“Therefore, ever since I heard of your fervent faith in the Lord Jesus and the love you demonstrate toward other Believers, I offer perpetual thanks for you. I pray the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and insight through an intimate knowledge of Him. I trust your hearts and minds will be illuminated so that you will comprehend the hope His calling inspires and the splendor of the inheritance promised to Believers. I hope you appreciate how tremendous is the power and how vast are the resources available to us who believe. This was demonstrated when the Father raised Christ from the dead and seated Him on His own right hand, a position infinitely superior to any other principality, dominion, or title that could be conferred, whether in this present age or in the eons to come. He has put everything under the authority of Christ and appointed Him as the supreme and indisputable Head of the Church. The entire universe is filled with His presence.” (paraphrased)
Paul makes a brief visit to Ephesus on his second missionary tour (Acts 18:19-21). On his third tour he remains there more than two years. The time he invests shows the evangelistic value he places on this city and the confidence he has in the Ephesian Believers. But Paul and his co-workers face a riot after sharing the Gospel with local idolaters (Acts 19:24-30). Speaking metaphorically, he later recalls “fighting with the beasts in Ephesus” (I Cor. 15:32).
This church that suffers so much for Christ becomes very dear to him. On his final journey to Jerusalem, he summons the Ephesian elders to meet him at Miletus where he charges them to be diligent and faithful concerning the ministry. During his previous time there, he continually and anxiously warned the Ephesian church family about false teachers (Acts 20:20-31). He was certain that after he departed “grievous wolves would enter and not spare the flock” (v. 29). The fear Paul expresses is prophetic, for decades later false teachers surface and wreak havoc in Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-2).
As Paul pens this epistle four years after his departure from Miletus, he is filled with optimism. Reports he receives concerning the Ephesian congregation are favorable. The notable faith they currently exhibit is not confined to an inner circle but extended to others as well.
After the opening salutation (vv. 1-3) this chapter divides itself into two main divisions. The gratitude Paul expresses is based on the many blessings he has previously described (vv. 4-14). The remainder of the chapter is Paul’s prayer the Ephesians will be enlightened concerning their hope, their inheritance, and the power of God. While this passage is a prayer, it also demonstrates the need for thanksgiving and intercession.
“Wherefore” refers back to what Paul has stated regarding his reader’s position in Christ and the tremendous expenditure of His grace. Receiving reports of their faith inspires Paul to offer continual thanks to God. The apostle views praise and prayer as inseparable. Most of Paul’s prayers are typically short, but they are always dynamic, deep, and comprehensive. The unceasing nature of his prayers depicts tireless, earnest intercession on behalf of others.
Paul invokes The Father of Glory which means The Father to whom all glory belongs. Glory is often depicted as God’s chief characteristic (Acts 7:2 & I Cor. 2:8). Imbedded in his prayer is the confidence they are open to receive further revelation, insight, and illumination. He hopes the Ephesians will comprehend God’s divine design and be empowered to fully cooperate with His purposes. He asks the Holy Spirit to strengthen what they already possess. Paul is convinced the Ephesians are willing to receive, process, and assimilate divine illumination. He believes they will receive a continual endowment of divine grace and gain deeper insight into God’s will.
An intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit is essential to personal spiritual growth. Only the Holy Spirit can convey gifts of wisdom and knowledge (Isa. 11:2 & Jn. 16:13). As Believers mature they become increasingly aware of the wealth of knowledge yet to be explored.
The “eyes of your understanding” is properly interpreted, “the eyes of your heart.” It is typical in the ancient East to view the heart as the source of individual passion and expression. Solomon said “from the heart flows the issues of life” (Pv. 4:23). Moses prays we will “apply our hearts to wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Jesus taught only “the pure in heart will see God” (Mt. 5:8). The Spirit opens the eyes of those who seek a more complete knowledge of God. True spiritual perception requires both intellectual and moral clarity; the use of the head as well as the heart.
Jesus promises His followers special perception regarding the mysteries of the Kingdom (Lk. 8:10). Understanding our calling helps us appreciate the hope the Spirit implants in us (Rom. 15:13). Peter refers to this as “a living hope” (I Pet. 1:3). Anticipating heaven consoles us and emboldens us to share our faith (Heb. 6:18 & Rom. 5:5).
“God’s glorious inheritance” is a phrase reminiscent of Paul’s statement to the Philippians: “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Paul highlights the fact all true blessings come through Christ. Apart from Him the sinner wallows in spiritual poverty.
Although we receive an inheritance, there is also a sense in which the Lord “inherits” His children for we are God’s heritage (I Pet. 5:3). The rich glory the Father bestows on His Son is reflected through us and back upon Him (Jn. 17:22-23).
Paul prays that the Ephesians will learn three things:
1. The hope of His calling is foremost, for God requires a lifelong commitment to sanctification and service.
2. A rich and glorious inheritance awaits us, therefore we confidently anticipate our eternal reward.
3. We are assured the magnificence of His power is as operational in our lives as it is in the universe (v. 19).
Paul also wishes the Ephesians will gain insight into “the exceeding greatness of His power to those who believe.” God’s mighty power is extended toward us for our direct benefit. His divine energy allows us to overcome all obstacles.
