Main point summary
Paul thanks God for and prays for the Ephesians' spiritual eyes to be opened so that they may know their past calling, future inheritance and God's great power toward them in the present, grounded in Christ.
For this reason, m because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love 1 toward all the saints,
I n do not cease to give thanks for you,
o remembering you in my prayers,
that p the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, q may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
r having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
that you may know what is s the hope to which he has called you,
what are t the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,
u according to the working of v his great might
that he worked in Christ
w when he raised him from the dead
and x seated him
at his right hand y in the heavenly places,
z far above a all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above b every name that is named,
not only in c this age
but also in the one to come.
And d he put all things under his feet
and gave him as e head over all things to the church,
f which is his body,
g the fullness of him h who fills i all in all.
NET Study Note The conjunctive phrase For this reason points back to the preceding section, vv. 3-14, which is also summed up in this verse in the expression because I have heard of your faith. In other words, the author’s prayer can be made for his audience because he knows that they are true believers.
God has brought about radical change in the hearts of these people. Whatever Christlike virtue is present in them is a display of God's work, hence thanksgiving.
NET Translator's Note Or “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” or “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Verse 17 involves a complex exegetical problem revolving around the Greek term πνεῦμα (pneuma). Some take it to mean “the Spirit,” others “a spirit,” and still others “spiritual.” (1) If “the Spirit” is meant, the idea must be a metonymy of cause for effect, because the author had just indicated in vv. 13-14 that the Spirit was already given (hence, there is no need for him to pray that he be given again). But the effect of the Spirit is wisdom and revelation. (2) If “a spirit” is meant, the idea may be that the readers will have the ability to gain wisdom and insight as they read Paul’s letters, but the exact meaning of “a spirit” remains ambiguous. (3) To take the genitives following πνεῦμα as attributed genitives (see ExSyn 89-91), in which the head noun (“S/spirit”) functions semantically like an adjective (“spiritual”) is both grammatically probable and exegetically consistent. cf. 1 Cor 2:9-16
Considering the fact that these believers already have been sealed with the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14) and have faith, the further giving of spiritual wisdom and revelation serves to know God better. Paul's prayer is for a growing knowledge, and not a one-time static affair.
God's glory has to do with who God is and his gracious self-disclosure. cf. Acts 7:2, Ex 33:18-23, Jn 17:5; 1:14, 2:11, 12:27-28, 2 Cor 3:8
In Ephesians 1:3-23, the translation of the idea of inheritance could either be consistently seen as 1. God's giving of an inheritance to the elect in Christ 2. The elect in Christ being God's possession and inheritance (a truth found in both OT and NT) I like the ESV's rendition which leans towards the first option. The reason for that is the consistent idea of God blessing us in Christ Jesus in Ephesians 1:3-14 — the inheritance being part of those blessings. Even here in ver 18, based on the context above, although it is possible to see the inheritance as God’s possession of his people, it seems best to view the inheritance as that which God gives to his people. Just a few verses earlier, Paul had said that those who believed the gospel were sealed with the Holy Spirit, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it”. But because we cannot be absolutely certain of what Paul was implying, my view is held within an open hand.
The “power” of God is stressed as Paul describes it as possessing “immeasurable greatness.” But Paul does not stop there: he further says that this power is “according to the working of his great might.” Power, working, strength (translated “great”), and might are piled up to provoke confidence in God and his plan (cf. Deut. 3:24; Isa. 40:26). Finally, all of God’s power has been directed “toward us who believe.”
Cf. Acts 2:23-36
cf. Eph 6:10-13
cf. Ps 8:6; 110:1-4; 1 Cor 15:27
A PRAYER TO KNOW GOD (1:15-23) Thanksgiving for the Ephesians (1:15-16) 1:15 Paul gives two reasons for offering ceaseless thanksgiving for the Ephesians: a. 'For this reason': looking back, basing his prayer on his praise for all the blessings in 1:3-14, i.e. God's sovereignty over our redemption b. because Paul heard of the Ephesians faith in Jesus and their love for the saints 1:16 Because of those reasons, Paul does not stop offering thanksgiving to God (after all, it is God who is behind their faith and love) and remembers the Ephesians in his prayers 1. Like Paul, are we attentive to changes that the gospel brings in the lives of others? How can we grow in this attentiveness? 2. Is praise for the growth of others a common feature of our prayers? 3. In my life, what connection is there between praise and prayer, i.e. between theology and prayer? Does good theology lead me to pray? Prayer for the Ephesians (1:17-19a) 1:17 Paul then goes on to the content of his prayers, summarised in ver 17 —that God the Father would give them spiritual (through the Spirit) wisdom and revelation in knowing God better. This increasing intimacy of relationship (knowing God) is the thrust of Paul's prayer. 1:18-19a The Ephesians can know God better by having their spiritual eyes opened (eyes of your hearts enlightened) and understanding specific critical truths: a. the hope to which God has called them [in the past] b. God's glorious inheritance in the saints [the fullness of which is seen in the future] c. God's immeasurably great power working toward those who believe [in the present] The Basis of God's Present Power Toward the Believer (1:19b-23) This section actually falls within the previous section, but I have split it for ease of understanding and application 1:19-20a Paul then shows his readers the ground of God's present power toward them —the basis being his great might that God had worked in Christ 1:20-22a This immeasurably great power, might and strength, now working toward believers, was worked in Christ i n the following God-events: a. Christ's resurrection: God conquers death and sin in Christ, vindicating and proving that Jesus was the Messiah, raising him from the dead, never to die again b. Christ's exaltation: God gives Christ honour, glory and power as Christ rules from the throne of God — supremely above all rule, authority, power and dominion — above all names and for all time c. Christ's domination: God subjected all things (including future things) to Christ, the better Adam, the promised king —putting everything under his feet. 1:22-23 This Christ in whom God worked all this immeasurably great power, might and strength, God gave to the church —toward whom God is working all this power. This Christ was given to the church as the head (ruler) over all things. But the church is Christ's body —his flesh, one with him, the head— is described as: a. passively, the fullness of Christ, just as the glory of God filled the temple b. actively, implying that Christ's filling of all creation with himself is being achieved through his body 1. What impact does the Tri-unity of God have in our lives according to the passage? What keeps us from seeing God at work in our everyday living? 2. How does the extent and basis of God's power at work toward us change the way we think and live? 3. How do we fill our callings with Christ —how do we act as Christ's hands and feet, reflecting who God is? 4. Do we look forward to the hope of our calling and future inheritance? What needs to change so we can see and know these things better?