The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
July 15, 2012


1) Ephesians 3:12-21 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 3:12-21
by Tom Edwards

What assurance the Christian can have because of Christ Jesus!  Of Him, Paul declares, "in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him" (Eph. 3:12).  Yes, Jesus makes that possible.  As the Hebrew writer also shows: "Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:19-23).  Also: "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16).

Since the Christians have these blessings in Christ, Paul urges them, by saying, "Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory" (Eph. 3:13).  So Paul didn't want them to "be discouraged," as some other versions render this, over the difficulties he was undergoing.  For at that very moment, he was imprisoned for his preaching; and it was probably distressing for the Ephesians to think of him in that circumstance.  But Paul didn't want them to become fainthearted or despondent over it.  For knowing that God can cause all things to work together for the good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28), Paul had pointed out to the Philippians the positive impact his imprisonment had for the Lord's sake.  He declares, "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear" (Phil. 1:12-14).  

Christians, in general, are not to "lose heart."  This is seen in Luke 18, where the Lord gives a parable to show that we should pray "at all times" and "not to lose heart" (v. 1).  And Paul instructs the brethren to "...not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Gal. 6:9).  The same Greek word for "lose heart" is also used in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, where Paul exhorts the brethren to "not GROW WEARY of doing good."

In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul then expresses his prayer for the Ephesians and begins by saying, "I bow my knees before the Father."  This does not mean, however, that it is mandatory for one to knell when he prays.  For the Bible shows of different positions in which people have prayed.  For instance, knelling: Luke 22:41 (when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal): "And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray."  Also standing: "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions" (Mark 11:25).  And, in addition, falling on the face (prostrate): "And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou will'" (Matt. 26:39).  As E.M. Zerr writes, "The validity of prayer depends upon the condition of the heart and not the position of the body."

Paul shows in Ephesians 3:15 that "every family in heaven and on earth derives its name" from the Father.  In the sense of being the Creator, God is the Father of us all.  For instance, in preaching on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), Paul points that out in Acts 17:24-29: God "...made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth...as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.'"  But it is not through this physical connection to God that one can be saved; for it requires a spiritual connection: One must be born again of water and the Spirit of God, according to John 3:3-5.  And to those who accept God's plan of salvation, they are given a new name by the Lord.  This was prophesied in Isaiah 62:2: "The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate."  In Acts 11:26, we find what that new name is and when it was first given: "...and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."  It's interesting to also note that the church in Antioch was made up of Jews and Gentiles, but they all simply went by the one name of "Christians."

Paul's prayer included that the Christians would be "strengthened with power through" God's "Spirit in the inner man."  The "inner man" is the spiritual, eternal part of man; as in contrast to the physical, temporary, outer man, as we can also see in 2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day."  By applying the words of the Spirit, as set forth in the gospel, the inner man is strengthened.  As Jesus shows in John 6:63, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."  

Therefore, spiritual nourishment for the "inner man" is found in God's word: "But He answered and said, 'It is written, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD"'" (Matt. 4:4).  If we continue to feed upon God's word, we will continue to grow.  And is there ever a time when we can cease from that?  Even to men who were spiritually mature enough to serve as elders, Paul exhorted by saying, "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).  So no matter how much we have developed in God's word, we still need to continually look to it, to apply it and grow.  For example, it is not merely a case of having or not having the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  For there is also a need to develop more of that fruit when we do have it, so that we can have more love, more peace, more patience, more self-control, more gentleness, etc.  And in view of these passages, if  a person rejects the message of the Spirit, how could that person expect the Holy Spirit to strengthen him and work within him?

Paul shows in Ephesians 3:17 that this is "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith...."  Again, we see the need for acquiring a deep understanding of the Scriptures; for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).  Therefore, the more we increase in Bible knowledge and apply that, the more we increase in faith; and the more we increase in faith, the more we increase in having Jesus in our lives.  This was truly Paul's goal for the Galatians, according to Galatians 4:19, as he metaphorically expresses: "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you."

