By James W. Adams
Unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Eph. 3:20,21).
Antecedent to our text, Paul had prayed for the understanding of the Ephesians to be enlightened that they might know: (1) the hope of God’s calling; (2) the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints; (3) the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward the believer (Eph. 1:15-19). God’s hope in calling the believer out of the world was to save him from the love of sin in the heart, the practice of sin in the life, and the guilt of sin in the conscience, and in Christ, to transform him by divine power into the spiritual image of the Son of God. The aggregate of such redeemed and transformed believers constituted for God a rich and glorious inheritance. With this in mind, Paul had previous ly said that, when the Lord returned to “judge the world in righteous ness,” he would also “come to be r, glorified in his saints, and to be ad mired in all them that believe” (2 Thess. 1:6-10). He had said also, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
To encourage the Ephesians to fulfill God’s hope, Paul prayed for them to accept it as a practical possibility. To assure them that such was so, he directs them away from their purely human power as the means of accomplishment to the almighty power of God which would work in them – the power demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus.
Reaching a glorious climax in his crescendo of praise of God’s provisions for human redemption,’Paul looks back to his opening prayer and says, “Unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which works in us (emphasis jwa), unto him be glory in the church of Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” Based on this text, some erroneously refer to themselves as “The Church By Jesus Christ.” This is an abuse of the text. While the church is built, purchased, and possessed by Christ (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28), this is not what Paul is saying in our text. “Be the glory” is the predicate of the sentence: “glory” is modified by three prepositional. phrases: (1) in the church; (2) by Christ Jesus; (3) throughout all ages. In this text, the glory is by Christ Jesus as to source from whence it comes, and in Christ Jew as to the relationship in which it is enjoyed and by which it is manifested. “By Christ Jesus. ” modifies “glory,” not “church.
How God’s Power Works In Us
Paul had prayed also that the Ephesians “be strengthened by his (God’s jwa) Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith, that being rooted and grounded in love, they might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, length, depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that they might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19). God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit and here pictured as working in the inner man of the believer to effect the purpose of God.
Please observe that this “in working” is through the avenue of the believer’s faith (v. 17). In his letter to the Romans, Paul affirms: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). In keeping with this, he also said, “By revelation was made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words; whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:2,3). God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit work in the believer, to effect God’s purposes and realize his “hopes,” through the inspired words of the apostles of Jesus Christ. The redemption, sanctification, transformation, and eternal glorification of the believer are thus accomplished. Hence it was, that Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
Contrary to the belief and teaching of many, even many devout and reputable conservative brethren, neither the first, second, nor third person of the Godhead dwells personally in the body and soul of the believer. Their influence and their power permeate the heart and life of the believer to edify, perfect, and eternally save him through the instrumentality of Divine truth, called “the implanted word which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). We are: begotten by the word (Jas. 1:18; 1 Cor. 4:15); born of it (1 Pet. 1:22,23); sanctified by it (John 17:17); nourished by it (1 Pet. 2:1,2; Heb. 5: 12-14); transformed by it (2 Cor. 3:18); and ultimately justified or condemned by what it says and our response to it (Jas. 2:12; John 12:48; Rev. 20:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). It furnishes us with “all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and by it we are perfected for the accomplishment of everything the Lord would have us believe, do, and become (2 Tim. 3:16,17). These inspired facts leave no room for any sort of operation or in working of the Holy Spirit in the believer independent of and in addition to the word of the Lord.
A Voice From The Past
In my judgment one of the finest treatise ever written on “The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit” was written by G. W. Longan, one of the early preachers of “The Restoration Movement. ” It was published, along with other articles in what was called: “A Symposium on the Holy Spirit.” I should like to close with a statement from our brother’s pen:
“Let us insist that God, in the sphere of redemption, is immanent in truth, in the forces of truth – that he quickens morally dead sinners, sustains and comforts believers, ‘in no case, by naked, mechanical impact, but evermore through influences mediated by truth, and thereby divinely correlated with the voluntary activities of the human soul.
“The soul of every believer is as distinctly conscious of God’s truth in casual connection with each heaven-born longing, aspiration, impulse, each breathing of hope, love, and joy, as it is of these moods and states themselves. It is this truth that, by faith, makes the heart of the Christian a well-spring of spiritual life.”
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 24, pp. 737, 750, 754
December 15, 1988