to find that it has been God's plan all along to include them as full citizens in the Kingdom of God. And you and I are surprised -- again and again -- by the mercy and love of God. Perhaps the words that express our emotions best are "delight" and "joy" in God. But the most surprising thing of all is to realize that our delight and joy in God are a mirror of his love and joy in us, expressed by one of his holy prophets thousands of years ago:

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thank you, Lord, for your love.


Yes, Lord, we give you thanks for your amazing grace and the incredible access we have to you through Jesus and your Spirit. Give us the wisdom to enjoy You so much in this life that we are longing for the next. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (Ephesians 3:12)

3.3. Paul's Prayer and Doxology (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Audio (26:31)

Catacomb in of Via Anapo, Rome. Orans or orante fresco, early Christian, mid-third century. This posture of arms lifted in prayer is found in thousands of figures in the catacombs.
Catacomb in of Via Anapo, Rome. Orans or orante fresco, early Christian, mid-third century. This posture of arms lifted in prayer is found in thousands of figures in the catacombs.

Sometimes our prayers to God are so mundane. Bless mom and Aunt Emma. Help me with my health. Bless our pastor. Amen. But prayer can be so much richer when we include our imagination that visualizes what we're praying. Let's learn how to pray from Paul's wonderful prayer in this Ephesians 3:14-21.

It doesn't do justice to this prayer to oversimplify it. However, before we delve into the details, it may help to see the bare bones of Paul's prayer. Paul's Greek is somewhat confusing, so different scholars may construe it a bit differently.118 Here's my take on it.

Outline of the Prayer

The prayer seems to ask God for two major outcomes:

For inner strengthening by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16)
that is
, Christ dwells in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17a)
that is, you have been rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17b)

so that

1. You might comprehend fully the extent of God's mind-blowing love
    and that
2. You might be filled with the fullness of God.

Now let's meditate on some of the details of Paul's prayer.

Kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14-15)

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." (Ephesians 3:14-15)

Paul begins with the words, "for this reason"119 since he is referring back to the Gentile Christians' destiny to reveal God's plan to spiritual beings in heavenly places. Paul probably mentions his kneeling posture to emphasize his earnestness in this prayer (also Acts 20:36; 21:5).

God's Resources (Ephesians 3:16)

Now he shares the content of his prayer.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being...." (Ephesians 3:16)

Notice the basis of Paul's confidence in God's ability to answer prayer abundantly -- God's "glorious riches" -- fabulous wealth, unfathomable resources, unimaginable riches and the power they create. You can see this theme in several of Paul's letters.120 So often we pray weak, flabby requests based on our own lack of faith, prayers that arise from our own spiritual poverty. Rather, we must learn to pray based on our belief in God's inexhaustible supply. When we can see God's riches in our mind's eye, our faith can rise to the occasion without worrying how God will ever be able to answer our prayer.

Strengthening the Inner Being (Ephesians 3:16b-17a)

To that end of strengthening our faith, Paul prays that God will

"... Strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being." (Ephesians 3:16)

He uses two "power words" in this verse. The verb "strengthen," meaning "become strong,"121 is used right next to the noun dynamis (from which we get English "dynamite"), "power, might, strength, force, capability."122 Together, the words have the effect of accentuating the degree of God's strength and power, "become mightily empowered."123

  • The means by which this spiritual empowerment comes about is "though his Spirit."
  • The location of this strengthening is the "inner being" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) or "inner man" (KJV).124

Prior to salvation, our human spirit is spiritually dead, cut off from God. When the new birth occurs, the Holy Spirit is somehow fused with our human spirit making us alive to God, vitally connected to Him through the Spirit, and infused with life of an eternal quality and magnitude (see Romans 8:1-11).

