Pauline Sentences – Ephesians 3:14-19

This, believe it or not, is one sentence in the original language – a state of affairs that would not be tolerated in any English class.  Then again, Paul did not take English!

Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV
    For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

In Seminary we were taught to outline sentences (similar again to English class) to help see the flow and structure of a passage.  This particular passage seems to defy such analysis.  One NT scholar finds two main points (fullness and knowledge) but then footnotes that to say, “This is my personal analysis of a difficult passage.”   

We think that analysis is good, so far as it goes, but sometimes a passage, such as this one is not subject to analysis (remember I am talking the Greek, not the various English translations.)  It is a bit like the scene at the start of the movie, “The Dead Poets Society”, where Robin Williams reads a scholar who wanted to turn poetry into a graph.  He instructs the class to rip out the offending page, and then “feel” the poetry.

Our analysis would put the emphasis on the phrases “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” and “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (NIV)  On the other hand as a preacher, one could dip into this sentence and talk about any phrase.  It is so rich with meaning, that even the secondary phrases are worth study, for example “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”  (Greek “Father” is “pater” and “family” is “patria” – a word play lost in English).

Perhaps this is a passage to learn, repeat, pray and meditate upon with some freedom – as one would savor a poem.  Not only with “feeling” (sorry Robin Williams) but with an ear to Biblical themes.  (Does “dwell” suggest the tabernacle/temple where the Lord dwelt with his people?  How about “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” in John 1.)

In the words of this passage, “to know the love…that surpasses knowledge.”  That is to say, not be be uninformed or ignorant of grammar and analysis, but to launch understanding from that pad into the outer space with its “breadth and length and height and depth….”


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