Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)
I have a habit of searching for verses and passages within the Sacred Scriptures which catch my attention, and there are many. Each catches my attention, often, for different reasons. Usually the reason is because the verse, or passage, seems to be saying (or teaching) more than what seems obvious. When this happens, questions pop into my head regarding what I just read, and I want to know the answers.
As well, I have learned that the obvious is not always the reality. What is understood in the English, using modern day concepts, knowledge, and interpretation methods, may only produce a lessor explanation of the meaning, or teaching, of the Scripture in question. I have learned that when reading a verse, or passage from the Bible, and using the knowledge I have gained from the culture of the time, their use of words and phrases, the contexts used as of the writing, and so forth, will often lead me to an understanding which is different from the seemingly obvious one. For example, in Spanish, when one wants to invite everyone they know to a Fiesta, one would use the phrase, “Todo el mundo” (the whole world). The use would be like this, “Invita a todo el mundo.” This means, “Invite the whole world” (literally). The real meaning, which is understood by the speakers and those who heard the phrase uttered is, “Invite anyone who wants to come,” (or everyone). The “todo el mundo” part removes the limit of who may be invited.
For a better understanding of what the Bible teaches or says, one needs to consider several factors, as I pointed out above, to reach a better conclusion as to what the teaching or meaning may be. On the other hand, many times the Bible means exactly what it says.
As far as this article is concerned, I am going to pay careful attention to the Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB) verse listed at the beginning of this article. I use the NASB in all my studies, it is the version of my preference. I usually begin with identifying any key words or phrases (at least from my perspective) and then I go forth.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
For me, the keys words or phrases here are:
- Far more abundantly.
- Beyond all.
- Ask or think.
- According to the Power.
- Works in us.
- The Glory.
These key words or phrases are those which catch my attention. They catch my attention for different reasons, but mostly because they are not immediately clear as to what they mean. The average reader will read these in English and decide immediately that they understand and will, also immediately, stop any further investigation into the possible meaning or teaching of this verse. They will, in essence, think they already understand all that they need to understand from the verse and simply go on to the next one. I am different. I need to know the answers which were not answered by simply reading the verse once.
The first question I have is, “Of whom is this verse speaking?” Notice the phasing in the verse, “Now to Him …, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” Well, since the Lord Jesus is mentioned in the verse, we can safely deduce that He is no the “Him” mentioned twice. A quick glance at the context of the verse in the chapter it is found, tells me that the “Him” referred to here is the Father (see verse 14). This is important because we will also be investigating whom it is that can, “do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”
The second question which comes to mind is, “What is the main argument of the verse, or what is it trying to get across to me?” For example, is it saying that the Father will or must be glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus, or that the Father has the power and ability to work through us and somehow do much more than we are able to ask or conceive, and that He will be glorified in this manner? Actually the answer is, “yes.” They are both right. But, all of this only produces more questions.
The next question which demands an answer is, “What does glorified mean?” The Greek Word is: δόξα (doxa). It is pronounced: dox’-ah. Using the Vine’s Dictionary of Words, it is listed as meaning: Dignity, Dignities, Glory, Glorious, and Honor.
In English it is translated into several other words, though the same Greek word is intended. In the KJV they are: glory 145 (times), glorious 10, honor 6, praise 4, dignity 2, and worship 1. A total number of 168 uses, and all of them, used in different ways, are the same word, “doxa.” The initial intended meaning of the use of this word is: dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, and worship.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words goes on to say that “doxa” has a further signification, “an opinion, estimate, and hence, the honor resulting from a good opinion.” In other words (regarding the Ephesians 3:20-21), that the Father receive high praise, much regard, and be placed in a high position of honor. We can safely say that giving the Father glory means to speak highly of Him, to brag about His ability to do this or that, and to show Him the highest respect (in whatever manner we can) at all times.
So, at this point I feel comfortable that I understand two things regarding the verses in question; one, we are speaking of the Father specifically, and, two, that He must receive glory (as defined above). So then the next question comes up, “Why should the Father be glorified?” The average reader of the Bible will simply answer, “Because He is God!” The answer sounds nice, is the religious response that is appropriate, and is true, but it belies the Biblical instruction to “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1 – I added the bold and italics). More important than knowing the truth, is knowing why it is the truth.” This is the reason those very same Scriptures exhort us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 – I added the bold, underline and italics). So, you see, if someone just spits out an answer because they feel, or believe, that it is the right answer, they are disobeying the Scriptures’ instruction to test the “spirit.”
