"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS"
Paul's Second Prayer For The Ephesians (3:14-21)
1. In the previous lesson we saw where Paul was about to start his
second prayer for the Ephesians in Ep 3:1...
a. However, he interrupts himself when describing himself as "the
prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles"
b. Lest they be troubled at whatever tribulations he endured as a
prisoner (Ep 3:13), Paul stresses the fact that:
1) His apostleship to the Gentiles (even with its tribulations)
was a gift to him through the wonderful grace of God - Ep
2) His purpose was to "preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ" - Ep 3:8-11
3) That in Christ he had "boldness and access with confidence
through faith" in Christ - Ep 3:12
2. Having completed his brief interruption, in Ep 3:14-21 Paul now
continues with his second prayer for the Ephesians (the first having
been in Ep 1:15-23)
3. The phrase "For this reason..." (Ep 3:14; also 3:1) indicates
that Paul expresses his prayer in response to those things mentioned
earlier, such as:
a. The wonderful salvation by grace through faith - Ep 2:1-10
b. The work by Christ on the cross whereby Gentiles can now become
"fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise"
- Ep 2:11-22; 3:6
[With gratitude in his heart for God's grace toward the Gentiles, Paul
now prays in their behalf, starting with...]
I. THE "INVOCATION" (14-15)
A. POSTURE IN PRAYER...
1. In this prayer, Paul "bows the knee", a posture in prayer
commonly found throughout the Scriptures - cf. Lk 22:41; Ac
9:40; 20:36; 21:5
2. However, there does not appear to be an "official posture" when
it comes to prayer...
a. Solomon "stood" when he prayed to dedicate the temple - 1
b. David "sat" before the Lord when he prayed about the future
of his kingdom - 1 Chron 17:16
c. Jesus "fell on His face" when He prayed in Gethsemane - Mt
B. THE ADDRESSEE IN PRAYER...
1. The pattern and example of prayer in the New Testament church
a. "To" the Father - Ep 3:14; 5:20
b. "In the name of" or "through" the Lord Jesus Christ - Ep
5:20; Co 3:17
c. And "in" the Spirit - Ep 6:18; Ju 20; cf. Ro 8:26-27
2. There is little evidence of anyone praying "to" Jesus, and even
less of praying "to" the Holy Spirit; clearly it is the Father
to whom we are to address our prayers - cf. Mt 6:9
[To the Father, then, Paul addresses his prayer. The prayer itself is
divided into three parts (indicated in the Greek by the word "hina"),
and is like a staircase with three steps, each step leading to the
II. THE "PETITION" (16-19)
A. TO BE STRENGTHENED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD... (16-17)
1. Paul had mentioned earlier about God's power "toward us who
believe" - Ep 1:19
2. Now he prays that the Ephesians might be "strengthened with
3. Such strength is "according to the riches of His glory"
4. God's strength is administered "through His Spirit in (lit.,
into) the inner man"
a. A Christian's body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit who is
in you" - cf. 1 Co 6:19
b. One design of the indwelling Spirit is to help one "put to
death the deeds of the body" - cf. Ro 8:11-13
5. But the purpose of such "strengthening" by the Spirit in our
text is for a different purpose, first hinted at in verse
a. First, that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith"
1) To the degree God strengthens (by the Spirit) the
believer's "inner man", so it is said that Christ Himself
indwells the heart of the believer
2) Thus the Spirit is the instrumental agent by which Christ
indwells the believer, just as Ep 2:22 suggests the
Spirit is instrumental agent by which God inhabits His
b. Second, that they may be "rooted and grounded in love"
1) One work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer
is to instill the love of God in the heart - cf. Ro 5:5;
2) When strengthened by God through the Spirit in the inner
man, one becomes "rooted and grounded in love"
[Strengthened by God through His Spirit, so that Christ is dwelling
in our hearts and we are well-established "in love", the next step
B. TO COMPREHEND THE LOVE OF CHRIST... (18-19a)
1. "may be ABLE..."
a. The word "able" means "to be eminently able; to have full
b. Thus the prayer for strength in the first part of the prayer
- Ep 3:16
2. "...to comprehend"
a. I.e., to understand, to grasp
b. As Paul says later in verse 19, "to know..."
3. It is the "love of Christ" that Paul is praying that we be
strong to grasp...
a. He wants us to know everything about this wonderful love
("width and length...")
b. But this love of Christ is something which "passes
1) How is it possible for us to "know" the love of Christ,
if it "passes knowledge"?
2) Only in the sense that no matter how much we learn about
Christ's love, even with the strength God's Spirit
provides, there is always much more to grasp!
3) "...there is a real knowledge of Christ's love possible
to us, a knowledge that is capable of increase as we are
the more strengthened by power in the inner man, while a
complete or exhaustive knowledge must ever remain beyond
our capacity." (The Expositor's Greek Testament, W.
Robertson Nicoll, editor, vol. 3, p. 316)
[It is only as we begin to know the love of Christ that passes
knowledge that we are beginning to experience the last step for which
Paul is praying...]
C. TO BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD... (19b)
1. This is the objective, the goal, of all that was said
2. One begins to be filled with "all the fullness of God"...
a. As they are strengthened by God (i.e., the Father)
b. Which is through His Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit)
c. Whereby in their hearts may dwell the Christ (i.e., the Son)
3. With the help of the all members of the Godhead, then, one is
"filled" the more they begin to comprehend the wonderful "love
of Christ" ("For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead
bodily" - cf. Co 2:9)
[Such is the petition that Paul makes on behalf of the Ephesians...
1. That they be strengthened by the Spirit of God
2. So they can comprehend the love of Christ
3. And thus be filled with all the fullness of God
Is God "able" to fulfill this petition? There is no doubt in Paul's
mind, as we see how he closes the prayer...]
III. THE "DOXOLOGY" (20-21)
A. GLORY TO GOD, FOR WHAT HE IS ABLE TO DO! (20)
1. As Paul ascribes praise to God, he does so for what he
confident God is able to do
2. As expressed by Paul, God's "ability to do" is...
a. "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (far
beyond our imagination!)
b. "according to the power that works in us" - cf. Ep 1:19;
B. GLORY TO GOD, IN THE CHURCH BY CHRIST JESUS FOREVER! (21)
1. Paul sees "the church" as the means by which much glory can be
given to God
2. Certainly if Paul's prayer is answered...
a. That "all the saints" may be able to comprehend the love of
Christ - Ep 3:18
b. That they may all be 'filled with all the fullness of God" -
...the church will have the potential to bring much glory to
God! - cf. 2 Th 1:11-12
3. Of course, such potential is to come only "by Christ Jesus";
but if it does, then it will be "throughout all ages, world
1. Do we desire to give God glory throughout all ages, world without
a. We ought to, in view of all things we have considered in Ep 1-3
b. If so, then it must be "by Jesus Christ", and that can be only as
1) Come to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge
2) Allow ourselves to "be filled with all the fullness of God"
2. How can we be sure to be filled with all the fullness of God?
a. For one who is already a Christian, we should follow Paul's
example and start with prayer (such as the one in our text)...
b. For one who is not a Christian, then one needs first to become a
child of God - cf. Ga 3:26-27
In our next lesson, we will begin to consider how we can "walk" so as to
bring glory to God...