“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
These words are the benediction to Paul’s prayer that we looked at yesterday. They are significant words – words we would do well to devote some thought to. We can learn much from passages like this that are, for the most part, given little attention in our bible study.
God Is Able
First, notice that the God whom Paul served was not – and is not – limited in His ability to provide the things we ask of Him. He is able to “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” Man tends to limit God’s power. We think that God is far away from us and doesn’t care about us. We think His hand is shortened. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
“Why, when I came, was there no man;
why, when I called, was there no one to answer?
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?
Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make the rivers a desert;
their fish stink for lack of water
and die of thirst.
I clothe the heavens with blackness
and make sackcloth their covering.” (Isaiah 50:2).
God is able to do “far more” than man’s limited estimate of His abilities. God is bigger than our thoughts and can do more than we think – and we don’t like that kind of God. We want a God we can define, a God we can describe. We want a safe, predictable God! We want a God we can control! We want a God we can tie up in a neat package and say, “See, I have Him all figured out!” A God who isn’t all these things is just too dangerous for us!
God is really not interested in making things comfortable for us. He really is intent on making us over and in giving us freedom – and that is something we fear. We are comfortable as we are – we don’t want to be made over, even if it is in His image. We don’t know how to handle the freedom He wants to give us. We feel far more comfortable in our little boxes in which we have imprisoned ourselves.
But Paul tells his readers in this text to get ready for what lies ahead. God is able. He has the power to accomplish His purpose in our lives. He is able to do far more than our limited perception allows us to grasp. A God with this kind of power makes us uneasy. If we can tame Him, understand Him, limit Him, put Him in a box with a lid on it all securely tied down, we like that. But a God whom we can so limit is nothing but another idol! He is safe and controllable and we feel comfortable with that kind of God.
Paul says in this text that not only is God able to do “abundantly” more than we ask or think, He is already at work doing it! His power is at work in us already! Look at the context in which Paul was writing this. He was writing to people whom God had brought together in a way that would never have occurred to man. The Jews and Gentiles had been brought together in the one church which was designed to be the temple of God in the Spirit. It was a living demonstration to the “principalities and powers” that God was in control of all things. It was a concrete demonstration of God’s wisdom.
Now God had to convince these people to live out His purpose in their lives. Their salvation was about God’s glory, not man’s convenience and comfort. It was not about living in the past but living in the present and looking to the future and what God was doing with them.
In The Church
What does Paul mean about glory being unto God “in the church?” Our being is about God’s glory – we are made in His image. Our salvation is about God’s glory. Our being as Christians is about God’s glory.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
“…so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:10-11).
The church, God’s “congregation,” is people whose desire it is to give glory to God. They are the people whose business it is to extend the grace of God to more and more people.
“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
How do we as God’s congregation – God’s “assembly” – go about giving Him glory?
“…whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11).
Everything Christians do must be designed to glorify God. So many churches today seem only interested in fun, entertainment and sensational, “exciting” events to draw people and “grow the church.” But God is not glorified by the things that fascinate human beings.
God was glorified by Jesus when He was on the earth. He said…
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4).
God was glorified when Jesus obediently went to the cross. The night before His betrayal He prayed to the Father…
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” (John 17:1).
God is glorified when His people live and act in this world as Jesus lived and acted when He was on earth. God is glorified when his people quietly and humbly tie a towel around their waist and “wash feet” – not as a religious ritual, but as an act of kindness. God is glorified when one of the people of His congregation offers a cup of cold water to a disciple of Jesus.
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42).
When God’s people commit themselves to serving Him, He will see to it that they never lack in opportunities to serve their fellow man, for that is how God is served. And in that service, God is glorified.
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12).