This article is a Bible study on Ephesians 3:14-21.

Source: The Outlook, 1981. 3 pages.

Ephesians 3:14-21 - Paul's Prayer for the Ephesian Church

The main task which the Lord has given the apos­tles to do is to teach and proclaim the glorious gos­pel of Jesus Christ. However, there was also a priest­ly work to be done to build up the church which the Lord had established. It is clear from all his writings that Paul engages in prayer for the church constant­ly. His prayers are found throughout his writings. Many times when he is in the midst of an important point of doctrine he suddenly offers his thanksgiving to the God Whom he serves, for the wonders of His revelation. He also assures his readers again and again that he is remembering them before the throne of God.

The thought introduced in verse 1 of this chapter is now, finally, taken up in verse 14 and following verses. At the beginning of this chapter he says: "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you gentiles," but the thought is not completed! How typically Pauline! There were other things he had to make clear to them, namely, that there was no longer a separation between Jew and gentile, but that they had been brought together in Christ. Now, in verse 14 he takes up that which he had begun to say in verse 1. He bows his knees before God the Father, for this cause. What is the cause? That Jew and gentile have been brought together! The marvel of the gospel! Because of that he bows his knees before the Father. He is awed by the great responsibility and the great blessing which has been given him that he has been made a minister of such a gospel. Notice that "the Father" is always the One to Whom he prays.

To the Father of the Family🔗

The whole family in heaven and on earth is named after Him. By this whole family he means the house­hold of God, the church of Jesus Christ. This is a family which is not only found here on earth but is found in heaven too. Those who have fallen asleep in Jesus belong to the church which we usually call "the church triumphant." It is that part of the church which is beyond the strife and suffering of the church here. It (the church) includes, of course, Jew and gentile. Not only the church militant and the church triumphant, but he even seems to include the angel host in this "whole family." It is true that the angels are not recipients of salvation through the blood of Christ and that they are not bound together with bonds of blood as men are. Yet, these also are part of the family of God. They are servants who have been taken into the household. We should pay far more attention to the things the Scriptures teach us about the angels than we usually do.

For the Spirit's Powers🔗

Now he reveals the content of his prayer. He prays that God the Father may give them this blessing that they may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man. He prays that all the powers of God (riches of His glory) may be given the believer for the strengthening of his faith. He prays that all the attributes of God may be ap­plied to his spiritual progress. So often men speak only of such things as the grace, mercy and love of God which are to be given for our spiritual well­being. Paul speaks of all the riches of God to be used for this end. The Spirit of God uses all the attributes of God to strengthen faith within us. For that strengthening we need His Almighty power as well as His grace. We need His changelessness as well as His love. Then we are truly strengthened! Then the inward man, i.e., the heart is made strong. This fact is spoken of by the Apostle time and again in his epistles. He does not "play off" the one attribute of God against another. All of them are to be honored in our salvation. Consequently, we will speak of more than the love or the grace of God when we praise Him for our redemption. All of His powers are at our disposal, and we impoverish ourselves when we do not recognize this fact.

For Christ's Indwelling🔗

The above is necessary to recognize and believe in order that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. He makes His abode within the believer through the Spirit. Then we are strong in the faith. The Spirit of God dispenses the power of God. So do we lay hold of it. As a result you will be rooted and grounded in love. Here Paul is using a double figure of speech. That faith of the believer is like a tree having roots into the true nourishment for the life they must feed. It is also like a building which is standing on a foundation of solid rock so that it will always be a safe refuge. This is the picture of that true faith in God wrought by the Spirit and founded on the work of Christ! No one shall ever be able to overthrow that faith. It is not dependent on the one who is exercising it, no, it has its roots, it has its foundation in the love of God! All His attributes stand guard over the faith He has instilled!

Grasping what is Beyond Knowledge🔗

In this way the believers will also be strong to grasp, together with all other believers, what is the breadth and length and height and depth... Of what? He doesn't say. The context makes it clear, however, what he has in mind. It is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ! Then we naturally ask the question: Who will ever be able to grasp the fulness of the love of Christ? It is limitless, isn't it? The Apostle is fully aware of this too and therefore uses these four terms. He also states that it cannot be grasped by the individual be­liever, but must be done in the union of all believers. The love of Christ cannot be measured in breadth or length or height or depth. It certainly cannot be grasped by the mind of man. If it is to be grasped at all it will be by faith, by a heart knowledge. But, there is that faith given to man so that he begins to grasp something of that limitless love of Christ! He cannot describe it. He cannot fathom it. But, he experiences it! Only when a person has been so strength­ened by the power of the Spirit of God is there the possibility that he will be able, in a measure, to grasp the beauty and glory of the heart of his redemption. It is indeed a love which passes knowledge. No unbe­liever can understand even the smallest part of it.

