T. PIERCE BROWN
In Ephesians 3:20-21, we read a passage that is so astounding that we even hesitate to write about it. It says, “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 the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever.” One reason we hesitate to write about it is that when a thing is beyond anything we can ask or think about, it is very difficult to write in any way to do justice to it. Then when it abounds in those qualities, we feel even more difficulty. When it exceedingly abounds in them, then we find it impossible to write without actually feeling a sense of awe and impotence approaching fear and trembling. However, there are a few things in the passage that need our attention, although giving anything resembling a comprehensive exegesis of it is impossible.
First, we need to recognize that the blessings available to us in Christ go beyond even the things that the words of the Bible reveal, and even what the Bible reveals are so fantastic that they almost defy the imagination. Just salvation from past sin is a subject about which a book or two could be written and still not touch all aspects of it. The barest discussion of it would need to involve salvation from the guilt of sin, the punishment for sin, the love of sin, the practice of sin, the burden of sin, and the consequences of sin. Even a study of the word “redemption” in all its forms is too large a study for one article. It involves the idea of a slave being purchased in the market place, being purchased or taken out of the market place, being released from slavery in order to serve willingly the new master, including the purchase price paid for that redemption and the motives that prompted it. There are simply no words in the English or Greek or any and all other language known to humans that can adequately describe these unsearchable riches. Even if we could speak with the “tongues of men or of angels,” it is doubtful if we could do justice to the subject. After a long examination of all the words we can find relating to salvation, such as justification, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, atonement and ransom, each of which would demand several pages just to introduce some ideas of their meaning and implication, we would find that we have just touched the hem of the garment, for all of that merely relates to some of the blessings of salvation from sin.
Besides the blessings that relate to salvation from sin, there are many other blessings that have been made available for us through the life and death of our Savior. In almost every personal evangelism workshop of which I attended for 25 years, I almost invariably heard such statements as this: “The purpose for which Christ came was to save the lost. That should be our sole purpose in life.” That is not so, but most of us who were emphasizing the importance of personal evangelism applauded it, for we thought it was so. When I began a more intensive study of the subject, I found that THE purpose of Christ’s coming and dying was not to save the lost, for there were at least 60 things that were purposed by the coming and death of our Lord, not just salvation. Then when I read such passages as Eph. 3:20, I realize that when I do an exhaustive study of those 60 or more things the Bible specifies, and if I could think of any more that I would like to have, I still have not exhausted what he is able to do, has done, and will do for those who love him.
If I were to even begin to do justice to this sort of introductory remark, I would have to point out that these blessings are to be granted “according to his power that worketh in us” which would involve considerably more thought about how we get that power, what is involved in it, and how we use it appropriately to achieve maximum results. Perhaps I should have planned to write a series of articles, letting this merely be the introductory one.
My primary purpose in starting this article was to emphasize that the glory we give to God may be much less than it should be because we have not adequately contemplated the abundance of the blessings we have in Christ by His grace. Eph. 1:7-8, “in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” is but a sample of the many scriptures emphasizing the riches of his grace, and the abundance of blessings we have in Christ Jesus, the greatest of which is probably redemption through his blood.
Surely every one with any discernment is aware that the majority of those who claim membership in the Lord’s church seem to be reasonably satisfied with barely getting through, or doing the minimum, whether it pertains to giving, service, or any other aspect of Christianity. When I look at the lives of some that I consider the greatest examples of scholarship, preaching, or living for Christ, there are very few, even among those, that seem to compare in sacrificial living with many in the early church. Do you know of anyone that remotely resembles the widow with two mites, the Apostle Paul or even the average Christian who “daily and from house to house ceased not to preach Jesus as the Christ” (Acts5:42)? Do we really have the “abundant life” that Christ came to provide (John10:10)?
Since we think in terms of the minimum when we consider what we will do for Christ, it seems reasonable to assume that we think in terms of minimums when we consider what God will do for us if we allow him to do it. James says, “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that he may spend it in your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). Although men like Kenneth Copeland who emphasize the materialistic values of following (or pretending to follow) Christ are wrong in their approach, doctrine and emphasis, it is still true that both James and Paul point out two great truths. First, we have not many things, including material blessings, because we do not ask for them. Second, if and when we do ask for them, we may not get them because we ask with the wrong motives. But the promise of God is still there as expressed by Paul in 2 Cor. 9:10-11, “And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness: ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God.” These promises are not unconditional promises, but we can understand and obey the conditions if we care to and believe what he said, and it will be “according to the power that worketh in us.”
If you need a lesson in how the Macedonians gave “beyond their power” you can get a clue from Ephesians 3:20. It was beyond their power, but it was not beyond “the power that worked in them” and the power that will work in us if we but accept in faith what he says, and act on it properly. Once in my life I got a number in a congregation to try this to a small degree, and the contribution increased by several hundred percent in a few weeks. If you have ever tried it, or seen anyone else try it and it failed, I would like to hear of it.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600