This week, we invited Pastor Greg Robotti from Sunrise Bible Church in North Branch, MN to speak to us from the book of Ephesians
Ephesians 1:20–23 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
The day after the great earthquake and fire at San Francisco a newsboy was showing a dazed man the way through the rubble, and as they walked, the young lad reasoned… “It took men a long time to put this stuff up, but God tumbled it over in a minute… mister… isn’t no use for a feller to think he can lick God.”
In the verses right before these, we see the purpose for which Paul was praying for the Ephesians… that they might have spiritual insight… so that they might grasp the significance of three very crucial things… the hope that God provides based on His calling a believer unto salvation… the riches of His glory that He promises to all believers… the greatness of the power He possesses… the power that actively operates in and towards all who believe in Christ. What awesome things that God has done and has provided on behalf of all who know Jesus Christ. Now in vv. 20-23 as Paul continues his thought, we find him expounding upon the last of these three crucial things… the great power of God. In v. 19, he declared and emphasized the all-surpassing nature of God’s power. Next, he unfolds how God had manifested that power. Paul declares here the final thing that he earnestly desired the Ephesians and all believers… including us… to grasp the significance of… that…
The Greatness of God’s Power Is Demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
Of all the ways in which God has revealed His awesome power to mankind and to His people throughout history… none can match what He has accomplished through Jesus Christ. It is through Christ that the all-surpassing and incomprehensible nature of God’s power is demonstrated most magnificently. Why is it important to grasp this power demonstrated in Christ? Because the Church… the body of Christ… needs to comprehend her significance, the importance of her status in God’s eyes… she is the beneficiary… of this great power… she is the object of its work… The church often comes under attack in our day… is diminished, minimized… yet the church… and only the church…of all entities in the whole of the cosmos… only for her and to her is this great power of God through her head, Jesus Christ, supplied that she might be to the praise of His glory!… [read vv. 20-23… In v. 20, Paul refers to the “exceeding greatness” of God’s power from v. 19 as that… “That he worked in Christ.”
“worked” — ενργεω — to work, produce or affect something
Paul is going to declare for us what it was that God produced… effected… accomplished through His power in Jesus Christ. He sets forth three [3 demonstrations of the greatness of God’s power. First: The Greatness of God’s Power Is Demonstrated in…
I. The Resurrection of Christ (v. 20a)
“when He raised Him from the dead”
Acts 2:23-24 “his Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it”
Acts 13:30 Paul in the synagogue at Psidian Antioch… the one crucified and laid in the tomb… “God raised Him from the dead!”
Rom 1:4 “and was declared to be the Son of God in power… by his resurrection from the dead… ”
2 Cor 13:4 “For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.”
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of God’s power in all of history was the raising up of the crucified Christ. His body lay lifeless and cold in the tomb for three days when through the exercise of God’s awesome power, Jesus Christ was brought back to life in a glorified, spiritual body.
Last year… A deadly late-season tornado outbreak, the deadliest on record in December, produced catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across portions of the Southern United States and Ohio Valley from the evening of December 10 to the early morning of December 11, 2021.
Tornado activity began in northeastern Arkansas, before progressing into Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Early estimates suggested that the tornado family—identified by some media outlets as the “Quad-State tornado,” due to the storm’s similar characteristics to the Tri-State tornado that occurred 96 years prior—may have cut a path of up to 250 miles across the affected areas. If it had been a single tornado, it would have surpassed the March 18, 1925, tornado event (which carved a 219-mile [352 km path across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana) in terms of path length.
But… do we realize that not even the most devastating tornado in all of history… the most devastating natural disaster… in fact no power… human or natural or mechanical which we could conceive of in our minds… can match the power of God manifested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Why? Because no exercise of natural power… no matter how great or awesome… has ever nor will it ever bring one who is dead back to life. If we could harness the power of a million stars… it could not create one iota of life in a cold, lifeless body that has been stilled by death. Only God could accomplish such a thing through His omnipotent, eternal, all-surpassing power.
We must remember that the resurrection was THE dominant conviction of the early church. The central theme of their proclamation… the bedrock of their hope… the foundation of their steadfastness… was their unchanging conviction that Jesus was raised by the power of God… that He is risen just as He said! Why is this conviction based on God’s power so important?
1 Cor 6:14 “And God raised the Lord, and will raise up us by His power!”
The same power that raised Jesus Christ is the same power that will one day raise every follower of His to a bodily resurrection. It is the same power that allows every believer to face the reality of his or her mortality victoriously knowing that Jesus Christ has defeated death. Because of His fellowship and His resurrection, those who are in Christ can rest assured of their fellowship and their resurrection by God’s power. How about you… are YOU sure that God’s resurrection power will be applied to you? If you have trusted Christ, you can rest assured, though you may face death in this life, God will one day by His great power raise you to new life.
