Author: Ron Graham
Paul’s Prayer and Plea
—Ephesians 3:14-21, 4:1-6
A verse by verse study of Ephesians 3:14-21 and 4:1-6. Paul writes a beautiful prayer and exhortation for the Christians at Ephesus
1 Paul’s Prayer
Paul tells the Ephesians that he prays for them. He asks that they may grow strong and be fully blessed.
Ephesians 3, Verses 14-19
¶“14For this reason I kneel before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15From him the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that from his glorious riches he may strengthen you, with his power, through his Spirit, in your inner being. 17Thus may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And in love may you put down roots and lay your foundation. 18May you be empowered with all the holy ones, to grasp how wide and long and deep and high 19is the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. So may you be filled to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Kneeling before the Father
Satan has caused terrible troubles in the world. He has covered the world with darkness. Yet it has always been possible for people to pray to the Father in heaven. He is not only “our Father in heaven” but also "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:14). It is in view of Christ’s sacrifice that this access to the Father has been possible —even before the cross.
When we approach God, we "through Christ have access by one Spirit to the Father " (Ephesians 2:18). Both Christ and the Spirit intercede for us when we pray (Romans 8:26,34). Christ is our high priest who himself has suffered trials on earth. We know he is present, representing us, when we pray to the Father.
When we address the Father, we are also praying to Christ and the Holy Spirit because they are present as intercessors and helpers. Jesus invites us to address the Father, but he also hears our prayer. So when we address the Father, we “tell it to Jesus”. Therefore "we come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we can obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
We do not pray only for ourselves, but for others and our concerns for them. So Paul asks God to help the Ephesians.
After saying "I kneel before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:14), Paul then adds, "From him the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Ephesians 3:15). There are three questions here:
- 1. Who does “him” refer to, the Father or Christ?
- 2. What “family” or families are referred to?
- 3. What “name” is referred to?
Paul has in mind the Father of a family or nation, a (patria) meaning a paternal lineage, a father’s descendants. This family exists both in heaven and on earth. This could mean the whole family of man, or rather it could mean "the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). This is the family of those, from every nation, who are made holy in Christ. They are "fellow heirs of the same body" (Ephesians 3:6). They wear his name, "above every name that is named" ( Ephesians1:21).
What Paul Asks For the Disciples
- May God strengthen you, with his power, through his Spirit, in your inner being.
- May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith.
- May you put down roots in love, and in love lay your foundation.
- May you be empowered with all the holy ones, to grasp how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.
- May you be filled to all the fullness of God.
These are obviously not only Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians, but also his exhortations to them. All members of God’s family should encourage one other and pray for one other along these lines.
2 Paul’s Praise
Paul finishes his prayer with a doxology or words of praise to God. Paul acknowledges God’s power and prays that God will be glorified in his people.
Ephesians 3, Verses 20-21
¶“20He is able to do abundantly very far more than anything we ask or imagine, as befits his power that is at work within us. 21To him be glory in the people he has called out, and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, for ever and ever, Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
The Power of God in Us
The Greek words for “able” and for “power” are related to (dunamis) meaning mighty power. I like to mention that the word “dynamite” comes from this Greek word. Paul points out that the power of God is able to do utterly unimaginable things.
But Paul says something stunning. He says that God’s power "is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). Then he says, "To him be glory in the people he has called out, and in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:21). If Paul had said, “To him be glory in Christ Jesus” we would not have been startled. But Paul says that God is glorified also "in the people he has called out". God’s power is at work in God’s people to his glory! Is that not amazing?
This is true, not only of God’s called out people in the time of the apostle Paul, but also "throughout all generations, for ever and ever" (Ephesians 3:21). That includes you and me today. It includes "the whole family in heaven and on earth" (Ephesians 3:15). It includes those who have been; those who are now; and those who will come.
3 Paul’s Plea
Paul now makes a very strong plea, urging the Christians to unity because Christ has called them all, whether Jew or Gentile, into one body and one inheritance.
Ephesians 4, Verses 1-6
¶“1I, the prisoner for the Lord, plead with you to walk the walk. Be worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and control yourselves. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Try hard to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace 4—one body and one Spirit. This befits your calling: you were called to one hope, 5one Lord, one faith, one immersion, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).
The Seven Marks
Be worthy, humble, self-controlled, patient, loving, diligent, peace-makers.
Paul’s list here of virtues or “Christian graces” is similar to other lists (eg Galatians 5:22-23, 2Peter 1:5-10). It's not a complete list of course, but you'd have to say that anyone marked by these characteristics would be very easy to live with in harmony. Such a person would be a good companion in the faith. A congregation of such people would have little difficulty being united.
The Seven Ones
One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father.
It's easy to count each “one” that Paul lists, but very hard to find professing Christians that will acknowledge all seven as “essential”. If any one of these is not essential, why did Paul include it in his list?