Ephesians 3



Digression on the Admission of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God  (vs. 1-13)



1 “For this cause” - The reference is not merely to the last statement or illustration, but to

the whole view of the purpose of God toward the Gentiles unfolded in ch. 2. The apodosis

does not come in till v.14, at the beginning of which this conjunctive clause is repeated.

I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles,” He introduces himself in

order to make known the feelings which were roused in his soul towards them by the

consideration of the privileges just enlarged on — especially to acquaint them with the

prayers he offered for them (see vs. 14-19), and apparently with the indirect object of

getting them to offer similar prayers for themselves. To justify this introduction of himself,

he delicately introduces the fact of his being a prisoner on their behalf. What had

brought him to Rome, what had made him appeal to Caesar, was his preaching the gospel

to the Gentiles; (fulfilling his call – Acts 26:13-18 – CY – 2010) indeed, the immediate

occasion of his arrest at Jerusalem was the suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an

Ephesian, one of themselves, into the temple (Ibid. ch. 21:29). By this allusion to the

condition into which his regard for them had brought him, he conciliates sympathetic

consideration of what is to follow.


2   “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God” - Here begins the

digression. The words, “if ye have heard,” do not denote an uncertainty, but are a

delicate reminder. Doubtless they had heard of the matter when he was at Ephesus,

and, as he remarks in v. 3, he had already written briefly on it. Grace is here used in a

more restricted sense than in ch. 1:2 — in the sense of Divine favor, honor, privilege —

the same as in v. 8, “To me... is this favor given.” - “which is given me to you-ward:”

The grace or favor meant is that whereby Paul was constituted the apostle of the Gentiles.

Deeply though he felt his being sent away from preaching to his countrymen (Acts 22:18),

he took kindly to the new sphere allotted to him, and magnified his office (Romans 11:13)


3  “How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery;” - The mystery,

as is explained afterwards (v. 6), was not the gospel itself, but its destination to the

Gentiles as much as to the Jews; although, as appears afterwards, this fullness of blessing

is really the great glory of the gospel. Mystery, that which is known only to the initiated,

does not denote here a thing obscure in its own nature, but only something that had been

concealed from view. It was only the initiated that now knew that God designed the gospel

for Gentile and Jew alike. Paul had been initiated “by revelation” — not by his own

reflecting power, not by his study of Scripture, not by communication from ether men, but

by a special communication from God (Galatians 1:12) – (“as I wrote before in few

words, - Where? In another Epistle? No; but in the earlier part of this Epistle (see chps.

1:9; 2:18). If it be said the allusions in these places to the topic in question are rather vague

and general, the apostle virtually admits it — he wrote of it “in few words;” but, as it is a

great and glorious truth, he returns to it to amplify it and place it in a brighter light.


4  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of

Christ) - Pros o}, with reference to which, i.e. to what I wrote afore: to make that more

intelligible I write on the subject more fully now, so that you shall see that your instructor

is thoroughly informed in this matter of the mystery in Christ — this once concealed but

now revealed purpose of His grace.


5  “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men,” - Though not

a new purpose, the knowledge of it is new.  Abraham, David, and the prophets, however

much they knew of Christ and the fullness of blessing in Him for all the families of the earth,

did not know the full extent of God’s grace to the Gentries — did not know that the

middle wall (v. 14) was to be wholly broken down, and all inequality removed.  This might

seem to throw some doubt on the reality of this doctrine; but it was on purpose that God

kept it secret, and those by whom He has now revealed it are worthy of all regard -

“as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;” - It is not

revealed to Paul only, although he has got the privilege of announcing it to the Gentiles, but

to the whole body of “holy apostles and prophets.” The designation, “holy apostles,”

is rare; it is used here to magnify the office, to show that those whom the Head of the

Church had set apart for Himself were fit instruments to receive so important a revelation.

“Prophets” here are undoubtedly New Testament prophets (see ch. 2:20), the

contrast being with “sons of men in other generations.”  Reference may be

made to the experience and decree of the Council of Jerusalem, guided by the

Holy Spirit  (see Acts 15:28).



6  “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs,” - heirs with the Jews of the same

inheritance (see ch. 1:11)  “and of the same body,” - (this figure is repeated

and applied in ch. 4:4, 16, 25), - “and partakers of His promise in Christ by

the gospel:” - the promise to Abraham, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of

the earth be blessed.”   (Genesis 12:3)  They do not get this blessing indirectly through

the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles; and they become fellow-heirs,

fellow-members, and fellow-partakers “in Christ Jesus,” enjoying all privileges in Him,

in a state of union and fellowship with Him.  To this state they are invited and admitted

through the gospel; by receiving the glad tidings they enter on these blessings (comp.

Romans 10:15,18). This statement of religious equality between Jews and Gentiles is

strong, clear, complete; the more remarkable that Paul himself had had so strong

Jewish prejudices; only one of dearest insight and highest courage could proclaim the

truth so emphatically; it is little wonder if many believing Jews, less enlightened and

less courageous, shrank from his statements as too strong.


7  “Whereof I was made a minister,” - did not gradually grow up to the office, but

became, at a given time and place, a minister, a dia>konov - dee-ak’-on-os – deacon,

minister, a servant -  “according to the gift of the grace of God” - The office of serving

Christ was a gift, most undeserved on Paul’s part, who had been a persecutor and injurious,

(I Timothy 1:13) but flowing from the free grace of God, His sovereign, unmerited mercy.

“given unto me by the effectual working of His power.”  This denotes the manner of

the gift; the gift itself, apostleship to the Gentiles, would have been little had it not been

accompanied with Divine power. Spiritual office without spiritual power is miserable;

but in Paul’s case there was the power as well as the office; not merely the power of working

miracles, as some have held, but besides this, the power of spiritual insight into the meaning

of Scripture — power of exposition, power of demonstration, power of persuasion (comp.

