Ephesians 3:13 Commentary

Ephesians 3:13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: dio aitoumai (1SPMI) me egkakein (PAN) en tais thlipsesin mou huper humon etis estin (3SPAI) doxa humon

Amplified: So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: I therefore pray that you will not lose heart because of my afflictions on your behalf, for these afflictions are your glory. (Westminster Press)

NET: For this reason I ask you not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. (NET Bible)

NLT: So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: In view of these tremendous issues, I beg you not to lose heart because I am now suffering for my part in bringing you the Gospel. Indeed, you should be honoured. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: Wherefore, I am asking in my own interest, that you do not lose heart by reason of my tribulations on your behalf which are of such a nature as to be your glory. (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: wherefore, I ask you not to faint in my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

THEREFORE I ASK YOU NOT TO LOSE HEART AT MY TRIBULATIONS ON YOUR BEHALF: dio aitoumai (1SPMI) me egkakein (PAN) en tais thlipsesin mou huper humon:


Therefore - in view of the fact that Paul's ministry even in prison was part of his accomplishing the stewardship of God's grace to the Gentiles. God had entrusted Paul with the mystery of the church and had given him a ministry of evangelizing the Gentiles. Therefore his Ephesian readers should not view his present imprisonment as a tragedy but simply as part of his ministry.

Henry Alford

"seeing which things," viz. the glorious things spoken of Ep 3:1-12: and especially his own personal part in them; since I am the appointed minister of so great a matter. (The New Testament for English Readers)

MacDonald writes that…

In view of the dignity of his ministry and the wonderful results that flowed from it, Paul encouraged the saints not to be disheartened when they thought of his sufferings. (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

Blaikie notes that this verse presents…

A very delicate and touching request, that they would not be too much distressed by what he was suffering for them (comp. Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:2 [see note] = "because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick."). Paul knew that the sympathy was so strong that what was suffered by him was endured sympathetically by them. (Pulpit Commentary)

Therefore (1352) (dio) is a relatively emphatic marker of a result, usually denoting that the inference is self-evident. Synonyms - So then. Consequently. For that reason. On which account.

In other words, Therefore, in view of the incredible benefits (angels see God's purpose through the church, church has bold, confident access to God's throne), don't let the news of Paul's imprisonment (and manifold other afflictions) discourage you. It is all worth it.

Ask (154) (aiteo) means to ask for something with a sense of urgency and even to the point of demanding. Aiteo means to ask for, with a claim on receipt of an answer. The present tense conveys the idea of a continual asking. 

NET Notes writes that there "No direct object is given in Greek, leaving room for the possibility that either “God” (since the verb is often associated with prayer) or “you” is in view. (Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible Notes)

Lose heart (1573) (ekkakeo [equivalent to egkakeo, enkakeo] from ek = out of or intensifies meaning + kakós = bad) means to strictly speaking means to act or behave badly in some circumstance. It can mean to give in to evil. It can convey the idea of to be weary in or become tired of doing something.

Note on lose heart - The NAS (Nestle-Aland) has a different Strong's Number (1457)  but it is essentially the same verb egkakeo and is translated Lose heart (grow weary)

Wood comments that "The verb enkakein means “to become good for nothing,” “to grow faint,” and hence “to be discouraged” (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament)

The UBS Handbook notes that…

Not to be discouraged may be expressed in a number of ways, often idiomatically, for example, “not to lose heart,” “not to give up,” “not to run away,” or “not to think that all is lost” (The United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series)

It is worth noting that every NT use of ekkakeo is preceded by negative particle ("not") - Do not become discouraged. Do not lose your enthusiasm. Do not lose heart. Do not grow weary or tired. Do not flag or faint. Do not grow slack. Do not despair. Beloved, perhaps God's Spirit might use one of these phrases to stimulate you to keep on fighting the good faith, remembering that until we see Him face to face, it's always too soon to quit. May God grant all of us to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner man (Ep 3:16-note) so that at the end of our life we might be able to echo Paul's words…

I have fought the good fight (struggle), I have finished the course (race), I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2Ti 4:7-note, 2Ti 4:8-note)

Rienecker writes that ekkakeo

is also used in the papyri in the sense of treating someone badly. It became a Christian technical term expressing the unflagging pursuit of the goal of service to neighbor, or of apostolic ministry, as well as the tautness (having no give or slack -- tightly drawn, chiefly a nautical term signifying in proper order or condition) of the determined heart that does not let up or lose courage. (Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament)

Ekkakeo can mean to be a coward, to lose courage or to lose the motivation to accomplish a valid goal or to continue in a desirable pattern of conduct. To become discouraged and give up.

