Outline Studies in EPHESIANS
Fulfilling our High Calling
Through the Church Jesus Established

By Eugene Garner



Scripture Lesson: Ephesians 3:13-21.

        INTRODUCTION: In the opening verses of Chapter 3, Paul has begun to form a prayer for his brethren. But he broke off quite abruptly to share with them the secret of God's purpose to share the blessings of covenant and promise with the Gentiles. Whenever the apostle remembered God's purpose, he was filled with joy, hope, boldness and praise. Here he urges the saints not to faint "at my tribulation for you", (vs. 13). It will all result in glory for them. But, he then proceeds to record one of the most moving prayers to be found in the Scriptures.

I. THE MOTIVATION FOR THIS PRAYER: "For this cause", (vs. 14-15).

  1. THIS EXPRESSION APPEARS TO REFER BACK TO THE FACT (ch. 2) OF GOD'S HAVING BROUGHT JEW AND GENTILE TOGETHER IN ONE BODY - the "household of God" and "Holy Temple" which is His "habitation through the Spirit".

    1. In chapter one he has prayed that the Ephesian saints may come to an experiential appreciation of the divine adequacy that is theirs through identity with Jesus Christ, as members of His body, the church, (1:15-23).

    2. To Paul has been given the stewardship of setting forth this age-hidden mystery in such a way that ALL MAY SEE the blessedness of being fellow-heirs, fellow-body-members and fellow-sharers in the promise made to Abraham long ago, through the Gospel.

    3. The church, established by our Lord during His earthly ministry, is the divinely-appointed INSTRUMENT through which God purposes, during this age, to display His manifold wisdom to "principalities and powers" in the heavenlies.
      1. When functioning according to His order, a local assembly will manifest the fulness of Him through whom we have access to the Father.
      2. And it must not be forgotten that "in him dwelt the fulness of Godhood" in human, bodily form!

  2. "FOR THIS CAUSE" (because he so deeply cares for the spiritual welfare of his brethren, and the furtherance of God's purpose) PAUL BOWS HIS KNEES (comp. Phil. 2:10) UNTO THE FATHER in reverence, prayer, worship and loving adoration.

  3. THE CONCEPT OF "FATHERHOOD" (whether in heaven, or on earth) IS DERIVED FROM GOD, (vs. 15).

    1. I submit that this passages provides NO LEGITIMACY for the concept of a "family of God" - composed of all the saved!

    2. The word rendered "family" (AV) may better be understood as "fatherhood".
      1. There appears to be a play on words in the Greek: "Father" is "pater"; the word used here, and rendered "family", is "patria".
      2. In essence, Paul is saying: "I bow my knee to the Father from whom ALL FATHERHOOD derives its name and nature!"
      3. The most precious earthly fatherhood but dimly reflects the true Fatherhood of God!

    3. The discovery, in this passage, of a "Family of God - including ALL THE SAVED - in contra-distinction from THE BRIDE (as the church, or body of Christ), is to manufacture a diversity; there is NO SUCH USAGE in the New Testament! "Family", "House" (or household) and "Bride" ALL describe the SAME PEOPLE, but from different viewpoints!

    4. The New Testament identifies God as the spiritual Father ONLY of those "set to sonship" through ADOPTION - a legal term wherein the father publicly acknowledges the maturity of one who is ALREADY HIS CHILD, and receives him into a closer relationship of fellowship - while entrusting to him a weightier responsibility in the management of the family estate.
      1. Repentance, faith and identification with Jesus Christ, in the church relationship, are ESSENTIAL before anyone is set in the POSITION OF SONSHIP, and enabled to say: "ABBA, FATHER!"
      2. As set forth in Galatians 4:1-3, "adoption" involves a passing from spiritual adolescence and immaturity INTO the glorious liberty of responsible Christian service.
      3. At best, we have but received "the SPIRIT of adoption", (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 1:13-14); every New Testament usage of the word places the fulness of this experience in THE FUTURE, with the REDEMPTION OF OUR BODIES. (See my Outline Studies in Galatians, p. 81-82.)
      4. But, by faith, we may (even here and now) enjoy a foretaste of those blessings whose fulness are to be experienced in the coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus, the Christ, (Rom. 14:17).


