The Power of God in Christ's Exaltation for the Church (Ephesians Sermon 7 of 54)
May 31, 2015 | Andrew Davis
Christ's Resurrection, Christ's Exaltation, Supremacy of Christ
Recently, a statement that Jesus made that I've thought about for years, but it hadn't hit me in quite as powerful a way. I think actually one of the most surprising things that Jesus ever said, if you think about it one way, He said, "Behold I am sending you out like sheep among wolves." Just think about that. That Jesus, the loving, Good Shepherd, would send us out surrounded by foes way too strong for us, with sharp teeth and that we are in and of ourselves, completely defenseless. They're way too powerful and too strong for us and He's immersing us in an ocean of enemies. "Behold, I am sending out like sheep among wolves." Now, why would our loving Good Shepherd to that? As I have pondered that, it relates very much to what I am about to preach on, which is the sovereign power that Jesus Christ possesses, in this world even, to protect His sheep, to care for them, to nurture them, feed them, enable them, to thrive in a hostile environment. He is so confident in the power of His throne over all things, that He sends us out “like sheep among wolves.” And He knows that we will not be devoured, that nothing that Satan can devise against us will do us any ultimate harm. But in the end, all things will tend toward our salvation. Isn't that a marvelous thing.
Context: Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesian Christians
Paul Prays for Knowledge
We're looking this morning at Ephesians 1 and you heard what Adam just read. We're in the section in which the apostle Paul is praying for the Ephesian Christians. We're learning by that as we're going section by section through that prayer, many things. He is praying the Ephesian Christians and we're learning doctrine from what he prays and how he explains his prayer live. Now we saw last time, Paul prays for knowledge. As Andy highlighted, and I mentioned last week, he does not pray there specifically that they would have power, we're going to talk a lot about power today. It's a prayer for knowledge, spiritual knowledge. In verse 17, he prays that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you a Spirit,” capital “s” I think, “a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” That we would know God better, infinitely better as a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That He would continue to teach God to us. Beyond that, in the next sermon, we saw three other things that he prays, that is the primary thing that he prays. In verse 18, "what is the hope to which He has called you." Also, in verse 18, "what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints." In verse 19, "what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe." So, hope, riches and power, he prays that they would know them, that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened, concerning these things and that they would have a sense of all of them.
Focus: The Power of God on Display in Christ
Now we're going to focus this morning on power in particular, because Paul picks up on the third of those three prayer requests and goes on from there to talk more about the power of God at work in the Christian life. That's the focus, the power of God on display in the person of Christ. Christ has an analogy to the power He displays toward Christians. Look at verses 19 through 21, “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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.” In other words, the same power of Almighty God, that He used in raising Jesus from the dead and moving Him through the heavenly realms to sit at God's right hand in heaven, or above the heavenly realms. That same power is at work in you Christians, in all of you Christians, guaranteeing you final salvation. How encouraging is that?
Paul is going to complete his train of thought in the next chapter. Sometimes the chapter divisions aren't helpful, but there is just too much to handle in any one sermon, so for me they're very helpful. He's going to complete the thought in the next chapter. In Ephesians 2:1-6, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live." He goes on from there to describe the deadness, spiritual deadness, “but God, being rich in power and mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you have been saved,” verse 6, “and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” In other words, just as Christ was physically dead, so you were spiritually dead. And just as God raised Christ physically up from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, so God has raised you spiritually from the dead and seated you with Christ in the heavenly realms. That's the analogy being set up.
Now, the key to this whole concept is the idea of our spiritual union with Christ by faith. If you're a genuine believer in Christ, you have been made, in a mysterious way, one with Christ. The doctrine of our union with Christ is fundamental to this whole thing. So, big picture, is that Paul is praying for assurance, that’s what he’s doing. He's praying for the Christians to have assurance of their salvation, their final salvation. Borrowing a phrase from another epistle, he is praying that they would be absolutely certain that “He (God) who began a good work in them would carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus.” Now, that sense of confidence, that sense of total assurance of salvation is indispensable to the healthy Christian life, as something we need. We need a sense of that assurance. Paul's prayer definitely gives that to us as we understand it's doctrines.
