Understanding The Greatness of God’s Person
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. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. (1:21–23)
Moving from Christ’s might to His majesty, Paul’s third request is for the Lord to give believers understanding of the greatness of His Person who secures and empowers them.
Once when Timothy was intimidated by criticism from fellow Christians, he understandably became discouraged. Paul wrote to him, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:8–10). “Remember the greatness of the Person who lives within you,” Paul says. “He was raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand. He was born of the seed of David, as a man just like us. He identifies with us, understands us, and sympathizes with us.”
Every Christian should continually have that focus. When we look at Him, our physical problems, psychological problems, and even spiritual problems will not loom so all-important before us. We not only will be better able to see our problems as they really are, but will then, and only then, have the right motivation and power to work them out. It is sad that we read and hear so much about the peripheral things of the Christian life and so little about the Person who is the source of Christian life. How much happier and more productive we are when our primary attention is on His purity, greatness, holiness, power, and majesty. Paul calls the Corinthians to gaze intently on His glory with the clear vision provided in the New Covenant, and thus be made like Him by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:18).
What great blessing we can have when we take time to set our own concerns and needs aside and simply focus on the Lord of glory, allowing the Holy Spirit to do in us what Paul asked Him to do in the Ephesians—give us deep understanding of the truth that our Lord is 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. The terms rule (archē, meaning leader or first one), authority (exousia), power (dunamis), and dominion (kuriotēs, lordship) were traditional Jewish terms to designate angelic beings of great rank and might. The point here is that the power of Christ applied in the believer’s behalf cannot be overthrown or negated or defeated, because it far surpasses that of the hosts of Satan who design to defeat it.
It should be noted that the matter of the cosmic war between God and His angelic hosts and Satan and his demons is a matter of great importance in Scripture. Redemption is a demonstration of God’s power before the angels (3:10). Our conflict is with these fallen angels, who endeavor to halt our efforts for God (6:12; cf. 1 Pet. 3:18–22, which shows Christ’s triumph over those fallen angels, accomplished in His death). Satan and his hosts have endeavored to thwart the plan of God from the beginning and are the constant enemy of the work of the kingdom, but they are destined to be overthrown and eternally banished (Rev. 20:10–15).
Our Lord not only is above, but far above, everything and everyone else. He is above Satan and above Satan’s world system. He is above the holy angels and the fallen angels, above saved people and unsaved people, for time and for eternity. He is above all names, titles, ranks, levels, powers, and jurisdictions in the universe. God put all things in subjection under His feet (a quote from Ps. 8:6; cf. Heb. 2:8). There is no limit on time, as Paul said Christ will be supreme not only in this age, but also in the one to come—that is, in the eternal kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2:7).
Most importantly, as far as believers are concerned, God gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. Christ not only is the head of the church but its fulness. Since He has such a unique and intimate relationship with the redeemed whom He loves, all His power will be used in their behalf to fulfill His loving purpose for them. He is completely over us and completely in us, our supreme Lord and supreme power. The church is the fulness or complement (plērōma) of Christ. As a head must have a body to manifest the glory of that head, so the Lord must have the church to manifest His glory (3:10). Jesus Christ is the only One for whom the word incomparable truly applies; yet in a thrilling and securing wonder, He has chosen us to display His incomparable majesty. We are guaranteed to come to glory in order that we might forever manifest His praise.
The incomparable Christ is incomplete until the church, which is His body, is complete. Jesus Christ fills all in all, giving His fulness to believers. But in God’s wisdom and grace, believers, as the church, are also the fulness of Him. John Calvin said, “This is the highest honor of the church that until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons Himself in some measure incomplete. What consolation it is for us to learn that not until we are in His presence does He possess all His parts, nor does He wish to be regarded as complete.”
The point of this great petition is that we might comprehend how secure we are in Christ and how unwavering and immutable is our hope of eternal inheritance. The power of glorification is invincible and is presently operative to bring us to glory.
Jesus Over All
That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
A person does not need to read very much of the New Testament to realize that large portions are future-oriented. We are told of Christ’s past work, providing salvation for his people, but we are also told that he will return in power to subdue his enemies and subject all things to God. One of the earliest Christian prayers, reflected in 1 Corinthians 16:22 and Revelation 22:20, is, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The church looks forward to that future day and longs for Christ’s victory.
Unfortunately, a concern for future things has often obscured for some Christ’s present exalted position in the universe. It is true, as the author of Hebrews writes, that “at present we do not see everything subject to him” (Heb. 2:8). But, as he also writes, “We see Jesus … crowned with glory and honor” (v. 9). Paul was thinking along these lines at the end of the first chapter of Ephesians. He had been speaking of the greatness of our salvation—grounded in the electing purpose of God from eternity, accomplished in history by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, and applied to individuals personally by the Holy Spirit. He prayed for the Ephesians, asking that they might be more fully grounded in God’s truth. He said that he wanted them to know the power of Christ. But when he got to the thought of God’s power Paul’s mind expanded to marvel at the greatness of that power, and his thoughts turned to the present exalted status of Christ in whom that power has already been displayed.
In speaking of Jesus’ present exaltation he referred: (1) to his resurrection from the dead, (2) to his ascension and enthronement over evil, and (3) to his headship over the church, his body.
God’s Mighty Strength
In studying the first part of this prayer (vv. 15–23) I pointed out the importance of knowledge for sound faith. Paul makes his concern for sound knowledge plain. He prayed that the Christians at Ephesus might know God better (v. 17) and that they might know the hope to which he had called them, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparable greatness of his power to all who believe (vv. 18–19). It is impossible to look at those verses without realizing that Christianity is a religion of knowledge. It is for the head as well as for the heart.
But having said this, we must also stress that Christianity is not just “head” knowledge. It is not a religion of ideas only. It is not merely a philosophy. Some Christians treat the faith as if it were, taking care to master Bible doctrines, thinking that when they have done this they have done all that needs to be done. They believe that in knowing the truth they have it all. This did not satisfy the apostle, and it should not satisfy us either. For important as sound theological and doctrinal knowledge is, it is given that we might know God better and thus live in his power and be victorious over sin in this life. Christianity is knowledge, yes. But it is also power, power from beginning to end. Without the power of God not one individual would ever become a Christian. The salvation of the soul is a resurrection, the recovery of a person from the dead. Without God’s power not one individual would ever triumph over sin, live a godly life, or come at last to the reward God has for all his own in heaven.
