I. God's Church: Its Doctrinal Foundation (the Indicative) - 1:1-3:21
A. Prologue 1:1-2
B. Praise to God 1:3-14
C. Prayer for the Saints 1:15-23
1. its cause 1:15
"For this reason" (v. 15a) most likely points back to vv. 3-14, and especially vv. 13-14. Paul's intercession is also prompted by what he had heard of them (see the almost identical language in Col. 1:3-4). Often when God blesses others, be it spiritually or materially, we begrudge it or are jealous or question their worthiness ('he doesn't deserve that!). But Paul rejoices with those who rejoice. Nothing pleased him more than the progress and prosperity of other Christians (though he himself remains under arrest as he writes this!).
* their faith
* their love (indeed, they loved 'all the saints)
When faith and love are mentioned one expects to hear of hope as well, but that will come in v. 18. If "faith" and "love" were ultimately the result of something these believers had done, why would Paul have thanked God for them? Certainly they displayed faith and love, but Paul evidently felt that God was the ultimate source of both. Calvin put it this way:
"Now, with all this, he shows that faith and love are the very gifts of God and do not come from ourselves, as men always imagine through a devilish pride. . . . If every man was able to believe and have faith of his own accord, or could get it by some power of his own, the praise for it ought not to be given to God. For it would be but mockery to acknowledge ourselves indebted to him for what we have obtained, not from him, but from elsewhere. But here St. Paul blesses God's name for enlightening the Ephesians in the faith and for framing their hearts to make them loving. It is to be concluded, therefore that everything comes from God (Sermons)."
Some have argued that the wording of v. 15 suggests only hearsay acquaintance with the readers and that Paul, therefore, could not have written the letter. But similar language is used in Philemon 5 with reference to someone whom Paul clearly knew. Cf. Col. 1:4. At most, this language might suggest the letter was sent to churches in addition to Ephesus, but cannot be used to disprove Pauline authorship.
2. its constancy 1:16
For this characteristic of Paul's prayers, see Rom. 1:8ff.; 1 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3ff.; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3; Philemon 4 ("you" is singular). Note also that in Paul's prayers credit is given to whom credit is due: God! Of course, Paul doesn't mean that he does nothing but give thanks, but that he regularly gives thanks for them each time he prays (most likely, morning, noon, and evening, the customary three hours each day).
3. its content - 1:17-23
It's important that we be imitators of Paul not simply in the fact that he prayed for others but also in what he prayed for them. His content is no less normative than his constancy (at the same time we acknowledge that on occasion Paul's prayers are uniquely related to the circumstances of his readers). Be it also noted that Paul evidently believed that the spiritual growth of his readers was wholly dependent on God who gives generously to his people when they call upon him in prayer. Furthermore, although they had already received 'wisdom (1:8), Paul knows there is always an ongoing need for more!
a. Paul prays that the Ephesian believers might be spiritually enlightened so as to increase in their knowledge of God 1:17
His prayer is that God would act in such a way that they might more fully grasp and understand the implications of the many spiritual blessings with which God has already blessed them in Christ. Paul doesn't assume that simply because they have been so richly blessed they need no further understanding or growth or application of these truths.
Here God is referred to as 'the Father of glory (v. 17a), which might well be translated, 'the glorious Father. Or it may be that the Father is the source of all glory. As Eadie points out,
"the three preceding paragraphs are . . . each wound up with a declaration of the final result and purpose the glory of God. And now, when the apostle refers to God, what more natural than to ascribe to Him that glory which is His own chief end, and His own prime harvest in man's redemption? (81)."
Note the word, "give" (v. 17b). The knowledge of God is the gift of God. See Mt. 11:27; 16:17; 1 John 5:20. Human genius cannot account for the knowledge of God. Neither native abilities, education, nor human will power can attain insight into the character and heart of God. God is known by a divine and supernatural light. The youngest and lowliest of children can exceed the oldest and most elevated of scientists when it comes to the knowledge of God!
To what does the word "spirit" refer? Is this the Holy Spirit or the human spirit (cf. Eph. 4:23; Gal. 6:1)? Probably the former:
* The HS is the agent of revelation (cf. John 15:26;) and illumination (1 Jn. 2:27). Indeed, revelation always finds its source in either the Father, Son, or Spirit (see Mt. 11:25,27; 16:17; Rom. 2:5; 8:19; 1 Cor. 1:7; 2:10; Gal. 1:12,16; Eph. 3:5).