God’s Power only Discerned by Faith
Now, God's power in this matter can only be discerned by faith. An unbeliever can't discern this power. It is nothing that an unbeliever can see. It's something that only comes by faith and I would say that the more developed you are in your faith, the more you will see it as well. Look again at verse 17 and 18, he says, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” In verse 18, he prays also, “that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened in order that you may know.” He goes on from there. So, he's talking about wisdom and revelation through the Holy Spirit. He's talking about the eyes of the heart. Last week, we talked about that. I believe that the eyes of the heart equals faith. By faith, we see invisible things, that’s the eyes of the heart, and so I argued that last week. By faith we will perceive this power. Without faith you won't see it. The stronger and more energetic your faith is, the more developed your faith is, the more you're going to see this power.
The focus of all of this is the power God has already exerted on you as a Christian, but it also implies power He's going to continue to exert toward you to finish your salvation. So, both of them are uploaded here for us. What has God already done, oh Christian, man or woman, boy or girl? What has God already done, what miracle has He already worked in your soul? You would know that and have a sense of that and you would have confidence that it’s going to continue right to the end.
Paul goes step by step, looking at Christ's exaltation. We get a sense of going from step to step to step, ever higher. So, first God raised Christ from the dead, physically. Second, God ascended Christ, raised Him up through the heavenly realms to sit with Him at His right hand. Thirdly, He subjected all powers to Christ. And then fourthly, He made Him head over everything for the Church. So there’s a sense of ascending levels of Christ's exaltation here, ever higher. We're going to trace those out.
The First Display of God’s Power: Christ Raised (vs. 19-20)
Christ’s Resurrection: A Clear Demonstration of God’s Power
The first display of God's power is Christ raised physically from the dead, verses 19 and 20. Christ's resurrection from the dead is a clear display of the power of God. I remember I used to speak at conferences and they would always give me the "after lunch slot." Have you ever gone to a conference and gone to the 2:00 slot after lunch? That's a killer! I remember one time I said to the people, "I'm not going to fight it. I'm just going to speak in a very low, kind of monotone voice. I might just kinda walk back and forth in a little slow pendular motion. I mean, why fight it?" Anyway, cold people are easier to preach to than hot people, I think. They're very urgent and eager and looking forward to the sermon being over, because they're freezing, but they're alert. Hot people are very sleepy. So, my strategy is that I'm going to modulate my voice, I'm going to use dramatic pauses, and then I'm going to come at you a little bit to keep it going. You can also fan yourself with the bulletin, whatever is necessary to help you.
Alright, the fundamental Gospel that Paul preached to the Ephesians is based on the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. That's Christ resurrected, that's what they preached. Without that, there's no Gospel. So, that’s the historical fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead is the foundation of everything he is saying here. In verse 19 and 20 of the KJV, “according to the working of His mighty power which He rot in Christ when He raised Him in the dead.” Now, if God can raise Jesus from the dead physically, His power is sufficient for your complete salvation. That's the logic.