So we begin to see why this is so important and why Paul develops and emphasizes it as he does. It is by the power of God displayed in Jesus Christ that we are to live Christianity.
When Paul thinks of the greatness of the display of God’s mighty power in Christ, he looks first at the resurrection. Jesus had predicted that God would raise him from the dead after the leaders of the people had arrested, abused, and crucified him. He said, “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33–34). It seemed impossible. For centuries people had lived and died. So far as anyone could see, death was the end of them. Yet Jesus said that after he died (indeed, after three days in the tomb) he would return to life triumphantly.
What power on earth could possibly accomplish this miracle? Obviously, no power on earth could. Only a heavenly power could—and did! On the third day God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, as he said he would. God thus vindicated Jesus’ claims, declared that Christ’s atonement for sin was accepted, and revealed that all who are united to Christ by faith can live triumphantly through that power.
We sometimes speak of Christ’s resurrection as the forerunner of our own resurrection—and the proof of it. Because he lives, we shall live also. That is true enough. It is a glorious certainty. But it is not only at the end of things, that is, at our own resurrection, that the power of God displayed in Christ is to be seen in us. It is to be seen in our present victories over sin in this life. In his study of this passage D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks of victory over worldliness, the flesh, and the devil—our three great adversaries. The world constantly bombards us with its values. We get them from television, newspapers, films, the competitive world in which we earn our livings and from casual conversations. How are we to be victorious over this great enemy? It is by the power of God displayed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This power is able to transform us “by the renewing of our mind[s]” (Rom. 12:2). It is what makes us “new creation[s]” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Our second great adversary is the flesh, which in biblical language means the nature of sinful man untouched by the Holy Spirit. The flesh is a formidable enemy. It draws us to inactivity when we should be reading the Bible, praying, or performing good works. It locks us into sinful patterns of behavior when we should be living a Christlike life. How can we triumph over these strong forces? It is only by the power of God displayed in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Third, there is the devil. What a foe he is! Many people, even Christians, regard the devil almost as an invention or at least as one at whom we may laugh. But when Satan met our first parents in Eden it was no laughing matter. They had been created perfect with not even a disposition to evil. Yet when Satan appeared, so great were his power, wiles, and subtlety that it was only a short time before he had brought about the fall of both Eve and Adam. Thus did sin (and death, the consequence of sin) pass upon the race. No wonder Peter writes, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). No wonder Paul told the Ephesians, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11). Lloyd-Jones says, “Because of these things we need to be enlightened with respect to the power of God working in us. Nothing else can enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
All Things Under Jesus
With all these spiritual enemies, is Christ’s power adequate to overcome them? We might doubt that it can—were it not for this next step in Christ’s exaltation. God’s mighty strength was not exhausted in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead but also worked to seat him “at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (vv. 20–21).
Christ’s exaltation over “all rule and authority” involves all earthly powers and angels. But in the context of the Christian’s struggle to live a godly life (and in the context of this book as a whole) the emphasis is certainly upon the hostile spiritual powers of the corrupt world system. The Bible teaches that demonic powers stand behind evil rulers so that, as Paul says later in this book, we struggle not merely “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). These spiritual forces have been made subject to Christ. So when we are told that Jesus has been exalted over them we do not need to fear attacks from these forces any more than from our flesh or the surrounding world system.
How are we to be victorious over Satan? James tells us: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). We cannot resist Satan in our own strength. But if we first submit ourselves to God so that the power of God demonstrated in the exaltation of Christ above all rule and authority flows through us, the devil will flee from us as he fled from Christ at the conclusion of his temptation in the wilderness.
The Church, His Body
The third step in Christ’s exaltation through God’s power is in verses 22–23: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” These verses continue the thought of Jesus being exalted above all rule and authority since “all things” have been placed under his feet. But they carry the thought further by reference to “the church” for whose benefit this subjugation has been made. Jesus has been exalted over the spiritual forces of evil as a conqueror. He is exalted over the church as its proper and greatly honored head.
This is the first time in Ephesians that the word “church” has occurred, but from the beginning Paul has had the church in mind. Ray C. Stedman outlines Ephesians around this theme: (1) the origin of the church, (2) the nature of the church, (3) the function of the church, and (4) the church’s essential relationship to its Lord. Since the letter is chiefly about the church, it is worth looking at this first reference to the church carefully.
Unfortunately, there is difficulty in knowing how to translate verse 23, which deals with it. The difficulty stems from the fact that the words translated “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” can have three meanings.
- The first interpretation takes the phrase to be a description of Christ so that we should read: “… the church, which is the body of him (that is, Christ) who is the fullness of him (that is, God) who fills all in all.” John Stott, who discusses each of these three options carefully, notes that “at first sight this is an attractive interpretation.” Certainly the idea of God filling all things is biblical (Jer. 23:24), and the fullness of the Godhead is said to dwell in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9). To translate the verse this way would be to end the chapter with a grand wrap-up of all things in Christ, who is the fullness of God, and God, who is the fullness of all things. The difficulty with this view is that although the Godhead is said to dwell fully in Christ, in the sense that he is fully God, Scripture never elsewhere says that Christ is God’s fullness. That would be to say that the Father is subsumed in the Son, which is not accurate.
- The second interpretation (like the third, which follows) takes “fullness” as referring to the church. What makes it distinct from the third view is that here the meaning is supposed to be active, that is, the church is that which fills or completes Christ, while in the last possibility the meaning is supposed to be passive, that is, the church is that which Christ fills.
