Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 3:21a “Unto him. . .”
Adamant about riveting our attention solely on God, Paul dramatically repeats this pronoun (3:20). He wants us to recall who he is discussing.
Eph. 3:21b “. . .be glory. . .”
“Glory,” one of the richest concepts to occupy our thoughts, brings us to the essence of God Himself. “Glory” refers to the ways whereby God reveals His essence to mankind. “Glory” is the garment of God. He dresses Himself in fire, light, radiance, splendor, brightness, beauty, and envelopes His person with signs, wonders, miracles, power, majesty.
We cannot see God and live, but we do see His “glory” and thereby thrive. “Glory” is His veil, His covering as it were, the way He conceals and yet reveals. When His presence is made obvious in any way, we describe the phenomenon as “glory.” “The heavens declare the glory of God” (PS 19:1). A pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night–“glory.” Smoke filling the tabernacle and temple–“glory.” The Shekinah inhabiting the Holy of Holies–“glory.” The shepherds’ field became a sanctuary as “the glory of the Lord shone round about them” (LK 2:9). Wherever, and however, God makes His presence obvious is a “glory,” the greatest being the revealing of Himself as Jesus, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (JN 1:14).
We respond to the “glory” God gives us by giving Him “glory” in two ways–we return it and reflect it. We can do nothing to add to God’s “glory.” Jesus prayed, “Thine is. . .the glory” (MT 6:13). The “glory” is already His. We merely return it unto Him, and reflect it unto others.
We return His “glory” to Him by acknowledging everything worthwhile in our lives is nothing other than a manifestation of God Himself. “Glory” comes down and changes us. We then give it a voice and waft it back to Heaven. His is the power which animates us, the beauty which radiates us. We give God credit for everything good in our lives. We take no “glory” to ourselves. To do this would be to rob God of His very reputation. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory” (PS 115:1).
We give glory to God, secondly, by reflecting His glory. We mirror to others His light which shines on us, and His life which indwells us. My professor, Dr. Robbins, often said, “We glorify God when the God we know is the God we show.” Let us not soil the light as it passes through us.
Eph. 3:21c “. . .in the church. . .”
Paul did not want to return and reflect God’s glory by himself. He wanted others to share the honor. One voice and one life would be too little a response. Hence, Paul calls upon all the people of God to join him.
“The church” is a sacred society, set apart for God’s glory. We are to be the worldwide theater of God’s glory, the platform from which voices rise to heaven, and the stage on which the world sees a demonstration of what God’s glory can do. We are stewards, trustees of His glory. In our hands God has lodged the sacred deposit of His own glory. He wants it returned and reflected. The Holy Spirit, charged with enabling us to do this, is sensitive. He feels. He hurts. Do not grieve Him. Let us handle this trust with awe, and fulfill our mission with honor. By the Spirit’s power, with praise from our lips and purity in our lives, let us be the arena in which God’s glory is returned to heaven, and reflected to the world.
Eph. 3:21d “. . .by Christ Jesus. . .”
Here is why, in this world, the church alone can give glory to God. We are the only ones indwelt by the One through whom all glory must be returned to heaven, and whose glory is to be reflected on earth. Apart from union with Christ, no glory is accepted in heaven, and there is no glory to be reflected. Caesar once told his opponent, “Either I will be Caesar, or nobody.” So the Father saith, “I will be glorified by you only through my Son, or be to you no God at all.” Only the Church can give glory to God.
The church is the outward, visible theater in which God’s glory is reflected and returned. Jesus is the inner reality itself, the glory we are to reflect, and the essential element through which glory returns to Heaven.
The church must reflect Jesus. God’s intent is for the world to see Jesus in the lives of believers. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (CL 1:27). We are the world’s best hope of seeing God’s greatest glory, Jesus.
The church must return glory to God by Jesus. God’s best glory comes to us via Him; our responses must pass through the same channel.