Filled to God's Fulness🔗

At the conclusion of this prayer Paul asks that they may be filled unto all the fulness of God. The Bi­ble speaks in many ways of our relationship to God. We are to walk with Him. We are to believe on Him. We are to obey Him. We are to approach to Him in prayer. We are to live for Him, etc. Here the Apostle speaks of being filled to all the fulness of God. So that we may be like Him. We are so to grasp the broad extent of the love of Christ that we may be filled unto all the fulness of God. In other words, we are to be filled to that fulness only through our rela­tionship to Jesus Christ. As we increase in the knowledge of the love of Christ, we are being filled to the fulness of God. This is the way in which the author speaks of true spiritual growth in the believer. It is a growth which is never complete. This is true because the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ shall never be fully grasped and because the fulness of God is limit­less! Physical growth is limited to a certain amount of time. Perhaps this is also true of the growth of intellect. However, spiritual growth goes on. Nor is it limited to this life! We are going to grow spiritu­ally throughout all eternity! Man, even the one who is redeemed by the blood of Christ, is and remains a creature and no creature shall ever be able to com­prehend the love of Christ or the fulness of God! Shall such a redeemed person then not be complete and perfect? When a man is filled with the fulness of God — is there room for more? When a container is full — how can it be made to hold more? Yet, this is precisely what the Bible teaches — we will go on from perfection to perfection. We will have to think of a container which is able to stretch to receive more. Not as a container made of wood or steel, but as a container made of rubber! It has to hold more even though it is full.

To God's Eternal Glory🔗

When the Apostle has come to the close of this beautiful and very significant prayer, he ends with a doxology. This is also typically Pauline. He ends with a doxology after a deep and penetrating analy­sis of glorious truth (Romans 11) and he frequently ends prayers and thanksgivings with a doxology. In fact, one is able to say that Paul's whole life is a dox­ology. He has understanding in the mystery which has now been revealed, as he says earlier in this chapter. He knows his Lord and his God and this leads him to the highest level of praise.

To the God of Whom he has spoken, be the glory. To the One of Whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named. To the One who is to fill His peo­ple. This is the One Who is able to do all things; is able to do far more than our puny minds are able to ask or think. We have so many requests. Our minds too are filled with all the things we desire — which seem to be endless. Yet, He is able to do so much more — one is not even able to compare what we can ask or think with the ability He has of giving to His people. Paul again coins words to make it possible for him to express himself in such a way that men will understand the power of their God to care for them. He is able to answer the prayers of those in whom He has begun His work of grace. Besides, that grace which they have received will also encourage them to expect all things from Him, even the things which are humanly impossible.

To this God must the glory be given. The church of Jesus Christ shows the glory of its God. Christ Himself, the Head of that church shows the glory of God. Everything must give praise to Him. He is now, through the redeeming work of Christ, acknowl­edged as God. Those who have not tasted of redemp­tion do not bring homage to Him, but the church must and does do so. This glorifying of the God Who has accomplished all that He decided to do, must go on throughout all the ages of men here on earth, and must go on forever! Never will we have completed our praise of God. We go from strength to strength — from glory to glory — from victory to victory, always praising and glorifying the God Who has re­vealed Himself to us. Upon this doxology Paul now pronounces his Amen!

Questions for Discussion:🔗

  1. How are preaching and prayer related? Can there be the one without the other?
  2. What is the place of angels in the redemption of man? Why is there no salvation for fallen angels?
  3. There would be no salvation if God were not the God of love and of grace. Would there be salvation for us if He were not the Almighty or the Eternal?
  4. How great is the love of Christ? If it could be measured would it be enough?
  5. What is perfection for the redeemed?
  6. We would willingly agree that God can do all things. Do we recognize this sufficiently in our prayers?

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