I Thessalonians 1:5; Acts 14:1; I Corinthians 4:7). Paul gratefully acknowledged that all

the power of his ministry was God’s, not his own (I Corinthians 3:6-7).


8 “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints,” - not only of apostles and prophets,

but even of all believers — a profound expression of humility, founded not only on his

persecuting career, but on his consciousness of sin, of inborn rebellion against God’s Law, of

fountains of unlawful desire in his flesh (Romans 7:18; I Timothy 1:13-15), making him feel

himself to be, in heart and essence, the chief of sinners.  The sense of sin is not usually in

proportion to the acts of outward transgression, but to the insight into the springs of evil in

one’s heart, and the true nature of sin as direct antagonism to the Holy God“is this

grace given,” - The third time in this chapter that he speaks of his office as a fruit of

grace, showing that, notwithstanding his being a prisoner on account of it, and all the perils

it involved (II Corinthians 11:24-27), he was overwhelmed with God’s unmerited goodness

in conferring it on him. It was substantially the post of a foreign missionary, with hardly one

human comfort! -  “that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches

of Christ;” -  euajggeli>sasqai, to evangelize, to proclaim good tidings. The force of the

euj is not given in “preach,” but the idea is amply conveyed by the words that follow, toi~v

e]qnesin, “to the Gentiles”.   ]Eqnov, ethnos - heathen, was almost an offensive name;

yet with that name the apostle associates the highest blessings of God. The unsearchable

riches of Christ; two attractive words, riches and unsearchable, conveying the idea of

the things that are most precious being infinitely abundant. Usually precious things are

rare; their very rarity increases their price; but here that which is most precious is also

boundless — riches of compassion and love, of merit, of sanctifying, comforting, and

transforming power, all without limit, and capable of satisfying every want, craving, and

yearning of the heart, now and evermore. The thought of His having such riches to offer

to all made him regard his office as most glorious, raised him far above the point of view

from which the world would despise it, and filled him with adoring gratitude to God for

having conferred it on him.  Concerning riches, worldly riches, there has historically

been ceaseless disappointments of most who follow after them.  The riches of God

are those that “moth and rust doth not corrupt and thieves do not break through and

steal  (Matthew 6:20)   God’s “unsearchable riches” make provision for the full

satisfaction and infinite enjoyment of every soul for ever and ever.  “They shall hunger

no more, neither thirst any more; ... for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall

feed them;”  (Revelation 7:16-17) - “He that hath the Son hath life;” – (I John 5:12) –

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be His God, and he shall be

my son.”  - (Revelation 21:7)


9 “And to make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation) of the mystery,”

Another branch of his office, and another fruit of God’s grace in conferring it. He was

not only to benefit man, but also to vindicate God. For “fellowship of the mystery ,

the Revised Version has “dispensation of the mystery,” founded on the preference of

the reading oijkonomia - oy-kon-om-ee’-ah – dispensation;  for which there is a great

preponderance of authority over koinwni>a - koy-nohn-ee’-ah; fellowship.  It was the

apostle’s function to show how this mystery had been dispensed concealed for a long time

and at last revealed – “which from the beginning of the world (ages) hath been hid in

God” -  The counsel itself was pro< tw~n aijw>nwn, before the foundation of the world; the

concealment of it ajpo> tw~n aijw>nwn, from the beginning of the ages, when there were

intelligent beings capable of understanding it — whether angels or men. Whatever the

angels may have known of the Divine plans, this feature of them was not known till

revealed to the New Testament Church -  “who created all things” - The reason

for adding this particular designation of God is not obvious; probably it is to indicate the

relation of the matter in hand to the mightiest works of God. This is no trifling matter;

it connects itself with God’s grandest operations; it has supremely glorious bearings. It

might be supposed to have relations only to one race and to one period of time; but

it has relations to “all things;” it is an integral element in God’s plan. The words,

by Jesus Christ”, are not found in a great preponderance of textual authorities –

(and not in the Greek New Testament which I have – CY – 2010)


10  To the intent” - indicative of the purpose of the remarkable arrangement or

dispensation according to which the eternal Divine purpose, which had been concealed

from the beginning of the ages, was now made known — “that now unto the

principalities and powers in the heavenly places;” - that a lesson might be

given to the unfallen angels. Their interest in the scheme of man’s redemption is 

referred to (I Peter 1:12). Even the highest powers of heaven have yet much to learn

respecting God. The dispensation of God’s grace to man is one of their lesson-books.

The angels by their great age, for they are thousands of years old, have advantages

that short-lived man does not possess for comparing the wisdom of God as

manifested in widely distant ages.  Angels have from the first moment of their being, lived

in the presence of God!  They have been contemporaries of man during all the history of

mankind, for when the earth was framed “the morning stars sang together, and all the

sons of God shouted for joy.”  (Job 38:7)   (Dr. Chalmers shows (‘Astronomical

Discourses’) how this meets the objection that so dread a sacrifice as the life of God’s Son 

could not have been made for one poor planet; in its indirect bearings we do not know what

 other orders of beings have derived most vital lessons from this manifestation of the attributes

of God. However men may scorn the salvation of Christ and all that belongs to it, the highest

 intelligences regard it with PROFOUND INTEREST!  - “might be known by the

Church the manifold wisdom of God.” Through the Church, now constituted, according’

to the revealed mystery, of Jew and Gentile, all redeemed by Christ’s blood and renewed by

His Spirit, there is exhibited to the angels the manifold wisdom of God. The precise line of

thought is this:  God from eternity, had a purpose to put Jew anti Gentile on precisely the same

footing, but concealed it for many ages, until He revealed it in the apostolic age, when He

appointed Paul His minister to announce it. The purpose of this whole arrangement was to

enlighten the principalities and powers of heaven in the manifold wisdom of God. How in His

manifold wisdom? In this way. During these preparatory ages, when God’s gracious dealings

were with the Jews only, all kinds of false religions were developing among the heathen, and

their diversified influence and effects were becoming apparent in many ways — the divergent

tendencies of men, especially in religious matters, were being developed; but in the new

turn given to things by the breaking down of the middle wall in Christ, the manifold wisdom

of God was shown in transforming many of these most diverse elements, unifying them,

building them up into a great spiritual body, into a holy, most beautiful, most symmetrical

temple. When all things seem to be flying asunder into the most diverse and antagonistic

elements, God gives a new turn, as it were, to providence, and lo! a glorious symmetrical

and harmonious structure begins to rise.


