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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Ephesians 3



Verse 1

For this cause (τουτου χαρινtoutou charin). Use of χαρινcharin (accusative of χαριςcharis) as a preposition with the genitive and referring to the preceding argument about God‘s elective grace. It is possible that Paul started to make the prayer that comes in Ephesians 3:14-21 when he repeats τουτου χαρινtoutou charin If so, he is diverted by his own words “the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles” (ο δεσμιος του Χριστου Ιησου υπερ υμων των ετνωνho desmios tou Christou Iēsou huper humōn tōn ethnōn) to set forth in a rich paragraph (Ephesians 3:1) God‘s use of him for the Gentiles.

Verse 2

If so be that ye have heard (ει γε ηκουσατεei ge ēkousate). Condition of first class with ειei and first aorist active indicative and with the intensive particle γεge that gives a delicate touch to it all. On οικονομιανoikonomian (stewardship, dispensation) see Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:25.

Verse 3

By revelation (κατα αποκαλυπσινkata apokalupsin). Not essentially different from δι αποκαλυπσεωςdi' apokalupseōs (Galatians 1:12). This was Paul‘s qualification for preaching “the mystery” (το μυστηριονto mustērion See note on Ephesians 1:9).

As I wrote afore (κατως προεγραπσαkathōs proegrapsa). First aorist active indicative of προγραπωprographō as in Romans 15:4, not picture forth as Galatians 3:1. But when and where? Epistolary aorist for this Epistle? That is possible. A previous and lost Epistle as in 1 Corinthians 5:9 ? That also is abstractly possible. To the preceding discussion of the Gentiles? Possible and also probable.

In few words (εν ολιγωιen oligōi). Not = προ ολιγουpro oligou shortly before, but as in Acts 26:28 “in brief space or time” = συντονωςsuntonōs (Acts 24:4), “briefly.”

Verse 4

Whereby (προς οpros ho). “Looking to which,” “according to which.”

When ye read (αναγινωσκοντεςanaginōskontes). This Epistle will be read in public.

My understanding in the mystery of Christ (την συνεσιν μου εν τωι μυστηριωι του Χριστουtēn sunesin mou en tōi mustēriōi tou Christou). My “comprehension” (συνεσινsunesin Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2). Every sermon reveals the preacher‘s grasp of “the mystery of Christ.” If he has no insight into Christ, he has no call to preach.

Verse 5

In other generations (ετεραις γενεαιςheterais geneais). Locative case of time. He had already claimed this revelation for himself (Ephesians 3:3). Now he claims it for all the other apostles and prophets of God.

Verse 6

To wit. Not in the Greek. But the infinitive (ειναιeinai) clause is epexegetical and gives the content of the revelation, a common idiom in the N.T. Τα ετνηTa ethnē is in the accusative of general reference. Paul is fond of compounds with συνsun and here uses three of them.

Fellow-heirs (συνκληρονομαsunklēronoma). Late and rare (Philo, inscriptions and papyri). See also Romans 8:17.

Fellow-members of the body (συνσωμαsunsōma). First found here and only here save in later ecclesiastical writers. Preuschen argues that it is equivalent to συνδουλοςsundoulos in Colossians 1:7 (σωμαsōma in sense of δουλοςdoulos).

Fellow-partakers (συνμετοχαsunmetocha). Another late and rare word (Josephus). Only here in N.T. In one papyrus in sense of joint possessor of a house.

Verse 7

For this verse see note on Colossians 1:25; Ephesians 1:19.; Ephesians 3:2.

Verse 8

Unto me who am less than the least of all saints (εμοι τωι ελαχιστοτερωι παντων αγιωνemoi tōi elachistoterōi pantōn hagiōn). Dative case εμοιemoi with ελοτηelothē The peculiar form ελαχιστοτερωιelachistoterōi (in apposition with εμοιemoi) is a comparative (τερος̇teros) formed on the superlative ελαχιστοςelachistos This sort of thing was already done in the older Greek like εσχατοτεροςeschatoteros in Xenophon. It became more common in the Koiné. So the double comparative μειζοτερανmeizoteran in 3 John 1:4. The case of αγιωνhagiōn is ablative. This was not mock humility (Romans 15:19), for on occasion Paul stood up for his rights as an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5).

