Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 7

image

We come to the conclusion of this series, “Exceeding Abundantly Above.” In all, we looked at six things God has done for us “exceeding abundantly above” above what we ask or think:

• God provided abundant grace that resulted in the establishment of peace between God and man, man and the world around him, and even peace between man and himself, Romans 5:20 and Philippians 4:17;
• God provided abundant pardon when He forgave our sins; there is no person so vile or sin so nasty that God can’t forgive, according to Isaiah 55:7;
• In Christ; there is abundant satisfaction; no believer will ever find satisfaction in anything except Jesus Christ, Psalm 36:8;
• Jesus said that He came to give man the “abundant life”; not just a new life, but the abundant life – life that is better in every way from the life without Christ, John 10:10;
• Not only abundant life, but abundant joy is available in a relationship with Jesus Christ, as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:26.
• And God supplies all the power we need to live victorious Christian lives, Colossians 1:11.

The title of this series is taken from a verse Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Ephesus:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us… (Ephesians 3:20 | KJV)

It’s actually part of a prayer Paul prayed for his friends, so in this final message of this series, we’ll take a closer look at the context of “exceeding abundantly above.”

Broad Context of Ephesians

Around 62 AD, four men set out from Rome, bound for a province in Asia Minor, known today as Turkey. Each of these men was carrying a letter dealing with the Christian faith, addressed to four different churches, written by a jailbird named Paul. The four men were:

• Epaphroditus, who was from Philippi, was carrying a letter addressed to that church;
• Tychicus from Ephesus was carrying a letter addressed to the Ephesians church;
• Epaphras from Colosse was delivering Paul’s letter to the Colossians;
• Onesmus, the one-time runaway slave was delivering the letter that made him famous, which bore the name of its recipient: Philemon.

Each of these letters deals with the Christian church and living the Christian life:

• Philemon is addressed primarily to an individual, but it was meant to read aloud to the church that met in the recipient’s home. It’s all about Christian living in action; how to be a Christian in a pagan society.
• Philippians presents what is arguably the most positive view of the Christian life, showing how dynamic it can be; how joyful it really is with Christ as the focus of it.
• Colossians presents Jesus Christ as the absolute Head of the Church, which is His body. The emphasis in Philippians is on Christ.
• Ephesians puts the emphasis on the Church as the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the head.

Ephesians is a remarkable letter that reveals something about the Church of Jesus Christ that almost nobody knows. Even among Christians, this revealed mystery remains a mystery.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

The Church – believers collectively – is God’s masterpiece. This fact was a mystery in the Old Testament, but it has been reveled in the New Testament. The Church, the place that gets mocked so often, is derided by the world, and avoided by many Christians, is more wonderful and marvelous than any temple made with human hands. It has been constructed of “living stones,” indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And at some point in the future, the Church will leave this world and be presented to Christ as His bride, perfect in every way.

For now though it’s obvious that the Church, God’s masterpiece, is far from perfect. That’s not His fault, it’s ours – we who are members of the Church; members of Christ’s Body. But we shouldn’t feel too bad about it because the Ephesian church was probably as bad or worse. To help them out, Paul offered to pray for them.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (Ephesians 3:14-15 | NIV84)

The reason for the prayer was a simple one the goes back a chapter:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 | NIV84)

Jesus Christ had shed His blood to bring peace to man – peace to both Jew and Gentile, peace between man and God. For the sake of the work Christ accomplished, Paul will pray for the Ephesians. These were the things he requested on their behalf:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16 – 20 NIV)

First request: Strength

The first thing Paul asked God for, and the first thing the Ephesians needed, was to be strengthened in the inner man. This is far more than simply an intellectual exercise or Paul attempting to gin up some courage in his readers. This is a spiritual strength that is not native to the Ephesians or to any believer for that matter, but it is linked to God’s “glorious riches.” In other words, the strength that is available is never ending because God’s riches are eternal and never ending.