God is called “the Lord of hosts,” as marshalling the innumerable army of angels? They have

a manifoldness far beyond our conception, and yet He can dispose of them as easily as an

officer can do with a small section of an army. He calls them, as He calls the stars, by their

names; (Isaiah 40:26) - not one is overlooked, not one out of place. The manifold wisdom

of  God is also to be seen in the way in which the billions of men on the earth are DEALT

WITH IN ONE MOMENT!  The problem here has been complicated by the entrance of sin.

Manifold are the phases of sin, and manifold are the methods by which God seeks to dislodge

men out of their sin. But this manifold problem of the world of mankind is mastered by

Him more easily than the problem of a single household is mastered by us. But it is in the

Church that there is to be seen conspicuously the manifold wisdom of God.  (May we

“open our eyes and behold” – CY – 2010)  As Christ is called the Wisdom of God,

(I Corinthians 1:24) so we may expect to see in His Church a wisdom manifold as Himself.

What an element in the scheme of redemption, that the Redeemer was a Divine Being in

human nature! How justice and mercy are reconciled in His cross! How sin is forgiven

while God at the same time manifests His detestation of it! (I recommend The Wrath

of God by Arthur Pink – this web site – CY – 2010) How manifold are the ways by which

men are brought into the Church! What the final adjustment of things is to be is very much

a mystery to us, as it is doubtless to the angels. But we stand in this position that, in what

has been exhibited to us already of the manifold wisdom of God, we can look hopefully

forward to the final reconciliation.


What wisdom was requisite for the creation of the world and the ordering of all things,

from the movements of a star down to the life of a cell! (I highly recommend

“Fantastic Trip” on the internet – just type in those words in your browser –

it will give you great exposure of the wisdom of God in creating the worlds and

the things that are in it – whether through the telescope or the microscope – CY –

2010)  What wisdom is involved in the government of the world, maintaining life and

gladness, developing the latent resources of the universe, making all things work together

for good, ruling great kingdoms and individual lives in justice and mercy! But a higher

 wisdom is required for REDEMPTION!   It is more difficult to regenerate than to

create, to regain Paradise than to form it at the first.  Not only are the power and goodness

of God needed for this work, but also His wisdom. Preaching may be foolish, but the

gospel preached is the WISDOM OF GOD!   The highest intellectuality has been

exercised in working out the world’s redemption.


We are called to minister instruction to other worlds. The service is mutual; angels

are ministering spirits to men, (Hebrews 1:14) men are instructive witnesses of redemptive

wisdom to angels. Thus the lowest can help the highest. An angel can learn lessons from a

man, as a man can find instruction in an insect. (Proverbs 6:6) - Our lives, then, are linked

to other worlds. What happens to us has bearings elsewhere. This thought may help us to

face some mystery of life.  As in the case of Job, what is humanly unintelligible may be

explained when it is seen that the beings of another sphere are being instructed

through our experience.  If the highest intelligences “desire to look into” these things,

and see the manifold wisdom of God in them, (I Peter 1:12) surely we men should treat

the works of redemption with profound reverence, and regard the study of them as

worthy of our HIGHEST THOUGHT!


11 “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:”

The apostle is ever anxious that we should connect these operations, of God with the

profundity, deliberation, and awfulness of an eternal decree, and that we should thus contrast

them in our minds with many even of the most important works of man which are often

determined, on his part, by a passing event or other trivial cause. The verb in this clause is

ejpoi>hsen, which he made, and it has been debated whether it denotes the original

formation of the purpose, or the execution of it under Christ. We prefer the former. The

object of the apostle is to indicate that the purpose existed from eternity; but, besides,

the meaning of “fulfilled” or “executed” can hardly be sustained by ejpoi>hsen,. The

closing formula, “in Christ Jesus,” is perfectly applicable to the eternal formation of

the purpose; it is the constantly returning indication of the element in which the whole

scheme of grace had its beginning, its progress, and its end.


12  In whom we have boldness and access” - parjrJhsi>a - par-rhay-see’-ah; -

literally means “boldness” or “freedom of speech,” but is used here in a more ample

sense for want of restraint, ease of feeling, comfortable self-possession, in our access

to God. Contrast with Adam hiding himself among the trees of the garden, and the lost

calling on the mountains to fall on them, and the rocks to cover them.  (Revelation 6:12-17)

 The “we” in this verse includes both Jews and Gentiles. The access,” or introduction

(see ch. 2:18), is like that of the high priest into the holy of holies — we have boldness to

enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19) – “with confidence by the faith of Him.”

 The confidence of being welcomed and accepted when we go into God’s presence

springs from our faith in Him. We believe in Him as the Propitiation, as our Peace, as

the Reconciler, and we go before God with confidence. The clause, “through faith in

 Him,” influences the whole verse. And, as before, we have at the beginning of the verse,

in whom” — an expression denoting generally our union with Christ, and at the end,

through the faith of Him” — a specification of the instrument by which that union is

formed and by which it operates.


13  Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you,” - A very

delicate and touching request, that they would not be too much distressed by what he

was suffering for them (comp. Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:26). Paul knew that the

sympathy was so strong that what was suffered by him was endured sympathetically by

them. Two expressions denote that the sufferings were great: “My tribulations for

you— a word expressing intense and protracted suffering; “that ye faint not,”

or that ye do not lose heart, as if the power of evil had got the upper hand - “which is

your glory.”  That is, the character or capacity of the apostle of Jesus Christ to the

Gentiles, in which I suffer tribulation, is one of such exalted dignity as to reflect glory

on you. Take that view of my sufferings; I suffer because I hold so glorious an office,

and the glory of that office is reflected on you.