If the church fills or completes Christ, the verse is teaching the startling truth that without the church Christ is in some sense incomplete. That cannot be meant ontologically, of course; if Christ is God (as he is), there can be no real incompleteness or imperfection about him. But that is not what proponents of this view mean. They only wish to carry out the images of the church as the body or bride of Christ, which this letter develops. A head without the body is incomplete. A husband without his wife is incomplete, just as a wife without her husband is also incomplete. John Calvin held to this interpretation. He wrote, “By this word ‘fullness’ he means that our Lord Jesus Christ, and even God his Father, account themselves imperfect unless we are joined to him.… It is his will to have us joined to him, yes, even on the condition that he should be perfected in us by our being united in that manner. As if a father should say, My house seems empty to me when I do not see my child in it. A husband will say, I seem to be only half a man when my wife is not with me.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones also endorses this view in guarded fashion: “There is a sense in which we as the church are his fullness.… A head alone is not complete. A head needs a body, and you can not think of a head without a body. So the body and the head are one in this mystical sense. As such we Christian people are part of ‘the fullness’ of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. The final interpretation of this phrase takes it in the passive sense of being that which Christ fills. John Stott holds to this view. I think he does so rightly, although, as I say, each of the views is possible. Stott holds to this view chiefly because of the analogy of Scripture, which nowhere else says that the church completes Christ but which often says that he fills it. It also fits the flow of this chapter, which climaxes with Christ in his glory, just as it began with him. In view of the teaching about Christ’s exaltation in these last verses, it is more natural to say that Jesus fills the church as he also fills the universe than to say (unnaturally) that the church somehow completes him. Since Paul is talking about God’s power displayed in Christ, it is natural for him to portray Christ as filling and thus empowering the church, which is his body.
Banner of the Cross
The church is to be a transforming power—indeed, through the presence of the risen Christ within, the greatest of all powers in this world. Those who belong to the church are changed; apart from the power of Christ in their lives they do not even belong to it. Then, having been changed and having become members of the church, they are to work through the power of Christ in the church to transform the world powerfully. The victory is not achieved by arms. It is not achieved by marches or by the force of power politics. It is the victory of transformed lives as, through the church which Christ fills, the rule of Christ is extended forcefully throughout the world.
Edward Gibbon, the author of the classic study The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, saw this in the early church and wrote about it movingly: “While that great body [the Roman Empire] was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the Capitol. Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the Roman empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries, that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portions of human kind in arts and learning as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa; and by the means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chile, in a world unknown to the ancients.”
That is the way Christ’s banner is erected: by pure and humble means, but powerfully, as the strength of Christ appears in those who are his followers.
Spiritual Power (1:19–23)
How do you make spiritual power apparent to God’s people who are preoccupied and oppressed by this material world? I am told that one therapy utilized by those who treat autistic children is to cloud the lower half of their eyeglasses. Certain kinds of autism apparently manifest themselves as a child becomes completely focused on some dimension of his experience. Such a child can become so focused on a habitual activity or familiar object that interacting with that single aspect of life becomes the child’s entire world. Thus, glasses clouded on the bottom but clear in the upper lenses force the child to look up—to take his eyes off of his little world and to consider a greater, wider world. In like manner, the apostle who would give us hope lifts our eyes from this world and causes us to focus on another power from One above. Our hope resides in understanding the power above and the power here.
The Hope Above (1:19–22)
First, Paul says the power that is available to God’s people is “incomparably great” (Eph. 1:19). Then he tells us the nature of that power:
That power is like the working of his [God’s] mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church. (Eph. 1:19b–22)
The power that is at work in our behalf is resurrection power, able to overpower sin and death. For those once dead in sin, new life is possible; and because of this divine provision, maintaining our witness before adversaries and our hope in adversity is not futile or impossible. The power that is at work in our behalf is also the sovereign power that places our Savior and Advocate above all rulers and forces of this world. To explain this sovereign power Paul mentions virtually every dimension of authority and strength that we would recognize in this world, from political rule to physical might to spiritual forces in this age and in the age to come, and says simply that Jesus is greater than them all. He is the head of everything. And this great power that is at work in our behalf is church power. What Christ is doing with his power is “for the church” (Eph. 1:22c).
We might expect the apostle to say that what Christ is doing with his power is “for believers” or “for you,” instead of “for the church.” He could have said such things and been perfectly consistent with what he writes elsewhere. Christ does express his resurrection and sovereign power in behalf of us as individuals, but that is not Paul’s point here. The point that the apostle is making is that the power of Christ is expressed not merely for individuals, but for the church of which you and I are only a part. He who created all things and who is the head of all things and who continues to fill all things is ordering all things in the interest of the church. There are powerful implications for those who gather corporately to worship God and to learn to fulfill his purposes.
We cannot truly fathom the magnitude of the apostle’s promise that Christ, who is head over all things, is filling creation with his purposes for the church. The universe is being constrained in its course, bent in new directions, for the good of the bride of Christ. As much as our perceptions may seem to deny this truth, the battles that rage, the leaders that rise, the events that occur do not thwart his agenda. History inexorably marches forward toward the triumph of the church of Jesus Christ. He is using all things (including the tragedies of a fallen world) to shape and reshape the world for her sake. The whole creation is being conformed to purposes that serve the glory of Christ’s church. This is a compelling reason to be a part of the church. The entire world is Christ’s bouquet to his bride, the church. But how does he prepare this bouquet? What instrument is Christ using to fill up the earth with his eternal purposes? It is the church.
The Hope Here (22c–23)
Jesus is “the head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:22c–23). That for which the universe is being filled is itself the instrument of his filling. Jesus is changing the world for the good of the church by means of the church. Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). This is more than a wedding song sentiment; it is a battle charge. It is the declaration of the divine groom that he will be present to protect and promote his bride. He who is head over all things and gives the universe its full purpose also fills the church that gathers in his name. As such the church, the body of Christ, is the present instrument of his filling the universe with his purpose. The eternal, universe-conforming power of God is present in the world through the church, and this power is working in the world for the church.
This filling of the world with Christ’s purpose for and through the church is the corporate hope we alone possess. No other agency on earth has this promise. God gives no other institution the promise or the power that it will be salt and light in the world. The world will ultimately and eternally yield to the influence of the church, because it is the body of him who is head over all and, thus, it contains and exerts his power in behalf of his own glory. Our mission does not end at the threshold of the church door, nor is it limited to matters the world calls “religious.” All of culture is our domain, all enterprises are of our interest, and all that is beautiful is ours to enjoy and cultivate. All that is here he is head over. Therefore we have a right to be concerned for it and to bring it under the lordship of him for whom it was created and for whose glory it is designed.
