Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ephesians 3:16 - His Glorious Riches v. Riches of His Glory

Here is a good example of how translation can impact how we understand a verse.  This came up in The Pursuit College class a couple of Sunday mornings ago. 
When you read Ephesians 3:16 in the NIV it says: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”
The NIV is a “dynamic equivalence” translation, which means it is not a strict word for word but tries to convey the meaning or “thought for thought” concept.  But this is an example where that effort misses the mark.
Many other translations render this phrase: “according to the riches of his glory”
Now the English grammar nerd comes out to analyze the sentences—and it makes a difference.
·         His Glorious Riches
o   Modifier: Glorious
o   Object: Riches
·         Richness of His Glory
o   Modifier: richness
o   Object: Glory
In the NIV translation the focus is more on riches to which we tend to focus more on the value or the wealth connected with the word “riches” since it is the primary noun.  Some have abused this and similar passages to talk about God’s blessing in material terms—riches here on earth.  His blessing is for us here on earth, but it is His Glory that is the blessing—it is His presence in our lives that brings an abundance and power to overcome.
But the more literal translation has the focus of the sentence on God’s Glory.  God’s glory has no limits, His glory radiates from Him.
His Glory carries with it a rich understanding from Scripture and in the minds of Paul’s readers.  His glory shines from the burning bush—without consuming or destroying it.  His glory descends on to Mt. Sinai  in cloud and fire and is awe-inspiring to the point that the Israelites are afraid to set foot on the mountain (Exodus 19:16-19, 20:18-21).  God’s glory is too much for us to behold (Exodus 33:19-23). 
Not even Moses was able to look at God’s glory head-on less it overwhelm and kill him.  Hidden in the cleft of the rock, I’m sure Moses had enough of an awareness to know not to press his luck—I’m sure peeking was not an option.  Not even Raiders of the Lost Ark could do this dangerous glory justice. 
Moses was able to see God’s glory as it “passed by” or was receding from him.  His glory is awesome, inspiring, overwhelming.  Just the presence of God was able to change Moses complexion to the point that it disturbed people.  They requested that he wear a veil until that glory faded (Exodus 34:29-35 & 2 Corinthians 3:7-18)
God’s Glory shines forth—God is light in Him there is no darkness at all.  In the end of time, not even the Sun or the Moon will be necessary because God’s glory will be enough to live by—there will be no more night (Revelation 21:22-26)
In our understanding, anything that gives off light (glory) requires some sort of power source or fuel.  If the fuel/power runs out, so will the light.  But since this is God’s glory—He is the source—He is the power and it is a power that will never fade or diminish—it will be forever shining—there is no end to the power that makes it shine—so too there is no limit or end to the power that is available to you and me as believers in Jesus.  The strength that God desires to pour in our hearts, based on His love, to make us more like Him is limitless. 
The power pours out of His Glory, not His Riches.  Since His glory is limitless, we have no limit to the power available to us, thus no real excuse to live as we are called to live.  This power is out of His glory, For His glory.
How firm a foundation—we are rooted and firmly established in love and empowered to live for Him and to Know Him.  Though He cannot be measured or quantified beyond our comprehension—He still desires us to Know Him and fill us with His presence.  His Glory is in our inner being.

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