I ran across an appalling statistic the other day – verification of which is impossible. The author said that of the 1,440 minutes which God gives to us every day, the average Christian returns to him no more than four minutes in prayer and praise. I’m sure that all of you are well above that average, but consider…. A full minute with heads bowed before a meal seems like an eternity. And five minutes before heading out the door means that you might get stuck behind a school bus and not make your appointment. As I told you the other day, I have a small, simple savings account at a local credit union. My account pays a little more than a half percent interest per year, which is better than most banks. That is dreadful, especially when we compare it to what interest banks charge on their loans. But before you rant and rail against the banks, consider that 4 minutes is about a quarter of one percent of the time the Lord gives to us every day. The average “Christian” gives the Lord less interest than most banks give to their customers.
As we can see in this scripture, the apostle offers up his prayer and praise to God. We can learn a great deal from the prayers of Paul. In this case, we see in these short verses that he didn’t have a single request for himself. That isn’t to say that in other scriptures he doesn’t pray for himself and ask others to pray for him. But at least here, he doesn’t think of his own needs. We see, also, in this case that his prayers for the brethren in Ephesus were of a spiritual nature. They were people under persecution, but he doesn’t pray for their safety. There are no requests for divine healing or for the relief of their poverty. There is nothing secular in his requests, reminding us that Heavenly things and spiritual things are more important earthly, temporal and fleshly things. And might I correctly say that Paul’s requests were of a superlative nature? Why ask the Lord for copper pennies when His account is filled with gold coins? Why stop with ask God for deliverance from pain, when our loved one is spiritually dead in his sin? And why pray for physical strength when it is far more important to be strengthened in the inner man? There is much more revealed here, and in his other epistles, about Paul’s prayer life, but that is not my purpose this morning.
Something which we should all learn to employ in our devotional lives – Paul moved seamlessly from prayer to praise – from asking to adoring. “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, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” I’d like to use these two verses to consider about and to whom our praise should revolve.
Of course, the general direction of our praise must be toward God – Jehovah.
Who is the one “that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”? “Unto HIM be glory …by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Paul’s praise is unto the God of the preceding verse – “by Christ Jesus.”
By this he reminds us that there are times to praise others and there are times when we should follow the angel’s example – “Glory to God in the highest.” There are times when the work of our neighbor deserves to be recognized, and he should be honored. It is beneficial to praise our children when they do something outstanding. Words of encouragement and commendation to others are encouraged in the Word of God. But it must never be forgotten that “without the Lord we can do nothing.” There is nothing truly praise-worthy except through the grace and power of Jehovah. “Every good (deed) and every perfect (work) is (empowered) from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” With men, some great feats are possible, but “with God all things are possible.” And knowing this, Paul often says things such as, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “No flesh should glory in his presence.” In some circumstances, in the presence of human accomplishment there might be a little room for praise. But when we are standing in God’s presence, man is left without any reason for self-glory or general human glory.
But why, Paul, do you so consistently glorify THIS God? He says in chapter one, because “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places.” “He has predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.” He has given to us the spirit of wisdom and revelation. “The eyes of (our) understanding (he has) enlightened.” Why does Paul praise God? He says in chapter two, “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” “God, who is rich in mercy, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” “For this cause (Paul bows his knees) unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This one whom Paul praises, is omnipotent, capable of bringing dead men, like Lazarus, back to life. And He can return whole valleys of dry bones to vigor and vitality. As Job testified, “I know that thou cast do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”
If that is the kind of God we acknowledge, then He is the God we should praise. Our God can again stop the rotation of the earth – as He did in the days of Joshua. Our God can even reverse the rotation of the earth as He did in the days of Hezekiah. Healing the sick and raising the dead are nothing to the God who created life in the first place. Paul had a God who could do a million things beyond which his imagination had never yet reached. This “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Who is He able to save? If He can save murderers like David and Saul of Tarsus, He can save anyone. He is “able to subdue all things unto Himself.” I “am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” He is “able to keep (us) from falling, and to present (us) faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” That is why “to the only wise God our Saviour, (must) be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
As a Christian, you can be “filled with riches of God’s glory (and) strengthen with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” The Lord is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” “Unto Him be all praise and glory.” As George Frederick Handel put it “Glory to God; Glory to God in the highest.” And on earth, in us, may He be glorified as well.
Of course, for the saint of God, our praise must also be toward the Redeemer.
“Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory … by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” At this point, we with Paul, separate the Saviour from the Father. Without a doubt, our glorying must be to the Lord – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our God is a tripart being, and just as one person of the Tri-unity never acts without the others, our praise toward one Person should be praise toward the others as well. And yet the Bible teaches that generally our praise of the Godhead should be through God the Son.
Pourquoi? But why should our praise be through the Son? Because it is only by Him that we have ANY access to God at all. Here is where Bible Christianity leaves the world’s man-made religions. Christ declared, “I am the way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” All men must “honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” And “whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” Christ Jesus is the mediator between God and men, including Christian men. He is our intercessor. Without forgetting what Jesus told us about the Holy Spirit, as the mediator between the divine and the earthly, it is He who accepts our praise on behalf of the God-head. Without Him we have no life – spiritual or otherwise. Without Him we can do nothing – not even praise God.
