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Old and New Testament.
Commentary Updated July 16, 2015
to Him who is
far more abundantly
Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that
is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do
superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think
[infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or
Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: To him that is able to do exceeding abundantly, above
all that we ask or think, according to the power which works in us,. (Westminster
unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask
or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
NET: Now to him who by the power that is working within
us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think,
NLT: Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty
power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might
ask or think.(NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: Now to him who by his power within us is able to do
far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine - (Phillips:
Wuest: Now to the One who is able to do beyond all things,
superabundantly beyond and over and above those things that we are
asking for ourselves and considering, in the measure of the power
which is operative in us (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and to Him who is able above all
things to do exceeding abundantly what we ask or think, according to
the power that is working in us,
Updated July 17,
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Explore the Bible
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Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul's Prayer for the
Ephesians Study Guide
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3:14: A Prayer for Fullness - 1
Ephesians 3:16: A Prayer for Fullness - 2
Ephesians 3:17: A Prayer for Fullness - 3
Ephesians 3:17-18: A Prayer for Fullness -
Ephesians 3:16-19: A Prayer for Fullness -
Ephesians 3:16-21: A Prayer for Fullness
Ephesians 3:14-21 How to Pray with Power
Ephesians 3 What We
Are & Where We Are Going (audio)
Knowledge of Christ's Love
Ephesians 3:14-15 Paul's
Pattern Of Prayer
Ephesians 3:16-19 Paul's
Petitions In Prayer
Ephesians 3:20-21 Unto Him
Ephesians 3:14ff Commentary
Ephesians 3:14-17 Making Christ at Home in Your
Ephesians 3:17b-19 Knowing the Unknowable Love
Ephesians 3:20-21 God is Able!
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3:14-21 Sermon
Paul’s Imprisonment, Prayers & Praise
Praying to Our Father
What to Pray for One Another - 1
What to Pray for One Another - 3
What to Pray for One Another - 2
Ephesians 3 Commentary Excellent
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Does Christ Feel at Home in Your Heart?
Ephesians 3:14-21 Experiencing God’s
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Paul's Prayer for the Ephesians
Ephesians 3:14-21: A
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Power in the Inward Man
Christ in the Heart
The Love of Christ
Ephesians 3:19 The
Love of Christ (16 pages)
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians - Study Bible - enter
Scripture select Notes
Ephesians 3:14-21 Prayer for the Realization
Ephesians 1-3 Commentary
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul's prayer
for the Ephesians
Ephesians 3:16 Strengthened With
Breadth, Length, Depth, Height
Ephesians 3:14-16 The Fullness of God,
Ephesians 3:16 The Fullness of God, Part 2
Ephesians 3:16-17 The Fullness of God,
Ephesians 3:18-21 The Fullness of God,
Ephesians 3:14-21 The Christian Turn-on
Ephesians 3:14-21 Experiencing the Power
Ephesians 3:16 Strengthened With
Ephesians 3:17 The Indwelling
Ephesians 3:18,19 Love Unknowable
Ephesians 3:18 The Paradox of
Ephesians 3:19 The Climax of All
Ephesians 3:20,21 Measureless Power
and Endless Glory
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3:17 The Receptivity of
Ephesians 3:17-19: The Dimensions
of God's Love
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3 - Defender's Study Bible Notes
Ephesians 3 Commentary (Cambridge Bible
Ephesians 3:14-21 Commentary - goto page
3:14-21 Being Filled with the Fullness of God
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3:16-17 The Wealth Realized
Prayer for Inner Strength
Prayer for Christ-Centeredness
Prayer for Comprehension of God’s Love
Ephesians 3:14-21 Far More Than You Think
Ephesians 3:14-21 Beyond Your Dreams
Ephesians 3 Word Pictures in the
Prayer in Ephesians
Ephesians 3:15 The
Family of God
Ephesians 3 Commentary
(Expositor's Greek Testament)
Ephesians 3:14-21 God's Love For Us
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3:14 Sermons (click arrows to go
to other verses)
Prayer the Means of Richest Blessings
God's Power to Bless His People
Ephesians 3:20, 21 God's
Power to Bless People
The Epistle to the Ephesians
Ephesians 3:15 The Royal
Family - Notes
Ephesians 3:16-19. Measuring the
Immeasurable - Notes
Ephesians 3:16-19 Heavenly Geometry
Ephesians 3:17 Devotional
Ephesians 3:19 Devotional
Ephesians 3:19 Love of Jesus, What it
is None but His Loved Ones Know
Ephesians 3:19 The Top of the Ladder
Ephesians 3:7-13 Manifold Wisdom Of God's Love
Ephesians 3:14-21 The Inner Man
Ephesians 1-3 Notes
- Calling & Design of Church
Ephesians 3:14-21 Prayer for the Covenant Community -
Ephesians 3:14 I kneel
Ephesians 3:15 His whole family
Ephesians 3:16 In your inner being
Ephesians 3:17 Rooted and established in love
Ephesians 3:18-19 How wide . . . is the love of Christ
Ephesians 3:20 His power that is at work within us
Ephesians 3:21 To him be Glory
Ephesians 3:14-15 Strengthened With Power
Through God's Spirit
Ephesians 3:16-17 The Prayer For Power
Ephesians 3:17-18 The Dimensions Of The Love Of
Ephesians 3:17-19 Filled With All The Fulness Of
Ephesians 3:20-21 The Glorious Doxology
Ephesians 3 Commentary
Ephesians 3 Greek Word Studies
Ephesians 3:14-21 An
Ephesians Lesson 1 - 37 pages PDF
Depth of His Love
Mystery of Christ
Our Daily Bread
Ephesians 3 Sermon Illustrations
Ephesians 3:11-12: He's Waiting
Ephesians 3:14: Inner Strength
Ephesians 3:14: SPEM Prayer
Ephesians 3:14-20 Loved Well
Ephesians 3:14-20 Surprise Me!
Ephesians 3:14-21 From Rags To Riches
Ephesians 3:14-21 God's Devotion
Ephesians 3:14-21 Immeasurably More
Ephesians 3:16 What You Can Do
Ephesians 3:16 How To Walk
Ephesians 3:16 Inner Strength
Ephesians 3:17-19: An Ocean Of Ink
Ephesians 3:17-19: God's Great Love
Ephesians 3:19: Deeper Than The Deep Blue Sea
Ephesians 3:19: Not Much In Between
Ephesians 3:18-19 Experience In Immensity
Ephesians 3:20: More Than Enough
Ephesians 3:20: No Hands But His
Ephesians 3:20: I Know I Can
Ephesians 3:20: Useful Gloves
Ephesians 3:20: Worrier Or Warrior
Ephesians 3:20: Surprised By God
NOW TO HIM WHO IS ABLE TO DO FAR
MORE ABUNDANTLY BEYOND ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK: To de dunameno (PPPMSD) huper panta poiesai (AAN)
huperekperissou on aitoumetha (1PPMI) e nooumen (1PPAI): (Genesis
17:1; 18:4; 2Chronicles 25:9; Jeremiah 32:17,27; Daniel 3:17; 6:20;
Matthew 3:9; John 10:29,30; Romans 4:21; 16:25; Hebrews 7:25; 11:19;
13:20,21; Jas 4:12; Jude 1:24) (Exodus 34:6; 2Samuel 7:19; 1Kings 3:13;
Psalms 36:8,9; Song 5:1; Isaiah 35:2; 55:7; John 10:10; 1Corinthians
2:9; 1Timothy 1:14; 2Peter 1:11)
Now to Him
- marks another of Pauline doxology (a liturgical formula of praise to
(de) is used here as a marker linking narrative segments.
(dunamai) means to have power by virtue of inherent ability and
resources. This refers to God's ability to do literally "above all
emphasizes God is continually able! The doxology begins with an
ascription of power to God. He is the powerful One (see note Romans
16:25; Jude 24, 25), Who
can accomplish incredibly great deeds on behalf of His children, those
whom compose His dwelling.
- The apostle supposes his prayer to be
answered, and all its requests conferred. The Divine Giver of such
munificent donations is surely worthy of all homage, and especially
worthy of all homage in the character of the answerer of prayer. By "now"
he passes to a different subject—from recipients to the Giver. Praise
succeeds prayer—the anthem is its fitting conclusion. (Ephesians
(poieo) means to accomplish (as it is related to the undertaking
of actions or bringing about states or conditions) expressing an action
as continued or not yet completed.
(Huperekperissou from huper = above + ek =
intensifies meaning, adding idea of exhaustlessness + perissos
exceeding some number or measure, over and above, more than necessary)
means means surpassing, superabundantly, surpassingly, beyond measure,
exceedingly, quite beyond all measure, overwhelming, over and above,
more than enough. It describes an extraordinary degree, involving a
considerable excess over what would be expected.
As F F Bruce has said
here we encounter another "one of Paul’s coined ‘super-superlatives'".
is the the highest form of comparison imaginable and so means
immeasurably more than, quite beyond all measure, infinitely more than.
writes that this is "One of the numerous compounds of
huper - beyond, over and above, of which Paul is fond. Of 28 words
compounded with this preposition in the New Testament, Paul alone uses
is found only 3 times in all the Bible (Eph 3:20; 1Th 3:10; 5:13)
For what thanks can we render to God
for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God
on your account, 10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly
(huperekperissou - praying with extreme earnestness, pray as earnestly
as possible) that we may see your face, and may complete what is
lacking in your faith? (1Th 3:9-10-note)
But we request of you, brethren, that
you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge
over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem
them very highly (huperekperissou) in love because of their work.
Live in peace with one another. (1Th 5:12-13-note)
abundantly beyond all that you could ask or think is the potential of
God in every believer's life! This ascription of praise to God’s ability
expresses our assurance of answered prayer. Why should we hesitate to
offer our deepest petitions?
