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The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ephesians (3:11-21) (Lesson 10)


Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday AM

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians (3:11-21)                                                               (Lesson 10)

Welcome to HBS.

I’m publishing this week’s Bible lesson early because I start vacation tomorrow.  I will be away from our Ephesian study through April 7.  Lesson #11 will be published on April 13.  Even though I am on a break doesn’t mean I take a break from studying Scripture.  I suggest y’all do likewise.  Please note the Light is always on at the HBS website.  Please avail of the 300+ Bible lessons archived there. 

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During a conversation with another Believer, I couldn’t help but notice it didn’t take long before we were discussing the things of God and the Bible, rightly divided.  We didn’t plan it; it just happened, naturally.  This reminds me of a grandparent who enthusiastically whips out photos of their new grandchild and begins to describe them to a complete stranger in the checkout line at Publix.  In other words, true Believers are not ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They place a high value on God’s grace and their salvation, so discussing the things of God’ is second nature to them. 

During one of these encounters, I met a Believer who honestly expressed they didn’t know what God wanted from them.  This unhappy individual wanted to be a missionary, so they prayed and waited for God to answer the prayer.  Because God hasn’t answered this prayer, they stopped praying about it.  They were basically saying, “I want to obey God’s will, but have no idea what that is.”

I said God answers prayer in three different ways.  He may say “Yes,” “No,” or “Not now.”  In other words, you may be called to the mission field one day, but until that time He expects you to “Bloom where you’re planted” (2 Corinthians 5:20).   I pointed out to them our Apostle Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Asia but the Holy Spirit said “Not now; wait on God” (Acts 16:6-10).  From this exchange we discern wherever you are now that’s your “mission field.”  Whether that’s being a godly parent at home, sharing the good news (Gospel) in your workplace, or while sitting on your friends sofa; for the “harvest is ripe.”

2000 years ago Jesus expressed God’s will with these words:  The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Ask the LORD of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest (Luke 10:2 – Berean Study Bible).   

Plainly said, you’ll find God’s will is revealed in the Bible but you have to be “tuned into it, that is, brought into harmony with it (Psalm 119:105; Micah 6:8; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; Ephesians 2: 17, 5:15-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 2:15).

God revealed His eternal purpose for His Church in Ephesians 3:9-11 and nothing will thwart it:    and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

God intends to save all those who respond to the Gospel of Grace; ultimately summing up all things in Christ Jesus:  with a view to an administration (dispensation; economy) suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens (plural) and things on the earth, In Him (Ephesians 3:10). 

so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

God’s manifold wisdom was revealed at the cross (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12-13).  Therefore Jesus is to be realized, recognized, and then glorified.  Every creature will be subject to Him.  People may choose not to realize Jesus Christ, recognizing Him for all He is and has accomplished, praising Him accordingly in this present, evil age (Ephesians 5:16).  But the day is swiftly approaching when He will receive all the praise and glory due Him of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.   

The entire Old Testament looked forward to the promised Redeemer.  The New Testament testifies of Him and looks to His return.  All of history will climax when He returns in power and glory to establish His kingdom on earth, where He will reign sovereignly.  God has added His Church to the two existing segments of society, having reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God and uniting them as one body through Jesus Christ (2:11-12, 17-22; 1 Corinthians 10:32).  God the Father appointed Christ Jesus as Head of His body, the Church, so the Church is central to God’s eternal purpose.   

Paul said his ministry, in addition to preaching to the Gentiles “the unfathomable riches of Christ,” is also to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things (3:9).

 God’s one Church made up of peoples from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Revelation 7:9) is the vehicle for making known His manifold wisdom, not only on earth, but also to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  Rulers and authorities speak of the hierarchy of angels.   

Paul wrote:  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers and authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

In addition to sharing the good news of the gospel of peace with others (Ephesians 6:15), Paul is saying the Church will instruct the angels about the manifold wisdom of God.  You see, His manifold wisdom was not revealed to the angels.  They aren’t tuned in to God’s grace and why He chose to save wicked people (Galatians 1:4), so we’re to help them understand these things.

After setting forth God’s eternal purpose, our Apostle Paul applies it in two ways.  Because we are at the very center of God’s eternal purpose, we must pray continually and not lose heart (some Bible translation use the word faint - 3:11-13). 

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Please open your Bible at Ephesians 3:11-13.

Ephesians 3

This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access (to God the Father) through faith in Him.  Therefore I ask you not to lose heart (Faint) at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

Which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord – it was God’s will that Jesus Christ come to His own people and for three years teach to them many things about God the Father and He explained the O.T. scriptures spoke of Him.

Zechariah the prophet spoke of Jesus riding on a donkey (9:9). 

Malachi called Him the Sun of Righteousness (4:2). 

