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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Ephesians 3:13-16

So, then, I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory. 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit.

The Original Intent

1) How can Paul’s afflictions be the glory of the Ephesians? (verse 13)

Paul asks the Ephesians “not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory”. (Ephesians 3:13) Paul’s afflictions were no minor ordeals; Paul wrote this letter from prison. His preaching that the Messiah had come to bring salvation not just for the Jews, but the Gentiles also, had infuriated his audience, resulting in a riot and his arrest. (Acts 22:21-22)

Paul assured the Ephesians there was no cause to fret over his situation. Because of his suffering, they were finding freedom in Christ and the gospel message was being spread all the more, as was the common result of persecution of the church. (Philippians 1:14) Because he was sitting in prison and not traveling or preaching, he had time and energy to write encouraging, instructive letters that would benefit the global church for generations to come, including our own!

Instead of feeling despair for Paul, he wanted the Ephesian believers to recognize that all of his afflictions were bringing them gain and still furthering the cause of Christ. John Piper suggests, “When Paul was willing to go to prison for the sake of Christ, he showed the nations that Christ is more precious than freedom. When he was willing to suffer for Christ, he showed the nations that Christ is more precious than comfort and security and prosperity.”

Paul wanted Christians to know that suffering for the Gospel was beneficial to both ministers and converts. As long as people were hearing the Good News of Jesus and he was still able to minister behind bars, God’s will was being done and the Lord was glorified.

We can pray that no matter what tribulations we face as the Body of Christ, God will faithfully use every aspect to further His Kingdom and bring Him glory. (Philippians 1:12)

The Everyday Application

1) How can Paul’s afflictions be the glory of the Ephesians? (verse 13)

Jimmy Cagney plays a criminal in the classic movie “Angels With Dirty Faces” where Cagney and his childhood friend grow up to choose very different lifestyles. Cagney becomes a gangster and his friend becomes a priest. When Cagney faces the electric chair for his crimes, his friend asks him to help the neighborhood boys who are following in his footsteps.

Because he wanted his death to produce something positive, Cagney cried like a baby in front of the boys, shattering their idolization of him. He hoped his suffering would discourage them from emulating him. In another prison cell, the Apostle Paul wanted his suffering to affect his followers as well. He wanted them “not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory”. (Ephesians 3:13)

Paul knew his imprisonment could appear detrimental to his ministry, but he declared it was actually beneficial. John Piper explains, “God’s design is that His church be drawn into the glory of the unsearchable riches of Christ through the sufferings of her missionaries and her ministers. Our sufferings are their glory […]”. Paul knew many before him had suffered in service to the Lord, even at his own hand as a zealous persecutor of the church. (Acts 7:58)

Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, but would later save his people from starvation. (Genesis 45:7) Esther was kidnapped and risked her life to save the Israelites from genocide. (Esther 4:14-17) Daniel was thrown into a den of lions to prove God’s omnipotence. (Daniel 6:21)

This pattern describes what Elisabeth Elliot calls the principle of the cross, “Life comes out of death. I bring God my sorrows, He gives me His joy. I bring Him my losses, He gives me His gains. I give him my sins, He gives me His righteousness. I bring him my deaths, He gives me His life.” Praise God that He uses our afflictions for our benefit and His glory!

The Original Intent

2) Why does Paul say every family on earth is named from the Father? (verse 15)

In Ephesians 3:14-15, Paul says “[…] I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” Paul could say this because the concept of family is God’s design. The language of family describes God the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6) and His relationship to Jesus, Whom He calls His Son (Matthew 3:17).

Familial terms also describe God’s relationship to all believers, who have become Children of God (John 1:12), forever adopted as sons and daughters of the Abba Father (Galatians 4:6-7). Even the Church is called Christ’s Bride, part of His family. (Revelation 19:7)

R.C. Sproul notes, “In biblical times, naming something or someone conveyed the authority of the name over the one who was named. (Psalm 147:4Isaiah 40:26) Therefore, in telling us that God has ultimately named every family or clan, including animal families and angelic clans or groupings, Paul actually proclaims the Lord’s full and unquestionable sovereignty over all.”

