In Ephesians 1:18-23, the apostle Paul says this:
“. . . having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what [are] the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
So there’s the context; Paul has just said that he mentions the Ephesians in his prayers, and asks for more of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so their hearts may be enlightened, and they will know the great blessedness that they’ve been given by God. However, in this study, I want to focus on what Paul says is the source of the power that is behind these blessings:
“. . . what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
Paul begins this section by saying that he wants the Ephesians to know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward them who believe the gospel. But what does he mean by the exceeding greatness of the power? Why would it take the enlightening of the eyes of their hearts to know it? Because, Paul says, it is according to this working of the strength of God’s might that he describes.
But what does he mean when he says this power toward the Ephesians is “according to” this working? He means that it is “in accordance with” or “corresponding to” this working. That is, it is the same exact working — the working of God.
Okay, so if it is this working of God, why does Paul use this seemingly convoluted phrase: “according to the working of the strength of his might”? Well, he’s not just using words that have no meaning — he is actually communicating something about God’s power toward those who believe the gospel.
So, what does he mean? The word “working” could also be translated “effecting”, so with this word he’s speaking of the direct power that brings about the changes in believers so they believe the gospel. The word, “strength”, on the other hand, could also be translated “power” or “vigor”, so with this word he’s speaking of the means of the power that God directs towards believers. Finally, the word “might” refers to the force or source of this power — it is the inherent almighty and omnipotent power of God — the essential power that is in Him. Thus, Paul is saying that the power that God directs towards believers so they believe God’s Word is according to a particular instance of the effectual working of the strength of God’s inherent might.
And what is this particular instance — how did God demonstrate this power that He directs toward believers? It is the “. . . working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ . . .” What does it mean that He “wrought” this working “in Christ”? The word “wrought” simply means “brought about” or “brought into being”, so Christ (the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King) was the Person in whom God the Father brought about this working of the strength of His might.
But, of course, Paul has a particular instance in mind:
“. . . when he raised him from the dead . . .”
This is merely the beginning of Paul’s description of the working of God’s might in Christ, but it is worth considering by itself. The very same power that raised a corpse from the dead and into life is the power that God directs toward believers to cause them to believe His Word.
But it’s not just that the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead; God “made him to sit at his right hand”. What does this mean? Well, obviously, it doesn’t mean that Christ sat at God’s literal right hand, since, first, He’s present everywhere all at once, and second, He doesn’t have a literal right hand since He’s immaterial, and not physical. So, what does this mean? Well, Paul is alluding to the practice of ancient kings to honor people by allowing them to sit on their right sides. Therefore, when he says that God made Christ sit at His right hand, He gave Him the place of highest honor, exaltation, and esteem in the entire universe — Christ is God’s “right-hand Man”. As such, He has all the authority in the universe, and is on His throne as the King and Lord of the universe.
Not only does Christ have the highest honor and authority in the universe, but He’s also at the right hand of God “in the heavenly places”. What are these places? Paul is referring to the spiritual places, or the spiritual realm, so Christ has the highest position of honor and authority spiritually, not physically. That is, His honor and authority aren’t physical, but spiritual (although He has control over all physical things).
And how does this position of Christ that God gave Him relate to the rest of the heavenly places? Paul answers by saying that God made Christ to sit “far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named”. But what is he talking about?
Well, first of all, we can take the words as they stand, without any contextual meaning to them. Christ indeed is far above every rule, authority, power, and dominion on earth, and every name that is named on earth. However, Paul is also speaking of spiritual authority, since he just said that Christ is at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. So, these forces aren’t just earthly, but spiritual. In fact, Paul says as much in Ephesians 6:12 and 3:10:
“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities [or rulers], against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
“. . . to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places . . .”
So, the rules, authorities, powers and dominions that Paul says that Christ is far above are the same ones that believers wrestle with — they are extremely powerful demons that, right now, have authority over unbelievers, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:2:
“. . . wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience . . .”
However, even now, Christ has far more authority over them, since He’s seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places, far above them.
But Christ isn’t just far above every single created name now, but always will be:
“. . . not only in this world [or age], but also in that which is to come . . .”
How do I know that the world “which is to come” is the one that will exist forever? Revelation 21:1 tells us:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away . . .”