Isaiah wrote:  “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (7:14).  This was 700 years before Jesus’ birth. 

Jesus Christ may be found in every book in the O.T. (Luke 24:25-35).  But we learn on the night of His advent every inn was full; which left Jesus’ earthly family outside.  This too was a sign revealing the hearts of men were not prepared to receive Him, so simply said, their hearts were “far from Him” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; John 1:11).  

“Carried out” translated Poieo (poy-eh’- o) in Koine Greek is a verb, Strong’s Greek #4160, which means:  to do.  It points to an accomplished action.  In English this means God’s purpose was accomplished through Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

Now, the preaching of Christ crucified was (is) a stumbling block for the Jews and to the Greeks (Gentiles) foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the (what) wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). 

That narrow path (way) to righteousness and justification was opened by the Lord Jesus Christ (the First Fruits of those to follow each in their own order) who chose to die on the cross (Matthew 7:13-14; 1 Corinthians 15:23).

In whom we have boldness and confident access (to God the Father) through faith in Him.  Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (v12-13).

Here Paul, after explaining God’s eternal purpose, applies it in two ways.  Because His Church is at the epicenter of God’s eternal purpose Believers are required to sustain communication with Head quarters.  Paul put it this way Believers are to pray and not lose heart (their focus while enduring the trials of life) Philippians 3:14. 

For those of you who say it’s impossible to know God’s will our Apostle Paul said He  wants you to pray:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

Prayer alone brings you into God’s presence, and keeps you there continually.  Paul wants the Ephesians (and us) to know incessant prayer is essential to the vitality of their relationship with the Lord and their ability to function as His one Church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, in the world. 

Consider this, if you spoke to your spouse, your family, and friends irregularly and you never confided with them, would those relationships remain healthy?  Prayer is conversation with God the Father.  It’s not a religious sounding documentary about you.  It’s the voluntary response to the awareness of God’s presence and honest (sincere) communication.  

I want to make it known God’s Church is not some building where people go to pray and worship.  The Church is made up of people (both Jew and Gentile) who have trusted in the gospel of Jesus Christ for their salvation through faith (Romans 2:16).  Christians have been taught to think of the Church as a building but this does not line up with God’s Word.  Paul said in Romans 16:5a, “…also greet the church (Believers) that is (where) in their house.
 
Verse 13:

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart (faint) at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

The Koine Greek word faint is Ekkakeo, (ek-kak-eh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1573, meaning:  to be utterly spiritless; to become weary, exhausted.  The word faint is used 6 times in the KJV Bible (Luke 18:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 16; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:13). 

Here’s the thing, even though Paul was in prison his focus was not turned inward on himself and his current situation.  Paul’s focus was directed outward toward the Ephesians’ spiritual needs.  He didn’t want them to become disheartened on account of his trials.  He gave the reason for this when he said:  for they (my tribulations) are your (ultimate) glory.  Paul said something similar to the Church at Rome:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with (what) the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

There was a great amount of persecution in the first century Church.  Even Paul had a hand in it before his conversion having persecuted the Church of God (Acts 9; Galatians 1:13).  Because religious persecution was a constant threat and due to the trials of life, i.e. pressure (anything that makes you feel “cornered” is pressure) some members of the church began to desert the faith.  This is what happens when people are not grounded in the Word of Truth the faith (Mark 8:36).  So, our Apostle Paul desires to end this practice and he advances a strong reason why they should all “stand firm” in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). 

God has revealed His eternal purpose (His will) to the Ephesians and every true Believer through our Apostle Paul and not one single thing will thwart it.  For example, Paul continued to preach and teach God’s Truths while imprisoned.  His positive statements were meant to encourage these folks to stand firm in the faith no matter what their circumstances were.   

Stand firm is a military term.  It means every soldier of the Lord must present a solid, united front to the enemy.  There’s an old saying that goes “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”  We have a lot of weak links in the Church today, which is why the world is experiencing a lack of love (except for oneself) and lawlessness continues to increase around the globe (2 Thessalonians 2:2-4). 

To the church at Colosse Paul wrote:  …if indeed you continue in the faith firm established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel (through fear, persecution, and circumstances) that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which, I, Paul, was made a minister (Colossians 1:23).  So, not only be confident of the gospel but in God’s promises. 

The Lord said to expect “trouble” in this world:  I have spoken these things to you so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation.  But take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Even though the Believers thought the “sky was falling” due to their persecution and daily trials, Paul’s saying “Be not afraid God is always in control:” 

And we know that God works all things (both good and bad) together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 – Berean Study Bible).

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-24).

Paul was suffering persecution from the Judaizers because he preached the gospel of peace specifically to the Gentiles.  So, he presents his imprisonment and his positive response to their hatred saying, “do not lose heart.  In doing so, he presents himself as a living example to both the Ephesians and every true Believer. 