David said “my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5)
Believers can say “He brought me to the banquet hall
and His banner over me is love” (Song 2:4)
Constable - The basis for Paul’s confidence that
God is able to do far beyond what he had prayed for or could even
imagine was God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in one body. With
God’s provision of love, both groups could function harmoniously
together in the church. Glory would come to God in the church for
uniting these two previously irreconcilable groups and for enabling them
to love and to work together as fellow members of the same body. This
praise will continue forever. (Expository
comments that the compound word huperekperissou "is a superlative of superlatives in
force. It speaks of the ability of God to do something, that ability
having more than enough potential power, this power exhaustless, and
then some on top of that.
Thus, Paul says that God is
able to do super-abundantly above and beyond what we ask or think, and
then some on top of that. (Wuest,
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
(aiteo) means to ask for something to be given with a sense of urgency and
even to the point of demanding. Aiteo reflects a request of one's
will means to ask for, with a
claim on receipt of an answer. Note the use
which conveys the idea of asking for one’s self or in one’s own
aspirations are not beyond God’s power to grant.
something like this...
What I have asked for is as nothing
compared to the ability of my God to give. I’ve asked for a cupful, and
the ocean remains. I’ve asked for a sunbeam, and the sun abides. My best
asking falls immeasurably short of my Father’s giving. It’s beyond all
that we can ask.
Pierson once said that there is a sevenfold measure of the
power of God is Paul's benediction. First, God’s able to do first what
we ask. Second, He is able to do all that we ask. Third, He is able to
do what we think. Fourth, He is able to do all that we think. Fifth, He
is able to do above all that we ask or think. Sixth, He is able to do
abundantly above all that we ask or think. And seventh, He is able to do
exceeding, abundant above all that we could ask or think. Now what do we
need? Hallelujah and Amen is all that's left to say!
an insightful note writing that "The apostle Paul was accustomed to
asking God for extravagant blessings on behalf of his Christian readers
1Thess. 3:12; 2 Thes 1:3; cf. 1Cor 1:5). Here he has just petitioned
the Father for spiritual blessings of extraordinary value, including the
request that they might be filled to the measure of all the fulness of
God. Armitage Robinson writes of this petition: No prayer that has ever
been framed has uttered a bolder request. Has the apostle, then, gone
over the top? No, for it is impossible to ask for too much since the
Fathers giving exceeds their capacity for asking or even imagining. (O'Brien,
P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans)
comments that "When Paul says “we” he
includes himself. He is saying that even he, the great apostle, cannot
fully understand or even imagine all that God is going to do for us. But
Paul does know that God can do it. And not only is God able to do it, he
is able to do it “immeasurably,” which means indefinitely. (Boice,
J. M.: Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary)
writes that "God is able to do far “above what we
ask,” for our asking is limited and feeble. John 16:24 ("Until now
you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that
your joy may be made full."). But there may be thoughts too sweeping
for expression, there may be unutterable groanings prompted by the
Spirit (Ro 8:26-note
-- "And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do
not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for
us with groanings too deep for words"). And yet above and beyond our
widest conceptions and most daring expectations is God “able to do.”
God's ability to answer prayer transcends not only our spoken petitions,
but far surpasses even such thoughts as are too big for words, and too
deep for utterance. And still those desires which are dumb from their
very vastness, and amazing from their very boldness, are insignificant
requests compared with the power of God. For we know so little of His
promises, and so weak is our faith in them, that we ask not, as we
should, for their universal fulfilment; and though we did understand
their depth and power, our loftiest imaginations of possible blessing
would come infinitely short of the power and resources of the Hearer of
from noús = the mind) denotes clear perception,
full understanding, and careful consideration. It means to perceive with
thought coming into consciousness as distinct from the perception of
abundantly above all that we ask - An Illustration:
A preacher once lamented to the
renowned preacher C H Spurgeon...
“Mr. Spurgeon, I am seeing very few
To which Spurgeon replied with a
“Do you expect to see folk saved
every time you preach?”
The preacher answered
To which Spurgeon wisely quipped
“That’s why you don’t!”
ACCORDING TO THE POWER THAT
WORKS WITHIN US: kata ten dunamin ten energoumenen (PMPFSA) en hemin: (Ep
3:7; 1:19; Col 1:29)
(kata) means in proportion to ones largess! Not stingily. Not
just a portion but a proportion! If I am a billionaire and I give you
ten dollars, I have given you a portion (very small portion at that) out
of my riches. But if I give you ten million dollars, I have given to you
according to or more proportionate to my true wealth. The first
giver would take it out of His riches and would be like Mr. Rockefeller
who used to give his caddy a dime. God is not like Mr. Rockefeller, in
either his wealth or generosity!
writes that "God's capacity to meet his people's
spiritual needs far exceeds anything they can either request in prayer
or conceive by way of anticipation (Philippians 4:7). It is actualized
through his power (dynamis), which continually operates (energoumenen)
within the lives of believers. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- words derived from the stem duna— all have the basic meaning of
“being able,” of “capacity” in virtue of an ability and is root for our
English "dynamic") defines inherent power residing in a thing by virtue
of its nature.
Some power is
dormant; it is available, but not being used, such as the power stored
in a battery. But God’s energy is effectual power—power at work in our
lives. This power works in us, in the inner man (Ep 3:16-note).
This is that
omnipotence that raised Christ from the dead and quickened us when we
were dead in sins.
My dear Christian friends, do you know that right at this moment, when
you feel so lethargic, when you say when is Dr. Johnson going to finish,
two minutes from now, when you say the word of God can sometimes be so
boring, and when you berate yourself for not being as responsive as you
ought to be, the Holy Spirit is working constantly in your heart. He
works in every believer, and he works toward the sanctification of every
one of us, and let me tell you this, he will accomplish his work. You’re
going to be like Christ, some day. It may be a great earth-shaking
transformation when it occurs for some of us [laughter], but it’s going
to happen. We are going to be like him.
O'Brien - In the earlier petition of chapter 1,
God's effective power towards believers (Ep 1:19-note)
was said to be nothing less than the operation of His mighty strength
exerted in the resurrection of Christ (Ep 1:20-note).
Now that same power which raised Christ from the dead, enthroned Him in
the heavenlies, and then raised and enthroned us with Him, is at work
within us to achieve infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. In the
doxology, Paul thus praises God for the bestowal of strength by His
Spirit on His people, and affirms that the full realization of God's
gracious purposes for them and in them becomes possible. (O'Brien,
P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
that Paul is saying “According to His power that proves
or shows itself at work in us.” That power has been again and
again referred to in itself and in its results by the apostle. (Ep 1:19-note,
From our own blissful experience of what it has already achieved in us,
we may gather that its Divine possessor and wielder can do for us “far
beyond what we ask or think.” That might (or power) being God's, can
achieve in us results which the boldest have not ventured to anticipate.
[word study] from en = in + érgon = work) (See
energeia) means to be effective in
causing something to happen. It means to to bring something about
through use of capability. It means to act, to be operative or to be at
Energeo is in the
which pictures the
continual activity of the Spirit in this present evil age. Praise God!
What is the
power that works within us? It is supernatural dunamis power.
Works refers to the mighty power of continuous sanctification at
work in the believer’s heart, and He will accomplish His work! Remember
that the Spirit of Jesus is in us and He is the One Who gives us the
supernatural power! It follows that we need to continually strive to be
filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18-note)
and to continually walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16-note)!
agrees, summing up this section writing that...
The word “power” is again dunamis,
which we met back in Ephesians 3:7; and “working” is
found in Ephesians 1:11, 1:19; 2:2; 3:7; and Ep 4:16 (see notes
Some power is dormant; it is available, but not being used, such as the
power stored in a battery. But God’s energy is effectual power—power at
work in our lives. This power works in us, in the inner man (Ep 3:16-note).
Philippians 2:12-13 are parallel verses, so be sure to read them.
So then, my beloved, just as you have
always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my
absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God
who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
It is the Holy Spirit Who releases
the resurrection power of Christ in our lives... (many Christians) have
been cut off from their source of power. Unbelief, unconfessed sin,
careless living, worldliness in action or attitude—all of these can rob
us of power. And a Christian robbed of power cannot be used of God.
“Without Me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5)...Get your hands on your
spiritual wealth by opening your heart to the Holy Spirit, and praying
with Paul for strength for the inner man... for a new depth of love...
for spiritual apprehension... and for spiritual fullness. “Ye have not
because ye ask not” (James 4:2). (Bible Exposition Commentary)
(en) Paul is saying this is an "inside" job and the power that is
putting forth energy in us, is the operation of the Holy Spirit in His
work of sanctification.
explains that "God is able to do for us and answer
our prayers according to the efficiency, richness, and power of the
working of the Spirit in our lives. This latter is determined by the
yieldedness of the believer to the Holy Spirit. Thus, the saint
determines what God is able to do for him. In His inherent ability,
there is no limit to what God can do in and through the saint. But the
saint limits the working of God in and through him by the degree of his
yieldedness to the Spirit.
adds that "God has revealed our immeasurable
wealth in Christ, and has led us to offer petition after petition for
its realization. While the words have fallen from our lips have we been
saying secretly in our hearts, "It cannot be done; anyhow, it cannot be
done in me"? Whoever looks within at himself for this power, or around
at others, however spiritual they may be, may rightly say that it is
impossible. But there is another way to look-up to Him who has promised
that His own mighty power will work in us for the realization of our
riches in Christ.
Able to do
Able to do what we ask
Able to do what we think
Able to do what we ask or think
Able to do all that we ask or think
Able to do above all that we ask or think
Able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think
Able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think
"Unto him" -- The Purposer is the Promiser, who is also the
Performer. Look unto Him, our Rich, Resourceful, Reliable Father.
