His Glorious Church

Ephesians 1:15-23

Remember the overarching theme of Ephesians:

God’s eternal purpose is to gather into one the whole created universe by reconciling His creatures to Himself and to each other, a purpose He is working out through Christ in the church and ultimately to the praise of His glory.

What got Paul excited about the saints to whom he was writing? They had a reputation that had traveled at least 1200 miles from Ephesus to Rome – Paul, imprisoned in Rome, had heard of their belief and their behavior. The two are intimately and inextricably linked together – belief governs behavior; that is why the Apostle John could say “if we say that” 1Jo_1:6 1Jo_1:8 1Jo_1:10 then this is true about our behavior. The things that you actually hold to be true direct the choices you make. Paul had heard of their confessed belief in Jesus; he will elaborate more about the nature and origin of faith in the next chapter but it is sufficient here to recognize that faith is a fruit of God’s electing grace described earlier in this chapter.

He had also heard that they demonstrated their belief in Jesus’ Lordship by acting in love toward their brothers and sisters in Christ, “all the saints”. Faith is only as worthwhile as its object; true saving faith is that which has as its object the Lord Jesus. Here are two essential characteristics of a true church of Christ, a fellowship of believers – love for Christ demonstrated by love for fellow man. Faith and love go together – if our faith in Christ is genuine, there will be a love for him, made obvious by our desire to spend time with him, his Word, and his people. The church should be characterized by love as defined by Paul in 1Co_13:4-7.

Faith and love are also two of the “Christian graces” or primary virtues that should be evident in the church in increasing measure as the body grows in maturity. If the body is to grow in maturity, both graces must increase in measure. E-mail quote:

“Thank you for your concern and your prayers. We trust the Lord is shaping and changing us in all this process. One thing we have learned is this: as we had been taught, we used to emphasize the LOVE and totally de-emphasize DOCTRINE. Then, we started to be Bereans and so much of the confusion disappeared, because the doctrine actually makes sense. Surprise! BUT, we think the Lord is trying to get it into our thick heads that neither love nor doctrine is much good without the other.”

Looking down in the passage “hope”, the third grace, isn’t far away as Paul prays (v.18) that a full understanding of the believer’s hope may be appropriated by the saints at Ephesus. They need to know their hope (which is in their calling into the church and a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus) and the power behind that hope which provides its guarantee so they can show it and share it.

How does Paul expect the saints to arrive at this level of maturity? It is through or by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and to that end he prays specifically:

  1. that they will be given wisdom
  2. that truth will be revealed
  3. that they will increase in their knowledge of Jesus
  4. that their minds would be “brightened up”, illuminated
  5. that they would perceive the nature and extent of three things:
  • the hope to which God the Father had called them
  • the glorious riches of God the Father’s inheritance in them
  • the incomparable greatness of God the Father’s power demonstrated toward them

“[T]he great thing he prays for is the illumination of their understandings, and that their knowledge might increase and abound: he means it of a practical and experimental knowledge. The graces and comforts of the Spirit are communicated to the soul by the enlightening of the understanding. In this way he gains and keeps possession. Satan takes a contrary way: he gets possession by the senses and passions, Christ by the understanding.” Matthew Henry

Frederick Fyvie Bruce, 20th century Scottish theologian, in his commentary on Ephesians says this:

“Knowledge without wisdom can be a menace; wisdom is that insight into the nature of things, that sense of what is fitting, which enables one to co-ordinate and use one’s knowledge aright. Men who know many things are all around us; men of siritual wisdom are so rare that they are worth far more than their weight in gold. But the knowledge of which the apostle speaks is not primarily a knowledge of things or facts; it is the personal knowledge of God.”

As Paul rises on the wings of his prayer to heaven and the presence of God himself, he prays that “they may truly know what it meas to be called, that they may really know how rich they are, and how much power was demonstrated toward saving them in saving their souls” Gene Getz, Sharpening the Focus of the Church

“He prays for God to enlighten them about the magnificent truths of election, predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom and insight, inheritance, and sealing and pledge of the Holy Spirit about which he has just been instructing them.” John MacArthur, Ephesians It is on the basis of this understanding that the Christian develops a proper self-image, understanding who he really is in Christ. The richness of our inheritance is that joint-inheritance with Christ of all that God possesses. Accompanying that is the pleasure and glory that God receives when we, his possession, display to all the universe his incomparable wisdom and power demonstrated in our salvation.

