by The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, 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 principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that fills all in all. Ephesians 1:19-23
St. Paul prays without ceasing that these Ephesians might know the “exceeding great power of God, the energy of the strength of God’s might” which is working in them. The way to enjoy a rich experience in the Christian life is to have a clearer understanding of the truth. People who neglect truth rarely have great experiences. To concentrate on experience alone is generally to live a Christian life which is shallow and miserable.
Above all else we must know the truth concerning Jesus, and so we find that the Apostle closes on the note of the glory and the pre-eminence of Christ. We have already seen how the Apostle keeps on repeating the blessed Name as he leads us through the chapter. He starts with him. What is Paul? He is “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Then he proceeds to, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I. What Is the Honor?
The Apostle tells us that if we are to understand this power which is working in us we must see it as it is illustrated in what God has done in Christ, in the power “which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” What a display of power that was! When all the forces of evil and of hell, when death and the grave were trying to hold him, he was raised by the mighty power of God. Death could not hold him, the grave could not retain him. He rose triumphant. But it did not stop at that! The Apostle says not only that God “raised him from the dead” but also that he “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” To be set at a host’s right hand in any function is always a mark of honor, and of authority. The Apostle assures us that God has raised his Son from the dead and has placed him in a position of authority. We have a similar statement, parallel to this, in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians: “Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).
God has “set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come”. Christ has been placed in a position of authority and honor which is above all powers. There are evil powers which have exercised dominion in this world, and there are also the good angels, the blessed angels. He has been set above them all.
A perfect description of this is found in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the author describes the greatness of the angels and their power, and then ends by saying that, after all, they are but “ministering spirits” (v. 14). They are not equal to the Son. God has not said to any of them, “You are my Son, this day have I begotten you” (Heb. 1:5).
But Paul adds to this again, and says: “He has put all things under his feet.” Every thing is in subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is master over every one of them. Or to look at it more positively: “and gave him to be the head over all things.” God has made his Son the Controller of all things, including the material universe. The universe is sustained actively by God, and he has handed that authority over to the Son. He is the Controller, the Head over all things. He controls “the stars in their courses,” the ocean in its movement, the wind and the rain, the sunshine, everything. All life is in his hands; he is “the head over all things.”
It is most important that we should realize certain related truths, in particular with respect to this description of the glory of Christ. First, we must realize that Christ’s honors are already his. There are many who are so anxious to emphasize the glory of Christ at his second coming that they become guilty of detracting from what is already true of him. They spend so much time in looking to the future that they forget the present, and completely underestimate the present position of the Lord and his people. Their attitude is that we have nothing to do but to wait for the coming glory and live as best we can in the present in the light of that hope. But God has already done these things in Christ. He has raised him from the dead, he has set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places far above other powers, he has put all things under his feet, and he has given him to be the Head over all things. It is because we so often forget this that we are so fearful and begin to harbor fears that the kingdom of Christ is perhaps going to be defeated in this world. The Lord Jesus Christ himself has already given the answer to all such fears by saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).
Do not allow thoughts about the coming visible manifestation of the kingdom to rob you of the realization of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is reigning now. He is glorified, the crown is upon his brow; he is the King at this moment. He will come in visible manner; but he is King now, as certainly as he will be then. May “the eyes of our understanding be enlightened” that we may know this.
This glory and honor have been given to him, because of what he did while here on earth. It is because he so humbled and abased himself and suffered so much to redeem us, and rescue us that God has set him at his own right hand.
But let me repeat that the most precious aspect of this statement is that all this honor and dignity has been given to him as the Mediator, as the God-Man. He is at the right hand of God not only as the eternal Son. As the eternal Son he was there before the foundation of the world, he was there from eternity. The two statements are reconciled by the fact that the Apostle is writing about Christ here as the Son of Man, as the God-Man. Think of Paul’s words to the Philippians: “Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (2:9-10). This means that human nature has been raised to that surpassing height of glory.
The Apostle’s purpose here, as we have continued to emphasize, is a very practical one. His Epistle is not cold theology. He is anxious to help Christians, and he tells us that we must realize that the power which is in us is to be measured by the fact that God has taken human nature in Jesus and has raised it in him to the right hand of God; and it is there now with all authority and power. What a staggering thought! The One who is at the right hand of God, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, the One under whose feet all things are in subjection, and to whom all power and authority have been given, is the One who once was a Babe, lying helplessly in a manger in Bethlehem! He is the little boy aged twelve who was found arguing with the doctors of the law in the temple. He is the carpenter of Nazareth. He is the young man who began to preach at the age of thirty. He is the One who knew what it was to be weak and tired and who once sat down by the side of a well about mid-day because he was weary and not able to accompany his disciples when they went to buy provisions. He is the One who slept from sheer fatigue in a boat. He is the One who was crucified, and apparently defeated. It is he, Jesus, who has thus been raised! This is the way to measure the exceeding greatness of God’s power. When he became man, when he took our human nature, he was made like unto us. He became subject to temptation, subject to the frailties of our flesh; and in him that human nature has now been raised to the heights and is at God’s right hand. Such is the measure of the power of God.
II. Why Did God Give Him This Power and Glory
God has given all this power and honor to him for the Church. “God has raised him from the dead, and has set him at his own right hand . . . and has put all things under his feet, and has made him to be head over all things” for the sake of the church. Not for his own sake alone, not only that he might participate in the full glory of his Father again, not only that he might exercise this great power and enjoy it; but for our sakes, “for the church which is his body”!
What does this mean to us and for us? We can answer in a number of simple statements. What is true of him is true of me, and is true of all of us who are Christians. God has given it all to him for the sake of “the Church which is his body, the fulness of him that fills all in all.”
O! the honor and privilege of being a Christian. We see great people in the world vying with one another for some mark or title of honor, for some high position, or to be near some notable personality. They are prepared to pay great sums of money for such honor and to make great sacrifices for it. Yet all Christians, whoever they are, and however unimportant they may be in the world, because they are “in Christ”, are, without exception, sharing our Lord’s exalted position in glory. This is actually true of us now, as the Apostle tells us in his second chapter— “And has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6).
But even in the present our position is wonderful. The Apostle again in that First Epistle to the Corinthians, after rebuking his readers for boasting of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or any other name, writes: “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (3:21-23). This is true of us because of our relationship to Christ.
We must say a word also about the safety of our position. When you feel your weakness in the face of the forces that are set against you, remember that he, the Head of the body to which you belong, is at the right hand of God, that he is Head over all things. He can direct everything, the wind and the storm, the rain and the sunshine; he can order all things, and is doing so—for you!
That, in turn, leads me to say a word about the mystery of our position. “If you say,” says someone, “that all this is true, and that I am related to Christ in that way, why is it that I ever have to suffer, why is it that I am ever taken ill, why is it that calamities ever visit me, why is it that my crops are ever ruined by storms? Why should anyone dear to me die, why is it that I am not enjoying a perfect life without any problems?” We do not understand it fully, but we know that our trials are a part of the process of our Christian maturation. The Psalmist says: “Before I was afflicted I went astray”; “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Ps. 119:67, 71).
Many a Christian looking back across life has thanked God for a loss, for sorrow; these troubles helped in the nurture of his soul and his spiritual development. God knows best what is good for us; his heart is love, and we are in his hands. What we must always remember is that nothing can happen to us apart from him, and that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Let us rest in his love and in the power of his might.
In the light of this elevated doctrine, our final position is certain and sure. The final security and perseverance of the saints is beyond doubt because we are members of Christ’s body, and he is at the right hand of God in the place of absolute authority and might and dominion. Nothing can be more certain than this: “He must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).