“For this reason I kneel before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom every family in heaven and earth derives its origin, that He would grant you his limitless spiritual resources in order to powerfully fortify your innermost being by His Spirit. Through faith, Christ has made His permanent abode in your hearts, so that being firmly rooted and well-established in His love, you may be able to fathom its breadth, length, depth, and height. I pray you may be empowered to better understand the love Christ – although it transcends all human comprehension – and be filled with the perfect fullness of God. Now unto Him, which is able to accomplish infinitely more by His power which operates within us than we dare ask or imagine, be glory in the Church through Christ Jesus throughout the endless eons of eternity. Amen.” (paraphrased)
Paul’s initial prayer concerns spiritual growth (1:15-23), but this petition centers upon the One upon whom this growth depends (3:14-21). The “cause” to which he refers resumes his thoughts begun at the beginning of this chapter regarding Jews and Gentiles (3:1). His prayer is inclusive and demonstrates the need for racial harmony within the body of Christ. In this passage, Paul’s thoughts are lifted to the apex of spiritual emotion.
Bowing the knees before God is a voluntary act which bespeaks earnestness, sincerity, humility, reverence, and submission. It is a position that admits the inferiority of the one bowing and the superiority of the person being petitioned (Heb. 7:7). To kneel before God denotes deliberate, reverential intercession:
<> Ezra falls on his knees to pray for others (Ezra 9:5-6).
<> Daniel prays on his knees three times each day (Dan. 6:10).
<> Jesus kneels as He prays in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:41).
<> Stephen kneels as he is martyred (Acts 7:60).
<> Peter kneels near the deathbed of Tabitha (Acts 9:40).
<> Paul kneels as he prays for the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:36)
At the center of Paul’s petition is the Trinity. Paul has stated that Believers enjoy the same Father (v. 14), the same Spirit (v. 16), and the same Savior (v. 17). The Father is the source of our familial unity (v. 14), the Spirit imparts strength (v.16), and the Son indwells Believers (v.17).
Because God is the Creator, He is considered “the Father of all fathers.” Those whom He has redeemed enjoy a special familial relationship with Him (Jas. 3:9). Although the entire universe is under His control, Jesus portrays God as a Father who “gives good things to those who ask Him” (Mt. 7:11). The Holy Spirit assures us of our relationship with our Heavenly Father (Rom. 8:15).
All “the families in heaven and earth” includes all those, both living and deceased, who have become God’s children through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26). Cherubim, seraphim, and archangels mingle freely with the saints in heaven.
“According to the riches of His glory” might better be translated “due to His limitless and inexhaustible wealth.” Paul’s prayer is comprised of four petitions that are closely connected:
1. that Believers would be granted power and strength (v. 16)
2. that Believers would allow Christ to take up permanent residence in their hearts (v. 17)
3. that Believers would fully appreciate the vastness of Christ’s love for them (v. 18)
4. that Believers would be filled to capacity with all the attributes of God (v. 19)
Growing in grace has a direct bearing on one’s spiritual progress. Paul asks that the Ephesians “be strengthened” (krataiothenia), a term which refers to imparted, enabling power. It is not a prayer for physical strength, for spiritual strength has greater value (3 John 2). The regenerate heart stands in need of daily renewal (2 Cor. 4:16) and the only source is the power (dunamis) of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).
From the concept of God as Creator (v. 15), Paul moves to the need for an enhanced personal relationship with Jesus. He prays not for their conversion, but for a deeper understanding of the salvation they already enjoy (v.16). The term “dwell” (katoikesai)means to “settle down and be completely at home.” Faith is the medium by which each Believer possesses Christ, allowing Him to “feel at home” in their hearts. Every Believer is a Temple in which God’s Spirit resides. Faith is the medium which allows Him access (I Cor. 3:16).
Paul uses a double illustration of a tree and a building as He asks that the Ephesians be “rooted and grounded in love.” To be deeply rooted implies vibrant life, constant growth, permanence, and productivity. His love should be firmly entwined in our hearts. The apostle’s two-fold metaphor underscores that love for God and for others is essential for the establishment of a strong spiritual foundation.
The result of this strengthening allows Believers to better understand spiritual truth, both individually and collectively. Paul desires the Ephesians be fully enabled to comprehend some measure of the enormity of the blessings of salvation. He hopes they apprehend (katalabesthai) the many aspects of their faith. Katalabesthai means to take full possession of, to comprehend despite all difficulties, and to mentally grasp the things of God.
“Breadth, length, depth, and height” are generic dimensions that represent the vastness of the love of Christ. His love caused Him to condescend from the sweet realms of heaven to experience bitter abuse on earth. The multi-dimensional love of Jesus is too awesome to comprehend, but not too incredible to enjoy.
The love of Christ is unfathomable. He does not pray they completely comprehend the incomprehensible. In fact, he points out that a full understanding of the infinite love of God is beyond man’s finite capacity. It is an immeasurable ocean, having neither longitude nor latitude.
“To know” is ginesko and refers to knowledge gained through experience. A true concept of the depth of His love can only be known through life’s joys, sorrows, persecutions, sufferings, and victories. “To be filled with all the fullness of God” is to bring heaven into the soul. No higher wish for any saint can be imagined.
Paul’s petition evolves naturally into spontaneous praise. However, he has not exhausted all his superlatives. This verse is better explained by isolating Paul’s comprehensive statement:
God is able to do what we ask.
God is able to do beyond what we ask.
God is able to do beyond what we can even imagine.
God is able to do abundantly beyond what we can imagine.
God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can imagine.
Paul unashamedly asks God to bless His people “superabundantly” (kuperekperissou), far exceeding what the human mind could possibly conceive. Whatever blessings Christians receive are not based on personal merit, but rather on the merits of Jesus Christ.
The terms “ability” and “power” used in this verse find their roots in the word dunamis. This same term is used earlier regarding being strengthened by the Holy Spirit (v. 16). It is from the Greek term dunamis the English word “dynamite” is derived. Only God’s Spirit can provide Believers with the powerful energy (energoumenen) necessary for an effective and productive life.
Although Paul is writing these words while in captivity, his spirit is unchained. His prayer concludes with the focus on Jesus as the One who inspires his awe and adoration. The word “glory” is doxa and it is from this term the word “doxology” is derived. A doxology is a summary statement of praise to God.
It is in and through the Church God’s glory is manifested and His praise celebrated. In heaven, God’s people praise Him unceasingly. Paul indicates it will take the eons of eternity to fathom the depths of Christ’s love for us (Eph. 2:7).
Points to Ponder
1. What does the Psalmist encourage us to do (Ps. 95:6)?
2. What phrase is repeated at the end of Revelation 5:13 and 14?
3. What is said regarding the actions of God’s Spirit in I Corinthians 2:10?
4. What is said concerning God’s ways in Romans 11:33?
5. What is said about the wealth of God in Philippians 4:19?
6. What is the source of all spiritual strength (Phil. 4:13)?
7. What is the source of spiritual life (Gal. 2:20)?
8. What is another source of strength (Nehemiah 8:10)?