A Declaration of Praise
by Priscilla Shirer
Some things are just hard to describe. You search your brain for the right word, but you can’t seem to find it.
Like trying to explain the view from high atop a snowcapped mountain peak. Or a particularly moving worship service. Or a late autumn sunset at the end of a peaceful day of vacation, silhouetting the bare tree branches with deep pinks and purples. Or the first bite of molten chocolate lava cake—or the last bite, for that matter.
Sometimes we’re speechless. Nothing comes out. Then other times we run at the mouth, hoping the mere act of inhaling and exhaling might eventually catch up to that word our mind is chasing in the background.
Then sometimes we’re like the apostle Paul who, when lost in amazed wonder of what he was trying to communicate, took to writing. Perhaps none of his New Testament works is a better example of this than his letter to the Ephesians, which some scholars consider to be the pinnacle of all his writings.
Go back and read it yourself. See if you can’t hear him grasping and lunging for just the right words. He nearly runs out of breath trying to portray the greatness and grandeur of God, the vast scope of His wondrous acts, the hugeness of His love, and the wealth of our inheritance in Christ. Yet as beautiful as the wording is, as much spiritual ground as he covers, you still get the sneaking impression that human language simply does not have the descriptors for some of what Paul is wanting to say.
In the first half alone—a bit more than sixty verses— he takes us to heavenly places that stretch far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. He travels back in time before the foundation of the world, then zooms us forward to a future so rich with eternal purpose, it comes complete with an inheritance reserved under our name and with all things in subjection under [Jesus’] feet.
Somewhere in there, he awakens us from being dead in our sins—strangers, separate, excluded, aliens—to being made alive together with Christ, having the grace of God lavished on us for no other reason than the kind intention of His will. He tells us of a divine love that not only runs the breadth and length and height and depth of our wildest imagination but actually makes it possible for us to be filled up to all the fullness of God—right here in these tired ol’ bodies of ours.
That’s some extravagant language to describe God’s extravagant power and love. These were the best words Paul could find to complete his enormous prayers, praying that our hearts would be thoroughly enlightened, that we would somehow grasp the riches of God’s mercy and the grand hope of His calling, that we would see everything that’s been made available to us in Christ, everything we’ve been given access to.
But he’s just warming up. Because right there in the middle of this stunning recounting of God’s glory and grace, Paul hits us with one sentence so powerful, it is almost too much to bear: chapter 3, verses 20 and 21.
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly
beyond all that we ask or think, according
to the power that works within us, to Him be the
glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations
forever and ever. Amen.
It’s a device known in ancient literature as a doxology. A majestic declaration of praise to God. An outpouring of divine honor. Sort of a gushing burst of worship that puts an exclamation point (or two . . . or three . . .) at the end of all this breathtaking stuff Paul’s been talking about up until now.
It’s a crescendo.
The big moment.
The cherry on top.
There are only a handful of these doxologies in all the Bible. And honestly, if we wanted to end this book right here on this page and simply bask in the colossal, comforting, confidence-building words of this one glorious statement, we’d probably be good for the rest of the week.
Once you hear these two verses, the only thing left to do really is just worship and go home. See if it doesn’t strike you that way. I’ve printed it again in case you zipped past it too quickly before. Say it slowly, audibly, and deliberately. Let it speak directly to you.
Drink it in.
Excerpted from God is Able by Priscilla Shirer. Copyright 2013 B&H Publishing Group