                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES ON vs. 1-13


                                    God’s Purpose as to the Gentiles.


This passage a parenthesis after v. 1 — a reference to Paul’s personal history. It contains

the explanation of his whole career, the secret of his wonderful zeal. Why was he a prisoner?

Generally, for the Gentiles. Why for them? Because the Divine purpose regarding them had

been revealed to him, and through him to the world, and the enmity of the Jews to that

purpose had brought Paul into captivity. Looking at the passage as a whole, it may show us

how Paul found compensation for his captivity in the privileges connected with his office as

apostle of the Gentiles. This compensation lay chiefly in three things:


  • The precious insight he obtained into the glory of the Divine purpose in

            reference to the Gentiles, giving him a high conception of the far-reaching

            generosity of God.


ü      There is a high intellectual pleasure in the discovery of any great truth.


ü      There is a profound emotional pleasure in discovering a truth of vast

      benefit to mankind.


ü      A still higher pleasure in receiving such a truth direct from God. This

                        truth did not involve a case of leveling down, but of leveling up.

                        Though the Jews, as a nation, were no longer to occupy a higher

                        platform than the Gentiles, yet all were to be invited to equal nearness

                        to God, and if any should reject the invitation, the blame and the loss

                        would be all their own.


  • The remarkably high qualifications given to him for his office (see v. 7) —

      great love, faith, courage, perseverance, hope; great intellectual insight; great

      spiritual power. Others got frightened (Mark, Demas, etc.); Paul went on. The

      human spirit was often depressed, but God comforted him. The thorn in the side

      was annoying, but “my grace is sufficient for thee.”  (II Corinthians 12:9)


  • The great honor and privilege of being called to so blessed a work.

            The work had a glory on earth and a glory in heaven.


ü      On earth. He preached to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

                        Paul proclaimed God’s riches of grace, and showed them to be unsearchable.

                        He not only proclaimed them, but in a sense imparted them — brought

                        them into contact with the Ephesians, so that they got the good of them,

                        through the blessing of the Holy Spirit.


ü      In Heaven. The gospel has aspects of blessing beyond this world. It

                        carries important lessons to the principalities and powers. It shows the

                        manifold wisdom of God, shows how all classes and varieties of mankind

                        are brought to God by the cross of Christ, assimilating all characters,

                        overcoming all alienations, demolishing all wails of separation, and building

                        up all together in Christ Jesus.


One Great Conclusion. In every sense the success of the gospel is very glorifying to

God; it illustrates His perfections; it glorifies His Son; it educates the very angels; and

thus it carries forward the grand purpose of God in the creation of the worlds. “To Him

be glory forever. Amen.”  (Romans 11:36)



                        Prayer for the Ephesians Spiritual Enrichment (vs. 14-21)


14  For this cause” - Seeing that the Gentiles have now equal privileges with the Jews;

seeing that by faith in Christ Gentile Christians have been brought as near to God,

and have as good a right to the good things of the covenant; — I take the

steps now to be specified for enabling them actually to possess these good

things. On the one hand, the apostle saw the believing Ephesians still

comparatively poor and needy; on the other hand, he saw all spiritual

stores provided for them: the question was how to get the one into contact

with the other. For this cause, he says, “I bow my knees unto the Father.”

An emphatic way of denoting prayer; but not incidental, occasional prayer,

inspired by some passing feeling; the attitude “bow my knees” denotes

deliberate prayer (comp. Daniel 6:10), 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. In the

A.V. it is “unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The R.V., some of

the oldest manuscripts, and most recent commentators omit the latter

words, which are supposed to have been taken from Ephesians 1:3. On

internal grounds, the omission of the words seems to yield the best sense,

for in Ephesians 2:18 our having access to “the Father” is spoken of,

and when the apostle proceeded to show how he availed himself of that

privilege, he is not likely to have used more than that expression. Further,

there is such a close connection between pate>ra - Father and patria< -

pat-ree-ah’- family  - that they are not likely to have been far separated as

the apostle used them.


15 “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” So A.V.,

but R.V. has “every family,” holding, doubtless, that the want of the article —

pa~sa patria< - pasa pat-ree-ah – whole family - not pa~sahJpatria<

requires this sense. But as in Matthew 2:3; Luke 4:13; Acts 2.36; 7:22, and

Ephesians 2:21; so here, pa~sa without the article may denote the

totality of the thing; pa~sa patria< corresponding to pa~sa oijkodomh< -

pasa oy-kod-om-ay -  building - and this seems more in accord with the

scope of the passage, for here the apostle is not distributing into groups, but

gathering into one. But what is the precise import of the statement, and for what

reason is it introduced?  The apostle recognizes all saints, whether in heaven or on

earth, as forming one family, and as the whole family derives its name from God, so

God may be expected and appealed to, to make full and corresponding provision

for the wants of its various sections. The implied appeal is not to the fact

that the family is God’s family, but to the fact, less important in itself but

really including the other, that it is named after Him. Among men, one

would be held emphatically bound to take an interest in those who are not

only his relations but bear his very name. Now, that part of the family

which is housed in heaven is gloriously provided for; the apostle proceeds

to intercede for the portion still on earth. As the whole family is named

after the same Father, is conspicuous before the eyes of all as God’s, so it

may well be expected that the more needy, feeble, exposed, and tempted

part of the family will be treated in every way worthy of its Father.


                        “Let saints on earth unite to sing

                        With those to glory gone;

                        For all the servants of our King,

                        In earth and heaven, are one.

