Exegetical Notes #3

Exegetical Notes #3
Ephesians 1:15-23

VERSES 15-16:

 Paul moves seamlessly from praise of God to praying for the people he’s writing too. Once again serving as a great example of how Authentic Spirituality works.

Being involved with God, caught up in His power and presence, doesn’t separate you from the real world. In fact it more tightly connects us to what really counts in our life and the lives of others.

Paul immediately dives into giving thanks for the Ephesian church’s faith, and then starts to pray deeply for them.

This is a great model for us to follow. Note how deep he goes. Paul does not do what I often do, pray for surface things alone. No, he looks deeply into the hearts of his people and prays for what he knows they actually need. Paul isn’t caught up in the symptoms and battling those, instead he goes straight for the heart. Our prayers should be the same.


Here again we the Trinity. Paul asks the Father of the Lord Jesus to give us the Spirit. You’ll note that not all versions cap the “S” in spirit. That’s because there’s no way to tell for sure whether or not he’s referring to the Holy Spirit here.  It seems to me that he’s actually using spirit in the sense of possessing wisdom and revelation.

But, how else are we to receive or possess these gifts apart from the Holy Spirit? Obviously, we cant!

So all three members of the Trinity are here, as they were in verses 3-14. Once again we see how impossible it is to understand and correctly interpret the Scriptures without understanding the Trinity.

It’s more than a doctrine – it’s a reality that shapes and informs everything. All of reality, including the physical universe but not limited to it, reflect this truth. If you don’t grasp the Trinity and the relationship that exists within the Godhead, you’ll never clearly understand the Bible.

Paul prays that the Trinity give to us wisdom and revelation. Wisdom and revelation are special forms of the Spirit’s operation. He imparts general illumination (wisdom) and special revelations of divine mysteries.—Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament

Vincent helps out here – but it still leaves us wondering about the word Revelation. That word carries an enormous amount of baggage in the modern world. At once it imparts mystery, dark looming possibilities of doom, miraculous happenings, and lots of great special effects!

In reality it’s somewhat different however. Revelation simply means to uncover. If you walk into your kitchen and uncover a pot on the stove to see what’s in it, congratulations you’ve just had a revelation!

“an uncovering” (akin to apokalyptō; see above), “is used in the NT of (a) the drawing away by Christ of the veil of darkness covering the Gentiles, Luke 2:32; cp. Isa. 25:7; (b) ‘the mystery,’ the purpose of God in this age, Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3; (c) the communication of the knowledge of God to the soul, Eph. 1:17—Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

So think of the word that way, a simple uncovering of truth, of growing closer to God.

What’s the purpose of the Spirit’s Ministry of Illumination? Sometimes we get so caught up in the thrill of revelation (thus the usage by the Word of Faith teachers, of that unbiblical term “Revelation knowledge”).

Paul says we need to this to get to know God better! The goal of this is to know God in a deeper, fuller way, not to have the thrill of seeing visions or anything like that.

This is a good test of what you or others are experiencing too – is it drawing you closer to God and helping you to know Him better? Or is it simply filling you up with “spiritual pride” in all your experiences? Do you speak of God or of what you’ve seen, felt, experienced?

If it doesn’t make you more Christ-centered, then you need to rethinking what you are doing, because that’s NOT the purpose God wants to accomplish in you.

VERSE 18a:

 Paul now prays that the eyes our hearts to be opened – or did he? The language here causes some problems. Here’s how Young Literal Translation renders it: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18 (YLT)

Having the eyes of your heart enlightened (pephōtismenous tous ophthalmous tēs kardias humōn). A beautiful figure, the heart regarded as having eyes looking out toward Christ. But the grammar is difficult. There are three possible interpretations. One is an anacoluthon, the case of pephōtismenous being changed from the dative humin (to you) to the accusative because of the following infinitive like eklexamenous (Acts 15:22) after apostolois. Another way of explaining it is to regard it as a tertiary predicate of dōiē, a loose expansion of pneuma. The third way is to regard the construction as the accusative absolute, a rare idiom possible in Acts 26:3; 1 Cor. 16:3; 1 Tim. 2:6. In this case, the participle merely agrees with tous ophthalmous, not with humin, “the eyes of your heart having been enlightened.” Otherwise tous ophthalmous is the accusative retained after the passive participle.
—Word Pictures in the New Testament

Ooookay!  Did that clear things up? Probably not! Let me try and bottom line this. Paul apparently is saying that the eyes of our hearts have already been enlightened, in much the same way that he said in verse 3 that we already possess all the spiritual blessings.

Paul’s request for them to know God was within proper bounds because their hearts had been enlightened (the Gr. perf. tense indicates past action with continuing results),—Bible Knowledge Commentary

So, when we came to Christ the eyes of our hearts were opened and enlightened. But, have we keep seeing with them or have we turned back to using the eyes of our old nature?

Paul wants the Lord to Illuminate our heart eyes again, so that we might see Him in our lives and know both Who He is and what He’s doing.

I think this makes a great prayer that I’m trying to pray for myself and my church and friends now.  “Lord, please open the eyes of my heart – open the eyes of their hearts.”  God, help us to see with the heart, not just the mind alone.

What’s the difference? What is the heart? The heart is the center of my being, not just emotion but also mind and perhaps will as well – depending on who you ask of course!

For the Jew, the heart was the core of personality, the total inner person, the center of thought and moral judgment. The imagery of hearts flooded with light pictures an ability to see ….—Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary

Paul now says he wants us to know three or four critically important things. But wait a minute! When I looked at this word know I was surprised. I had expected him to use one of the common words for know in the New Testament, but he didn’t .  I expected to see the word for knowing through experience, but I didn’t.

Here’s what I found he used, and when I finally got it – it was a real blessing!