"That is able to do." Our petition, however great, can never
exceed God's ability to grant. Through God's power every saint has been
lifted from the deepest depths in sin to the highest heights in Christ;
he has been incorporated into Christ as a member of His Body and made
the habitation of God. Surely the God who has had power to thus save and
sanctify him can now strengthen him with power, that His purpose for the
saint may be fully realized. What God has commenced He will surely
"All that we ask or think." What petitions have we asked? What
desires have flooded our hearts that we dared not voice? Is it possible
He has power to do "all" for us? Yes, "above all"; still God's power has
scarcely been tapped: "abundantly above all"; surely the limit of even
God's power has been reached. No, not yet; "exceeding abundantly above
all." And yet God's power is not exhausted, for He continues to give
even after we stop asking and only harbour the unuttered thought; yet
still there remains a vast residue of power unused after unbelief has
stopped our asking and stifled our thinking, -- "above all that we ask
"According to the power that worketh in us." The Promiser
provides the power. The power is a Person-none other than God's own
Spirit, who abides in us to make Christ real and regnant, and thereby
ensure to us the realization of our wealth in Christ. The indwelling
Spirit is God's pledge of His limitless power to do.
"That worketh in us." If God is able to work with such
superabundant, limitless power, why does He not do it? Why do we see so
few Christians who seem to have drunk of the fountain of the fulness of
God? There is but one possible answer. The limitless power of God is
limited by the unwillingness to have it work, or by the unbelief that it
can. But in the light of this prayer could there be a greater sin in the
life of a saint than to live on the lower level of the carnal when God's
provision and power make possible life on the highest plane of the
spiritual? Someone has tersely said: "You have your Bible and your
knees; use them." Let us use them so that these treasures in Christ may
become in fullest measure current coin in our lives.
The presence of God -- abiding
The plenitude of God -- abounding
The power of God -- achieving
This realized through prayer in the Christian's life is the sum total of
his vast wealth in Christ. (The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the
><> ><> ><>
According to the Power
If our scanty measure were used,
How poor were the gifts of the Lord;
If our cups of thought and our pitchers of prayer
Were all that His love could afford.
But - above all our stammering tongues
Can voice of our deepest desire,
Abundant above all the pitiful good
To which our small minds can aspire;
Exceeding abundant above
The reach of our groveling thought;
So great is the fulness of knowledge and grace
His power to usward hath wrought.
-- Annie Johnson Flint
><> ><> ><>
Bread - At the time of his death in 1956, Jim
Elliot was trying to reach the Auca Indians of South America for Christ.
Just three years earlier, after watching an Indian die in a jungle hut,
he had affirmed his willingness to serve God and die if necessary among
these people. Then he added this petition: "Lord, let me live until I
have declared Thy works to this generation." Jim Elliot didn't expect
God to answer his prayer by letting him be speared to death before he
was thirty years old. But neither did he have any idea that within three
years his name would be known all over the world and that his journals
would challenge many to give themselves to the Lord's service. He's
been in heaven for more than thirty years, but he is still "speaking" to
thou-sands of people.
God loves us deeply and listens to our prayers, but He doesn't always
give us exactly what we ask. Since He "is able to do exceedingly
abundantly above all that we ask or think," we can be sure that if He
doesn't fulfill all our requests it's because He wants to give us
When we don't receive everything we ask for, we need not be
discouraged. God loves us and delights in giving us what we desire. But
He also knows the end from the beginning, and sometimes He says no in
order to give us something better. When we reach heaven, we will find
that He did indeed answer our petitions "exceedingly abundantly above"
all our fondest hopes and dreams. —H. V. Lugt (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
God always gives us what we ask
for—or something better.
God's answers are often wiser than our prayers.
><> ><> ><>
God will give us much more than we
ask. Abraham thought, "I cannot expect that Sarah will bear a child in
her old age. God has promised me a seed, and surely it must be this
child of Hagar. 'O that Ishmael might live before thee' " (Gen. 17:18).
God granted him that, but he gave him Isaac as well, and all the
blessings of the covenant.
There is Jacob. He kneels down to
pray, and asks the Lord to give him bread to eat and raiment to put on.
But what did his God give him? When he came back to Bethel he had two
bands, thou-sands of sheep and camels, and much wealth.
It is said of David, "The king asked
life of thee, and thou gayest him length of days for ever and ever" (Ps
21:4). He gave him not only length of days himself, but a throne for his
sons throughout all generations.
"Well," say you, "but is that true of
New Testament prayers?"
Yes, it is so with New Testament
pleaders, whether saints or sinners. They brought a man to Christ sick
of the palsy and asked him to heal him, and he said, "Son ... thy sins
be forgiven thee" (Matt. 9:2). He had not asked that, had he? No, but
God gives greater things than we ask for.
Hear that poor dying thief's humble
prayer, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke
23:42). Jesus replies, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke
23:43). He had not dreamed of such an honor.
Even the story of the prodigal
teaches us this. He resolved to say, "I am not worthy to be called thy
son; make me as one of thy hired servants" (Luke 15:19). What was the
answer? "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his
hands, and shoes on his feet" (Luke 15:22). Once you get into the
position of an asker, you shall have what you never asked for, and never
thought to receive.
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Worrier Or Warrior?
- A missionary wrote a newsletter to
thank his supporters for being "prayer warriors." Because of a typing
error, though, he called them "prayer worriers. " For some of us, that
might be a good description.
In his book Growing Your Soul, Neil Wiseman writes, "Prayer must be more
than a kind of restatement of fretting worries or a mulling over of
problems. Our petitions must move beyond gloomy desperation, which deals
mostly with calamity and despair."
During an anxious time in my life, I became a "prayer worrier." I would
beg, "Lord, please keep my neighbor from causing me problems tomorrow."
Or, "Father, don't let that ornery person spread gossip about me."
But then the Lord taught me to pray for people, rather than against
them. I began to say, "Lord, bless and encourage my neighbor, and help
him to sense Your love." Then I watched to see what God would do. The
Lord's amazing answers not only helped others but also helped to cure my
Paul was no "prayer worrier." He prayed for God's people that they might
know the strength, love, and fullness of God, who is able to do far more
than we can ask or even think (Ephesians 3:14-21). Such confidence made
Paul a true "prayer warrior." Are your prayers like that? —Joanie Yoder
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
As we resolve to live for Christ
In actions, words, and deeds,
We'll yield our anxious hearts to Him
And pray for others' needs. —Branon
Fervent prayer dispels anxious care.
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More Than Enough
- It was an unexpected provision in a
time of need. The prophet Elisha, like others in Israel, was
hard-pressed by the famine. But the prophet determined that he must
share with other needy Israelites the 20 loaves of barley bread he had
just received (2Ki 4:42, 43, 44). Elisha's servant questioned the wisdom
of setting the food before 100 hungry men, for there was not enough to
Nevertheless, Elisha issued a command to feed his fellow prophets,
adding a promise that this scanty provision would be enough: "Thus says
the Lord: 'They shall eat and have some left over'" (2Ki 4:43).
True to God's word, when Elisha's servant set the loaves before the
people, "they ate and had some left over" (2Ki 4:.44). There was enough—and
more than enough. A similar thing happened when Jesus fed 5,000 with 5
barley loaves and 2 small fish (John 6:1-14). These examples suggest the
principle: When God gives, He is able to give more than enough.
When we sense that God is asking us to serve Him in a new or unfamiliar
way, we should never say no simply because we feel inadequate. "We have
only a few loaves," we may say. But the Lord replies, "Trust Me. They
are more than enough." —D H R (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
What matter though our loaves be few?
Alike the little and the much
When He shall add to what we have
His multiplying touch. —Flint
We always have enough
when God is our supply.
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No Hands But His
- Jennifer had just heard a disturbing
report about an increase in cases of depression among women. The report
cited a related upswing in alcoholism and an increased reliance on
"So what are You doing about it, Lord?" Jennifer prayed. But the more
she thought about it, the more she felt that God was asking her to do
something. All she could see, however, were her own limitations.
To help her think it through, she listed some reasons that were keeping
her from action: shyness, fear of getting involved, lack of time, a cold
heart, feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure--a daunting list!
As she finished her list, she saw that it was time to pick up her
children from school. She put on her coat, then reached for her gloves.
They were lying limp and useless--until she slipped her hands inside
them. At that moment she realized that God didn't want her to think
about her limitations. Rather, He wanted to put His power into her and
work through her, just as her gloves became useful when she put her
hands into them.
Why do we feel inadequate for the work God has given us? He wants to
love others through us, "according to the power that works in us" (Eph.
3:20). --J E Yoder (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
The Lord will give you help and
For work He bids you do;
To serve Him from a heart of love
Is all He asks of you. --Fasick
God's call to a task includes
His strength to complete it.
><> ><> ><>
J R Miller - It is a comfort to us to know, when we pray, that
God is able to do for us all that we ask. Paul tells us that He is able
to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. This is not
saying that He will actually give us everything we ask for. We ask
sometimes for very unfit things. We think they would supply our wants,
or satisfy our heart-hungers, or give us the joy we lack. But really
they would not. Perhaps they would do us harm.
God will not give us these things, no matter how earnestly we ask for
them. We may plead to have some impending trouble or burden averted. God
is able to do it - we are sure of this. But it may be that His love for
us requires that we bear the burden or endure the sorrow. We may be
sure; therefore, that there is nothing we may ask which God could not
do. If He does not do what we wish, we know that it is better it should
not be done.
Wayne Barber comments on Paul's "mountain top" conclusion to his
great prayer declaring that...
Paul makes a statement
here that to me is the crux of everything that he has prayed so far. He
who is able to do exceeding abundantly."