Look at our passage again:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Ephesians 3:16b-17a)

Paul now prays a parallel, explanatory statement -- "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Ephesians 3:17a). Heart (kardia, from which we get our word "cardiac") is commonly used in the New Testament to refer to the "center and source of the whole inner life, with its thinking, feeling, and volition."125 The word "dwell," means to "live, dwell, reside, settle (down),"126 referring to "permanent habitation as opposed to sojourning, pitching a tent or an occasional visit."127

The Spirit's inner strengthening is the same thing as Christ dwelling in their hearts; these are two parallel ways of expressing the same truth.128

Q30. (Ephesians 3:16-17) Do the concepts of (a) strengthened by the Spirit in the inner person, and (b) Christ dwelling in our hearts say the same thing, or are they separate and distinct ideas? What do you think?

The Process of Sanctification

Does this mean that Paul is praying for the salvation of the Ephesian saints? No. He is assured of their salvation (Ephesians 1:15). I think he is praying that the Spirit might permeate their whole being, through and through. It is possible to be a "carnal Christian" (KJV, 1 Corinthians 3:1) and still be a genuine Christian. But the Spirit has a long way to go to form Christ in our character and train us to follow him. Paul is praying for more, that the work of Christ in us might continue and deepen and grow in us.

Robert Boyd Munger wrote a short booklet entitled My Heart, Christ's Home (1951) that has been widely reprinted. In it he compares the heart to a home. When Christ comes into the heart, he is invited into the living room as an honored guest, asked to be seated, and encouraged to feel right at home. But when Christ starts poking into closets and other rooms in the house, it is obvious that the host isn't prepared for him. These rooms are off-limits to the influence of Christianity. But you asked me to live here, didn't you? asks Christ.

All of us have sins and selfishness hidden even to ourselves. As Christ's Spirit permeates our entire being, we gradually become more and more surrendered to him, every closet and room, every drawer and chest -- and we become more and more filled with a knowledge of him, that is, we come to know him better and better.

Theologically this is called "sanctification." It is a process. Paul is praying here that the process might be accelerated in the Ephesian believers. For without sanctification, our view of God and our faith is so thin and diminished and straitjacketed that we can't see God in his fullness (Hebrews 12:14), nor can we be truly filled with the Spirit.

Spirit-filled Christians

Certain groups of Christians refer to themselves as "Spirit-filled." By this they mean, perhaps, that they have had a Pentecostal experience. Praise God for a Pentecost-like experience of the God of the supernatural! I know first-hand how wonderful and faith-expanding that can be. But, dear friends, "Spirit-filled" is a deceptive and somewhat prideful jargon phrase. By definition all Christians have the Spirit (Romans 8:9b). Remaining filled with the Spirit requires a day-by-day surrender to God, a dealing with and giving up of sins that the Spirit reveals, and being stretched by God to open more and to receive more of his infinite Being. Dear friends, may we all be truly "Spirit-filled," not as a mark of distinction from lesser Christians, but as a description of the Spirit's gracious and present work in our lives. To be Spirit-filled is to be humbled, not proud.

Rooted and Grounded in Love (Ephesians 3:17b)

Paul has described a Christian's relationship to God by

  1. being empowered by the Spirit in the inner person (verse 16b).
  2. by Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith (verse 17a).

Now he adds a third,

  1. by being rooted and grounded in love (verse 17b).

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17b-18)

Paul refers to their present level of understanding as being rooted and grounded in love. The first verb uses the analogy of a plant being rooted in the ground.

The second verb, translated "grounded" (ESV, NIV, KJV), "established" (NRSV), means "to provide a base for some material object or structure, lay a foundation," then figuratively, "to provide a secure basis for the inner life and its resources, establish, strengthen."129

Remember, we're driving towards one of Paul's petitions in verses 18-19a that we will fully comprehend Christ's love. Paul has recently heard of the Ephesians' "love for all the saints" (Ephesians 1:15b), so they are not without love. But that practice of love must be deepened. He is asking in verse 17b that the Ephesians might be "rooted and grounded in love," that is, that love might more and more underlie their way of life. Only if we know the experience of loving hard-to-love people, can we truly comprehend the ins and outs of Christ's immense love. (Note: If you are avoiding church to avoid some hard-to-love people, perhaps you are seriously short-circuiting God's plan for your spiritual growth!)

