The writer of Ephesians in our text for this week is really stretching it.
What he’s stretching is language — he’s grasping for the words to express the inexpressible. In fact, in this doxology, a hymn of praise, he has to make up his own double-compound adverbs to try and communicate the truth about God: “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.”
Going to grammatical extremes in the original text of this passage, this writer uses words that literally translate to “above all things” and “above and over and above” to communicate that God is able to do “superabundantly” above and beyond what we ask or think or IMAGINE.
Just take a look at some of the ways different translators have rendered the writer’s superlative of superlatives:
- vastly more than more
- beyond all things
- superabundantly beyond and above all things
- far over everything
- surpassingly more than all
- transcendently more
- far in excess
- far, far more than anything
- immeasurably more than all
- everything immeasurably far beyond
- The New Jerusalem Bible just gives up and says simply “infinitely more.”
- Still another translator manages to go even beyond that with “infinitely more abundantly above all.”
- “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”
- all “that we would ever dare to ask or even dream of”
Why does he do this? What is he trying to say that can’t be made perfectly clear by ordinary grammar and usage of his language?
I think the main idea to take away here is that this writer’s grammatical desperation reflects a great truth about the nature of God. Because God “is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us,” what he wants us to understand is that only our imagination can limit our opportunities.
You could say that what this passage is actually describing for us is a Far Beyond life. For example, imagine what it could look like if we lived:
- Far Beyond our usual love for others?
- Far Beyond our usual generosity?
- Far Beyond our usual hospitality?
- Far Beyond our usual love for our neighbors?
- Far Beyond our usual acts of kindness and caring?
- Far Beyond our usual time spent in prayer?
- Far Beyond our usual trust in God?
- Far Beyond our usual commitment to justice?
As we wrap up our stewardship campaign, IMAGINE what we can do, this Sunday, November 17, I invite you — no, I challenge you — to begin living a Far Beyond life.
Please join with me this week in imagining what a Far Beyond life will look like for you — and then make your commitment to the 2020 ministry and operating budget of the church.
Imagine what we can do together. Imagine!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster