In the church
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3:21
In this verse, let us notice the sphere of worship: “in the church” (21). Now there is a sense in which all creation glorifies God. Even the wicked will glorify the justice of God in their punishment at the Final Judgment. But that is not what Paul is talking about here. The praise here is unique to the church. This is because the church is the body of believers in the world. The church is the institution consisting of those who have tasted and seen the goodness of God and so the church consists of those who worship God in spirit and in truth.
And we have every reason to glorify God. For we do not only behold God’s power from afar. We experience God’s power for us and in us and through us. In particular, Paul focuses on God’s power in us: “according to the power that worketh in us” (20). We would not even be Christian if it were not for the power of God. We were dead in trespasses and in sins. It was God who raised us up, exerting in us the very power that raised his Son from the dead. He prays that we would know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:19-20).
God not only raised us from the dead and gave us life (2:1-9), he also continues to work in us. We are God’s “workmanship” (2:10) past, present, and future. We still pray that we would “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (3:16). There is never a time in the life of the believer when God’s power is not ready to be extended for their sake.
This power is not just given so that we will not remain dead in sins. It is given so that we will serve him in this world. God has not only saved us, he gives us the privilege of working with him in the advance of the kingdom. It is his power that gives us the ability to do this. With Christ, we can do all things; without him, we can do nothing. It is his power that works effectually in us that enables us to serve our Lord.
And this is a truly amazing privilege. Sometimes you get the impression from some that God needs the church, and that without believers he could do nothing. But that is not the picture the NT gives. God does not enlist us because he needs us. He enlists us because we need him. It is not because God could not advance his kingdom without us that he brings us alongside for ministry. Rather, it is because God wants to bless us by giving us the privilege of serving with him in kingdom work. There is nothing more meaningful than engaging in that which has eternal significance.
God is so committed to this that what he does in this world to advance his kingdom agenda, he usually does through the church. We should never allow our belief in the power and sovereignty of God for his people to cause us to think that therefore we don’t need to contribute to the cause of God and truth in this world. God is powerful, yes; but he exerts his power in and through his people. If there is something to be done in this world for the sake of the gospel, it will be done in and through the church. God gathers his elect into the church through missions, and missions are driven by people who are giving their lives for the sake of Christ. God moves to save the lost through his people who share the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. God disciples and grows his children through other mature believers who teach them the word. God breaks the power of Satan through the prayers of believers. Where God is doing something in the world for the sake of the gospel, he is almost certainly doing it through believers, through the church.
There is this amazing scene in the book of Revelation. We are brought into the throne room of God where seven angels prepare to blow seven trumpets. But before they do this, we read: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake” (Rev. 8:3-5). These verses seems to indicate that the prayers of the saints are very much a part of God’s plan to bring about the final salvation of his people and the culmination of his plan of redemption. This is especially remarkable because the overwhelming focus in the book of Revelation is on God’s unfettered sovereignty over all his enemies and his power to bring about the salvation of his people. The focus is not on believers and what they do, and yet here we have this scene where the prayers of the saints play an important role in the unfolding of God’s plan.
Is there something that needs to be done for the cause of the gospel? Pray about it, but don’t pray about it without asking God what he would have you to do about it. Because if there is something to be done, it will be done through the power of God working through believers like you and me.
Now one of the reasons why I am stressing this is because there is no better way to prepare our hearts for worship than in serving our Saviour in this world. If the primary purpose of your life is to pad your life with comforts, then don’t expect God to be working in you and through you. But when you surrender your life to the cause of the gospel – whatever that may look like for you, and it will be very different depending on where God has placed you – then expect to experience God’s power. And when we experience the power of God in us and through us, doxology is inevitable.