Death: An Awesomely Powerful Enemy
Now, death as we know is an awesomely powerful enemy. Death was, before Christ, an undefeated enemy. No one had ever triumphed over the grave. Jesus died on the cross, His body was taken down off the cross, it was wrapped up in linen cloths with some sticky aromatic resins, about 75 pounds worth, by Joseph and by Nicodemus, and his body was laid a cave that was carved out of a rock, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. His dead body was laid there and a big stone was rolled in front of the entrance of the tomb. He laid there dead, cold, lifeless through the rest of that day and through the next day. His heart was still, it did not beat. His lungs did not fill with air. His muscles did not move. There was no brain activity at all. He was dead. No power on earth could have raised Jesus from the dead. There is no human power or skill, even today, even after two millennia of scientific research, medical research, there is no power greater than death. No Greek physician could have come in there with a combination of potions or balms or techniques or therapies that would have made any difference at all. He was dead. Death, an enemy far beyond human power. We then, must see in understanding the nature of death and we have experiences with it perhaps every day, especially in the animal world. We probably see a dead animal every day and we know that when the spirit has left the animal, when the life, we’ll put it that way, has left the animal, it never lives again. So it's true of humans, as well. As the beast dies, so we die and we don't live again. We know that. We have experience with that. But, the power of God is seen immediately in Jesus' condition. It comes through the prophecy made in Psalm 16 that He would not see decay. If you know anything at all about what happens to the body as soon as the immune system is done, the microbes take over. That was well known back then. They wouldn't have known about microbes but they sure knew about odor after four days because Martha said, "By now there's going to be a bad odor because He's been dead now for four days." That begins immediately the decay process. But, God would not permit it in the case of Jesus. So, Peter preached Psalm 16 at the resurrection, saying, "Seeing what was ahead,” David who wrote Psalm 16, “spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to the grave nor did His body see decay." That's the power of God. But then suddenly, on the third day, something happened that changed all of human history. Jesus' dead body was miraculously transformed into an eternal mystery, something that the New Testament calls a "resurrection body." This was something that had never existed before in redemptive history, and I believe that there is no other but Jesus'. It's described for us as we've seen recently in 1 Corinthians 15. Ultimately with this amazing phrase, “it is raised a spiritual body.” “Spiritual body,” and that’s a mystery we don't fully understand. But the key is that it is different than Lazarus and it's different than Jairus' 12 year old daughter, or any of the resuscitations that happen in the Bible, in this one issue, Romans 6:9, we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again. Death no longer has mastery over Him. That's a resurrection body. He cannot die again.
So, Jesus, oh, I don't know, sat up in the tomb? I picture Him passing through the linen cloths and the aromatic resins, all that sticky stuff, and just passing through. Picture Him based on John 20, taking off the head cloth and folding it up by itself separately. Then in some way, passing right through the wall of the tomb. I don't know how this happens but Jesus can do amazing things in that resurrection body. He goes right through the tomb. The angel comes later and moves the stone so they can get in and sees that He's gone, but He didn't need to be let out. I've often thought of Him knocking, saying, "Angel, let me out please." That did not happen. He's already gone. Just like He raised up through the grave clothes, He's gone through the walls. He can do that. It's a mystery we don't fully understand. But, the key that you need to understand is that He can never die again. That's a resurrection body. And that, dear friends, is a supernatural display of the power of God, and that same power is at work in you, already at work in you.
Power of Christ’s Resurrection At Work in Your Life
The same power that raised Christ from the dead physically has already been at work in your life, but God wasn't done exalting Jesus Christ. He had a higher exaltation planned for Jesus than mere resurrection. Look again at verses 19 through 21, “according to the working of His mighty power which he wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in the one to come.” So, God also put His awesome power on display by what happened to Christ after His resurrection from the dead.
The Second Display of God’s Power: Christ Seated (vs. 20-21)
The Ascension of Christ
Now, the resurrection from the dead proclaims, “Christ lives, and He lives forever.” The exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God, proclaims Christ reigns and He reigns forever. And so, we have the ascension of Christ. After Christ's resurrection, He spent 40 days with His disciples, and with the apostles, teaching them many things about the Kingdom of God, establishing their knowledge of what we call the Old Testament, the Scriptures, as they testify to Jesus. And after that 40 days was over, He led them to a very high mountain, He led them to the Mount of Olives and at that moment, all of them were there, and suddenly, Jesus was taken up before their very eyes and He moved up off of the surface of the Earth. He went up higher and higher until at last, a cloud hid Him from their sight. But that was not the end of His infinite journey at all, actually. It says in Hebrews 4:14, "Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens," not gone “to” the heavens, gone “through” the heavens, passed through them. Now, scripture reveals that there are three heavens. There's the sky, the first heaven, blue sky and birds of the air fly through it. Then there's outer space where the sun, the moon and the stars are. Then there's, what we would generally call, Heaven where spirit beings are, angels, departed saints, etc.