Outcome 1: To Comprehend the Love that Surpasses Knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19a)

Having prayed for the Ephesians' practice of love, Paul gets to the first outcome he seeks for the Ephesians:

"And I pray that you ... may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,130 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...." (Ephesians 3:17b-19a)

He prays for them "power to grasp," a phrase with two verbs. The first verb means, "to be fully capable of doing or experiencing something, be strong enough."131 The second verb involves the imagery of chasing someone and seizing him, then used figuratively, to "understand, grasp, learn about something through the process of inquiry."132

Paul prays for the power to grasp, the ability to comprehend the incomprehensible. How can Christ love those who are his enemies? How can God send his only begotten Son into a den of serpents to redeem them? To the natural mind it doesn't make sense. It is truly mind-blowing. Paul acknowledges this with the phrase "love that surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19a). "Surpasses" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "passeth" (KJV) translate a verb that means, "to attain a degree that extraordinarily exceeds a point on a scale of extent, go beyond, surpass, outdo."133

But Paul doesn't just pray that we might "get it." He prays that we might grasp the full scope of his love -- width, length, height, and depth. Wow! Have I achieved this? I don't think so. There are many people I have trouble loving, which is an indication of how little I really comprehend the immensity of God's great love. Father, fulfill Paul's prayer in my own heart!

Q31. (Ephesians 3:18-19) What kinds of things prevent us from comprehending the far reaches of Christ's love? What happens in the way we live when we do comprehend, know, and experience this love? What would be different about your life if you could grasp this?

Outcome 2: Filled with God (Ephesians 3:19b)

Now we come to the second outcome Paul seeks for the Ephesians:

"... That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19b)

He doesn't want the believers to be half-filled, but filled completely. The term "fullness" that we saw in Ephesians 1:23 suggests "sum total, fullness, even (super)abundance."134 Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians to be filled with "all the fullness of God." Robinson comments: "No prayer that has ever been framed has uttered a bolder request."135

What does it mean to be "filled with all the fullness of God"? Going back to Bob Munger's analogy of Christ having access to all the "rooms" in our "house," it means unlocking some doors and cabinets that have been closed to Christ's influence, cleaning them out, and opening them to the light of day.

Each of us has suffered wounds. In many of us, these hurts have not healed, but underneath the scab are festering sores of bitterness. If that is the case, we must go back, open up the wound, dress it with forgiveness, and cover it this time with God's grace that can cover a multitude of sins.

Unlocking some of those doors may require rethinking our value system that has been much too strongly influenced by our culture and realigning it with the Word of God. It may involve a change in the way we treat people. Perhaps making amends and asking forgiveness.

Dear friends, if you and I want to be filled with all of the fullness of God, that requires Christ's access to and welcome in every area of our lives, no matter how much pain his entrance into these private places might entail. He must have all of us if he is to fill us completely.

Many decades ago, Episcopalian evangelist Dr. Sam Shoemaker advised people, "Give all you know of yourself to all you know of God." That requires our increased knowledge to be matched by a renewed dedication to God. To engage in Bible study to expand the mental understanding without a commensurate willingness to surrender our lives to conform to that knowledge is both hypocritical and dangerous (James 3:1). Bible study requires engaging both mind and heart in a dual quest to know God more fully and be possessed by him more completely.

What a profound prayer Paul prays for the Ephesians -- and for us -- "... that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19b)

Q32. (Ephesians 3:16, 19) What does it mean to be "filled with the Spirit" (verse 16)? Is this a one-time experience or a continual reality? What can we do to be filled with the Spirit? Is it different or the same as being "filled with all the fullness of God" (verse 19)?

Doxology: God's Ability to Answer Abundantly (Ephesians 3:20)

Now Paul concludes his prayer -- and indeed, the first half of the Letter to the Ephesians -- with a doxology, literally a "word of glory." "Doxologies are short, spontaneous ascriptions of praise to God,"136 usually having three parts: (1) the One to whom glory is given, (2) the ascription of "glory," and, in Paul's doxologies, (3) the expression "forever and ever." The New Testament includes a number of other doxologies that are worth studying.137 Let's examine this one: 

"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...." (Ephesians 3:20)

Paul uses two words to describe the degree of God's ability to answer prayer:

"Far more" (ESV, NRSV), "more" (NIV), and "above" (KJV) translate the first abundance word, hyper, "over and above, beyond, more than ... a marker of a degree beyond that of a compared scale of extent, in the sense of excelling, surpassing."138

"Exceeding abundantly" (KJV), "abundantly" (ESV, NRSV) and "immeasurably" (NIV) means, "quite beyond all measure," the highest form of comparison imaginable.139 Barth translates the phrase, "to outdo superabundantly."140

Notice that the limiting factor is not what we can ask or imagine. The limiting factor is the power that is working in us. Whose power? God's power! Remember in Paul's first prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:19), the eyes of our hearts were to be opened to "his incomparably great power."

There is no limit to God's power. Our ability to comprehend God's power and desire to bless is surely limited, thus limiting the scope of our prayers. But God's power is infinite, limitless. As the hymn "He Giveth More Grace" puts it:

"His love hath no limit,
His grace hath no measure,
His power hath no boundary known unto man.
But out of his infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."141

Notice that this immeasurable power is "his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). Paul glorifies God that this incredible power works in and through142 us believers. How can we feel so powerless when the unbounded power of God is ready to work through us? The great saints of history could work miracles because their faith was unfettered by the unbelief fostered by a tradition of "excuse-ourselves" theology. Can you see why Paul prays that the "eyes of our hearts" be opened? When the blinders come off, the power can be released. 

Doxology: Glory in the Church (Ephesians 3:21)

Having described God's infinite power and capability that exceeds our ability to pray, Paul breaks into full doxology, a full word of glory:

"To him be glory in143 the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:21)

In this doxology there are two sources of glory accruing to God:

  1. from the Church and
  2. from Christ Jesus.

Of course, God receives glory when Christ is seen. But Paul's deep conviction is that the Church -- that is, your congregation and mine, and hundreds of thousands more throughout the world -- yes, the Church is to bring glory and credit to God. This is a startling concept, given the sad truth that the Church has accrued through its history more than its share of black marks and sordid deeds. But it has also seen times of courage and power during persecution and life-giving aid when times were dark. Jesus said, "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

In fact, in just the last 50 to 100 years, the Church has brought great glory to God. Think, for example, of the house church movement in China that is transforming a nation. Think of Africa becoming more than half Christian in the twentieth century. Recall South Korea and Brazil and many other places. When the final story is told and the hidden deeds exposed for all to see, the glory of God will be seen in his Church.

Sometimes we see the faults so clearly that we can't see the glory. But we cannot be satisfied with where we are. Does our congregation bring glory and credit to God? Is our worship focused on what pleases us or what pleases him? Are the leaders of the church being exalted or is Christ? Do the good works of the church point to the love of Christ or are they self-serving? We have a long way to go, but our purpose is clear -- to bring glory and credit and honor to our God and King. And so we join our voices with Paul's doxology and fervent wish:

"To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen."

Q33. (Ephesians 3:21) What might be different in your own congregation if bringing glory to God were considered the very most important function of the church? What would be different in your life if bringing God glory was your most important job, bar none?


Father, open our eyes, expand our understanding, help us to comprehend the immensity of both your love and your power. Break us open from our narrow, blindered views of You so that we might see You as you are in all Your glory. And whatever changes in us that this will require, we offer you both our permission and our humble desire that you might complete your full work in our hearts and lives. Fill us afresh with all the fullness of God. In Jesus' name and for his sake, we pray. Amen.