    "..that He would grant you according to the riches of his glory", (vs. 16a).

    1. Conscious of the unlimited resources at God's disposal, he prays that the needs of his brethren may be met in accordance with God's ABILITY TO GIVE!

    2. Reference has already been made to the abundance of God's wealth.
      1. There are the "riches of His mercy", (2:4).
      2. The unsearchable riches of His grace, in Christ, are so vast that they cannot be used up in time, (1:7; 2:7; 3:8).

    3. But, the particular MEASURE of the Father's wealth is here considered in terms of "GLORY".
      1. This has previously been shared only with the Jews, (Rom. 9:4).
      2. But the supply is not diminished by its now being shared with the Gentiles, in Christ, (Rom. 9:22-24).
      3. Our God is the GOD OF GRACE AND GLORY! (I Pet. 5:10; Psa. 29:3).


    1. With it He has established a New Covenant, (Lk. 22:20; Heb. 7:22; 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; 2 Cor. 3:6).

    2. He has commissioned it to "make disciples of all nations" - baptizing them and instructing them in the way of His commandments, (Matt. 28:18-20).

    3. He has declared His purpose to use it as the INSTRUMENT whereby He will make His wisdom known to "principalities and powers in heavenly places", (3:10).

    4. And, to her He has pledged His PRESENCE and power TO THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE, (Matt. 28:20).
      1. His word will not return void, (Isa. 55:11; 59:20-21).
      2. The gates of hades (death) will not prevail against His church, (Matt. 16:18).

  3. FEARFUL OF ASKING TOO MUCH OF GOD (as though we would bankrupt His resources), WE OFTEN APPROACH GOD WITH TIMIDITY; we need to learn that we CANNOT STRAIN the vast resources of our Heavenly Father!

  4. GOD NEVER GIVES GRUDGINGLY, or in meagre portions; HE ALWAYS GIVES ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE OF HIS INFINITE FULNESS! How appropriate, therefore, the words of John Newton's great hymn:
"Thou art coming to a King;
Large petitions with thee bring;
For his grace and power are such,
None can EVER ask TOO MUCH!"


    ... to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 10 And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
  1. PAUL ASKS THAT HIS BRETHREN MAY BE STRENGTHENED WITH DYNAMIC POWER, (comp. Psa. 31:24; Phil. 4:13; Col. 1:11; Eph. 6:10).

    1. Measured by the riches of Divine glory, this is possible only through the Holy Spirit, (1:18).
      1. A starved man must be carefully nourished to strength before he is CAPABLE of taking strong meat.
      2. Without such strengthening, the saints will not be able to receive all that Paul is asking for them.

    2. This strengthening takes place "in the inner man" - the highest part of our being.
      1. This man "delights" in God's Word, (Rom. 7:22).
      2. He recognizes the need of constant, daily renewal, (2 Cor. 4:16).
      3. One-sermon-on-Sunday and a-prayer-when-you-get-sick can NEVER sustain a healthy spiritual life!

  2. HE PRAYS THAT CHRIST MAY PERMANENTLY INDWELL THEIR HEARTS, BY FAITH, (comp. Jn. 14:23. This He does through the Spirit.)

    1. His coming upon, or dwelling in, Old Testament saints was both sporadic and temporary.

    2. This permanent INDWELLING was not even experienced by the closest disciples of Jesus so long as He was on earth; it was promised TO HIS CHURCH (not to all the saved) on the night of His betrayal, (Jn. 14:16-18; 16:7-14).

    3. It was THE CHURCH that Jesus came to indwell on the Day of Pentecost, (Acts 2) - a divine enablement for her divinely-given task, (see Phil. 2:12-13).

    4. Such conditions as: repentance, faith, baptism, prayer and obedience are attached to the EXPERIENCE of this blessing as offered in the New Testament, (Eph. 1:13; Acts 2:38; Lk. 11:13; Acts 5:32). It is a shame that so many professing themselves "Baptists" scramble SO HARD to find some basis for promising New Covenant blessings to Protestants - who are not in the POSITION where New Covenant blessings dwell!