The way that the apostle expresses this power and purpose of the church has caused no little consternation for commentators through the ages because of the uncompromising nature of his words. The church is the fullness of him who fills everything; thus she completes his purpose for him even as he designs everything for her. The complexity of Paul’s “fullness” language can be seen especially in Ephesians (Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:10, 13) and Colossians (Col. 1:19; 2:9–10). In Ephesians 1:23, the term “fullness” most naturally refers to the “body,” that is, the church (see also Eph. 3:19; cf. Col. 2:10). Similarly, because Paul elsewhere conveys that the fullness of God “fills” the believers (Eph. 3:19), it is apparent here that Christ is the one who fills the church (plēroumenou here being considered a middle voice). Thus the NIV accurately translates this phrase: “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:23).
The church is God’s instrument for world transformation and renewal. Some have interpreted this to mean that the church should seek to amass financial, political, or even military power to impose Christ’s will upon the nations. More instructive is Paul’s own unfolding of these truths in the remainder of this epistle. His following words do not frame a political, marketing, or military strategy but, rather, are a blueprint for the ministry of local churches that will produce mutual love and personal purity so that believers are prepared for godly service in every dimension of their lives. The church is called to be the church so that by her proclamation of the gospel in word and deed her people will be prepared to advance his kingdom wherever he calls them to be salt and light in the world.
The role of the church in world transformation needs to be emphasized so that all will realize how noble is the calling to lead and support her. The church is the primary instrument of the glory of Christ in this earth. If you work within her to tell the world of the hope, the resources, and the power that he provides, then the Lord is conforming all of life and history to your purposes because the church you serve fulfills purposes for which the world itself was created. With the church’s ultimate triumph before our eyes, we may understand more and more the corporate purposes to which our God calls us, and the mandates he gives.
First, the corporate purpose of the church indicates that we are part of a body, where there may be no mavericks. In an individualistic culture we can forget this. We can talk about changing the culture, being salt and light, taking the message of Christ into the marketplace and, with the best of intent, think almost entirely in terms of personal, autonomous efforts. In accord with our Western culture’s habits and interests, we think primarily in egocentric terms: what I will do, how I will change an industry, an artistic field, or a political movement. While we do have individual responsibilities, we do not fulfill our calling if we seek to influence the culture without the church.
The corporate calling of the church also means that there can be no deserters. To move forward without her is not only to move beyond our spiritual supply lines; it is to declare the body of Christ, his bride, irrelevant to us or contrary to our causes. This can be quite easy to do because the church can be intolerant, intractable, tradition-bound, blind to her duty, and a pain to endure. She can be an ugly bride. But she is the beloved of Christ and the only instrument that will ultimately fulfill his purposes on this earth. That is why she is worth the effort, and worth the dedication of our lives.
The corporate destiny of the church means, too, that there should be no despair. For all of her weaknesses—including the carping of her people and the failures of her leaders—she is the means that Christ will use to fill the world with his glory. And despite her setbacks and her apparent losses, the church will not be stopped. Those who serve her can have no higher calling. Despite all of her weakness, there is no more powerful an organization of hope in the world than a body of believers loving one another, helping and forgiving one another, praying for the work of Christ in their midst, supporting each other in joy and in sorrow, equipping disciples, showing mercy to outsiders, and praising the God who enables it all. The cumulative effect of multiple churches so living is the world’s greatest power for good.
Ultimately, the corporate promises to the church mean that there should be no surrender. Those who have the eyes of their heart opened to the heavenly purpose that God commits to the church are a power that the world cannot restrain. She is the fullness of him who is head over all things, whose power fills everything in every way. The riches of heaven are outpoured in her behalf. This is our hope and, by the power of God, it is the church’s certainty. We are part of the movement of God that all creation bows to honor.
In the early days of the French Reformation, the Huguenots grew with a force that was supernatural. As many as three thousand churches grew within one seven-year period. It was easy to see the “incomparably great power” of Christ in those years. But soon the Catholic French monarchy had enough of this new Protestantism, and in a series of edicts, imprisonments, and massacres destroyed the movement. Tens of thousands tried to flee the country, but being a religious refugee was itself a crime punishable by imprisonment or death. So while thousands fled, many more were forced to stay and worship in secret.
This commitment to private worship, we readily understand. What is less clear to us is why during this time the people continued to insist on finding hidden places to worship corporately. They fashioned communion sets that could be ingeniously dismantled and hidden inside books or flour sacks. Pulpits were constructed out of wire and sheets that could be folded into nondescript piles of laundry when not in use. One pulpit from that time was fashioned so that it could be collapsed into the shape of a wine barrel and, then, like a modern child’s robotic transformer, be unfolded into a massive wooden pulpit. But why would the Huguenots exert all that effort? After all, during those years, if a congregation was caught worshiping without the king’s approval, the minister would be executed, the other men would be sent to the galleys for life, the women would be imprisoned for life, and children would be taken away to be raised in state-sponsored religious schools. At times, whole villages were tortured until the people as a whole professed their allegiance to the state church. Surely in those years the people wondered where was the “incomparably great power” for those who believe.
Today a little farmhouse nestled into the French countryside holds the modest museum that commemorates the Huguenots. Inside is a white marble wall. On that stark wall appear the names of men and women who were executed, condemned to galleys, tortured, or imprisoned for life. Many suffered greatly, and surely in their day it was difficult to see the prevailing power of Christ as their churches were exterminated. Who could have blamed the people if, for their individual safety, they had abandoned the worship and practices of the corporate body? We struggle today to see the purpose the eyes of their hearts so clearly saw as they committed themselves to the church.
Yet after I visited that farmhouse museum in France, I was blessed by a glimpse of what the French Reformers saw. I continued on to Budapest to minister to pastors from Hungary, Romania, and the Ukraine. Through their heroic efforts the work of Christ has endured in nations oppressed by atheistic Communist rule for two generations. I spoke to men who also were tortured, threatened, and had their children taken by the government. These men too had endured for the sake of a purpose larger than their own lives. And when I asked them their reason, they told me that they were the descendants of the Huguenots. They were the offspring of the faithful few who escaped from their French homeland four centuries ago, as God seeded the world with the salt and light of their testimony and his truth.