Verses 14-19:

Ephesians 3

14: For this reason (cause) I bow my knees before the Father – first there’s a textual discrepancy worthy of note.  Notice the NASB translation here ends at the word “Father.”  But other Bible translations have recorded this:  For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (KJV).

The NASB omitted the phrase of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You’ll have to ask the translators why they did this when you see them, because I haven’t a clue.  I could guess, but I don’t do that.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter all that much because we already know from our Bible study that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This goes without saying.

What reason (cause)?  Paul begins to pray his (second prayer) for the Ephesians so they will not faint, but persevere in the faith.  This looks back to Ephesians 2:19-22.  In short Paul’s saying God saved you by His sovereign grace and brought you as Jews and Gentiles into one new man, i.e. God’s one Church.  You are being built together as a dwelling place of God, in the Spirit.  Therefore I bow my knees (pray) God empowers you and gives you strength to stand firm in the faith.

Verses 14-19:

from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

I bow my knees to the Father -   Paul could have said, “I pray,” but he didn’t.  Please don’t assume Paul’s saying this is the posture for all their prayer.  It’s an attitude for their prayer life.  It wasn’t a custom for Jews to kneel and pray.  Most of them stood and prayed (Genesis 18:22; Luke 18:10-11).  While in Israel I visited the “Wailing Wall” and not one single Jew was on his knees praying.  They were all standing before the Wall and praying either silently or aloud to YHWH.   

If you see a Jew on their knees praying, it’s because there is something passionate, something extraordinary the person was praying about.  I refer you to the Lord Jesus Christ’s passionate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He died (Matthew 26:36-56).  So, Paul bowing his knees before the Father is not in obedience to a religious rule it reflects the nature of his heart toward God.

In the next chapter Paul will begin explaining his general and specific instructions on how to live as true Believers.  But before he commences this prayer, he describes this two-fold prayer and doxology (v20-21) for the spiritual establishment of every saint in Christ Jesus. 

Paul has made it clear the Church is “from God,” “through God,” and “unto God” (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1).  God has sovereignly purposed His Church and is working in and through it to accomplish His will on earth.  So, Paul is praying for these two things: 

1) The Ephesians be strengthened or encouraged to live their faith (v16-17). 

2) And strengthened to know the infinite and maturing love of Christ Jesus (v18-19).   

It’s worthwhile to understand Paul’s prayer is recorded while he’s in prison but he does not mention his need for freedom.  When he does get around to asking for prayer for himself (6:19-20), he asks that they pray he will be bold in making the gospel known as he should.  I know people who confess to believing in the gospel but they won’t share Jesus Christ or their faith at any time, with anyone.  They lack boldness.  If he could share Jesus Christ with people of every rank while in prison, I don’t believe the fear of rejection or ridicule remotely equals Paul’s situation.  Therefore, let’s be clear Paul’s is keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.  Paul won’t permit his trials to dominate his decision making or deter him from doing God’s will.  Nothing will thwart his ministry to the Gentiles. 

Paul begins his prayer:  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man (v16).  The Koine Greek word for grant is Didomi (did’-o-mee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1325, meaning:  to freely give.   You could say anything we receive from God the Father is a gift, we don’t merit (spiritual worthiness achieved by doing good works) anything.  Everything we receive flows from God’s Grace. 

According to the riches of His glory – this phrase appears five times in the N.T. (Romans 9:23; Ephesians 1:18, 3:16; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27).  Paul’s saying the riches of God’s glory are immeasurable.  God was not asked to give out of the riches of His glory, but according to those riches.  Here’s the difference:  if a billionaire gives you $100, he gave out of his riches.  If instead he gives you a million dollars, he gave according to his riches.  Paul’s point here is God does not lack the resources to meet all our needs.  The fountain of God’s grace never runs dry, in other words. 

Now look at Paul’s specific request:  to be strengthened with power through His Spirit.  Paul prays they will be strengthened with power.  The word "power" is Dunamis in Koine Greek.  It means: "power, might, strength, force."  The words dynamite and dynamo are derived from this word.  It speaks of a Believers’ inherent ability that carries the potential to perform or accomplish a task.  Paul's prayers contain a strong emphasis on the Ephesians’ need of the inherent power of God which He has made available to them through the Spirit.  This power exists in them; they simply must take advantage of it.  