The Session of Christ
But, scripture reveals that Jesus has gone above all that, above all created realms, above all orders of creation, infinitely above all of that. Why? Because Psalms 8:1 says, "Oh Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You have set Your glory above the heavens." Again, in Hebrews 7:26 it says, "Such a High Priest meets our need, One who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." So, there our Great High Priest has offered His own blood for us right before the throne of Almighty God and Christ is infinitely above all powers in the heavenly realms as is His appropriate status as the Only Begotten Son of God. He goes through the heavenly realms and then He sits at the right hand of God. It's called the Session of Christ. He sits down. The right hand is a place of access to God. It's a place of honor and it's a place of power, of influence. So he has access to Almighty God, to God the Father, He is honored by God at His right hand and He has complete access to the Father at any time, all the time. And to sit in the presence of Almighty God makes Him coequal with Him. Angels are falling on their faces or standing ready to serve like slaves but Jesus sits in His presence as a coequal at the right hand of God. Also, the sitting of Christ pictures the completion of His priestly ministry, His atoning work is done. Hebrews 10 says, "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties. Again and again he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sin. But when this priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sin, He sat down at the right hand of God and by one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever, those who are being made holy." So the sitting of Christ at the right hand of God shows the completion of His atoning work on the cross. Now, He's not done with His intercessory work, but He's done with His atoning work.
Now, this very thing was predicted in Psalm 110, verses 1-2 where the Lord speaking through David by the Spirit said, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" Then in verse 2 of that Psalm, "The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion. You will rule in the midst of your enemies." Isn't that powerful? So, that was predicted a thousand years before Jesus was born, "Sit at My right hand." But then, now it's a fact. In verse 20, "God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms." It's done. He is seated there. Again, you can only see this by faith. Only by faith will you know that Jesus is seated at the right hand of Almighty God. Again Hebrews 1:3 says the same thing, "After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Many verses teach this.
The Seating of Christ at God’s Right Hand: A Display of God’s Power
Now, the seating of Christ at God's right hand is a display of God's power. Christ was as low as you can get. He was despised, rejected, hated and killed as a criminal, dead in the tomb. God raised that One up to the highest place there is in the universe. That's what He's saying. Philippians 2:9, "Therefore God, exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 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."
Implications for Christians
So, what are the implications for us? That One up there, the One that’s seated at the right hand of Almighty God, He is our Savior. He is the lover of our soul. He is our brother. That's who He is. We have the ultimate friend in the ultimate high place. Just like when you have a friend in a high place, you expect them to kind of "rig" some things for you? Help you out a little bit? Oh, He's doing more than that. We're going to talk about this, but He is in the ultimate high place to help us. Not only that, His exaltation is our exaltation. That's where we find our honor. Not in anything the world can do. My honor is that I'm seated with Christ at the right hand of God. That's my honor and yours too. What Olympic Gold Medal or what certificate or what degree from university, what could equal that? None, nothing. Now all of this is because of our union to Christ. It's not independent or not like Satan trying to usurp a throne. No no no, it's because we are united with Christ. It's in Him, completely. Look again over at Ephesians 2:6, "God raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ." That's three times in one verse, lest you miss sit. It's only because of our union with Christ that this exaltation has come to us sinners. That's it. Also, there are warlike implications here too. What do I mean by that? Christ has enemies. Christ has enemies, and the statement in Psalm 110 is, “sit at my right hand”, God the Father is saying this to Him, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Then again in verse 2, which we don't quote as much, "The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion. You will rule in the midst of your enemies." Surrounded by your enemies, you will rule. So Christ is seated at God's right hand while Almighty God Himself, God the Father, employs His omnipotence, the totality of His wisdom and power to crush Jesus' enemies under His feet.
