Summary: 26th in a series from Ephesians. For Paul, God’s power in his life, as described in the first three chapters is enough.
Just a few minutes ago, I asked you to share one of your favorite Bible passages with someone else. Now it’s my turn to share one of my favorites with you. Let’s read it out loud together:
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 (NIV)
Isn’t that an awesome passage? But I have to be honest with you this morning. The reason that these verses have been among my favorites is that I, along with many others, I would suspect, have taken this verse out of context and used it in a way that it was never intended to be used.
If we separate this verse from its context in Ephesians, it is easy to make this passage, especially verse 20, into the basis for what is known as the prosperity gospel. The proponents of that theology would claim that this verse means that God is able to give you more than what you could ask for or even imagine. So if you ask for a Hyundai, God will give you a Lexus. If you ask for a $250,000 house, God will give you a million dollar house. In other words, we’ve used this verse to make God into some big “genie in the sky.”
Which is obviously a perfect segue into this story about a genie:
One day, a man was walking along the beach and came across an odd-looking bottle. Not being one to ignore tradition, he rubbed it and, much to his surprise, a genie actually appeared.
"For releasing me from the bottle, I will grant you three wishes," said the genie. The man was ecstatic. "But there’s a catch," the genie continued.
"What catch?" asked the man, eyeing the genie suspiciously.
The genie replied, "For each of your wishes, every lawyer in the world will receive double what you asked for."
"Hey, I can live with that! No problem!" replied the elated man.
"What is your first wish?" asked the genie.
"Well, I’ve always wanted a Ferrari!"
Poof! A Ferrari appeared in front of the man. "Now, every lawyer in the world has been given two Ferraris," said the genie.
"What is your next wish?"
"I could really use a million dollars ..." replied the man, and Poof!, one million dollars appeared at his feet.
"Now, every lawyer in the world is two million dollars richer," the genie reminded the man.
"Well, that’s okay, as long as I’ve got my million," replied the man.
"And what is your final wish?" asked the genie.
The man thought long and hard, and finally said, "Well, you know, I’ve always wanted to donate one of my kidneys ..."
But God is obviously far more than just a genie who grants our wishes. Taken in its proper context, this verse is far more significant than just being the basis for us to receive material blessings from God. In fact, I would suggest to you that this passage is the key passage in the entire book of Ephesians. It provides us with a bridge, or a transition, from the doctrine contained in the first three chapters of Ephesians to the more practical application of that doctrine in the last three chapters. It causes us to look back and see how the power of God has already been at work in our lives. And it causes us to look forward to see how that same power gives us the ability to live a life that brings God glory.
Go ahead and take out your Bibles and turn to the Book of Ephesians. To be real honest, there’s not a whole lot new in my message this morning. More than anything, this is going to be a review of our journey over the last eight months.
When Paul writes that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to His power at work within us, he is not making some general statement about God’s power or His ability to work in our lives. I’m convinced that when Paul writes that, he is looking back at everything he has written up to this point. The first three chapters of Ephesians are a beautiful description of the working of God’s power in our lives.
A LOOK BACK – GOD’S POWER AT WORK IN US
Before we review how God has already worked in our lives, I think we first need to identify what this power is. Fortunately for us, Paul has already defined that for us:
• What is this power at work in us?
...his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.