Key Verse

"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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)


Section 3.1

[81] G. Lloyd Carr, shālēm, TWOT #2401a.

[82] Lyō, BDAG 607, 3.

[83] Katargeō, BDAG 525, 2 from kata, "separation, dissolution," + argeō, "to be idle, inactive."

[84] Palaioō, "to make old, to declare to be obsolete" (H. Seesemann, palai, ktl., TDNT 5:717-720).

[85] Apokatallassō means "to change, to exchange, to reconcile" (F. Büchsel, alassō, ktl., TDNT 1:251-259; BDAG 112).

[86] Prosagōgē, "way of approach, access" (BDAG 876).

[87] Katoikētērion, "dwelling place" (BDAG 534-535) from katoikeō, "to make something a habitation or dwelling by being there, inhabit" (BDAG 434). Also O. Michel, oikos, ktl., TDNT 5:119-159.

[88] Synharmologeō, "fit or join together" (BDAG 986). This verb is another compound word, with syn, "together" + harmologos, "binding, joining;" from harmos, "a joint," and legō, "to lay with."

[89] Greek auxanō/auxō, "become greater, grow, increase (BDAG 151).

[90] Synoikodomeō, BDAG 974, from syn, "together, with" + oikodomeō, "to build a house, erect a building."

Section 3.2

[91] Mystērion, BDAG 661-662.

[92] Oikonomia, BDAG 697-698.

[93] "Insight" (NIV), "knowledge" (KJV), and "understanding" (NRSV) is the Greek noun synesis, "the faculty of comprehension, intelligence, acuteness, shrewdness" (BDAG 970).

[94] "Made known" in verses 5 and 10 is the verb gnōrizō, "to cause information to become known, make known, reveal" (BDAG 203).

[95] "Revelation" is the noun apokalypsis, "making fully known, revelation, disclosure" (BDAG 112).

[96] Mark's Gospel is based on Peter's preaching, according to Irenaeus (c. 175 AD). Luke based his Gospel largely on the same record that Mark used, supplemented by reports from other eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). Matthew and John have long been held to been recorded by these apostles themselves.

[97] Theopneustos is a compound word from theos, God + pneō, to blow, breathe. The word means "inspired by God, God-breathed" (BDAG 449-450; E. Schweizer, pneuma, ktl., TDNT 6:389-455).

[98] 1 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11; 13:2; 14:1-33; 1 Thessalonians 5:20; 1 Timothy 4:14

[99] 1 Corinthians 12:29; Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9-10; Romans 12:6

[100] Didache 10.7; 11:3, 7-12. For more on the gift of prophecy, see my articles on "Understanding the Gift of Prophecy" (www.joyfulheart.com/scholar).

[101] Sygklēronomos, BDAG 952. See also Hebrews 11:9; 1 Peter 3:7; and Romans 8:17.

[102] Syssōmos, BDAG 978.

[103] Symmetoxos, BDAG 958.

[104] 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; etc.

[105] Diakanos, BDAG 230-231.

[106] Dōrea, BDAG 266.

[107] Elachistos, BDAG 314.

[108] Euangelizō, BDAG 402.

[109] Anexichniasto, a compound word from a-, "not" + exichniazō, "to track out," literally, "not to be tracked out." (BDAG 77).

[110] Ploutos, BDAG 832.

[111] Ephesians 3:16; 1:7; 2:7; Romans 11:33; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:17; 2:2-3.

[112] "Manifold" (NIV, KJV) is polypoikilos, "pertaining to being diversified, (very) many-sided."[BDAG 847] It has the idea of "many-faceted." NRSV translates it as the wisdom of God "in its rich variety."

[113] Paul uses the preposition dia, a marker of instrumentality or circumstance whereby something is accomplished or effected, "by, via, through" (BDAG 224).