Every family on earth gets its name from Father God, and every father on earth finds his genesis in the example of God the Father. As our Heavenly Father, God provides the pattern for earthly fathers to follow. Don Carson suggests “Every notion of fatherhood … at the tribal level, the clan level, the family level … ultimately finds its true archetype in the heavenly Father. There’s the best father of all.”

As a Father, God provides the love (1 John 3:1), protection (Isaiah 54:17), guidance (Psalm 32:8), and inheritance (Colossians 1:12) He desires every family member of His to have, and every earthly parent to provide in their families. Every family on earth is named from the Father, and every family can learn from His example of loving Fatherhood.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does Paul say every family on earth is named from the Father? (verse 15)

Studying genealogy fascinates me. I love sifting through records and stories online, and tracking down clues about previous generations. On my mom’s side of the family, we discovered some local outlaws, and on my dad’s side we found a US President among the cousins many times removed.

It was almost shocking for me to find a relative with our last name dating back to Europe in the 1600s. It doesn’t seem possible that the name and the connections could still be traced to me hundreds of years down the line. Even more fascinating to me is the fact that every family on earth is named from God the Father. (Ephesians 3:14-15)

Often in history, a family’s last name describes something about the family. The Millers worked in a mill, or the Tanners worked leather, or the Bakers made bread. John Piper suggests the same thing is true about God naming His children. He says, “The Father gives us His name so that we will share in His character.”

Every person who believes in Jesus is named a child of God. (Galatians 3:26) As children of God, we allow the Holy Spirit to change us into the image of God each day. (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our name becomes Christian, known for being like Christ. God created every family with the intention that all would choose to bear His Name and His image. (1 Timothy 2:4) As Christians, we are part of God’s “global family, with the same Father, the same Spirit, the same hope.” (Bronwyn Lea)

The Original Intent

3) What does it mean for God to strengthen you with power through His Spirit? (verse 16)

In Ephesians 3:16, Paul asks God to “grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit.”

When we are strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit, it means we are not operating in our own power and strength. This doesn’t necessarily reference physical strength, although God could certainly strengthen someone physically as He did with Samson. (Judges 16:28-30) But even Samson’s physical strength was dependent on his cooperation with the Holy Spirit. (Judges 14:6)

Being strengthened by God’s Holy Spirit means you can do things outside of your capabilities and comfort zone because you are being led and sustained by the Holy Spirit. We need God’s power because we can’t get by on our own strength. (2 Corinthians 3:5) Beth Moore asserts, “With the best of our trying, the best of our resolve, the best of our determination, it’s not going to be enough. We’re wearing ourselves out, stressing with all the pressure to do it ourselves, and [God says] “It’s not going to do. . . It’s going to take me”.

The reason God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit was so He could help us fulfill the plans God has for us. (Ephesians 2:10) God never intended for us to work independently of Him. He graciously gives us His strength, which is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We can rejoice that God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us do what He has called us to do. With His strength, nothing He asks us to do is impossible! (Matthew 19:26)

The Everyday Application

3) What does it mean for God to strengthen you with power through His Spirit? (verse 16)

I’m always surprised at how long it takes me to give up trying to do things in my own strength and rely on God for His power to help me. Because I manage a volunteer workforce, most of my striving and worrying comes from the many “ministry opportunities” I try to fill regularly. I send out email requests, juggle assignments, and look through rosters to see who I could invite to my ministry teams.

When I start feeling desperate, I remember to ask God for His help. I hand all the stress and worry over to Him and ask Him to provide the workers needed. Then I sit back and marvel as people call and e-mail me asking if they can help out or if there are any openings in children’s ministry.

I would do well to remember the words of Paul in Ephesians 3:16, when he prays that Godmay grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit.”

God doesn’t want me to strive and strain to serve Him. He promises to daily bear my burdens. (Psalm 68:19) He gives me gifts and talents to use in service to Him (1 Peter 4:10), but He never asks me to go it alone. (Psalm 54:4).

Somehow, I get the idea that because I have been a Christian a long time I am expected to manage things on my own, and that is just not accurate. The Bible says I am to be a vessel for God (2 Timothy 2:21), someone with open hands and a willing heart to allow Him to work through me (Philippians 2:13).

My prayer is to remember it is not by my might but by His Spirit that I accomplish anything worth doing. (Zechariah 4:6)

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