The greatness of God’s power was demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Next, we see the greatness of God’s power was demonstrated in…
II. The Exaltation of Christ (v. 20b-22a)
“and seated Him at His right hand. . .all things under His feet”
God’s power has not only raised Christ, but it has also lifted Him to a place of exaltation. There are three aspects of Christ’s exaltation which are seen here:
A. His Exaltation Restored His Rightful Honor.
The event Paul described here is the ascension of Christ when He left this earthly realm and took His place at the right hand of the Father in heaven. [“In the heavenly places” carries a sense of location here… heaven where the Lord God dwells. Paul here applied Psalm 110:1 to Christ:
“The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’
To sit at the right hand of the Father is to sit in the place of highest honor and glory. There could be no greater expression of honor than this. God the Father by His great power bestowed on Jesus Christ, His Son, the place of highest honor.
To understand the significance of this great work of God’s power, we must see not just the glory of the place Christ now occupies, but we must remember from where He came. We must remember that Christ in obedience set aside the glory that was His from all of eternity to come to earth to take on human nature and be born as a man. We must remember the He endured the cruelty and the shame of this sinful world to be crucified and put to death to accomplish redemption. To understand His exaltation… we must remember the thorns that pierced His brow… the whip that shredded His back… the spit that spattered His face… the weight of the cross that drove Him to the ground… the mocking words that crushed His heart… the cold steel that pierced His side. When God by His power elevated Jesus to His side, He lifted His Son far above the shame and degradation He had to endure. And once again restored to Him the honor and glory that was rightfully His from all of eternity!
B. His Exaltation Validated His Supreme Authority.
God’s exaltation of Christ not only set Him in a position of honor but it placed Him in a position of sovereign authority.
v. 21… “far above all rule and authority… ”
“far above” — high above in regard to rank and power / a marker of superior status (L/N)
Just as Paul used a number of similar words in v. 19 to emphasize the surpassing greatness of God’s power, he does the same sort of thing here to emphasize the fact that Jesus Christ now occupies a position of authority far superior to any that exists in the universe.
There is some debate as to what Paul is referring to when he mentions… “rule, and authority, and power, and dominion.” He could be thinking of earthly rulers and earthly authority. But in the context of the “heavenly places,” this is probably a reference to heavenly, spiritual beings and /or spiritual powers.
Eph 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood… ”
Paul was saying that whatever hierarchy of cosmic, spiritual, and angelic powers exist in the heavenly realm, Jesus Christ is superior to all of them. He is above and over them all. Also…
“and above… every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come”
Reminiscent of Phil 2:9-11 “Therefore, God has highly exalted Him, and bestowed on him the name that is above every name; so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Paul in this phrase places Jesus above the scope of all power and all authority. God by His power has placed Him in an exalted position of sovereign Lordship. There is no power, no being, angelic or otherwise, that exists in this universe… in all of the realm of space and time… now and forever… that is not subject to the sovereign and supreme authority of Jesus Christ.
We live in day that cherishes power… from the boardrooms of corporations… to the heads of governments… to the mystical forces of the Psychic realm. People admire it… crave it… often live in fear of it. Perhaps Paul desired his readers [who lived in the shadow of Roman power and who were surrounded by a multitude of pagan religions and so-called gods and for us to remember that “the powers-that-be will someday be the powers-that-have-been.” The greatness of God’s power has exalted Christ and validated His supreme authority over all orders of existence.
Christ’s exaltation restored his rightful honor… validated His supreme authority but notice also closely related to these…
C. His Exaltation Established His Dominion Over All Creation.
“and he put all things under His feet” / ‘’in subjection under His feet”
Not only did God’s placing Christ at His right hand bring Him honor and authority greater than any that could be bestowed but it also established His control over all things. In His exaltation, His right and responsibility to rule and reign as Lord has been authenticated. Paul referenced another Psalm here… Psalm 8:6:
“You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.”
In Psalm 8, the psalmist reflected on the wonder of God’s creation of man and the honor that man had been given to rule over God’s creation. Before the fall, man had been given the charge to exercise dominion over God’s creation. In Eph 1:22, Paul applied this principle in its ultimate expression to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who has been granted by the power of God the supreme authority to rule, control, and exercise sovereign Lordship over all that exists. What man could not fulfill because of his sin, Christ does. God has set Him as Lord over everything. While the official inauguration of His rule and reign in the Kingdom awaits His Second Coming… it is absolutely assured. He sits even now enthroned beside the Father as King and Lord.
The apostle Paul in this wonderfully glorious language heaps word upon word, clause upon clause to underline and emphasize the supreme exultation of Christ… accomplished through the great power of God! God by His power… restored the rightful honor of Christ…validated His supreme authority… and His dominion over all creation! Nothing in this universe holds a position of higher honor, authority, or dominion than Jesus Christ.
