By: Tom Lowe Date: 2/5/17
Lesson 6: The Immensity of God’s Resources (1:20-23)
Series: Paul's Letter to the Ephesians
Ephesians 1:20-23 (NIV)
20 HE EXERTED WHEN HE RAISED CHRIST FROM THE DEAD AND SEATED HIM AT HIS RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS, 21 FAR ABOVE ALL RULE AND AUTHORITY, POWER AND DOMINION, AND EVERY NAME THAT IS INVOKED, NOT ONLY IN THE PRESENT AGE BUT ALSO IN THE ONE TO COME. 22 AND GOD PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET AND APPOINTED HIM TO BE HEAD OVER EVERYTHING FOR THE CHURCH, 23 WHICH IS HIS BODY, THE FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS EVERYTHING IN EVERY WAY.
Dear reader, as you read this lesson; notice the emphasis with which the Apostle affirms the supremacy of Christ’s nature, Ephesians 1:21-22. This is a psalm of ascension. We can almost follow His tracks, as all the evil powers which rule the darkness of this world drop far beneath Him. The ascending Lord is high over all, an if we claim our right as members of His glorified body, we also shall stand above all our spiritual adversaries; and it is easier to descend on an enemy from above him than to seek to assail him from beneath. Notice that Christ needs the Church as much as the head needs the body, because it is through the Church that He fulfills Himself. Ask Him to fill all of you with all of Him.
20 He exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.
The King James Bible seems to have a better translation: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”
“He exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” The raising of Christ from the dead was an awesome display of “power.” The "power" which He (God) exerted on that occasion was as great as that which He brought to bear during the six days of creation. It was capable of imparting life to a cold and "mangled" body, to open again the arteries and veins, and teach the heart to beat and the lungs to heave. It was able to diffuse vital warmth through the rigid muscles, and to communicate to the body the active functions of life. It is impossible to conceive of a more direct exertion of "power" than in raising up the dead; and there is no more striking illustration of the nature of conversion than in such a resurrection.
The same power that produced the marvelous miracle of Christ's resurrection now works in the hearts of believers. To appreciate this, we must bear in mind the apostle's full doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, embracing not only the reviving of His dead body, but the transformation of that body into a spiritual body, and the designation of Jesus as a second Adam, who would transmit or communicate to His spiritual seed both a renewed soul and a glorified body, as the first Adam transmitted a sinful nature and a corruptible body to his natural seed. The power that accomplished all this works in believers, and can surely work in them all, needed transformation
There are many articles of faith contained in this verse, such as, that Christ died, that He is raised from the dead, that He was raised from the dead by God the Father, and that His resurrection was by the power of God: the resurrection of any person is an event requiring great power, but Christ's resurrection from the dead was an instance of peculiar and special power; for he was raised from the dead as a public figure, representing all his people, for whom he became a surety; and he was raised again for their justification, and to bring great glory to Himself, after He had been born into a family with very low standing indeed. Christ's resurrection is called a begetting, and He is said to be the first begotten from the dead. And the regeneration of men is often compared to the resurrection from the dead. Just as Christ's body was really dead and lifeless, prior to His resurrection, so men, before their conversion, are dead in trespasses and sins, and destitute of spiritual life. And, just as Christ's human nature could not help itself, could not raise itself, neither can dead sinners convert themselves, or bring themselves out of that state and condition in which they are by nature; and as the resurrection of Christ was the pure work of God, and a display of his almighty power, so the work of faith, of grace and conversion, is entirely the work of God, which is begun, carried on, and finished entirely by His power; and while Christ's resurrection was meant to bring Him glory, so is the regeneration and conversion of men meant to provide them enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance.
From another point of view the Resurrection was the act of the Son’s own will. Jesus, speaking of His life said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18). But where it is viewed as the Father’s acceptance of the work of the Son, or as the Father’s testimony to Him, it is always attributed to the Father as His act. (See Acts 2:24; 3:15; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30:37).
