We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.
Now to him… | Eph. 3:20–21
The core of the first half of Ephesians, as we have already seen a few days ago, is made up of three salvation stories that Paul strings together in 2:1–10, 11–22 and 3:1–13, to ground his readers’ understanding of themselves and their understanding of their present circumstances in the story of what God has done for them. But those salvation stories do not make up the totality of Ephesians 1–3: wrapped around them are concentric layers of prayer and doxology (i.e. praise):
Eph. 1:3–14: Doxology
Eph. 1:15–23 Prayer
Eph. 2:1—3:13 Salvation stories
Eph. 3:14–19 Prayer
Eph. 3:20–21 Doxology
The effect is to surround Paul’s words to the Ephesians, reminding them about the things that God has done, with words that they are implicitly invited him to join with him in offering up to God in prayer and praise. The Ephesians are to understand themselves not only as a saved community but as a worshipping community, who live in daily dependence on God, and exist to give him glory and praise.
Here in Eph. 3:20–21, Paul returns to the same note of praise with which he started the letter in 1:3–14, closing out the letter’s first half with a brief but exultant doxology:3:20-21 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Having reminded the Ephesians of God’s saving power (e.g. in 2:1–10) and prayed that they would understand and remember it (e.g. in 1:15–23), he now celebrates that same power in words of praise offered up to God. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, and brought us out of spiritual death into life and salvation through the gospel, is now, day by day, “at work within us.” And this is not a reason for us to puff out our chests triumphalistically, as if it were some sort of achievement of our own: the glory and the praise all belong to God.
And Paul wants us to remember, too, the vast throng of fellow-believers with whom we join in experiencing and celebrating these things. Not only does Paul implicitly invite the Ephesians to join him in these words of praise (note the “we” and the “us” of verse 20); he also joins their praises with the praises of all the church, through all generations, for ever and ever. That is what we were made for; that is what we were saved for; and that is what our joyful occupation will be, for all the ages of eternity.
To think about
Look back over the first three chapters of Ephesians again. What are the main things you want to cement in your memory and consciousness as reasons to thank and praise God? Choose a verse or two (or more, if you wish!) and figure out a way in which you can start committing it to memory today.