                        “One family we dwell in Him,

                        One Church above, beneath;

                        Though now divided by the stream,

                        The narrow stream, of death.”




many mansions,” which our Savior has gone before to prepare (John 14:2) —

the holy places made without hands;” (Hebrews 9:24) -the grand metropolis

of God’s moral rule, “whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,” (Psalm

122:4) from every realm of earth, from every age of time. (Matthew 8:11;

Revelation 21:24)  There angels will mingle with saints, and interchange

experiences of the love of God. (ch. 1:10)  The fatherhood of

God is thus seen to connect different orders of beings by a new and loving

tie. Happy family, whose names are written in heaven! Happy family, whose

ranks are unbroken, whose hearts are one! Gathered home at last, to be forever

with the Lord, and forever with one another!  Compare Hebrews 12:22-25)


16  That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory. The

standard or measure of the Divine giving is brought into view.

“Riches of his glory” is a more emphatic expression than “glorious riches,”

though substantially the same in meaning. God’s standard of giving is

liberal, bountiful, overflowing. An image of the riches of His glory is seen in

the starry heavens, which proclaim at once the vast riches and surpassing

glory of God. Or in the beautiful appearance of an autumn sunset, where

the whole sky is flecked with clouds brightened into a sea of glory. In

prayer, it is both useful for ourselves and glorifying to God to recognize His

bountifulness.   To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner

man.” (a sort of spiritual robustness) The inner man is the seat of influence,

but with us it is the seat of  spiritual feebleness. Most men may contrive to order

their outward conduct suitably; but who has control of the inner man? Faith, trust,

humility, love, patience, and the like graces which belong to the inner man, are what

we are weakest in, and what we have least power to make strong is where we

most need the might of the Holy Spirit. In this very region it is sought that the

Ephesians might be strengthened with might by the Spirit. The gift of the

Spirit is available for this very purpose for all that ask Him.  (……he that

ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.”  Proverbs 16:32)


This beautiful supplication suggests several interesting points.


  • IT IS A PRAYER FOR THE SAINTS. It is not for their conversion, but

            that they might have life still more abundantly. The apostle’s desire was to

            make men eminent Christians, to quicken them in the heavenly race, to

            promote in them a growth in grace and knowledge which would contribute

            to their spiritual robustness.



            That he would grant you... to be strengthened.” All true prayer

            proceeds upon the supposition that we can expect nothing from God

            but as a free gift through Jesus Christ. There must be a sense of want

            along with a spirit of entire dependence on the Lord, so that the believer

            may realize the sweetness of the promise, “My God shall supply all

            your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” .

            (Philippians 4:19).



            might… in the inner man.” It is not a prayer for physical strength, which

            is a matter of slight moment in God’s sight, though it is often made the

            subject of foolish boasting among men; nor for intellectual strength, which

            is a much more important factor in human life; (Jeremiah 9:23-24) but for

            strength in the inner man.” This is not to be confounded with “the new man.”

            It is rather “the hidden man of the heart” (I Peter 3:4); the man “created

             after God” (ch. 4:24) in righteousness and holiness; the interior

            principle of spiritual life; the personification of our intellectual and spiritual

            life, with its impulses, its feelings, its struggles. This is the sphere, the

            direction, the destination, of the strength prayed for. It is a prayer that God

            would make us eminent in grace and goodness, that our souls may prosper

            and. be in health like our bodies, that we may be able to grapple with all

            our spiritual enemies, to resist temptation, to endure afflictions, to perform

            the duties of our Christian calling. If we have strength, we shall be able to

            run in the way of God’s commandments (Isaiah 40:31). Our physical

            strength is renewed from day to day by food and rest. So is our spiritual

            strength daily renewed by the Bread of life; and thus the apostle could say

            of himself, “I can do all things through Christ; which strengtheneth me.”

          (Colossians 4:13)



            “By the Spirit.” Here is the Fountain of spiritual energy! The Spirit

            strengthens the believer by leading him to the fullness of grace that is in

            Christ, by shedding abroad the love of God in his heart, by applying the

            promises of the gospel, by making the Scriptures sources of that “joy of the

            Lord which is our strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10) and thus causing us to go

            from strength to strength till at last we stand before God in Zion. It is easy

            to see, indeed, that the Fountain of strength is in the Spirit; for all the nine

            graces of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness,

            faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22) — are so many factors of this

            inward power. They promote the freedom and efficiency of life.


  • THE MEASURE OF THIS STRENGTH. “According to the riches of

            his glory.” The apostle asks it in no limited measures; he asks it in the

            measure of the riches of that glory which is seen in God’s blended and

            harmonious attributes. God will act up to the dignity of His infinite

            perfections. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it, saith the Lord;”

            (Psalm 81:10); Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

            (John 16:24) - There is AN INEXHAUSTIBLE SOURCE upon which

            we may draw at pleasure in the supreme exigencies of our life.



            FOR. There is happiness in strength, there is misery in weakness; there is

            efficiency in strength, there is futility in weakness.


ü      Our usefulness depends on large supplies of spiritual strength.

      If we are weak, what good can we do in the world? “Ye are the

       salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith

       shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing.”

      (Matthew 5:13)


ü      We glorify God by this fuller strength. It is not enough to have

      grace enough to carry us to heaven; we must abound in the fruits of

                        righteousness to the praise and glory of God, Let us, then, pray

                        earnestly that we may become strong in the Lord, and in the

                        power of His might,” – (ch. 6:10) –and that our inward man may

                        be renewed day by day, even though our outward man show signs

                        of weakness and decay.  (II Corinthians 4:16)




