Thielman, Frank. Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
Chapter 3, “Thanksgiving for Conversion and Intercession for Understanding (1:15-23)” pp. 87-117
As is typical in a period letter, the Pauline letters often have a greeting, thanksgiving, and at least a mention of intercession, though this prayer pattern shows considerable variation. Thielman discusses some of the variety before addressing the structure in Ephesians (Thielman 2010, 88). Though the boundaries are a little unclear, Thielman thinks the thanksgiving ends at 1:16 and the intercession runs from verse 17 through 19 (Ibid.). Paul’s concern is that the Ephesians may gain hope through knowing their identity in Christ (Ibid., 89). Thielman’s comments are divided into two sections. He first deals with thanksgiving themes in verses 15-19, then with the more theological statements of verses 20-23.
Thielman notes the uncharacteristically emphatic opening of verse 15. Though forceful, it may reflect the emphasis on Paul as the apostle specially called to care for the Ephesians (Ibid., 93). The question of “having heard” may imply that Paul is speaking to a congregation he had not met, but Thielman also observes that several years’ time results in hearing a report rather than seeing the people personally (Ibid., 93). Paul’s prayer ties in the Father with the expression of glory shown early in the epistle. Thielman explores the petition, questioning how the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” is identified or imparted (Ibid., 96). The prayer is specifically that the Ephesians will understand hope (Ibid., 98), their inheritance (Ibid., 99), and God’s power (Ibid., 100).
Verses 20-23 serve to explain God’s great power and how he gives it to his people. God has made the Messiah victorious through resurrection and exaltation (Ibid., 107). This exaltation is ultimate - over all and forever (Ibid., 109). Thielman goes on to discuss Paul’s statement that Christ is then given to the church as its head (Ibid., 111). Elsewhere Paul uses the idea that the church is the body of Christ. The use in Ephesians is not unlike that of Romans, 1 Corinthians, or Colossians (Ibid., 112). After an inconclusive discussion of the vague grammar “filling all in all” in verse 23 (Ibid., 114-115) Thielman sums up the point that God has made his Messiah the head over the church and has gained victory over every enemy (Ibid., 116).