Ephesians 3:21


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

…to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:21

The words “to Him” are speaking, as in the previous verse, about God the Father who has orchestrated all things according to His wisdom for the redemption of mankind. It is He who has done, exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (verse 20), and to whom belongs “the glory in the church.”

All credit is given to God in the church concerning our redemption and eternal status where we will live in His presence. No credit can be taken for our entry into this exalted and glorious edifice, and no credit can be taken for our position within it. God has appointed all things according to His wisdom, and we are merely the recipients of this marvelous grace which has come “by Christ Jesus.” The word “by” is arguably better rendered as “in.” The work has been done by Him, and we are in Him now as members of the church.

And because we are members of this body who are in Him, we shall exalt and give glory to God for “all generations, forever and ever.” Here Paul has invented a phrase which attempts, failingly, to explain the eternal state that we have been brought into. Albert Barnes says that, “There is a richness and amplification of language here which shows that his heart was full of the subject, and that it was difficult to find words to express his conceptions. It means, in the strongest sense, forever.”

A literal translation would be “…unto all the generations of the age of the ages” (Vincent’s Word Studies). God’s plan had a beginning in the stream of time, but there shall be no end to it. The redeemed of the Lord shall walk in His presence for time without end, ever searching out the manifold wisdom and glory of God. It is the wondrous hope and expectation that we now possess because of the work of God in Christ.

Life application: If you are of the redeemed of the Lord, then praise Him! You will be doing it for all eternity, and so you might as well get started with that now. Be pleased to give God all the credit He is due for the marvelous gift of eternal life. Be pleased to hail the name of Jesus!

Heavenly Father, you have promised that Your redeemed will walk in Your presence unto all generations, and even unto the age of the ages. Though our lives had a moment when we came into existence, there will never be a time when this life will end. Because of Jesus, You have ordained that we will walk in Your glory and seek out Your splendor forever. As this is so, help us to start the praises now. Let us hail You because of the wonderful work You have wrought in order to bring us back to Yourself. Glory to you in the highest! Amen.



Ephesians 3:20


Monday, 29 August 2016

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Ephesians 3:20

Paul bursts into a doxology of praise as he is often seen to do. As he writes his epistles, it is apparent that the process of writing (or dictating) his thoughts helps him to unpackage the wonder of what God has done in Christ. His emotions rise to such a crescendo that he literally bursts out with words of praise. Such is the case here as he ponders the enormity of what God has done.

The words, “Now to Him,” are speaking of God the Father as seen in verse 14. It is He “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly.” This is a compound adverb which is only found here and twice in 1 Thessalonians. It shows the incomprehensible nature of what God can do. What is done by Him is beyond anything which could have been expected or anticipated. Vincent’s Word studies argues that these words are an independent clause –

“Read the whole, ‘Unto Him who is able to do beyond all, exceedingly above that which,’ etc.” Vincent’s Word Studies

In other words, they are a contemplative thought of Paul which stops short because of an inability to continue for a moment. It would be as if someone were thinking on the marvel of what God is. In doing so, he stops and says, “God is so great; amazingly marvelously great… greater than I can describe!”

From that high note, he recovers himself and then continues on with the superlative nature of what God is capable of doing. He says, “…above all that we ask or think.” When we petition God for the most incredible of things, God is able to meet those prayers and even go beyond what we have asked for. And while praying, our thoughts are on our highest hopes. But God’s ability to perform exceeds even those highest of hopes.

However, it is important to remember that Paul ties “ask” and “think” in with what God is “able” to do, not with what He will actually do. Sometimes our prayers are not in accord with His Divine will. If this is the case, then we cannot expect that they will be answered in the way we wish. Rather, what He is able to do is “according to the power that works in us.”

God is working in us according to His will and His predetermined end. There are times when our desires meet that will, and there are times when they will not. But through it all, His magnificent will is being worked out and we will realize the superlative nature of His workings at the end.

Life application: God is God; we are man. Let us always make our petitions known to God in humility and with high expectation, but let us also acknowledge to Him that “Your will be done, O God.” We should never “claim” anything in His name. It is presumptuous and arrogant to do so. Instead, let us allow Him to direct His will without us snapping fingers of pride.

