You are on page 1of 9

EPHESIANS 1:15-23 — A REVIVING REMINDER

(revised)

Drew Dixon Intro to Exegesis November 1, 2010

During this time the word of the Lord spread to “all the residents of Asia. but also the audience of Ephesians. in Ephesians. that serves as a reminder which purposes a revival. This section is typically at the very beginning of a letter following only a few lines of address. a Canonical approach to interpreting scripture is preferred. found some disciples and ended up remaining in the area of Ephesus for two years. However. then. In Acts 19 Paul. The passage sits at the beginning of the letter as part of the traditional “thanksgiving and prayer” section found in most of Paul's letters. It gives passion and conviction to the rest of the letter. it follows a lengthy blessing. Or perhaps it works like lighting in a theatre.Introduction Ephesians 1:15-23 is key in understanding Ephesians. . while traveling through Ephesus. Buttons can be pushed and explored. He has heard of their growth (1:15) and has written to remind them of who they are in the gospel.2 The letter provides no obvious reason for its composition (no conflict to resolve or heresy to correct). and that the audience is the Ephesians and surrounding churches in Asia.” (Acts 19:10). but the device springs to life with batteries. as the letter states (1:1. 3:1). This passage is a prayer in which Paul1 reminds his audience who they are in the gospel. considering this history. For the purposes of this paper I will assume that the author is Paul. The device exists and can be seen. Contextual Analysis This text is primarily theological and spiritual. trusting that the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. It sets the mood and gives vision for all that follows. 2 While many scholars count Acts as historically unreliable. However. 1 I am aware of the scholarly debates regarding not only the authorship. is to be read as a pastoral and apostolic prayer. Paul likely wrote to encourage a church that he had previously led (Ephesus) and to speak the gospel into new churches that had sprouted since (Asia). This passage. however it may be useful to know the history of Paul with the churches in Ephesus and its surrounding areas. It works like batteries in an electronic device.

G. After the blessing. Arnold. . et al. Downers Grove Inter Varsity. The letter discusses the sections in reverse order of the prayer. E. 1993). It is one very long sentence which progresses through a few ideas. Formal Analysis The prayer found in Ephesians 1:15-23 has a careful structure and fluid movement. Paul gives his prayer report which. An outline of the text is as follows: • • • • vv 15-16 – Introductory Thanksgiving vs 17 – Impartation of the Spirit vv 18-19a – Identity in the Church vv 19b-23 – Power of Christ As mentioned earlier.F. His prayer prepares the audience for what he is going to write and places the body of the letter in a proper context: a posture of prayer. works as an outline for the body of the letter. some important features of this prayer are strong poetic and even hymnic language as well as a great deal of synonyms and repetition for emphasis. (Eds.The preceding blessing reminds the audience of who they are in Christ and therefore serves Paul's purpose to encourage them and remind them of the gospel. "Ephesians. like his other letters. Hawthorne." In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.3 3 C. this prayer serves as an outline for the body of the letter. 238. Letter to the. The letter corresponds as follows: • • • Power of Christ – 2:1-22 Identity in the Church – 3:1-4:16 Living by the Spirit – 4:17-6:20 Aside from correspondence and outline.

Detailed Analysis vv 15-16 Paul begins this prayer report giving thanks for and encouragement to his audience. After giving thanks for their faith and its outworking he moves on to the prayer." In Ephesians. faith leads to love (5:2)." In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. Why would Paul write such a vague statement to a church he led for two years? Some suggest this is Paul responding to a recent report he had received concerning the Ephesians.5 While the prayer continues through verse 23. Colossians. Hawthorne et al. Paul comments on the audience's “faith in Jesus” as well as their “love toward the saints. (Eds. which supports his purpose to encourage the new and remind the old. In this introductory thanksgiving.” He inseparably links the two like the problem and solution of an equation.4 The best explanation is that Paul intended this to be a circular letter not only for the church in Ephesus. 1990. Some translations of this passage read “the Spirit” of wisdom. but also the surrounding churches in Asia that resulted from his initial ministry in Ephesus. Paul prays for his audience to receive both.” These correspond to the “faith” and “love” mentioned in the preceding verse. Downers Grove. but such a translation is reading in one's own theology rather than translating. Patzia. Philemon. no article) which. vs 17 In verse 17. "Prayer. Paul's prayer is that his audience would receive “wisdom” and “revelation. Knowing Jesus changes who you are. according to Patzia. 728. while “wisdom” is the practical outworking of that faith. but instead refers to gifts 4 Arthur G. Inter Varsity 1993). does not mean the Holy Spirit.) 10:164 5 W. . B. "Prayer for Divine Enlightenment. Hunter. (ed. The Greek simply reads “a spirit” (πνευµα. Paul shifts from thanksgiving to intercession. Many have taken “I have heard of your faith” as evidence against an Ephesian audience. verse 17 is truly the base of the prayer with 18-23 as elaboration. which once more links the two. “Revelation” is the initial faith in Jesus.

