Ephesians 1:15-23

Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV

[15] For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] 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. [22] And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Immediately after Paul details the blessings we have in Christ, he tells the Ephesian church that he consistently prays for them. In today’s culture, most of the time when we pray for people, we pray for their well-being, for material wealth and security, or that at least life will go smoothly without any hiccups. This was not Paul’s prayer.

Paul prayed for one thing: That God would give wisdom and knowledge of Himself to the church.

This one thing that Paul prayed for affected three areas:
1) The the church would know the hope we have in Christ

The concept of hope is absolutely crucial to understanding the gospel. In Paul’s day, the Jews believed that their eternal residence was based on their adherence to the law. They believed that the verdict of justification would come only at the end of one’s life, based on how well they obeyed the commandments of the law, and how they observed the sacrificial systems to atone for their sins when they failed to obey the law. The gospel, however, teaches that our justification and eternal residence is determined by belief in Christ as Lord and Savior, and that we can know that eschatological verdict right now.

In Romans 5:5 Paul says that our hope in the gospel “does not put us to shame”, some translations say “does not disappoint”. When those who rely on the law to make their case to a holy and righteous God, they will be severely disappointed, they will be put to shame when the verdict comes back “guilty” and they are condemned to an eternity in hell. Those who confess Christ and Lord and Savior, however, will not be ashamed or disappointed when they stand before God, relying on the person and work of Jesus Christ to save them. The hope that we have is that the cross of Christ is sufficient to pay for our sins, allowing for a “time served” sentence. I say this because it is not that we are not guilty before God, but that we are guilty before God, and Christ served our sentence of death for us on the cross.

2) That the church would know the riches of God’s inheritance in the church

Many people take this to mean heaven, or something that we get out of believing in Christ. The commentators of the ESV Study Bible rightly point out that this text is not speaking of the Christians’ inheritance, but His inheritance. When all is said and done, God inherits the saints. God’s people are precious to Him, and this is what He looks forward to enjoying forever. He does not need us, He wants us because He loves us.

3) That the church would know the power of God toward those who believe

When we look at this text, we see Paul saying that he prays the church would come to realize the power of God toward them. The ESV Study Bible commentators take this to mean the power that believer’s have over things like demons. I disagree with this understanding of this text for a couple of reasons.

A.) The Greek word for “power” here is the same word for “power” (dunamis) in Romans 1:16 which says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

So we see the same word being used in Romans to express God’s power toward us in salvation, not referencing our power over the demonic. You can read more of an in depth commentary on that text on my blog.

B.) Paul then compares the “power of God toward those who believe” to Christ’s resurrection from death and glorification.

[19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] 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. [22] And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ok, first, the meaning of the word “might”, here, in the Greek is kratos is that of “manifested power”, or a power that is not only intrinsically possessed, but externally displayed. So, God’s power (dunamis) toward believers is visibly, spiritually, and practically expressed through His might (kratos) as seen when God raised Christ from the dead and glorified Him.

Alright, if you’ve read to the end of 23 now, you may be thinking that if Paul is comparing our salvation to Christ’s resurrection and glorification, yet this text isn’t talking about our power over demons and such, how is God’s power displayed toward Christ different then it is displayed toward us?

The answer lies in the last part of verse 20, and then through 23. God has not set us at His right hand, God has not set us above all authority (demonic or otherwise), God has not set us above every name for all eternity. I think you get the idea.

God did do ALL of that for Jesus. His resurrection and glorification is the same in concept, but not in position. Believers will be glorified, to be sure, but our glorification results in being WITH the one who has been placed over all creation, authority, at the right hand of God, the Head of the church.

I am not saying that Christians do not possess power over things like the demonic, but that the power we have in that is only through Christ Jesus, because He has been placed in such a position to command all of creation, and we have access through Him. So we will be resurrected and glorified as Christ was resurrected and glorified, but our position is much different.

Lastly, Paul compares our salvation to Christ’s resurrection to communicate the drastic change that took effect at our salvation. God MADE US ALIVE! We were spiritually dead because of sin and God breathed life into our very soul. He resurrected us from our spiritually dead state and made us alive in Christ Jesus. So not only will we be resurrected physically as Jesus was, but we have already been resurrected spiritually.

More to come on that when we get into Ephesians 2.

One response to “Ephesians 1:15-23

  1. Pingback: Ephesians 2:1-3 | TransformingWords

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