3. Paul's part in making all one in Christ, 3:1-21

ii] Paul's prayer - one in love


In writing this letter, Paul has already prayed for the Ephesian believers, but now, having completed his argument proper, he returns again to prayer. Paul has explained something of God's plan for cosmic reconciliation in the church through the redemption wrought by Christ, and now he prays that the Ephesian believers, this people who are one in Christ, Jew and Gentile, may grow together in love such that "the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms", v10.


i] Context: See 3:1-13. As already indicated, the structure of Ephesians is not overly clear. Some commentators argue that the first three chapters is a prayer for the Ephesians, interrupted by a number of asides. This seems unlikely, but none-the-less, what we have in this passage is Paul's fourth major prayer point. In praying that the spiritual life of the Ephesians might be enriched, Paul prayed that they might be grounded on the hope of their calling, that they might understand the wealth of God's glorious inheritance that is theirs in Christ, and that they might experience the greatness of God's power that is now theirs through the indwelling Christ. Now, in this fourth point, Paul prays that "the Ephesians might know Christ's strengthened love which surpasses all knowledge", Hoehner.

It is probably better to argue that Paul surrounds his argument proper with prayer. Given the central issue of this letter, namely, the unity of Jew and Gentile realized through the mystery / gospel, "Christ in us." Paul now prays for love, the divine glue that will unite the two into one.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: A prayer for the Ephesian believers:

Opening address to God as Father, 14-15;

Paul's prayer for love, v16-19;

Doxology, v20-21.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul's prayer is all about love, and he comes at his subject with a whole range of descriptive phrases. So, what presents as three separate prayer points is actually one prayer point, namely, that his readers may be filled with the love of God in Christ. Paul prays that the Spirit may strengthen their inner being; that Christ may dwell in their hearts; that they may be filled with all the fullness of God. Paul wants his readers bound together with all God's people in the love of Christ.

The word "love" itself is a wooly idea in its usage today. A word like "charity" from the AV would help if it wasn't for the fact that the word "charity" today means little more than superficial kindness. We are talking about compassion, and when it comes to divine compassion, we are looking at mercy, forgiveness, or better, that all encompassing word "grace". It is that aspect of love which makes for oneness in the assembly of believers, the church. Love is acceptance of the unacceptable, the outsider, the awkward, the fallen, the failed, the foolish, ........; love is grace in action.


Note that the Greek in v15-19 forms one sentence. The "for this reason", v14, picks up on v1 where Paul was about to pray, but then spoke of his ministry with respect to the mystery. In v14 he begins the prayer again, addressing God as Father.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.


A prayer for love: i] Address to God, v14-15. The prayer is directed to God the Father, the Father of all families, both in heaven and earth. It seems likely that the image of family is being used of the fellowship of believers, the union of Jew and Gentile reconciled in Christ under God the Father. The church, formed from disparate segments of a diverse humanity, is a family united by God's reconciling love. This family, the church, the local gathering of believers, will be the instrument through which the divine plan is realized for the reconciliation of all things, not just on earth, but in the heavenlies, the spiritual realm of the "rulers and authorities" (cf., 3:10).

carin + gen. "for [this] reason" - because of, on account of [this]. Expressing reason, cf. v1.

kamptw pres. "I kneel" - i bend [the knees of me]. The Jewish posture in prayer is to stand with head bowed, but here a deeper devotion is expressed by a prostrated stance. "I offer up prayer for you to the Father."

proV + acc. "before" - Spacial. Possibly expressing direction, so "toward", but better relationship, "before".

ton patra (hr roV) "the Father" - Variant text has "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" formed by a series of relational genitives.


