Lesson 17: Understanding God’s Power
After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for the saints,(16)I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers(17) that the god of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you may know what is the hope of your calling , and what are the riches of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (20) which 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 principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (22) And He put all things under his feet and gave Him to be the head of the church (23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Legend says that William Randolph Hearst, a fabulously wealthy newspaper publisher and art collector of the 20th century once read of a very valuable piece of art which he felt that he must have for his collection. The owner and location were unknown, which made it all the more inviting to Hearst, so he dispatched his agent to scout the world’s art galleries until the masterpiece could be found and purchased no matter what the cost. Finally, after many months of thorough, painstaking research, the agent found the work of art – in one of Hearst’s warehouses, where it had been stored for many years!
But as strange as that story sounds, there are many Christians just like that: they are always looking for that “something extra” in the Christian life. It’s almost as if they think that God doles out His blessings a little at a time, or gives out secret combinations which will unlock “spiritual secrets” for “special” Christians, and that if they can just read the right book or go to the right seminar, everything will fall into place for them spiritually.
But the Word of God says that He has already given us all there is when He gave us Christ – although we may have it “hidden away” somewhere and don’t even know that we have it. Ephesians 1:3 says that God has given us all that things that pertain to life and Godliness through the knowledge of Him . . .”
If this is true, then many Christians pray incorrectly. We pray, “Lord, help me love others” – but Romans 5:5 says that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Or we pray, “Lord give me your grace for this situation,” but 2nd Corinthians says “my grace is sufficient for you.” We pray for peace, but Philippians 4:7 says that He gives the peace that passes understanding to those who pray about the things that they are worried about.
Now we pray those things innocently and sincerely (and it’s better than not praying at all) but what we should pray is “Lord make me aware of your presence with me, let me sense your peace, remind me of the strength that I already have, let me exercise your grace, let me express you love,” and so forth.
Now in verses 3 through 14 of this first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul has given an examination of salvation in which he has reminisced in great detail about the blessings that God has given the Ephesians (and us) in giving us our salvation. But it is very interesting that he apparently still finds it important to pray for these people who are already so blessed. But in verses 15 through 23 we find his expression of supplication.
But this is a very different prayer than we usually pray. In the first place it is much more detailed – not just “God bless the missionaries” or “bless my wife and kids today”, (incidentally, dads, do you really know what their needs are?) But in the second place, it is a very simple request that he makes, even though he goes into great detail. Because what he is really asking is that the Ephesians (and we) will simply understand all that is ours (or what we have in our warehouse, in terms of our introductory paragraph).Look at some of the key words he uses here: “wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. In verse 17;” “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” in verse 18;” “that you might know the hope of your calling,” also in verse 18.
Now in our previous studies of this prayer we have seen the details of Paul’s prayer that they (and we) would understand God’s purpose in verses 17 and 18. But now in verses 19 through 21 he prays for something else – an understanding of His power. Look at those verses again.
(19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (20) which 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 principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
Notice again, in line with what we have been saying, that Paul is not praying that God will give us power, but that we will understand the power that we already have. Now, to try to get a handle on this power that is available to us, let’s think about the definition of power in verse 19.
And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
But if that definition is not clear enough for you, he gives a description of that power in verse 20 (in fact, he gives 3 descriptions)
Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
How great is that power? Well, it was exactly that power that that raised Jesus Christ from the dead! So the first demonstration of that power is the resurrection. Interestingly enough, of all the power that God has displayed in His creation, this is the one that He chooses for His “signature.”
Look at Romans 1:3 and 4 – in introducing the Lord Jesus Christ to his readers, Paul refers to Him as
– “Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”
And that is understandable. Modern medical technology can sustain life almost indefinitely. And they can “restore” life to an amazing extent – but only up to a period of about 3 minutes – the limit of oxygenated blood stored in the body. But the resurrection took place after three days!
The resurrection was the combination of all of the miracles Jesus did while He was on earth. It involved restoration of sight, hearing, speech, atrophied limbs, blood circulation, etc.
So the first demonstration of His power is resurrection. But not only that, but there is representation too. Note the phrase “seated Him at the right hand of God in the heavenly places.” You see He didn’t just “somehow barely survive the crucifixion,” as one of the false explanations of it says; He is actively alive. And Hebrews 7:25 says that He is “making intercession for us” – representing us – before the throne of God.
The power of God is demonstrated in “resurrection,” and it is demonstrated in “representation,” but there is a third description in verse 21, and that is regency.
Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in that which is to come.
God’s power is so great that Jesus Christ rules over everything. The specific terms here are terms used to describe angels and demons – the “unseen world.” And besides that, He is over “every name that is named” – even in the future! And that preeminence is the third thing that Paul prays we will understand, in verses 22 and 23.
And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, (23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Perhaps the best illustration of this power is a very simple one from the Scripture itself. In Luke chapter 1 the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she was going to be the earthly mother of the Lord Jesus. And she said exactly what we would probably have said: “how can these things be?” And the angel said, in short, “With God nothing shall be impossible.” Now that is the power God wants us to understand.