Tuesday, November 17, 2015

To God be the Glory (Ephesians 3:20-21)

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, NASB95)

It’s transition time. With the end of chapter 3 Paul starts to focus on how we respond to particular issues of life with each other. But before doing that he includes these last two verses which we today often use in our churches as one among many benedictions. In Latin ‘benedicere’ means to praise, commend or bless, and this is how Paul started this letter back in chapter 1, verse 3 where we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3, NASB95) As discussed when looking at that verse, the Greek word used for ‘blessed’ is the word ‘eulogētos’ or eulogize. This meant to speak well of someone or to commend them, which is exactly what Paul continues to do as he concludes chapter 3. All of the words in between 1:3vand here in at the end of chapter 3 speak of how incredible our God is and how He has blessed us in His Son, and Paul saw nothing more fitting that giving God all of the praise, honor, and glory for what He had done.

These in-between verses even include Paul sharing his prayer for the Ephesian believers; a prayer which concluded with, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Paul had seen God do an incredible work not only in Himself but also in countless others. He had seen God lovingly extend Himself and draw people unto Himself through His own Son who gave His life for us. He was personally introduced to Christ who had risen from the dead and who was the head of His Church, and Paul knew that all of this happened according to the will and the power of God. He indeed is able to do far more abundantly that we ask of think.

Personally, I know there are plenty of times that I struggle and even doubt, and in reflecting on my doubting it doesn’t have to do with my belief in the ability or the power of God to act or respond as much as it does with trusting Him to do so or to do so in the time period I expect. Paul reminds us that God does far and above anything that we could ever ask, reason, or imagine. God is unlimited in what good He can do and He is absolutely free to act according to His good pleasure and His perfect timing which is expressed even to and through us.

There is nothing too big for God or that He is not concerned with. There is nothing that misses His eye or escapes His hand. His ability is limitless and He inclines that ability toward us. While Paul may not have been there on the night that Jesus told His disciples, Paul indeed came to know without any doubt the words of Jesus, Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12–14, NASB95) Paul knew that God was more than powerful to work. He was also willing and intending to work, and Paul could pray with confidence giving thanks to God for His help and supply.

Paul also knew that the reason God worked through him and them was because they belonged to Christ. They had been chosen by the Father and saved by the Son according to His abundant grace, and now His abundant power was being displayed in them. Being in Christ meant that we belonged to God. We were bought with the price of the blood of the Son of God, and we are His. As His we are given the Spirit to seal us and to dwell in us to enable and empower us to do the works that He has for us to do. He gave us the Spirit to make us to understand His will and His ways. He gave us the Spirit to intercede in our prayers, to bring His word to life, and to knit us together as we are grown together as the body of Christ—His church of which we are all individually members.

Paul knew that we weren’t saved to muscle through on our own in an effort to prove to God that He made somehow a good choice. He knew that we were saved by faith, and it was by faith in our God who works that we also are made to live. Knowing that God has done this makes all of the difference, and experiencing His abundant power brings all of the change. There really is nothing too big for God, nor is there anything for which we cannot trust Him. He is exceedingly powerful and He will act. We are the proof.

In John 13:35 we read that the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. Think of it; when we evidence the powerful love of God in us shown to our brothers and sisters in Christ we are making a statement to the world around us that we—the church—are different. We are not a social club or a fraternal order of anything. We are the body of Christ through whom the power of God is working to prove Himself to an unbelieving world. We are the body of Christ that is used by God to be His hands in the building up of each other. We are the body of Christ used by God to encourage and strengthen those who are weak, weakened or broken-hearted. We are the body of Christ used by God to declare His truth and particularly His incredible salvation to others. We are the body of Christ which is made strong to stand against the onslaught of the world and which one day will be presented fully to Christ as His perfected bride. We are His handiwork through whom the church is made to shine and the Son is glorified. We are His body which has endured for generations and will continue until such time that He returns to personally claim even those who remain alive in Him at that time.

These are the things that Paul could come before God with in extreme confidence that God would indeed act far and above anything that we could ever ask or imagine. These are the things in which, as the saying goes, God will truly “bless our socks off” to His glory. And in knowing these things Paul wrote to the Ephesians believers to encourage them both in their firm foundation and also in considering how they walk with one another. It is with this assurance that they are then encouraged in 4:1 to walk worthy.

To God be the glory, great things he hath done! So loved he the world that he gave us his Son, who yielded his life an atonement for sin, and opened the lifegate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice! O come to the Father thru Jesus the Son, and give him the glory, great things he hath done! -- Fanny Crosby (1875)

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