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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Ephesians 3



Verse 1

For this cause

Seeing ye are so builded together.

Of Christ Jesus ( τοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἱησοῦ )

Notice the article, the Christ, and see on Ephesians 2:13.


To whom Paul was expressly sent, and in preaching to whom he had fallen into the hands of the civil law.

Verse 2

If ye have heard ( εἴγε ἠκούσατε )

Here begins a long digression extending to Ephesians 3:14. If, Rev., if so be, means upon the supposition that; not implying the certainty of the assumption, though this shade of meaning is given by the context. The words are a reminder of his preaching among them.

Dispensation ( οἰκονομίαν )

See on Ephesians 1:10; see on Colossians 1:25. The divine arrangement or disposition.

Verse 4

Whereby ( πρὸς ὃ )

Lit., agreeably to which, namely, what he had written.

Mystery of Christ

The mystery which is Christ. See on Colossians 1:26; see on Romans 11:25.

Verse 5

Other generations ( ἑτέραις )

Other and different. See on Matthew 6:24.

Verse 6

Fellow-heirs - of the same body - partakers ( συγκληρόνομα σύσσωμα συμμέτοχα )

The second of these words occurs only here; the third only here and Ephesians 5:7. They are strange to classical Greek.

Verse 7

Gift of the grace

The gift in which the grace of God consisted, the apostleship to the Gentiles.

By the effectual working of His power ( κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ )

Rev., better, according to the working, etc. The gift was bestowed in accordance with that efficiency which could transform Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle to the Gentiles.

Verse 8

Less than the least ( τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ )

Only here in the New Testament, and very characteristic. A comparative is formed upon a superlative: more least than all the saints. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:8.

Unsearchable ( ἀνεξιχνίαστον )

Only here and Romans 11:33(note). Which cannot be tracked out.

Verse 9

To make all men see ( φωτίσαι πάντας )

Lit., to enlighten.

The mystery

The admission of the Gentiles into covenant privileges.

From the beginning of the world ( ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων )

Lit., from the ages. Rev., from all ages. See on Colossians 1:26.

All things ( τὰ πάντα )


Verse 10

To the intent that

Connect with the matter of the two preceding verses. Grace was given me to preach Christ and to enlighten men as to the long-hidden mystery of the admission of the Gentiles, in order that now, etc.


In contrast with all ages.

Principalities and powers

Good angels. See on Ephesians 1:21.

By the Church ( διά )

Better, through, as Rev. By means of the Church. This agrees with what was said of the Church as the fullness of God, Ephesians 1:23.

Manifold wisdom ( πολυποίκιλος σοφία )

A very striking phrase. The adjective occurs only here, and means variegated. It is applied to pictures, flowers, garments. Ποίκιλον is used in the Septuagint of Joseph's coat, Genesis 37:3. Through the Church God's wisdom in its infinite variety is to be displayed - the many-tinted wisdom of God - in different modes of power, different characters, methods of training, providences, forms of organization, etc.

Verse 11

Eternal purpose ( πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων )

Lit., the purpose of the ages.

He wrought ( ἐποίησεν )

Carried into effect. See on fulfilling, Ephesians 2:3.

Verse 12

Faith of Him ( τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ )

As often, for faith in Him.

Verse 13

Faint ( ἐγκακεῖν )

Lit., lose heart. Κακός in classical Greek, but not in the New Testament, sometimes means cowardly.

Verse 14

For this cause

Resuming the interrupted clause in Ephesians 3:1, and having still in mind the closing thought of ch. 2. Seeing ye are so built together in Christ, for this cause, etc.


Omit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 15

Of whom ( ἐξ οὗ )

After whom.

The whole family ( πᾶσα πατριὰ )

Rev., more correctly, every family. Πατριά is, more properly, a group of families - all who claim a common πατήρ . father. Family, according to our usage of the term, would be οἶκος houseThe Israelites were divided into tribes ( φυλαί ), and then into πατπιαί, each deriving its descent from one of Jacob's grandsons; and these again into οἶκοι housesSo Joseph was both of the house ( οἴκου ) and family ( πατριᾶς ) of David. We find the phrase οἶκοι πατριῶν housesof the families, Exodus 12:3; Numbers 1:2. The word occurs only three times in the New Testament: here, Luke 2:4; Acts 3:25. In the last-named passage it is used in a wide, general sense, of nations. Family is perhaps the best translation, if taken in its wider meaning of a body belonging to a common stock - a clan. Fatherhood (Rev., in margin), following the Vulgate paternitas, means rather the fact and quality of paternity. Observe the play of the words, which can scarcely be reproduced in English, pater, patria.