In the inner man – this expression is used three times in the N.T. and only by Paul.  But be careful it doesn’t always mean the same thing.   In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul speaks of the Old Covenant and the inner man is the New Covenant.  Paul’s message here is covenantal.  The inner man is used in the same way as Romans 7:22.  It’s equal to the heart, i.e. the mind (3:17).  Specifically speaking, Paul’s is referencing the Ephesians’ thinking process.   So, Paul is praying that the Ephesian Church would be strengthened with the power of the Spirit in their thinking.  Paul’s wants their thinking to line up with the Word of God and to what he taught them in chapter 2, that is, the Jews and Gentiles are equal before YHWH.  They’ve become the one new man in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 1:26-27 says men and women are made in God’s image.  God is Spirit; unseen, so the real you and I are made up of our invisible attributes the soul and the spirit.

Genesis 2:7 says man was created a “living soul.”  The soul consists of the mind (Matthew 9:4; Hebrews 4:12), which includes:  emotion (John 16:6, 22); will (Acts 11:23; Hebrews 4:12), and the conscience (Romans 2:15; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Timothy 1:19).

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul (mind) knows it very well (Psalm 139:13-14).

All these invisible attributes are enclosed in the “outer man” the body.  The body is merely a tent, a temporary shelter housing our soul and spirit.   

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For indeed in this house (our earthly body) we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.  For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by (eternal) life.  Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge (or down payment on our eternal inheritance) Therefore, being always of good courage (standing firm in the faith because God is Faithful), and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— (2 Corinthians 5:1-6).

People spend billions of dollars annually trying to thwart the aging process, but here’s the thing our bodies are deteriorating just like everything else around us.  Thus, our bodies (soma) are nothing more than temporary shelters housing the inner man that is made up of the soul (psyche), and the spirit (pnuema) (1 Thessalonians 5:23). 

In 3:17a Paul said:  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  Here Paul repeats what he said in verse 16; he just rephrased it:  to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.  

Paul’s not praying for God to allow the Spirit to strengthen the Ephesians, and then subsequently ask that Christ dwell in their heart through faith.  These actions aren’t separate they are one and the same, according to (or out of) the riches of His glory.

I’m sure you’ve heard the familiar expression, “Invite Jesus into your heart.”  This is where that expression comes from, but it is not the gospel.  You can’t be saved by saying, “Jesus, please come into my heart.”  Think this through.  The Ephesians were already true Believers, so Paul’s not asking God to give them “more” of something they already have. 

The Koine Greek word for dwell Katoikeo, (kat-oy-keh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2730, comes from two words, kata and oikeo.  Oikeo means:  to be at home, to dwell, settle.  Kata means:  down.  If you spoke of the people who were permanent residents, dwelling in your hometown, you would use the word Katoikeo.  Paul’s praying that Jesus Christ would be a permanent resident in their hearts by faith.    

The mode of the Lord’s dwelling in their hearts (minds) is through faith.  The power and strength we derive in response to Paul’s prayers will come to the Ephesians (and us) and are proportionate to their understanding of Scripture.  After all, faith comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17); it’s through the study of God’s Word.  The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to these folks (and to us).   In chapter one, this power was toward us, but in chapter three, the strengthening is with this power into our inner man (heart).

So, Paul is praying the power of the Spirit will empower them so that they may live out the unity of the faith, so that they in thought, word, and deed would be the one new man the Lord has called them to be (3:15-16). 

Verse 17b-18:

and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend  (reason in your mind) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  

It was Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians appreciate and understand the wonders of their redemption.  Knowing myself as well as I do in regards to the sinful path I used to walk, I wonder why God would bother saving me.  It was through the diligent study of His Word that I comprehended the answer to my quandary (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).

What is the breadth and length and height and depth – opinions vary as to the meaning of this remark.  Paul has been talking about the heart.  I don’t believe he’s changing horses’ midstream here.  Therefore, Paul is expressing the “dimensions of God’s love,” and that the Believer’s heart be filled with the divine subject and in awe of its greatness.  It’s possible to know something of His great love, and this can be labeled knowledge – not just guesswork or speculation.  But in a greater sense we will never know Christ’s love completely on this side of glory because the subject is unfathomable. 

So, when Paul wrote:  what is the breadth and length and height and depth, he was emphasizing the immensity of Jesus Christ’s love.  You may study this book for hours on end, but no one can state with all certainty they know all there is to know about Christ Jesus’ love (Romans 8:39). 

and (that you will really come) to know (in a practical way) the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (3:19).

According to C.H. Spurgeon that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God is the very top of the ladder.  We’ll never reach that pinnacle while residing in these “earthly tents.”   All the fullness of God refers to the perfection of which God is full.  Paul is praying the Ephesians will arrive at spiritual perfection, having all that God is fill them to overflowing.  The idea of fullness implies complete dominance or control, so the power of God perfectly controls our minds, our emotions, and our will.

 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
 (Ephesians 4:13). 

Paul ends this section giving God honor, glory, and praise:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or (what) 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. 

(To be continued)

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