That little phrase, “may strengthen you” is an aorist infinitive, which suggests some kind of event that occurs at a certain time. Paul obviously isn’t referring to a conversion experience since he was writing to believers. He seems to be referring to a second or subsequent experience in which the believer receives an empowering or infusion of power from the Holy Spirit, who is already dwelling within them.

This spiritual strengthening is for a very specific purpose that may seem surprising to the modern Christian, whose faith is all about what God can do for them. Note the purpose: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Once again, these are believers so Christ is already dwelling in them in the Person of the Holy Spirit. So the question is, what does Paul mean here? Paul has in mind a further, richer kind of dwelling which occurs when a believer begins to take his faith far more seriously and treats Christ, not so much as a guest but as the Master resident in his heart.

This was Paul’s request for the Ephesians, but elsewhere in Scripture this kind of strengthening of the inner man – this further “filling” of the Spirit – occurs when believers appropriate by faith the truths of God’s Word and give over control of our lives to Him. So it’s a kind of two-way street: Paul prays, but the people need to respond. And this response and this strengthening isn’t just a personal, individual thing, but it takes place within the context of the church. Paul writes about the Ephesians having this power and being “rooted and established in love.” Love in the heart makes for growth and stability in life. How important is love? Dale puts the importance of love into words:

Love [love for others and for God] will not be an intermittent impulse, or even a constant force struggling for its rightful supremacy over baser passions; its authority will be secure; it will be the law of their whole nature; it will be the very life of their life.

Second request: Understanding God’s love

The second petition in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that the Ephesians would come to understand the love of Christ.

may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…. (Ephesians 3:18-19a | NIV84)

The Greek is a little more blunt. He wants the Ephesians to be “made strong to comprehend.” This little request points to the fact that before spiritual comprehension can happen, spiritual strengthening by the power of God must take place. This makes complete sense complete sense because God’s love is spiritual in nature and can only be understood spiritually. Christians need the ministry of the Holy Spirit in order to grasp the love of God. This request reminds us of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen,no ear has heard,no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 | NIV84)

Paul makes a curious statement in the midst of this request: “together with all the saints.” These “deep things of God,” as Paul put it to the Corinthians, are not given to individuals but to the whole Body of Christ. F.F. Bruce comments:

It is a vain thing for Christian individuals or groups to imagine that they can better attain to the fullness of spiritual maturity if they isolate themselves from their fellow believers.

Always be wary of the Christian who claims to have received special “revelation knowledge” from God that no other believer has ever received or thought of before. God works in and through the Body of Christ – the Church.

The thing about Christ’s love is that it “surpasses knowledge.” It does, yet with the help of the Holy Spirit, the believer can come close to grasping it. Even though this love is infinite in it’s scope and perfect in its nature, which means it is beyond our comprehension, we can still experience it and we can catch glimpses – however limited – of its wonderful character. As Hodge noted:

We may know how excellent, how wonderful, how free, now disinterested, how long suffering it is, and that is infinite.

Third request: The fullness of God

that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19b | NIV84)

This could be the third request or the result Paul wants to see from his prayer. No matter how you view this sentence, all believers should want to be filled to the brim with the fullness of God. That’s a very human way of asking for something or wanting something that is essentially impossible. God is infinite so no finite being could ever contain Him. But the aspiration is a sound one. God is the absolute, unlimited source of everything any Christian needs to his life to the full to the glory of God the Father.

Those are the thoughts in behind the verse that we used as a springboard to this series, “exceeding abundantly above”:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 | NIV84)

There are three truths in these verses. First, God “is able to do” anything He wants to, including answering this prayer. God isn’t limited by anything or anybody. Second, God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” The power of God far surpasses the needs and hopes of the human heart. No man can possibly imagine the power, the knowledge, and the compassion of God and how those things work together for our benefit. Lastly, there is a relationship between our present ability to enjoy the benefits of the Holy Spirit and the infinite power of God which is able to do anything.

 

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 7”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 169,865 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 219 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket

%d bloggers like this: