To Him Who is Able
Ephesians Lesson #104
May 9, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are so thankful that we have You, that we can know about You, and that You have given us everything we need. Our total bent and orientation is toward self-sufficiency, yet we need You every moment of every hour. Father, we need to be reminded that we are nothing without You, and with You we are everything.
“Father, we thank You for the opportunities we’ve had to go through these first three chapters of Ephesians and to learn of so many of the things that You have accomplished for us, that You have provided for us, and the way in which we partake of the wealth that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Help us to understand these things and focus on the great praise at the end of Ephesians 3 that we may learn more about You. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 3, looking at the last couple of verses in the chapter. We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Ephesians 3 because there is so much here. When I read through the Scriptures, and go from phrase to phrase, clause to clause and sentence to sentence, more and more I realize that so much that is said in the New Testament just carries a lot of baggage.
It is loaded with allusions to things that assume that the reader knows something about the Old Testament and something about the Gospels. Yet we live in a world today when so many don’t know a whole lot about any of these things, because sadly many churches are not like us.
They are not encouraged to read through the Scriptures, so that they can become biblically literate. They are not encouraged to memorize Scripture. They’re not encouraged to spend hours each week focusing on the Lord in prayer, in thanksgiving, in private independent worship, and spending time just learning the Word.
Yesterday we had a memorial service here in the afternoon, and I was again reminded, we often hear people say, “Well, why do you do this or why do you do that and, you can’t take it with you when you go.” The only thing that we can take with us when we die is what we know of God’s Word. The spiritual maturity that we develop in this life goes with us into heaven. That’s it!
Often, we spend so much time on those things that just have a temporal value. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is a matter of priorities. That when all is said and done, we don’t want to look back on our lives and say, “I wasted a lot of time that I could have, should have used in order to understand more about God and more about His Word.”
In the closing two verses in this great section that we have studied, Paul, as he has gone through this last section, it just has elevated his soul, and he just gives a great praise to God. Let’s remind ourselves what has happened in the previous few verses.
I’ve entitled the message today “To Him Who is Able” because this is how Ephesians 3:20 begins. Because we had communion, we won’t begin the summary of Ephesians 1–3, so you don’t have to worry about that.
In this prayer that began back in Ephesians 3:14, Paul is focusing on the fact that each of us needs to grow spiritually.
It’s a stair step prayer. People read it in the English and think he’s praying for this and this and this, indicated by the “thats.” But there’s a stair step, an orderly progression. First pray for one thing; that leads to the next level that leads to the next level, and then the ultimate result.
I have used the illustration of a staircase to maturity. Paul prays to the Father. He says in Ephesians 3:14, “… I bow my knees to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Ephesians 3:16 he gets into the heart of the prayer, the purpose of the prayer, the main thing that he is praying for: that God the Father would use the Spirit to strengthen us with might in our inner man.
That’s an important theme because he uses “strengthen” and “might” related to power. That’s a focal point when we come to this benediction in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able—indicating God’s power, God’s ability—to do—again, has to do with God’s power and God’s ability—according to the power that works in us.”
There are four different words there that all relate to God’s ability and God strength and God’s power. His prayer at the end is that God would strengthen us through the Holy Spirit with might in the inner man.
That’s his prayer, but why do we need that? Well, because it produces something, it will produce a result: that Christ will make His home in us.
Christ indwells every believer. Every single one of us, the instant we’re saved, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit indwell us. When we are indwelt by the Trinity that is a positional reality. That’s our legal position before God. But in and of itself, it is not fellowship. It is the foundation so that we can have that fellowship with God.
The word “fellowship” is often misunderstood and misapplied in so many different churches. You’ll hear announcements like “following the service we’re going to have a fellowship back in the fellowship hall.” That’s not quite right.
The Greek word indicates a close rapport between people who are moving towards a common objective, a common goal. Throughout the Bible we are constantly challenged to do what? To walk with the Lord. We have phrases like “abide in Christ,” “walk in the light,” “walk in the truth,” “walk by the Holy Spirit.” All are language that represents spiritual growth and that intimacy with God.
That’s what Paul is praying for here. Christ making His home in us is taking that positional indwelling to a level of experience, where because we are being strengthened spiritually, we’re growing spiritually, Christ becomes more and more at home in our lives. But that’s not the endgame; the endgame is Step 4.
The purpose of which is that we can begin to comprehend the immensity of Christ’s love for us. Because His love is infinite, we’re never going to get there, not in this life, not in eternity, because we are always going to be finite.
Our knowledge is always going to be finite. We will never be able to reach that as an end goal, but we’re constantly going to be learning more and more about that.
The ultimate result for that is Step 5, so that we may be spiritually mature and reflect the love of Christ—the love that Christ has for us to those around us, so that we can be Christlike. God is concerned about building in us a reflection of the character of Christ.
