A Far Greater Imagination

October 15, 2021

by David E. Briones

Do you remember a song that John Lennon wrote called “Imagine”? It’s a utopian song about imagining a world without heaven or hell, countries or wars, private possessions, greed, or hunger, and especially without religion. For Lennon, imagining these things isn’t difficult, in fact it’s easy. While this song is immensely catchy and even promotes Christian desires like eradicating hunger, greed, and war, this utopian imagination is completely antithetical to a biblical imagination.

Although Lennon insists that it isn’t hard to have this liberal imagination, I find that hard to swallow. He can “easily” imagine a world rid of the things that restrict him intellectually and morally, like heaven, hell, and religion, but he has no solid foundation on which to rest his case. Lennon calls on people to join him and says he has followers, but it is indeed the blind leading the blind. He has no basis for his imagination.

Christians have a far greater imagination—one that is founded on the very word of God, that centers on the finished work of Christ, and that depends on the Spirit to live, move, and have our being in this world. And this imagination is far greater because it is founded on far greater promises.

One of those promises is Ephesians 3:20–21: “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.

The Promise of Ephesians 3:20–21

As you probably know, Ephesians can be divided straight down the middle. Ephesians 1–3 emphasizes the indicative (i.e., truth statements), whereas Ephesians 4–6 emphasizes the imperative (i.e., commands). That makes Ephesians 3:20–21 the doxological climax of the rich truths in Ephesians 1–3.

Paul begins this climactic promise with the words “To the one who is able.” This is the same one before whom Paul kneels in prayer, namely the Father (Eph. 3:14). Our heavenly father, Paul says, is “able,” “capable,” or, more literally, “powerful.” The emphasis on God’s power is obvious. In a single verse, Paul employs three words that underscore divine strength: “able” (δύναμαι), “power” (δύναμις), and “work” (ἐνεργέω).

But what specifically is God powerfully capable of doing? “. . . far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” Now that’s quite the statement, but it seems to lose some of its force in English. You see, three English words (“far more abundantly”) are used to translate a single Greek word (ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ). For those of you who have a knowledge of Greek, you can see that Paul prefixed two prepositions (ὑπέρ, “above” and ἐκ, “out of, from”) to an adverb (περισσοῦ, “abundantly”). And this single word communicates the “highest form of comparison imaginable,” best translated “infinitely beyond” or “quite beyond all.”

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