Paul was the steward of the mystery. He was not alone in knowing it, but it fell to Paul teach it to the world and train the world’s believers to live in it.
It needed sincere and devoted men, willing to be taught of God, willing to surrender every prejudice and the preconceptions of flesh and blood, in order to receive and convey to the world thoughts of God so much larger and loftier than the thoughts of men. To such men - true disciples, loyal at all costs to God and truth, holy and humble of heart - Jesus Christ gave His great commission and bade them “go and make disciples of all the nations.”
That Saul the Pharisee and the persecutor, the most unworthy and most unlikely of men, should be the chosen vessel to bear Christ’s riches to the Gentile world, how shall he sufficiently give thanks for this? How to express his wonder at the unfathomable wisdom and goodness that the choice displays in the mind of God?
Yet as a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee of Pharisees, few knew how rich were the treasures stored in the house of Abraham that he had to make over to the Gentiles.
The universalism of the gospel is common place in our age, and has been for some time, but for Paul it was brand new. His office gave Him unceasing delight in knowing that wherever he went and whomever he talked to, no matter what rung of the social ladder they were on, whosoever may come.
Imagine knowing that only very few were chosen, Jews (estimated at the time to be about 1% of the world population), and then coming to know that countless millions were chosen from all nations and cultures. Heaven would look to your imagination as a much different place, and God as a much different Person. Paul has been overwhelmed with it, and he must teach it everywhere, he must establish churches and train up other men to teach it, and he must write it all down before he dies.
With the understanding of it, Paul would understand the principle of grace, but know that its depth was unfathomable.
Paul had to unlock this truth and preserve it. He had had to bring it from one end of the Empire to the other while preserving its purity from the many things around it and around him that would tarnish it. He had to keep it free from the grip of Judaism and the Mosaic Law. He had to protect it from the mechanical and legal interpretations. On the other hand, he had equally to guard the truth from the influences of Gentile speculation, namely Gnosticism and the antinomian spirit it infused. His noble epistles are the fruit of that labor, as God the Holy Spirit kept him and his pen true.
It was up to Paul to bring it to light:
But what is interesting to note is that the great secret was out while Paul was still a Pharisee breathing threats against the church. Yet, we can conclude that the proper handling of the mystery and the mode to which God desired to present it to the world had not yet been accomplished. Paul was called for that purpose. Paul, and no one but he, had all this to expound and set in order.
Paul was called to be the master-builder of Christian doctrine.
It’s not that Peter and John didn’t know it, but they were not called to lay it down upon the foundation of Christ.
After the parenthesis of vv. 2-13, Paul again takes up the prayer he had only begun.
EPH 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles —
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.
One of the best ways to discover a Christian’s chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. We all pray about what concerns us. Prayer expresses desire. Paul’s desires are pure and in Godlike fashion, they are mostly concerned with others.
It’s not that Paul desires nothing for himself. But what he desires for himself is the same that he desires for others, and four things are listed here. This is his second prayer, of two, in Ephesians.
Like Jesus in the Upper Room on His last night, Paul follows his instruction with prayer for those he instructed. Jesus instructed from Joh 13-16 and then prayed for the reality of His instruction to become a reality to the disciples, as well as all the church.
Paul prays for what is God’s will for all men. The indispensable prelude to all petition is the revelation of God’s will.
Hence, study or reading of God’s word should always be followed by prayer. The scripture discloses God’s will and in prayer we ask for that disclosure. Ignorance and bias are always potentials within every believer, and prayer is our way of seeking to get around these hindrances and to bask in the blessed truth.
Summary of what Paul prays for: strength, love, knowledge, and fullness.
More precisely, he prays first that they might be strengthened by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the full knowledge of Christ who indwells you; secondly that they may be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love; thirdly that they may know Christ’s love in all its dimensions, even though all of it is out of our grasp; and fourthly that they may be filled up to the very fullness of God.
We will get to each of these four in turn, but first let’s learn a couple of things from Paul’s introduction to the prayer.
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
A) “I bow my knees”
“I bow my knees” - the normal posture for prayer among Jews was standing. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican both men stood to pray (LUK 18:11,13).
Kneeling was unusual. Ezra fell on his knees before God when confessing the sins of Israel (EZR 9:5), Jesus fell on His face in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Stephen fell on his knees when he cried out to the Lord for the forgiveness of those stoning him. Yet, we find no rule for posture while praying in the scripture.
Therefore, we may pray in any posture physically, while mentally we maintain the posture of humility and obedience.
It is likely that Paul reveals that he is on his knees in order to reveal to us that he is passionate and earnest to a large degree. It is his deepest desire for the church, not for buildings and programs, such things didn’t even exist in Paul’s time, but for the hearts of the people to understand the issue concerning the mystery of Christ and to absorb themselves and their lives in it.
B) The Family Name
“from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
It is hard to imagine that every family derives its name from the Father. Certainly, God is in control of all things in history, even the formation of families and nations.
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;”
“every family” - pasa patria. Pasa can mean every, all, or whole. Patria is ancestry of lineage. Paul much more likely means: “whole family” meaning the family to whom God gave His name.
Paul uses a deliberate play on words, since “father” is pater and “family” is patria. Patria does not mean fatherhood, but family. This is a reference to the Father’s family, which is the body of Christ on earth and either the elect angels in heaven or the triumphant believers in heaven. It is impossible to know for sure which group Paul references when he writes “in heaven,” for he could mean the deceased believers or the elect angels, who although they are servants of man, they are called ‘sons of God’ in the Book of Job. As usual, such vagaries do not affect the theme of the passage, which is Paul’s desire for your heart to be of a certain condition.
The point is that God’s family, whether in heaven or on earth, and in eternity there will be a new heaven and new earth, all possess His name because He bestowed it upon them by grace.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (KJV)
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.