Live By the Word (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In the last two verses of Ephesians 3, Paul closes his prayer for the Ephesians with a simple and yet profound doxology – a word of praise about, and to, God Himself. These verses serve as a sort of “hinge” for the whole letter. In light of everything Paul has been describing for his readers, he cannot help but explode into praise to the One who has made all of this possible. And even as he praises God, he also paves the way for the practical instructions that will occupy the last half of this letter. By praising God, he encourages his readers to do the same, and then he spends the rest of the book telling them how to do that.

So what can these two short verses teach us? First, Paul reminds us that God’s power far exceeds our understanding. He writes, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” (3:20a). Much like in the previous verses, Paul’s praise of God is fueled by his knowledge of God. He is fully aware of God’s boundless ability – it far exceeds even the outer limits of our understanding and comprehension. Not only is God able to do whatever we ask or imagine, but He is able to do more than that. And not only can God do more than we think, but He is able to do abundantly more than we think. And not only is God able to do abundantly more than we think, but He is able to do far more abundantly than we think. In the truest sense of the term, God is unlimited in His power. There are things God cannot, and will not do, because they are wrong. There are things God will not do because they are not best and because they are not in line with His purposes. But there is nothing God will refuse to do because lacks the power. Such a thought is foreign to Paul – as is made clear by this text – and foreign to the Bible as a whole. And it should be foreign to us as well. So what does your life show? Do you believe in the power of God? Does your prayer life evidence such faith? Does the general tenor of your heart demonstrate such faith?

Second, Paul reminds us in these verses that the immeasurable power of God is at work in us. He writes that God is able to do far more than we ask or think “according to the power at work within us” (3:20b). God’s power, which far exceeds anything we can ask or think, is even now at work in the lives of those who follow Christ. God is able to do far more than we can ask or think, and He is able to do far more than we can ask or think in us. We should consider what this really means. Even though we know that God’s will is our holiness and conformity to Christ, we are often much more aware of sin – both ours and that of others – than of God’s power and the work He is doing. But Paul’s words remind us that God is able to make us into what we should be. God is able to give us victory over the many sins that beset us. He is able to equip us for the tasks he has given us: parenting, marriage, employment, schoolwork. And God is able to do that for others as well. He is able to transform the life of any individual – the lost friend or family member, the spouse who is not acting as they should, the disobedient child, the brother or sister who is not yet perfect and is not as mature as you would like them to be. He has the power to transform other people just as much as he has the power to transform you. And God also has the ability to use bad and evil circumstances to accomplish His purposes. God is able to use the struggles and sinful actions and circumstances around us for our good and for His glory. The fact that God is able to do far more than we can ask or think is not just a piece of fun trivia about God – it is a fact that carries immeasurable importance for our very lives. This truth – that the God who can do far more than we imagine is at work in us – should strengthen our faith in God. Instead of walking in anger and frustration, we should walk in faith and hope. And it should drive us to pray. Even more, it should drive us to pray boldly and confidently.

Third, Paul’s words remind us that we should praise and glorify this mighty God. Paul’s whole point in these verses is that to the great God who is unlimited in His power “be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (3:21). Throughout Scripture, it is clear that God’s ultimate goal – the reason He does everything – is so that His name might be praised and glorified. Recognizing this, Paul ascribes to God the praise that is rightfully due to Him. And we should note that Paul ascribes this praise to God “in the Church and in Christ Jesus.” Paul understands that the primary way in which God has ordained to be praised and glorified is through the exaltation of His Son, Jesus Christ. And the way that Christ is exalted is through the establishing of the Church. God is most glorified when Jesus Christ is exalted as King. And God sent Jesus to die on the cross and be raised from the dead so that He could redeem a people for Himself – the Church – who would exalt and follow Jesus Christ as King. Paul’s example should encourage and motivate us to do the same. We should be driven, like Paul, to praise and glorify God. We shouldn’t just fill our minds with facts but we should labor to see that our hearts are filled with worship. If that is so, then our lives will overflow with that worship as well. And that is precisely what God deserves and desires.

The God who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine and is exerting that power in us deserves to be glorified, and we should glorify Him in all that we do.