A Commentary by John Stott
Ephesians 3:20:21. 3). The conclusion of his prayer.
We notice now that the apostle’s four petitions are sandwiched between two references to God. In verses 14-16 he is the Father of the whole family and possess infinite riches in glory; in verses 20 and 21 he is the one who works powerfully within us. Such a God can answer prayer.
God’s ability to answer prayer is forcefully stated by the apostle in a composite expression of seven stages. (1) He is able to *do* or to work (*poiesai*), for he is neither idle, nor inactive nor dead. (2) He is able to do what *we ask*, for he hears and answers prayer. (3) He is able to do what we ask *or think*, for he reads our thoughts, and sometimes we imagine things for which we dare not and therefore do not ask. (4) He is able to do *all* that we ask or think, for he knows it all and can perform it all. (5) He is able to do *more…than (hyper*, ‘beyond’) all that we ask or think, for his expectations are higher than ours. (6) He is able to do much more, or *more abundantly (perissos*), than all that we ask or think, for he does not give his grace by calculated measure. (7) He is able to do very much more, *far more abundantly*, than all that we ask or think, for he is a God of super-abundance. This adverb *hyperekperissou* is one of Paul’s coined ‘super-superlatives’. English equivalents which have been proposed are ‘immeasurably more’ (NIV) or ‘vastly more than more’, but perhaps the feel of it is best conveyed by ‘infinitely more’ (AG, JBP). It states simply that there are no limits to what God can do.
The infinite ability of God to work beyond our prayers, thoughts and dreams is *by the power at work within us*, within us individually (Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith) and within us as a people (who are the dwelling place of God by his Spirit). It is the power of the resurrection, the power that raised Christ from the dead, enthroned him in the heavenlies, and then raised and enthroned us there with him. That is the power which is at work within the Christian and the church.
Paul’s prayer relates to the fulfilment of his vision for God’s new society of love. He asks that its members may be strengthened to love and to know the love of Christ, though this surpasses knowledge. But then he turns from the love of God past knowing to the power of God past imagining, from limitless love to limitless power. For he is convinced, as we must be, that only divine power can generate divine love in the divine society.
To add anything more would be inappropriate, except the doxology. *To him be glory*, Paul exclaims, to this God of resurrection power who alone can make the dream come true. The power comes from him; the glory must go to him. To him be glory *in the church and in Christ Jesus together*, in the body and in the Head, in the bride and in the Bridegroom, in the community of peace and in the Peacemaker, to *all generations (in history), for ever and ever (in eternity), Amen*.
Tomorrow: Ephesians 4:1-16. Unity and diversity in the church.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|