With this testimony, I suddenly realized what I was witnessing: “the incomparably great power for us who believe.” In the time since the Huguenots’ persecution, kings and kingdoms have come and gone, governments and philosophies have risen and fallen, dictators and oppressors have ruled and faded, but through it all the church of Jesus Christ carrying the message of his eternal love and final rule has endured. The gates of hell have not prevailed against it, and they shall not. Christ shall have dominion, and he will use his church to bring his rule to the hearts of his people throughout the world.
Now God calls us to be a part of this ongoing mission to take the church into the world, with the eyes of our heart opened to his truth and to his triumph. I will not pretend that the challenges will be small or without pain, but I can promise that our efforts will not be in vain. However small we may feel our influence, however opposed may be our efforts, however weak may seem our strength, those engaged in the work of the church are members of the agency that God has determined will exert his power for the transformation of this world. Our Lord calls us to a good and a great work. May the eyes of our heart be opened to what he is doing in and through us so that we always speak of the hope, the riches, and the power that are the possession of those God calls his own for the glory of Christ Jesus our Savior.
22 Continuing his explication of God’s power begun in v. 20, Paul states, third, that God subjected all things under Christ’s feet (an allusion to Ps 8:6; cf. 110:1). Paul also describes Christ’s universal authority in 1 Corinthians 15:24–28, when at the end Christ triumphs over all (also citing Ps 8:6). The point is clear: he brooks no rivals. And Christ is not only superior to the “powers”; they submit to him. Despite this, the battles still rage for Christians because, though they reign with Christ in the heavenly realms, the powers also reside there (cf. esp. 6:10–20)! All things are not yet summed up in Christ, though we are assured that they will be and that he will reign supreme.
Fourth, God “gave” (NIV, “appointed”) Christ to be head (kephalē, GK 3051) over all things to or for the church. In other words, Christ’s overall supremacy benefits the church, for it shares in his authority. Clearly “head” points to Christ’s superior rank or status (cf. BDAG, 542; L&N, 87.51), a meaning Paul also employs in 1 Corinthans 11:3 and Colossians 2:10. In Paul’s use here, Christ is the head or chief not solely over the church (as he will assert in 4:15; 5:23) but over “all things” (the entire cosmos) for the church (the first of Paul’s nine uses of ekklēsia [GK 1711] in Ephesians).
Ekklēsia was a common secular Greek term referring to a gathering or assembly of people. A term used in the LXX for the community of Israel (e.g., Dt 31:30; Jdg 20:2), it was readily applied by Christians to their own congregations. In Paul’s usage it became the technical term to identify the Christian body. Applied regularly in the NT to local assemblies or house churches (e.g., Mt 18:17; Ro 16:5; 1 Co 11:18; 14:4–5, 12, 19, 28, 33, 35; 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 2; 3 Jn 6), “church” in Ephesians mainly denotes the wider or universal body of believers (1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23–25, 27, 29, 32), though that sense is not limited to Ephesians or to Paul.
22 “He subjected all things beneath his feet” is a quotation from Ps. 8:6. In the psalm, which repeats the language used of the creation of man in Gen. 1:26–28, wondering adoration is expressed at the contemplation of the honor which the Creator has bestowed on man, giving him dominion over the works of his hands. In the NT the words of the psalm are applied to Christ as the last Adam, notably by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:27 and by the writer to the Hebrews in Heb. 2:6–9. In 1 Cor. 15:24–28 the words of Ps. 8:6 are linked with those of Ps. 110:1, “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool,” the “enemies” being identified as “every principality and every power and might.”153 Here there is no express reference to the subjection of enemies beneath the feet of Christ; even so, the mention in v. 20 of his session at the right hand of God makes it probable that the clause immediately following “Sit at my right hand” was not remote from the writer’s mind.
Christ, then, exercises universal lordship, and in particular God has given him as “head over all things”—that is, “supreme head”—to the church. If “head” be understood in the sense of origin, then Christ is divinely appointed as source of the church’s life, and with the insistence on his universal lordship goes the implication that he is also the church’s lord.”155 In Colossians the statements that Christ is “the head of the body, the church” (1:18) and “head of every principality and power” (2:10) appear in separate contexts; here they are brought together.157 Here indeed the word “head” is not explicitly used (as it is in Col. 2:10) to denote his supremacy over principalities and powers or the rest of creation. Moreover, there is a difference in character between his supremacy over the latter and his headship over the church. The principalities and powers, insofar at least as they are hostile, “are subjected, put down by force, and are placed under Christ’s feet by victory. On the other hand, the Church is one with him, even if she is subjected to him. Over her he exercises a supremacy only of sanctification and love, and force does not come into it at all.”
“In Christ” (vv. 20–23)
The riches of our inheritance and the power of God to bless and save his people have been “brought about in Christ” (v. 20). In fact, the chief exhibitions of God’s power, Paul says in these verses, are the resurrection, ascension, and Kingship of Jesus. “If you want to know just how powerful God is,” Paul seems to be saying, “consider how he raised Jesus from the dead [v. 20], how he seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places [v. 20], and how he put all rule, authority, power, and dominion in subjection under his feet [vv. 21–22].”
Remember that some of these Ephesians had been converted to Christ out of paganism and satanic oppression. They were accustomed to “power.” They had lived their whole lives under the “rule and authority and power and dominion” that Paul speaks of in verse 21—demonic power that sought to steal from and destroy them. But now God, by “the surpassing greatness of His power,” had raised Jesus from the dead, seated him on the heavenly throne, and put all the dark forces “in subjection” under his feet (v. 22). The Ephesians, therefore, were no longer under the power of despotic and demonic gods who only sought to steal, kill, and destroy. Christ defeated those powers and brought his Ephesian people under his own generous power and rule. The same is true for all who believe. Jesus is our new King, the “head over all things to the church.” Moreover, unlike the forces that once controlled our lives, he is a kind, benevolent King! That is why we have every spiritual blessing, Paul says: because lovely Jesus has been crowned as our King, and because we are part of “His body” (v. 23).
