22 October 2012

Ephesians 3:14-21

"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (vv. 20, 21)


Today's passage has been described as one of the gems of the New Testament, and for many people verses 20 and 21 are particularly special.

This whole reading brings the first part of the letter to the Ephesians to an end, and if you have not been reading last week's Bible studies you might find it helpful to read the beginning of the letter (Ephesians 1:1 - 3:13). When the writer says: "For this reason" (v. 14), it is picking up on all that has been written so far. It might be that the letter was meant to be used in worship - possibly on the occasion of a Baptism - and the readers or listeners may well have been spread across a number of new churches in the very early years of Christianity.

It is interesting to read "for this reason I bow my knees" (v. 14), because very often in Jewish worship people would stand to pray. However, there are other occasions when kneeling was appropriate, especially in homage to God. So, this passage is certainly in the form of a prayer, celebrating the wonderful things which God is doing.

In the original language, Greek, there would be a very obvious link between "Father" and "family" (v. 14). The message is that God is the parent of all the families on earth - the family of the Church and indeed all people on earth and in heaven. This is a massive claim which has implications for human behaviour - towards God and towards each other.

This passage is about the inner strength which can be experienced, so we can read about being "strengthened in your inner being" (v. 16) and "that Christ may dwell in your hearts" (v. 17). The writer has already dealt with some of the difficult bits for followers of Jesus, and just seems to overflow with wonder about God's grace and the love of Christ.

To Ponder

  • If you know that someone had prayed this prayer for you, how would you feel, and how might it change your life?
  • Are there things which you think God could accomplish in your life? How could you help that to happen?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.