The Third Display of God’s Power: Christ Ruling (vs. 21)
The third display of God's power, Christ's ruling, verse 21, "He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and above title or name that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come, and God put all things under His feet."
“Rule and Authority and Power and Dominion”
What does the text mean by, "rule and authority, power and dominion?" Now, this is fascinating. “Rule and authority, power and dominion,” gives us a glimpse into the spiritual world around us that we wouldn't have any other way. Only by the Bible can we understand spirit beings and what they do in the invisible realms. This brings into the realm of angels and demons and other spiritual beings that scripture describes that we don't know very much about at all. There are different kinds of angels. There are different levels of angels. Just the biblical word used in reference to one archangel, in reference to Michael, archangel in Jude 9 means ruler angel. So this implies different levels of authority among the angels. Once that door is open, then there are all kinds of differentiations of power and responsibility that could be imagined at that point. I'm not going on a flight of fancy here on angelology, I'm just trying to understand the word, “archangel,” and what, “rulers, authorities, powers and dominions” might mean. It implies that some spirit beings are more powerful than others. Also, other verses talk about other beings that aren't mentioned in other places in scripture. For example, Isaiah 6 mentions seraphim. Which is Hebrew for "burning ones." They're not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Seraphim, some kind of spirit beings that are around the throne. The Book of Revelation speaks of four living creatures, remember them? The four living creatures with six wings, one was like a lion, one was like an ox. One had the face of a man, one like a flying eagle. They are covered with eyes all around. Fascinating. The book of Ezekiel mentions spirit beings like this as well but slightly different, similar language, but different too.
Now again, the idea of an archangel like Michael gives us a sense of dominion or realms of angelic power or dominions or realms of angelic responsibility, as though God put various angels in charge of various other angels in various aspects of His creation. Probably the best book to develop this would be the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel gives us a glimpse into the invisible spiritual realms that other books don't really give. For example, in the book of Daniel, an angel tells Daniel that Michael is one of the chief princes who came to assist another angel in his struggle with the so-called, King of Persia, whoever that is. Since no human could ever resist an angelic being, you have to think that it's another angel and apparently a little stronger than the first messenger angel that was sent. He couldn't get by him. He was too strong for that messenger angel, so Michael had to come and the two of them had to work together to get the message to Daniel. Wow, how powerful then, must be this evil, this wicked King of Persia, whoever he is.
Some commentators think the King of Persia refers to Satan, possibly so. Or, the King of Persia refers to one of Satan's minions which makes Satan even more powerful, which is terrifying. That's possible as well. Satan, kind of ruling over the whole evil world and then different nations assigned to different evil archangels. It's possible.
Paul will use this same terminology in Ephesian 6 to talk about our spiritual warfare in verse 12. For it says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." All of these terminologies are evil because we're struggling against them. “Rulers, authorities, powers, demonic forces.” If you want to have a sense of how powerful they are, look at the book of Daniel or the book of Revelation to see just the kind of glory and power that angels have. Daniel 10, there Daniel looks up and saw before him "a man dressed in linen with a belt as fine as gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolyte, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” In other words, when he spoke, it sounded like a thousand people speaking at once. Daniel, when he had that vision, literally fell on the ground. His companions couldn't see the angel, but ran for their lives. Such terror overcame them. Daniel, later in that encounter said, "I can't breathe. I can't have a conversation because I can't breathe." And so, the angel has to help him up and give him strength so that he can even have a conversation, yet this astonishingly, gloriously powerful being needed help from another being to get by the King of Persia.
You can see why Martin Luther, talking about Satan and his dark kingdom, saying, "Did we in our own strength confide, trust our striving would be losing." That's part of what Jesus meant when He said, "I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves." Way too strong for you. It could be that various demons are assigned to various political nations, to various rulers, to various issues that are of interest to Satan's kingdom. It could be that demons are assigned to mimic or imitate deities in other false religions like gods and goddesses. I do believe that demons are god and goddess impersonators that enable religions to crop up because there is a supernatural aspect to them. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:20, "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I don't want you to be participants with demons." He openly says it, that behind the idols behind the stone statue, there is a supernatural force, demons. Don't be involved in that.