That’s described as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–24. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. All of that is part of the fruit of the Spirit that reflects the character of Christ. This represents that movement from spiritual immaturity and infancy to spiritual maturity.
Paul finishes by expressing this incredible statement of praise to God, Ephesians 3:20–21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
This verse begins with a little transition word, “Now,” which brings him to the close of this section that began back in Ephesians 1:1. He is focusing our attention upon God the Father. That’s what he means when he says, “Now to Him.”
The purpose of this is expressed in Ephesians 3:21, “to Him be glory in the church.” This lets us know that this is all about giving praise to God. The English word that describes this is doxology.
Doxology is formed from two Greek words: DOXA, which means glory; and we know LOGOS, in the beginning was the word, so LOGOS relates to word, speech, communication or message. In combining DOXA with LOGOS, you get a message or a word or statement about God’s glory.
There are two different ways in the New Testament in which doxologies are expressed. One is like what we have here. The other is like what we have back in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
When we look at that, as I pointed out when we first started the book, that often the term “blessed,” that you see in the psalms, is just a synonym for praise, a time to praise God. This opens with praise of God, praise of what He has done, praise of His essence, praise of His glory, and it concludes with a doxology.
Looking at the structure here, what might this tell us about the first three chapters? It begins with a statement of praise, it ends with a statement of praise. That tells us that these three chapters are a unit that they go together. As a matter of fact, the word DOXA is used about eight times in the first three chapters. This is the last time it’s used. It is not mentioned in Ephesians 4, 5, or 6.
Ephesians 1–3 are all about God, what He has done for us, what He has provided for us. All of this comes out of Who God is, His essence; the attributes of God. All of that relates to Who God is, and in the background of the development of Jewish thought after the close of the Old Testament, they would simply refer to all of God’s essence, everything that makes God, God as His glory.
“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” is saying all have sinned and fall short of everything that God is, all of His attributes. We just don’t measure up at all.
This is a very important statement here that is related to why we praise God—that this is to express the value of who He is, or in short form, His glory.
Ephesians 3:20 begins with this statement, “Now to Him who is able …” These five words in English are expressed by just two words in Greek. DUNAMAI is the verb form of DUNAMIS, from which we get the word “dynamite.”
You always find somebody who’s not real literate in Greek, and they’ll talk about God’s given us the power of dynamite. Not exactly.
It has to do with ability, it has to do with what somebody is capable of. So, when this references God—in talking about God’s power, which we will look at—it focuses us on God’s omnipotence, that God is all powerful.
“What the Bible Teaches about the Power of God.”
We have to go back to the Old Testament to begin to understand the power of God. But first we’re going to understand the terminology.
1. The power of God is unlimited. God is infinite in all of His attributes.
- He’s infinite in His power—He is Omnipotent
- He’s infinite in His knowledge—He is Omniscient.
- God is everywhere; He is present to every molecule of His creation—He is Omnipresent.
Talking about God’s omnipotence, some people facetiously say, “Well, can God make a circle a square?” different things like that. But that misses the whole point which is that God is able to do whatever He needs to do to accomplish His purposes. He has unlimited capabilities, unlimited ability, and unlimited power.
When we talk about the essence of God, we focus on these 10 different attributes.
- He is Sovereign. That means He rules over His creation because God created everything. Scripture says again and again God created the heavens. Think about what that means: God created that the space-time continuum.
He created space, and He filled the space with all of the stars, all of the galaxies, solar systems, everything He created. God created the heavens and the earth. In Hebrew that is a figure of speech indicating totality.
There’s nothing you can think of that isn’t within the heavens and the earth. God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, Exodus 20. This refers to God’s omnipotent power to create all things. He created the DNA chain.
We’ve just discovered a lot of things and think we know it, but I bet in another 20, 30, 40 years we will break that down into numerous subcomponents. God throughout all of eternity has always known everything there is to know about the DNA chain, because He created it.
It first existed in His mind throughout all of eternity. Think about that. Don’t think too much, you might go crazy. God designed all of that, so we see that if God designed it all and He thought it all, and then He made it, that there is an intimate connection between His omniscience and His omnipotence.
God is powerful enough to do everything because God knows everything in detail. He is able to bring it all about. So we talk about the fact that God is sovereign. He is the ruler over His creation.
The next three attributes:
- He is Righteous: the standard of His character. He’s absolutely perfect, absolute perfection. He doesn’t do anything wrong. He is the standard of perfection.
- He is Just: the application of those standards to His creation.
People say, “Well, there’s not a lot of justice going on right now.” God understands that because He created man, and man rebelled against God, and that brought sin into creation. There’s nothing we can do to get rid of that sin other than what God says to do, and that’s to start at the cross and trust Christ as Savior, and then grow to spiritual maturity.
Eventually Christ will return to the Earth, and establish His Kingdom, the last dispensation, and He will reign for one thousand years. Then comes the end, but not until then.