Ekkakeo conveys the idea of becoming exhausted or fainthearted in view of a trial or difficulty and therefore giving up ("throwing in the towel" to use a modern expression). This attitude is the opposite of Paul's charge that we be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing (let this truth motivate you to keep on keeping on!) that your toil is not (absolutely is not) in vain in the Lord” (1Co 15:58-note).

The present tense in Ep 3:13 speaks of a continuing action ("don't let this be your continual response to my tribulations" is the idea).

Wayne Barber explains ekkakeo writing that…

It means "to grow weary, to be discouraged, to be faint hearted." It also carries another idea. It means "to turn cowardly and to give into the influences of evil that are around you." It is almost as if Paul is saying,

"Listen, I am in prison, yes, and my imprisonment is on your behalf. Now don’t you go and lose heart. I certainly haven’t lost heart. Look at the marvel of our salvation. Don’t you grow weary. Don’t become faint hearted. Don’t give in to the consequences and the temptations of evil that are all around you." (Ed note: this would be a reasonable interpretation in view of the fact that he is about to begin his discourse charging them to walk worthy of their calling, and not like they used to walk as godless heathens). (Ephesians 3:13: Roots of Discouragement)

In the other 5 uses of ekkakeo (no uses in the Septuagint), the NT instructs believers not to lose heart about several things in addition to trials (Notice this is primarily a "Pauline" word)…

Prayer (Of prayer to which the answer seems deferred)

Luke 18:1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart

Doing good (In view of the danger of failure in perseverance or temptation to laxity)

Gal 6:9-note And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Comment: A T Robertson says "It is curious how prone we are to give in and to give out in doing the good which somehow becomes prosy or insipid to us".

2Th 3:13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

Serving (Of the ministry of the word in its purity, when some modification might make it acceptable)

2Cor 4:1-note Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart

Burdens of life (in spite of the fatigue and physical suffering involved)

2Co 4:16-note, 2Co 4:17-note, 2Co 4:18-note Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

And thus God produces glory through our afflictions and sufferings. Paul adds…

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Ro 8:18-note)

Paul always had an eternal view when suffering for the sake of the gospel. In Philippians (also in prison as he was when he wrote Ephesians) Paul wrote…

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. (Php 1:12 13 14-note)

In a similar situation (again writing from prison) Paul tells the saints at Colossae that…

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions. (Col 1:24-note)

Comment: He is not saying his suffering had any atoning value, for Christ's finished work on the Cross accomplished that objected forever. What he is saying is that because of the union of believers with Christ, Paul's sufferings for the sake of the church can be called Christ's afflictions as well. And the suffering will potentially happen to any believer who remains faithful, cf 2Ti 3:12-note)

Paul comforted the saints at Thessalonica reminding them that…

we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. (1Th 3:2, 3, 4-note)

Tribulations (2347) (thlipsis [word study] from thlibo = to crush, press together, squash, hem in, compress, squeeze in turn derived from thláo = to break) originally expressed sheer, physical pressure on a man. Medically thlipsis was used of the pulse (pressure). It is a pressing together as of grapes. It conveys the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure or crushed beneath a weight. When, according to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty, had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was literally thlipsis. Thlipsis thus refers not to mild discomfort but to great difficulty.

Thlipsis - 45x in 43v - Matt 13:21; 24:9, 21, 29; Mark 4:17; 13:19, 24; John 16:21, 33; Acts 7:10f; 11:19; 14:22; 20:23; Rom 2:9; 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; 1 Cor 7:28; 2 Cor 1:4, 8; 2:4; 4:17; 6:4; 7:4; 8:2, 13; Eph 3:13; Phil 1:17; 4:14; Col 1:24; 1 Thess 1:6; 3:3, 7; 2 Thess 1:4, 6; Heb 10:33; Jas 1:27; Rev 1:9; 2:9f, 22; 7:14. NAS = affliction(14), afflictions(6), anguish(1), distress(2), persecution(1), tribulation(16), tribulations(4), trouble(1).

John MacArthur writes that…

Thlipsis (tribulations) has the underlying meaning of being under pressure and was used of squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil and of squeezing grapes to extract the juice… In Scripture the word thlipsis is perhaps most often used of outward difficulties, but it is also used of emotional stress. (MacArthur, J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press)

Figuratively thlipsis pictures one being "crushed" by intense pressure, difficult circumstances, suffering or trouble pressing upon them from without. Thus persecution, affliction, distress, opposition or tribulation, all press hard on one's soul. Thlipsis does not refer to mild discomfort but to great difficulty. In Scripture the thlipsis is most often used of outward difficulties, but it is also used of emotional stress and sorrows which "weighs down" a man’s spirit like the sorrows and burden his heart. Thlipsis then includes the disappointments which can "crush the life" out of the one who is afflicted.

