THE GUARANTEE FOR SUCCESS IS GOD’S POWER WORKING FOR US — THE SAME POWER THAT RESURRECTED AND EXALTED CHRIST TO HIS POSITION AS HEAD OVER ALL (BOTH IN THE UNIVERSE AND IN THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY)
Why do we need the Enabling Power of God?
1) We are in a war! We are attacking Satan and his world system and sin with the standards and purposes of a holy, sovereign God. We are under attack as well (Ephes. 6:10-13). Do we feel the pressure of the battle? Are we actively fighting? The purpose of the church is to equip soldiers to fight.
We need to tap into God’s resources and power in order to live victoriously — otherwise we will be discouraged and become casualties — rendered ineffective and useless for fighting. Soldiers are not concerned with their comfort or quality of life during the conflict, but are oriented towards the future in expectation of the higher quality of life that will be enjoyed at that time. Our expectations should be focused on the future as well.
2) Our commander-in-chief is invisible! The Apostle Paul had been taken prisoner by the enemy. He is concerned that the believers don’t lose heart at his tribulations (3:13). He is still actively fighting effectively behind the lines as an ambassador in chains relying on the same power of God (6:20). Paul points the saints to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ as their commander-in-chief. We do not want to have an unhealthy dependence on human spiritual leaders.
The enemy will try all sorts of propaganda techniques to try to discourage us. God’s answer = We have the same POWER available to us as was evidenced in Jesus Christ (just as we saw that our spiritual blessings and privileges are identical to those of our Lord Jesus Christ).
Klyne Snodgrass: A concern for spiritual power is evident throughout the letter, climaxing in a discussion of spiritual warfare in 6:10–20. A recent study of Ephesians argues that the letter was written to address attitudes and beliefs about spiritual powers in first-century Asia Minor and that Ephesians was the result of a pastoral concern to instruct readers about the relation of Christ and believers to spiritual powers. The emphasis on magic and spiritual powers in and around Ephesus gives some plausibility to this view (cf. Acts 19:11–41, with its focus on miracles, exorcism, the burning of magical books, and the riot over offense to Artemis, the primary deity in Ephesus, with whom astrological beliefs were associated). On the other hand, this letter cannot be subsumed entirely under this one theme.
Ray Stedman: The apostle knows that these Ephesian Christians, like Christians everywhere, are oftentimes immobilized by the grip of fear. He knows their insecurity. He knows that they are afraid of their neighbors, afraid of failure, afraid of persecution and ridicule. There is a deep sense of inadequacy and of impotence in their lives. They don’t think they can do anything. They know how entrenched the forces of evil around them are and it seems hopeless to try to challenge any of the social situations of the day. They know what tremendous, relentless pressures the world can bring to bear upon those who seek to relieve some of these situations, and they are afraid.
The answer to fear is power. The minute you feel a sense of adequate power, you lose fear, because power overcomes fear. Love overcomes fear. These forces are mighty, powerful forces. And so Paul prays that Christians will get their eyes open, in a practical way, to the power available to them — “that you may know … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us [not up in heaven somewhere — in us] who believe.”
Grant Osborne: The extent of this divine strength is beyond our ability to comprehend, so Paul piles up multiple terms to help us understand what God is doing for us. It is as though the greatest offensive line in the history of football is clearing the path for us as we run the race of life. Note that this power is exercised “for us who believe.” Paul wants us to realize our part. God makes his power available and exerts it for us. We, however, must have the faith to put his power into operation in our lives—that is, to trust in him rather than in our own selves to live the Christian life.
GOD’S POWER IS MORE THAN SUFFICIENT:
– BY DEFINITION
– BY ILLUSTRATION
I. (:19) GOD’S POWER IS MORE THAN SUFFICIENT — BY DEFINITION
A. The Nature of This Power
“These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might”
Paul presses all the words for power in his vocabulary into service in order to convey something of its all-surpassing character.
4 different Greek words (but the emphasis is not on the different nuances of meaning in each; rather the cumulative effect of these words):
- “dunamis” — strength, might, power — general word to introduce the whole subject (cf. “dynamite”)
- “energeia” — power in action; working power (cf. “energy”)
- “kratos” — the strength exercised in the activity; over-powering master; dominion
- “ischus” — inherent ability — whether exercised or not; strength possessed
Alan Carr: Paul uses four different words to describe the awesome power of God.
- Power – This is the word “dunamis”. This is the word which gives us our English words “dynamite and dynamo”. It refers to “inherent power residing in a thing by virtue of its very nature”. Paul tells us that this power is “exceeding great”. This means that it is more power than we will ever need, or could ever want. This power is given to “us-ward who believe”. This is power that only the child of God has. The lost person cannot know this power, but it is given to us in great abundance when we come to Jesus.
- Working – This is the word “energia”. It refers to “energy”. It speaks of the energizing power of the Holy Spirit within us that enables us to live for Jesus day by day. As the Lord works within us, He gives us the energy to live for the Lord.