Well, at any rate, Satan's vast kingdom of wickedness is well organized and invisible “rulers, powers, authorities and dominions” may extend then into the human realm as well so that Satan becomes a puppet master through his demons behind princes, presidents, kings, potentates and governors and even minor officials, the movers and shakers, CEO's, and the influencers of our world. He is the behind-the-scenes puppet master. In 1 John 5:19 it says, "The whole world lies under the power of the evil one."
But, Christ is infinitely above all of that. Aren't you waiting for that? Isn't it a relief? Oh, please say it! Well, I've said it, Paul said it! He is infinitely above all of that, so far above all “rulers and authorities, powers and dominions” that it can't even be measured, the gap between Christ and them. Even the most powerful dictator, and emperor, and king, and president, and prime minister and the demons behind them and Satan himself, they are as nothing compared to Christ. I revert to Isaiah 40 here, "Surely the nations are like a drop from the bucket. They are regarded as dust on the scales, he weighs the islands as though they are fine dust.” “He,” Christ, “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this age to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sewn, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind blows them away like chaff.” That's the kind of power that our Savior has. He is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.” That's what the text says. Look at it, it's right there on the page, “far above all rule and authority.” Thus, rightly did He say, "All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to Me."
“Every Name that is Named”
And He is also above every name or title that can be named. He's far above them all. “God exalted Him to the highest place,” Philippians 2, “and gave Him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on the Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
So what does this mean, 'above every name?' "Name" is a reputation. It's tied to a history, the events, the things you achieved in life. It's also related to power like, "Stop in the name of the law," or something like that. I don’t know, does that ever work? You know, the criminal is running away, the police yells, "Stop in the name of the law." “Oh, I’ll stop.” I wonder if that's ever happened in history, but that's it, the idea of “name”. "In the name of the law!" It's a matter of authority. Jesus is above all authority, and above every reputation. Remember when David wanted to build a temple for God and God spoke to him through Nathan the prophet. He said, "I'm going to build a house for You." Then he says this in 2 Samuel 7:9, "Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on Earth." Yes, but Jesus's name is greater, infinitely greater than David's name. We know David, he's famous. You know David and Goliath, very famous, well known. Jesus is more famous. Jesus is greater. “And not only in this age, but also in the one to come.” Christ's power is both present and it is future. As a matter fact, Jesus's name, His reputation is going to grow forever. Now, you ponder this one, His reputation is going to grow forever because it says in Isaiah 9:7, "Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom from that time on and forever." How then will Jesus's reputation keep growing? It will keep growing in your mind and in mine, and in our hearts. We'll think, wow, I didn't know You were that great. He can say, "Oh, I'm greater still." Forever! We're going to get to that more in Ephesians 2:7. I'm going to preach a whole sermon on that one verse. You’re all like, “well what is that verse.” Look later, please, we're almost done.
All Things Under Christ’s Feet
But, forever you're going to have a sense of the greatness of Jesus's name, His power, and His kingdom will never end. It will go on forever, and all things are placed under His feet. Total domination over His enemies, verse 22, "And God placed all things under His feet." Exactly like Psalm 110, "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet. You will rule in the midst of Your enemies." So what that means is that Jesus delights in defeating Satan every day. Not just once at the cross or at the empty tomb, every day He beats him. Beats him like a drum. Everyday, He ties up the strongman and plunder his house for more elect, and Satan hasn't been able to stop him for over 2000 years. I think that's part of the reason He keeps Satan around. "I'm just going to beat you again today. I'm just going to beat you and beat you and there's nothing you can do to stop Me from saving the elect. Nothing you can do. I will build My church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it." There's nothing that Satan can do to stop Him. He's been binding the strongman and plundering his house for 2000 years. He actively controls daily life, every day on planet Earth. I believe He sustains it and upholds planet Earth “by the word of His power” because that's what Hebrews 1 says He does.
