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A Doxology

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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August 2, 2023 4:00 am

A Doxology

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 2, 2023 4:00 am

Are your prayers too small? Some people are reluctant to “pray big” unless they’re planning a significant event or facing overwhelming circumstances. Find out why this is wrong as we examine Paul’s doxology. Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Is it possible your prayers are too small Some of us are reluctant to pray big unless we're facing particularly daunting circumstances—something we feel warrants God's attention. But today on Truth for Life, we'll find out why thinking this way is actually a sin. Alistair Begg is teaching from the closing verses in Ephesians chapter 3. Many of you would be familiar with the melody of our opening song this morning, which often is the melody that goes with the singing of the doxology, which I seem to recall, at least when I visited America in the early years, that this would often be sung by the congregation standing when they were bringing the morning offering. But a doxology—doxa, glory, logos, the word—is simply an ascription of praise and of adoration to God. And Paul is frequently employing doxology in his writing. You will find, as you read through his letters, that every so often he breaks away, as it were, from instruction and goes directly to adoration, essentially encouraging his readers to join with him. Now, that's not unique to the New Testament.

In the Old Testament we find the same thing happening, for example, on the occasion that's recorded in 1 Chronicles 29, when the people have brought all of their provisions for the construction of the temple. David then leads them in a prayer, and the larger part of that prayer is essentially a doxology. You perhaps recall, yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours, and yours is the kingdom, and so on. He just lifts his voice to God in praise.

We quoted from Spurgeon, didn't we, as a twenty-year-old preaching on God. And in another part of that same sermon he says, He who often thinks of God will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind than thoughts of God. So it is imperative to think of God, and it is imperative to think properly about God. And it is vital that we grasp this essential tie between theology and doxology. Now, Paul comes to this song of praise at the end of chapter 3 on the back of his prayer for them.

It's very easy for us to take two verses like this and just take it away from the context, but that's to do despite to it. The context is that he has been praying, and he has scaled the heights, if you like, in his prayer—between his opening prayer and the prayer that we most recently considered here in verse 14 and following. He's been praying that the eyes of his listeners, the eyes of their heart, might be enlightened, that they might know the greatness, the immeasurable greatness of God's power, that they might be strengthened, you will remember, in their inner being, that they might comprehend and know the love of Christ, that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith, and that they may be filled with all of the fullness of God. And at that point, he really reaches the highest point of all.

What a request! He would have understood John Newton, the other good hymn writer, in his hymn that begins, Thou art coming to a king, large petitions with thee bring. You see, because there would have been people who were listening to this letter being read for the first time. And we have to imagine that people took a pause at the end of things. They perhaps have said, Well, we've read far enough.

We'll come back and start again. Or even just had a drink of water. If you can imagine somebody reading this letter out to a gathered company for the first time, and they had reached the end of this prayer of Paul's in verse 19, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God, that all that you can know of God may be yours in the reality of your experience. That's what he prays.

Now, let's just suppose that whoever's reading it out pauses for a moment just to catch their breath. We would not be surprised if the person next to us, if we were present in the congregation, nudged us and said, How in the world is that supposed to happen? How could you possibly have an understanding of God's strength in your inner being? How could Christ really dwell and indwell you? How could you know God in this intimate way?

How could you be filled up with all of his fullness? And Paul actually answers that question, although it is unposed. And he answers it not by sending out a memo, but he answers it by singing a song. He answers it while apparently still on his knees, moving from intercession or from petition to adoration. Now, he says, to him who is able to do far more abundantly and so on. But let's just stop at to him. Who is the him? You may be here this morning.

You don't usually read the Bible. And so you come to this, you go, Okay, fine. I say, To him. And you say, Who is the him? Who is the him that this him is about? Because this is a him to him. Who is the him? Twice it comes—the beginning of 20 and the beginning of 21. To him who is able, to him be the glory.

So it's very, very important that we get this. And Paul, when he was asked, essentially, that question by the intelligentsia in Athens, recorded by Luke in Acts chapter 17, where he had gone into the city, he was waiting for his friends to come, he'd had a look around, he realized they were very religious, and people had an inkling of what he was on about, and so they invited him to come and give a talk. And he began in a very nice way. He said, I can see you're a very religious group of people. You're obviously interested in God. I can see you've got a number of gods in your pantheon. And I was intrigued to see that you're trying to cover all your bases, because you actually have a statue to the unknown God, just in case you missed one.

That makes perfect sense to me, he says. Now, he says, what I'd like to do is to tell you about the God that you don't know. I'd like to tell you about the unknown God. And how does he begin? The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by any human hands.