[114] These "rulers and authorities" (NIV, NRSV; "principalities and powers," KJV) are apparently spiritual enemies of God in spiritual realms, perhaps classes of fallen angels. See also 1:21; Romans 8:38; Colossians 1:16; 1 Peter 3:22.

[115] Prosagōgē, BDAG 876.

[116] Parrēsia, BDAG 781.

[117] Pepoithēsis, BDAG 796.

Section 3.3

[118] I myself construed this prayer a bit differently in a chapter of Great Prayers of the Bible. Paul isn't speaking in precise grammatical and logical propositions, but pouring out an effusive prayer to God followed by a praise. http://www.jesuswalk.com/greatprayers/11_paul_ephesians.htm

[119] Charin, "for the sake of, on behalf of, on account of." Our verse could be construed as either indicating the goal or indicating the reason (BDAG 1078).

[120] Ephesians 1:7,18; 2:7; 3:8; Romans 9:23; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27.

[121] Krataioō, BDAG 564.

[122] Dynamis, BDAG 262.

[123] Literal rendering in The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, by Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort.

[124] The phrase consists of two words: anthropos, the generic noun for man, mankind, humankind, with no reflection of male gender, and the adverb of place esō, "inside, within." (BDAG 398). See similar expressions in Romans 7:22 and 2 Corinthians 4:16, and the idea expressed in Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:29; and 1 Peter 3:4.

[125] Kardia, BDAG 508-509.

[126] Katoikeō, BDAG 534.

[127] Barth, p. 370.

[128] So Bruce, pp. 326-327; Foulkes, p. 111; Barth, pp. 369-370.

[129] Themelioō, BDAG 449.

[130] Is Paul praying that they are able to understand Christ's love for them or that they themselves would be able to love others? Both probably. Grammatically, the term "love of Christ" can be taken as either subjective genitive or objective genitive. But no doubt it begins with understanding Christ's love for us and grows from there.

[131] Exischuō, BDAG 350.

[132] Katalambanō, BDAG 520.

[133] Hyperballō, BDAG 1032.

[134] Plērōma, BDAG 829.

[135] Joseph Armitage Robinson, St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (London, 1964), cited by Foulkes, p. 114. In verse 19, Barth renders the phrase, "Filled with all the fullness of God," as "May you become so perfect as to attain to the full perfection of God." (Barth, Comment VI. "Head, Body, and Fullness," Ephesians 1:200-210). Barth draws on the research of G. Münderlein, "Die Erwählung durch das Pleroma -- Bemerkungen zu Kol. 1, 19," New Testament Studies 8 (1962), 264-276. Barth also comments on the meaning of plērōma in Ephesians 1:367, 374.

[136] Patrick T. O'Brien, "Benediction, Blessing, Doxology, Thanksgiving," DLP, p. 69.

[137] Romans 16:25-27; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 4:11, 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 24-25; and Revelation 1:6, to name a few.

[138] Hyper, BDAG 1030-1031,B.

[139] Hyperekterissou, BDAG 1033. This word is also used in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 and 5:13.

[140] Barth, p. 375.

[141] "He Giveth More Grace," words: Annie Johnson Flint, music: Hubert Mitchell (© 1941. Renewed 1969 Lillenas Publishing Company).

[142] The Greek preposition en here can be either (1) locative -- in the location or sphere of our persons, or (2) instrumental -- by means of us, or through our agency. In either case the idea is the same. H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Macmillan, 1927, 1955), §112. BDAG 326-330.

[143] Here again is the possibility of en being either locative or instrumental. If you take it as instrumental, "by means of," the question is: How is the church to bring glory to him? By the way we live and love. By the way we preach the greatness of Christ. By our obedience. And most of all, perhaps, by our praise. But you could also understand this phrase in a locative sense: "To him be glory in (the midst of, among) the church," where en means "in, on, at, within, among."

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