“And seated him at his right hand” (also see Matthew 20:21), expresses the great honor and glory conferred upon the human nature of Christ; such honor has never been given to any of the angels, nor has any angel ever been exalted to the glory to which He is exalted; and this shows that the Father has approved of His work on earth. Therefore, God has “seated him at his right hand,” where he enjoys rest and relief from His labors, and is out of the reach of every enemy. He will never die again, for He will live forever to intercede for His people, to assist and protect them, and bring them where He is, for He is their head and representative, and they are already set down in the same heavenly places. There must be a spot in the heavens where His glorified body exists, and is in immediate contact with some manifestation of the glory of the Father. There Stephen saw him; and he came from there to meet Saul on the way to Damascus; and his promise to his people is “Where I am, there shall ye shall be also” (John 14:3).
Have you noticed that in Scripture imagery the ascended Lord is always on the throne; “a Priest upon his throne” (Zechariah 6:13); not pleading before it, but exalted upon it, “the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). “His right hand” is a glorious metaphor that implies that we will have a share in the throne (Revelation 3:21), not merely sitting near it. From eternity the Divine Son had been “with God” (John 1:1); “beside the Father” (John 17:55; A.V. “with thee”); now as the Incarnate after Death and Resurrection He appears in the same exaltation; in this capacity, as well as in that of one-third of the Godhead, He now “reigns;” wields “all power in heaven and earth.” And this sitting, like Resurrection, is the act of the Father’s accepting and glorifying will. The idea is that great power was displayed by this, and that a similar exhibition is made when man is renewed and exalted to the high honor of being made an heir of God. (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33).
“In the heavenly realms.” This phrase evidently means in heaven itself, the highest heaven, called the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:22), and paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4). This is where the Lord’s actual ascended Body exists.
21 FAR ABOVE ALL RULE AND AUTHORITY, POWER AND DOMINION, AND EVERY NAME THAT IS INVOKED, NOT ONLY IN THE PRESENT AGE BUT ALSO IN THE ONE TO COME.
This verse denotes both the extensiveness of Christ's kingdom, and the eternalness of it; for it reaches to both worlds, and is over everything in them, and it lasts to the end of this age, and goes on to that time which is yet to come.
“FAR ABOVE ALL RULE AND AUTHORITY,” refers to both good angels and bad angels, and may be applied to civil magistrates. The general sense of this verse is that the Lord Jesus was exalted to the highest conceivable dignity and honor (compare Philippians 2:9; Colossians 2:10). In this beautiful and most important passage, the apostle labors for words to convey the greatness of his perception of the Lord Jesus, and uses those which denote the highest conceivable dignity and glory. The "main" idea is that God had manifested great "power" in thus exalting the Lord Jesus, and that similar power was exhibited in raising up the sinner from the death of sin to the life and honor of believing.
The difficulty with this verse does not arise from the words themselves, the meaning of each being easily understood, but from the sense in which the apostle uses them. Some think he has reference here to the different orders among good and evil angels; the Lord is superior to all the former, and rules all the latter. Others think he refers to earthly governments; “rule” (power), the first word, denotes the most sovereign and extensive kind of dominion and lordship, the last word, signifies the lowest degree of authority; hence we are to understand that to our Lord, in his human nature, are subjected the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest orders of beings in the universe.
Christians ought to know the extent and glory of the power brought to bear in their salvation. The word rendered “far above” is a compound word, meaning "high above," or greatly exalted. He was not merely "above" the ranks of the heavenly beings, as their head; he was not one of their own rank, placed by His office a little above them, but He was infinitely exalted over them, seeing that He is of different rank and dignity. How could this be if he were a mere man; or if he were an angel? The word rendered "rule" means "the beginning;" and then the first, the first place, power, dominion, pre-eminence, rulers, magistrates, etc. It may refer here to any rank and power, whether among people or angels, and the sense is, that Christ is exalted above all.