Even under the perfect rule of a perfectly righteous king who is perfectly just, sinful men will be born during that time, and they’ll end up rebelling against God, and they will be as numberless as the sand on the seashore. Then Satan will be released, and he’ll lead them in rebellion against God, and then God will incinerate them.
That is all part of God’s plan because He’s teaching something about how destructive sin is, that even if everything else is perfect, when the human heart is corrupted by sin, nothing will be perfect, and there will always be problems.
- God is Love. His love was demonstrated at the cross by sending His Son to pay for the penalty of sin, so that we could eventually have that problem solved.
- He’s Eternal Life. He has no beginning and no end. He is eternal; He is infinite.
- Veracity means He is absolutely true, meaning that the Word of God comes from God. It is absolute truth. We can always count on it.
- He is Immutable: He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
2. He is Almighty, one of the titles for God in the Old Testament to express His omnipotence.
This comes from the Hebrew title given to God in the Old Testament, El Shaddai. El is God, Shaddai is almighty or all powerful. He is Almighty God.
In Exodus 6:3 God is talking to Moses, and He reminds Moses that He is the One who appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, as God Almighty.
Because He is Almighty, we know that He can accomplish what He purposes, He can accomplish what He promises. He doesn’t promise us anything He cannot and will not do. We can always trust Him.
3. God is able to do everything. He created everything, so that His power is so immense that we can’t possibly comprehend. It is greater than anything we can imagine, beyond our wildest dreams. No science-fiction writer can even come close to understanding, comprehending the power of God.
Job 42:2 says to God, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”
Nothing can block God from achieving His purposes in our lives, in our world, and in history.
4. God’s omnipotence and His omniscience are interconnected. What He can do is determined by His knowledge and He knows everything.
Let’s just take some simple example. God created everything, so we know that the most minute elements, particles, the most basic part of anything, we boil it down and we call it a molecule. We know there are sub-molecular particles, but let’s just think about a molecule.
Who first thought of a molecule? God always thought of molecules. He always knew what molecules were, and how they would work. He knew all the complexities of molecules. Things we haven’t even dreamed about yet. He knew that by creating certain basic molecules that they could combine in extraordinary ways and in a multiplicity of different ways.
God is the Creator. To sort of make this a little anthropomorphic, God is sitting back, His hand on His head, thinking, “What am I going to do?” He says, “Well, one of the things I want to do is I want to talk about the importance of spiritual life, and I need something that’ll symbolize that.”
You realize God knew all this forever. His knowledge is intuitive; He doesn’t learn anything. But He’s thinking, “Well, if I take a couple of hydrogen molecules and combine them with an oxygen molecule, we’re going to come up with an incredible compound called water.”
It’s one of the greatest solvents in the whole creation. You can dissolve anything with it, wash anything with it, you can use it for all kinds of things. It’s a basic component of life. Drink it, and it gives you life. Don’t drink it, you don’t have life. It’s a picture of cleansing of sin. It’s a picture of the life that we get from the Savior.
All of these things He builds into His creation; He has the power to do that. And we are only beginning to comprehend those minute structures within molecular development and the sub-atomic particles, every one of which was designed to function perfectly by God. It’s not an accident; it’s all controlled by Him, too. He sustains the universe, so that it will be here to accomplish all of His purposes.
A couple things from the Old Testament. You can turn there; I will read a couple of these passages for you.
In Exodus 15:2 something has just happened: the event of the Israelites leaving Egypt and their escape through, as God miraculously parted, the Red Sea. Here we have water again. He knows all the components; He could part it. The ground is perfectly dry, and you have 3 million Israelites leaving. God did all of that!
Afterward, Moses writes a song to praise God. Exodus 15:2–6, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him, my Father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Then he begins to talk about these things that God has done related to His power.
“The Lord is a man of war—He just wiped out the greatest army on the face of the earth at that time, and that was the army of Pharaoh. It was the greatest empire that existed on the earth at that time—The Lord is a man of war, Yahweh is His name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them. They sank to the bottom like a stone.”
“Your right hand, O Lord—in Scripture the power of God is expressed as His arm or His hand—Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power. Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.”
Deuteronomy 3:24, “Oh Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness—with all these miracles that Moses saw, he says ‘You only began to show me what You can do’—and Your mighty hand, for what God is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds?”
That’s God’s omnipotence. In this verse we’re studying in Ephesians, that is what’s made available to us, which we’ve seen all through Ephesians 1–3.
Deuteronomy 33:26–27, “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun—a Hebrew nickname for Israel—Who rides the heavens to help you, and in His Excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’ ”
Job 9:4–10, some verses where Job is reflecting upon God, “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?” Many people think they can take God on, but no one has ever prospered by doing that.