    5. The Holy Spirit makes Christ REAL in our experience.
      1. Purifying our affections.
      2. Enlightening our understanding.
      3. Liberating our wills "to DO God's will".

    6. It is according to the extent that the indwelling Christ controls us that one Christian differs from another. Sroggie declares that: "in some Christ is just PRESENT; in others He is PROMINENT; and in others again, He is PRE-EMINENT."

  3. HE DESIRES THAT THEY MAY BE ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE (vs. 17; comp. Col. 1:23; 2:7).

    1. "Securely settled" (rooted) is a biological figure.

    2. "Deeply founded" is an architectual figure.

    3. Both figures have been used in Ephesians 2:20-22. A "habitation of God through the Spirit" is a LIVING ORGANISM growing out of a rock-foundation of truth and love.


    1. Paul does not intend that we should attempt to measure the love of God.

    2. Rather, he would have us conscious of its inexhaustibility; it can NEVER be used up!

    3. It is significant that his request is not made for individuals in isolation from their brethren; but, that they "may be able to comprehend WITH ALL THE SAINTS".
      1. Apart from fellowship with brethren of like precious faith, no one will ever reach spiritual maturity.
      2. It is only as the body of Christ is marked by harmony, unity and spiritual growth that we, corporately, attain unto spiritual manhood, (4:13).

    4. The all-surpassing love of Christ can only be known through experience.

  5. EVERY BARRIER TO BOLDNESS IS REMOVED WHEN PAUL REACHES THE CLIMAX OF HIS PRAYER - requesting that his beloved brethren may "be filled up to the measure of God's own fulness" (trans. by F.F. Bruce).

    1. So far as God's reckoning is concerned, this is ALREADY TRUE, in Christ, (Col. 2:10; Jn. 1:16).

    2. However, as God's witnesses (members of Christ's body left in this evil world), we must increase with the increase of God (Col. 2:19) until we are able to be true, faithful and living witnesses of ALL HIS DIVINE PERFECTIONS!

    3. Again, this is impossible for INDIVIDUALS; but it is His purpose that the church, in which Christ lives and moves, shall be "the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (1:23; 4:13).

    4. When this is accomplished in us sinners, God's crowning work will have been completed; it will redound to His eternal glory and praise.


    20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

    1. He recognized God's ability as far exceeding the need of men. He is able:
      1. To save to the uttermost, (Heb. 7:25).
      2. To keep that which is committed unto Him, (2 Tim. 1:12).
      3. To help those who are tempted, (Heb. 2:18; I Cor. 10:13).
      4. To subdue all things unto Himself, (Phil. 3:21).
      5. To "make all grace abound" toward those dedicating themselves and their possessions to Him, (2 Cor. 9:8).

    2. In an effort to express God's ability, Paul coins one of his super-superlatives; it "super-abundantly" exceeds our ability to comprehend!

    3. How utterly foolish to trust in our own abilities when we are not even capable of asking or imagining what great things He has purposed to do for those that truly love Him! (I Cor. 2:9-12)


    1. To fully appreciate this, we must remember that Paul is a prisoner at the time he writes this letter.
      1. He is not a prisoner of Caesar.
      2. He is the prisoner of Jesus Christ; God has a purpose in all this, and Paul is glad to be a part of it, (3:1; 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:8-12).

    2. He sees the hand of God over-ruling all, (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 1:12-21).

    3. He knows that God is doing a two-fold work in His people ("the power that now worketh in us"), and that He will finish that work, (Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 13:21; Phil. 1:6).

    4. In the midst of fiery trials, Paul recognizes the hand of God and calls his beloved brethren to rejoicing.

  3. NOTICE THE DEPTH OF HIS CONCERN FOR GOD'S GLORY, (vs. 21a; Rom. 11:36; Phil. 4:19-20; I Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18; comp. I Pet. 4:11; Jude 24-25; Rev. 5:13; 7:12).

    1. Consider the meaning of "glory".
      1. It involves honor, praise, exaltation, radiance, splendor, pomp, power and supreme worthiness.
      2. In a significant Old Testament usage, it becomes a synonym for the True and Living God, as contrasted with the "gloryless" gods of the heathen, (Jer. 2:11).