In these final verses, Paul is really saying what he has already said numerous times throughout this first chapter of Ephesians. The reason why Christians are so blessed and receive so much good from God’s hand is because of God’s kindness and power toward us “in Christ”! Those who believe have “every spiritual blessing” in him!
1:22 / The apostle presses on with thoughts of Christ’s supremacy, using images characteristic of a royal court, where the defeated foes pay homage to their victor: God placed all things under his feet. This appears to be an obvious quotation from Psalm 110:1 and, as applied to Christ, illustrates his conquest of all spiritual enemies and his authority over them.
Sometimes the readers of the nt find it difficult to interpret and apply this principle of Christ’s sovereignty because it uses ancient cosmological concepts and is stated in mythic and poetic language unfamiliar to modern people. The tendency is either to dismiss the language as irrelevant and nonsensical or to demythologize it.
1. Barth has made an attempt to understand the apostle’s thoughts by probing into the history, essence, and function of these spiritual powers. From his study, he concludes that “Paul means by principalities and powers those institutions and structures by which earthly matters and invisible realms are administered, and without which no human life is possible” (Eph. 1–3, p. 174). Barth includes categories such as kings, procurators, senators, judges, and high priests, who function in political, financial, juridical, and ecclesiastical offices. C. L. Mitton carries this even further and wonders about substituting for principalities and powers the “evil powers in our contemporary world [such] as racism, nationalism, hate, fear, uncurbed sexual desire, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. As with ‘principalities and powers,’ before these the individual feels helpless even though he recognizes their power to destroy the best things in human life” (p. 72).
2. And gave him to be the head. He was made the head of the Church, on the condition that he should have the administration of all things. The apostle shews that it was not a mere honorary title, but was accompanied by the entire command and government of the universe. The metaphor of a head denotes the highest authority. I am unwilling to dispute about a name, but we are driven to it by the base conduct of those who flatter the Romish idol. Since Christ alone is called “the head,” all others, whether angels or men, must rank as members; so that he who holds the highest place among his fellows is still one of the members of the same body. And yet they are not ashamed to make an open avowal that the Church will be ἀκέφαλον, without a head, if it has not another head on earth besides Christ. So small is the respect which they pay to Christ, that, if he obtain undivided the honour which his Father has bestowed upon him, the Church is supposed to be disfigured. This is the basest sacrilege. But let us listen to the Apostle, who declares that the Church is His body, and, consequently, that those who refuse to submit to Him are unworthy of its communion; for on Him alone the unity of the Church depends.
22. put … under—Greek, “put in subjection under” (Ps 8:6; 1 Co 15:27).
gave … to the church—for her special advantage. The Greek order is emphatic: “him He gave as Head over all things to the Church.” Had it been anyone save HIM, her Head, it would not have been the boon it is to the Church. But as He is Head over all things who is also her Head (and she the body), all things are hers (1 Co 3:21–23). He is over (“far above”) all things; in contrast to the words, “to the Church,” namely, for her advantage. The former are subject; the latter is joined with Him in His dominion over them. “Head” implies not only His dominion, but our union; therefore, while we look upon Him at the right hand of God, we see ourselves in heaven (Rev 3:21). For the Head and body are not severed by anything intervening, else the body would cease to be the body, and the Head cease to be the Head [Pearson from Chrysostom].
Ver. 22.—And put all things under his feet; a strong, figurative expression, denoting high sovereignty. It does not refer merely to defeated and arrested enemies, but to the whole of creation and the fulness thereof. They are as thoroughly under Christ and at his disposal as if they were literally under his feet. As a military commander, proceeding even through his own country, has power to requisition everything needful for his army, and deal with all property as may be required for military purposes, so Christ has the whole creation at his disposal, animate and inanimate, hostile and friendly. And gave him to be Head over all things to the Church. The exaltation of Christ is not merely an honour conferred on himself, but has also a definite practical purpose; it is for the benefit of the Church. God gave him to the Church as all things Head over. The gift of Christ to the Church is the gift of One who has sovereign authority over all things. The official subordination of Christ to the Father is recognized throughout this remarkable passage. So in Philippians, though he was “in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” It is this Jesus, in the form of a servant and in the likeness of men, that is now Head over all things, and as such given by the Father to the Church. With such a Head, what need the Church fear, and what can she want?
22, 23. Accordingly, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory manifested his infinite might when he raised Christ from the dead and made him to sit at his right hand and he ranged everything in subjection under his feet. In him, as the Ideal Man (“Son of Man” as well as “Son of God”) Psalm 8 (of which verse 6 is here quoted; cf. LXX Ps. 8:7) attains its absolute fulfilment. See also 1 Cor. 15:27 and Heb. 2:8. The expression “everything” or “all things” must not be narrowed down to “all things in the church.” Nor does it merely include such things as “sheep and oxen, the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas” (Ps. 8:7, 8). Though, in a very limited manner, mankind, even after the fall, exercises a degree of dominion over these “lower” creatures, the sway that he thus wields is nothing compared to Christ’s universal sovereignty, a dominion from which absolutely nothing that exists is excluded. Therefore nothing can prevent the realization of the believers’ “hope.” Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of their acquisition and enjoyment, to the full, of that glorious “inheritance” of which they have a foretaste even here and now. Moreover, God’s power does not lie dormant. In a manner that was clearly exhibited in Christ’s exaltation it is being used for the government of the universe in the interest of the church. Hence, Paul continues: and him he gave as head over everything to the church, since43 it is his body …; that is, since he is so intimately and indissolubly united with it and loves it with such profound, boundless, and steadfast love. It is the closeness of the bond, the unfathomable character of the love between Christ and his church that is stressed by this head-body symbolism, as is clearly indicated in 5:25–33. In this connection an important fact must not be ignored, namely, that throughout the letter Paul emphasizes God’s (or Christ’s) great love for his people, and the love they owe him and one another in return (1:5; 2:4; 3:19; 4:1, 2; 5:1, 2ff.; 6:23, 24). There is not a single chapter in which this theme is not stressed. One who has not grasped this point does not understand Ephesians!