” since the past “enlightenment” is presently working itself out. In Ephesians. Paul lists three specific aspects of his audience's identity which he desires for God to reveal to them. which is prayerfully described in these verses. Philemon. Therefore. (1) That they would know “what is the hope of his calling. Paul's prayer is that the Spirit would “reveal” to them who they are. 10:163-173 Emphasis here and following added. Just as in his initial assertion.” vv 18-19a Since Ephesians was written to remind the people of their identity in the gospel. Paul continues to brilliantly write about his audience. once again. First. Patzia. The word πεφωτισµἐνους (“having enlightened”) is a passive verb. Following this initial assertion.6 (2) That they would know “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the 6 7 Arthur G. Colossians. Paul makes it clear that the “wisdom and revelation of knowledge” is a work of God and not a work of the people. he is not praying for them to receive the Spirit (which they already have). This means that enlightening is done to them. but is entirely reliant on God's call.”7 Some translations may read the “hope to which he has called you.” but this is not an accurate translation of “ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς κλήσεως αὐτοῦ” and does not communicate the objectivity of this hope. particularly those of “wisdom” and “revelation. The hope which Paul desires for his audience to know is a hope that does not rely on their circumstances. The verb is also a perfect verb which is a tense that describes something that has happened in the past. but is still affecting the present. while maintaining primary focus on God.6 This interpretation is sound because in 1:13 Paul has already written that they have received the Spirit.that come from the Holy Spirit. ties together past “faith” and its present outworking. . “love. but rather is asking for the Spirit to manifest himself through gifts. This. not by them.

but they have been placed beneath him (vs 22).” This corresponds to “his glorious inheritance in the saints” because the saints are the church. 8 Frank E.” and is “above every name that is named. They had great trust in their government..” Paul's audience can trust in this immeasurably great power because Jesus is “far above all rule and authority” and “power and dominion. Lincoln.” In saying all of this. Not only is he seated above them. but rather about an inheritance which they are. He describes three aspects of Jesus' exaltation which correspond to the three aspects of the audience's identity. 1990. “Ephesus. Paul directly confronts many secular and pagan practices in Ephesus and the surrounding areas.” Paul does not write here about an inheritance that his audience has (1:14).10 Jesus is above all of these. Paul writes powerfully about the authority that Jesus has.” In Expositor's Bible Commentary.) 11 9 Freedman. David Noel.” Paul's audience has hope because they can look at what God worked through Jesus and can trust that the same way Jesus was raised and exalted that they will be raised and exalted with him (2:6. “Ephesians.” Paul illustrates and validates it by pointing to Jesus' resurrection and exaltation. Michigan: Zondervan. Romans 8:11).saints. Gaebelein.the church.” This corresponds to “hope. TX: Word Pb. 1992. (1) Jesus was “raised from the dead. (2) Jesus was “seated at [God's] right hand in the heavenly places.) 42:45-82 .” In Word Biblical Commentary. (Grand Rapids.” vv 19b-23 After mentioning God's “immeasurable power.” Following this. (Dallas.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. (New York: Doubleday.8 This corresponds to the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. “Ephesians. (3) That they would know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (3) Jesus was “given as head over.. their goddess (Artemis).) 10 Andrew T. 1978.9 and also their magic.

