In Ephesians 3:14-21, the apostle Paul says this:
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom [the whole] family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.”
In this passage, Paul finishes the more theological and doctrinal section of this letter to the Ephesians, and he does so by explaining how he prays for them, and by praising God.
It’s the second part of this section — the doxology, or praise — that I want to study in this article:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.”
Now, first of all, we note that the whole purpose of this sentence is to praise God. But Paul doesn’t start with the specific emphasis of the sentence — “unto him be the glory”. Rather, he begins by describing who the God is to whom he’s ascribing glory.
So, how does Paul describe God in this sentence? First, as unimaginably powerful:
“. . . able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think . . .”
First, what does it mean that God is “able” to do this? Well, Paul must be referring to what he asked the Father to do in the preceding verses. What did he ask the Father to do?
“. . . that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man . . .”
More than that, this strengthening results in:
- Christ dwelling in their hearts
- them being rooted and grounded in love
- them being able to comprehend the dimensions of, and to know, the love of Christ
- them being filled up to all the fullness of God.
In the sentence we’re studying, Paul says that, not only is God able to do all these things, but that He’s “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”.
So, what exactly does it mean that He’s able to do this? Well, first, He’s able to do “abundantly above” all that believers ask or think. What does this mean? First, Paul doesn’t just say that God’s able to do “above all that we ask or think”, but “abundantly above all that we ask or think”. In the context, this word carries the idea of “superior to”. However, the fact that Paul uses “exceeding” to describe this abundance shows us that he has more in mind than simply an overabundance. Paul has in mind something like “far more” to describe this overabundance. So, what is Paul saying? That God can do way more than everything believers can ask from Him, or even think. In other words, His power in answering prayer is unthinkably great.
But what kind of power is Paul speaking of? He tells us that God’s ability to do more than can be thought is
“. . . according to the power that worketh in us . . .”
What is this power?
In Ephesians 1:19-23, he tells us:
“. . . the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
In other words, this power is the same power that raised, glorified, and exalted the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of the universe.
Of course, Paul has given more description of this power right before this doxology:
“. . . that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”
The power which is what God’s ability is according to is the power that:
1. Strengthens believers’ inner persons
2. Causes Christ to dwell in them
3. Roots and grounds them in love
4. Allows them to comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love, and to know it
5. Fills them up to all the fullness of God.
This is the power that works within believers. It strengthens them, makes them more like Christ, makes them more loving, makes them understand more about Christ’s love, and experience it more, and makes them know God more, and become more like their Father.
So, why does Paul say that God’s ability corresponds with this kind of power? Because, if God’s ability corresponds to this infinite power, than His ability is infinite, and surely He will do more spectacular things in eternity, if He’s already working on His children with this power now. What Paul is teaching the Ephesians is there are unimaginably glorious possibilities with God, especially with respect to prayer.
After describing God’s ability to answer prayer in terms of His power, Paul next gets to the emphasis of the verse, which is the praise of God:
“. . . unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus . . .”
Paul begins this praise with its content:
“. . . unto him be the glory . . .”
What does Paul mean by “the glory” here? Well, the fact that Paul uses the word, “the”, with reference to this glory tells us that he’s referring to all true glory. But what does that word even mean? It is used in the New Testament to speak of the brightness of stars, and in this case refers to splendor, beauty, majesty, and awesomeness. That is, it is something that calls for worship and reverence. Here, Paul says that he wants all the glory of the universe to be recognized as coming from God Himself.
But how does Paul want God to have all the glory? First,
“. . . in the church . . .”
What does Paul mean by this? The word “church” is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, which literally means “called out”. In this context, it more properly means “the called out ones”. And who are the called out ones? Those who have been called out of darkness and into the light of Christ. That is, it refers to all the people of God of all ages. Thus, Paul implies that he wants all the glory, first, to be ascribed to God through the church. Another way of putting it would be to say that he wants the church to glorify God, or display who He is.
Second, Paul gives all the glory to God “in Christ Jesus”. The meaning of this is similar to the meaning of “in the church”. The word, “in”, could also be translated “through”. And through whom does Paul want God to be glorified? First, through “Christ”. This literally means “anointed one”, and refers to the fact that Jesus was anointed, or poured upon, with the Spirit, to be the Supreme Prophet, High Priest, and King. Second, He is called “Jesus” because He is not only divine, but is also a human being, and is Yeshua, which literally means “the LORD is salvation”. In other words, His human name marks Him as the Savior of the world. Hence, when Paul says he wants all the glory to go to God “in Christ Jesus”, he means that he wants the Anointed Jesus to show who God is — and He already does, since He is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3).
Next, Paul describes the duration of his wish for God to be glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus:
“. . . unto all generations for ever and ever . . .”
Paul is simply being emphatic and extravagant here, since he could have just said “forever”. However, with this phrase he points out his desire that all generations of people see God being glorified in the church and in Christ, and that this glorification of God go on for all of eternity.
Finally, Paul finishes his praise of God with “amen”, which means “so be it”. With this word, he is saying that what he has just wished will indeed happen. In other words “him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” will have “the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever”. We must remember that, since Paul is writing the words of God, his “amen” must be a real “amen” that represents the certainty of God’s revealed will. It isn’t only his wish that these things happen, but it is also the almighty will of the Holy Spirit that these things happen, so they will.
So, if you are trusting in Christ Jesus, His death for your sins, and His resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins, then how does this passage apply to you?
- God is able to do way more than everything you ask or think. Everything you can ask from Him, and everything you can think, is far less than what He can do. Hence, there is no prayer that is according to His will, and is asked by the authority, and for the sake of, the Lord, that is asking too much from God. God is able to answer any prayer that is according to His will and asked in the name of the Lord.
- God’s ability is in accordance with the divine power that is working in you, and the power that is working in you has made you alive together with Christ, raised you up with Him, seated you with Him in the heavenly places, and is now protecting you, giving you the willingness and ability to work out your salvation, and conforming you to the image of God’s Son. If God’s power has already done those things, and is doing such things, then He’s able to do more of such things, and certainly is willing to do so if we ask according to His will.
- You, as a member of the church, will glorify God forever because you are a member of the church. That is your ultimate purpose.
- You will see God being glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus forever. That is, you will see all glory — all beauty and majesty and splendor — be given to God through His people, and through the Anointed Jesus forever. It’s not just that God will be glorified without any means of being glorified. All the glory will go to God through the church and Christ Jesus, but especially Christ Jesus.
- All of your eternity will be spent glorifying God as a member of the church, and as a brother or sister of Christ Jesus, your Elder Brother.
- One of the greatest cries of your heart ought to be for all glory to go to the infinitely powerful and gracious God who is working in you through the church and Christ Jesus for all of eternity, even now. You live to glorify God as a member of the church, and as a worshiper of Christ Jesus.
If you don’t glorify God as one who is trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins, then God is able to do way more to you than you can possibly imagine. If you continue to rebel against the Lord Jesus Christ, then you will experience unimaginable torment by the Creator who you hate for eternity. However, God is able to forgive much more than you probably can imagine, according to His undeserved favor. In fact, He sent His divine Son to earth to become a man, Jesus of Nazareth, to punish Him on the cross for our crimes against Him, to raise Him from the dead, and to make Him the King of the universe. He is now commanding you, through me, to change your mind and trust in His Son, His death for our sins, and His resurrection as the only grounds of His forgiveness of your sins. He promises that if you will do that, He will forgive all of your sins, and give you eternal life. He also promises that He will punish forever all who refuse to do so, since He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through Jesus. Please change your mind and trust in the risen Lord Jesus Christ and His death for our sins for God’s forgiveness.