You know what I picture? We've had a number of very tragic earthquakes recently. You know how Samson went very powerfully through the Spirit and he went to the pagan temple, remember? And He brought it down. I picture Jesus stronger than Samson but going into a crumbling, destroyed, corrupted, sin-cursed world and holding it up, until all the elect can be rescued. I think it literally happens that some of God's elect were just about crushed by some earthquake and something held the slab up off their body and somehow rescue teams got to them and later they came to faith in Christ. You can picture, who is holding the slab up so that that person can survive and later come to Christ? Jesus is! He is that powerful. And he continues to permit His enemies to exist and to act in the rebellious ways that they do. He permits them to attack His people. He permits them to make unjust laws. He permits them to even martyr His people. He permits them to oppose Christianity. He permits them to fleece the people, and strip them bear and plunder them. He permits all of this wickedness because it is ultimately part of His wise, complex, sovereign plan to build His church in glory. If He wanted to shut them all down, all these “rulers and authorities, powers and dominions,” He could do it right now, instantly, and they’d be done!
Not only does He permit them to do these things, He restrains them and puts boundaries around what they can do. He doesn't allow them to do more than He wills for them to do. So, they're on a chain, they’re on a leash, these wicked rulers and authorities, and powers. He limits them. Think about Revelation 2:10, what Jesus said to the suffering church at Smyrna. He said this, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you and you will suffer persecution for ten days." Do you not see the leash in there? Satan is going to only put some of them in prison, not all of them. And he's going to put them in prison, not kill them like he'd like to do because he's a murderer. And they're going to be in prison for ten days, not ten years or ten centuries. He limits what can be done to His suffering people. Now you may say, "Why does He allow any suffering at all?" Well, because the blood of martyrs is seed for the Church. This is how the kingdom advances, by kernels of wheat falling into the ground and dying. That's how it happens, and He permits that, also for our sanctification. But, they, our wicked enemies are on a leash. They’re limited in what they can do. Even our temptations, all of them are filtered. Isn't it wonderful to think of Satan and demons asking permission to tempt us today? "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man but God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you can bear but with the temptation, will make a way of escape so that you can bear up under it." No temptation will come on you today except what God has allowed and filtered through. In Job 1:10, Satan frustrated says, "Have you not put a hedge around Job and everything he possesses?" Yes, He's put a hedge, a wall. He has to ask permission to get at Job, and so also with us.
Now, we see a clear illustration of this the night that Jesus was arrested. I want you to ponder this. Remember they were there to arrest Jesus. He said, "Who are you looking for?" They said, with 600 soldiers present, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said, "I am He" When Jesus said, "I am He" they drew back and fell to the ground. Then He asked them again, "Who are you looking for?" They said again, "Jesus of Nazareth." Twice they stated their orders now, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said, "I told you that I am He. If you're looking for me, then let these go." That's your Good Shepherd out in front of you filtering what trials you can handle. Because John tells us in John 18:9, "This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken would be fulfilled, 'Of all that you have given Me I have not lost one.'" He doesn't allow any physical trials to come on us that would cause us to be lost, spiritually, and so He filters all of those things. Not only that, but Christ punishes the “rulers and authorities, and powers.” He punishes them for the wickedness they do. Remember King Herod? He wanted to kill Peter, he already killed the Apostle James. God orchestrated Peter's escape, remember? He also orchestrated Herod's death, because some time later, short time later, Herod was speaking in front of some huge crowd that was fawning on him because they wanted something from him. They said, "This is the voice of a god not of a man because he was dressed in beautiful, golden robes." “Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” That is our Sovereign King bringing judgment, vengeance on an enemy of the Church.
The final display of this will be on Judgment Day when who do you think it will be before whom all nations are gathered? Jesus is the judge of all the Earth. Jesus is the one who will sit on the throne and separate people one from another as a shepherd separates His sheep from the goats. It is Jesus in His glory who will do that.