God's fatherhood is emphasized by noting that fatherhood takes its shape from the fatherhood of God. God is the archetypal father.

ex + gen. "from" - from, out of [whom]. Expressing source / origin, the antecedent being "the Father." "God the Father is the one who creates (3:5) and thus names every family in heaven and on earth. He is the God who is alive and acting in the present time", Hoehner.

pasa patria "the whole family of believers" - every family. The word "family" refers to any group with a single ancestor. The NIV is obviously taking the phrase to refer to the church as God's family, but the Greek is "every family." Paul is referring to groups of heavenly groups (eg., angels), and earthly groups (racial or tribal groupings, even different species). "From whom every family in heaven and earth takes its name", NEB.

en .... epi "in .... on" - in [heavens and] upon [earth]. Both prepositions are local, expressing space.

onamazetai (onomazw) pres. pas. "derives its name" - is named. Of giving a name to a thing or person, and where named, ascribe rights and authority belonging to that which is named. Naming is not just labeling. God, as the sovereign creator, gives each group its "name" and therefore confers the rights associated with that group. "Receives its name", BDAG.


ii] The prayer request - that love may prevail within the Christian fellowship, v16-19. If the church is to serve as an instrument of God's plan to reconcile all things in heaven and earth, then it must know (not intellectually know but assimilate, become one with) the love of Christ. What we have in this passage is a prayer for love expressed in a number of different ways. Paul prays that his readers may be strengthened with power by the holy Spirit, or put another way, that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. Without the rest of the passage, we would be struggling to understand what this actually means, but given what follows, it is clear that Paul is praying that they may know / assimilate the love of Christ. He prays that his readers be rooted and grounded in love, that they grasp the fullness of love, that they know / assimilate love, or put another way, that they "may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God" - let there be love!

"I pray" - Added for meaning.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [he may give to you]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the prayer.

kata + acc. "out of" - according to. Here expressing a standard; "according to the riches / wealth of his glory." "Glory" in the sense of the essence of God's being.

thV doxhV (a) gen. "glorious [riches]" - [riches] of the glory [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "riches", as NIV, or attributed, "rich glory."

dw/ (didwmi) aor. subj./opt. "-" - he may give. Most likely the subjunctive is original, but the variant optative dw/h has some support. "I pray that .... he may grant", NRSV.

dunamei (iV ewV) dat. "with power" - [to be strengthened] in / by / with power. The dative is possibly instrumental, "by power", or better adverbial of manner, "with power", as NIV.

krataiwqhnai (krataiow) aor. pas. inf. "he may strengthen you" - to be fortified, strengthened, braced, empowered. The infinitive is possibly complementary, completing the sense of "may give", "may give to become empowered." On the other hand, the infinitive may form an object clause / dependent statement; "I pray that ..... he may grant that you may be strengthened ..... with power", NRSV. It may also be categorized as an epexegetical infinitive, so Robertson. Given the context, this empowering from God is a strengthening to stand firm in the face of suffering, 3:13. "To be strengthened by His Spirit with power permeating your inmost being", Weymouth.

dia + gen. "through [his Spirit]" - through, by means of [the spirit of him]. Expressing agency. "Strengthened with God's power to act", Hoehner.

eiV + acc. "in" - in. Local, space / sphere; rendered "in" usually means "into, to", but sometimes takes the sense "in", a local sense rather than movement toward. Possibly here adverbial, expressing reference / respect; "with regard to your inner self", NJB. Most likely used here as if en, "in", local, space, metaphorical.

e[sw adv. "[your] inner [being]" - [the] inner [man]. The meaning of this phrase is probably the same as "heart" (our conscious center) in v17, a person's innermost being. It is the "center of one's personality, the thoughts, will, emotions and whatever else lies at the center of our being", O'Brien.


Paul now restates himself, but in different words, namely, that the indwelling Christ, through faith, may strengthen his people, enabling them to stand firm in difficult times, that they be rooted and grounded in God's love in Christ.

katoikhsai (katoikew) aor. inf. "so that [Christ] may dwell" - that [christ] might dwell. This second infinitival clause is a restatement of the prayer request v16, not an explanation of "strengthening", and therefore the NIV's purpose / result clause "so that" is misleading. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement; "and that Christ may dwell in your hearts", NRSV. Paul prays that the Father "may grant you inward strength and power through his Spirit, that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love", REB.

en + dat. "in" - in [the hearts of you]. Local, expressing sphere - incorporative union. Christ is known to us in the all-encompassing word "love". He is the compassionate one - the self-giving, other person centered, caring one. "Christ relates to us (dwells in our heart) in love."

dia + gen. "through" - through, by means of [faith]. Instrumental, expressing means. Presumably out trust / reliance, but possibly Christ's faithfulness - always tricky!