In the twin epistles, Colossians and Ephesians, the figure head-body appears for the first time in Paul’s epistles, to indicate the relation between Christ and his church. It is true, of course, that here in Eph. 1:22, 23 Christ is not actually said to be the head of the church but rather “head over everything to the church … his body.” But this manner of expressing it merely enhances the beauty of the symbolism. The meaning, then, is this: since the church is Christ’s body, with which he is organically united, he loves it so much that in its interest he exercises his infinite power in causing the entire universe with all that is in it to co-operate, whether willingly or unwillingly. Accordingly, the idea Christ the Ruling Head over everything (cf. Col. 2:10) does not cancel but rather strengthens and adorns the clearly implied doctrine Christ the Ruling (and Organic) Head of the Church (cf. Eph. 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19). When, therefore, many commentators, dogmaticians, as well as the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day XIX, edition with textual references, Q. and A. 50) appeal to Eph. 1:20–23, among other passages, in support of the position that Christ is head of the church, they are not committing an error. For further remarks on Christ’s headship see above, on verse 10; also N.T.C. on Colossians, pp. 76–78, the latter particularly for the distinction between ruling and organic headship.
As a further description of the church as body of Christ, Paul adds: the fulness of him who fills all in all.
The argument with respect to the exact meaning of fulness in this particular case covers many pages in scores of commentaries. With due respect for the reasoning of those who defend other theories, and whose pleas in corroboration of their views have been examined in detail, I have, after lengthy study reached the conclusion that the following is the correct interpretation: the church is Christ’s complement. In other words:
“This is the highest honor of the church, that, until he is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation it is for us to learn that, not until we are in his presence, does he possess all his parts, or does he wish to be regarded as complete.” (John Calvin in his comments on this passage. See Bibliography for title of work.) With variations as to detail, this view, namely, that the church is, indeed, represented here as filling or completing him who fills all in all, is also defended by Abbott, Barry, Bruce, Grosheide, Hodge, Lenski, Simpson, and many others.
This interpretation to which I, along with all of those just mentioned, cling does not in any degree or manner detract from the absolute majesty or self-sufficiency of Christ. As to his divine essence Christ is in no sense whatever dependent on or capable of being completed by the church. But as bridegroom he is incomplete without the bride; as vine he cannot be thought of without the branches; as shepherd he is not seen without his sheep; and so also as head he finds his full expression in his body, the church.
There are also the following additional reasons that have induced me to regard this interpretation as being the correct one:
(1) The fact that the One who fills all in all does, nevertheless, have that which fills or completes him, is clearly taught by Christ himself and also by his disciple John (John 6:56; 15:4, 5; 17–21; 1 John 3:24). “Abide in me, and I in you” shows that not only are the branches incomplete apart from the vine—which is the point that is stressed in John 15—but, in a sense, the vine also finds fulfilment in the branches.
(2) In Col. 1:24 Paul speaks about himself as “supplying what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” There is a sense in which the church, as it were, completes Christ’s suffering. See N.T.C. on Col. 1:24. Those, therefore, who reject the idea that the church is the complement of the Christ, will experience great difficulty in interpreting Col. 1:24. Similarly, the church recapitulates Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:4, 5; Col. 2:20; 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:11, 12).
(3) The head-body metaphor, when interpreted as meaning that the body fills or completes the head, resulting in an organic unity, so that the body carries out the will and purpose of the head, makes good sense. Christ uses the church in the realization of his plan in the government of the world and for the salvation of sinners.
(4) The idea stressed by Calvin, namely, that Christ refuses to regard himself as complete until he possesses all his parts, also harmonizes beautifully with the love-motif which, as I have shown, dominates this entire epistle.
(5) The description of the church as “the fulness of him who fills all in all” is, indeed, a “tremendous paradox” (to use Lenski’s expression, op. cit., p. 403). This, too, is exactly what we expect to find in Paul. Oxymora or seeming contradictions abound in his writings: “They are not all Israel that are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). “In everything we commend ourselves … as deceivers, yet true: as unknown, yet well-known; as (dying but behold we live; … as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:4–10). “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). It is Paul who wants the Thessalonians to be ambitious about living calmly (1 Thess. 4:11). And in this very epistle of Ephesians he speaks about knowing the love of God that passes knowledge (3:19)! The paradox of Eph. 1:23 fits nicely into this style category.
Commenting on the words “of him who fills all in all” Calvin continues as follows, “This is added to guard against the supposition that any real defect would exist in Christ if he were separated from us. His desire to be filled and, in some respects, to be made perfect in us, arises from no want or necessity; for all that is good in ourselves, or in any of the creatures, is the gift of his hand.”
The words “who fills all in all” mean that Christ fills all the universe in all respects; that is, the entire universe is not only dependent on him for the fulfilment of its every need but is also governed by him in the interest of the church, which, in turn, must serve the universe, and is replenished by his bounteous gifts. Thus he is constantly pervading all things with his love and power (cf. Jer. 23:24; 1 Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:7). I agree with the statement of Roels, “Paul most probably refers to the fact that the Christ, exalted over all, is now involved in the historical realization of the already accomplished reconciliation of the universe by directing all things to their determined, divinely appointed, end” (op. cit., p. 248).
With such a Christ as the Eternal Foundation of its salvation the church has nothing to fear. Its hope will be realized, its inheritance fully enjoyed.
19b–23 The saving power of God revealed in the resurrection-exaltation of Christ. Because he is the truly representative Man, his resurrection and glorification are a picture of what God will accomplish in us (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45–49; Phil. 3:21). There is, of course, a difference: the authority invested in Jesus through his exaltation is unique, even though there is a sense in which we share in it (see 2:6). But this very difference leads Paul to another way of assuring the Ephesians of God’s power in them, for he finishes by saying that the Jesus who is given all power is given by God to the church, which he fills (22–23). That, of course, means that the full authority and power invested in Jesus is at work in the church.