In addition, Christians are to be "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17).  We have seen in a previous lesson that Jesus is the foundation of the church; and, according to 1 John 4:8, "God is love."  So to be rooted and grounded in love is to be better founded on Jesus as the church's one foundation.  In the parable of the seed and the sower, why the seed perished in the rocky soil is because the seed could not become firmly rooted in that kind of soil.  Jesus shows that this represents those who believe for a while, but because they are not firmly grounded in His word, they fall away during time of temptation (Luke 8:13).  Therefore, how important it is for the Christian to be "rooted and grounded in love."  This might also remind you of Psalm 1:1-3, where the psalmist illustrates with a plant that can become very mighty and towering: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.  And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers."

In Ephesians 3:18, Paul expresses being able to comprehend the "breadth and length and height and depth"; but he doesn't tell us of what.  Commentators have greatly differed on what this would have reference to: truth, love of God, the church, the cross. But whatever it is, surely it would be something about God and His greatness.  As verse 18 goes on to show, the love of Christ is so great that it "surpasses knowledge." This is also true about the "peace of God" (cf. Phil. 4:7).  Concerning God's greatness, Zophar says to Job in Job  11:7-9, "Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?  They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?  Its measure is longer than the earth, And broader than the sea."  If God's greatness is to be described by dimensions, would we not think of those dimensions as being infinite?

Paul had prayed that these Ephesians would truly come to know various great things about the Lord.  As we saw in Ephesians 1:15-19, Paul prayed that they might be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God; that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened, so that they might truly know the hope of God's calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; and that they might come to know the surpassing greatness of the Lord's power toward all who believe.  

So knowing Christ's love, which surpasses comprehension, is not a contradiction of terms.  Rather, we might liken it to an individual who enjoys a view of the ocean, while standing on its shores.  What he beholds appears immense; but, actually, he is probably seeing no more than two or three miles out to the horizon.  The majority of the ocean, he does not see.  Isn't God's love like that?  We can see it and enjoy it, but there is more to it than we can fully fathom.  So as Christians, should it not always be our desire to continue to learn and grow more and more in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?  

Paul's prayer included the Ephesians being filled to all the fullness of God, and God's word was given for that purpose.  Compare, for instance, Ephesians 4:11-13: "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."  As the Christian submits to God's word, he continues to become more like Christ.  Consider, for example, what Paul states in 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."  And to see that this transformation takes place through God's word, look at 2 Peter 1:2-4: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."  This is God's plan for the Christian, and has been so before the beginning of time.  Notice, for example, Romans 8:29: "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren."

Paul then concludes chapter three with a "doxology" in verses  20,21: "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

That is truly an amazing statement that the Lord "is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think."  How truly great God is!  We are never guilty of exaggeration when using the word "awesome" to refer to the Lord's wisdom, power, and abilities.  Jesus says of Deity, "...'With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God'" (Mark 10:27).

The word "power" (Eph. 3:20) is from the Greek word "dunamis," which E.M. Zerr defines as "one of the strongest words in the Greek language for the thought of might or ability."

Paul closes this chapter in verse 21 with, "to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."  As J.W. Shepherd writes, "This glory is to be given  to God during all the ages of time and eternity."  Down through the years, God has now been glorified in the church and Jesus praised; and this will continue throughout time and throughout eternity.  Corresponding to this, consider Psalm 45:17: "I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever."   Also Revelation 5:13: "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'"  Note also from Ephesians 3:21 that the glory given to God is to be from those who are in the church and in Christ Jesus.  When one is truly in the Lord, he is also in the church; and vice versa.  Therefore, when this isn't the case, how could that one truly honor or glorify God?  Remember what Jesus states in John 15:5, "...for apart from Me you can do nothing."  So please make sure you are "in Christ" by obeying His word today!  So that you, too, will be able to praise, worship, and serve God acceptably and have all the blessings that are obtained by being in the Lord.


News & Notes

I'd like to solicit prayer from the saints for the family and friends of Danny Hill who passed away July 14, after having been diagnosed with cancer just two weeks prior.  He was only about 58.  We extend our condolences to all his loved ones.

Let those of us who are Christians also be praying for Cheryl Crews who has been having some physical pain, along with her other ailments.  And also for Clyde Jackson who has been having some health problems; Curtis Gautreau who is being treated for cancer; Gene Calloway who is healing from a foot problem; Shirley Young who has fibromyalgia; Pam MacDonald who wasn't feeling well recently; and Kelly Anderson who is seeking employment and having job interviews.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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