How many times have you
heard that verse quoted? How many times have you heard it quoted in
context? People just reach out and say, "Oh, God can do it." Well, there
is no question about that, friend. If you have got a question as to
whether He can, then you just need to meet Christ and get saved. Yes, He
can do it. We know that. That is not the problem.
When does He manifest that ability?
When does He move in and do those things that are exceeding abundantly
beyond what we ask or think?
I’ll tell you when.
When the Holy Spirit
has empowered us, when Christ has indwelt us, when His love has mastered
us and when His fullness has filled us.
Look out. Here come the
exceeding abundantly great things of God’s ability that begin to be
manifest in our life.
There are conditions to
be met before you start claiming this verse. That is why Paul’s
prayer went so long before he ever said anything about it. It is an
ability beyond our comprehension. Do you know what? This verse hinges on
the whole prayer that Paul has prayed. Do you know what that says to me?
That says we are limiting God from doing those things which are far
exceeding and abundantly beyond what we even ask or even think. Why?
Because we won’t quit playing games at the foot of the cross. That
phrase has stuck with me. We would rather play church and talk about it
than we would to tap into it. We would rather have fear and bondage and
worry and everything else holding us hostage instead of being dominated
by the everlasting Spirit of the living God.
How do we limit God?
Folks, we limit what He wants to do in and through our lives. Do you
think He won’t get it done? Oh, yes. But He will use somebody else. Oh,
He will get it done, but we are missing out on what God wants to do in
and through our lives. He wants to draw us into what He is up to. There
are so many people who would rather be dominated by their own self-pity
than they would the living God who offers all of this abundance in our
When we cooperate with Him and
allow His Spirit to fill us and Christ to indwell us and His love to
master us, that’s when it takes place.
Remember, Jesus made a
statement to the disciples in the gospel of John. He pointed out some of
the things He had done and then He said,
works than these shall you do."
Oh, I trust that you will
study that and not just rip a verse out and run out in the street and
think that you are going to do something beyond what Christ can do.
There is a beautiful thought here. He is allowing us to be a part of
what He is still doing. Folks, you will never in quality surpass what
God can do. When He came, He limited Himself to a body. That was the
purpose. That body would die on the cross. What Jesus was saying to His
"My Spirit is going to be
in you. He is going to give you a divine ability. You will not be left
as orphans. I am coming to you if you will just simply cooperate, not in
quality, but in quantity. Greater works than what you have seen here you
shall do." (cp Acts 1:8)
What are we hindering God
from? We are limiting Him because we are not willing to let the Spirit
of God enable us. Let’s take the verse apart and just see what God will
Him who is able..."
is in the
middle voice. Present tense means that He is able, is always able, has
always been able and will always be able. There is never a question
about His divine ability.
The Greek verb
is from the root word
God has the divine capacity and ability that we don’t have. And the
means on His own He chooses to be able in you and in me.
Well, what is the problem?
We are not choosing for Him to be able in us. We would rather do it
ourselves than we would confess to Him that we can’t and tap into that
which He can do. God has offered Himself and His ability to each of His
children. This ability is completely available in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Who lives within us.
He is able! He has chosen
to make Himself available to you and me. I will tell you what He is
trying to do. I think He is trying to raise a level of faith where we
can stand on what God says, not on what people think or the opinions of
Do you know what they used to do in
They used to celebrate the victory before they ever went to the battle.
That looks kind of dumb to me. I mean, they would get together before
they even went out to battle and have a victory celebration. Then they
went out. These pictures were given as a shadow of the truth which comes
to full light in the New Testament.
Friend, we don’t work
toward victory. It is not like a basketball game when there is three
seconds left and we shoot and win. That is not victory. Victory
was at the cross. We don’t ever go towards it! We come from it!
That is real victory!
Victory is not us overcoming anything.
Victory is Jesus overcoming us and indwelling us
and His spirit empowering us with His divine ability.
We have got to learn that
He is able; always has been, always will be. No question there. He has
chosen to make Himself available to you and me.
Well, he goes on to say,
"to do exceeding abundantly beyond."
The Greek word used here (huperekperissou)
is made up of three words: huper, which means above, ek,
which means a standard or a measure, and perisseuo, which means
over and above more than enough. So, it is like the writer, Paul,
writing in the Greek, was trying to express something that there were no
words to express. Paul was saying,
"He is able to do over and
above and over and above and more than enough and over and above that."
God can do it! I like
"exceeding abundantly beyond." That brings it down to where my feeble
mind can grab hold of it. Do you realize the failures in our life are
never because of God, never, never, never? They are the consequence
of our unwillingness to bow before Him. We limit His power which has
been offered to us. We limit His divine ability to do through us what we
could have never imagined possible.
Well, he is exceedingly
able to do over and above and beyond "all that we ask or think." Perhaps
you are inquisitive like I am. I began to think about this. When I am
filled with the Spirit of God, God is the one who governs my thoughts.
When I am filled with the Spirit of God, God is the one who governs my
requests. Everything I am asking of Him He has already put on my heart.
So therefore, He wants to do more and more and more and more beyond
anything I have ever asked or beyond anything I have even dared to
think. Folks, just think how far we can move into this, of His divine
ability within us, to reach a lost world for Christ, to touch a world
that doesn’t understand the divine ability that God wants to show them
in Jesus Christ.
that we ask or think."
How many people does God
want to call to reach the world for Christ? How many people does God
want to start getting involved in missions and getting the money out
there where it is needed? Listen, we haven’t even dared ask Him yet. We
haven’t even dared to think about it yet because we are not living in
the fullness of what God already offers. Oh yes, He is able, but we will
never tap into that great truth until we start learning to be indwelt by
Christ and empowered by His Spirit and mastered by His love. Folks, when
God gets hold of surrendered people, then He manifests His divine
ability and the results are absolutely incredible!
We love to claim this
"God is able to do
exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or think."
What does that mean? I
don’t have a clue, but it sounds good. God is able to do exceeding
abundantly. Folks, until the conditions are met, you might just as well
forget the phrase because you will never know that ability. There are
some things God is going to have you ask Him and think about asking Him
that are far beyond anything you have ever thought before, because you
haven’t gone that far in the Lord Jesus, in His fullness. Greater works
than these shall you do. God says if we will tap into Him, He will give
us the ability to do it.
Well, we have come to the
final thing in Ep 3:21:
"to Him be the
glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and
Paul says a similar thing
in Philippians. He wrote these letters in the same imprisonment. Let’s
go over there and see. Look in Philippians 3:3. He is saying here to
give all the glory now to the Lord Jesus in the church. He says
something that really caught my attention. He says, "we are the true
What does he mean? We are
not circumcised of the flesh because the covenant we are under is not an
external covenant. It is an internal covenant. We are circumcised of the
"…who worship in the
Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the
In other words, Paul is
saying here to Him be the glory in the church. Do you mean the only way
to give Him glory in the church is to glorify only Jesus and put no
confidence in the flesh? That is exactly right. How can we go on and
give Him the glory? We keep on lifting up Jesus Christ. We don’t praise
men. We praise God. Every time we have a problem we don’t get involved
in all that stuff. We come before Him and say, "God, what are you up
to?" Then God is glorified. Man is not, but God is.
Then Paul finishes the
prayer and says, "Amen." Do you know what that means? It means "let it
be so." It just sort of seals it.
What a prayer! There is
just so much in it. Let me show you something. This prayer sums up
everything he said in chapters 1-3 and sets up everything he is about to
say in chapters 4-6. Look at Eph 4:1 "I, therefore."
When there is a
"therefore," look and see what it is there for. You now know what it is
there for. You have the divine ability of God. All the fullness of God
has been offered to you and me, not to go out and raise the dead, but to
go out and manifest the character of Jesus in our life and be about the
things that God has told us.
"I, therefore, the
prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the
calling with which you have been called." Amen.
Anything less than what we
have seen prayed in this prayer is nothing more than mere religion.
God’s power wants to flow. Why would God lead us into a wilderness?
Because He wants to take us on into "Canaan" of His blessing. His divine
power is waiting for us, folks. Don’t you let a negative thought go
through your mind. We have a God who so supersedes our problems, it
would blow us all away. He is just waiting on us to shape up and start
living in the truth that we already know but have not yet tapped into.
The word we get the word
dynamite from is dunamis, which is the word we are studying. God
is able. We translate it power, strengthened with power in the inner
man. We sing a song about the fact that there is
"Power, power, wonder
working power, in the blood of the Lamb.
There is power, power, wonder working power
in the precious blood of the Lamb."
Oh, folks, can you hear
what you are singing? God wants to turn it loose in your life even now,
but you have got to deal with the sin that is clogged up. It is all
there. It has been offered to you freely, but we have got to get the sin
out so the power can flow one more time. We can rise up and call Him
blessed and touch this world for Jesus Christ. That is what He is
wanting to do and we are all a part of this. (Ephesians
317-21 by Wayne Barber)
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Joseph Parker - "God's Ability" - (Ephesians
3:20 God's Ability)
The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, expresses himself
with a redundance of thankfulness and appreciation which shows the
wonderful depth and richness of his nature. He does not mete out his
words as if by constraint. He lavishes his heart upon his theme, and,
with holy impatience, he urges word upon word, description upon
description, that he may give some faint hint at least of the sublimity
by which he is dazzled, and of the joy which lifts him almost to heaven.
In this chapter we find such expressions as these:—"The unsearchable
riches of Christ," "the manifold riches of God," "the riches of his
glory," "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," "that ye might be
filled with all the fulness of God." Never was language so inadequate to
express the thought which inspired his mind, and which threw his heart
into ecstasies of inconceivable and unutterable delight. The Christian
mediation seemed constantly to enlarge upon the vision of the Apostle.
It was never to him a diminishing quantity. Every day he saw in the
scheme of the Christian redemption some new point of light—felt in it
some new pulse of eternal love. Hence it is a most stimulating and
instructive study to follow the intellectual and spiritual development
of Paul, to find how he grew in grace and knowledge and wisdom,—yet how
at the very last he said, "I count not myself to have attained." Beyond
the giddy peak on which he stood there were sublimer heights, and he
pressed towards the mark, if haply he might scale those glittering,
heavenly steeps. In the text he seemed utterly at a loss to express the
fulness of his conception of the grandeur, the riches, the wisdom, the
power, and the love of God. We shall miss the force of these words
unless we understand the prayer, in connection with which they were
The Apostle does not give this text as I have given it, namely, as a
detached sentence. It is the culmination of a statement; it is something
that comes after a serious, anxious effort, which he himself has made;
and we must look into the preliminary statement if we would know how
Paul was dazzled, overwhelmed, made speechless, by the infinite capacity
of God to transcend all mortal prayer and all finite imagination. The
Apostle has been uttering a prayer which reads thus:—
"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be
strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man [able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that we ask]. That Christ may dwell in
your hearts by faith [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we
ask]. That ye, being rooted and grounded in love [able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we ask], may be able to comprehend with all
saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to
know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge [able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we ask], that ye might be filled with all the
fulness of God [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask].
Reading the prayer in this manner, using the text as a kind of refrain
to each petition, and each petition itself seeming to exhaust the very
mercy and love of God, we get some notion of the Apostle's conception of
God's infinite wealth, infinite grace, and infinite willingness to give.
Understand, then, that in coming to God and availing ourselves of the
doctrine of this text, it is incumbent upon us that we should specify
what we want from God. A man of flippant speech, of thoughtlessness of
mind, may say, "I have asked God for all. Is he able to do exceeding
abundantly above that?" Yes, because no man knows what "all" means. The
dewdrop has its little all. The Atlantic has its idea of all; and the
great star-laden firmament, arching over all things underneath it, has a
wider representation still. A man such as I have described may say, "I
have asked God for infinite blessings. Is God able to do exceeding
abundantly above infinite?" Yes, as you use the word, because you do not
know what infinite means. You have only your own little notion about it,
and your inch cannot measure the infinitude of God. But apart from that
answer, we are to protest against the doctrine that men when they come
to God in prayer are to use such words as "all," "everything,"
"infinitude," without specification of their wants. We must tell God our
necessities, interpret to him our hunger and our thirst of soul. We must
go to him with particular, well-defined, and urgently-pleaded petitions.
Perhaps this may be difficult of realisation to some minds. I must
therefore set it in a lower light. Suppose that a number of petitioners
should go to the legislature with a petition worded thus: "We humbly
pray your honourable house to do everything for the nation, to take
infinite care of it, to let the affairs of the nation tax your attention
day and night, and lavish all your resources upon the people." Suppose
that a petition like that should be handed into the House of Commons,
what would be the fate of it? It would be laughed down, and the only
reason, the only good reason, why the petitioners should not be confined
to Bedlam would be, lest their insanity should alarm the inmates. That
is not a petition. It is void by generality; by referring to all it
misses everything. We must specify what we want when we go to the
legislature. We must state our case with clearness of definition, and
with somewhat of argument. If it be so in our social, political prayers,
shall we go to Almighty God with a vagueness which means nothing, with a
generality which makes no special demand upon his heart? Read the text
in the light of the gospel, and you will see the fulness of its glory,
so far as it can be seen by mortal vision. Ask anything of God, and I am
prepared to quote these words of the text in reply. What will you ask?
Let us in the first instance ask what we all want—whatever may be our
condition, age, circumstances. Let us ask for pardon. Is your prayer,
God forgive my sins? Now you may apply the Apostle's words: "He is able
to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask."
You cannot conceive God's notion of pardon. You have an idea of what you
mean by forgiveness; but when you have exhausted your own notion of the
term forgiveness, you have not shown the Divine intent concerning the
soul that is to be forgiven. When God forgives, he does not merely
pardon, barely pardon,—he does not by some great straining effort of his
love, just come within reach of the suppliant, and lay upon his heart
the blessing which is besought. He pardons with pardons! When he casts
our sins away, it is not into a shallow pool, it is into the depths of
the sea; when he throws it away, it is not on one side, it is behind
him. Will you arithmeticians measure the distance which is meant by
behind the infinite? When God takes a man's sins away from him, he puts
them as far from him as the east is from the west. Can you tell how far
the east is from the west? It is an expression that is often upon your
lips. Have you ever measured the distance? You cannot; it is an
immeasurable line. So, when God comes to pardon us, he pardons with
pardons, with pardons again and again, wave upon wave, until we say,
"Thou hast done exceeding abundantly above all that we ask." The finite
can never grasp the infinite, and our poor mortal capacities cannot hold
God's idea of pardon. We have, thank God, some notion of forgiveness;
but not until you yourself have entered personally into the mystery of
this forgiveness, can you understand or have any hint of the depth of
the sea into which God has cast the sins of which we have repented.
What will you ask for now? Ask for sanctification. Is your prayer,
Sanctify me, body, soul, and spirit? Then I once more quote the
Apostle's text: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we
ask or think." What is your notion of sanctification? You have thought
about it: it is soon exhausted. When you leave reason and get into the
region of fancy, your imagination soon wearies, and the description
which you give of holiness is after all a negative description. When I
read of God's holiness, I read of holiness that is glorious. God is said
to be glorious in holiness. Do you understand the emphasis of that
redundance? Holiness would have been a great word to have uttered
concerning him, but when you add glorious in holiness—
Imagination's utmost stretch
In wonder dies away.
We know the meaning of innocence; we know what is implied by the terms
"not guilty"; we can describe negatively a high condition of character.
But God's notion of sanctification! When we have made our notion of
sanctification clear and plain he sets his own holiness beside it, and
in contrast our purity of development, and our sublimest moral
acquisitions become corrupt in the presence of the blazing glory of the
divine purity. This is our destiny, if so be we are in Jesus Christ.
Holiness is not something we can describe with sufficiency of terms. It
is not a quantity we can see in its completeness. We cannot walk round
about it and say, This is the limit thereof. There is always another ray
of splendour which we have not seen, and a brighter beam of the
ineffable effulgence which has not yet struck upon our vision. So when
we ask God to sanctify us, we are to remember that "He is able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
Now, if this be so, it ought to stimulate us in all saintly progress, to
inspire us in the study of divine truth, to recover our jaded energies,
and tempt, lure, and draw us by the mighty compulsion of inexhaustible
reward. This is the peculiar glory of Christian study, that it does not
exhaust the student. His weakness becomes his strength. At sunset he is
stronger than at sunrise; because Christian study does not tax any one
power of the mind unduly. It trains the whole being, the imagination,
the fancy, the will, the emotion; lifts up the whole nature equally,
with all the equability of complete power,—not by snatches and spasms of
strength, but with the sufficiency, breadth, and compass of power which
sustains the balance always. This ought to rebuke those of us who
imagine that we have finished our Christian education. I believe there
are some persons in the world who are under the impression that they
have finished God's book. They say they have "read it through." There is
a poor sense in which it may be read through; but there is a deeper,
truer sense in which we can never get through the Book of God. It is an
inexhaustible study,—new every day, like morning light. You have seen
splendour before, but until this morning you never saw this light. So it
is with this great wonderful Book of God in the study of it God is able
to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. The
hoariest-headed student who has spent his days in study, and his nights
in prayer, will be the first and most emphatic to declare, that the more
he has dwelt upon the wonderfulness of God's revelation, the more and
more wonderful it has become to all the highest powers of his nature.
Here then is a stimulus, a spur to progress, a call to deeper study. We
think we have attained truth. We have not attained all that is meant by
the word truth. No man who knows himself and who knows God will say that
he has been led into all the chambers of God's great palace of truth.
This is the sign of progress; this is the charter of the profoundest
humility. The more we know the less we know. We see certain points of
light here and there, but the great unexplored regions of truth stretch
mile on mile, beyond all our power to traverse the wondrous plain. How
is it with us to-day then? Are we fagged men, exhausted students? Do we
sit down under the impression that there is nothing more to be known? If
we have that idea, let us seek to renew our strength and to recover our
inspiration by the word,—"He is able to do exceeding abundantly above
all that we ask or think." There are attainments we have not made,
depths we have not sounded, and heights, oh, heights! We can but look up
and wonder, expect, adore. If this be so, we ought to look calmly, with
a feeling of chastened triumph, upon all hindrances, difficulties, and
obstacles in the way of Christ's kingdom upon the earth. We may look at
these in relation to our own puny strength, and quail before them. We
are not to depend upon our own resources, but upon God's, in attempting
the removal of everything that would intercept the progress of his
kingdom in the world. There is a great mountain: I cannot beat it down,
all the instruments I can bring to bear upon it seem utterly powerless.
But God touches the mountains and they smoke. The Alps, the Apennines,
the Pyrenees, and great Himalayas, shall go up like incense before him,
and his kingdom shall have a smooth uninterrupted way. There are
combinations which I cannot disentangle: conspiracies of the heathen
against God and his Son, political conspiracies, social combinations, of
which I can make nothing as a poor solitary worker. I can but kneel down
before them and pray God to show the greatness of his strength. In a
peculiar manner he will touch the reason of such conspirators, and they
will become jabbering maniacs in a moment. Sometimes he will touch the
speech of such conspirators, and they will not understand what they are
saying to one another. Sometimes in passing by, he will touch the earth
with his finger: silently it will open and swallow them up.
I say, in my hours of weakness, Yonder is a stone which I cannot remove.