errizwmenoi kai teqemeliwmenoi perf. pas. part. "and I pray that you being rooted and established [in love]" - having been rooted and having been founded [in love]. This phrase is often understood as a second prayer request, the two participles being taken as forming a dependent statement of perception, expressing a wish, cf., Bruce. It is even possible, although unlikely, that they are imperatival, "be rooted and grounded in love", so Barth. Yet, it is probably better to understand the phrase "[you], being rooted and established in love", as establishing the basis of the first prayer point, or even better, summarizing the prayer, and so serving as a lead into the the further expansion of the prayer for love. As such, the participles are adjectival, "[you] who are rooted and grounded in love." The participial phrase would then sit with the following hina clause, further expanding the prayer point; "[I pray] that you, who have been rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to grasp ..."


Paul wants his readers to grasp the totality of this love, a wisdom beyond knowing; "it is higher than heaven, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea", Job.11:8-9.

iJna + subj. "-" - that [you may have power, be strong enough, be able]. Introducing a dependent statement / epexegetic, expressing / specifying the content of the restated prayer point. Many commentators suggest it is a second prayer point, but it is better viewed as a restatement / clarification of the first iJna, "I pray that .....", v16. The need for "[divine] power" indicates the difficulty of achieving what follows.

katalabesqai (katalambanw) mid. inf. "to grasp" - to grasp, find, understand (in the middle voice). The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "may be able". To understand what? Whatever it is, "all the saints" know it, and we are to grasp how wide, long, etc. it is. O'Brien lists the following suggestions from the main commentators:

*the mighty power of God;

*the mystery of salvation;

*the manifold wisdom of God;

*the matchless love of Christ.

O'Brien suggests it is "Christ's all encompassing love", "the love of Christ", Hoehner, and given the context, this does seem the best solution. The NIV (following Phillips?) adds the words "is the love of Christ", and although not in the Greek, and certainly something more than a dynamic equivalent, the phrase is a reasonable stab at the meaning.

sun + dat. "with" - together with [all the saints]. Expressing association. "Saints" probably means "Jewish believers."

tiv pro. "what" - what [is the breadth and length and height and depth of God's love in Christ]. Interrogative pronoun / indirect question. The figurative construction terms may serve to image the wisdom of God, or the power of God, but most likely the love of God, so O'Brien, Lincoln, Hoehner, ...


This love is "the love of Christ," Christ's love, a love full of grace. Such love can be observed in Christ's sacrifice for us, Gal.2:20, a love of "surpassing worth", Phil.3:8.

te "-" - This conjunction indicates a strong connection between this clause and the one preceding, nearly explanatory; "What I am praying for you is this, that you may soak up the love of God in Christ, be filled with the fullness of God."

gnwnai (ginwskw) inf. "to know" - to know. "May be able / have power .... to know", ie., the infinitive is again complementary, as with katalabesqai, "to grasp", v18, completing the verb "may have power" v18." The phrase "to know this (the) love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" serves to further develop the idea of divine love which Paul's readers must "grasp" (understand). This is assuming that it is "love" that we must "grasp".

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "love of Christ" - [the love] of christ. The ever present problem we face with the objective, or subjective, genitives, again greets us in this verse. It is obviously not objective, our love for Christ, but it may be subjective, or probably better, adjectival, possessive, "Christ's love".

thn uperballousan (uperballw) pres. part. "that surpasses" - the excelling, surpassing [knowledge]. The participle, with the comparative genitive "of knowledge", is adjectival, attributive, limiting "love". For the love that surpasses it is easy to think in terms of a mystical presence of Christ within, but we are probably safer to think in terms of God's grace in Christ for lost humanity. Of course, a personal awareness of God's grace does transcend our knowledge of systematic theology.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [you may be filled]. Probably introducing another dependent statement, "I pray that .....", ie., the last prayer point, or better, the final restatement of Paul's prayer. Possibly introducing a purpose / result clause "so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God", NRSV, so Hoehner. In Colossians, Paul states that believers are already full, full in their incorporation in Christ, cf., 1:19, 2:9, 10. The New Testament always carries the tension of our being perfect in Christ, along with our need to strive toward perfection. So here, Paul prays that his readers may be filled "to the measure of all the fullness of God", NIV, or better, "filled with all God's fullness", Wallace. O'Brien suggests Paul is praying that his readers may "be all that God wants them to be", ie., "spiritually mature." Yet, in the end, it is likely that this is just another way of experiencing the love of God in Christ.