Well, that was quite staggering. But Paul does this again and again when he writes to the church in Rome. He says, now, let me ask you a couple of questions before we go any further. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has known the mind of God, he says?

Who gave God lessons? The answer is, no one did. Because no one could. Because no one is wiser than God. He asks, secondly, who has ever given to God so that he could say to God, You owe me? The answer is, no one. God finances his own projects.

He didn't borrow from anybody. He is self-existent. He is God.

So when Paul says to him, he's not speaking about God in the way contemporary spiritualities often do. Contemporary spiritualities—things like radical environmentalism—and I mean radical—combined with a little bit of yoga, combined with a little bit of Eastern mysticism—all rolled in together, those contemporary notions of God, which are out there alive and well on the main streets of our towns, suggest that in one way or another, God is dependent on the created universe—actually, that God is contained in it. That he is contained in it. So that nature—and it's always nature—includes and contains the divine. And since we are part of creation, we are part of nature, therefore somehow or another, pantheistically, we are included in this divinity. And so the contemporary idea of God, if you want to meet God, is you look within. Because he is within.

The Bible says, no, he's not. This notion of the divine spark has some semblance of reality insofar as we all the children of God by creation. But when Paul talks about being filled with all the fullness of God, he's not talking about something that accrues to us by dint of our physical existence, but rather the reality of the evasion of God into a life that knows nothing of God. Because you see, the Bible says that God is outside of time, that God is outside of his creation.

Therefore, we can't confuse him with creation. That there exists an invisible boundary between God and ourselves. That we are unable to cross the boundary to God. We are unable to know God savingly by ourselves.

That God is not found in our deepest self. That is, my friend Wells puts it, he is beyond the range of our intuitive radar, so that we cannot meet him on our own terms and we cannot engage him in our own time. If we are to know him, he must cross the boundary to us. And that is what he has done in Jesus. That, you see, is at the very epicenter of the Christian story—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might become rich. So, when we think of Paul saying, now, to him, he is addressing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God has done and continues to do what we cannot do for ourselves. And our view of God determines the way in which we approach him. Well, who is God? What is God?

We gotta find this out! What are you on about, Paul? To him! The wonderful news is that Jesus has come in order to penetrate that boundary and to bring down that barrier. So, first of all, we notice, then, God's person. God's person.

We could say more on that, but we don't have time to. Secondly, just say something concerning God's power. Now, to him, who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. Well, I think that's very, very important, is if we're going to come to God, presumably it's important that he's able to do what he says he can do. And language here is just piled up, the superlative on top of a superlative. God is able to do far more than we ask or think.

But that's not all. For he is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think. This is God. This is God. This is God's power.

And all that he is able to do is in keeping with his purpose for us. This is not a call to health, wealth, and happiness. You know, if you dig in here, you'll be able to get your home in the Bahamas and whatever else you're looking for by sowing a seed of your own personal conception of faith.

No! Jesus made it clear. Remember when he said, Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In other words, all that God is able to provide, he provides in keeping with his purposes for those who are his own. So the encouragement is a real encouragement, and that is to come to God and ask him for big things.

To ask him. Look at what Paul asked him for. These people would be filled with all the fullness of God.

These Ephesian Christians that used to be such an angry, miserable bunch of wretches that they were so horribly disengaged with one another. Fill them with all the fullness of God. Please, God, will you? How in your world could he do that? Unless God is able.

He's able to do, you see, far more. Do you know the power of God in your life? Do you know that God's power is unleashed in the life of those who belong to him? So that the promises of the Bible are there for our encouragement. How big are your prayers? How big are our prayers as a church? What are we asking God for?

Is this it? You know, just a couple of missionaries in South America and the odd trip to India. He's able to do, actually, far more abundantly than all we can ask. Or even imagine asking.

Why? Because he's a powerful God. And you will notice that this power is not academic. It's not theoretical. This is not some kind of construct.

Notice what he goes on to say. This power is not only in accordance with his purposes for us, but it is also according to his work within us. According to the power that is at work within us. What is the power that is at work within us?

Well, the power that has brought us to saving faith in him. Think about Paul. Paul's a testimony to this.

He was a blasphemer, he was insolent, he hated Christians, and so on. And when he says, according to the power of work within us, he knows exactly what he's talking about. The first readers of his letter, they knew the same thing, because in chapter 2 and verse 1, he points out to them, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in disobedience. You all lived in the passions of the flesh, and so on. You were dead men, he says.

You were dead. Well, how did they become spiritually alive? According to God's power. You see, the power of God enabled them to believe. Enabled them to believe. Has God's power enabled you to believe? To believe him?

To believe his Word? Have you been surprised by that? Have you discovered—you said to yourself, you know, I used to regard that as the strangest thing to do, to turn up a Bible and to look in it, but now I actually do it quite frequently.