The word he used means “strictly, have seen; hence, know; (1) as having come to a perception or realization of someth. know, understand, comprehend (MK 4.13); (2) as having come to knowledge through experience know (about), recognize, understand.

Do you get it? Paul wants us to have the eyes of our heart enlightened so that WE’LL SEE THE TRUTH! We will come to know the truth and experience it by SEEING IT!  Nice little play on words huh? AND a valuable insight as well! Authentic Spiritual insight and knowledge comes through seeing and that comes from the Spirit’s Ministry of Illumination.

VERSE 18b – 19:

What are these three things we need to see in our hearts clearly?

  • The Hope of Our Calling.
  • His Inheritance in the Saints.
  • His incomparably Great Power.

Since Paul only mentions the first two and then really grabs hold of the last one, I’ll follow his lead here. The hope of our calling is our past – His plan for our lives that He set up before the universe began.

His Inheritance in the Saints refers to our future – that it ends in glory when God finally and fully possess His people!

His power – here Paul digs in and fairly explodes all over the page! He piles up words to try and get us to grasp what he’s talking about.

In this phrase, Paul used four nearly synonymous Greek words to express God’s comprehensive power. Each word, by itself, has a slightly different focus: (1) “power” (dunamis) means capability or potential; (2) “working” (energeian) means effective or active power; (3) “mighty” (or “might,” kratous) means a force that overcomes resistance (this word is used only of God, never of believers); and (4) “strength” (ischuos) refers to bodily or muscular strength in humans; inherent, vital power in God. Taken together, the four words exhibit God’s all-inclusive power.

The variety in these words underscores the completeness of God’s power. Because of his power, believers know that:

God is on their side, ready to help them meet each and every obstacle;

God’s power is never stagnant or out of commission—it is always actively working on their behalf;

God is always fighting against the forces of evil on believers’ behalf;

no human strength or spiritual power from the evil world (not even Satan himself) can deter or change God’s inherent power.
—Life Application Bible Commentary

All of this is true, but it’s true in a way that Paul says is incomparably. The Greek means, throw over or beyond, excel in throwing; in the NT, as expressing a degree beyond comparison go beyond, surpass all measure, go beyond all comprehension.

That’ pretty much wraps everything up in a neat little package. Paul gives us a glimpse through the use of all these words just how much power God has to use in our lives when and if we let Him!

That is awesome in the original meaning of that much overused word!

VERSES 20-21:

But being Paul, and always wanting to make sure of two thing – one that we don’t miss his point, and two that everything remain Christ-centered as it must be – he gives us two more examples of God’s incredible power that is at work in us.

The first is the resurrection of Christ. Far from just something we remember once a year, the resurrection is a living daily reality for all those who live in Christ! The resurrection continues today – IF we see it through our Spirit Illumined eyes and take advantage of this power!

The second example Paul uses here is the exaltation of Christ! Seated at the right Hand of His Father, far above all other powers and authorities and everything else in the universe – Christ is exalted through God’s Power!

Remember – Paul’s point here is that THE VERY SAME POWER is also available to work in those of us who believe! That ought to give you something to think about!

VERSES 22-23:

 Finally Paul uses the word church at the end of verse 22. Paul uses the word church nine times in Ephesians, which is quite a lot, especially when you consider that the other eight have to fit into just five chapters!

His use of it here shows just how vital the church is to the work of Christ and God‘s purpose and plan for all our lives. The Church isn’t a place to meet or a building, it isn’t even simply a group of believers in Christ meeting and working together.

Beyond that it’s also the focus of God’s redemptive work in the world. For it is in and through the Church that Christ’s work on earth will be done.  It is the church which embodies all He is doing and will ever do!

The last phrase in verse 23 is a challenge, due to grammar issues. And believe me there’s nothing like Greek Grammar issues to drive you insane!  Here’s a brief recap:

The fullness of him that filleth all in all (to plērōma tou ta panta en pāsin plēroumenou). This is probably the correct translation of a much disputed phrase. This view takes plērōma in the passive sense (that which is filled, as is usual, Col. 1:19) and plēroumenou as present middle participle, not passive. All things are summed up in Christ (Ephes. 1:10), who is the plērōma of God (Col. 1:19), and in particular does Christ fill the church universal as his body. Hence we see in Ephesians the Dignity of the Body of Christ which is ultimately to be filled with the fulness (plērōma) of God (Ephes. 3:19) when it grows up into the fulness (plērōma) of Christ (Ephes. 4:13, 16).
—Word Pictures in the New Testament

This view point makes sense, there are others but I won’t bore you with them here. If you are really that into Greek grammar you probably already know about this, or know where to look to find out. Lenski, Wuest, etc are all good sources for further study.

Trying to determine the exact meaning of this phrase shouldn’t be allowed to distract us from the over all meaning of the passage which is clear.

Once again we see Paul pointing us towards Authentic Spirituality by showing us the road to wholeness – or what I like to call integration.

Here we see that the entire universe is going to be made ONE in Christ! God is One, and is all about bring unity and oneness to His creatures and creation. We ought to be about this as well, by not only seeking unity in the church and a good reputation outside of it, but by allowing the Holy Spirit to unify ourselves.

This is the real challenge for most modern Western Christians in my opinion. Modern technical life forces us to divide not only our time and attention, but our very selves into many different parts to deal with it all!

But in Christ and though the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit through the Power of God we can begin to become whole (one) again.

This is the path to true (Authentic) Spirituality, and can only be found in Christ. Apart from Him there is no path but the path to hell.

I pray you will open your heart the Trinity and allow the Spirit to enlighten you, the Father to Call you, and the Son to Save you – in Jesus Christ our Lord – Amen!

Exegetical Notes #3