“He removes the mountains, and they do not know when He overturns them in His anger. He shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble. He commands the sun, and it does not rise. He seals off the stars.”
“He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea. He made the Bear—Ursa Major—Orion, the Pleiades—constellations—and the chambers of the south. He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number.” This expresses for us the omnipotence of God which is so necessary for our spiritual life.
Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
We have the power of God! No matter what we face in life, it doesn’t surprise God. God knew about it from eternity past. God has the power to get us through it, to sustain us and to enable us to learn and grow as a result of it.
Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able—He has omnipotent ability—to do …”
HUPEREKPERISSOU, which basically means “beyond your wildest imagination,”… beyond anything that we can ask or think …” beyond anything that we’ve ever thought of, God is able to do that.
How does he do it? “… according to the power that works within us.”
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He uses the preposition KATA, indicating “according to a standard.” That standard is this power that works in us. We’ve already learned about this in the last three chapters.
Ephesians 1:19 Paul writes, “… and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”
Ephesians 1:20 he says this power is that “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” That’s the power that’s available to us: the power of resurrection.
Ephesians 3:7, talking about the gospel, “of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.”
When we’re saved, the fact that:
- we are born again is a result of His power
- we have eternal life is the result of His power
- the Holy Spirit indwells us is the work of His power
- we have a spiritual gift is the result of His power.
Ephesians 3:16, “… that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might …” This prayer started back in Ephesians 3:14. We are to be strengthened with the strength of His might.
That is the starting point, Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able—who is omnipotent, to Him who has unlimited strength and power and the knowledge to use it, and use it correctly—abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to that power that works in us—that is in us.”
In Ephesians 3:16 he said that we are “to be strengthened through the Holy Spirit with might in the inner man.” It’s the same usage in Ephesians 3:17 talking about in the heart—our inner man. Here it works in us—in the inner man.
Concluding Ephesians 3:21, “to Him—to God the Father—be glory …”
Glory is an interesting word, which we’ve studied many times. In the Hebrew, they are very concrete in their understanding of abstract ideas, so “glory” is really a word that means something that is heavy, something that is weighty, and therefore, gives the meaning of something that is important.
When it says, “to Him be glory,” it’s about expressing the importance, the significance, the centrality of who God is: that He is the One without Whom none of us can do. He has everything, He is everything.
We are to praise His glory because He is the most significant, important person in our life or that we could ever have in our life. We give HIM the glory. We stress how important HE is to us, how central HE is to us.
Ephesians 3:21, “to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations…”
When we look at “in the church,” it’s talking about what we’ve just seen in the last two chapters. As God created this new entity, this body of Christ, we are a new man, a new person. We are a new construction, a new building, a new temple. All reference the corporate entity of the church.
He is going to be glorified in the church in all of us who are in the body of Christ.
Ephesians 3:21, “by Christ Jesus,” which I think is the correct reading. That’s in the King James and New King James and the majority of manuscripts. Some older manuscripts have “and” there, so it reads, “in the church and in Christ Jesus,” which expresses a completely different idea.
But the majority of manuscripts plus a number of ancient translations, such as the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac and some others all have the reading that is recognized in the King James.
Ephesians 3:21, “to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus …” He is the One Who is the Head of the Church. He is the One whose body we are in the Church. This is going—to be for all generations—in the future—forever and ever.”
Ephesians 2:7, the fact that in the ages to come, “He might show the exceeding riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” This is talking about how we will be on display as trophies of grace: what God has done in the Church, through the Church, and for the Church throughout all generations.
The only way to really be a member of the church, the Body of Christ, is to trust in Christ as Savior, and at that instant a lot of things happen to each one of us, one of which is that we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. And we enter into what is called the body of Christ, the Church universal, and we are His forever. We can never lose that salvation.
“Our Father, we thank You for this opportunity to look at these things this morning, to be reminded of who we are in Christ, who we are in the Church, in this new body, in this new man.
“And Father, we pray that we would be challenged by this, recognizing that life is not composed of that which we see and that which we taste and touch and smell. But that life is in You, and we are to see that life expand.
“Jesus didn’t say, “I came to give you a bunch of rules and get you depressed,” He said, “I came to give life and give it abundantly,” and, “I give you My joy.” So we are to be among the happiest, joyful people, no matter what the circumstances. We are created anew and placed in Him forever and ever.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone listening to this message this morning, anyone listening on the Internet, that it would be clear that we all have to face this decision. Where will we spend eternity? What happens after we die physically?
“That question is answered clearly in Scripture. It depends on what you think about Jesus Christ. If you trust in Him alone as your Savior, then you have everlasting life that can never be taken from you. But if you don’t trust in Him, then you do not.
“So Father, we pray that anyone listening would make a clear decision to trust in Christ, and at that instant God knows you’re trusting in Him and He gives you eternal life.
“Father, we ask that You challenge us with these things in Christ’s name, amen.”