eiV + acc. "with" - to, into. Expressing the goal of the prayer point; "toward the fullness of God."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [all the fullness] of god. Usually read as a subjective genitive, ie., "the fullness that God provides." Yet, objective is possible, "the fullness that fills God", although better, adjectival, possessive, "the fullness that belongs to God" = God's love / grace???


iii] Concluding praise, doxology, v20-21. The prayer ends with a doxology to the God who can do far more than we could ever dare to ask, or think. To God be glory, particularly in the church, and in Christ who made the church possible. As Caird notes, this doxology "differs from all other doxologies, in setting the church alongside Christ as the agent through which the glory of God is to be displayed and acknowledged."

de "now" - but/and. Transitional connective, indicating the next step in the argument / paragraph marker, as NIV.

tw/ dunamenw/ (dunamai) dat. pres. pas. part. "to him who is able" - to the one being able. The participle functions as a substantive, dative of ascription / possession, while the antecedent is presumably "God". "Now to him who by the action of his power is able to do all", Moffatt.

poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "to do" - to do. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the participle "being able."

uJper adv. "-" - beyond [all things]. Comparative adverb; introducing an adverbial phrase modifying the verbal aspect of the participial phrase "being able to do"; "beyond all measure", Zerwick.

uJperekperissou adv. "immeasurably more" - superabundantly, exceeding all boundaries, far beyond. Comparative adverb; the prefixes uJper and ek intensifies. The doxology is a short praise to the God who is not only able to do as Paul has prayed, but will do it, and do it superabundantly. The doxology expresses Paul's reliance on God's intention to always do as he has promised. "Is able to do so much more", TEV.

w|n gen. pro. "[than] all" - which [we ask or think]. The pronoun is genitive by attraction to its assumed antecedent, a genitive of comparison, toutwn, "than the things which we ask or think", cf., Larkin.

kata + acc. "according to" - according to [the power]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with, corresponding to."

thn energoumenhn (energew) pres. part. "that is at work" - the thing / one working. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the power", "which is at work in us." Taken as a middle voice so reflecting the work of the Holy Spirit within / in relation to a believer, cf., v16.

en + dat. "within [us]" - in [us]. Local, space; with the sense "in our hearts", cf. v16-17.


autw/ dat. pro. "to him be" - to him. Dative of ascription / possessive; an optative or subjunctive verb to-be is assumed; "may / let glory be to him"

h doxa (a) "glory" - Used here in the sense of praise offered to God by a worshipping community.

en + dat. "in" - in [the church and] in [christ jesus], The sense is a little difficult to grasp and this is caused by the meaning of the preposition "in, within, by." The NIV opts for a local sense, "in", but an instrumental sense is possible, "by". It is even possible that it takes separate meanings in each phrase, "glory in the church (the assembly of worshipping believers), through our union with Christ Jesus", TNT, although either a local sense for both, or instrumental sense for both seems best. Note that the linking conjunction kai is missing in some manuscripts, but this is possibly a consequence of the order being questioned, ie., "in the church" being placed before "in Christ Jesus". If the conjunction is dropped, the order can be read "in Christ Jesus in the church". The point though is clear enough: "God is to be glorified in (by??) the church because his power and splendor are displayed there and he is glorified in (by??) Christ Jesus because Christ's work, which pleased the Father, made the church possible", Hoehner.

eiV "throughout" - to, into. Spacial, expressing direction of action / arrival at, but possibly temporal

taV geneaV "generations" - Presumably human generations, ongoing human existence which is ultimately subsumed into eternity.

tou aiwnoV twn aiwnwn gen. "for ever and ever" - of the age of the ages. The intent of the genitive is unclear. Larkin suggests that the first could be partitive and the second epexegetic; "for all the generations of the age, that is, the ages", but supports Best in it being an idiomatic way to express "eternity".


Ephesians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]