- Mighty – This is the word “ischus”. It speaks of “ability, force and strength”. The power of God within our lives gives us supernatural spiritual ability, force and strength. God enables us to do things that would be impossible for the natural man.
- Power – This is the word “kratos”. It speaks of “dominion, or great power and strength”. The Spirit of God gives us the ability to have dominion over our lives. We have the power to live for God.
Harold Hoehner: How do these words for power relate to each other? All four terms are closely related and overlap with one another. First, ἰσχύς speaks of the inherent strength or of power possessed. Second, κράτος is close to ἰσχύς but denotes even more emphatically the presence and significance of the strength or force of power, or the ability to overcome resistance, or more at the visible aspect of strength, perhaps its supremacy. Third, ἐνέργεια stresses the activity of power, namely, it is power in action. Fourth, δύναμις, found earlier in this verse, denotes capacity in view of its ability or potential power. By way of illustration, a bulldozer has the ability, capacity, and potential of routing out trees (δύναμις). By looking at it, one senses its inherent strength (ἰσχύς) but when its engine roars and it begins to move, its power of mastery becomes obvious (κράτος). However, when it comes to a tree and knocks it over one sees the activity of its power (ἐνέργεια). Similarly, Calvin illustrates the use of these words by stating that ἰσχύς is like the root, κράτος the tree, and ἐνέργεια the fruit. It seems that δύναμις is the more general term and that the other terms support it, as is the case in this passage. Again these words overlap and the point of using all of these words is not so much to emphasize their distinctiveness but to enforce the idea of God’s abundant power available to all believers.
Stephen Fowl: Although 1:19 is hard to translate into elegant English, it is not hard to understand. Paul piles a combination of words together to speak of God’s power. It is probably a mistake to try to read various nuances into these terms. They all work together to convey the sense of God’s unparalleled and unsurpassed power. The important thing for the Ephesians to understand, the eyes of their heart having been enlightened, is that this power has been deployed on their behalf and on behalf of all who believe. Paul prepares for the emphasis on Christ’s relationship to the created powers and principalities in v. 21 by asserting that God’s power is unsurpassed and cannot be challenged by created forces. Thus, although the powers and principalities are not yet fully subjected to Christ (1 Cor 15:24–28), they cannot ultimately resist his power.
Clinton Arnold: Paul commends to the readers a direct access to the power of God and never advocates calling on angelic intermediaries. Neither does Paul condone the use of incantations, formulas, magical symbols, or the performance of certain rituals to gain access to divine power; he simply prays for their increased awareness of God’s power already available to these believers. Finally, whereas in magic, people often sought spiritual power as a means of influencing and gaining ascendancy over people, Paul will argue that the power of God is manifested in the lives of believers to help them resist evil forces, live virtuous lives, and manifest love to people.
B. The Measure of This Power
“the exceeding greatness“
You cannot measure it or exhaust it; it goes beyond all that we could ask or think (3:20).
Why would anyone fight on the other side? Let’s make sure we are not fighting against the power of God. If we have such unlimited power available, let’s do some significant fighting. The victory in the war is assured; the only question is which soldiers will get the medals.
II. (:20-23) GOD’S POWER IS MORE THAN SUFFICIENT — BY ILLUSTRATION
FOUR GREAT ACTS OF GOD described (2 groupings of 2) – what He already did for Christ:
“which He brought about in Christ”
- raised Him
- seated Him
- put all things under His feet
- gave Him to the church to be head over all
Clinton Arnold: The controlling verb governs the four clauses that complete this section. They describe the operation of God’s power in the series of extraordinary events following shortly after Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul expresses the first two with aorist participles that should be interpreted temporally (“when …”). After a long interval enumerating the supernatural enemies over which Christ has been exalted, he shifts to aorist indicative verbs:
- He raised him (ἐγείρας)
- He seated him (καθίσας)
- He subjected everything to him (ὑπέταξεν)
- He gave him (ἔδωκεν)
A. (:20a) The Resurrection of Christ from the Dead
“when He raised Him from the dead”
Ray Stedman: It is resurrection power. That means that it is different; it is not like any other power. It isn’t the power of a strong personality, nor of an educated mind. It isn’t the power of a good family background, nor of money, nor numbers, nor leadership ability. It is the power that raised Christ from the dead, that is able to bring life out of death. What does that mean in practical terms? Well, it means, as I have often said, that it works best in a cemetery. If you are living in a cemetery, if everything is dead and dull and lifeless around you, try resurrection power. That is what it is for. It means that this power takes no notice at all of obstacles, just as Jesus rose from the dead, paying no attention to the stone, to the decrees of Caesar, to the fulminations of the Jewish priests, nor to the guard in front of the tomb. Resurrection power doesn’t pay any attention to obstacles. It just surges on ahead, leaves the problems up to God, and goes on. It means that resurrection power requires no outside support. It doesn’t rely upon someone else, nor upon something else. It doesn’t need a vote of confidence. It doesn’t require any kind of undergirding expressions of support from anybody. It can operate alone, completely alone, if necessary. And it means that it makes no noise or display. It doesn’t try to arrest attention by some publicity stunt. It just works quietly and, without any noise, effects its transformation, brings life out of death. And further, you will notice that the apostle declares that it is supreme in the universe.