The English word "tribulation" is derived from the Latin word tribulum (literally a thing with teeth that tears), which was a heavy piece of timber with spikes in it, used for threshing the corn or grain. The tribulum was drawn over the grain and it separated the wheat from the chaff. As believers experience the "tribulum" of tribulations, and depend on God’s grace, the trials purify us and rid us of the chaff.

Lawrence Richards writes that

thlipsis is used as a technical theological term for the Great Tribulation (see note below) of the end times. Thlipsis is also used in a non-theological, figurative way to convey the idea of the great emotional and spiritual stress that can be caused by external or internal pressures. Of the fifty-five uses of this root (thlipsis and thlibo) in the NT, fifty-three are figurative and correspond closely to the Hebrew words tsarar and tsar. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

Marvin Vincent has the following note explaining that the root thlibo means…

"to press or squeeze. Tribulation is perhaps as accurate a rendering as is possible, being derived from tribulum, the threshing-roller of the Romans. In both the idea of pressure is dominant, though thlipsis does not convey the idea of separation (as of corn from husk) which is implied in tribulatio." (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament Vol. 1, Page 3-80)

Vine writes that thlipsis

"primarily means a pressure, that which weighs down the spirit. For the believer who is enabled to endure it, the affliction becomes a means of triumph… “afflictions” are the various forms of injury to body and mind suffered by those who are persecuted… Thlipsis is the suffering which results from what presses hard on the soul." (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

The picture of thlipsis is of one being squeezed. When you squeeze something, what comes out is what is on he inside. What comes out of you when you are experiencing "thlipsis"? Remember believers have Christ in them the hope of glory and therefore have the potential to exude the fragrance of His life when crushed.

William Barclay writes that thlipsis

"In ordinary Greek always describes actual physical pressure on a man… Sometimes there falls upon a man’s spirit the burden and the mystery of this unintelligible world. In the early years of Christianity the man who chose to become a Christian chose to face trouble. There might well come to him abandonment by his own family, hostility from his heathen neighbours, and persecution from the official powers. Samuel Rutherford wrote to one of his friends, “God has called you to Christ’s side, and the wind is now in Christ’s face in this land: and seeing ye are with him ye cannot expect the lee-side or the sunny side of the brae.” It is always a costly thing to be a real Christian, for there can be no Christianity without its cross. (Ed note: i.e., thlipsis)" (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press) (Bolding added)

In other notes Barclay writes that…

"thlipsis which originally expressed sheer, physical pressure on a man. There are things which weigh down a man’s spirit like the sorrows which are a burden on his heart and the disappointments which are like to crush the life out of him… Originally thlipsis meant simply pressure and could, for instance, describe the pressure of a great stone on a man’s body. At first it was used quite literally, but in the New Testament it has come to describe that pressure of events which is persecution. (Ibid)

Your behalf (5228) (huper) means for the sake of, in the sense of protection, care, favor, benefit. Huper in the present context is a marker of a participant who is benefited by an event or on whose behalf an event takes place. Stated another way huper is a marker indicating that an activity or event is in some entity’s interest.

Wayne Barber has some penetrating pragmatic thoughts on "to not lose heart" writing…

In chapter 3, the first root of discouragement would have to be a low view of salvation. You know, so often we talk about salvation and redemption. Christians who have been Christians for a while have lost the thrill. They have lost the excitement. When you have a low view of salvation it effects everything else that goes on in your life. Paul has been trying to dignify the salvation and show them that this salvation is absolutely the greatest blessing you could have on this earth. Now listen to what I am saying. This earth offers nothing compared to our salvation. That is what Paul is trying to get across. He could have easily given up, but folks, when he speaks in chapters 1 and 2 and 3:1-12, he speaks with such awe when he thinks about his salvation. He is overwhelmed and nothing has marred his focus. He single-mindedly is looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, when you have a low view of your salvation, you look at it as if it is something tagged on to your life. If you have not yet seen it as the very essence of every-thing you are, you will grow faint-hearted. You will grow weary. You will lose heart and give in to the evil that is around you.

What about you? How are you doing? How are you doing in your walk? How are you doing in your work? Young people, back in school right now, how are you doing right now? Do you have a low view of your salvation? Does the pressure of the world make you feel sort of stupid sometimes even to tell them that you are a Christian? Are you ever in a crowded room of students or a crowded room at work and not want anybody to know that you are a Christian, that you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Is that going on in your life? Are you on a plane traveling and sit down beside somebody and you don’t want to tell them that you are a Christian? You don’t want to take the laughter and the ridicule because you have such a low view of what salvation really is?

