18 November 2015

Ephesians 1:15-23

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.” (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 128


This passage, another long unbroken sentence in Greek, divides into three sections. There are prayers of thanksgiving (verses 15-16) and of intercession (verses 17-19), which lead into an affirmation of the supremacy of Christ (verses 20-23).

Although the writer does not link words of praise with a specific situation, thanks are given for two important aspects of a Christian community - faith and mutual love. The letter goes on to pray that God will grant wisdom and understanding as recipients grow in their faith, so that they may enter into the fullness of all that God has to give. This will enlighten the eyes of their heart, a memorable phrase meaning spiritual enlightenment.

Verse 19 emphasises the power of God, and the writer then gives the example of God's power at work in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Some suggest that the remainder of the chapter is a liturgical formula or creed, possibly used at a Baptism.

The power of God did not just raise Jesus Christ from the dead, but also exalted him to the seat of power at God's right hand. Thus the power of the exalted Christ is comprehensive, above all other powers, and it extends into the future. The writer quotes from Psalm 8:6 to underline the extent of that power, which includes the universal Church. Paul uses the metaphor of the body to teach about the Church (eg 1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians draws from that powerful imagery and introduces the idea of Christ as head of the Church as his body. We are accustomed to think of Church in that way, acting for Christ and as Christ in the world today. Verse 22 reminds us that as in physiological terms, the head controls the rest of the body, and the body cannot function without it, so the Church needs Christ and cannot survive without him.

To Ponder

  • Do you find the word pictures of the power of Christ over all things helpful or unhelpful? Why?
  • What are your feelings about the future of the Church, in Britain, and in the world?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Bielby

Richard is a supernumerary Methodist presbyter in Stockton on Tees. He is a part-time prison chaplain and also serves as a voluntary chaplain at Durham Cathedral.