Friday, December 12, 2008

Ephesians 3:20-21

20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Finally, we come to Paul’s doxology, where he praises God for His power (see Ephesians 1:19-23; 2:5-6), the power of His Holy Spirit, which, or who, is at work in us, the church, for His glory. We are to be the display(s) – both individually and corporately – of His intrinsic glory, and we are to give Him ascribed glory. We don’t add to His glory, but we reflect it and make it known. We are God’s public manifestation of His glory to the world, and we are called upon to glorify Him, to praise Him, to give Him glory for His grace and goodness to us.

Paul has just prayed for God’s power to be manifested by the Holy Spirit’s working in His people, and now he begins this praise with, “Now to Him who is able.” Paul wants us to recognize that nothing can hinder God from answering that prayer in v16-19. In fact, as Paul states, God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Paul is teaching us, even in this doxology. He knows that some of us will find his prayer hard to swallow. We may realize that God can do what Paul has requested. But we probably doubt that He will, at least in our lifetimes. But Paul is telling us not to think that way. God can do more, immeasurably more, than you can ask or wouldn’t dare to ask – only placing it in the depths of your imagination. God can do more than all of that! In the Greek, Paul essentially makes up a phrase (huper ek perissos) because there’s no word he can use to explain God’s powerful ability. Paul is connecting this doxology to his prayer, where he spoke of Christ’s love as immeasurable and unknowable. God’s power is the same – immeasurable and unknowable. God has limitless power, and Paul points to that power as the source of His doing more than we can ask or imagine. And what’s more, that very limitless power is at work in us (the Holy Spirit).

We mentioned that Paul’s prayer in v16-19 was clearly Trinitarian. He asks God to work by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ into our hearts. Well, the first three chapters of Ephesians are obviously Trinitarian as well. We saw in chapter 1 the emphasis on God the Father, though the Son and Spirit were mentioned. Chapter 2 emphasized the Son, specifically His work of redemption applied to us who were once dead in sin and trespasses. And if you’ve missed chapter three’s emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit, I really can’t help you. I’ve always appreciated the Holy Spirit, but after reading and studying Ephesians 3, how can you not join me in awestruck worship toward the Triune Creator, Sustainer, and Finisher God, who creates, sustains, and finishes by His Son through the power of His Spirit. Praise Him!

In v21, Paul calls for glory to God in the church and in Christ throughout all generations. This is an amazing statement. We are told that the heavens declare the glory of God. We look at the sky and see clouds and colors and stars that amaze. It’s new every day, but the construction is finished. And we say, “Glory to God!” We consider the Person of Jesus Christ, and we notice God’s plan to have Him redeem His people from sin. He said, “It is finished,” and we look back and marvel. And we say, “Glory to God!” But when we look at the Church, do we see God’s glory? Paul says, “Absolutely!” God’s glory is displayed in the Church. He built it; He bought it. It’s a major part of His eternal plan for His glory. We’re just caught up in the scaffolding and demolition and construction; it’s not finished yet. It’s His workplace right now, and one day God is going to bring down that scaffolding and say, ‘This is what I have been building from eternity to be the bride of My Son, and she is altogether glorious.’ And we say, “Glory to God!”

Furthermore, not only is God displaying His glory in the Church, but He has been doing throughout all generations, and He will continue doing it forever and ever. We worship here and now, and quite imperfectly. But the saints above, the spiritual beings Paul has mentioned throughout this letter, they’re doing the real worship. They’re seeing the Church from a perspective we lack, and they’re worshipping God and ascribing to Him the glory due His name. We’re participating in that chorus now, but what a day it will be when the last man on earth joins them, along with us, and the “forever and ever” takes on a whole new meaning! “When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than we’d first begun.”

Notice finally the mutual relationship between Christ and the Church, and Paul describes it in different terms throughout this letter. We have the Body and Head illustration from Ephesians 1:22-23; we have the Reconciled and Reconciler illustration from Ephesians 2:14-18; and we have the Bride and Groom illustration still to come, in Ephesians 5:22,33. Through Paul’s efforts, we ought to clearly see that the Church is, as the Apostles Creed declares, one (united), holy (set apart), catholic (universal), and apostolic (doctrinally sound). And what does a church described this way look like? Paul will head that direction with the second half of this letter to the Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 provide the theological basis for Christian unity, and chapters 4-6 contain the practical instruction for its maintenance in daily living – both privately and publicly, individually and corporately.

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