Folks, it is no wonder we are discouraged if we haven’t realized yet that our salvation has been God’s plan before creation. He was our Redeemer before He was ever our Creator. As a matter of fact, He has so saved us and redeemed us that we are to teach the angelic realm what redemption is all about. The highest honor, the highest privilege is to be called a child of God. Folks, we have such a low view of it that we let the world intimidate us. We lose heart and get sucked right into the evil that is all around us.

Let me ask you a question. Have you forgotten that salvation makes you a brand new creation in Christ Jesus? Folks, we ought to hold our heads high, jump out of bed in the morning, thank God and praise Him that anything short of hell is grace in our life. Something has happened to us. We live in a day and an age when redemption and salvation are seen on such a low, low view. The greatest privilege is when we can say our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Unless you are living in the kingdom and are a part of His temple and a part of His body, you haven’t got a clue yet as to the dignity of your salvation. Friend, to be saved, born again, redeemed, is the greatest thing we could possibly say. Yet we let the world intimidate us to the point we lose heart and we give in as cowards to the evil that is around us. (Ephesians 3:13: Roots of Discouragement)

THEY ARE YOUR GLORY: etis estin (3SPAI) doxa humon:

They are - The tribulations (present tense) are continually. The Amplified Bible's interpretative rendering is "Rather glory in it for it is an honor to you."

Glory (1391) (doxa [word study] from dokeo = to think or recognize) means to give a proper opinion. The basic idea in the word doxa is that of manifestation.

NET Notes writes that…

The antecedent (i.e., the word or concept to which this clause refers back) may be either “what I am suffering for you” or the larger concept of the recipients not losing heart over Paul’s suffering for them. The relative pronoun “which” is attracted to the predicate nominative “glory” in its gender and number (feminine singular), making the antecedent ambiguous.

Paul’s suffering for them could be viewed as their glory (cf. Col 1:24 for a parallel) in that his suffering has brought about their salvation, but if so his suffering must be viewed as more than his present imprisonment in Rome; it would be a general description of his ministry overall (cf. 2 Cor 11:23–27).

The other option is that the author is implicitly arguing that the believers have continued to have courage in the midst of his trials (as not to lose heart suggests) and that this is their glory. Philippians 1:27,28 offers an interesting parallel: The believers’ courage in the face of adversity is a sign of their salvation. (Biblical Studies Press.)

Steven Cole writes…

Because we are at the center of God’s eternal purpose, we must not lose heart in trials. Paul’s focus was not on himself, even though he was the one in prison, but on these Ephesian believers. He didn’t want them to become discouraged on account of his trials, because they would result in the Ephesians’ ultimate glory. In Romans 8:18 Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” As he goes on to share in that chapter, God works all things together for our good, using even the trials to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. So even if persecution comes against us, we should not become discouraged, but rather remember that we are at the center of God’s eternal purpose. Our good and ultimate glory are included in His purpose. The greatness of the cause is worth the hardship of the suffering. (Sermon)

Blaikie explains this somewhat difficult to understand phrase writing that…

the character or capacity of the apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, in which I suffer tribulation, is one of such exalted dignity as to reflect glory on you. Take that view of my sufferings; I suffer because I hold so glorious an office, and the glory of that office is reflected on you. (Pulpit Commentary)

The UBS Handbook writes…

Caragounis points out, “the meaning of ’glory’ has puzzled all interpreters.” Barth translates “your glorification,” which may be taken to mean progressive growth in Christian virtues and perfection, finally to be attained in the future life with God (so Caragounis: “will lead to your being glorified”). When used of people, the word may have the sense of “honor, prestige, reason for boasting” so TNT “You should be proud of this” Phps “Indeed, you should be honoured” (Mft, Gdsp, TC, SpCL all have the idea of honor). Or the word may have the general sense of benefit, advantage; so TEV, FrCL; GeCL “It has happened for your benefit, and you should be proud of it.” Perhaps something like the meaning expressed in Colossians 1.27, “the hope of glory” (TEV you will share in the glory of God), is intended here. (The United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series)

Expositors explains it this way writing that…

Paul’s tribulations were endured in their behalf, and were of value for them. The greater the office of the sufferer, the more did the afflictions which he was content to endure for them redound (have an effect on or rebound on) to their honor; and the better this was understood by them, the less should they give way to weakness and discouragement.