We are energized “according to the working of His mighty power (dunamis), indicating potential or capability. Paul uses powerful synonyms regarding dunamis and describes it as:
<> “surpassingly great” (huperballon megethos)
<> “energized and operational” (energeia)
<> “controlled magnanimous strength” (kratous ischuos)
Each of these superlatives is designed to enhance the reader’s appreciation of their high calling in Christ Jesus. While it is difficult to find a definite distinction between these three terms, it is evident Paul is searching for words to express Christ’s incredible power. It is available only to Believers, for it is based on faith in Christ and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
The most dramatic illustration of God’s power is His ability to raise His Son from the dead to reign eternally. Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the grave were the stepping stones to His throne. Only Jesus can claim to be “the One who was dead and is now alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18). The Lamb who was slain has become the Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5-6). The Lord Jesus is presently and eternally seated in mediatory splendor and sovereignty far above all other hierarchies. Through Christ’s resurrection and coronation, every Believer conquers death and is “seated together with Christ” (Eph. 2:6).
The power of God was neither diminished nor exhausted on that first Easter Sunday. The same divine power involved in the resurrection of Christ is now at work in the hearts of every Believer. The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith, for upon His resurrection the resurrection of every saint depends (Rom. 4:25 & 8:11). This power is sufficient to transform the life of every human being, for God wants to win every soul (II Pet. 3:9).
Paul alludes to a remark made by David a thousand years earlier: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’” (Ps. 110:1). Soon after the resurrection, Steven beholds Jesus in this position of supreme power (Acts 7:56). Several decades later, John the Beloved sees Christ seated there as well (Rev. 5:1). Two thousand years have passed and Jesus’ nail-pierced hand still holds the scepter of the universe.
Christ’s position at “the right hand of the Father” does not denote a geographical location, but rather His range of influence and preeminence. This phrase strengthens the concept of the supremacy and lordship of Jesus.
The words “principalities, powers, might, and dominion” are often used in reference to various categories of celestial powers. These terms also target the Gnostics who sought to reconcile the concept of an absolutely good God with a totally evil universe. They imagined a hierarchy of beings which came from God, each descending order possessing less “deity” than the previous one. They believed the being at the tail end of this line could create evil matter. Gnostics decided Christ was this lowest being and considered Him demonic.
However, nothing in God’s Word suggests angels control human destiny. Although the Bible refers to archangels (Jude 1:9), cherubim (Ez. 10), and seraphim (Isa. 6:2-3), there is little Scriptural support for an angelic ranking system. Although the terms Paul uses regarding celestial powers are obscure, his aim is clear. The power of Christ is unique, unconditional, unlimited, and universal. No one can be named who is superior to Him (Dan. 7:13-14). In both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul makes it crystal clear Christ is the head of both the Church and the cosmos (Col. 1:18-19). No name can eclipse Christ who alone possesses the universe as His empire. Nothing is outside His control. All opposing terrestrial powers are vanquished. Any contenders for the throne are eliminated.
All things are positioned “under the feet” of Christ. This is a snapshot of His supreme, infinite, and universal influence. Quoting Psalm 8:6, Paul reiterates that all creation is under His dominion and is subject to Him. Existing powers pale in comparison to Christ’s universal sovereignty.
The inexhaustible riches of Christ are dispersed for the welfare of His people. He rules with His Church in mind. His omnipotence is validated by the Father through His incarnation, atonement, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement. The Church continues to thrive despite persecution and opposition because Christ is enthroned for His people.
Paul is not wrestling with impersonal theological abstractions as He strives to reconcile the supremacy of Christ and His relationship with His Church. The same blood flowing through the divine mind pulsates throughout the members of His body. No member can exist independently for all derive their power from the head. In order to properly function, all bodily organs must cooperate harmoniously with the intellect controlling it. As the human body is animated by the soul so the Church is animated by the Spirit of God.
Although Christ has need of nothing, His Lordship over the Church makes His dominion complete. But as a groom is incomplete without His bride, so Christ is “incomplete” without His Church. Christ is not dependent upon the Church, but vice-versa. He replenishes the strength of His bride by blessing her with His power.
The heavens are continually filled with the glorious omnipresence of Christ. As His presence fills His Church, so His presence fills the universe. As the skies are filled with stars and the seas with water so Christ fills and completes His Church. As the Vine gives life to the branches, so the Head of the Church gives life to the members of His body (Jn. 15: 5). The Church is the definitive statement God wishes to convey to the human race. The person and mission of Christ are thoroughly expressed through His thriving, expanding, and vibrant Church.
Points to Ponder
1. What do Ephesians 1:17 and II Peter 3:18 have in common? What thoughts are similar?
2. In similar prayers, what does Paul asks for?
I Corinthians 1:4-5
3. Paraphrase the following passages regarding God’s mighty power:
4. What does Paul pray he will comprehend (Philippians. 3:10)?
5. What statements does Paul make concerning the resurrection of Christ in I Corinthians 15:16-17?
6. Read Ephesians 1:20 and then paraphrase Romans 8:11. What kindred thought is noted in Mark 14:62 and Heb. 12:2?
7. From the following verses, write a paragraph on the tremendous importance the early church placed on Christ’s resurrection (Acts 3:26; 10:40; 13:34; 17:31 & 26:23).
8. What do the following passages tell us about angelic beings?
I Peter 3:22