Good angels may be called “POWER AND DOMINION,” because of their service under God in the execution of Divine intervention, and the government of this world; and Christ is not only above them, because He is God and their Creator, who has made them, and on whom they depend. He is the Lord whom they serve and the object of their worship and adoration, and he is Mediator, to whom they minister, and so He is above them in nature, name, and office; but also, he is man, in union with the Son of God; and here He is said to be above them on account of His position at the right hand of God—“To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’” (Hebrews 1:13). The answer, of course, is “none of them,” since that is the sole prerogative of Christ.
Bad angels may be called, “POWER AND DOMINION,” because of the government which exists among them, and the power and influence they have over mankind. Christ was above them when He was here on earth, as evidenced by his resisting the temptations of Satan, and defeating him, by dispossessing devils from the bodies of men, by destroying them and their works at His death; and by him leading them captive, and triumphing over them at his ascension, and by delivering souls out of his hands at conversion, through His power accompanying the preaching of His Gospel; and His being above them will be even more apparent, when He binds Satan for a thousand years, and in the final condemnation of him, and of all his angels under him.
Civil magistrates are sometimes called by these names, and Christ is above them; they receive their leadership abilities from Him, they rule by Him, and are accountable to Him, and are set up and put down at His pleasure. All these entities possess “power and dominion” (Greek; “Lordship”); but the first seems to be who Paul has in mind. The general idea is that Christ is elevated above all ranks of creatures, however exalted, and by whatever name they may be known.
“AND EVERY NAME THAT IS INVOKED, NOT ONLY IN THE PRESENT AGE BUT ALSO IN THE ONE TO COME.” That is, God has empowered Him with uncontrollable authority over all demons in hell, and angels in heaven, and all the princes and potentates on earth; “AND EVERY NAME THAT IS INVOKED” (Every creature of every rank.). “Name” is used here for the person who possesses the authority signified by that name. We know the king is above all, though we cannot name all the officers of his court, likewise we know that Christ is above all, though we are not able to name all his subjects; “NOT ONLY IN THE PRESENT AGE BUT ALSO IN THE ONE TO COME.” The invisible world, in which the angels in the former part of the verse rule, is called “THE ONE TO COME,” not because it does not yet exist, but because it is to come to us. It is certain that the apostle means that all created power, glory, and influence, are under Christ, not only in this world, and not only above all kings, and princes, and rulers of every grade and rank on earth; but also in that which is to come. This refers undoubtedly to heaven. The meaning is that he is Supreme over all.
We may observe here, that of the four different names given to good angels in this verse (“RULE AND AUTHORITY, POWER AND DOMINION,”), only two are given to evil angels, (Ephesians 6:12) and to men (Luke 12:11). From this we learn, that there are different orders and degrees of government and subordination among good and bad angels in the invisible world, as among men in the visible world. We don't completely understand the ranks of the angelic realm, but we do know that Jesus is raised above them.
22 AND GOD PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET AND APPOINTED HIM TO BE HEAD OVER EVERYTHING FOR THE CHURCH,
“AND GOD PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET.” This is the reason that all His enemies, and death itself, shall be put under the feet of Christ, and it is taken out of Psalm 8:6 which is regarding One that is transformed into a man, more specifically, the Son of man, the man Christ Jesus, who is often called the Son of man. “ALL THINGS” may include “ALL THINGS” animate and inanimate, the whole creation and universe of things, the world and its fullness, the earth and all that is in it and on it, the beasts of the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills, evil angels, the devils, men born again by the power of His grace upon them. He is heir of the world. The Father has delivered all things into His hands, and given to Him all power in heaven and in earth, and He rules over all creatures and things.
But when he says, “GOD PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET,” it is obvious that God is exempted, for when David, or the Holy Spirit by him, said the above words, in Psalm 8:6 nothing is more clear and evident, than that God the Father, who made all things subject to Christ as Mediator, is Himself not subject to Him; since His power as such must be equal to or greater than His: this exception is made to secure the government, power, and honor of the Father; for though he has made his Son higher than the kings of the earth, yet not higher than Himself; and though he has made him His King over His holy hill of Zion, yet not over Himself; and though it is His will that all men should honor the Son, as they honor the Father, yet not above Him, or more than He; nor has He relinquished the government, either in the world or in the church, by subjecting all things to Christ.