Represents the best proof of God’s might; only God could do this. When the NT writers wish to show the fullness of God’s love, they point to the death of Christ (Rom. 5:8); but the chief demonstration of His power is the resurrection.
Romans 1:4; 2 Cor. 13:4; Heb. 11:19
3 Reasons God wants us to look at a risen Christ:
- God’s Supreme Seal Upon His Son
a. As to His Person — Christ linked His claim to Deity to His resurrection — Matt. 16:14ff; God validated Christ’s claims by the resurrection — Matt. 12:38-40; John 10:18; Matt. 27:40, 63-64 — all His enemies had to do was to produce Christ’s body to prove it was a hoax
b. As to His Work — validation of His death; accepted as sufficient sacrifice — Romans 4:25; 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:13ff
- God’s Guarantee for the Believer’s Future — Answers man’s questions about:
a. Death — it’s been transformed — Rev. 1:17-18; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; sting of death is gone because the penalty and guilt is gone; 1 Pet. 1:3-4; the law calls for the execution of God’s judgment on sin
b. This Body — His resurrection is the guarantee of mine — 1 Cor. 15:20; Phil. 3:21
c. Believers in Glory — assurance of inheritance and place with Him — 1 Pet. 1:3-4
- Provides Power in the Believer’s Life Right Now —
Rom. 6:4-5 — we partake of His very nature
Response of people makes all the difference: some mock; some say it’s impossible; some believe
Transition: Christ is not only alive, but reigning; the resurrection and the exaltation are always linked in Scripture
B. (:20b-21) The Exaltation of Christ to the Right Hand of God
- (:20b) Significance of His Exaltation — restored to His manifest glory; Sitting was a mark of honor or authority in the ancient world in the following contexts:
“and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places”
a. King — sitting to receive his subjects — In Revelation, God is pictured as ruling on His throne;
Heb. 1:3-4; we will reign with Christ
b. Court — sitting to render judgment
c. Teacher — sitting to teach — Matt. 5:1; Christ taught with evident authority
d. High Priest — always stood — but Jesus was the exception – Heb. 10:11-14
GotQuestions.org: The Ascension of Jesus Christ is meaningful for several reasons:
1) It signaled the end of His earthly ministry. God the Father had lovingly sent His Son into the world at Bethlehem, and now the Son was returning to the Father. The period of human limitation was at an end.
2) It signified success in His earthly work. All that He had come to do, He had accomplished.
3) It marked the return of His heavenly glory. Jesus’ glory had been veiled during His sojourn on earth, with one brief exception at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).
4) It symbolized His exaltation by the Father (Ephesians 1:20-23). The One with whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 17:5) was received up in honor and given a name above all names (Philippians 2:9).
5) It allowed Him to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).
6) It indicated the beginning of His new work as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15).
7) It set the pattern for His return. When Jesus comes to set up the Kingdom, He will return just as He left-literally, bodily, and visibly in the clouds (Acts 1:11; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).
Currently, the Lord Jesus is in heaven. The Scriptures frequently picture Him at the right hand of the Father-a position of honor and authority (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1). Christ is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), the giver of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:7-8), and the One who fills all in all (Ephesians 4:9-10).
- (:21) The Measure of His Exaltation
“far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every
name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
- ranks of good angels
- includes different orders of demons as well (6:12 supports this)
- all grades of authority — both human and super-human
Maybe not precise terms to specify graduated ranks, but rhetorical terms brought together in order to express the unique supremacy and absolute sovereignty proper to Christ, and meaning simply that whatever powers or dignitaries existed and by whatever names they might be designated either now or at any time in the future, Christ’s dominion is above them all.
The world loves power and seeks after titles and honor and authority. Christ has it all. That same power of God is working for us and is more than sufficient to meet our need for significance and security.
Clinton Arnold: These beings represent the spiritual entities against which all believers will struggle until Christ returns (6:12). They are the same forces who work powerfully to hold unbelieving humanity in bondage to sin, working in conjunction with “the world” and “the flesh” (2:1–3). But their rebellion and hostile activity against the church and the redemptive work of God will be brought to an end at the final consummation, when God subdues them under the ruling headship of Christ (1:10).
Stephen Fowl: The mention of two ages here, this one and the age to come, points to the fact that although Christ’s rule over all things is already determined and established, it has yet to be consummated.
C. (:22a) The Dominion of Christ over the Universe
“and He put all things in subjection under His feet”
Ps. 8:4-6; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:8-9
Remember the charge given to the first Adam — exercise dominion over the world; the purpose of God has always been dominion
cf. the song: “Master of the Universe”
D. (:22b-23) The Headship of Christ over the Church (next message)
“and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the
fullness of Him who fills all in all.”