The Greatness of God’s power has been demonstrated in the resurrection of Christ… in the exaltation of Christ. Paul now moves to perhaps the main significance of the exercise of God’s power for these Ephesians and for all believers… The greatness of God’s power is demonstrated in…
III. The Headship of Christ Over the Church.
“and gave Him as head over all things to the church… ”
Here for the first time in this letter, Paul explicitly mentions the church. Here is what Paul is going to do… based on all that he has just declared about Christ, he is going to set forth the unique relationship that God has established by His power between Christ and the church. That is found in the idea of headship. Notice first…
A. His Headship Is Universal.
He is head over “all things.” The term “head” is used here to depict that Christ occupies a position of rule and authority over everything. Paul is really just continuing the theme that he has already presented… Christ has been exalted to a position of supreme honor, authority and dominion over every power and every mode of existence. And thus, He is the “head” of all things… He does rule and exercise authority over everything that exists. Notice secondly…
B. His Headship Has Been Bestowed On The Church.
“and gave Him… to the church”
Paul says that God has given Christ… the One who is head over everything… who rules over everything… who has authority and dominion over everything… He has been given to the church. The idea is not that the church is just included within the realm of Christ’s headship… along with everything else. NO! Having established Christ’s headship over all things, God then established this unique relationship between Christ and the church. Christ comes to the church by God’s power bringing with Him the full authority of His headship over everything else in the universe. Think about that… what an awesome arrangement. This means that the church holds a unique and privileged and honored position in God’s program. She is the one over whom God has set Christ as her head. She belongs to Him, and He rules over her! And all the rule and authority that God has given Christ who He has exalted can be used on behalf of the Church… to benefit the church. . to protect the church… to preserve the church. Can you see why Jesus could say in Matt 16:18 “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
IMPORTANT NOTE: No other organization… in all of history… or in all the universe that has the honor of having Christ as its head… except the church… no government… no secular organization… no para-church organization… not even Israel… only the church has Christ as its head! Ought to make us realize the uniquely special place that the church holds in God’s program. Ought to challenge our priorities! When we diminish the church, when we give it lower place in the realm of all that goes on… do we realize that we have lowered that to whom God has given Jesus Christ as the head?
Christ’s headship is universal… it has been bestowed on the church… thirdly…
C. His Headship Involves His Union With The Church.
“Which is His body, the fullness… ”
Paul also tells us that Christ’s headship involves more than just His being the leader and ruler of the church. For the church is called “His body.” The church is more than an organization with Jesus as its President and CEO. It is an organism… with Christ as its head. This means that in this headship God has established an eternal connection between Christ and the church. The church is a group of believers intimately united to Christ. There is a dynamic spiritual union between Jesus Christ and those who are in Him… His body.
We see some of what that unique relationship involves in the last part of v. 23. [“the fullness… The idea here is not that the church, His body, somehow fills out or completes Christ. This would imply that somehow Christ is imperfect or incomplete. Paul’s thought probably is that the church, His body, is filled by Him in all its fullness. It is Christ who gives the church all she possesses… who fills her with His grace and power.
Eph 3:19 “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Eph 4:7, 10ff By His grace, Jesus fills the church with all things
The church is nothing in and of herself. She is only what she is because of her unique relationship to Jesus Christ who is her Head and who fills her with the fullness of His presence and His power. He pours out His grace upon the church and equips her and empowers her to love and obey and serve Him.
God’s great power has made Christ the head of the church. And as such, He supplies the church with all the fullness of Divine life and power. The church holds a special place… is in a position of special focus… in God’s program… only the church, the body has Christ as its head!
As we come to the end of the 1st chapter of Ephesians, we find the apostle Paul presenting the manifestations of the all-surpassing power of God that he desired his readers to comprehend and grasp. As we’ve seen, God has demonstrated the greatness of His power through Jesus Christ. The greatness of His power has been demonstrated in the resurrection of Christ. The greatness of His power has been demonstrated in the exaltation of Christ that restored His rightful honor, validated His supreme authority, and established His dominion over all creation. The greatness of God’s power has also been demonstrated in the headship of Christ over the church. The full weight of the sovereign rule and authority of the exalted Christ is brought to bear for the benefit of the Church, as He is its head. He fills, the church, His body, with all the power and provision it needs to serve Him. She is His and His alone. She submits to Him and Him alone!
Back in v. 15, Paul began an expression of thanksgiving for the church at Ephesus. This thanksgiving unfolded into a prayer that they might grasp and understand the significance of what he was going to tell them about their relationship to God… he pointed them to the hope they have in Him, the riches of glory that lay ahead, and finally to the power of God that works on their behalf. I believe what he wanted them to see the most… was that this all-surpassing power that God demonstrated in Christ… it is the power that has been given to the church through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Head of the body. It is He who fills the body. It is He who sustains and empowers and equips the body. The church is nothing without Him and YET… if indeed He is our Head… and He has supreme authority and all dominion over everything that exists… If that is the case… and the word of God tells us that it is… should not the church live for Him and serve Him with the greatest confidence… with the greatest assurance… with the greatest hope… with the greatest joy. How important is the church… the body of Christ to you? Do you realize how important it is to God? That God placed the church and the church alone under the headship of His glorious, exalted Son… the Lord Jesus Christ!