The assertions of both Jesus’ resurrection and his exaltation to God’s right hand (20) were traditional in the church, and the latter is phrased in the language of Ps. 110:1 (cf. Acts 2:34–36; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1 and Heb. 1:3, 13). It speaks of Jesus’ enthronement as cosmic ruler who is given the place of honour in the heavenly circle (hence in the heavenly realms). Jesus has not been removed from earthly influence by ascension, precisely the opposite: he has been moved to the place of ultimate influence over matters on earth. Thus no other powers or potentates, in the world or in the heavens, whether good or evil, can compare; his authority, as the one at God’s right hand, is over all (21). The original readers would have seen the point: none of the powers they were prone to fear could compare with Jesus.
Whereas in Ps. 110:1 God bids the heavenly Lord sit at his right hand ‘until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’, v 22a here insists God has placed all things under Jesus’ feet. This is not failure to be realistic about the continuation of evil, but a switch from the language of Ps. 110 to that of Ps. 8:6. (Paul does the same at 1 Cor. 15:25–27.) Jesus is hereby portrayed as a second Adam who is given the task of exercising dominion over the cosmos. As such he is head over everything (22b), that is, ruler or master, a sense of ‘head’ well attested in biblical Greek and beyond. The point of what follows in v 22b is then best rendered by the reb: God ‘gave him as head of all things to the church’. Paul could hardly have given a more dramatic portrayal of the power at work in the church but, to emphasize it further, he describes the church in two distinct ways.
First, he calls the church Christ’s body (23a). In 1 Corinthians the church as Christ’s ‘body’ includes its own ears, eyes and head (1 Cor. 12:16–21)—it is a whole body belonging to Jesus and intimately united with him (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12). This is probably meant here too, not that the church is merely a headless torso, for which Jesus is himself the head; for v 22 describes Jesus as head of the cosmos, not the church, and uses ‘head’ in the sense of ‘ruler’, not anatomical part. But to describe the church as his ‘body’ so soon after describing Jesus as ‘head’ almost inevitably highlights at least the connotation of union between them (cf. 4:16; 5:23, 28 and the even more striking, ‘he is the head of the body, the church’ at Col. 1:18).
23 goes on to describe Jesus as the one who fills everything in every way (cf. 4:10). To ‘fill’ is a metaphor for ‘become present to, and active in respect of’ or ‘extend influence, or rule, over’. As ‘head’ over all things, Jesus ‘fills’ them; he thus begins to fulfil the mystery spoken of in vs 9–10, he begins the task of subjugating rebellion and drawing all things into unity and harmony in himself. But, says Paul, it is supremely the church which is his fulness (i.e the thing he fills)—and he will explain this more fully in 2:1–22.
In sum, Paul prays that his readers will understand that the power at work in the church is the presence of that same power which will bring about the new creation, a new universe in total harmony, united under Christ. In her union with Christ the church has already received a foretaste of that end.
1:19–23. The third fact Paul wanted believers to know pertains to the present time: His incomparably great power for us who believe. The word “power” (dynamis; cf. 3:20) means a spiritually dynamic and living force. This power of God is directed toward believers. Paul then used three additional words to describe God’s power. It is according to the working (energeian, “energetic power,” from which comes the Eng. “energy”) of the might (kratous, “power that overcomes resistance,” as in Christ’s miracles; this word is used only of God, never of believers) of God’s inherent strength (ischyos) which He provides (cf. 6:10; 1 Peter 4:11). This magnificent accumulation of words for power underscores the magnitude of God’s “great power” available to Christians.
Then Paul mentioned three manifestations of God’s power which are seen in Christ (Eph. 1:20–23). First, this energetic power was exerted (enērgēken) in Christ when God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms. God’s energetic power which resurrected and exalted Christ in the past (cf. Rom. 8:34; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22) is the same power available to believers in the present (cf. Phil. 3:10). What an amazing source of spiritual vitality, power, and strength for living the Christian life! (cf. Col. 1:11) Christ’s Ascension to the right hand of God involves His being exalted above every order of authority (cf. Col. 1:16), human and superhuman (cf. Phil. 2:8–11), whether present (in the present Age) or future (the Age to come; cf. 1 Cor. 15:23–28). The words rule and authority, power and dominion may refer primarily to angelic beings (cf. Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:15; Titus 3:1).
A second manifestation of God’s power in Christ is seen in His placing all things under Christ’s feet. Whereas Adam lost his headship over Creation when he sinned, Christ was made Head over all Creation (cf. Eph. 1:10). This will be fully realized in the future (Ps. 8:6; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:6–8).
The third manifestation of God’s power in Christ is His appointment of Christ as Head over … the church. Though the final manifestation of Christ’s headship over all Creation will be in the future, He is now Head over the fellowship of believers. He is also called the church’s “Head” in Ephesians 4:15; 5:23; and Colossians 1:18. Though the church is implied in Ephesians 1:10, it is specifically mentioned for the first time in Ephesians in verse 22b. The church is His body (v. 23; cf. 4:4, 15–16; Col. 1:18). His body, the universal church consisting of all believers, is the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. The meaning of this description of His body is difficult to determine. The verb “fills” can be taken passively, meaning that Christ, the Head of the body, is filled by the church. That is, as the church grows it completes Christ. However, it is better to understand the word “fills” as in the Greek middle voice: Christ, the Head of the body, fills (for Himself) the church with blessings. The verse could then be rendered, “which is His body, which is being filled by the One who fills all things with all things (blessings).” This interpretation is preferred for these reasons: (1) Nowhere else does the New Testament state that Christ finds fullness from the church. (2) This view fits the context well because the Persons of the Godhead are completing the actions (cf. Eph. 1:10). (3) This view correlates well with 4:10–11 which speaks of Christ giving all things (“the whole universe” is lit., “all things”), namely, gifted people to the church.
This ends Paul’s prayer. After demonstrating that believers have all spiritual blessings (1:3–14), Paul prayed that believers would come to know God intimately (v. 17) in order that they might know three facts: (1) the past call of salvation that produced hope (v. 18), (2) the future inheritance that God has in His saints (v. 18), and (3) the present power of God that is available to believers, which (a) was manifested in the past in Christ’s resurrection and Ascension, (b) will be manifested in the future in Christ’s headship over Creation, and (c) is presently manifested in Christ’s headship over the church.
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 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 102–106). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Turner, M. (1994). Ephesians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1228). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Hoehner, H. W. (1985). Ephesians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 620–621). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.