So, let’s go back to the question, “Why should the Father be glorified?” The answer is found in the verses themselves. The Father should be glorified because He is, “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” That’s why! But, this now presents even more questions. The next one that I have is, “What is this “power” to which the verse refers?”
The Greek word is: δύναμις (dynamis). The phonetic pronunciation is:doo’-nam-is. Vine’s Dictionary of Words says it means: Ability, Able, Meaning, Might (Noun), Mighty, Mightily, Mightier, Miracle, Power, Strength, and Strengthen.” It is used in the Bible 120 times, and it was translated in those different locations as: power 77, mighty work 11, strength 7, miracle 7, might 4, virtue 3, mighty 2, and miscellaneous translations 9 times. The definition includes (literal or figurative); specially miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself) :- ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, and might (wonderful) work (according to Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). By the way, this is the Greek word which we use to get the English word, “dynamite” from.
If we are careful and pay attention to the definition and meaning given by these sources, we can reach a conclusion as to what this word “power” means, in relation to this verse. Since it is something that “works within us,” it does not necessarily imply that it is a natural part of us. In other words, it may be something that can enter us, perform its function, and then leave. The phrasing of the verse, and the context of the verse in the chapter, does not allow an interpretation which includes this power being a natural part of us as humans. Therefore we must reach the conclusion that it is something that can function within us, but not necessarily be controlled by us alone.
In any case, it seems, based on the data garnered from the above resources, the word “power” here means: a dynamic ability which is not controlled by us, and which is capable of miraculous results and performance. What I get from this is that there is a power which can function in us (as humans) which is able to accomplish powerful and miraculous things. And, continuing with the context of the verse, it seems that this power comes from, or is used by, the Father. This last point is important to me, because the question of ability (as in, “who is able to”) is answered by the fact that it is the Father who is the One who is “able.” Jesus Himself clearly states in Matthew 19:26, that, “with God all things are possible.” So there is no question of the Fathers ability to do whatever.
Therefore, we go to the next question, “How does this power “work” in us? I believe that the answer will be found by understanding the phrase, “according to” which precedes in the verse itself. I won’t go into all of the Greek word usage and Vine’s explanations again, but I will summarize. The phrase “according to” implies a pattern of sorts, conditions or stipulations, requirements or steps which must be followed. So therefore the safe conclusion we can make is that the phrase “according to” in this verse is indicating that there is a process which must be applied for this “power” to “work” in us. This could mean that the Father Himself would need to do some specific things, or that we would need to do some specific things for this power to “work” in us. In either case, something seems to be required for the “power” to “work” in us.
The next obvious question is, “What are the requirements?” The verse does not say, nor is the answer found in the chapter. But, the real question is not just, “What are the requirements,” but instead, “Are these ‘requirements’ something that we as humans must know?” The answer to that question will answer the first. To find out whether we, as humans, must know what those “requirements” may be, we must first decide whether it is we, or the Father who must meet the “requirements.” And that, dear reader, depends on how this power works “in” us.
So therefore, my next question is, “What does the verse mean when it says “in us?” Specifically, I question the word, “in.” Is this saying that this power:
- Literally enters humans, so that it resides in us.
- Or is it saying that it is something that humans may use, but not necessarily be inside us.
- Or is it saying that the Father uses this “power” in an external manner that affects humans internally, or our lives, as such?”
I have a tendency to go for the last point. In context with the rest of the Bible, in general, the third option above make more sense. I believe that the verse is teaching that the Father has the ability to bring about “miraculous” circumstances in the lives of those who meet the conditions required for this “power” to perform its intended function.
When I say “those who meet the conditions required,” I am not saying that I believe the verse is indicating that we as humans must do anything as such. I am saying, though, that I believe the context of this verse implies that there are conditions which must exist in humans, for the Father to then use this “power” to affect our lives. For example, in Mark 19:26, Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The question there is not whether “all” things are possible, but rather how all things are possible. The statement clearly dictates that belief is required. It does not make an obvious clarification as to whom must have this belief, but by implication, and the following actions of Christ Jesus Himself, the understanding is that the one performing is the one required to believe.