If I could get clear of that obstacle all would be right; but the stone
is heavy, the stone is sealed, the stone is watched. What can I do? I go
up the hill wearily, almost hopelessly, and behold! the stone is rolled
away, and on the obstacle there sits the angel of God. "Able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" What then is our
Christian hope about the world? Look at ministers, at missionaries, at
Sunday-school teachers; look at writers, and at all the efforts made for
the progress of divine truth upon the earth. Then, on the other hand,
look at all the Paganism that remains unsubdued; at the idol temples
which debase and corrupt the world; look at all the institutions that
live upon the badness of the human heart! You say, the instrumentality
is not equal to the work. You are right. The straw cannot beat the
mountain into flying dust. The hand of man cannot crumble the great
gigantic bulwarks behind which error has entrenched itself. You are
quite right. But God hath chosen the weak things to throw down the
mighty. It is not the straw that does it; it is the hand that wields it.
Shakespeare dips his pen into the ink and writes "Hamlet." I take up the
same pen, dip into the same ink, but I cannot write "Hamlet." It is not
the pen that does it; it is the writer. It is not the little
instrumentality; it is the God who is able to do, and who has done,
exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. It is therefore
because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, that we now expect to
triumph over the world, and speak of all nations as if they belonged to
the Son of God. If the doctrine of the text be true, then it should fill
all bad men with terror. We should regard this text as a two-sided text
We are always accustomed to regard it as affording comfort to the
Christian heart, strength to the toiling pilgrim who moves heavenward
day by day. The text does supply all that is needful for the
encouragement and strength of such. But it has a tremendous back-stroke.
The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword—mighty for the
gaining of victories, but terrible to those who feel its cutting power.
You have a certain notion of hell. We cannot tell what is meant by that
awful word. We speak of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is
not quenched. But what do we know about the words which involve so much?
We cannot tell what is meant by everlasting punishment. Modify the
doctrine of hell as you will,—dilute the term "everlasting punishment"
as you like,—avail yourselves of all the resources of etymology to the
furthest possible extent, that you may reduce the limit and application
of certain words;—when you have done all, it must remain a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of the living God! There are moments that are
eternities. It is the nature of all pain to have itself described as an
everlasting punishment. Inflict some wound upon yourself now, and the
next hour will feel as if it were a day: you feel as if it would never,
never pass away. It is of the nature of punishment to force itself upon
the sufferer as everlasting penalty. Joy hath wings. Joy filling the
hour, the hour flies away, and we say, It cannot be gone already! Yes,
already! Yes. It is there we read the meaning of the words "eternal
life.' Do not let us imagine that because we may have this notion, or
that peculiar or heterodox exception, about the punishment that awaits
the sinner, that therefore we have diluted the notion to nothing. When
we have done our utmost in that direction, God is able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we think. The oppressor says, "Well, if it has
come to this I am prepared to bear it." No, you are not prepared to bear
it! When I say it is this, I use human words in a human sense; but when
God says it is this, I cannot tell all his meaning. When the poor man
who has twelve shillings a week says that a certain person is rich, that
is one meaning of the word rich. When the man who has ten thousand
pounds a year speaks of the same individual, perhaps he might say he is
poor. So words have different meanings as used by different persons.
Every man must be his own dictionary. You must look at the speaker
before you can understand some speeches. You must look at the
etymologist before you can understand the etymology. So when God says he
will utterly destroy the wicked, remember that it is God who says so,
and do not measure the word by your poor lexicography.
It may be difficult for some minds to follow the argument out
spiritually; we must therefore descend to illustration. Here is a very
clever artist, who has made a beautiful thing he brings before us, and
we gather round it and say, "It is most exquisitely done. What is this,
sir?" "That," replies the artist, "is my notion of a flower, and I am
going to call that flower a rose." "Well, it is a beautiful thing,—very
graceful, and altogether beautifully executed: you are very clever." So
he is, and now that exhausts his notion of the rose. But let God just
hand in a full-blown rose from the commonest garden in the world, and
where is your waxen beauty? Underneath every leaf is written, "He is
able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Let him
just send the sweet spring morning in upon us, with the first violet,
and all your artificial florists, if they have one spark of wit left,
will pick up their goods and go off as soon as possible. "He is able to
do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." The meanest
insect that flutters in the warm sunlight is a grander thing than the
finest marble statue ever chiselled by the proudest sculptor.
Now we are going to have a very festive day. We are going to pluck
flowers and fashion them into arches, and we shall make our arches very
high, very beautiful,—and, so far as the flowers go, they are most
gorgeously and exquisitely beautiful. We have put up the wires; we have
festooned these wires, and we say, "Now, is not that very beautifully
done?" and of course, we who always drink the toast, "Our noble selves,"
say, Yes. But God has only to take a few rain-drops and strike through
them the sunlight, and where are your paste-board arches and your
skilful working! "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that
we can ask or think." Fellow-students in this holy mystery, believe me,
as in nature, so in the higher kingdom of grace. As in matter he
surpasses all your sculptors, and is in all schools infinitely superior
to men, so in the revelation of truth to the heart, in the way of
redeeming man from sin, in the way of sanctifying fallen corrupt human
nature,—all your theorists and speculators, all your plaster dealers and
social reformers, and philanthropic regenerators, must get out of the
way as artificial florists when God comes to us with the Rose of Sharon
and the Lily of the valley.
Then, let us leave all inferior teachers and go straight to the Master
himself. We have to deal with sin, and the only answer to sin, which
answer is comprehended in one word, is the Cross. God's foolishness is
better than our wisdom. God's weakness is infinitely superior to our
strength. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." If you
choose to make your own cisterns, broken cisterns, to hold no water, you
may do so. Let others of us say, As for us and our house, we will
go—poor, guilty, heart-thirsty sinners as we are—to the fountain of
living waters, and if we perish, we will pray and perish only there! No
dead man was ever found at that fountain. No dead man was ever found
with his hand on the Cross,—with his lips at the well of life.
TO HIM BE THE GLORY IN THE
CHURCH AND IN CHRIST JESUS: auto e doxa en te ekklesia kai en Christo
Iesou: (Ep 1:6; 1Chronicles 29:11; Psalms 29:1,2; 72:19;
115:1; Is 6:3; 42:12; Matthew 6:13; Luke 2:14; Romans 11:36; 16:27;
Galatians 1:5; Philippians 2:11; 4:20; 2Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:21;
1Peter 5:11; Revelation 4:9, 10, 11; 5:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14; 7:12, 13,
14, 15, 16, 17) (Php 1:11; Heb 13:15,16; 1Pe 2:5)
To Him -
reference to God the Father
How fitting that the petitions of
this prayer should glide into praise, and that not only this prayer but
these chapters should close with a doxology!
"Unto him" -- the Master
Workman who has wrought in the Church through the presence of His
beloved Son in the power of His mighty Spirit to make it the
manifestation of His glory, both now and throughout all the ages -- be
praise! (The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian)
from dokeo = to think or recognize) means to give a
proper opinion. This is the glory due God and is to be given Him in the
church. The apostle has repeatedly insisted that the end of redemption
is the glory of God (Eph 1:6, 12, 14, 18; 2:7; 3:10, 16).
The basic idea in
the word doxa is that of manifestation. In the Old Testament doxa
was primarily the brightness or radiance of Gods presence. Glory
speaks of a manifestation of God's true nature, presence, or likeness.
To give God glory is not to add something to him; rather, it is an
active acknowledgement or extolling of Who He is or what He has already
done (Ps. 29:2; 96:8). He is glorified when He is allowed to be
seen as He really is. To be where God is will be glory. To be what God
intended will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory. The basic
idea in the word doxa is that of manifestation. The glory of God is the
manifestation of His Being, His character and His acts. The glory of God
is what He is essentially. Glory, therefore, is the true apprehension of
God or things. The glory of God must mean His unchanging essence.
(ekklesia from ekkaléo = call out in turn from ek =
= call) literally "called-out ones". The Greeks used
ekklesia for assembly of citizens called out to transact city
business. The church is a living organism, composed of living members
joined together; through which Christ works, carries out His purposes
and He lives.
114x in 111v - Matt 16:18; 18:17; Acts 5:11; 7:38; 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22,
26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3f, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39f;
20:17, 28; Rom 16:1, 4f, 16, 23; 1 Cor 1:2; 4:17; 6:4; 7:17; 10:32;
11:16, 18, 22; 12:28; 14:4f, 12, 19, 23, 28, 33ff; 15:9; 16:1, 19; 2 Cor
1:1; 8:1, 18f, 23f; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Gal 1:2, 13, 22; Eph 1:22; 3:10,
21; 5:23ff, 27, 29, 32; Phil 3:6; 4:15; Col 1:18, 24; 4:15f; 1 Thess
1:1; 2:14; 2 Thess 1:1, 4; 1 Tim 3:5, 15; 5:16; Philemon 1:2; Heb 2:12;
12:23; Jas 5:14; 3 John 1:6, 9f; Rev 1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7f, 11f, 17f, 23,
29; 3:1, 6f, 13f, 22; 22:16. NAS = assembly(3), church(74),
comments on "in the church" writing that...
Through which His many-tinted wisdom
is to be displayed, and which is His fulness.
Everyone who has
been saved belongs to the body of Christ, the universal church. The
universal church is manifested in the world by individual local
churches, each of which is to be a microcosm of the body of Christ. The
church is to function under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, operating
under His sovereign rule. Jesus Christ is the Founder and Lord of His
church and has guaranteed its perpetuity until He returns.
In Christ Jesus
- is locative of sphere.
