3:21 glory. Because of the power that God has given to the church, Paul gives glory to Him.
in the church and in Christ Jesus. In this letter Paul uses a variety of images to describe the mutual relationship between the church and Christ: the body and the head (1:22, 23), the reconciled and the reconciler (2:14–18; 4:3), and the bride and her groom (5:22, 33).
3:21 glory Denotes honor and majesty. See note on Rom 1:23.
Amen Paul closes several sections of his letters this way (Gal 1:5; Rom 11:36; Phil 4:20). See note on Gal 1:5.
3:21 church. Paul conceives of the church as a unified whole, not as isolated entities (see 4:4–6).
3:21 to Him be the glory. Only when His children meet this level of faithfulness will Christ be fully glorified with the honor He deserves from His church.
3:21. Paul concludes his prayer that to Him, God, would be given glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. The world will see the glory of God through the Savior, Jesus Christ, as revealed by His chosen instrument, the Church. As His body, all believers everywhere are to serve Him, not through their own strength, but rather through God’s strength and power as He works within each of them as they walk by the power of the Spirit. Believers bring honor and glory to God through Jesus as they live their lives in His mighty power.
This first half of Paul’s powerful letter to the church at Ephesus ends with the word Amen. From this doctrinal treatise in chaps. 1–3, Paul turns to how to apply it in chaps. 4–6.
3:21. Finally, we see his glory. The power God has manifested and continues to display has a purpose—bringing glory to him. All that God has done is to resound to his glory forever. God has done things in the church among his people and in Christ Jesus where his people now abide and where God completed his plan of salvation. As we see and recognize God’s work in the church and in Christ, we respond in praise and worship, giving God glory.
21. Translate, “Unto Him be the glory (that is, the whole glory of the gracious dispensation of salvation just spoken of) in the Church (as the theater for the manifestation of the glory, Eph 3:10) in Christ Jesus (as in Him all the glory centers, Zec 6:13) to all the generations of eternal ages,” literally, “of the age of the ages.” Eternity is conceived as consisting of “ages” (these again consisting of “generations”) endlessly succeeding one another.
3:21 / Most of the doxologies in the nt connect the glory of God to Christ in some way (Rom. 11:36; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Pet. 4:11; Jude 24, 25); this is the only passage that refers to glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. Some commentators take this as part of the author’s liturgical language, which should not be pressed for any kind of theological precision (see Houlden, p. 305). However, given the teaching about the church in Ephesians, the relationship of the church as the body to its head, Christ, and the occurrence of so much liturgical language, it seems more likely that this statement is chosen deliberately. Christ (head) and his church (body) form the entire sphere of God’s glory as well as provide the means by which that glory is proclaimed to all humanity. This praising of God’s glory is to go on throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. This amen is a final liturgical declaration that everything the apostle has written may indeed be so.
21 The wording “to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” is unusual. It does not imply that “the church” and “Christ Jesus” are placed on a level with each other. God is to be glorified in the church because the church, comprising Jews and Gentiles, is his masterpiece of grace. It is through the church that his wisdom is made known to the spiritual forces of the heavenly realm. “The heavens declare the glory of God” but even greater glory is shown by his handiwork in the community of reconciliation. This community, moreover, consists of human beings who are united in Christ, members of his body, in whom Christ dwells: the glory of God “in the church” cannot be divorced from his glory “in Christ Jesus.” The “glory of God in the face of Christ” has illuminated the hearts of his people (2 Cor. 4:6) and is reflected in the glory which, in life as well as in word, they ascribe to God through Christ.
This ascription of glory will have no end: not only now but “in the ages to come the surpassing wealth of his grace” continues to be shown “in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7), and provides occasion for eternal praise.
The “Amen” which follows the doxology would be the congregation’s response as it was read in their hearing. It is through Christ, as Paul says in another letter, that his people “utter the Amen … to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). With this loud “Amen” the first half of the present letter is concluded.
21 With the use of the personal pronoun “to him,” Paul picks up the thought that began v. 20: “Now to him who is able …” To or for this one (i.e., God) there is “glory” (doxa, GK 1518). We must insert the verb “be,” as Greek often assumes its presence. Paul has pointed to the praise of God’s glory above (1:12, 14; see comments there). Here doxa refers to “honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige” (BDAG, 257). God receives the kind of recognition he well deserves “in the church” and “in Christ Jesus,” where in both cases the preposition “in” (en) has a locative intent. Both phrases pick up the central themes in the broader context of chs. 1–3. “In the church”—its very existence, identity, and godly activities—God’s fame and honor are proclaimed. But, as Paul has made clear, the church is the corporate Christ, and so “in Christ” God receives glory. The church’s glory derives from its head, Christ (cf. 5:26–27). Christ and what he has done in constituting the church—Jews and Gentiles together in one glorious body—manifest the glory of God. Who could imagine what God was up to? In fact, it was a mystery! How glorious is the God who could accomplish this!
