The God of glory
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 glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3:19-20
Let this verse cause us to consider the object of our worship: “unto him be glory” (20, 21). The referent to “him” in verses 20 and 21 is “God” in verse 19, from whose fullness we are filled. God alone is worthy of our praise and worship. There is no other being or thing in the realm of the universe that can take his place. It is why idolatry is so repugnant. Idolatry is ascribing to a created thing what only properly belongs to God. The calf may be golden, but it is still a calf.
But Paul doesn’t just say, “Praise God!” and go on. “Unto him” is filled with meaning in verse 20. Paul’s praise is rooted in very Biblical ideas about God. This is important. It is important that we are continually reminding ourselves of who God is. And it is important that as we do this, we are doing so in terms of the parameters of Scripture.
This is of course where doctrine comes in. Those who eschew doctrine usually end up with very shallow views of God. Worse still, their view of God is hopelessly tainted by the godless culture in which they live. The reality is that if you are not grounded in the Biblical teaching of who God is, your worship is going to be superficial at best. True worship, our Lord tells us, is performed in spirit and in truth. Both the mind and the affections must be engaged. Fire without fuel will burn out. And worship without doctrine won’t last long. Worship has an object, and that object is God. So far, so good. But the question is, what kind of God are you looking at? Is he the God of the Bible, or he a god of your imagination? A god of our own making will not sustain worship. Only the God of the Bible can do that.
So what is the portrait of God that Paul paints for us? He tells us in verse 20: “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.” Paul does two things here. First, he piles on word after word that tells us something about God’s power. The verb “that is able” literally means, “to be powerful.” This is the verbal form of the noun “power” he also uses in this verse. And then the phrase “that worketh in us” again points to God’s power. It is the word from which we get the term “energy.” Paul uses all these words to give us the unmistakable portrait of a God who is powerful.
But he goes further. He also says that God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” The apostle is straining language here to convey to us the idea that there is nothing impossible with God. The words Paul uses here are described as “the highest form of comparison imaginable.” There are no limits to the power of God. That is what the apostle wants us to realize.
We are full of limitations, especially in terms of our physical selves. We can only be in one place at one time. We only have so much strength and endurance. We only have so many talents. We are circumscribed on all sides by the limits of our abilities. God is not. As the Bible reminds us over and over again, what is impossible with man is possible with God.
But then the mind can sometimes free itself of such shackles and roam in the imagination where we could not physically go. We can close our eyes and imagine ourselves doing things that we could never actually do in person. We are not nearly as limited in the mind and imagination as we are in the body. Like Han Solo said to Luke Skywalker, “I can imagine a lot, kid.” But here is the amazing thing. The apostle tells us that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. We may be able to imagine a lot. But we cannot even think our way past the power of God. It is truly infinite, unimaginable, and unfathomable.
The sad thing is that we do think that we can imagine the boundaries of the power of God. We think that God cannot do this thing or that. So we don’t ask. We don’t expect. We don’t believe. Like the Israelites of old, we turn back and tempt God and limit the Holy One of Israel (Ps. 78:41).
Now we don’t want to interpret this passage in a way that would sabotage the rest of the NT message. Paul is not saying that if you have enough faith then God will grant you whatever you want. God is not a vending machine. But he is saying that there is no power on earth or hell that can prevent God from doing for you what is for your ultimate good and his glory. As Paul put it to the Romans, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32). God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think for us anything, no matter how far-fetched we might think it is, that is for our joy in him and the advance of his kingdom in this world.
Power is not the only attribute of God, of course. But this power that the apostle is talking about is incomprehensible apart from all his other attributes. God’s glory is the publicity or manifestation of all his attributes. And therefore since this power is operative for the sake of his glory (21), it is therefore a holy power, a loving power, a gracious power, a wise power on the behalf of those who belong to his Son.
Worship is hamstrung when we limit God. Delighting in the power of God for us and in us is essential for true worship. The God that we worship is powerful, infinitely so, and he is powerful for us not against us. That is surely something for which we ought to rejoice.