If you do a study of phrases like “this age, and the one to come”, you will find that there are only 2 ever spoken about in the New Testament. A good example of this is Matthew 12:32:
“And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it SHALL NOT be forgiven him, neither in THIS WORLD [or age], nor in THAT WHICH IS TO COME.”
So, Christ is seated far above all authorities and names right now, and always will be.
However, God not only has demonstrated His power in exalting Christ above all authorities and names, but also by putting “all things in subjection under his feet”. This means that He has all authority over the entire universe — it is His. Furthermore, He has complete control over everything in the universe.
Yet, Paul ends his description of the ultimate demonstration of God’s power by saying that He “gave him [Christ] to be head over all things to the church”. What does it mean that God gave Christ to be head over all things? Well, first we have to think about what it means for Christ “to be head”. What does Paul mean by this metaphor? First, if Christ is the head over all things, then it follows that all things have some relationship to Christ that is similar to the relationship that a head has to the rest of the body. What function does the head serve for the body? Well, it is the control center of the body, since it contains the brain. Thus, what Paul is saying is that Christ has control over all things. And what are these things? They aren’t just the things of the church, since Paul says so in Colossians 2:9-10:
” . . . for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full, who is the head OF ALL PRINCIPALITY AND POWER . . .”
Nevertheless, Paul doesn’t say that God gave Christ as head “to all things”, but “to be head over all things TO THE CHURCH”. What does this mean? It means that Christ isn’t the head of all things just to be the head of all things, but so He can be the head of the church. In other words, Paul is saying that the reason Christ has control of all things is so He can have control of the church.
At this point, let’s consider what Paul means by the word, “church”. The Greek word that is translated, “church”, is ekklesia, and comes from the verb form of the root word, which means “to call out”. Thus, ekklesia literally means “called out”. Obviously, Paul is not referring to a non-profit organization, or something like that, but is referring to those who have been “called out” of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. That is, he’s referring to all the believers of all of history.
In the New Testament, the idea of Christ being the head of the church has more to it than Him simply having control of it. Paul even goes on to describe the church as Christ’s body. That has more meaning to it than control. It means that Christ cares for the church like a man would care for his body — he feeds it, clothes it, and protects it. It also means that Christ uses the church like a man would use his body; He accomplishes His purposes on earth primarily through the church.
But Paul ends this passage with one of the most wonderful descriptions of the church that is found in the Bible:
“. . . the fulness of him [Christ] that filleth all in all.”
What does this mean? The church, the body of Christ, is Christ’s fullness. To put it another way, the fullness of Christ is in the church. Everything about Christ is in the church, and the church, as Christ’s body, manifests who He is, and what He does. Spiritually, all that is true of Christ as a human being is true of all the members of the church.
But what does it mean that Christ “fills all in all”? Does it mean that He fills all the members of the church in all things? Well, if that was the case then Paul would simply be repeating himself, since he has just said that the church is the fullness of Christ — that is, that Christ fills the church. Rather, we should see the word “all” as referring to the “all things” that Paul has just said God has made Christ the head over, and the “all things” that He has put in subjection under His feet. So, Paul is saying that, it is not just the Head of the body who fills the body, but it is also the “fullness of Deity in bodily form” who “fills all things” in all things who is the One filling the church. In other words, Paul is pointing out to the Ephesians that this very same One who fills them is the One who fills the entire universe with His divine presence.
So, if you believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, how does this passage apply to you?
- The power that God is directing toward you is the same power that He used to raise Christ from the dead, to make Him sit at His right hand far above every authority and name, to put all things in subjection under His feet, to give Him to be head over all things to the church, and to make the church His fullness.
- The power that God is directing toward you was brought about only in Christ.
- Christ has all authority over you, and you’ve been put in subjection to Him, and He is your Head.
- You are a member of Christ’s body, which is His fullness.
- Christ lives inside of your mind through the Holy Spirit.
If you don’t believe the gospel, then Christ is your Judge, and He is soon coming to earth to judge all who don’t believe the gospel, and to cast them into hell to be punished forever. God sent His Son to earth to become a man, Christ, to punish Christ by hanging Him to die on a cross and forsaking Him for our sins against Him, to raise Him from the dead, and to make Him the Lord of the universe. He is now commanding you to change your mind and to trust in Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection as the only grounds of His forgiveness of your sins against Him. Please be reconciled to God through trust in His Son. He promises that anyone who will change their minds and trust in His Son as their substitute on the cross and their risen Lord will be forgiven and given eternal life.