2:1-10: the hope of his calling
2:11-22: the glorious riches of his inheritance among the saints
3:1-13: the surpassing greatness of his power upon us who believed . . .
Now, that doesn’t mean that he’s finished by the end of chapter 3. We may have learned some things about the calling, the inheritance, and the power, but I think he has much more to say about “the hope of his calling,” “the glorious riches of his inheritance among the saints,” and “the surpassing greatness of his power”—things that we won’t learn about until we’ve reached the end of the letter, and beyond. In other words, we haven’t exhausted the hope . . ., the riches . . ., and the surpassing greatness . . .
It’s pretty easy to see the ideas of the calling and the inheritance lurking behind Eph 2:1-22, but is Eph 3:1-13 really about “the power”? This is one of those cases where knowing a little about the way “they did it back then” can help us understand the focus and meaning of a Bible text. In Bible days, writers and speakers often shaped (that is, “structured”) their material in circles—sort of like this:
A My first idea A tree fell loudly in the woods,
B My second idea But no one heard it.
B’ My second idea If no one heard it,
A’ My first idea again Did it really fall loudly?
These circular patterns sometimes grew into elaborate and detailed systems, with even whole books of the Bible structured this way.
Perhaps the key idea—besides the fact that the beginning and the end often made a contrast with the middle—is that the center or middle of the pattern received the emphasis or was the most important point of the shape. As I set forth in the Study Guide, Eph 3:1-13 has this sort of a circular shape. Notice the beginning, the middle, and the end:
For this reason, I Paul am the prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles . . . .
of which I became a servant according to the gift of the grace of God given to me
according to the working of his power
to me the least of all saints this grace was given . . . .
Therefore I ask [you] not to become discouraged in my tribulation for you, which is your glory.
Notice how imprisonment and the idea of (overcoming) discouragement is “solved” by the grace and power of God (in the middle). Also notice how the word “grace” is connected to the idea of power. We’ll see much more about this in chapter 4, as Paul explains how God’s grace as power is given to all the various parts of the body of Christ for the building up and strengthening of the church.
In Eph 3:1-13, Paul is a tremendous example of “the surpassing greatness of his power upon us who believed.”