Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I can’t believe I left it out. Somehow I managed to write a devotional comment on Ephesians 3:19 and failed to mention the most earth-shattering part of the verse. Here it is again—verse 19b: That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
It’s the point of the whole prayer—of being strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being so Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. So we could be rooted and established in love‘so we could grasp, together with God’s people, how high, deep, long, and wide is the love of Christ. So we could know this love that surpasses knowledge, and all to the glorious end.
That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I’ve said it before. I will say it again. It’s either not true, or we aren’t getting it. Either Jesus got it wrong or we’ve missed the point. And we know Jesus got it right. So where does that leave us?
Today’s text draws out a very critical distinction. We see it between the first and second parts of verse 20. See if you can spot it.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us . . .
We don’t struggle so much with the first part of verse 20: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. God can do anything. Nothing is impossible with God. Further, Paul notes, when it comes to God’s ability, our asking and thinking is way too small. Note the three words Paul strings together to make the point—far more abundantly. There is no limit to God’s ability.
The problem comes in the second part of verse 20: According to the power at work within us. Here is where we miss the point. I said this a few verses back, but it bears repeating. If you were to listen to most of my prayers, you might come to the conclusion that I believe God mostly works outside of, around, and even in spite of people. I pray for God to give us a great awakening. I ask God to help people in need, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to deliver the oppressed, and so on. For all practical purposes I am asking God to work beyond or outside of human agency.
Today’s text challenges not only this way of praying but this overall way of understanding the relationship between God and people. God can do it all right, but he chooses to do his work according to the power at work within us. We pray so often for God to show up in our gatherings and in the midst of our impossible situations with little regard for the fact that God’s primary and preferred way of doing far more abundantly than all that we ask or think is according to the power at work within us.
When God comes to save the world, he comes as a person in Jesus of Nazareth. When God sends the Holy Spirit, the Spirit visibly anoints, fills, marks, and seals twelve people. The Spirit is not working in some kind of spiritually at-large dimension in the air. The Spirit works directly and humanly, yet supernaturally through men and women.
This text and so much of the rest of the New Testament has me asking a lot of questions about how we speak and sing of God’s presence, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We sing of God filling places, spaces, and rooms—even atmospheres. Certainly we have biblical precedent for this—in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple. But people of God, where is the temple now? Two words: within us. Where is Jesus now? Two words: within us. Where is the Holy Spirit now? Two words: within us.
So why are we missing this? Is it that we are afraid of it somehow becoming about us and not about God? We are so prone to this either-or way of thinking. It is either God or us, as though there is only so much to go around and we could somehow rob God of his glory. Either God gets the glory or we do. What if this entire way of thinking is wrong? What if, in fact, all glory is God’s glory, and what if there is no limit to God’s glory, and what if it is within God’s divine prerogative to share his glory with people? What if that is the whole point of the church’to be a community of human beings who together carry, embody, demonstrate, and exude the glorious presence of God in the world?
Isn’t that the point of verse 21?
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
It’s not “in the church,” or “in Christ Jesus,” is it?
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who builds his church, filling us with glory through your indwelling Spirit. Correct my thinking and praying and living to grasp that you want to work within and through people rather than through some nebulous, at-large sense of your presence. Wake me up in a new way to this ever-present possibility. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Do you believe it is possible for you to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”? Is this your experience?
Is your tendency to think of God working outside of human agency or within it? Why or why not?
Are you growing in your confidence of God’s working through people? Through you? Through the church? Through your church?
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