“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to his power working within…” (Ephesians 3:20)
I had a key. It was in my pocket for so long that I didn’t even realise it was there. I half-forgot what it was for when suddenly my fingers found it, tucked into the lining, and I fished it out. “Now what does this one do?” I thought. And then I remembered. And something closed off to me for so long became available once more. I had the key.
There’s a key in this sentence, buried in the syntax. Once you retrieve it, a whole new room opens to you. You belong there, but it’s possible that you have half-forgotten what the key is for.
It’s the word “According.”
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to his power working within…”
God has the ability to do anything. That’s the very nature of what we mean by “God.” He is illimitable in every way, in time, in place, in knowledge and in power.
And his power is at work all around us, evidenced by the very beauty of the world that we inhabit. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities -his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” (Romans 1:20) This verse expands the idea and takes it forward: it’s not just his “eternal power” but also his “divine nature.” That means that the qualities of truth, love, justice and goodness – the very character of God- can be “understood from what has been made.”
And humanity is part of what he has made. In fact, according to the Genesis narrative, it almost seems as if humanity was his crowning achievement, the very pinnacle of creation itself. “And God saw that it was good.” And Psalm 8 picks up this idea: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers…. What is mankind that you are mindful of them?… [Yet] You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands…”
Now this is evident, -is it not?- in how mankind operates. Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of whether or not that rule is good, mankind takes charge wherever it goes, like a family staking out an area for themselves at the seaside beach with windbreakers and spread towels. We settle in and organise borders!
And now two things are simultaneously evident. The first is a kind of astonished wonder at the gracious gift given to mankind (“Crowned with glory and honour… rulers”) and the second is the grim acknowledgement that humanity has changed from being intelligent stewards into ignorant strip-miners, despoiling everything that they “rule.” Our “rule,” in fact, has been very bad indeed, tyrannical and self-serving.
This is, of course, precisely the Bible’s narrative from A to Z, charting the “fall” of Adam and Eve, the restoration process through the call of Abraham, the promise of covenant, the long story of a People of God, culminating in the coming of the righteous Son of Man, his death and his resurrection (and the beginning of a new creation). Jesus is the focal point, the very hinge of history, between “grim acknowledgement” and “astonished wonder”! He makes an open display not only of the wickedness of strip-mining, but also of the breath-taking optimism, the “glory and honour” of resurrection life.
And that’s the key.
“According to his power working within…”
Everything has become unlatched, loosened and made possible. Once I was lost in sin and now I’m lost in wonder, love and praise.
So when I read that verse, I simply have to rest on that word “according.” It means that the greatness of this new life in Christ is not determined by my poor ability to comprehend it! It is not up to me to dredge up suitable feelings of anguish for my past, nor to feel emotionally arrogant about my future. I have only to know one thing, according to Paul. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! For me to live is Christ! So “to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to his power working within…” (Ephesians 3:20), all things are made possible.
If you have the key in your hand, then access is available. And if the key is called “According” then the room is called “Immeasurably.” There can be no restriction on what’s available, because there is no restriction in God. In Christ, you have returned to the Manufacturer’s Default Settings and everything is set before you as it was originally intended.
It’s like wandering (almost by accident) into the control centre of a massive nuclear power station and being invited to play with the switches.
Only, in a good way.
I just mean to say that immeasurable power is at your fingertips. They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. Any sin you remit in my name shall be remitted. Love (your love) will cover a multitude of sins. The kingdom of God is within you. Whatsoever you ask in my name shall be done for you…. The New Testament is hardly stingy about the possibilities of “Immeasurably”!
It’s not you at the centre of all this, of course. If it was, you would become unbearably proud and I wouldn’t like you so much. No, it’s him. Jesus is at the centre and all is well.
But he desires to work in and through you in ways you can’t begin to imagine. So “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to his power working 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)