Heavenly Father, thank You for meeting every need of ours according to Your great wisdom. Thank You for perfectly aligning Your will with our lives so that what You have planned will come out as it should. And because it is Your plan, keep us from presumptuous displays of pride by “claiming” anything in Your name. Instead, let us remember that You are God and You alone will decide what prayers will be answered as we desire. When things don’t come out as we hope, grant us the ability to say, “Your will be done, O God.” Surely with this You will be pleased. Amen.



Ephesians 3:19


Sunday, 28 August 2016

…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19

The verse here forms a play on the words “know” and “knowledge” which form a paradox, and yet which reveal certain truths. Paul, filled with a desire to express the infinite nature of what God has done for us, had just given one paradox. It is that we –

“…may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height…” (3:18)

It is impossible to comprehend that which is infinite. And so he stopped as if gasping and then moved on to this verse. He desires that we are “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” The “to know” indicates learning through experience. This is in the aorist tense. The “knowledge” indicates having grasped what should be known. However, if what should be known is infinite, then we cannot ever fully learn through experience what we are being asked to know. What he is saying then is that we are to learn through continued experience, at any given time, what God is revealing of Himself in the love of Christ. As Charles Ellicott states it –

“…so that they may always go on from faith to faith, from knowledge to knowledge, and yet find new depths still to be fathomed.

Like the air that fills the bellows, so the love of Christ should fill the mind and soul, and yet there is an inexpressible amount of air on the outside, still untapped. And so we should again fill our mind and soul in order to obtain more knowledge. And then we should repeat this process again and again, for all eternity – ever striving to grasp what can never be truly understood. No matter how long we live in the ages of ages to come, we will still be finite. We will never entirely attain the full knowledge of the love of God in Christ.

However, we should forever continue to pursue it so that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Again, it is another paradoxical statement. How can one who is finite be filled with the infinite? Though it is impossible, it is what we are being asked to do. Again, an aorist verb is used for “filled.” We should be like the open vessel into which is poured the stream of flowing water. Though the water spills out the top, new water comes in to replace it, filling and filling until the eternal ages have come and gone and yet the flow keeps coming.

This is the splendor of what God offers to reveal to us as we contemplate His infinite goodness towards us in Christ Jesus. And this is what Paul asks us to know and to be filled with.

Life application: Let the goodness of God in all its fullness come and fill you, even to overflowing, and then… let Him continue to fill you some more. Never cease being filled with the glorious love of God in Christ Jesus.

Lord God, we are like clay pitchers, empty and dry. And You are the source of the eternally flowing Water of life. Fill us so that we might be filled, and never cease filling us with the infinite knowledge of Your love for us which is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Though the ages will come and go, we will never have received all of the filling that we can obtain. Give us wisdom to pursue You now and always, drawing near to You to be filled with this precious Water of life; this infinite outpouring of Your love. Amen.


Ephesians 3:18


Saturday, 27 August 2016

…may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  Ephesians 3:18

This verse should be placed with the previous verse to get a fuller understanding of Paul’s intent –

“…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height…”

He conditions the fourfold aspect of this verse on the point of  “being rooted and grounded in love” of the previous verse. By being so firmly set, he petitions that we may then “be able to comprehend with all the saints…” It is a call for universal understanding. The Ephesians are being addressed, but the letter is inclusive of all believers. He petitions for Jew and Gentile alike to be able to comprehend “what is the width and length and depth and height…”

As the English, so in the Greek, an article only precedes the first of the four words – “the width and length and depth and height.” Because of this, Paul is giving the idea of infinite vastness; something actually unattainable. It expresses the totality of what he is speaking of. We are not to place our minds on one aspect of it, but of the entirety of it.

The question however is, “What is Paul speaking of?” There is no noun or pronoun given which indicates possession or close association to the words in this clause (a genitive). Some translations tie it directly to the next clause which speaks of “the love of Christ.” This seems likely on the surface, but why then didn’t he just say that? Charles Ellicott wisely notes –

“Various answers have been given; but as St. Paul has obviously of set purpose omitted all definition, leaving the phrase incomplete in absolute generality, no answer can be perfectly satisfactory.”

In other words, Paul purposefully left off what was on his mind, as if his words could not even describe what he was thinking of. It is as if he was writing to make a point about something; he then stopped, and simply stumbled over what he was trying to explain. And so he just left it unsaid. Thus, it is probably referring to the totality of everything that God has done for us in Christ – to include the wisdom behind it; the knowledge of what has been done and is to come; the love involved in the cross to redeem His people; the splendor of the resurrection; the fact that both Jew and Gentile are included in the plan; the word which has been given to explain it; the giving of the Holy Spirit to seal it upon our faith; and on and on and on.