    2. Consider THE SPHERE in which this glory is manifested - "unto him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus".
      1. There is a sense in which God's works declare His glory, (Psa. 19:1-3).
      2. Israel was the special instrument for showing forth His glory under the Old Covenant.
      3. Under the New Covenant He purposes to get glory unto Himself THROUGH HIS CHURCH, (I Cor. 10:31).
        1. (1) By an attitude of slackness toward the church, God is "robbed" of the glory due His name.
          (2) It will result in the loss of blessing and reward for anyone so careless and ungrateful toward the grace that has been so freely bestowed.
      4. While Jesus was on earth He glorified the Father in all things, (Jn. 17:1-4); the Father continues to be glorified by Him THROUGH THE CHURCH which is His body, when that church functions according to His design, (Jn. 15:8).

    3. Consider THE EXTENT OF ITS DURATION ... "unto all the generations of the age of the ages", (literal translation).
      1. "Generation" is used in a two-fold sense in the Scriptures.
        1. (1) Of a limited period of time, (Acts 14:16; 15:21; Eph. 3:5; Col. 1:21).
          (2) Of the successive members of a race of people, (cf. the Jews; Matt. 23:36; 24:34).
      2. The biblical view of the New Testament church is that of an institution whose function is designed for the carrying out of God's purpose during A SINGLE AGE - from the time of its origin until the Coming and Kingdom of her Lord.
      3. The Scriptures do not speak of a millennial church. They DO clearly identify a MESSIANIC KINGDOM to be ruled over by Jesus Christ in His PERSONAL BODY-PRESENCE; God fulfilling His promise that of the fruit of David's body (Psa. 32:11) HE WOULD SIT ON DAVID'S (restored) THRONE! However inappropriate this may appear to those who place a low evaluation on the concept of the Messianic inheritance, God will INDEED dwell with men on the earth! This Messianic rule will be shared with Christ's BRIDE - composed of the faithful of ALL AGES. Thus, the application of the passage may be two-fold:
        1. (1) As the living incarnation and fulness of God, through the Spirit, it is the responsibility of the church to bear faithful witness of Him to every race and creature IN THIS PARTICULAR AGE - thus, glorifying God.
          (2) By virtue of her exaltation to identity with Christ (evidencing the richness of divine mercy and grace), she will, at our Lord's return, be merged, with the faithful of all ages, into a New Covenant community - specially constituted by our Lord to be an instrument and occasion of eternal praise to His infinite wisdom and glory.
      4. The remaining portion of this letter deals with instruction for rendering due glory to God's name in this present age; we will do well to hear and follow it with diligence.

            CONCLUSION: As the Great High Priest, over the house (or church) of God, Jesus Christ has opened a new and living way whereby we may enter into the holiest. With one voice, Jew and Gentile, in Him, may EVEN NOW approach God with the confidence of acceptance, the boldness of sonship, and with the beautiful fruit of our lips - even loving praise to the name of our glorious Father-God! May we continually render such praise - with our hearts, our lives and our voices!


  1. What was Paul's attitude toward God's purpose in the church?
  2. What was the basis of his confidence in prayer?
  3. What does Paul mean by "the family" in this setting?
  4. Is there any New Testament passage clearly indicating the writer's intention to include "all the saved" in the "family of God"?
  5. How was Paul's confidence in prayer fortified by the revelation of God's purpose in the church?
  6. What did He desire, in prayer, for the Ephesians?
  7. How were they to be strengthened?
  8. How did he want their hearts to be permanently affected?
  9. In what did he want them "rooted and grounded"?
  10. What was his desire with regard to their understanding?
  11. How "full" did he want them to be?
  12. What was his attitude toward God's ability, as compared with the needs of His people?
  13. Was he aware of the working of God's grace - even while he was imprisoned at Rome?
  14. What was his chief concern in life?
  15. In what sphere of life has God purposed that men should glorify Him during this age?
  16. Is YOUR LIFE glorifying God in the sphere of His appointment?