As we saw last time, Paul follows up His praise of God (1:3-14) with a prayer for his readers (1:15-19). He prays that God would grant them wisdom and “light” so they will know the hope to which they have been called, the riches of God’s inheritance for them, and the greatness of God’s power toward them. The first two items are simply listed, but the last reference to the power of God actually gets expanded. In Ephesians 1:20-23, Paul goes out of his way to actually help us understand and appreciate more of the very power of God that works on our behalf. Put simply: Jesus Christ has been given ultimate authority, and God has put Him – as the ultimate authority – over the Church for her good so that she will be equipped for her task. These words are intended to help us understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us.
Paul begins with a simple reminder that God – in a full display of His sovereign authority and might – raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24). God is the Creator, Giver, and Sustainer of life, and He exercised His right in giving such life to Jesus. This was a clear vindication of the Son – God proved that Jesus was perfect and innocent, and therefore, death could not keep Him.
But God did not merely raise Jesus from the dead, He actually brought Him back to heaven so that Jesus could sit at God’s right hand (Mark 16:19; Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22). The reason that is important is because the position at God’s right hand is the position of absolute, ultimate authority. Jesus is exalted to God’s right hand which means He is “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” (Eph. 1:21). Other than the Father Himself, there is no one higher than Jesus. He is the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, and the Ruler of all rulers. He – in the truest sense of the term – reigns. As Paul says, God has “put all things under his feet” (Eph. 1:22a). This is not merely a title or a position – it means that Jesus has real, actual control of all things (Heb. 2:8).
But why does that matter to us? It matters because of what Paul says next: God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand and put all things under his feet and then “gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22b-23a). God has made it so that the ultimate authority possessed and exercised by Christ is exercised on behalf of, for the good of, the Church. As God’s people, we belong to Christ, and He is our “head” – our leader and the source of our life. Jesus – as our head – exercises His position and His authority for her good. Jesus Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25-30), and – through His position at God’s right hand of exalted, ultimate authority – He is working things out for the good of His people, for their holiness, for their growth and for their benefit.
Here is the glorious reality: God has raised Jesus from the dead and given him authority over all things (Matt. 28:18). And He has given Him to the Church as her leader and keeper. That means the Church has the power of God and the authority of Christ behind her. In Paul’s words, the Church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23b). Since Jesus is exalted in glory, the Church is supposed to represent Him to the world. The world is to look at us and see the glory of God on display. The world is to look at us and see the greatness and worth of Jesus on display. We are called to go and make disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20) – filling up what is lacking in his afflictions (Col. 1:24) as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). Who is sufficient for this? The Church – because she has Christ keeping her and equipping her and empowering her. That is the reason Paul is saying this: he wants the Church to understand the power of God on her behalf. The One who has authority over all things is for us and is working in us and through us.
These few verses provide incredible motivation for God’s people. The almighty exalted Son of God is exercising His might and His power on behalf of those who trust Him. The most powerful person in the universe is for those who trust Him. All things work together for good for those who love God because the ultimate authority (Christ) is on their side. How can it be any other way? And now our Lord and Savior has called us to demonstrate to the world what Jesus’ authority looks like in practice. We should show the world what it means to submit to Christ’s commands because He is the sovereign King who deserves to be obeyed. We should show the world that Christ is powerful to overcome sin by putting it to death in our lives. We should show the world that Christ is powerful to sustain us through persecution and suffering and difficulty by holding fast to him through such times. Jesus Christ has authority over everyone and everything, and we are to demonstrate (and be) the fullness of that in reality. Christ does not need us to gain authority and power for Himself, but He chooses to use us to demonstrate that power to the world. And He works in us with that power to enable us to do this.