View Full Version : Ephesians 3:20-21

11-08-2016, 11:35 AM
I'm currently reading a Henry Ward Beecher sermon about this passage of scripture. He's focusing on these words "According to the power that worketh in us". I'm struggling to comprehend what these words mean. Can someone help me translate this statement? I would really appreciate your assistance.

11-08-2016, 01:38 PM
doesnt he explain it in the sermon you are reading?

John Reece
11-08-2016, 06:31 PM
I'm currently reading a Henry Ward Beecher sermon about this passage of scripture. He's focusing on these words "According to the power that worketh in us". I'm struggling to comprehend what these words mean. Can someone help me translate this statement? I would really appreciate your assistance.

From Pillar NT Commentary on Ephesians, by Peter T. O’Brien (via Accordance):

Doxology to God Who Can Do More Than All We Ask or Imagine, 3:20–21

20. The apostle Paul was accustomed to asking God for extravagant blessings on behalf of his Christian readers (Phil. 1:9; 4:19; Col. 1:9–14; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:3; cf. 1 Cor. 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 Father’s giving exceeds their capacity for asking or even imagining

Appropriately, the apostle concludes his lengthy petition with a doxology, that is, a short, spontaneous ascription of praise to God as the one who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. The doxology not only follows Paul’s petitionary prayer; it is also integrally connected with it: the ascription of power to God in the designation ‘to him who is able’, the mention of his power at work within the readers (cf. v. 16), and the fact that he can achieve more than they can ask (in prayer), all show plainly that this ascription of praise is closely linked with the preceding intercession.

The first element in New Testament doxologies, namely, the mention of the one to whom glory is given, is the most variable, and here vv. 20 and 21 are no exception. The doxology begins with an ascription of power to God. The literal rendering, ‘to him who is able’, obscures the link with power in vv. 16 and 20. He is ‘the powerful One’ (cf. Rom. 16:25; Jude 24, 25), who can accomplish incredibly great deeds on behalf of his people. Perhaps Paul has in mind the Father bringing ‘every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ (1:3) to realization among his Christian readers. Not even the immensity of the request in the preceding verses nor the unfettered ability of the human imagination can provide any limit to God’s mighty ability to act. As the readers are drawn in to share his prayer concerns, ‘all we ask or imagine’, the apostle’s language is stretched to its limits: he uses a comparison of a rare compound adverb which is best rendered by ‘infinitely more than’. There is no limit to what God can do.

In the earlier petition of chapter 1, God’s effective power towards believers (1:19) was said to be nothing less than ‘the operation of his mighty strength’ exerted in the resurrection of Christ (1:20). 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.

21. The second element of the New Testament doxology is the ascription of ‘glory’ (or its equivalent — honour, greatness, or power), which properly belongs to God and is, therefore, rightly ascribed to him. In the Old Testament doxa was primarily the brightness or radiance of God’s presence. 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). Although many New Testament doxologies contain no verb, the indicative ‘is’ or ‘belongs’ is presupposed: the doxology is an affirmation rather than a wish. So, for example, in Galatians 1:5 glory belongs to God, for it was in accordance with his will that the ‘Lord Jesus Christ . . . gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age’.

Here the wording to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus is unusual, for this is the only doxology in the New Testament where the term ‘church’ and the phrase ‘in Christ Jesus’ appear (though cf. Rom. 16:25–27; Jude 24–25). But both are appropriate in the light of the immediate and wider contexts of chapters 1–3. As the community of the redeemed, both Jews and Gentiles, the church is the masterpiece of God’s grace (cf. 2:7). It is the realm of his presence and authority (1:22, 23; 2:22), the instrument through which his wisdom is made known to the spiritual powers in the heavenly realm (3:10). It was earlier suggested that ekklēsia (‘church’) denoted a heavenly gathering in which believers, as members of the body of Christ, now participate (see on 3:10; cf. 2:5, 6). This assembly’s consummation will take place on the final day, though its earmarks are presently expressed through local Christian congregations. In the local churches, then, which received this circular letter glory is ascribed to God. Here and now on earth that ascription by believers, who currently enjoy fellowship with Christ in the heavenlies, is only partial. In the final assembly of the redeemed, the new humanity fully composed (2:15), God will be perfectly glorified (cf. 3:13; 5:27).195

God’s glory in the church cannot be separated from his glory in Christ Jesus. This expression of incorporation signifies that believers are able to ascribe glory to God because they are ‘in Christ Jesus’ (see on 1:3). Just as ‘every spiritual blessing’ is given to us ‘in Christ’ (1:3), so our acknowledging the Father’s glory is wholly dependent on Christ Jesus; it is rendered by those who have been incorporated into him. He is the mediator of God’s activity to us, and the mediator of our response of praise to the Father. Just as our thanksgiving to God can only be given in the name of the Lord Jesus (5:20), so also glory can be ascribed to God only within the realm of Christ Jesus.

