Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don Carson on the glory of God's omnipotence

In his second Aber Conference address, Don Carson spoke on Paul's prayer in Eph 1:15-23. He began by reflecting on the interrelationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility in prayer. Prayer 'changes things' not by persuading the Lord to change his mind, but because it is the divinely appointed means by which the Lord fulfills his eternal purposes.

There is a tight relationship between Paul's praise in Eph 1:3-14 and his prayer in Eph 1:15-23. What God has purposed for his people, such as knowledge of 'the mystery of his will' (Eph 1:9) is precisely what Paul prays for on behalf of the Ephesian church in Eph 1:17. His prayer is in sync with God's plan for his people and is a means by which the Lord's plan is richly fulfilled in his people.

In the last petition of the prayer Paul prays for power for the Ephesian believers, Eph 1:19. As God is omnipotent, no task is either more easy or more difficult for him. Creating a universe requires no more effort for him than creating the most wisp-like of sub atomic particles. His mightiest works require no expenditure of divine energy. 'He can act when he reposes and reposes when he acts.' (Herman Bavinck). However, to illustrate the power of God that Paul prays will be at work in the believer, the apostle does not refer to the creation of the world by divine fiat. Rather, he speaks of 'his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand...' Eph 1:20. 

It took no greater 'effort' for God to raise Jesus from the dead than to create the vast universe from nothing. But the resurrection of Jesus revealed more of the glory of God's omnipotence. His glory is supremely revealed in the work of redemption, at the heart of which is the death and resurrection of Christ. The reason why God displays his glory in saving lost sinners is not because he needs our approval or praise to complete him in any way. From eternity God was superabundantly satisfied in the loving communicative action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In redemption, the truine God acts to draws alienated sinners to himself that we may enjoy restored communion with him and so glorify his name. He wants us to glorify him because that is what is best for us. Our lives can have no more higher or satisfying end than to worship the God of the gospel and be enclosed in his love. 

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