Jeremy Sarber

According to the power at work in us

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

I have a confession to make. I really don’t know how a car works. I understand some of the basic principles of an engine. I can fumble my way through minor auto repairs with the help of YouTube. I can change a tire or jumpstart a battery, but I don’t understand everything that’s going on under the hood. Even so, I can still jump into my car, turn it on, and drive it to my destination.

Many of us are the same way about our spiritual lives. From the time of our conversions, we jump in and get going. We join others for worship, we pray, we avoid sin, and we commit ourselves to doing good works. We may even begin to study doctrine and work through the finer points of Christian theology. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily understand the full extent of what’s going on within us. We drive the car, but we don’t know how the engine works.

There are three verses in the Bible that I wrestled with for a long time. I didn’t know what to do with them.

The first is John 14:12 where Jesus says, Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do” (Jn 14:12). Lord, are you telling me that I have the ability to not only do what you have done but also do even greater works than you have done? What does the average Christian do with such an overwhelming statement?

The second verse is Acts 1:8. Again, Jesus is speaking, and he says, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Ac 1:8). At times, I can barely muster up the courage to speak about Christ in personal, intimate conversations, yet we have the power to publish the gospel across the entire earth. In fact, Jesus uses the word, dynamis, or power, from which we get the word, dynamite. We have an explosive force within us because of the Spirit working in us.

The third and final verse is Ephesians 3:20: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work— (Eph 3:20). Stop right there. If it weren’t for the last two words, then I would have no trouble at all this verse. Of course, God can do far more than we ask or think. Of course, he has tremendous power. But notice those last two words: Within us.” Paul says, According to the power at work within us.

Many of you are probably thinking, What power? I don’t know whether I have this power. Am I doing greater works than Christ? Am I an effective witness to those around me as Jesus implied I should be? Do I feel the power of God at work within me? Remember my analogy. Most of the adult population gets into a car every day, turns it on, and drives to work. Most of them are like me. They don’t know how the engine works. They don’t marvel at the modern mechanics at play under the hood. They just drive. The thing is, you don’t have to know how an engine works to drive a car.

Having said that, Paul does want us to know not how an engine works, but how a Christian works. You may remember that this prayer in Ephesians 3 is not Paul’s first prayer in this letter. He prayed at the end of Ephesians 1. First, he prayed that we (that is, believers) might know our power. Here, he prays that we might use it. Of course, we’ll be far more effective in using our power if we understand how that power works, where it comes from, and so so.

I believe a pastor’s role can be summed up with these two things. Elders, especially teaching elders, have a responsibility to (1) tell believers who they are in Christ and (2) urge them to live accordingly. The role of a pastor is to bring the church to a place where they are functioning as Christians with maximum power.

Read Paul’s prayer again. It serves a double purpose. While it is a prayer to God, it is also a plea to believers. He is urging the Gentiles in Asia Minor and us that we should respond to God’s sovereign provision. God is the provider. He is the one and the only one who can activate that power within us, but we are called to faithfully use that power, which all begins with the inner person.