I used to regard those songs as just the most bizarre songs. And I can't fully explain what's happening to me. I'm either losing my mind, or it must be something to do with this divine power at work within us.

They were once far off, and now they were brought near. And Paul's logic is absolutely impervious. He says, He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for his all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? So we sin, actually, by limiting God's power and his willingness to display his power. So God's person, God's power, and then just a word concerning God's praise. In verse 21, all that has come our way, he says, is according to God's grace, without exception. And it is all without exception to the praise of his glory. To him be glory in the church. So, when we are looking into the Bible together, and we're saying, Well, who is this him? And we're introduced to him as God who is perfect and God who is powerful and God who is praiseworthy. And his glory is going to be revealed in the church.

What does that mean? Well, it means that the communicable attributes of God—to put it theologically, not his incommunicable attributes, i.e., his omniscience and his omnipresence and so on, which are unique to him in his being. Not those things. But that which are his communicable attributes. He says, God's glory is going to be displayed in his church—big C and wee C—so that throughout all of the ages, in the church of Jesus Christ, men and women will encounter the glory of God. God's glory, his perfections, which are invisible, made visible in the transformation that he has brought about in the lives of men and women.

So, for example, his love and his faithfulness and his compassion and his goodness and his forgiveness and so on. Those are the kind of things, when you go into a church, you're supposed to meet. You're supposed to say, Oh, I think people in here love people. They actually love me.

And I'm surprised, because I'm used to people giving me the elbow. But that was interesting. And, you know, when I hung around with them for a little while, I discovered that there was a kind of forgiving spirit about these people. In fact, there was almost an empathetic compassion about them. And, you know, they weren't all the same. They didn't all come from the same background. They weren't all the same intelligence quotient. They didn't all have the same color of skin.

They weren't all coming from the same houses or the same communities. That's what so surprised me. That's what the person's supposed to say when God's glory is manifested in his church and his glory is displayed in Christ Jesus, in the bridegroom.

That's no surprise to us. John begins his gospel, doesn't he? He says, you know, we have seen his glory—the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Because God's power is displayed not only in the church and in Christ Jesus, but it's also displayed unto the generation of the ages—throughout all generations forever and ever. When we studied Daniel all these months ago now, and we thought of Daniel having that amazing vision of one like a son of man, and he's honest enough to tell us that it just completely destabilized me. A couple of times he took to his bed for ten days, because he was just overwhelmed by it. He was saying to himself, Who is this one who will be king of all kingdoms, who will have a dominion and a glory?

He's looking forward, and he doesn't know. What do you rejoice in today, believer? We have seen his glory.

We have encountered the reality. And the transforming influence of it is such that we say, Amen. Amen. You see, amen is just an expression of concurrence, an expression of assent. Amen is like saying, I'm good with that.

Count me in on that. You see, it's quite wonderful, because the profundity of it is almost inescapable, and yet the simplicity of it is grabbable by some of the little children that are in here listening to me. I didn't bring my hymnbook with me, but it's hymn number 605 in Hymns of Faith, in the children's section, God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea, who gave all life its birth, careth for me. He cares for me.

And it goes on through the progression. And the simplest child can say, The God who made the universe cares for me? The God who established time and broke into time in the person of Jesus and called out through the darkness of my rebellious and disinterested heart to open my eyes to the truth and to enable me to believe the truth, so that now I abide in that truth. So that now I realize that although my life is not easy, that although there are all kinds of problems and difficulties that come my way, although I am often my own worst enemy, every bit of progress that I make is always by and through his grace. Every mountain of which I manage to climb, every time God enables me not to be the bad act that I am and to actually be compassionate and to wipe away tears from the eyes of those who hurt, that is no testimony to you or to me how wonderful we are. That is a reminder of how amazing is the grace of God. And when that grace takes hold of a community, takes hold of a congregation, then the world looks on and says, That is at least worth investigating. And then we're able to tell them that this Lord Jesus Christ is a King who will reign forever and forever. We're on our website at You can find our current series by searching for a study in Ephesians.

We've just concluded volume four. In our study today, we learned that as God's people, we are to display his glory. And that's true even when we're grieving. To help you with that, we are recommending a book written by Tim Challies titled Seasons of Sorrow, the Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God. You can request your copy of the book, Seasons of Sorrow today when you donate to Truth for Life at slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Tomorrow, we'll launch the Encore 2023 series. We'll hear Alistair's most popular teaching from the past 12 months, and we'll begin by looking at Jesus' unusual and often disconcerting storytelling style. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-02 05:12:33 / 2023-08-02 05:21:10 / 9

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