17  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” - Reversing

the usual order, the prayer begins (v. 16) by asking the blessing of the

Third Person of the Godhead; now we have a cluster of petitions

connected with the Second Person. The first of these is for the indwelling

of Christ in their hearts, as opposed to mere occasional visits or influences

from Christ; the instrument by which this blessing is attained being their

faith. Christ exercising a constant power within them, both in the active

and passive movements of the heart, giving the sense of pardon and

acceptance, molding the will, sweetening the emotions, enlightening and

confirming the conscience, purifying the whole springs and principles of

action.  This denotes permanent residence and is secured by a faith ever

looking to Him and resting on Him, opening the door, receiving Christ

in all his fullness, resting and living in Him, believing His promises, and

longing for His appearing the second time.  (Hebrews 9:28 –

that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,”   This gives stability

and force. Two images are combined to make the idea emphatic — that

of a tree and that of a building; denoting what is both the starting-point and

the support of the Christian’s life, viz. love, the love of Christ received and

enjoyed.  Then we can exhibit a loving spirit toward Him and His people! In

what sense? The love of Christ is specified afterwards (v. 19), but this may be

as a pre-eminent branch of that manifold love which bears on the Christian

life — the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the love of the brethren

to one another; and the reciprocal love evoked from the believer by the

reception of this love. Evidently it is implied that the Christian life can

begin and flourish only in such an atmosphere of love; as warm sunshine is

needed to start and advance the life of a plant, so love is needed to start

and carry on the life of the soul. Experience of Divine love is a great

quickening and propelling power. “One glance of God, a touch of His love,

will free and enlarge the heart, so that it can deny all and part with all and

make an entire renunciation of all to follow him” (Archbishop Leighton).


What is the In-Dwelling of Christ in Believers?  “That Christ may dwell

in your hearts by faith.” Whether we regard this clause of the prayer as

representing the result, or the purpose, or the source of the spiritual strength

spoken of in the previous clause, it is in very close relationship with it. Its own

meaning is perfectly clear.


  • THE INDWELLER — CHRIST. There is a threefold idea suggested by

            the term.


ü      The believer is regarded as a temple or house to be divinely

       inhabited.  It is originally a house in ruins, to be restored as a

      beautiful temple of the Lord. Judging by the analogy of restoring a

      ruined house:


Ø      the first operation is a cleansing out of the rubbish;

Ø      the second, an opening of the windows to admit the pure air

     of heaven, and a kindling of a fire on the hearth;

Ø      the third is a closing up or all the cracks or openings in the walls

      by which the wind or air finds access; and

Ø      the fourth is the furnishing of the rooms with such articles of

      convenience as our taste and our means may enable us to procure.


      Similarly, when the Lord takes up his abode in the sinner’s heart,

      the process, though not successive in point of time, includes,

                                    first, the application of the blood of Christ to “the heart sprinkled

                                     from an evil conscience;” (Hebrews 10:22) - second, the opening

                                    of the windows of the understanding to displace the tainted

                                    atmosphere of man’s thoughts, and the kindling of the fire of love

                                    Divine in the heart; third, the watchful closing up of those avenues

                                    in the soul through which sin so easily finds access; and fourth,

                                    the furnishing of the soul with the needed graces of the Spirit.


ü      The indwelling is here ascribed to Christ. It is elsewhere ascribed to the

                        Holy Spirit: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the

                        Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16). It is likewise

                        ascribed to the Father: “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and

                        God in him” (I John 4:16). These varying forms of expression find their

                        solution in the doctrine of the Trinity. He that hath seen the Son hath seen

                        the Father, and he that hath the Son hath the Father; then, again, he that

                        hath the Son hath the Spirit of Christ: “The Spirit of God dwelleth in you.

                        Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if

                        Christ be in you ... the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans

                        8:9-10). Therefore, when the apostle speaks of Christ dwelling in our

                        hearts, he refers to the Spirit’s indwelling, for Christ dwells in His people by

                        His Spirit. But there is a distinction in the modes of this indwelling: the

                        Father dwells in us by love (I John 4:16); the Son by faith (here);  the Spirit

                        lies hid in the heart, working the faith in the one case and the love in the other.


ü      It implies an abiding habit of life. Christ does not come as a sojourner

                        or as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for the night, but as a

                        constant dweller. Herein lies our security for the continuance, the power,

                        the comfort, of this life.


  • THE SEAT OF INDWELLING — THE HEART. This is the true

            shrine. The word signifies the seat of religious knowledge as well as

            feeling. Thus Christ sits at the very center of spiritual life, Himself the very

            Life of that life (Galatians 2:20), controlling all its impulses and

            movements. The objects we most desire we treasure in the heart. The heart

            wearies of many things, but can never weary of this Divine Visitant, who

            can speak with commanding voice when the soul is disturbed by

            suggestions of sin. “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our

            heart (I John 3:20). The Lord is the supreme Possessor of the heart

            now sprinkled from an evil conscience.”


18  May be able to comprehend with all saints” - The subject to be

comprehended is not only beyond man’s natural capacity,

but beyond the ordinary force of his spiritual capacity. The thing to be

grasped needs a special strength of heart and soul; the heart needs to be

enlarged, the mental “hands of the arms” need to be made strong

(Genesis 49:24). But the attainment is not impossible — it is the

experience of “all the saints;” all God’s children are enabled to grasp

something of this (comp. II Corinthians 4:3-6) – “what is the breadth,

and length, and depth, and height.”  No genitive being given, it has been a

difficult point to settle to what these dimensions must be held to be applicable.

They seem to imply infinity.  Some think that the love of Christ in the following

clause must be meant; but surely when that is made the subject of a separate part

of the prayer, and is not in the genitive but the objective case, governed by a verb

of its own, this explanation is not to be entertained. Others, with more

reason, think that the idea of a temple was in the mind of the writer, as it

certainly was in Ephesians 2:21-22, and that it is the dimensions of the

temple he had here in his eye, the prayer being that the Ephesians might

comprehend the vastness and glory of that spiritual temple which is

constituted by all believers, and in which God dwells by the Spirit. Even

this, however, would not divest the construction of abruptness, and it

would fit in but poorly with the context, in which the tenor of the apostle’s

prayer is that a profusion of Divine blessing might be enjoyed by the

Ephesians. If a genitive must be supplied, may we not conceive the apostle

to have had in his view the entire provision God has made in Christ for the

good of His people, so that the dimensions would be those of the gospel

storehouse, the vast reservoir out of which the Church is filled? “Breadth”

might denote the manifoldness of that provision; “length,” its eternal

duration; its “depth” might be represented by the profundity of Christ’s

humiliation; and its “height” by the loftiness of the condition to which His

people are to be raised. To comprehend this, to understand its existence

and its richness, is to get our faith enlarged, our expectations expanded; it

is through this comprehension that “all the saints” have got their wants

supplied, and their souls filled as with marrow and fatness.