The Purpose of God’s Power: Christ Head for the Church (vs. 22-23)
Christ Wields Power for the Church’s Good
Now, the final point I want to make today is the purpose of all of this power, in Christ, is to benefit the Church. It’s to benefit you and me. This isn't an honorary position that Jesus has here like an honorary diploma or an honorary gold medal, or something like that. This is real power. And He really wields it for the Church which is His body, He the head over the body. He really is wielding everything for the Church, for the benefit of the Church.
Now, the idea of head and body, He is the head, we the body. It's one of leadership and authority, but also union and connection. So, if I take a hammer and smash your toe, which I won't do, but if I did, the pain signals will go right up to the head. The head will cause the mouth to speak and say, "Why are you hitting me?" So, it was said to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. When you attack my members on Earth, you attack Me." There's a union between the head and the body. That's not just negative it's also positive. Anything you do for any Christian, you do it for Him. We know that from the sheep and the goats. “Give a cup of cold water, give food, give shelter, give anything and you've done it to Him.” That's the union between Christ and His body. Now the headship, the authority of Christ over the body is different than He has with the powers and principalities and all that. He dominates them by secret, hidden, providential power. He rules us by persuasion and by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are delighted to be ruled by Him. And so we follow Him gladly.
The final phrase in the chapter, it speaks of the Church, His body, which is the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. Now that's a mystery. You can imagine a man saying to his wife, or the wife to the husband, "You complete me. You fill me up. I'm not complete without you." Can you imagine Christ saying that to the Church? That's hard to picture. He was complete before ever He entered the world. He was perfectly full before He ever entered the world. Paul notes that. He says, "He fills everything in every way." How are we, His bride, how are we His fullness? I pondered this for a while and I would urge you to meditate on it, but here's the thing, we are why He came to Earth. We are the completion of His mission. The elect redeemed, raised from the dead, spiritually and physically, in resurrection bodies, in the New Heaven and the New Earth, finally saved. We are the fullness of what He came to achieve. We are the fullness of Christ in His saving mission. And so it says in Hebrews 2, "Here am I and the children God has given Me." Can you imagine Him saying that to the Father? I brought them, I brought them Father, all of them, and none of them are missing. “Here am I and the children that God has given.” We are the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.
Alright, what applications can we take from Ephesians 1? Is there a lot in this chapter, or what? What rich, rich verses. There are so many things we can say. I want you to marvel at the display of power that God has already put on display in Christ, and apply it to yourself. The same power You worked in Christ, You're working in me and around me to save me. Same power, all the time. And I don't need to fear what Satan is doing or what demons are doing or any government officials are doing. I don't need to fear anything because God has all power. And my King, my Savior, my Brother is at the right hand of God and is ruling all things for me. And His enemies are being made a footstool for His feet. I need fear nothing. All of my temptations are filtered. Meditate on that. What that means is that you can kill all of them. You can kill your temptations the way that Jesus's enemies are dead under His feet. What that means is that you can be holy with the power of the Holy Spirit inside you. My final word is to any that are here who are outside of Christ. Maybe somebody invited you here today. Maybe you came her by means of the website. Maybe you just walked in off the street. I'm so glad that you're here. I'm delighted that you're here. The greatest display of power there is in the universe is the salvation of a sinner, from dead in transgressions in sins to alive in Christ. All you have to do, all you have to do is repent and believe the Gospel, that God sent His Son who died on the cross for sinners like you and me and if you repent and believe in Him, you'll have eternal life. Trust in Him. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for Ephesians 1 and all the rich, powerful teachings that there are in it. Oh, Father, take these ideas, these thoughts and press them to our hearts, oh Lord, that we may know you better, and that we might be more fully aware of the power of God that is at work in our souls to save us. Finally, we thank you for these truths. We thank you for the Holy Spirit who has illuminated them to us. We pray these things in Jesus's name, Amen.