As the body of Christ, believers are the ones through which His glory is visible on earth. As our Head, the seat of speech, Jesus is our ultimate voice in Heaven. We may be eloquent enough to speak to fellow creatures about God, but only Jesus is eloquent enough to express our returned glory to the Father Himself. As the Mediator of glories wafted to God, Jesus takes our flawed voices, filters them, and fuses them into one perfect Voice, His own. He is our interpreter, our spokesman. His dear lips speak for us, and distill from our words dross which might insult the ears of the Father.
Eph. 3:21e “. . .throughout all ages, world without end.”
More literally, “unto all the generations of the age of the ages.” Paul, and our English translators, groan under the effort of expressing eternity with words and phrases containing the idea of time. As each age rolls over another into remote infinity, believers will continue to give glory to God.
Little wonder the saints will live forever. We are the chief givers of glory to God. Forgiven sinners are the most amazing by-product of God’s glory. No one can ascribe more glory to God than we can.
I’ll praise him while he lends me breath;
And when my voice is lost in death!
My days of praise shall be ne’er past,
While thought and life and being last. (Spurgeon)
Eph. 3:21f “Amen.”
This Hebrew adverb means surely, in the sense of so be it. This was the Jews’ public verbal assent to a solemn declaration, and their corporate response to public prayers. Paul uses the word here to make us reflect again on his prayer. It is as if he puts down his pen and says, “What more can I say?” Dazzled by the sublimity of a joy which raised his eyes toward Heaven, all he knew to do was to pause and ponder God a moment. What do we do when we reach the top of the ladder of prayer? We stand on the top rung and enjoy the view. We pause a while and bask in the “Amen.”
Once we intercede, supplicate, and praise, is anything higher? Yes. Adoration. Prayer is activity, requiring thought to formulate appropriate words and phrases. Adoration is everything halted, fixed in profound repose, silent awe, all but God blocked out. “It is the eloquent silence of a soul that is too full for language. To prostrate yourself in the dust in humility, and yet to soar aloft in sublime thought; to sink into nothing, and yet to be so enlarged as to be filled with all the fulness of God; to have no thought and yet to be all thought; to lose yourself in God; this is adoration. This should be the frequent state of the renewed mind” (Spurgeon).
When my brother and I went to Israel a decade ago, our highest moment came while in the Garden Tomb. We stood beside three pentecostal brethren. One had his hands raised, another was slowly swaying, the third was softly speaking in tongues. Charles and I merely stood in total silence, enraptured by the reality of God. No prayer, no verbal praise. Total, absolute awe. This should be our experience more often.
This doxology ends not only Paul’s prayer, but also the first major division of Ephesians. Having lived in the heights for some 19 months, we must now turn our attention to the work to be done around us. We would love to stay on this Mount of Transfiguration–“Let’s build three tabernacles here, one for Jesus, one for Paul, and one for East Side”–but we must come down to the “wherefore” of 4:1. However, before we turn to so-called “practical” matters, let me remind us once again, God is our everything, our all.
To praise and glorify God, to enjoy Him for only His sake, is the highest function any creature can perform. The Rabbis have a legend. It is not fact, but serves to illustrate an important truth. Maclaren relates it like this: “They say that there are two kinds of angels–the angels of service and the angels of praise, of which two orders the latter is the higher, and that no angel in it praises God twice, but having once lifted up his voice in the psalm of heaven, then perishes and ceases to be. He has perfected his being, he reached the height of his greatness, he has done what he was made for, let him fade away. The garb of legend is mean enough, but the thought it embodies is that ever true and solemn one, without which life is nought–‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God.'”
For a true-life example, look at John the Baptist, the second greatest of men. Why did God let John die young? God took the Baptist after he had rendered his all in giving glory to Jesus, and before John could sully his own name. In prison John wondered and questioned a bit–only One was ever perfect–but God took him while the glow of glory was still on his brow. “May we all live only as long as we can bring glory to God. Amen.”