Paul simply stopped, gasped, and then wrote about what is otherwise impossible to express. And then in essence he says, “I hope you will be able to grasp the infinite majesty of this redemptive process in all its varied aspects.”

How then can we comprehend what in incomprehensible? How can we apprehend that which cannot be seized? How can we attain to that which is out of reach? The answer is that we cannot, but we should strive to do so. Our highest joy should be searching out the mystery of God’s workings in and through His creation in order to redeem man. We should ponder the imponderable love of God. We should seek out God’s infinite wisdom, read His word, yield to His Spirit, and cling to Christ’s cross. This is what Paul would ask for us to do.

Life application: Fix your eyes on Jesus. All things come into clear and understandable (even if not fully attainable) terms when we do this.

Lord God, the manifold aspects of Your wisdom are on display in what You have done for Your people. You have set forth knowledge for us to ponder and included it in Your word. You have called people of all races as Your own; Jew and Gentile without distinction. You have done it through the cross of Christ and proved it in His resurrection. And You have sealed our faith with the guarantee of Your Holy Spirit. All this You have done – so much that we will ponder the majesty of the plan for all eternity. All of our praises we send forth to You, O God. Honor and praise belong to You alone. Amen.



Ephesians 3:17


Friday, 26 August 2016

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17

Again, context of the preceding verses is necessary to fully see Paul’s intent –

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love…”

In the preceding verse, he noted that we should be “strengthened with might through His Spirit. He now immediately returns to the second member of the Godhead, Christ. Paul asks that He “may dwell in your hearts.” Charles Ellicott notes that the indwelling of Christ “is not a consequence of the gift of the Spirit; it is identical to it.” This is supported by Jesus’ words of John 14:16-20 –

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

The indwelling of Christ is directly equated to the indwelling of the Spirit; there is no connecting particle in the Greek. This means that, “Where the Spirit of God is, there also is Christ” (Bengel). And this is received “through faith.” There is an article in the Greek of these words – dia tes pisteos, or “through the faith.” Thus faith is the means of this occurrence. When we exercise faith, we are sealed with the Spirit of God and we thus appropriate all that Christ offers.

The verse ends with the notion that this appropriation of the work of Christ is what will cause us to be “rooted and grounded in love.” Two separate metaphors are combined into this one thought. The first is that of a tree’s roots which bury deep into the soil. They hold the tree firm, but even more, they draw up the nutrients and water with which the tree may live. This is comparable to our own position in Christ. It is through Him that we may draw up all the riches of what God offers to His redeemed.

The second metaphor, is that of Being “grounded.” It is an architectural word which speaks of the laying of a foundation. It is the firm base upon which all else will stand. As Christ is the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), then it is He who is the full and complete support for all that we do in our Christian lives. Paul uses the same mixture of the tree and foundation terminology again in Colossians 2:6, 7 –

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

Finally, the metaphor of this uniting of the roots and the foundation is said to be “in love.” This is certainly referring to the vertical love towards God in Christ as well as the horizontal love of the believer toward other believers. When a tree is rooted and reaches out its branches, it receives the sunshine by which it continues to grow in strength and vitality. This is the same concept which is being expressed for the believer concerning love. Our foundation is set, but our growth will only be fully productive as we are guided in love.

Life application: Christ is with us, dwelling in us, from the moment that we receive Him. God has done a marvelous thing for us through the Person of Jesus by reconciling us to Himself. And even more, He has not left us as orphans. Rather He continues to reside with us through His Spirit. The access is granted at any and all times if we will simply appropriate what He has given us. Let us yield ourselves to God at all times and open this fount of spiritual blessing.

Lord God Almighty, all things are Yours, and by Your power they exist. And yet, the one thing which seems to not even acknowledge this is that which You have pursued the most. Man has turned from You and gone about finding every way to ignore You, deny You, and actively shun You. But You have patiently worked throughout history to reveal Yourself to us. Through Jesus, You have offered us a pardon and a state of peace. Turn our hearts to You; open our minds to His work; and be pleased to live in our praises for what You have done. Amen!