19  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,”

Such love may be darkness to the intellect (as evidenced by modern

progressive secularists – CY – 2010) but it is sunshine to the heart

of the believer!  It is too marvelous for us to comprehend, but not

too rich for us to enjoy!  It’s purpose and result is to be “filled with

ALL the fullness of God.”  The love here is evidently the love of Christ

to us, and this may well be specified as a special matter of prayer. Knowledge

of Christ’s love, in the sense of an inward personal experience of it — its freeness,

its tenderness, its depth, its patience — is the great dynamic of the gospel. This

love is transmuted into spiritual force. As the breeze fills the sails and bears

forward the ship, so the love of Christ fills the soul and moves it in the

direction of God’s will. But in its fullness it passeth knowledge; it is

infinite, not to be grasped by mortal man, and therefore always presenting

new fields to be explored, new depths to be fathomed – “that ye may be

filled with all the fullness of God;” -  that is, that ye may be filled with

spiritual grace and blessing to an extent corresponding to all the fullness of

God.  The renewed heart has the capacity to receive the things of God and

to be plunged into His fullness and filled therefrom. Though the finite cannot

compare with the infinite, there may be a correspondence between them

according to the capacity of each. There is a fullness of gracious attainment

in every advanced believer that corresponds to all the fullness of God; every

part of His nature is supplied from the Divine fountain, and, so far as a creature

can, he presents the image of the Divine fullness. In the human nature of Christ

this correspondence was perfect: “In him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead

bodily;” (Colossians 2:9) - in the soul of the believer there may be a progressive

movement towards this fullness. No higher view can be conceived of the dignity of

man’s nature, and the glorious privileges conferred on him by the gospel, than that he

is susceptible of such conformity to God. Who can conceive that man should

have attained to such a capacity by a mere process of evolution? “So God

made man in His own image;” and in Christ man is “renewed in

knowledge after the image of Him who created him.”  (Ibid. 3:10)



            LOVE. “That ye may be filled with all the fullness of God.”


ü      The fullness of God is the fullness which God possesses, and

      therefore incapable of being contracted to the dimensions of a human

      heart. Yet that fullness — the plenitude of the Divine perfection, which

      is said to dwell in Christ bodily — is the very measure unto which we are

      to he filled. We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect;

      (Matthew 5:48); we are to come “to the perfect man, to the measure

       of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (ch. 4:13) - we are

                        actually predestinated to be conformed to the image of that Son of God

                        (Romans 8:29) who is the Brightness of the Father’s glory, and the

                         express Image of His person.  (Hebrews 1:3)


ü      We are to be filled unto that fullness. The apostle does not say

      that we shall reach it in this life, or that, if we reach it in the life beyond,

      the distance between God and us will not still be less than infinite. Plunge

      an empty vessel into the ocean, it is filled out of and filled with the fullness

      of the waters that surround it on every side. That empty vessel is our soul.

      It can take in the fullness of God in its own measure of self-containment.

      The comparison, to be more exact, demands that the vessel in question

      should be of expansible material, like a sponge, which, lying withered

      upon the rock, becomes larger and larger as it is sunk in the deep, till

      it is merged in the very fullness of the sea. Thus our dry and withered

      souls, filled with the love of Christ, expand gradually into the very

      fullness of God.


ü      Effects of this filling unto Gods fullness. One is that, with a well so

      full and overflowing, our vessels need never be empty. You may ask too

      little; you cannot ask too much: for the very fullness of God is ever flowing

      into you.  Jesus said, whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall

      give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall

      be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life!

      (John 4:14) You cannot exhaust it by any frequency of resort to it. Study

      ever more and more the love of Christ, which, like an arch, stands all the

      firmer from every additional stone with which it is weighted. Another effect

      is that, in proportion as you are being filled with God’s fullness, there is

      less room in the heart for sin, or fear, or doubt, or pain. The fullness, like

      the perfect love, casteth out fear.”  (I John 4:18) - As in an exhausted

      receiver, the more the air is drawn off the more firmly will the machine

      clasp the surface upon which it stands, so the more that guilt and fen;

      are drawn off from the believer’s heart, the more will it cleave to the

      almighty strength on which it rests. Let our hearts rejoice, therefore,

      in the fullness of God


DOXOLOGY (vs. 20-21) - The apostle had exhausted all the forms of supplication,

and now he casts himself upon the very infinitude of God, which was able to supply

more than the thoughts or desires of men could suggest in the sphere of prayer.

The study and exposition of the amazing riches of the grace of God gives birth to an

outburst of praise toward the Divine Source of all this mercy,  past, present,

 and to come.  God’s ability to bless extends infinitely beyond time and space!


20  Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all

that we ask or think,” -  In thinking of God it is as if we thought of space –

however far our conceptions may travel, there is still infinity beyond. (I

recommend Fantastic Trip on the internet – just type in your browser

and stand in awe and amazement – CY – 2010)  Paul had asked much

in this prayer, and thoughts can always travel beyond words, yet the excess

of God’s power beyond both was infinite. This excess is denoted by a

double term of abundance (poih~sai uJpe<r pa>nta - poy’-ay-si  hoop-er

pantaand  uJperekperissou~ - huperekperissousuperabundantly),

as if the apostle wished to fill our minds with the idea of absolute infinity

of gracious power in God -  “according to the power that worketh in us,”

 which is none other than the power “which He wrought in Christ, when

He raised Him from the dead” (ch. 1:20). The power that is actually at

work in us has only to be exerted a little more to accomplish wonders of

sanctification, and confer on us immense spiritual strength.