In heaven and earth

To the angelic hosts and the tribes of men alike, God is Father. There may be a suggestion of the different ranks or grades of angels, as principalities, thrones, powers, etc. See Ephesians 3:10. “Wherever in heaven or in earth beings are grouped from their relation to a father, the name they bear in each case is derived from the Father” (Riddle).

Verse 16

Might ( δυνάμει )

Rev., power. Appropriate to the succeeding phrase the inner man, since it signifies faculty or virtue not necessarily manifest.

In the inward man ( εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον )

The force of the preposition is into: might entering into the inmost personality. Inward man: compare outward man, 2 Corinthians 4:16. It is the rational and moral I; the essence of the man which is conscious of itself as a moral personality. In the unregenerate it is liable to fall under the power of sin (Romans 7:23); and in the regenerate it needs constant renewing and strengthening by the Spirit of God, as here. Compare the hidden man of the heart, 1 Peter 3:4.

Verse 17

May dwell ( κατοικῆσαι )

Settle down and abide. Take up His permanent abode, so that ye may be a habitation ( κατοικητήριον ) of God. See on Ephesians 2:22. The connection is with the preceding clause: “to be strengthened, etc., so that Christ may dwell, the latter words having at once a climactic and an explanatory force, and adding the idea of permanency to that of strengthening.

By faith ( διὰ τῆς πίστεως )

Through your (the article) faith, as the medium of appropriating Christ. Faith opens the door and receives Him who knocks. Revelation 3:20.

Verse 18

Rooted and grounded ( ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι )

Compare Colossians 2:7, and see note. Grounded or founded, from θεμέλιον foundationThe dwelling in Ephesians 3:17would naturally suggest the foundation. Rooting and grounding are consequences of the strengthening of the Spirit and of Christ's indwelling.

In love

Standing first in the sentence and emphatic, as the fundamental principle of christian life and knowledge.

May be able ( ἐξισχύσητε )

Rev., may be strong. This compound verb occurs only here. The preposition ἐξ has the force of fully or eminently. Ἱσχύς is strength embodied; inhering in organized power. Hence it is an advance on δυνάμει mightin Ephesians 3:16(see note). Paul prays that the inward might or virtue may issue in ability to grasp. Compare Luke 14:30(note); Luke 16:3(note); Acts 27:16(note); James 5:16(note).

Comprehend ( καταλαβέσθαι )

To English readers this conveys the meaning understand. Rev., better, apprehend: grasp. See on John 1:5, and compare Philemon 3:12, Philemon 3:13.

Breadth, etc.

No special interpretations are to be given to these words. The general idea of vastness is expressed in these ordinary terms for dimension. Notice that the article is attached only to the first, breadth, all the rest being included under the one article; the intention being to exhibit the love of Christ in its entire dimension, and not to fix the mind on its constituent parts.

Verse 19

To know ( γνῶναι )

Practically, through experience; while apprehend marks the knowledge as conception.

Love of Christ

Christ's love to us. Human love to Christ could not be described in these terms.

Which passeth knowledge ( τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ).

Which surpasses mere knowledge without the experience of love. Note the play on the words know and knowledge.

That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God ( ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ )

Note the recurrence of that; that He would grant you; that ye may be strong; that ye may be filled. With is better rendered unto, to the measure or standard of. Fullness of God is the fullness which God imparts through the dwelling of Christ in the heart; Christ, in whom the Father was pleased that all the fullness should dwell (Colossians 1:19), and in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9).

Verse 20

Exceeding abundantly ( ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ )

Only here, 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13. Superabundantly. One of the numerous compounds of ὑπέρ beyondover and above, of which Paul is fond. Of twenty-eight words compounded with this preposition in the New Testament, Paul alone uses twenty. For the order and construction, see next note.

Above all ( ὑπὲρ πάντα )

These words should not be connected with that, as A.V. and Rev.: “above all that we ask,” etc. They form with do an independent clause. The next clause begins with exceedingly above, and is construed with ὧν thatwhich we ask, etc. Read the whole, “Unto Him who is able to do beyond all, exceedingly above that which,” etc.

Verse 21


Properly, the glory, which is His due.

In the Church

Through which His many-tinted wisdom is to be displayed, and which is His fullness. The variety of the divine wisdom is again hinted at in all that we ask or think.

By Christ Jesus ( ἐν )

Rev., better, in. As the Church is the outward domain in which God is to be praised, so Christ is the spiritual sphere of this praise.

Throughout all ages, world without end ( εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων )

Lit., unto all the generations of the age of the ages. Eternity is made up of ages, and ages of generations.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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