This ascription of glory to God will have no end. The present as well as the coming ages, when the incomparable wealth of God’s grace continues to be expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (2:7), provides the occasion for endless praise. The third element of Paul’s doxologies is the temporal expression: throughout all generations for ever and ever is without parallel in the New Testament, though characteristic of the style of Ephesians. Glory is due to God for generations to come and right on throughout all eternity. The more common eternity formula is ‘for ever and ever’ (cf. Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18), which is an emphatic variation of the common LXX expression and means ‘for all eternity’ in an unlimited sense (cf. Ps. 84:5).

The spontaneous endorsement of the doxology by each congregation, as it was read in their hearing, follows in their Amen. Glory does indeed belong to God in the church and in Christ Jesus in history and for all eternity. ‘Amen’ was the response uttered on solemn occasions in the Old Testament to confirm a curse or adjuration, to accept a blessing, or to associate oneself with a doxology. Each of the doxologies which concludes the first four books of the Psalter (Ps. 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48) ends with an ‘Amen’, while prayers and doxologies in the New Testament are strengthened and endorsed by it (Rom. 1:25; Gal. 1:5). The ‘Amen’ makes it clear that the ascription of praise is not simply a matter of the lips, but is the spontaneous response of the whole congregation. Elsewhere Paul strikingly connects believers’ response of ‘Amen’ to the faithfulness of God, who has said ‘Yes’ to all his promises in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). With this loud ‘Amen’ the first half of the letter is concluded.

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 God’s glorious grace for all eternity. Paul wants his readers to have a theological perspective on God’s 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.

John Reece
11-09-2016, 09:01 AM
The Epistles to the COLOSSIANS, to PHILEMON and to the EPHESIANS, by F. F. Bruce (© 1984 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) via Accordance:

20 Has Paul sought too much from God for his fellow-believers praying that they may be filled up to the level of the divine fullness? They might think so as they heard this letter read aloud, but Paul reassures them: it is impossible to ask God for too much. His capacity for giving far exceeds his people’s capacity for asking or even imagining.

The contemplation of God’s eternal purpose and its fulfilment in the gospel calls forth a doxology. A doxology takes the basic form, “To God be the glory,” but it may be variously expanded as the immediate occasion for ascribing glory to God is elaborated. Other doxologies of this pattern in the Pauline writings are found in Rom. 11:36; 16:25–27; Gal. 1:5; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18. Such ascriptions, together with such utterances as “Praise God!” or “Blessed be God!” were common in temple and synagogue worship and were taken over into the liturgy of the church.

Here, in the light of the far-reaching prayer which has just been offered, God is described as the one “who can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” The power by which he can do this is the power which he has implanted in his people “the surpassing greatness of his power in us who believe” which, as has been said in Eph. 1:19–20, is nothing less than “the operation of his mighty strength” exerted in the resurrection of Christ. By the Spirit who imparts this power to believers the full realization of God’s gracious purpose for them and in them becomes possible.

21 The wording “to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” is unusual. It does not imply that “the church” and “Christ Jesus” are placed on a level with each other. God is to be glorified in the church because the church, comprising Jews and Gentiles, is his masterpiece of grace. It is through the church that his wisdom is made known to the spiritual forces of the heavenly realm. “The heavens declare the glory of God” but even greater glory is shown by his handiwork in the community of reconciliation. This community, moreover, consists of human beings who are united in Christ, members of his body, in whom Christ dwells: the glory of God “in the church” cannot be divorced from his glory “in Christ Jesus.” The “glory of God in the face of Christ” has illuminated the hearts of his people (2 Cor. 4:6) and is reflected in the glory which, in life as well as in word, they ascribe to God through Christ.

This ascription of glory will have no end: not only now but “in the ages to come the surpassing wealth of his grace” continues to be shown “in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7), and provides occasion for eternal praise.