* One telling argument against taking 'spirit as a reference to the human spirit is the word "revelation" itself. As Fee notes, "whereas one might be able to understand 'a spirit of wisdom' to mean something like 'a wise disposition' or 'a wise spirit,' to speak that way of 'revelation' is to speak near nonsense. What, one wonders, can 'a spirit of revelation' possibly mean in any sense in English?" (676).
* Consider also the trinitarian structure of Ephesians 1. It seems also to appear here in v. 17 where we find reference to Jesus and the Father. How appropriate, then, that the Spirit should also be in view. In this regard, see especially Isa. 11:2.
* The parallel in Col. 1:9 points to the Holy Spirit as does the close verbal parallel in Rom. 8:15 ("Spirit of adoption").
If the "spirit" refers to the Holy Spirit, as I believe it does, we should understand the verb "give" to mean an increased activity or deepening experience or intensified ministry of the Spirit. After all, believers already have the Spirit, as vv. 13-14 make clear. In the words of Fee, "the prayer is not for some further Spirit reception, but for the indwelling Spirit whom they have already received to give them further wisdom and revelation. The emphasis, therefore, is not in receiving the Spirit as such, but on receiving (or perhaps realizing?) the resident Spirit's gifts (676)." In summary, Paul's prayer is that God would grant us his Spirit who in turn will supply the wisdom to understand what he also reveals to us about the character and purposes of God and our role in the latter.
Note well: here we have an unmistakable reference to revelation being given to non-apostolic Christians, revelation that is, therefore, non-canonical. Contrary to the cessationist argument, revelation is not restricted to the biblical authors or to the biblical canon. God can and does speak and grant knowledge and insight and illumination and truth to the average believer without such revelatory activity threatening the finality or sufficiency of Scripture! Question: What is the relationship between this ministry of the Spirit and the Word of God? What are the implications of this passage for biblical hermeneutics? Does Paul intend to say that the Spirit grants insight and understanding into God and his ways apart from the written Word or only through the written Word?
The purpose of the Spirit's revelatory activity is to increase our knowledge of God (see Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9-10; Philemon 6). Contrast this with what we typically pray for ourselves and for others!
b. The knowledge of God for which Paul prays consists of three truths: the hope of his calling, the wealth of the glory of his inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of his power vv. 18-23
Here in v. 18a Paul further defines what it means for the Spirit to give us wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God: it means having the eyes of one's heart enlightened, i.e., receiving spiritual insight (contrast this with their former, unenlightened condition in 4:18 and 5:8). All the study in the world will avail little in the true knowledge of God apart from the energizing, enabling, enlightening ministry of the Spirit! Note too the relationship between "knowledge of God" and the "heart" (vv. 17b-18a). Here heart = the core of both the spiritual and mental life of a person, including emotions and will.
* (1) the hope of his calling (v. 18a"
The "hope" of which God's calling is the source or cause is our anticipation of the inheritance referred to in the verses that follow. But it also refers back to the summing up of all things in Christ which is the ultimate purpose of God's saving activity (1:10). The "calling" Paul has in mind is related to divine election in 1:4. In other words, Paul is praying that we will know the significance and implications of God's sovereign, pre-temporal choice of us. God's sovereign saving purpose for you is something God wants you to know and appreciate, not ignore.
* (2) the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (v. 18b)
Once again there is ambiguity in the word translated "inheritance." Some contend that the inheritance is ours and that God is the one who gives it (cf. 1 Pt. 1:4). What might our inheritance entail? Eternal life (Titus 3:7), glory with Christ (Rom. 8:17), immortality (1 Cor. 15:50), the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5), and the heavenly city (Rev. 21:2-7), just to mention a few. But more likely this is the inheritance God receives (namely, us). Note well, Paul says it is "His inheritance." We are God's inheritance (see Deut. 4:20; 9:26,29; 2 Sam. 21:3; 1 Kings 8:51,53; Ps. 28:9; 33:12; 78:62,71; 106:5,40; Isa. 19:25; 47:6; 63:17; Jer. 10:16; 51:19; etc.). Paul would thus be praying that we might be enabled to understand the glory and honor and wonder of that privileged status, to understand and reflect upon the spiritual wealth of what it means to belong to God, to be his people. God wants us to fully understand and grasp and experience what we are to him!
