Here Paul begins to resume the prayer for the Ephesians he started in chapter 1, verses 15-10. He refers to himself as “I Paul”. This emphasizes the personal nature of his prayer. He called himself “a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles”. He emphasizes his work and sacrifice is for Christ, but it is also for them. He was arrested in Jerusalem because of his ministry to the Gentiles, as he had brought Gentiles with him to Jerusalem, including Trophimus of Ephesus. The Jews assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple and had him arrested. It was likely a pretext, since they resented Paul’s conversion and ministry for Christ in general, and especially to the Gentiles.
At the end of verse 1, most Bible versions have a dash. This indicates the coming of a parenthetical statement, one that may be somewhat off topic but explanatory. It could also be called a digression.I do not know why the translators used a dash rather than a parenthesis. The original statement does not resume until verse 14.
In this parenthetical statement, Paul explains more fully what he meant by writing he was a prisoner for the sake of the Gentiles. He discusses his ministry in relation to the mystery God revealed to him. In the New Testament, a mystery is a truth hidden until the time God chooses to reveal it.
Paul said that God gave him the stewardship of God’s grace for their benefit. (2) A steward is one who takes care of someone else’s property. Paul’s job was to take care of the message of grace and present it to the Gentiles. He had a divine appointment to do so.
He also received from the ascended Christ a revelation of a mystery. This was evidently part of the Damascus Road experience where he was blinded and did not eat or drink for three days. (Acts 9:1-9) The Lord told Ananias that Paul was his chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles.
That mystery had remained unknown for generations, but God had now revealed it to the apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit. That mystery was that the Gentiles would become fellow heirs of eternal life with the Jewish believers. They would be equal members of the same body. They would partake of the promise of eternal life in Christ by believing the gospel. (6) The promise of God to Abraham to bless all nations through him was fulfilled in Christ. (Genesis 22:18) This mystery was revealed to the apostles and prophets, with Paul as the primary. (6)
God made him a minister of this gospel as a matter of grace and worked in him by his power to evangelize the world. (7) He brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles and taught their unity with the Jews in Christ.
Paul realized this grace and accepted it humbly, calling himself the least of the saints. (8) That seems an unlikely truth given all the work Paul did. But he was always mindful of the fact that he persecuted the church and yet was called to expand it by preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. By unsearchable, he means that we will never know all of the riches of Christ.
In addition to a stewardship of God’s grace, Paul was given a stewardship of a long time mystery. This mystery was hidden for ages in God the Creator. (9) But, through Paul, God revealed his manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Angels and other heavenly beings, rulers and authorities, would know know God’s wisdom, that he had eternally purposed to unite Jews and Gentiles equally in Christ to create the church.
This is the same truth of unity Paul taught in Romans 11 when he wrote using the metaphor of the people of God as an olive tree. Believing Gentiles were grafted into the tree. And, as the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul played the major role in bringing this about.
The heavenly beings were not privy to the mind of God in this matter all through the ages. But, before earth was formed and man was made, God had eternally purposed to do it. Not only were we chosen before the foundation of the world, but God also purposed a unification of humanity in Christ before the foundation of the world. (11)
And in this unity, all the members of this new humanity, those who are in Christ, have boldness and access to the Father with confidence through our faith in Jesus. (12) He is seated at the right hand of God and we are seated with him in the heavenly places. (2:6) So, we know that we have access to the Father because we are in the Son.
So, Paul, as a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles tells them the eternal purpose of God, their place in it as Gentiles, and his place also. Yes, he is in jail. Yes, he is suffering. But he sees it as an honor to suffer for Christ. Since he met Christ on the Damascus Road and was transformed, he has been willing to do whatever Christ wants him to do and to do it with no holding back. If prison was where Christ wanted him, he was content to be there.
But Paul knew that the Ephesians, and others, with whom he had affectionate relationships, might not see his imprisonment the way he did. They might be sad. Or they might “lose heart”, be discouraged as the New International Version says. Rather, they should see that Paul is honored to suffer on their behalf, it was also an honor for them.(13)
Resumption and Conclusion of the Prayer for the Ephesians
Finally, in verse 14, Paul returns to his prayer for the Ephesians. He prayed to the Father. Most translations say “from whom every family in heaven and on earth in named”. We do not know of any way in which every family is named for the Father. The Greek word here is “patria” which means fatherhood. So, it seems more reasonable to say that God the Father is the prototype for every other father in existence.
So Paul asks the Father to give his children strength to comprehend and know the love of Christ. (19) That love surpasses human knowledge. Humans only obtain it through the power of the Holy Spirit as Christ dwells in them. The same applies to us, as Paul says “with all the saints”. (18) Paul has prayed for us as well as the Ephesians.
When we know the love of Christ and are rooted and grounded in it, we will be filled with all the fullness of God. (19) This is the work of the Trinity. Paul prayed for the Father to give strength to us through the Holy Spirit to allow us to fully know the Son and his love. That results in our being filled up with God. We will know we are saved and loved, that we always have access to the presence of God and commune with him. What a privilege this is!
Having revealed these truths, Paul breaks into praise. He says God is able to do far more than we ask or even think of through his power working in us. So, to God be the glory in the church and in Christ forever. Amen.