When Paul says, “GOD PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET,” he did not leave out any person or any thing; there is no one person or thing that is not subject to Christ; the subjection is universal, and it can be either voluntary or involuntary. Whether they will or not, they are, and must be His subject; God has left nothing on this earth but that which He has put under His power, there is nothing that is not put under Him (see Hebrews 2:8). But it must be observed that though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, yet He is equally exempted; since He is one God with the Father, and was jointly involved in the mission, and installation of Christ, as Mediator; nor can the Holy Spirit be considered among the “ALL THINGS” put in subjection to Christ, for they relate to only creatures. And though the gifts and graces of the Spirit are put into Christ's hands, and are at his disposal, yet the person of the Spirit can never be thought to be put under His feet.
“AND APPOINTED HIM TO BE HEAD OVER EVERYTHING FOR THE CHURCH.” “The church” does not mean those who are just professors of religion, or a family of faithful persons, or a particular congregation, though it is sometimes used in this sense; but the whole body of God's born again people, the church, which is built on Christ the rock, for which He gave Himself, and which is the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. Christ is the head of this church, and this headship of Christ is the gift of God; and it is an honorable gift to Him, as Mediator; it is a glorifying of Him, and a giving Him in all things the pre-eminence; and it is a free grace gift to the church, and a very special, valuable, and excellent one, and of infinite benefit and advantage to it; and which is expressed in His being head "over all things" to it; to overrule all things for its good; to communicate all good things to it; and to perform all the good offices of an head for it.
23 WHICH IS HIS BODY, THE FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS EVERYTHING IN EVERY WAY.
“WHICH IS HIS BODY,” that is, the church is the body of Christ, which the apostle explained in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 through a metaphor: “The human body is just one entity, consisting of various members, united to each other, and designed by God in an exact proportion and symmetry, and in a relationship of codependence between the parts. Now the church of Christ is likewise one general assembly, which consists of many persons, who have different gifts and usefulness’s, and are all united together under one head, Christ, whose name they bear, and are made to drink of the same Spirit. And these are placed in an order that will throw a glory and attractiveness on each other, and to be useful to one another, so that it cannot be said of the most insignificant member, that there is no need of it; and the number of them can neither be increased nor diminished; and this is Christ's body, his mystical body, which becomes His by the Father's gift to him, and by his own purchase; to which he is united, and of which he is the only head; and which he loves, supplies, directs, and defends as if it was his own body.
“THE FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS EVERYTHING”; besides the personal fullness which Christ has as God, and His fullness of ability and fitness for His work as Mediator, and His dispensatory fullness, which dwells in Him for the use of His people. The church is His virtual fullness, which fills Him, and which is filled by Him, and is complete in Him. Then will the church appear to be Christ's fullness, when all the elect, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be gathered in; and when these are all filled with the grace designed for them; and when they are all grown up to their full proportion, or are grown-up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; which will be a glorious sight to see, and very desirable. And this shows the certainty of the saints' perseverance and salvation: for if any one member, even the most insignificant, could be lost, the church would not be the fullness of Christ.
“IN EVERY WAY” may be understood to mean either more extensively, for He fills both worlds with inhabitants; he fills all places with His omnipresence, and all creatures with the proper food and nourishment; or, if limited to the church and people of God, He fills all His churches and ordinances with his gracious presence, and He fills the various societies of His saints with members and with officers, and these He fills with the gifts and graces of His Spirit, suitable to their place and station. He fills all of the saints, all the vessels of mercy, whether greater or lesser, all sorts of them, of larger or lesser capacities; He fills all the powers and faculties of their souls and their hearts with joy, their minds with knowledge, their consciences with peace, their wills with spiritual desires, submission and resignation, and their affections with love for Him and His people. In short, He fills them with all grace and goodness, and the fruits of righteousness; and so makes them implements of usefulness here and for happiness hereafter.