Ephesians Meditations No.28
Eph 3:20,21 Now 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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
Again and again in this letter, my feeling is that there is so much truth in each of Paul’s sentences that it is impossible to plum the depths of them and therefore anything we cover here tends to be very surface. Every phrase, it seems, holds so much that we could make a single meditation of it, but for the sake of time and space, we must limit what we say. See each one, therefore, as simply a launching pad for further meditations.
Consider Paul’s starting description of God: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” This I can cope with, at least in small measure, because as a Pastor, one thing I know is that most people really have so little expectation of what God wants to do for them. Here Paul is thinking about what God “is able to do,” and he implies, ‘think about what we ask God to do, or think about what we imagine He can do, and it is immeasurably more than that!’ In other words, whatever we ask or whatever we imagine God doing, it is so much more that it will be impossible to measure it!
How little expectations do you and I have of God? “Oh, I’m not a leader,” I hear people say, or “I’m not special,” or “I’m not a great saint.” Why not? Is it simply because we don’t ask for it or imagine God would do it for us? The life coaching world has discovered a measure of truth when they teach about thinking well about yourself, but of course they will always fall short if we are being godless, but listen to Paul’s language elsewhere: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8). Then there are people who say, “Oh, I just don’t have the strength to serve God”. Listen again to Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13) Do we need to start taking hold of Scripture and, by faith claiming it for our own lives?
But then he continues by reminding us what these verses above tell us, that it is all “according to his power that is at work within us.” Now we’ve seen this again and again; it is God’s own Holy Spirit within us that is the source of our strength and our power and our wisdom. It is because it is God Himself, by His Spirit, who lives and works in and through us, that Paul said He was able to do immeasurably more. The Spirit is God and God is without limit! That we really do need to think, pray and meditate on!
But all of this that we have been considering, has really almost been an aside or an introduction or explanation of what Paul is basically saying: “Now to him … be glory in the church.” This is really Paul’s winding up his prayer with exaltation of God. He is saying, “May God be glorified in the church” and he’s saying that because of all that he’s said previously about God, the Gospel and the church which God has brought into being. What should be happening is that God is glorified by His church. I’m not sure how often overall in the Church, that that really happens. Is God truly glorified by all that your church is and does? Does the community look on in wonder at what it sees in the church? The reality, tragically, in the West at least, is that much of the time the church has allowed itself to be marginalized and is not seen as the glorious body of Christ still doing the things he did, or it is not seen as the temple of God filled with His glory. Jesus, before his death, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, speaking of the church, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Now merely because there are millions of local churches that does mean there has to be disunity. The local church is where local Christians are, but the crucial question is, do we see ourselves as one with other believers in our area? It starts there. Our unity should be both a means of working to share the Gospel, and a sign that the Gospel works. As a result God will be glorified. Are we a church still doing the same things Jesus did? If we don’t Jesus won’t be glorified. No excuses!
But Paul didn’t just say, “to him be glory in the church,” but also “and in Christ Jesus,” the inference being, we suggest, that God be glorified in the body that is the Church, and in Christ who is the head. You really can’t separate the head from the body and hence when the church glorifies God then the head will be glorified as well. Now this wasn’t just for then but, “throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” This outcome – that God is glorified in the church and in Christ – is to be an ongoing one that goes on from one generation to the next. The people may be different but the Spirit is the same and God remains the same throughout history. There is not coming a time when this does not apply. Our objective, surely, is to be that God is glorified in and through us, that other people see and are drawn and come to know Him. Thus He is truly glorified. May it be so!