Online Bible Commentary
The Love that Surpasses All Understanding
Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (NKJV)
Proper Biblical interpretation depends upon context. Therefore, each of these commentaries begins by giving some context of the passage.
The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.
There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.
The epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches.
The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ.
The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans.
In the previous chapter Paul wrote of the Christian positional state of conversion. He wrote how Gentiles, prior to becoming Christians were considered inferior to the Jews.
But the positional state of conversion brings all Christians together under Christ. No longer are we separated by race or nationality.
We are united as Christians. We are at peace with one another, and at peace with God. He is our peace.
In this chapter, Paul closes the positional section of the letter. The chapter is divided into three passages.
In the first passage, Paul began a prayer in verse 1. But then he went on to define what he called "the mystery" in verses 2-6.
In passage two, Paul discussed his own ministry in connection with "the mystery". And in the third passage, discussed here, Paul continues his prayer and closes with a doxology.
Paul begins this passage by writing “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14). Since Paul began this prayer in the first verse of chapter three, “the reason” refers back to chapter two.
Therefore, “the reason” refers to what the state of the Gentiles was prior to their conversion and their current positional state in Christ now, after their conversion. Positionally, they are fellow heirs in Christ, members of God’s family.
Paul continues “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (v. 15). Christ is the Head of the church. All believers in Heaven and on earth are part of his family.
Next, Paul makes his prayer requests known to God. His prayer for the Ephesian believers, and all believers, is two-fold.
First Paul prays that God would grant spiritual strength He writes “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (v. 16)
Paul previously wrote “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16). He also wrote “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
So, our “inward man”, our human spirit, is being renewed, strengthened, every day by the Holy Spirit ministering to our human spirit.
This first prayer request would result in a change in the hearts of believers. Paul writes “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (v. 17a).
This Holy Spirit ministers to us through Scripture and prayer. As our faith grows, we become “rooted and grounded in love” (v. 17b).
Paul’s second prayer request is that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” (of God’s love). (v. 18). Again, Paul refers to chapter eight of his letter to the Roman believers, the last letter he wrote before this one.
Paul wrote “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).
Paul continues “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19). This love that God has for us surpasses all understanding, and His great love for us fills us with the fullness of Him.
So, this second prayer request is that we may know the great love that God has for us, the love that surpasses all understanding. When we trust in God’s great love for us, we will truly believe that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
In verses twenty and twenty-one Paul closes his prayer with a doxology. Both a doxology and a benediction can be used to close a prayer. The difference is that the doxology gives glory to God and the benediction is a blessing bestowed upon those for whom we are praying.
Paul’s doxology is “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, (v. 20) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (v. 21). God can do far more than we “ask or think”, through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells every Christian.
We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Therefore we give Him all the glory, both now and forevermore.