Eadie - The place of doxology is the church,
and the glory is hymned by its members, but the spirit of the song is
inspired by oneness with Jesus. Glory (doxa) is the splendour of
moral excellence, and in what place should such glory be ascribed but in
the church, which has witnessed so much of it, and whose origination,
life, blessings, and hopes are so many samples and outbursts of it? And
how should it be presented? Not apart from Christ, or simply for His
sake, but in Him—in thrilling fellowship with Him; for no other
consciousness can inspire us with the sacred impulse, and praise of no
other origin and character can be accepted by that God who is Himself in
adds that "The close juxtaposition of the church
and Christ is arresting. For Paul, body and members form a single
entity. Textual variants reflect the daring nature of the original
order, which refers to the church first. As Thompson puts it, "The
honour of Jesus is in the hands of the Church" (p. 60). In the final
formula, two common liturgical expressions are combined (cf. Dan 7:18)
to produce a stronger phrase than usual to describe eternity. Once
again, the fact that the church is included here is remarkable. In
Christ, however, the Bride will live forever (1Th 4:17; Rev 22:17).
To which the response of all God's people must be "Yes indeed, Lord"
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary)
TO ALL GENERATIONS FOREVER AND
EVER. AMEN: eis pasas tas geneas tou aionos ton aionon; amen:
(Eph 2:7; 1Peter 5:11; 2Peter 3:18;
More literally this reads "unto all
the generations of the age of the ages".
Eadie explains Paul's
descriptions of time writing that "This remarkable accumulation of terms
is an intensive formula denoting eternity...This language, borrowed from
the changes and succession of time, is employed to picture out eternity.
It is a period of successive generations filling up the age, which again
is an age of ages—or made up of a series of ages—a period composed of
many periods; and through the cycles of such a period of periods, glory
is to be ascribed to God...The entire phrase is a temporal image of
eternity. The obligation to glorify God lasts through eternity, and the
glorified church will ever delight in rendering praise, “as is most
due.” Eternal perfection will sustain an eternal anthem. The Trinity is
here again brought out to view. The power within us is that of the
Spirit, and glory in Christ is presented to the Father who answers
prayer through the Son, and by the Spirit; and, therefore, to the
Father, in the Son, and by the Spirit, is offered this glorious
minstrelsy—“as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world
without end. Amen. (Ephesians
“To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
The God whom heaven's triumphant host
And saints on earth adore,
Be glory as in ages past,
As now it is, and so shall last
When time shall be no more.”
(genea from ginomai = to become) primarily signifies a
birth or a descent. Hence genea refers to that which has been begotten,
such as a family or successive members of a genealogy. Genea refers to
the whole multitude of people living at the same time and belonging to
the same reproductive age-class. In other words genea refers to a group
of individuals born and living contemporaneously. It refers to all of
the people born and living at about the same time, regarded
Although, not everyone agrees,
generations suggests the times of human history on this present
earth which are yet to come to pass, but when this earthly drama is
played out at the end of the Millennium, this anthem of praise to our
Father will continue into eternity, time without end.
(aion) is literally of the age of the ages. There is evidently
more than one age to come, a succession of ages. The church
consisting of all born-again believers in Christ, will be an eternal
entity, offering up endless praise age after age.
Paul is saying in essence that
because of all that God has done for us, we ought to spend every moment
giving Him His due; disciplining our minds to this practice so that even
unconsciously we are glorifying Him.
(amen from Hebrew verb
= be firm, steady, trustworthy) means
firm, trustworthy, true and suggests solidity and firmness. Amen was
used as a strengthening and confirming statement (why are there so few
"Amens" in the modern church? Is the message being proclaimed not true,
solid and trustworthy? Or are those in the pews so enamored and
entangled with the world that they are asleep to the great truths of the
Bible?). Amen acknowledges that which is valid and
binding. Amen serves as a word of affirmation.
O'Brien has an excellent
summary statement writing that "The doxology at the end of Paul's
prayer concludes the first half of the letter on the same note with
which it began in the introductory eulogy (1:3–14), namely, in praise of
God for his mighty salvation, initiated in eternity, carried into effect
in Christ, and intended to redound to the praise of Gods glorious grace
for all eternity. Paul wants his readers to have a theological
perspective on Gods mighty saving purposes. He prays that they might be
empowered by Christ through his Spirit, so that they might walk in love
just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us (5:2). The prayer and
doxology of chapter 3 function in an important preparatory way for the
subsequent admonitions to love in the second half of the letter. (O'Brien,
P. T. The Letter to the Ephesians. W. B. Eerdmans. 1999)
sermon on Eph 3:20, 21 (See
Pastor's Cole's other excellent expository messages )
God is Able!
A woman once approached the famous
preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, after he spoke and asked, “Do you think we
should pray for even the little things in our lives, or just for the big
things?” In his dignified British manner he replied, “Madam, can you
think of anything in your life that is big to God?” The apostle Paul
would have said, “Amen!” He has just prayed that the Ephesians would be
filled up to all the fullness of God. It’s a prayer that they would come
to total spiritual perfection! You can’t go any higher than to be filled
with all the fullness of God! Paul adds this doxology to say, “In case
you think that it is too much to ask God to fill His saints to all of
His fullness, remember that He is able to do far more abundantly beyond
all that we ask or think, according to His power and for His glory.”
God is not just able to do beyond
what we ask, but abundantly beyond. But that’s not enough, He is able to
do far more abundantly beyond what we ask. But, we still aren’t to the
limit: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that
we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Now, what
is it that you need? I want to encourage you to pray in faith, asking
God to do far beyond all that we can ask or think.
Yet at the same time, I want to be
realistic in applying this text. There are certain mysteries about the
interaction between our prayers and the sovereign will of God that I
cannot explain. When John the Baptist was imprisoned, I am sure that his
disciples were praying for his release. It would have brought glory to
God if John had been released to preach for many more years. Yet, John
lost his head. Although God easily could have freed John (as He later
freed Peter), it was not His will to do so.
When Jesus predicted Peter’s denials,
I would have thought that it would be right to pray that Peter not sin
at all. But, Jesus didn’t pray that. Rather, He prayed that after Peter
had sinned and was restored, that he would strengthen his brothers (Luke
22:31,32). God’s sovereign will permitted Peter’s sin in order to
strengthen Peter and others in the long run.
Even the apostle Paul, who penned
these great words, had many disappointments in his ministry. Demas was
one of Paul’s fellow workers, and yet he deserted Paul because he loved
the world (cf. Philemon 1:24, 2Ti 4:10). Surely, Paul prayed for Demas
to repent, but there is no biblical record that he ever did so. Paul
prayed for the conversion of the Jews (Ro 9:1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and yet they
largely rejected the gospel. In church history, Adoniram Judson was a
great man of faith, who gave his life to reaching the people of Burma.
And yet, he labored for years before his first convert, and even when he
died, there was not much visible fruit.
Over the past 31 years of my
ministry, I am painfully aware of many situations where God has not
answered my prayers for Him to do for His glory far more than I could
ask or think. There have been lost people for whom I have prayed that
they would be saved, but they were not saved. There have been broken
Christian marriages that I have prayed would be restored, but they ended
in divorce. There have been sinning Christians for whom I have prayed
that they would repent, but there has been no repentance.
And so I want to motivate you to pray
big prayers with faith in a mighty God, who is able to do far more
abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. And, yet at the same time, I
don’t want to gloss over the difficult struggles that you will surely
encounter in your prayer life. We simply cannot know the big picture of
what God is doing, and so invariably we will experience disappointments
Keep in mind that in the context,
Paul’s prayer for God to do abundantly beyond what we ask or think is
not a prayer for physical miracles, but rather for Christ to dwell in
the hearts of believers so that we may comprehend His great love for us,
so that we will grow to complete spiritual maturity. In that context,
Paul is saying:
Because God is able to do far more
beyond all that we ask or think,
we should pray for that which would further
His glory through Christ and His church.
There are two themes in Paul’s
1. God is able to do far more
abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that
works within us (Ep 3:20).
Under this heading, note two things:
A. God is able to do far more
abundantly beyond what we ask or think because He is omnipotent.
From Genesis to Revelation, we see
God’s mighty power at work. We can summarize it under four headings:
(1) God’s power is seen in
God spoke the entire universe into
existence out of nothing by His word alone! In Romans 1:20, Paul writes,
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His
eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being
understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
The psalmist exclaimed (Ps. 33:6, 9), “By the word of the Lord the
heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host…. For
He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Or, as
Jeremiah (32:17) exclaimed, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the
heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too difficult for You.” Every day all around us, we have
evidence to remind us of God’s omnipotence.
Whether we look at the vastness of
the universe, with billions of galaxies containing billions of stars, or
at the complexity of our own bodies, or at the incredible design on the
microscopic level, we see evidence of a powerful Creator. Have you ever
swatted a little gnat that was flying in front of your face? Have you
ever stopped to think about how difficult it would be to design a
creature that small that can not only fly, but also eat and reproduce?
Or, as Michael Behe explains (Darwins Black Box [Touchstone/ Simon &
Schuster], pp. 51-73), microscopic proteins and bacteria have
intricately designed, irreducibly complex structures that must be all
there for them to work. They could not have evolved gradually. All
creation shouts, “God is a powerful Creator!”
(2) God’s power is seen in His
Throughout the Bible there are
examples of God unleashing a small amount of His power to bring judgment
on rebellious sinners. He brought the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. He
confused the languages of the proud men at the tower of Babel. He
destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone. He unleashed the
ten plagues on Egypt and then destroyed the Egyptian army in the sea. On
numerous occasions, God destroyed thousands of people in a short time,
through plagues or warfare or natural disasters (Nu 16:25-35, 46, 47,
48, 49; 25:9; Judges 7:22; 2Ki 19:35; 2Chr 20:22, 23; Ps. 18:12, 13, 14,
(3) God’s power is seen in His
The apostle Paul is exhibit A, of
course. He was persecuting the church with vengeance, when God stopped
him in his tracks and changed him into the man who would preach to the
Gentiles, whom he formerly detested. In our text, Paul refers to “the
power that works within us.” That takes us back to Ephesians 1:19, where
Paul said that the same power that raised Christ from the dead (the
greatest display of power in human history) is what raised us from
spiritual death to life. In Ephesians 3:7, Paul refers to the working of
God’s power that converted him and made him a minister of the gospel to
the Gentiles. In 3:16, he referred to God’s power through His Spirit
that strengthens us in the inner man.