What does it take to save us and provide us with that sort of inheritance? the surpassing greatness of the dunameos toward us who believe (not unbelievers, but the elect) according to the energeian of the power (kratous) of his might (ischuos) which he energesen in Christ. And here we see the usually eloquent apostle Paul failing for words to adequately express the magnificent grandeur of what God has accomplished in the salvation of his people.

These various synonyms do have slightly different shades of meaning –

dunamis – inherent power, achieving power or ability
energeia – power being exercised, power at work
kratous – power associated with the Creator
ischus – physical power or strength

They all refer to the power that God has exercised toward us and in us to bring about our initial regeneration and subsequent sanctification and glorification – the complete process of salvation, that which is guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the same power that God exercised when he brought Jesus out of the grave and “ascended him” – raised him from the dead and raised him ultimately to the place of honor at his own right hand; the power that elevated Jesus from the most profound humiliation possible, that of the grave, to the unimaginably glorious exaltation begun yet still to be fully consummated at the end of time.

Paul here turns our attention back to Christ and the place of honor to which God the Father has appointed him. Christ shares the Father’s authority as his co-equal, as the WSC states in the answer to “Question 6 How many persons are there in the Godhead? A. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”

Jesus referred to this authority before his ascension when he said “All authority has been givn to me in heaven and on earth.” In the place of rulership at the Father’s right hand he exercises sovereignty over the entire universe, a right and exercise of power that is so far above all other authorities and powers that there is no comparison between them. There is also no conceivable way for a mere mortal to “leap the gap” between earthly position present in either this or the future world and assume the authority that belongs to Christ alone.

The Orb is a hollow gold sphere weighing 42 ounces and about 16.5 cm (6.5 in.) in diameter. Around the centre is a band of pearls and gemstones. There is a similar half-band running across the top half of the Orb. Atop the Orb is an amethyst surmounted by a Cross. The Orb is a religious symbol; it represents the Monarch’s role as Defender of the Faith and as Head of the Church of England. Wikipedia

At the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II on June 2, 1953 “the Orb with the Cross [was] brought from the Altar by the Dean of Westminster and delivered into the Queen’s right hand by the Archbishop [of Canterbury], saying: Receive this Orb set under the Cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer. ” Even as Defender of the Faith the Queen of England is subject along with the whole world to the authority of Christ.

Christ is not only exalted above all creatures, but he has dominion over them; all are placed in absolute subjection to him. He, the exalted Saviour, the incarnate Son of God, seated as head of the universe, is made head of his church. All things are placed under his feet, and he head over all things, is head of the church. Charles Hodge, Ephesians

This concept of God the Father giving Christ to the church as her head is in the context of supreme authority. Christ is the monarch, the King of all kings, the King of the church. As the sovereign, it is his duty, his role to defend and protect his domain against all enemies. Christ, then, is exercising his authority for the purpose of completing the defeat of all his foes and continually defending and protecting his subjects from harm. He is ruling, exercising his authority not only over us but also on our behalf.

It is the power and authority of Christ as the King and head of the church that both secures and enables her to be victorious over her foes. Remember again the theme of Ephesians and how the structure of Ephesians corresponds to the Great Commission – making and mentoring disciples, evangelism (ch. 1-3) and edification (ch.4-6), doctrine and application. Christ’s purpose is not to destroy his foes but to defeat them; that may result in their destruction. But it very well may result in their conversion from enemies into allies, from foes into friends. His power is just as able to bring rebellious sinners into the kingdom as it is to keep them at bay.

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. MacArthur

The sense in which Christ is the head of the church, is that he is the source of its life, its supreme ruler, ever present with it, sympathizing with it, and loving it as a man loves his own flesh. Intimate union, dependence, and community of life, are the main ideas expressed by this figure. Charles Hodge, Ephesians

What does it mean that the church is the fullness of him who fills all things in every way? The church is the complement of Christ, the body that brings glory to the head. Christ gives all his fullness to the church but in some way known fully only by God the church is the fullness of him.

“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.” John Calvin

Since Christ considers himself complete only when he is united to us in his consummation, we can be certain that he will bring about our ultimate glorification and union with him. He is presently exercising his power and authority to that end.

In the New Testament Christ is set forth as creating, sustaining, and pervading the universe. This, therefore, determines the sense in which he is here said to fill all things. It is not that he replenishes all his people with his grace; but that he fills heaven and earth with his presence. There is no place where he is not. There is no creature from which he is absent. By him all things consist; they are upheld by his presence in them and with them. The union, therefore, which the church sustains, and which is the source of its life and blessedness, is not with a mere creature, but with Christ, God manifested in the flesh, who pervades and governs all things by his omnipresent power. The source of life, therefore, to the church is inexhaustible and immortal. Hodge

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