2015-10-25 Now unto Him

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          October 25, 2015

“Now unto Him”
Text: Ephesians 3:20-21

We come today, in our punctuated sermon series through Ephesians, to several ends.  First, today’s text ends the great Ephesian prayer (Ephesians 3:14-21)—which we began last week and conclude today.  Second, and obviously, our text also ends chapter three.  Third, these two verses before us today conclude the first half of the letter to the Ephesians.  When we resume our series, and begin chapter four, we will note immediately a difference in the material.  Typically in Paul’s New Testament letters, the first half of the letter conveys doctrinal instruction; that is, we learn what to believe.  The second half of the letter generally conveys ethical instruction.  We learn what to do and how to behave in the light of what we believe.

Today’s text is classic doxology—a praise to the God of our lives.  Let’s go to God’s written Word, in order that we worship aright His living Word, Jesus Christ.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Today’s exposition will take the form of questions and answers based on the first three English words of today’s text, namely, now unto Him.  Let’s start with this question: What is unto Him?  Our Spirit-inspired text supplies the answer.  Glory is unto Him.  The glory of God may be more easily described than defined.  Consider these two nouns which will aid our description.  First, we may consider God’s glory in terms of its brilliance.  Remember Jesus’ shining brilliance on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:3, and parallels).  His clothes, as His Father glorified Him on the mount before Peter, James, and John, shone brighter than any possible earthly means of brightening.  Also, remember the face of Moses as he radiated the glory of God after coming down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Law (Exodus 34:29-35).  His fellow Israelites noted the glory of God reflected from Moses’ face—and they were afraid.  Hence, Moses wore a veil when speaking to his brethren.

Second, we may consider God’s glory in terms of weight.  Both the Hebrew and Greek words for glory, kabod and doxa, respectively, carry with them the sense of weight.  Perhaps the closest illustration of this lies in the human quality known by the Latin term gravitas.  There seems in some people’s speech or carriage a heightened sense of weight or dignity.  Folks from every walk of life present this, but in American political life, for example, I sense this quality in former Vice-President Dick Cheney (a Wyoming Republican) and in United States Senator Joe Lieberman (a Connecticut Democrat elected by his constituency as an Independent).  Doubtless you can think of other examples—and your examples likely trump mine.  Yet let this fact be admitted beyond controversy: God has gravitas to infinite degree and is its exemplar par excellence.

Let us remember one thing further about God’s glory: We do not give to Him glory—as if we have it and He doesn’t.  Rather, we ascribe unto Him glory, or we acknowledge His glory.  The Psalter richly illustrates of this truth.  To note but two examples, David—Israel’s shepherd of sheep and sweet singer of songs—urges us to ascribe to the LORD glory and strength (Psalm 29:1), and an unnamed Psalmist urges us to ascribe to the LORD the glory due His Name (Psalm 96:8).  In concert with these Scripture references, then, let us ascribe to the Lord the glory due His Name.

Now we ask another question: Why ascribe glory to the Lord—apart from express commandment? The answer lies within our text.  We ascribe glory to the Lord for His ability to do far above what we ask or imagine.  When Paul, led by the Spirit, wants to talk about far above, he uses a Greek word (huperekperissou [uperekperissou]) that means an extraordinary degree, involving a considerable excess over what would be expected.[1]  I translated the word this week as extreme.  Our God, then, is able to do (and in fact does) extremely or exceedingly above what we ask.  The Greek word that the Spirit leads Paul to use for ask (aiteo [aitew]) implies urgent asking to the point of demand.  Of course, we demand nothing of God, but we ask with a fervency sanctioned in His Word.  God does exceedingly above all we ask.  Moreover, He does extremely above all we imagine.  Quick glosses of the Greek noun noeo (noew) include understand, think, and imagine, but of these three legitimate glosses, imagine seems best to fit the context here.  Not only does God act far above all that we ask, and note, but He also acts far beyond our ability even to conceive, or to imagine.  This squares well with what the Spirit says elsewhere through Paul: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).  This gives us great confidence and hope as we beseech our God in prayer for things glorifying to Him and good for us.

Now let us ask a third question: Where, on in what realms, do we ascribe glory to Him?  Again, the answer is in our text.  First, to our great God be glory in the Church.  Indeed, may the Lord be glorified in His blood-bought elect, considered in the aggregate.  The Church, after all, is the bride for whom Christ died—and she exists to worship and otherwise to glorify her Savior.  Second, to our great God be glory in Christ Jesus.  We behold God’s glory in the face of Christ alone (2 Corinthians 4:6); we look in vain for the fullness of His glory anywhere else.  Jesus Himself says that the Father is glorified in the Son (cf. John 17:5, 14:13).  Christ also is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18).  May God, then, have His glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus.

Yet how long shall we ascribe glory to God?  This is our fourth question, and its answer once again is in today’s text.  We shall evermore ascribe glory to Him.  Paul, led by the Spirit, uses two phrases to convey this truth.  First, we shall glorify Him throughout all generations, that is, to the end of this present age.  Second, we shall glorify Him forever and ever—which means exactly what it says, that is, to eternal future.  Hence, we each comply with God’s will inasmuch as we glorify Him as long as we have life and breath here, and hereafter to endless days—together with all His redeemed.

Sometimes in my ministerial work I receive the question, “Why am I here?”  The questioner usually does not mean, “Why am I in Franklin?” or, “Why am I in central Arkansas?” or any of the other places I have served.  The questioner usually means, “Why am I on earth at this time?”  When my younger friends ask me this, the real question often is this: “What is my purpose in life, if such even exists?”  When my seasoned senior Christian friends ask me this question, they often are asking, “Why am I still here?”  I can help—and the help comes from our confessional standards.  To the question, “What is the primary purpose (or chief end) of man?” we reply, “Man’s primary purpose (or chief end) is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 1).

Remember, beloved, God has created you each and all in His own image (Genesis 1:27), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13), for His glory and that you may glorify Him.  Christ Jesus, God incarnate and God with us, shed His blood for His glory and in order that you may glorify Him in newness of life.  God, by the Spirit, set you apart and gifted you, for His glory and in order that you may glorify Him.

Therefore, glorify Him.  Acknowledge His glory and ascribe it unto Him.  Do this in view of His ability to do far beyond what we ask or imagine: generally in this world, specifically on behalf of His redeemed, and even more specifically on behalf of each redeemed soul here.  Glorify God both in view of Christ Jesus as your Savior and Lord and in the company of your fellow redeemed and their households.  Do this to the end of your days, and to endless days.  Let us go forth with this word at the core of our beings: Now unto Him Who is able to do exceedingly above what we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, world without end…

AMEN.

[1] The lexical definition here invoked is from Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989).

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