How long will God receive this glory? Forever! Paul concludes the doxology with a complex and unique prepositional phrase that reads, literally, “to all the generations of the ages of the ages. Amen.” Paul employs a similar expression of praise in Galatians 1:5, but it lacks “all the generations.” The plural “generations” speaks of ongoing progressions of generations of people. What of the “ages” (aiōnōn)? Paul spoke of this age and the age to come (1:21), of coming ages (2:7), and the purpose of the ages (3:11). Again, the point is an unending passage of time into the future. This praise to God will know no limits: as far as time and eternity take us—forever—God receives the glory he deserves. God’s glory never ends. Amen! With this solemn final word, Paul exclaims, “This is true!”
What, Then, Is His Due? (3:21)
God does more—more than we can ask or imagine; and he does this according to his power—sovereignly and personally. Our response must be praise. He is deserving of more glory than we can offer. More glory is due him. Glory in the church, glory in Christ, and glory in perpetuity are due the One who is so able and so loving.
In the Church (3:21a)
Glory is due God “in the church” because he has chosen to use her as the instrument of his purposes on this earth and for eternity. Here his gospel is proclaimed, his law taught, and his people are nurtured in his grace and equipped for his service of world transformation. Thus, when Paul earlier pictured the temple of living stones rising to heaven where the angels sing glory, the apostle also pictured the Spirit indwelling as a Shekinah glory—the presence of God’s power and glory.
Whatever is accomplished by us in the church, it is done because our God is able and has enabled us, and therefore the glory belongs to him. Thus the church throughout all time proclaims along with Paul that God is indeed “the glorious Father” (Eph. 1:17). This fits with the concept Paul began earlier in the epistle that God’s grace and our redemption are to “the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). And from God’s “riches of glory” flow his inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18) and the Spirit’s strengthening of our inner man (Eph. 3:16). There will be glory in the church because God is working his power through each of us.
In Christ (3:21b)
The church that has been in Paul’s mind since the first chapter—that temple made of living stones that rises to heaven with the Spirit indwelling—is a natural place for giving glory to the enabling God. We readily understand what it means for there to be glory to God in the church. But what does it mean for there to be glory to God “in Christ” (Eph. 3:21b)? The answer involves understanding our position and our God’s passion.
If there is glory in the church, then the thought naturally follows that there is glory in Christ. After all, we have learned in the first chapter of this epistle that the church is Christ’s body (Eph. 1:23). So if there is glory in the church, there is glory in Christ. This is not merely an abstraction but, yet again, an affirmation of our union with Christ. Those who are in the church are recognized by God as having the identity of Christ. As his body, we have his attributes accounted to us: his righteousness, his holiness, his life. We may approach the Father who is able to help us, and we may approach him with confidence, because we are recognized as having the privileged position in and of his own Son. Because we are his body, we have his position, and, conversely, whatever we do is to his glory. But there is more than a tie of words between glory being given in the church and in Christ; there is also progression of thought.
We need both of these truths—that we represent him and he represents us. Since his glory is reflected in what we do as his body, we must always consider if our actions actually are bringing him glory, and repent if they do not. At the same time, the realization that we have his position answers a question that has been hanging in the air since the outset of this chapter. Early on, as the apostle’s thought unfolds, we may be willing to agree with him that our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. The question that remains is whether “he who is able” is willing to do such things. The answer is, yes. Because we are in Christ Jesus, he is willing to do more in our behalf than we would ask or even imagine. We have Christ’s position, and thus we have our God’s love.
Yet there is something even more than love, and perhaps even stronger than God’s love, that assures me that he is willing to do what he is sovereignly and personally able to do for those who are in Christ Jesus. The immediate subject of the apostle is not the love of our Savior but the glory of our Savior. The reason that I rest assured that my God is willing to use his power for those who are in Christ Jesus is that he is passionate for the glory of the Son who represents the wonders of his love and the beauty of his own nature.
We sometimes mistakenly think of grace as some material blessing or privileged circumstance that God provides to us. But grace is simply an expression of his character. His grace is evident in the glory that is in Christ Jesus. The One who loved us and gave himself for us is an expression of the character of the Father. The fact that there is glory to the Father in him means that the love that Jesus possesses and reflects is the nature of the Father. The glory that is in Christ is also in the Father. Thus the mercy, love, and compassion of the Son are the glory of the Father; they are the expression of the glory that is his chief passion.
Recently I received a letter from a good friend of mine, a pastor who had just resigned from a very difficult church situation. He had endured years of stress, financial sacrifice, family strain, and career jeopardy. Yet, through it all, this man has been one of my chief encouragers. However great his difficulties have been, he has always taken the time to write to me, to encourage me, and to remind me of the eternal promises of the gospel. In the letter in which he told me that he had submitted his resignation, he did so again. He wrote, “I rest in God’s passion for his own glory.” Whatever happens, whatever is required of sacrifice or success, this wonderful pastor trusts and teaches that God is not only able to do more than we can ask or imagine, but is also willing to do so because we are the body of Christ and our God is passionate for his glory.