And then taking a step back – or is it a step forward. It was through Christ that we saw the glory of God in the first place. “And the Word (the Son of God) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” With our five senses we can experience the glories of God’s creation – beauty, warmth, adrenaline thrills, good food, etc. But we need more than physical senses to experience God Himself. But then the Son of God became incarnate, bringing with Him the glory of Jehovah from Heaven. And it was at the commencement of that incarnation that the angels shouted, “Glory to God; Glory to God in the highest.”
Christ Jesus, God’s Son, wears so many crowns. A man in this world may wear several hats, but Christ’s are all crowns – victory, sovereignty, creative power, sustaining power, protection – the list goes on and on, because He is the Son of God. The Muslim may acknowledge a prophet named “Jesus of Nazareth,” but since his Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of God, that Muslim cannot truly praise “Allah.” And the poor deluded Buddhist, the Hindu, the animist and ancestor worshiper cannot praise the Great Spirit, because he does not worship Him through Christ. And we must also throw in the Catholic, the Mormon, the Jehovah’s Witness
and many other “Christian” cults and sects, because they have cast the true Christ out of their churches and out of their theology. Furthermore, if Christ Jesus is not the Son of God in YOUR sight, and if He is not your personal Saviour, then you have no channel, or means, of worshiping God. Don’t recite the mantra of modern religion in this regard; “what saith the scripture?” “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life,” and no means of praising God.
Does this offend? Sure it offends the average unbeliever and the nominal Christian. But if this point hasn’t offended most of the world’s population, my next point certainly will.
At least for today, God’s praise should be presented to him through Christ in His church.
“Unto him that is able to do exceeding 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 ….” “In the church.” It is a shame that we have to define the word “church,” but it is a religious fact of life. It needs as much explanation as do “justification by faith” and “Christ returneth.”
Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, Paul’s reference is to the assembly of saints gathered in Ephesus. I know he simply says “in the church” rather than the “First Baptist Church of Ephesus,” but those simple Christian people pictured only their “ecclesia” – their “assembly.” And when this epistle was passed on to the churches of Laodicea and Smyrna, those brethren again, understood Paul to mean THEIR church assembly. There is no omnipresent, ubiquitous, universal assembly of believers scattered around the world – or throughout time. There is only one kind of church – generally – a small congregation of redeemed believers. And unlike today, in Paul’s day, each of those assemblies acknowledged the doctrines taught by Christ and His apostles. Error and heresy began to creep into those churches and by the end of the life of John, some were on the verge of spiritual decommission. But the churches which were the initial launching pad of praise to God, all adhered to the great doctrines of Christ.
And this raises the question even higher – how much praise is issued to God in THESE last days? I won’t say that the individual saint can’t offer praise to God through his Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, but what is Paul’s statement here? I recently visited a Reformed Protestant Church service, during which I heard more humble prayer and sincere words of praise than I have ever heard before in any 90 minute religious service. The hymns seemed to be of a deeper and more spiritual nature than many which we sing. But – according to this verse – was the Lord interested in those words? And today in maga-church after mega-church, and in all the thousands of wannabe mega-churches, with their 40 minutes of rock and roll praise and worship, is there a single note of their praise repeated by the holy angels around the throne of God? “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages.” Are such religious gatherings churches of Christ?
How many of God’s churches are there in this world? I was recently in the fourth largest metropolis in Canada with more than 1.5 million people, but based upon this verse, there may not be a word of praise to God among them, because there doesn’t appear to be a single Church of Christ in that city. The is basically true of the entire nation of Canada. And the western parts of the United States offer little ecclesiastical praise to God either. City after city, for hundreds of miles, there are lots of religious meetings but they are congregations filled with worldliness and false doctrine. Are they churches of Christ? Can they render proper glory to God? Those are questions, the answers of which I will have to leave to the Lord.
Glory to God, glory to God in the highest – throughout all ages, world without end.
God will be God forever, despite man’s attempt to dethrone Him. Jehovah will always be King, despite Satan’s wrath against Him. The Lord will be praised and glorified in His churches until the members of those churches are translated to Heaven, and then their praise will be even greater – more pure and more precise.
There are likely thousands of genuine saints of God who are trying to serve Him outside of His churches. For some there is no opportunity to be a part of that blessing, because no church exists where they live. But many are simply disobedient to the Lord’s will. Someday they will admit to their error and rebellion against the Lord’s “ecclesia.” Perhaps, by the grace of God, at that point they will become better equipped to worship their Saviour. But just as “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” today is also a day when we should properly glorify the Lord. We shall praise and worship the Lord through Christ throughout eternity, but it behooves us to begin today. And if we have even the slightest understanding of these two verses, we should strive to help others to understand them too. And this takes us to evangelism and missions.
“Glory to God; Glory to God in the highest.”