So, though the Ephesians verse does not have a clear indication of whom is to meet whatever conditions are required, the context which includes the Mark verse teaching, will allow us to conclude that it could be either the Father Himself, or the human involved, who must meet the required condition for the “power” to work. But, in this specific case, there is one more consideration, God must be the One getting the “glory.” So, with this in mind, we can now safely conclude that it is the Father Himself who must meet the conditions required to use the “power that works within us.” If it is He who meets the conditions, and “works the power,” then it is He who deserves the glory (credit) for the outcome of the use of the “power.”
My next question has to do with the phrase, “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” The word “abundant” is one that is readily clear, it means, “plentiful, copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, and bountiful” In other words, enough; enough of whatever for whatever purpose or use. The general belief in regards to the provision of God (or rather, what God can provide) is that He always provides what is needed; therefore: enough (abundant).
In the case of this verse, though, it is saying that the Father is able to go “beyond” the limits of enough. “Enough” should, in and of itself, be enough. Who needs more than enough? If the Father were to only give each believer “enough” they would never lack in anything, right? But the argument here is that the Father can is able to go “beyond” the enough. Not only that, but that he is able to go beyond, “all that we ask or think.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but, as you can see by this rather long article on just two verses from the Bible, I can think quite a lot. So, we must investigate this phrase a bit more. The question here is, “What does this verse mean by all that we ask or think?” To understand the meaning in it clearest form, let’s look at the word “all.” Not to be silly, but “all” in the Greek still means “all.” By implication, in this verse it means “Everything that we (as humans) can come up with to ask of God. What would this include for you? For me, I could write a book of around 100,000 words (sort of like a long novel), and I probably would still not be finished. Why, you might ask? Because I am human.
Humans are born selfish. Give two babies a toy each, and they will want the toy of the other, even if it is the same type of toy. Why? Because we are born selfish. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn to become less selfish, and more selfless. We never stop being selfish, but in many of us, we learn to sacrifice some of that selfishness for the greater good. Usually that “greater good” is something that benefits us as well also. So, when it comes to what we can ask God for, we have an “abundant,” or should I say, plethora of requests and supplications. We can ask God for some things which will benefits us alone, our families, our friends, our church members, our country, the world, and so forth. There almost seems to be no limit to what we, as humans, can ask of God. Nevertheless, the verse claims that the Father is able to do “more” abundantly (more than enough) than we ask.
On top of that, the verse further claims that the Father is not only able to do “more” than we ask, but that He is able to do “more abundantly” than we think. This to me is the biggest point of the two verses. This is the main key word. This is where the conditions (for the power to be able to work in us), if any, may be found.
As I said before, I don’t know about you, but I have a fantastic imagination. I am a writer, as you can see. I also write books about politics, counseling, and in August of 2015, I just published my latest book, “Another Star in the Sky.” This last book, is a science fiction story about aliens who come to Earth. If you go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords on the internet, you can buy a copy of the book. The story has over 60,000 words in it. My point is that I have a rather limitless imagination. I can understand abstract concepts with which some people may have problem. There are many people on this planet who have the same capacity as I, and maybe even better.
My point is that if the Father is able to do “more than enough” compared to what I can imagine, then He is truly magnificent. I can imagine the Father blessing me with 200 million dollars. With that kind of money, the first thing I would do is set aside a simple 50 million for personal expenses. J Then I would create a non-profit corporation and donate the remaining 150 million. Via the corporation, I would find ways to help people, churches, and so forth, in the name of the Father, so that He would get all the credit (glory). In many cases, I would make sure the people or organizations did not know who gave the money, so that God would get all the credit, and not me. Sure it would feel great to give people money (in the name of the Lord) and for them to be thankful to me as well, but, for him to get the glory (honor, worship, and praise) most of the time the recipients could not know from where the money came. You see, I can imagine much. And, by the way, I just used a small number like 200 million as an example, I can imagine a much larger amount.
So, then, getting back to our discussion regarding Ephesians 3:20-21, what is it exactly that the verse is saying, and what is it teaching. These are two different points:
- It says that the Father should get all the credit for His ability to perform miracles and do things, which can be beyond the comprehension of any human, when the human is willing to believe in His capacity to do so, because the performance of those things requires belief (in this case it probably means to have faith in God’s ability) in the human. And, that the Father should get this credit from His church, as He already does from His Son, our Lord Christ Jesus, forever and ever.
- It teaches that God wants us to learn to free our imaginations, when it comes to what He is able to do. He wants us to believe big, to dream of great things that He can accomplish in our lives, and to not doubt ourselves as to how greatly He can use us.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)