When the rich young ruler walked away
from salvation, Jesus told the disciples that it was easier for a camel
to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. When
they exclaimed, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answered (Matt. 19:26),
“With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
We need to remember that the conversion of a soul is not a display of
human willpower, but rather a display of God’s mighty power in raising
the spiritually dead to new life.
(4) God’s power is seen in His
working when we are unable to do anything.
The whole point of prayer is to ask
God to do what we cannot do in our own strength or ability. If we think
(erroneously) that we can pull it off ourselves, then we don’t need to
pray. God often puts His people in impossible situations to display His
power and glory. There are far more examples of this in the Bible than I
can list, but here are a few.
Abraham and Sarah were physically
beyond the ability to conceive children. Even when they were younger,
Sarah had been unable to conceive. When Sarah laughed at the idea that
she would conceive, the Lord confronted her with the rhetorical question
(Ge 18:14), “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” In response to
God’s promise, she did conceive Isaac. Later, when God asked Abraham to
offer Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham obeyed because (Heb 11:19), “He
considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead….”
Nothing is impossible for the
God directed Moses and the Israelites
to leave Egypt by a route where they had the Red Sea in front of them
and the pursuing Egyptian army behind them. They had no human means of
escape. In that impossible situation, Moses told the panicked people (Ex
14:13), “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which
He will accomplish for you today….” The Lord miraculously opened the sea
so that the Israelites could pass through, but He closed the sea over
the Egyptian army. Nothing is impossible with God!
Elisha was surrounded by the army of
the king of Aram, with horses and chariots that had come to take him
captive. When his panicked servant told him that they were surrounded by
this hostile army, Elisha calmly answered (2Ki 6:16), “Do not fear, for
those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then he prayed (2Ki 6:17), ‘“O Lord,
I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the
servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses
and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Nothing is impossible with God!
Later, when the same king had
surrounded Samaria, the famine was so bad that women were eating their
own children in order to survive. Elisha predicted that the very next
day the famine would be completely lifted. The royal officer of the king
of Israel retorted (2Ki 7:2), “Behold, if the Lord should make windows
in heaven, could this thing be?” Elisha responded by predicting that
official’s death, but affirmed that the famine would end, according to
the word of the Lord. The following day the Lord caused the invading
army to hear the sound of chariots and horses, so that they panicked and
fled, leaving all of their supplies behind. In their haste to plunder
the camp of the Aramean army, the people of Samaria trampled to death
the king’s official, exactly as Elisha had predicted. Nothing is
impossible with God!
I could cite many more examples, but
here is one from the New Testament. Herod had imprisoned the apostle
Peter, and was planning to execute him the next day. Peter was chained
to two guards, inside a locked cell, with more guards outside, inside a
prison with a locked iron outer door. In response to the church’s
not-very-believing prayers for Peter’s release, the Lord sent an angel
who caused Peter’s chains to fall off. He led Peter through
opened iron doors, past all the guards, and out into the streets as a
free man. Again, we see, nothing is impossible with God!
I should point out, however, that
prior to Peter’s escape, Herod executed James, the brother of John. Was
the church praying for James’ release? We are not told, but I cannot
imagine that they did not pray. Although God easily could have delivered
James, He allowed him to die, while rescuing Peter. We need to remember
the words of Hebrews 11:33, 34, 35a, which tell of great heroes of
faith, “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of
righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched
the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were
made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women
received back their dead by resurrection.” We all say, “Amen, preach it
brother!” We like stories like that!
But, keep reading (He 11:35, 36, 37,
38, 39), “and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that
they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings
and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned,
they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with
the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute,
afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering
in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all
these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what
was promised.” They believed God, but He did not deliver them from their
And so while God often displays His
mighty power by working when we are incapable of doing anything in our
own strength, at times for reasons we do not usually understand, He
chooses not to display His power in such ways. At those times, His power
is displayed through the patient, joyous endurance of His people in the
midst of their suffering (Col. 1:11, 12; 2Cor 12:7, 8, 9, 10). But even
when God chooses not to deliver us, it is not because He is lacking in
power. He is able to do far beyond what we ask or think because
He is omnipotent.
B. God is willing to do far beyond
what we ask or think because He is good.
Satan tempted Eve by getting her to
doubt that God and His commandments are good. When we are facing
impossible trials, we must be on guard against the same temptation. It
is easy to begin to doubt that God really cares about us. But, Paul
reminds us (Ro 8:31, 32), “What then shall we say to these things? If
God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but
delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give
us all things?” If He did the greatest thing in giving His own Son, He
will now do the relatively smaller things, according to His good and
In the same vein, Peter writes to
those who were suffering terrible persecution at the hands of the wicked
Nero, telling them (and us) to cast all of our cares on the Lord,
because He cares for us. Then he warns about the devil’s prowling around
like a lion to devour us, and adds (1Pe 5:8, 9, 10), “But resist him,
firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are
being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have
suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His
eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and
establish you.” So, even in the worst of trials, we should remember that
God in His goodness is willing to do far beyond what we ask or even
think. There is far more here, but I must move on! Note, also,
2. We should ask for that which
would further God’s glory through Christ and His church (Ep 3:21).
Note two things:
A. God’s glory is the end for
which He created the world.
Jonathan Edwards wrote a brilliant
(and not easy to follow!) essay on this subject. John Piper is the best
modern author to help us understand this point (see, God's Passion for
His Glory [Crossway], which contains the complete text of Edward’s
essay). Edwards argued that God would be unrighteous if He did not
delight fully in what is most beautiful and worthy of delight, namely,
in Himself and His glory. While it would be utterly sinful for us to
delight in our own glory, because we are imperfect and sinful creatures,
it is utterly right for God, because He alone is the absolutely perfect,
Also, God’s glory is the goal of
redemption, as Paul has made clear (Ep 1:6, 12, 14, 18; 2:7; 3:10, 16).
As God saves people who were formerly dead in their sins, (Ep 2:1, 2,
3), seats them with Christ in the heavenly places (2:6), and builds them
into His holy temple (Ep 2:21), He is glorified. As Peter O’Brien notes
(The Letter to the Ephesians [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 269), “The doxology
at the end of Paul’s prayer concludes the first half of the letter on
the same note with which it began in the introductory eulogy (Ep
1:3-14), namely, in praise of God for his mighty salvation, initiated in
eternity, carried into effect in Christ, and intended to redound to the
praise of God’s glorious grace for all eternity. Paul wants his readers
to have a theological perspective on God’s mighty saving purposes.”
B. God’s glory is displayed in His
church when we live in harmony and obedience and ask Him to work through
us for His purpose and glory.
Paul puts the church first, because
he has been showing how the church is God’s new creation, brought into
existence by the cross that broke down the barrier between Jews and
Gentiles. As F. F. Bruce puts it (The Epistles to the Colossians, to
Philemon, and to the Ephesians [Eerdmans], p. 331), “God is to be
glorified in the church because the church, comprising Jews and
Gentiles, is His masterpiece of grace.” But, since the church is the
body of Christ, the head, God’s glory in the church “cannot be divorced
from his glory ‘in Christ Jesus’” (ibid.). And, this glory to God in the
church and in Christ Jesus will continue not only in time, but
throughout eternity, as He continues to “show the surpassing riches of
His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ep 2:7).
In the context, Paul is laying the
doctrinal foundation for the appeal to love and unity and holiness,
which follows (Ep 4:1-5:21). So the application of this mind-stretching
truth is that God is only glorified in the church in the present age
when we live in harmony (Ep 2:15, 16, 19, 20, 21) and holiness, and when
we depend on Him in prayer for that which would glorify Him. When the
church divides over petty issues, or when church leaders or other
Christians fall into sin, it brings dishonor to our glorious God. So we
must be on guard and we must pray for God’s glory to be displayed
through us, as He transforms us for His glory.
Here are four ways to apply these
First, don't be guilty of not
having because you havent asked. God says (Ps. 81:10), “I, the Lord,
am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth
wide and I will fill it.” So, open wide! Ask!
Second, don't be guilty of not
having because you doubt Gods ability or His willingness to give.
Nothing is impossible with God! As the loving Father, He will give good
gifts to His children who ask (Matt. 7:11).
We can’t always understand His
purposes, but we never should doubt His ability or His goodness towards
Third, don't be guilty of
praying small prayers. Pray “big” prayers! It is impossible to ask God
for too much, assuming that it is in line with His will and for His
glory. Phillips Brooks said, “Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think
a prayer so large that God, in answering
it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for
Fourth, pray for yourself and
for this church that for His glory, God would do through us that which
is humanly inexplicable. Don’t try to scrounge up 200 denarii to barely
meet the needs of the hungry multitude.
Pray for the Lord to multiply our
few loaves and fishes, so that He would get all the glory.
Pray for the powerful conversion
of many sinners.
Pray for repentance and holiness
for His saints.
Pray that He will be glorified in
His church and in Christ Jesus, to all generations forever and ever.
1. How can we pray in faith (Mark
11:22, 23, 24) when we can’t know God’s sovereign will for certain in
2. How can we sort out whether our
prayers are selfish or for God’s glory or some mixture of both?
3. Put yourself in the place of the
apostle John. Your brother is executed, while Peter is miraculously
freed. How would you feel? How would you process your confusion over
4. Some claim that if we have faith
in God, He must answer our prayers. Why is this wrong? (See Heb 11:33,
35, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39.)