Note well: Paul declares that there is glory in being God's inheritance. Indeed, there are spiritual riches or great wealth in this glory. Such is what it means to be chosen by God (1:4) and predestined to adoption as his children (1:5). We are the principal means by and through which God now and forever after will display the indescribable splendor of his resplendent beauty! Paul's prayer is that the Spirit might enable us to appreciate and enjoy and celebrate and marvel at this unfathomable value which God places on us.
* (3) the surpassing greatness of his power (vv. 19-23)
Note how Paul piles up words in v. 19 to highlight the magnitude of God's power. It isn't enough for him simply to refer to God's 'power, so he refers to the "greatness" of God's 'power. Nor is it enough for him to refer to the greatness of God's power, so he refers to the "surpassing" greatness of God's power! The best part is that this power is not an abstract energy or a theoretical assertion of what God can do but a declaration of what God actually does "toward (or unto) us who believe." This indescribably great and awesome power of the great and awesome God is intended for and on behalf of you and me!
This declaration would have had special significance for the people living in southwest Asia Minor who lived in a milieu characterized by flourishing magical practices, the renowned Artemis cult, and a variety of other Phrygian mysteries and astrological beliefs (Arnold, 167). In the midst of this religious diversity there was a common fear of hostile religious (i.e., demonic) powers. Paul's prayer, notes O'Brien, "presupposes and emphasizes the supremacy of God's power, which was shown particularly in Christ's resurrection and exaltation to a position of authority over all things. In the light of this superior power of God, who works all things in accordance with the purpose of his will, there is no longer any reason for the readers to fear tyrannical evil powers (138)." What application might this have for us today?
This power was manifested in three ways:
First, God's power was manifested in the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 19b-20a)
Note again in v. 19b the piling up of terms. This power that is designed for believers is the self-same power by which God raised Jesus from the dead. Again, it wasn't just God's "might" (ischus = ability, latent strength), but the "strength" (kratos = power in action) of his might. In addition, it is in accordance with the "working" (energeia = the efficiency of the power) of the "strength of God's might!" And all this . . . for believers!
Some have questioned why Paul doesn't mention the death of Jesus. There seem to be at least two reasons. First, the resurrection and exaltation are more suitable expressions of divine power than the cross, the latter typically portrayed in the NT as an expression of weakness ("For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God [2 Cor. 13:4]." Second, it is usually in relation to the love of God that Paul mentions the cross.
Second, God's power was manifested in the exaltation of Jesus (vv. 20b-23)
Paul alludes here to Psalms 110:1 and 8:6 (for the exaltation and ascension of Jesus, see Acts 2:33-35; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pt. 3:22; Rev.. 3:21). The exaltation of Jesus is expressed in his supremacy in three respects:
1) Jesus was exalted above all power and authority vv. 20b-21
To be seated at someone's "right hand" was to be afforded the highest of honor, privilege, and authority. In the OT, God's 'right hand symbolized many things: victory (Ps. 20:6; 44:3; Isa. 41:10), the position of favor (1 Kings 2:19; Ps. 80:18; Jer. 22:24), and power (Exod. 15:6; Ps. 89:13; Isa. 48:13). O'Brien reminds us that 'although Ephesians will later assert that God has seated believers with Christ in the heavenly realms (2:6), significantly there is no mention of their being placed at "his right hand." "Christ's exalted status cannot be shared (141)."
The four words in v. 21a translated "rule," "authority," "power," and "dominion" are among six typical Pauline terms for demonic spirits found in Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10,15; Rom. 8:38. Does this imply there are six classes or categories of angelic (demonic) beings?
1) principalities/rulers (arche) - a ruler must have someone or something over which to exercise dominion (Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10; Rom. 8:38).
2) authorities (exousia) - again, authority, by definition, demands a subordinate (Eph. 1:21; 3:10; Col. 1:16).
3) powers (dunamis) - Eph. 1:21; Rom. 8:38. In Mark 9:29 Jesus refers to a type of demon that "cannot come out but by prayer and fasting." The point seems to be that some demons are stronger and more powerful than others. Hence, there is implied a hierarchy or differentiation based on spiritual strength.
4) dominions (kuriotetos) - again, "lordship" or "dominion" over what, whom, and where (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16)?
5) thrones (thronoi) - used of angels only in Col. 1:16.
6) world rulers (kosmokratoras) - used only in Eph. 6:12.
If all angels and demons are of the same type or rank or carry the same authority, why are they described by such a variety of terms? It would also seem that with difference in rank comes difference in power, task, etc.