Sometimes this is all that can make sense of things in the world. Today I worry about funds; my readers may be worrying about their jobs or relationships; but in many parts of the world there are faithful Christians in far worse circumstances. A Christian mother in the Sudan will hold a child dying of starvation, and she will remain faithful. While you read this, somewhere in this world a Christian is being tortured and is crying out to God for help. While we enjoy Christmas celebrations to commemorate the Savior coming to a stable two thousand years ago, other Christians will depart this life at the hands of persecutors and will see Jesus face to face. How does it all work together? I don’t know. It’s beyond what I would ask or even imagine. God’s sovereign and good intent is more than I could believe were it not for the coming of the Savior to suffer and die in my behalf.
When tragedy and heartache come to believers, what evidence is there that God is truly sovereign and loving? The answer will not be found in our circumstances, but rather in the character of God revealed in Christ. Cancers do come; tragedies do strike; one baby of a faithful couple lives and another dies; capable people serve in difficult and obscure places all of their lives. There may be no evidence of the sovereign, personal love of God since what he is doing is beyond our asking or imagining, but there is yet glory to give to Christ in these situations. He is the One whose very life and ministry make evident that what God is able to do on an eternal plane, beyond what we can ask or imagine, is for his glory and for the eternal blessing of those who love him.
As I write these words, the longtime chairman of our board of trustees is fighting a very aggressive cancer that has already claimed one of his lungs. He once said this to me: “We are praying for God to heal, but I know that whatever he does will bring glory to God. God will reserve the glory to himself.” That is a mature faith, and it is a sustaining faith: “My God is working beyond my asking or imagining according to his power at work in me, because he is zealous for his own glory.”
I remember a pastor who told me of a man who, having just come to faith, said, “I always thought it would be great if God were like Jesus.” He is. God’s glory is in Christ, and that is the reason that we know that our God is able and willing to help us.
In Perpetuity (3:21c)
How long will God keep this zeal for his own glory? Forever. We should never limit God’s glory to the time of our finite measurement. Perhaps that is why the apostle says that the glory due our God is throughout generations and throughout time. The expression “for ever and ever” (a Greek metaphor, literally “unto the age of ages”) is often found in Paul’s expressions of praise (Gal. 1:5; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18) and elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., Heb. 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; often in Revelation). This is not merely a redundancy. There is an intended emphasis that our hearts are meant to endorse.
With saints of old we thus proclaim, “Amen!” (Eph. 3:21). This word is frequently used in the New Testament to signal a wholehearted corporate endorsement of a prayer or praise (especially 1 Cor. 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:20; see for examples in Paul: Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; 6:18; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 2 Tim. 4:18). Paul invites us to join our hearts with his in this reminder that God will continue working throughout this generation. He is not simply the God of a former people. There is still work for this generation and every generation to do, and he is able for this generation, even as he was able for the generations of the past.
And he is able for ever and ever. There will never be a moment that glory is not due him, and therefore there will never be a moment that he is not working through you to do immeasurably more than you would ask or even imagine. In your moments of great success, he is able. In your moment of greatest fear, he is able. When you have failed, he is still able. When the challenge ahead is too great, he is able. For ever and ever glory is due him, for he is always able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, and continues to be at work for the purposes of eternity.
At this year’s Thanksgiving service I listened as the wife of one of our pastors gave glory to God. She spoke in the light of the recent murder of her brother. For some years this brother had lived in rebellion against God but, through the witness of his family and others, a glorious transformation had occurred. She reported how her brother had one day come to her father and said, “Now I know where I am going and Whom I trust.” After that, the brother changed and the circumstances surrounding that change were already more than the family could ask or imagine; God had worked sovereignly and personally to bring the young man to himself. After so much pain before knowing the joy of his salvation, one would think that the murder of this young man would totally devastate this loving family. Of course, in many ways, it did. But this dear sister reported how, after her brother’s death, and even while her father held his dead son in his arms, the father said that he was at peace. He knew that God had preserved the son until the time that his eternity was secure with the Lord. But even this promise of eternity was not all that caused the sister to rise to her feet to give glory to God.
She rose to her feet to give the glory to God that her family was now praying for the salvation of the man who had murdered her brother. The Lord is using the family of a man recently saved to pray for the eternity of the man who killed him. Is this senseless? To the world, yes, it is. It is even more than I would normally ask or imagine could be right. But in the church, and for those who are in Christ Jesus, such amazing love is but another reason to give glory to God, for we know it is more evidence that he is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work in us. We give him glory not only because he is able to work immeasurably above all that we would ask or even imagine, but also because in Jesus Christ we know that our God is willing to give supernatural blessing so that there will be glory due him in the church and in Christ, through all generations for ever and ever. Amen.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1709). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Eph 3:21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2267). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Eph 3:21). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Bond, J. B. (2010). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 875). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.
 Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 132). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 349). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (p. 331). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 102). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 175–180). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.