21  Unto Him be the glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout

all ages, world without end. Amen.” To God the whole credit of the

scheme of grace and the work of grace as carried out in his people is due

(“Not of works, lest any man should boast - ch. 2:9); therefore let the

Church acknowledge this, and cordially and openly ascribe to God His due.

Let this feeling be universally encouraged and cherished in the Church, and let it

find in the Church services suitable occasions of breaking forth in song and

prayer. Again the apostle’s favorite formula comes in  in Christ Jesus,” to

denote that this act of adoration is to be done in immediate connection with

the work and person of Christ; for it is He who has brought about the

whole condition of things from which the act of adoration springs. And this

ascription of praise is not transitory; this view of the Divine character and

actings will never become obsolete or be superseded by other views; it will

claim their cordial ascriptions FOREVER  — literally, to all the generations

 of the age of the ages. (Eon of eons in the Greek – CY - 2010)



ü      The offering: “glory” — the praise, credit, glory of the whole work

      of grace, with all its blessings and its final consummation.


ü      The sphere: “in the Church” — something different from the glory

      of creation and providence; the glory connected with the history of the

                        Church — the glory of redemption.


ü      The medium: “in Christ Jesus,” in vital union to whom the Church has

                        got all her blessings.


ü      The duration: “world without end;” for the story of redemption will

                        never become obsolete, and the songs of redemption will be forever

                        fresh and living. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of our God!” 

                        (Psalm 87:3); “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy dwelling

                        places, O Israel!  (Numbers 24:5);  Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and

                        cursed is he that curseth thee!” (Ibid. v. 9)



  • THE THEME OF THE DOXOLOGY. It is no abstract ascription of

            glory to God; it is one full of hope and cheer to the Church — the ability of

            God to do great things for His people. There is a sort of climax in the

            language employed: God is able to do what we ask or think; he is able to

          do above all we ask or think; nay, abundantly above it; nay, exceeding

            abundantly above all we ask or think; and our thinking is very much wider

            than our asking. Two things make us strong in prayer — a deep sense of

            need and a strong hope of supply. Perhaps we shall hardly venture to ask

            some blessings, but we ought to consider that we are either to approach

            God on our own merits or on the merits of Christ. If we pray for blessing

            on our own merits, we can hardly be too stinted in our asking; but if on the

            merits of Christ, we ought not to disgrace God by asking little things on

            such a wide basis of encouragement. We have, in fact, got a carte-blanche

            put into our hands by Christ, saying, “Ask what you will, and it shall be

            done unto you.” We are to ask up to our power of thinking, and far beyond

            it; for “God giveth liberally and upbraideth not?”  (James 1:5) - “Prove

             me now... if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you

            out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”  (Malachi

            3:10) - But Paul says merely that God is “able” to do so; what about His will to

            do so? We remember, when speaking of God’s ultimate restoration of the Jews,

            Paul says, “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted

             in; for God is able to graft them in again.”  (Romans 11:23) - That is, they

            shall be, because God is able to do it.  Therefore, we shall never have asked

            too much till we have asked beyond God’s ability.



            the power that worketh in us.” It is not abstract or intrinsic omnipotence,

            such as merely suggests a possibility that may never pass into a reality. It is

            a power in actual exercise for the benefit of the Church of God. It is in

            actual operation even before we have begun to ask or think; it is “the

            exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe;”  (ch. 1:19)

            - it is the glorious and surpassing power of God, not only irreversibly pledged,

            but irrevocably in operation. The principal thing that God does for us is what

            He does in us. “According to the power that worketh in us.” There is a

            power that worketh for us, in virtue of whose supreme disposal “all things

            work together for good to them that love God;”  (Romans 8:28) - but there

            is a power that worketh in us, to will and to do of His good pleasure, (Philippians

            2:13); that perfecteth  that which concerneth us, (Psalm 138:8); keeping us from

            falling, so that we may be presented blameless before the presence of His glory.

            (Jude 1:24)



            the glory.” What shall we not render unto Him? Is it not a glorious work He

            has done? We cannot make Him glorious, but we can tell how glorious He is

            in His gracious and mighty administration. Thine is the glory,” said Christ.

            All glory belongs to Him. Many glorious things exist in creation. The sun is

            glorious, the stars are glorious, even one star differing from another star in

            glory; but it is God who feeds their wonderful fires. They belong unto

            Jehovah. “No flesh must glory in His presence;” and the only way not to

            glory before Him is to glory in Him. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the

            Lord.”  (I Corinthians 1:29-31)



glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus.” “The locality or sphere is the

Church, the outward theatre on which this glory is manifested before men;”

and “Christ Jesus is” the Minister of this glory to God, the Minister of the

true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man, by whom the glory in

question is presented with acceptance. In fact, it is in him God manifests

the glory of his perfections as the God of grace and salvation; it is through

him he shines into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the

glory of God. Thus the blessings descend through Christ to the Church,

just as all the Church’s service goes up to God through the hands of Jesus


V. THE PERIOD OF THIS GLORY. “To all the generations of the age of

the ages.” A cumulative expression of great force. This glory is to be given

to God during all the ages of time. “His Name shall endure forever; men

shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed;” “I will make thy

Name to be remembered in all generations.” The stream of time rolls on

world without end, but the glory is to continue through all the ages of

eternity. “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be to him that sitteth

upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Amen.”


be poor any more in cur supplications; let us not be stinted in asking to the

dishonor of his abounding grace. Let us be encouraged to ask by the

recollection of the blessings we have already received. Let us show a more

signal gratitude for all our mercies. Are not the extent of our obligations

and the perfection of the holiness to which they bind us, far beyond our

powers of apprehending or appreciating them? and ought they not to leave

us with the similar question of bewildered gratitude, “What manner of

persons ought we to be?”




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