In his prayers for us in Ephesians 3, Paul piles up terms designed to intensify the impact of his intercessions. For example, he speaks of “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ (verse 18), whereas we all know there are only three dimensions in ordinary space. Another example is more transparent in meaning, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians chapter 3 verse 20).
The Greek word hyperekperissou, translated here as “immeasurable” (NIV), is unusual, for in front of the normal word for “abundant” (perisso), it contains a double prefix (hyper and ek). This has the effect of magnifying the meaning to, “infinitely more than”. In other words, the power of Christ in us cannot be compared to anything else. Whilst a different word (hyper-ballo) is used in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 19, “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe”, the same accent of revelation through prayer of the incomparable vastness of divine power for Christians is in mind. This sharply contradicts the very ordinary and measurable spirituality of contemporary Australian spirituality. Why this contradiction?
One answer is that we are obsessed with measuring ourselves against others. The apostle Paul however refuses to judge himself in any way (1 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 3). More than this, he roundly labels as unintelligent those who do such things, “when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding”(2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 12).We are never informed by the apostle, for example, of how big are the churches he planted. Why then do current Christian leaders seem compelled to tell us how big their church is, or how many countries they’ve preached in? If they seem to have to “big note” themselves, it must be because they have not been humbled by the scale of Christ. In another place Paul makes a more compelling point.
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.” (2 Corinthians chapter verse 16). Whereas once he regarded Jesus as just an ordinary human, subject to the constraints of birth and death, the conversion revelation to S/Paul on the Damascus road was of a person who had conquered the sting of death and ascended into the eternal glory of God (John chapter 17 verse 5). It is as God-and-human that Christ now “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews chapter 1 verse 3). If Jesus upholds the universe by his power, and there is nothing we can imagine vaster than the cosmos, Christ is even vaster than this. The most amazing thing is where this vastness now lives.
Immensity in You
Paul teaches that the Church is growing into, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians chapter 4 verse 13) and speaks of “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians chapter 1 verse 27). In other words, the Person dwelling in the Church, and the individual Christian, is greater in power, majesty and glory than the sum total of everything that has been created. Through the indwelling Christ in us there is nothing of the greatness of God, Father, Son and Spirit, which is not present already in our lives.
Following his own conversion epiphany of the post-resurrection nature of Jesus, Paul’s prayers expect that Christian people can have a real sense of the unimaginable greatness of Jesus in and for us. The problem with most of Western Christianity today is that we are looking at people or things, including ourselves, which are vastly smaller than Christ. Two remedies spring to mind. Firstly, memorise Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 and pray it in faith daily. Secondly, meditate in the Spirit on who Jesus is, especially the dimensions of his death, resurrection and ascension which translated him far beyond the limits of ordinary humanity. This is an expansion which he will throughout eternity share with us; starting now!
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html