The “Amen” which follows the doxology would be the congregation’s response as it was read in their hearing. It is through Christ, as Paul says in another letter, that his people “utter the Amen … to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). With this loud “Amen” the first half of the present letter is concluded.

11-09-2016, 05:16 PM
doesnt he explain it in the sermon you are reading?

When Henry Ward Beecher began his sermon, he made references to places and events that happened over 150 years ago. That's what made the message confusing. Later in the sermon he stated the meaning in more generalized terms. Finally I was able to comprehend what he was saying. I would have asked him about it except he isn't around anymore. That's why I got confused.

John Reece
11-10-2016, 01:24 PM
I wonder if I might take the occasion of this important thread topic/scripture to continue to add scholarly biblical commentary on the subject ― just for information for all who may be interested...

From Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, by Andrew T. Lincoln, via Accordance:

20 τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσπῦ ὦν αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν εκνεργουμένην ἐν ἡνῖν, “now to him who is able to do infinitely more abundantly above all that we ask or think in accordance with the power which is at work within us.” Other ascriptions of glory to God which begin with τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ, “now to him who is able,” can be found in Rom 16:25 (...); Jude 24, 25; and Mart. Pol. 20.2. The English translation obscures the link there is in the Greek text here in v 20 between this verbal form δυναμένῳ, “is able,” and its cognate noun δύναμις, “power.” The preceding prayer had asked that the readers be strengthened through the Spirit with power (v 16). Now the doxology praises the one who possesses this power that is already at work in them, and at work in a way that is far in excess of anything they could request in their prayers or could even imagine. Interestingly, it was at such a point, a description of God’s power, that the writer’s first intercessory prayer-report had begun to digress, “what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty strength” (1:19). Before returning to the theme of God’s power in the second intercessory prayer-report and in this doxology, the writer has earlier declared how God has demonstrated that power in raising and exalting Christ, in doing the same for believers who were spiritually dead, in including Gentiles in his work of salvation, in creating one new humanity out of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, and in energizing the ministry of the apostle Paul, who proclaimed this accomplishment of God in Christ. Earlier, God’s power, effective toward believers (1:19), was said to be actually at work (ἐνεργεῖν) within Christ (1:20). Now that language is used of believers—τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν, “which is at work within us.” N. Baumert (Täglich Sterben und Auferstehen [Munich: Kösel, 1973] 276–79) has argued that this clause should be taken with “ask or think” rather than “do,” so that the meaning would be that God is not even bound by the measure of his own power within us, by which we pray or think, but is able to do more. In addition to the proximity in word order, Baumert claims that the tautological nature of the usual interpretation, and the strangeness of the notion that God’s power at work in us does more than we ask, favor his alternative. But these are weak arguments. In terms of syntax, it is more likely that “in accordance with the power which is at work within us” qualifies “is able to do”; tautologous expressions are quite usual in the rhetorical style of Ephesians; and it is not at all strange that God’s power at work in believers retains a transcendent element and is not simply identified with believers themselves.

Whereas the prayer-report is expressed in the first person singular (cf v 14), the doxology employs the first person plural in this clause. In this way, the readers are drawn further into sharing the writer’s prayer concerns—“we ask”—and his praise. They are also drawn further into the breadth of his vision of God’s power. Not even the boldness of his earlier petition comes near to taxing such power. Neither the boldest human prayer nor the greatest power of human imagination could circumscribe God’s ability to act. Unlike God’s ability to act, the writer’s own rhetorical ability is stretched to breaking point as he attempts to express his vision. He gropes for the highest form of comparison available and finds the very rare compound adverb, ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, used by Paul in 1 Thess 3:10; 5:13. Something of the force of the writer’s rhetoric can be captured by showing the build-up of the thought reflected by his language. God is said to be able to do what believers ask in prayer; he is able to do what they might fail to ask but what they can think; he is able to do all (πάντα) they ask or think; he is able to do above all (ὑπὲρ πάντα) they ask or think; he is able to do abundantly above all (περισσοῦ ὑπὲρ πάντα) they ask or think; he is able to do more abundantly above all (ἐκπερισσῦ ὑπὲρ πάντα) they ask or think; he is able to do infinitely more abundantly above all (ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὑπὲρ πάντα) they ask or think. And what is more, says the writer, this inexpressible power is at work within us! ....