but it is actually about God! It assures that the people have an unshakeable certainty in their identity. but by God who is faithful and does not change. it can be seen that this prayer serves to remind the audience who they are. but also in the surrounding churches in Asia where this letter also circulated. Synthesis Hopefully. They are not defined by themselves. it still does not work in the greater context of Ephesians.The end of verse 23 has posed a problem in translation and also interpretation. Three of those four times it is used in the context of God and his church (1:23. but because of what God has done (2:8). by now. His spirit enlightens. Jesus is independently complete.11 Others interpret that Jesus is the fullness of the church (meaning that the church is not complete without Jesus).10 Some contend that the church is the fullness of Jesus (meaning that Jesus is fulfilled by the church). Not because of anything that they have done. but also because of context. As Jesus has been raised and exalted. it is being transformed into his image (2 Cor 3:18). so shall the church (2:6). 4:13). This interpretation is confirmed by all that follows in Ephesians: The church is growing into his fullness (4:15). 11 Paul just spent four and a half verses expounding upon Jesus' supremacy over all things. while the church is becoming the fullness of Jesus. This prayer is for the church. his inheritance is in the saints. 3:19. The question has been whether or not “τὸ πλήρωµα” (“the fullness”) refers to Jesus or to the church. . Πλἠροµα occurs four times in Ephesians. This interpretation must be rejected not only because of bad theology. while Jesus independently maintains his fullness. She is the bride of Christ (5:25) and therefore the two shall become one (5:31-32). his great power is toward those who believe. Because of these other occurrences in Ephesians it is best understood that. While the second interpretation is theologically sound. the church is actually becoming the fullness of Christ. his calling brings hope. Therefore. The prayer is a reminder of who they are (faith) that hopes to bring about a revival of passion for Jesus (love) not only in the Ephesian church.

Paul is constantly praying for the people under his pastoral care. not just because he is supposed to. Such proclamation of truth can only be effective with true conviction. for the proclamation of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proclamation of truth (John 14:6)! . A pastor can always approach Paul's prayers as a learning experience for how to pray for and lead his own flock. In this passage. There are three specific things I wish to reflect on from this passage: Pastors pray because of God's heart. but because of God's love for them. Pastors teach because Jesus is alive! Obviously one of the most vital roles of a pastor is to teach and proclaim truth to his people. A pastor can get up and preach to his people because Jesus got up out of his grave! The ultimate job of a pastor is to. but has undoubtedly also received one from God. like Paul in Ephesians.” Paul does not only ask for God to give them a spirit of revelation. Paul speaks encouragement over his audience and he begins by asking for a “spirit of revelation. It is important for a pastor to receive revelation from the Spirit about his flock so that he can speak encouragement from God over them rather than flattery from man. But it is clear that he prays. The specific things he prays over his people are things that he heard from God.Reflection There is much to be gleaned in this passage from a pastoral perspective. Pastors should pray for their flock because God cares for his church. Pastors encourage because of the Spirit's revelation. constantly remind his flock of Jesus and who they are because of who he is. or because of his love for them.

Pheme. F W. 2932. 1977. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2000. EBSCOhost (accessed October 18.. Michigan: Zondervan. "How is the church Christ's body?: a New Testament study. "Thanksgiving with Prayer for Believers Knowledge of God and Their Awareness of the Church's Significance. no. EBSCOhost (accessed October 18. Downers Grove. "Pauline demonology and/or cosmology? principalities. A. Hawthorne. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Ephesians." In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. TX: Word Books. "Ephesians.. 42. 380-387. and Richard E. 1993. Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. New York: Abingdon Press. "Principalities and powers. . Andrew T." In Word Biblical Commentary Vol. Oster. Philemon." In Ephesians. 1992. 2010). Jr. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials." Theological Studies 23." In Expositor's Bible Commentary: Vol. 2002): 51-73. Letter to the. 11. 1990. 1990." Theology Today 2. David Noel. 1 (March 1. 298-305. Forbes. B. 1 (April 1. Perkins. Arthur G." Journal for the Study of the New Testament no." In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters/a Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. "Thanksgiving Prayer Report. 2. "πλἠροµα. Dillistone. 2010). 2010). 163173. Wood. Grand Rapids: Wm. and Gerhard Kittel. 1945): 56-68. 1978. 542-549. John. "A Prayer of Intercession.Bibliography Bligh. Gerald F. Friedrich. Dallas. Lincoln. and Ralph P. 1962): 93-99. Gerhard. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials." In New Interpreter's Bible Vol." In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Vol VI. Patzia. EBSCOhost (accessed October 18. "Ephesus. Christopher.. New York: Doubleday. 238-249. Martin.. Colossians. Grand Rapids. 45-82. Freedman. Skevington. IL: InterVarsity Press. Rep Sub ed. 85 (March 1. "Prayer for Divine Enlightenment. powers and the elements of the world in their Hellenistic context. no.