“Ascribing Glory to God” Ephesians 3:20,21
Leading up to our text today the Apostle Paul prays for the Ephesian believers. He is praying enablement for them and for us. He wants his readers to grasp the incredible theological realities in chapters 1-3 and to apply these truths to their lives. His prayer has had three requests. First, he has asked that we might be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit in the inner man, that being accomplished by Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. Second, he asked that God might give us the spiritual strength necessary to grasp Christ’s love, which is far too vast to be fully understood. Finally, Paul wants us to be filled with all the fullness of God–to be fully submitted to the Spirit of God who lives in us that He might produce the fruit of the Spirit in us.
After praying these specific requests, Paul closed His prayer with a session of praise to God. He praised God not just for His tremendous attributes, but especially for His infinity. Paul understood that if we just get a small glimpse of the magnitude and wonder of who our God really is, we will never be the same again. The closing section of Paul’s great prayer falls into two parts. He praised God first for His infinite power and then the Apostle ascribed glory to our infinite God in His church and through His Son.
So, who is this God to whom Paul and we pray? Who is this God of whom Paul has made these enormous spiritual requests? He is the God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Some may wonder why it is important to praise God in prayer. No doubt you have heard the famous “ACTS” pattern for prayer. It goes like this, “A – adoration and praise; C – confession; T – thanksgiving; S – supplication (requests).” We should note that Paul in this prayer begins and ends with praise. The order is not immutable, but it can be helpful.
Praise is a vital part of the discipline of prayer. Praise, the reciting to God His attributes and what He has done, reminds us vividly of the nature of the One to whom we are praying. God is the only One who has the power to change things in our lives and circumstances.
As they heard this letter and this prayer read, no doubt some in the Ephesian crowd wondered if Paul had asked too much from God. After all, these are not puny spiritual requests. Would we be bold enough without Paul’s example to ask for strengthening in the inner man? Would we have the audacity to request the spiritual wherewithal to comprehend Christ’s love, which is so vast we cannot understand it? Would we even think to ask that we might be filled with all the fullness of God? How could Paul have had the spiritual spunk to boldly ask these blessings for us?
The Apostle’s boldness is rooted in his knowledge of God’s infinite nature. God is infinite. He has no limits. Just look at Paul’s expression of praise to God. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). The heart of verse 20 is a descriptive phrase that tells us how Paul thinks of this God to whom all glory ought to be ascribed. Let me literally translate verse 20 for you so you get the full force of the Greek. “To the One being able to do beyond all things superabundantly above the things we ask or think, according to the power working in us.”
Do we see the piling up of descriptive words to make his point? He says that God is able to do beyond all things that we could ask or think. In other words, God can do anything! No matter how great things are we could ask from God, He can do far greater. We teach a song to our children that says, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.” Paul would amen that statement loudly and then ask if we really believe what we sing.
He says more. Paul says if we think about what great things God can do, He is far greater than that. In fact, He can do infinitely more than that! The Greek word translated “exceedingly abundantly” is a word made up of a root and two prepositions. The root means “over and above” that which is necessary. To this Paul adds the first preposition which makes the word mean, “exceedingly over and above.” This description is not enough for the Apostle, God can do above all that we could ask or think. He can do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, but that does not even come close to how the Apostle Paul thinks about the Lord of Glory. He adds one more preposition to this word to make it even stronger. It is a preposition which means “to go beyond.” So, Paul says God is able to do far beyond exceeding above all that we could ask or think. God is infinite. His ability and power is limitless. By piling up these descriptive terms, the Apostle Paul vainly tried to describe our infinite God in finite human language.
Do we think of God in this way? Why don’t we? Doesn’t the Scripture show us a God who is this great and majestic? Yes it does. But we often forget how great our God is and settle for a God who is far too small.
God is so majestic and great that we cannot comprehend how great He is. We cannot conceive of the power that created the universe and called worlds into existence. We cannot fully comprehend the wisdom of the One who devised the plan of redemption and sent His Son, God the Son, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, to become incarnate in human flesh and to die on a cross in order that we might have life and salvation in Him.
Although we cannot comprehend because this One is infinite in power, wisdom, holiness, and love, we can rejoice in the fact that He is ours, if we belong to Him by faith. Our infinite God is transcendent, but He is also concerned about each one of us. I love the picture in Isaiah 40:10-11. “Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” While God is great and majestic, in verse 11, we learn this same God is our caring shepherd. He knows and makes provision for our immaturity and weakness.
Although God is infinite and thus beyond our ability to comprehend, He is not abstract. This infinite God is working in our lives. He does all this by “the power that works in us.” That power is a person. He is the Holy Spirit of God.
Having seen how Paul praisesGod, now let us understand the Apostle’s final request in this prayer. He wants this God to receive all the glory due Him through His church! “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
How is God glorified in His church? God must be glorified in His church corporately. God’s people give glory to God in His church by making sure it is His church. He must have the pre-eminence. He must call the shots. God’s will and His alone must be done in it. We also make sure He is glorified in His church when we do church His way! Church must be God centered. It must be about what we can do for Christ and what glory we give to Christ, not about what Christ can do for us.
God must be glorified in His church in the lives of the individual believers who are His church. We give glory to God in His church by making sure that we give glory to God in each of our lives. The need to make the glory of God a priority in our lives is for each one of us. Our motive is so God may be glorified by the Son in the Church as a whole. We learn how this works from our Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 5:14-16. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Is God being glorified in our lives? Is God being glorified in His church? Are we facing the year ahead knowing that whatever comes our way, we face it with the help of our God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think?