Ephesians 3:14-21

Ephesians 3:14-21

3.14  τούτου χάριν κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου πρὸς τὸν πατέρα,

τούτου χάριν κάμπτω – The initial adverbial prepositional phrase connects this paragraph with what precedes. Given God’s great plan and how part of it is now working out in Paul’s life and ministry in relationship to the Ephesian Christians, Paul offers a prayer. The verb is present active indicative, “I bend, am bending” indicating an incomplete action.

τὰ γόνατά μου – The direct object of κάμπτω. Various prayer postures were used in antiquity, of which this is one.

πρὸς τὸν πατέρα – The adverbial prepositional phrase suggests a direction, i.e., “towards the father.” The article perhaps functions to specify, in a deictic manner, i.e., “this father.”

3.15  ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα πατριὰ ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς ὀνομάζεται,

ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα πατριὰ — The relative pronoun in the prepositional phrase marks a relative clause whose antecedent is πατέρα. The preposition may suggest source or origin. πᾶσα πατριὰ is the subject of the verb and the adjectival pronoun defines the noun in an exclusive sense – this is the entire πατριά. The meaning of πατριά is difficult, but normally means “family lineage, ancestral lineage.” Since God is the creator of the universe (v. 9), it is logical that human and angelic lineage derives from his actions. Perhaps this is another way of saying that God is the sovereign and only deity.

ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς – These two prepositional phrases, using different prepositions, define the created beings that inhabit heaven and earth by God’s actions.

ὀνομάζεται – This present passive indicative verb indicates that God is the one that assigns names to every type of created being and thus shows his authority and perhaps rightful ownership over them. Whether we should go further and think that Paul is referring to these creatures as God’s family is another question.

3.16  ἵνα δᾦ ὑμῖν κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον,

ἵνα δᾦ ὑμῖν – This subordinate clause may contain the substance of the prayer that Paul implicitly is making and expressed in the form of an indirect command. The language of command is often found in prayers as a form of request. The verb is an aorist active subjunctive. The pronoun is a dative of indirect object.

κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ — The adverbial prepositional phrase indicates that standard over against which such giving is to measured. The genitive phrase may define the character of the ‘wealth’ based upon which God can grant the specific request. The third person pronoun refers to the πατέρα to whom the glory belongs.

δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι – The verb κραταιόομαι is a middle form with a sense of being psychologically strong. In this case, however, it is an aorist passive infinitive form, perhaps with the sense “be/become strong.” It is qualified by the dative noun δυνάμει describes the means by which this strengthening will occur. The presumed subject of the infinitive is the letter’s recipients. The infinitive structure expresses the content of the specific petition.

διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ — διά + genitive indicates the means or intermediate agency by which something occurs. In this case the noun πνεύματος describes a personal being and so intermediate agency is being expressed. Presumably this is the Holy Spirit and the personal pronoun references πατερά.

εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον – This adverbial prepositional phrase indicates the place where this empowerment occurs. The use of the preposition εἰς in a locative sense is unusual. Could it have a sense of purpose, i.e., “for the inner man”? The adverb ἔσω is used by Paul several times in this construction to refer to the psychological or inner life of a human being.

3.17  κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι,

κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χριστὸν – Should we construe this infinitive as a second item in the petition that Paul is making, parallel with the preceding κραταιωθῆναι? The subject of the infinitive as the accusative noun τὸν Χριστὸν. The infinitive is aorist active in form.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως – The adverbial prepositional phrase qualifies the infinitive and defines how the Messiah takes up residence in a person. Whose faith is involved?

ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν – The adverbial prepositional phrase qualifies the infinitive and defines where the Messiah takes up residence. The preposition is locative in force. Defining what καρδίαις refers to as a location is important.

ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι – These adverbial participles are nominative masculine plural, perhaps related to the subject of the verb ἐξισχύσητε in the following ἵνα clause. If this is a correct interpretation, the writer, but taking them out of the subordinate clause and placing them prior, is giving them prominence. The first is a present passive participle and the second is a perfect passive participle. Is the variation in tense-form important? Is the “rooting” a continuing process and the second participle indicating a state of being, i.e., “being well-established, firmly grounded”? ἐν ἀγάπῃ perhaps describes means, but may also describe location, i.e., “in the realm of love.”

3.18  ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος,

ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε – The purpose clause is the second in this series. Does it add a second element to Paul’s prayer or does it modify an element within the first ἵνα clause, i.e., the actions defined by the two infinitive clauses? The verb is a present active subjunctive form and the verb means to be “fully able.”

καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις – καταλαβέσθαι is a complementary infinitive, defining the focus of the full capability that is being desired. It is an aorist middle formation, meaning “to comprehend, grasp.” It is modified by an adverbial prepositional phrase that defines which group similarly is comprehending these things. Again the function of πᾶσιν is inclusive, but the positioning with the article may have the sense “every one of the holy ones.”

τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος – This is an indirect interrogative marked by the initial τί. It is also a verbless clause. The four nouns linked by the single article form the subject. It is unclear what Paul is referring to by these terms of spatial measurement. Is it the magnitude of God’s love? Is it the complexity and comprehensiveness of God’s plans?

3.19  γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ.

γνῶναί τε – This infinitive is coordinated with the previous καταλαβέσθαι. τε is a coordinating conjunction here. The infinitive is aorist active in form.

τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χριστοῦ — This is the object of the infinitive in the accusative case. The head noun is ἀγάπην. The genitive phrase which modifies it may be objective (our love for the Messiah) or subjective (the Messiah’s love for us). I think the sense of the passage calls for a subjective genitive. The head is also qualified by the adjectival participle ὑπερβάλλουσαν (present active) and has the sense of something exceeding our expectation or imagination (cf. 1:19). So on the one hand Paul prayers that we might “comprehend” something but turns around and speaks about knowing something that exceeds our capacity to grasp it.

ἵνα πληρωθῆτε – This is a third ἵνα clause. I suspect that it has a purpose/result function defining what these abilities to comprehend and know should accomplish. The verb is an aorist passive subjunctive (cf. 1:23). Presumably the agent involved is God himself, but it may be more specifically the Messiah.

εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ — This adverbial prepositional phrase may indicate the level to which the fullness arises, i.e., “up to all the fullness of God” and qualifies the verb. The structure with πᾶν indicates totality. The force of the genitive phrase may be taken in various ways – source, epexegetic, subjective.

3.20  τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθα νοοῦμεν κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν,

τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ — The particle δέ signals that a new idea, connected with the preceding, is being introduced. The articulated present participle is functioning as a substantive, marking the one for whom glory is designated or to whom it belongs. This clause is an example of left-dislocation in which the one being ascribed glory is defined and then the actual doxology with the αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα structure following. Presumably God is the one is being referenced given the addressee of the prayer in v. 14. The present participle might be indicating an incompleted action, i.e., that his empowerment is ongoing. The idea of power picks up the previous reference in v. 16.

ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ — The infinitive completes the meaning of δυναμένῳ. It is qualified by the adverb ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ which means “to an extreme degree.” It is also qualified by the ὑπὲρ πάντα adverbial phrase which when coupled with the adverb (ὑπὲρ…ὑπερ…) describes a limitless possibility because it is God who is behind it all. This is another reference to God’s sovereignty and ability to accomplish his purposes.

ὧν αἰτούμεθα νοοῦμεν – The relative pronoun marks a relative clause. The antecedent is the previous πάντα. Although it is genitive, it functions as the object of the first verb. The two verbs are present middle and active indicative forms. Paul uses these two verbs to summarize his comments about knowledge, comprehension and prayer that he has expressed in vv. 14-19.

κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν – The adverbial prepositional phrase defines the standard by which God’s power enables. It is qualified by the adjectival participle (present middle) which indicates an incompleted action. The verb ἐνεργέω is used by Paul frequently to describe how God actively operates within human lives. The ἐν phrase indicates the location of this divine activity.

3.21 αὐτῷ δόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

αὐτῷ δόξα – A nominative noun coupled with a dative noun or pronoun in a verbless clause is the usual structure for a doxology in the NT. The dative pronoun is placed first to emphasize who is the recipient of this doxology and glory.

ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ — These two connected but separate adverbial phrases describe the means/agency by which this glory accrues. These are the two focuses of Paul’s discourse in the first three chapters – how God’s actions in the Messiah produce this assembly and so both reflect God’s work and thus enhance his reputation.

εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς – This glory will accrue “for all the generations” without exception and for as long as they last. The adverbial prepositional phrase with εἰς emphasizes the extant of time.

τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων  — Paul piles up the references to human history so there is no mistaking the inclusiveness of his doxology. All generations of humans from this time forward will participate in some way in expression of God’s glory – for all history and beyond. The repeated genitive qualifier in the singular and plural encompasses every age of human history.

ἀμήν – A standard formula in early Christian prayers to affirm that what is prayed is from the standpoint of the petitioner absolutely true. It is a transliterated Aramaic term which often is associated with Jesus’ statements in the Gospels.