The unsearchable riches of Christ (το ανεχιχνιαστον πλουτος του Χριστουto anexichniaston ploutos tou Christou). ΑνεχιχνιαστοςAnexichniastos (αa privative and verbal of εχιχνιαζωexichniazō to track out, εχex and ιχνοςichnos track) appears first in Job 5:9; Job 9:10. Paul apparently got it from Job. Nowhere else in N.T. except Romans 11:33. In later Christian writers. Paul undertook to track out the untrackable in Christ.

Verse 9

To make see (πωτισαιphōtisai). First aorist active infinitive of ποτιζωphotizō late verb, to turn the light on. With the eyes of the heart enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) one can then turn the light for others to see. See note on Colossians 1:26.

Verse 10

To the intent that (ιναhina). Final clause.

Might be made known (γνωριστηιgnōristhēi). First aorist passive subjunctive of γνωριζωgnōrizō with ιναhina The mystery was made known to Paul (Ephesians 3:3) and now he wants it blazoned forth to all powers (Gnostic aeons or what not).

Through the church (δια της εκκλησιαςdia tēs ekklēsias). The wonderful body of Christ described in chapter Ephesians 2.

The manifold wisdom of God (η πολυποικιλος σοπια του τεουhē polupoikilos sophia tou theou). Old and rare word, much-variegated, with many colours. Only here in N.T. ΠοικιλοςPoikilos (variegated) is more common (Matthew 4:24).

Verse 11

According to the eternal purpose (κατα προτεσιν των αιωνωνkata prothesin tōn aiōnōn). “According to the purpose (Ephesians 1:11) of the ages.” God‘s purpose runs on through the ages. “Through the ages one eternal purpose runs.”

Verse 12

In confidence (εν πεποιτησειen pepoithēsei). Late and rare word from πεποιταpepoitha See note on 2 Corinthians 1:15.

Through our faith in him (δια της πιστεως αυτουdia tēs pisteōs autou). Clearly objective genitive αυτουautou (in him).

Verse 13

That ye faint not (μη ενκακεινmē enkakein). Object infinitive with μηmē after αιτουμαιaitoumai The infinitive (present active) ενκακεινenkakein is a late and rare word (see already Luke 18:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9) and means to behave badly in, to give in to evil (εν κακοςenδοχα υμωνkakos). Paul urges all his apostolic authority to keep the readers from giving in to evil because of his tribulations for them.

Your glory (doxa humōn). As they could see.

Verse 14

I bow my knees (καμπτω τα γονατα μουkamptō ta gonata mou). He now prays whether he had at first intended to do so at Ephesians 3:1 or not. Calvin supposes that Paul knelt as he dictated this prayer, but this is not necessary. This was a common attitude in prayer (Luke 22:41; Acts 7:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5), though standing is also frequent (Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, Luke 18:13).

Verse 15

Every family (πασα πατριαpāsa patria). Old word (πατραpatra is the usual form) from πατηρpatēr descent from a common ancestor as a tribe or race. Some take it here as = πατροτηςpatrotēs fatherhood, but that is most unlikely. Paul seems to mean that all the various classes of men on earth and of angels in heaven get the name of family from God the Father of all.

Verse 16

That he would grant you (ινα δωι υμινhina dōi humin). Sub-final clause with ιναhina and the second aorist active subjunctive of διδωμιdidōmi to give. There are really five petitions in this greatest of all Paul‘s prayers (one already in Ephesians 1:16-23), two by the infinitives after ινα δωιhina dōi (κραταιωτηναι κατοικησαιkrataiōthēnaiινα εχισχυσητεkatoikēsai), two infinitives after καταλαβεσται γνωναιhina exischusēte (ινα πληρωτητεkatalabesthaiκραταιωτηναιgnōnai), and the last clause κραταιοωhina plērōthēte Nowhere does Paul sound such depths of spiritual emotion or rise to such heights of spiritual passion as here. The whole seems to be coloured with “the riches of His glory.”

That ye may be strengthened (κραταιοςkrataiōthēnai). First aorist passive infinitive of κρατοςkrataioō late and rare (lxx, N.T.) from δυναμειkrataios late form from εις τον εσω αντρωπονkratos (strength). See note on Luke 1:80. Paul adds εχωdunamei (with the Spirit). Instrumental case.

