Chapter 1:15-23. Paul’s Prayer
Verse 15 is supposed to be proof that Paul did not write this letter to the Ephesians. But as Paul had been away from Ephesus for a number of years, it is not unusual that he writes of having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints.
Faith in Jesus as Lord produces love between Christians. The fruit that God most desires to see His adopted children bearing is love (cf. v. 4; 1 Jn. 4:7, 8). From the subjective angle, the sign that a person is under the Lordship of Christ is the love they have for the saints. The news of the Ephesians’ love, not only among themselves, but unto all the saints, encouraged the apostle to give thanks (v. 16), and to pray for them. We might ask ourselves, how often do we thank God for faithful saints, and intercede for them?
The content of this prayer is most instructive. First, it is addressed, as all prayers should be, to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 17). But Paul adds another title, the Father of glory, to this. It is no coincidence to find this new title here. God’s glory is the overarching intent of His purpose in redeeming us (vv. 6, 12, 14). The job of the saints is to bring glory to God in the midst of a thankless age. We do this when we train ourselves to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), by living by Christ (Jn. 15:5-7; Gal. 2:20).
Paul prays that God would grant the Ephesians the spirit of wisdom and revelation that they might know Him. We must realize that Christianity is a ‘religion’ of dependence, not in the way liberals like Schleiermacher meant it, where a feeling of dependence was made the cornerstone of his system, but a faith in the objective reality of our creatureliness and of God’s right to be our Lord and Provider. And this dependence is as much a reality in the realm of knowing as in the area of sustenance, in fact more so. Our dim apprehension of what it means to be a child of the Creator-King and how that has been and is demonstrated is something that we must be ready to remedy. And the remedy is derived from our contemplation of God’s revelation.
Paul’s opening (vv. 3‑14) constitutes a heavy diet of theology, even for those who had been personally taught by him in the school of Tyrannus some years earlier. We shouldn’t think it unusual then, if he asks God to enlighten the minds of his readers and enlarge their understanding of the hope of His calling, and the riches of…His inheritance (v. 18).[i] But this is not all; they (and we) need to understand the exceeding greatness of His power toward who believe (v. 19). God’s empowering Spirit evidenced this provision of power, called His mighty power, at the resurrection, glorification, and ascension of Christ (v. 20). We have already been told that this same mighty Spirit indwells each believer in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:10, 11; 1 Cor. 3:16).
The Lord Jesus Christ is now exalted at the right hand of the Father far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion (v. 21). These principalities have authority and great power, but Christ is greater (“far above”) than them all. The “powers” probably refer to the demonic rulers of darkness, which the author will speak of in chapter 6. Christ’s name is above every name (Phil. 2:9) and always will be; all things, being put under His feet (v. 22), and all authority over all matters concerning the Church residing in Him (Matt. 28:18).
Jesus Christ is the agent of creation itself (Jn. 1:1-3), for whom everything was made (Col. 1:16b). He sustains the entire cosmos moment by moment (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), and He will one day return to rule over it (Psa. 2:7-12). This clearly shows that it is the Church’s job to be taken up with Christ.
The Church is called in verse 23, His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. This is a difficult concept, perhaps exceeding what Paul has written in previous epistles (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12ff). In 1 Corinthians, for example, “Christ equals the body; but in Ephesians and Colossians, the Church equals the body and Christ is the Head.” (A. Patzia, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon in NIBC,171)
The concluding phrase the fullness of Him who fills all in all, provides a magnificent ending to the prayer. Its meaning seems to be that Christ, the Head over all things, is somehow incomplete until His Church is gathered in. This is a tremendous paradox; that He Who is over all, and Who fills all (Col. 1:16, 17), nevertheless is filled by His Church. Although this appears to be an oxymoron, it is only what one might expect after reading John 15:1‑8 (‘The Vine and the Branches’). “This is the highest honour of the Church, that, until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons Himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation is it for us to learn, that, not until we are along with Him, does He possess all His parts, or wish to be regarded as complete!” (J. Calvin, Commentaries Vol. XXI 218).
[i] This is more than the hope of heaven; it is the realization of what we really are in Christ. “It is through Christ that [Paul] sees heaven. To know Christ, to love Christ, to serve Christ, to follow Christ, to be like Christ, to be with Christ for ever! –that is what St. Paul lived for…When life is thus filled with Christ, heaven becomes, as one may say, a mere circumstance, and death but an incident upon the way—in the soul’s everlasting pursuit of Christ.” (G. G. Findlay, The Epistle to the Ephesians, [The Expositor’s Bible, VI] 23)