Ephesians 1:19-23 (NLT)
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ (under His feet) and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”
These verses distill the New Testament’s teaching on the resurrection and enthronement of Jesus. They also make two vital contributions to understanding Jesus’ resurrection and the status of believers. First, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in believers (Eph 2:4, Eph 2:5; Eph 3:16, Eph 3:17). Second, Christ enjoys His position as head over everything for the sake of the church. Not only is Christ at the most exalted position in the universe, He is there representing believers (Eph 2:6; Col 3:3) and governing the universe for their sake. The principles of conduct in Ephesians emphasize that authority exists for the sake of service. Jesus’ majestic use of power and authority in the interest of His people is the Christian’s model (Eph 4:1, Eph 4:2, Eph 4:7; 4:32- 5:2, 22- 33). Paul reminds his Gentile readers of two specific ways Christ’s power has blessed them: He brought them from death to life (Eph 2:1- 10), and from alienation from God’s people to inclusion with them (Eph 2:11- 22).
Paul’s third petition for the saints is that they might have a deep appreciation of the power which God engages to bring all this to pass: “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe”.
B. Meyer says, “It is power. It is His power. It is great power; nothing less would suffice. It is exceeding great power, beyond the furthest cast of thought.”
This is the power which God used in our redemption, which He uses in our preservation, and which He will yet use in our glorification.
To further emphasize the magnitude of this power, the apostle next describes the greatest exhibition of divine power the world has ever known, namely, the power that raised Christ out from among the dead and enthroned Him at God’s right hand. Perhaps we would think that the creation of the universe was the greatest display of God’s might. Or God’s miraculous deliverance of His people through the Red Sea. But no! The NT teaches that Christ’s resurrection and ascension required the greatest outflow of divine energy.
Why was this? It seems that all the hosts of hell were massed to frustrate God’s purposes by keeping Christ in the tomb, or by preventing His ascension once He was raised. But God triumphed over every form of opposition. Christ’s resurrection and glorification were a shattering defeat for satan and his hosts, and a glorious spectacle of victorious power.
As far as the Scriptures are concerned, the resurrection of Christ was the first such event in human history (1 Cor. 15:23). Others had been raised from the dead, but they died again. The Lord Jesus was the first to rise in the power of an endless life. Following Christ’s resurrection and ascension, God seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. The right hand of God signifies the place of privilege (Heb. 1:13), power (Matt. 26:64), distinction (Heb. 1:3), delight (Ps. 16:11), and dominion (1 Pet. 3:22).
The location is further described as in the heavenly places. This indicates that the phrase includes the dwelling place of God. That is where the Lord Jesus is today in a literal body of flesh and bones, a glorified body no longer capable of dying. Where He is, we soon shall be.
The glorification of our Savior is further described as far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. The Lord Jesus is superior to every ruler or authority, human or angelic, now and forever.
In the heavenlies there are different ranks of angelic beings, some evil and some good. They have different degrees of power. Some, for instance, might correspond to our human offices of prime minister, premier, mayor, or councilmen. No matter how great their rule, authority, power, and dominion might be, Christ is far above them.
And this is true not only in the age in which we live but also in the coming age, that is, the literal Thousand-Year Reign of Christ on earth. He will then be King over all kings and Lord over all lords. He will be exalted above all created beings; no exception can be named.
In addition, God has put “all created things under His feet”, v22. This signifies universal dominion, not only over men and angels, but over all the rest of His creation, animate and inanimate. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that at the present time we do not see all things put under Him (Heb. 2:8). That is true. Though universal dominion belongs to Christ, He does not exercise it as yet. Men, for instance, still rebel against Him and deny Him or resist Him. But God has decreed that His Son will yet wield the scepter of universal dominion, and it is as certain as if it were a present reality.
What follows is almost incredible. This One whose nail-scarred hand will exercise sovereign authority over all the universe—God has given this glorious One to the church! Here Paul makes a startling revelation concerning the mystery of God’s will; step by step he has been leading up to this climactic announcement. With graphic skill he has been describing the resurrection, glorification, and dominion of Christ. While our hearts are still awestruck at the contemplation of this all- glorious Lord, the apostle says, “It is in His capacity as head over all things that Christ has been given to the church.”
If we read this verse carelessly, we might understand it to say that Christ is the Head of the church. While that is true enough, the verse says a lot more. It says that the church is closely associated with Him who has been given universal sway.
In verse 21 we learned that Christ is far above every creature in heaven and on earth, in this age and in the coming age. In the first part of verse 22 we learned that all things as well as all created beings are in subjection under His feet. Now we learn that the unique calling of the church is to be associated with Him in His boundless dominion. The church will share His rule. All the rest of creation will be under His rule.
In this final verse of chapter 1, we learn how close is the relationship between Christ and the church. Two figures are given:(1) The church is His body; (2) It is the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
No relationship could be closer than that of the head and the body. They are one in vital union and indwelt by one Spirit. The church is a company of people called out from the world between Pentecost and the Rapture, saved by marvelous grace, and given the unique privilege of being the body of Christ. No other group of believers in any age ever has had or will have this distinction.
The second description of the church is the fullness of Him who fills all in all. This simply means that the church is the complement of Christ, who is everywhere at one and the same time. A complement is that which fills up or completes. It implies two things which when brought together constitute a whole. Just as a body is the complement of the head, so the church is the complement of Christ.
But lest anyone should think this implies any imperfection or incompleteness in Christ, Paul quickly adds, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Far from His needing anything to fill up any lack of completeness, the Lord Jesus is Himself the One who fills all in all, who permeates the universe and supplies it with all that it needs.
Admittedly, this is too much for us to understand. We can only admire the infinite mind and plan of God while admitting our own inability to comprehend it.