In the inward man (eis ton esō anthrōpon). Same expression in 2 Corinthians 4:16 (in contrast with the outward exō man) and in Romans 7:22.

Verse 17

That Christ may dwell (κατοικησαι τον Χριστονkatoikēsai ton Christon). Another infinitive (first aorist active) after ινα δωιhina dōi ΚατοικεωKatoikeō is an old verb to make one‘s home, to be at home. Christ (ΧριστονChriston accusative of general reference) is asked to make his home in our hearts. This is the ideal, but a deal of fixing would have to be done in our hearts for Christ.

Being rooted and grounded in love (εν αγαπηι ερριζωμενοι και τετεμελιωμενοιen agapēi errizōmenoi kai tethemeliōmenoi). But it is not certain whether εν αγαπηιen agapēi should go with these participles or with the preceding infinitive κατοικησαιkatoikēsai (dwell). Besides, these two perfect passive participles (from ριζοωrizoō old verb, in N.T. only here and Colossians 2:7, and from τεμελιοωthemelioō see also Colossians 1:23) are in the nominative case and are to be taken with ινα εχισχυσητεhina exischusēte and are proleptically placed before ιναhina Ephesians 3:18 should really begin with these participles. Paul piles up metaphors (dwelling, rooted, grounded).

Verse 18

That ye may be strong (ινα εχισχυσητεhina exischusēte). Sub-final clause again with ιναhina and the first aorist active subjunctive of εχισχυωexischuō a late and rare compound (from εχ ισχυωexκαταλαβεσταιischuō) to have full strength. Here only in N.T.

To apprehend (καταλαμβανωkatalabesthai). Second aorist middle infinitive of καταkatalambanō old and common verb, to lay hold of effectively (συν πασιν τοις αγιοιςkatȧ), here with the mind, to grasp (Acts 25:25).

With all the saints (πλατοςsun pasin tois hagiois). No isolated privilege. Fellowship open to all. Paul gives a rectangular (four dimension) measure of love (breadth μηκοςplatos length υπσοςmēkos height βατοςhupsos depth bathos all common enough words).

Verse 19

And to know (γνωναι τεgnōnai te). Second aorist active infinitive with εχισχυσητεexischusēte

Which passeth knowledge (την υπερβαλλουσαν της γνωσεωςtēn huperballousan tēs gnōseōs). Ablative case γνωσεωςgnōseōs after υπερβαλλουσανhuperballousan (from υπερβαλλωhuperballō). All the same Paul dares to scale this peak.

That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God (ινα πληρωτητε εις παν το πληρωμα του τεουhina plērōthēte eis pān to plērōma tou theou). Final clause again (third use of ιναhina in the sentence) with first aorist passive subjunctive of πληροωplēroō and the use of ειςeis after it. One hesitates to comment on this sublime climax in Paul‘s prayer, the ultimate goal for followers of Christ in harmony with the injunction in Matthew 5:48 to be perfect (τελειοιteleioi) as our heavenly Father is perfect. There is nothing that any one can add to these words. One can turn to Romans 8:29 again for our final likeness to God in Christ.

Verse 20

That is able to do (τωι δυναμενωι ποιησαιtōi dunamenōi poiēsai). Dative case of the articular participle (present middle of δυναμαιdunamai). Paul is fully aware of the greatness of the blessings asked for, but the Doxology ascribes to God the power to do them for us.

Above all (υπερ πανταhuper panta). Not simply πανταpanta but υπερhuper beyond and above all.

Exceedingly abundantly (υπερεκπερισσουhuperekperissou). Late and rare double compound (υπερ εκ περισσουhuperων αιτουμεταekαperissou) adverb (lxx, 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Ephesians 3:20). It suits well Paul‘s effort to pile Pelion on Ossa.

That we ask (τουτωνhōn aitoumetha). Ablative of the relative pronoun attracted from the accusative αιτουμεταha to the case of the unexpressed antecedent η νοουμενtoutōn Middle voice (δυναμινaitoumetha) “we ask for ourselves.”

Or think (ē nooumen). The highest aspiration is not beyond God‘s “power” (dunamin) to bestow.

Verse 21

In the church (εν τηι εκκλησιαιen tēi ekklēsiāi). The general church, the body of Christ.

And in Christ Jesus (και εν Χριστωι Ιησουkai en Christōi Iēsou). The Head of the glorious church.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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