Further Thoughts on Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul Gives Another Prayer

Paul next begins to describe a second prayer, but interrupts himself, marveling that he gets to be a minister for Christ:

  • He’s a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles (3:1).
  • He’s been given a stewardship of God’s grace for us (3:2).
  • He was given knowledge and insight into the mystery of Christ, that Gentiles would be welcomed into God’s people (3:3-6).
  • He was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace and power (3:7).
  • He’s the very least of all the saints, yet was given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (3:8).

Once he’s done, Paul gets back to the second prayer (our passage) for God togrant us to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in our inner being (3:16-17) so that:

  • Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith (3:17)
  • we will be rooted and grounded in love (3:17)
  • we will have the strength to comprehend with all the saints the full measure of the love of Christ (3:18-19)
  • we will be filled with all the fullness of God (3:19)

Truths, Not Commands

Up to this point, there’s been nothing for us to do. It’s all been indicative (truths), not imperative (commands). He’s only given us truths and described how he prays for us. We are simply to know that these things are true and be grateful for Paul’s prayers (perhaps deepening our own intercessory prayers to match).

At chapter four, Paul finally pivots to the imperatives. Now we get things to do, and they have nothing to do with securing any of the things outlined previously. Those things are already true or in progress through Paul’s prayers. We are not commanded to feel or experience anything. Instead, we’re given practical ways to live in light of the truths of the first half of the letter:

  • Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:1-3).
  • Grow up in every way into Christ, speaking the truth in love (4:15).
  • No longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds (4:17).
  • Put off our old, former, corrupt self (4:22).
  • Be renewed in the spirit of our minds (4:23).
  • Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (5:24).
  • Speak the truth with neighbors (4:25).
  • Be sinless in our anger (4:26).
  • No longer steal, but labor, doing honest work with our own hands, so we can share with the needy (4:28).
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths, but only such as is good for building up and giving grace (4:29).
  • Not grieve the Holy Spirit (4:30).
  • Put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice (4:31).
  • Be kind to one another, forgiving one another (4:32).
  • Be imitators of God (5:1).
  • Walk in love (5:2).
  • Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, covetous idolatry, filthiness, foolish talk or crude joking (5:3-4).
  • Let no one deceive us with empty words (5:6).
  • Not be partners with the sons of disobedience (5:6-7).
  • Walk as children of the light (5:8).
  • Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (5:10).
  • Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (5:11).
  • Look carefully how we walk, making the wisest and best use of the time (5:15-16).
  • Understand what the Lord’s will is (5:17).
  • Be filled with the Spirit rather than drunk with wine (5:18).
  • Address one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with our heart (5:19).
  • Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (5:20).
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21).
  • Submit to and respect our husbands (5:22-33).
  • Love, cherish and sacrifice for our wives (5:25-33).
  • Obey and honor our parents (6:1-3).
  • Bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, not provoking them to anger (6:4).
  • Obey our earthly masters with fear, trembling and sincerity as if working for Christ (6:5-8).
  • Be good and nonthreatening to our servants (6:9).
  • Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (6:10).
  • Put on the full armor of God (6:11)
  • Stand firm, having fastened on the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness and gospel of peace (6:14-15).
  • Take up the shield of faith in all circumstances (6:16).
  • Take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (6:17).
  • Pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication (6:18).
  • Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the stains (6:18).
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How Should We Respond?

So, in light of all this, how are we to respond to Ephesians 3:14-19? Not by trying to feel more Christ-indwelt, love-rooted or God-filled – instead, by gratefully resting in what’s true in the first half of Ephesians and obeying what’s actually commanded in the second half.

We might not feel indwelt by Christ, but we can be humble in what we do today because we have been blessed with spiritual blessings in Christ. We might not feel rooted and grounded in love, but we can be gentle with the people around us because we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. We might not feel that we comprehend the full measure of Christ’s love, but we can be patient in traffic because we’ve been adopted as sons through Jesus Christ our Lord. We might not feel filled with God’s fullness, but we can bear with one another in love because we’ve been redeemed and forgiven.

Ephesians gives us a true worldview from which to do true work. It gives us theological roots and practical fruit. Rather than spinning our wheels trying to feel things, we get traction to do “good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (2:10).

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