These four words are not intended to be exhaustive, hence the phrase 'every name that is named encompasses all other intelligent beings, whether good or evil, human or angelic.
The reference to the 'heavenlies "heavenly places" (v. 20b) indicates that for Paul "Christ had not simply disappeared nor had he evaporated into a universal spirit, but he had departed to a new sphere, that of heaven, which would be appropriate to his transformed body's mode of existence (Lincoln, 62)."
2) Jesus was given dominion over all power and authority v. 22a
Not only has he been exalted over all, but all have been placed in subjection to him. This is a present reality and not merely a future hope. See Ps. 8:7; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:8. "The brow once crowned with thorns now wears the diadem of universal sovereignty; and that hand, once nailed to the cross, now holds in it the sceptre of unlimited dominion. He who lay in the tomb has ascended the throne of (an) unbounded empire (Eadie, 104)."
3) Jesus was made head over all things to the Church vv. 22b-23
Here Paul declares that Jesus in his exaltation over the universe is God the Father's gift to the church! Thus not only is the greatness of God's power "toward us who believe" (v. 19) but so too is Christ's cosmic dominion. Question: How is Christ's supremacy over the cosmos for our benefit?
Most often in Paul the Greek word ekklesia, translated "church," refers to actual concrete gatherings of Christians in a local setting (see 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1,4; 2:14; Gal. 1:2; Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15; Philemon 2). But on occasion, especially in Ephesians, it appears to refer to an entity that is much broader than any one local congregation. Such texts as Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 10:32; 12:28; 15:9; Phil. 3:6; Col. 1:18,24; and especially Eph. 3:10,21; 5:23,24,25,27,29,32, as well as here in 1:22, seem to have in view the universal Church, the "body of all believers." Not everyone accepts this view. O'Brien, for example, believes it better to understand the term "metaphorically of a heavenly gathering around Christ in which believers already participate (cf. Heb. 12:22-24). . . . Local gatherings, whether in a congregation or a house-church, are earthly manifestations of that heavenly gathering around the risen Christ (cf. Heb. 10:25) (146-47)."
Observe Paul's use of the word 'head (kephale) in this passage to indicate the authority of Jesus over the entire cosmos, including the church. The "head is the ruling, guiding, and sustaining power over its body." This will become important later in Eph. 5 and Paul's discussion of the relation between husband and wife.
Whereas it is clear that "fullness" (4x in Ephesians 1:10,23; 3:19; 4:13; 2x in Colossians 1:19; 2:9; 6x elsewhere Rom. 11:12,25; 13:10; 15:29; 1 Cor. 10:26; Gal. 4:4) further defines "body" (see esp. Eph. 3:19), which is the church, the meaning is ambiguous. The term "fullness" probably refers to the glorious revelation of God's presence and power. Or, as Snodgrass says, fullness "refers to God's making his presence and power felt (80)." The church now embodies, expresses, and mediates that glorious presence to the world. Having said that, there still remain several possible translations:
* The church is that which fills up or completes Christ, he himself being the one who fills all things. The first half of this rendering is theologically inconsistent with what Paul says elsewhere of Jesus.
* The church is that which fills up or completes Christ, he himself being the one who is filled by all things. Both halves of this rendering are heretical!
* The church is the fullness of Christ, i.e., the church is filled by him, he himself being the one who is filled by all things. But Christ is already the fullness of God (Col. 1:19; 2:9) and it would be improper to speak of him as dependent on all things; indeed, he himself is head over all things!
* The church is the fullness of Christ, i.e., the church is filled by him (his fullness having been imparted to it), he himself being the one who fills all things. The last option is the most likely one. Be it noted, also, that only the church, not the cosmos, is said to be Christ's body. Although Christ rules over the cosmos, he sustains a relationship of loving and leading intimacy only with his church, filling it with his Spirit, grace, and gifts. As for the idea that Christ 'fills all in all, i.e., fills all things in all respects, O'Brien explains:
"Christ is the one who completely fills everything, that is, the whole of creation, the earthly and the heavenly, comprising all of humanity as well as the entire angelic realm, especially the rebellious powers. The nature of this filling is not to be explained in a physical or spatial sense: Christ pervades all things with his sovereign rule, directing all things to their appointed end (cf. Heb. 1:3), and this entails his functioning as the powerful ruler over against the principalities (1:21) and giving grace and strength to his people, the church (4:13,15-16) (151)."