The Church: The Glory of its Head, Ephesians 1. 15-23

Having shown earlier in this first chapter that the Church is “eternal in its calling, heavenly in its conception, divine in its creation, and supernatural in its constitution”, as one writer says, Paul proceeds immediately in the chapter to unfold the glory of Christ as the Head of the Church, and he does it in the form of a prayer, which is the first of two in this Epistle. As he prays, his thoughts ascend from the realm of earth to reach the highest heavenly heights of revealed truth about Christ in relation to His Church.

In the opening sentence, he tells his readers that he is acquainted with their “faith in the Lord Jesus” and their “love unto all the saints”, and he assures them of his continual prayers for them, 1. 16.

This prayer is not a series of petitions for himself but of intercession for others that “through revelation they may know what Christ possesses in them and what they possess in Christ” R. paxton, culminating in adoration of the Lord Jesus. We already have the revelation of the Spirit in the Word of God, but we need the Spirit of revelation in our hearts to understand its truths, and so Paul prays that God “may give unto (us) a (not, the, A.V.) spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him”, 1. 17. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Holy Writ and He alone can illumine its pages, and only He can give us an insight into revealed truth.

With “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened”, which is not intellectual attainment but spiritual perception, Paul prays “that ye may know”, in the sense of understanding, these profound truths, each introduced by the word “what”, v. 18. This brings us to

1. The Encouragement of Hope

The first prayer-request for his readers is “what is the hope of his calling”, 1. 18. Oh, the wonder of “his calling”! In origin, it is “heavenly”; its nature is “holy”; its destiny is “high”; see Heb. 3. 1; 2 Tim. 1. 9; Phil. 3. 14. The sequel to His calling is progressive according to Romans 8. 30, for “whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified”. Hence, the ultimate outcome of being “called” by God is to be “glorified” at the Lord’s return.

This now brings us to “the hope” of His calling. The unbeliever has “no hope”, Eph. 2. 12, and the believer has only “one hope”, 4. 4. The word “hope” in Scripture directs us to the future, and it turns our thought from today of time to the tomorrow of eternity with an attitude of certainty and expectancy. For the Church, “the hope” is its growing up into Him unto “the stature of the fulness of Christ”, 4. 15, 13, attaining such spiritual maturity at the coming of the Lord to the air for His saints. We shall now consider

2. The Enrichment from His Resources

This point is based upon Paul’s next request made to the Lord that we should understand “what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints”, 1. 18, who are His “purchased possession”.

In the previous paragraph of the chapter, we learned that we have obtained an inheritance in Christ, 1. 11, which is “incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for (us)”, and we already enjoy an “earnest of our inheritance”, 1. 11, 14; 1 Pet. 1. 4. We rejoice at what we have in Christ. But how seldom we think of what we are to God! Hence, Paul now speaks of God’s inheritance, and it is in the saints! That is not all! He qualifies it — “the riches of the glory” of His inheritance. How rich is the glory of His inheritance! It is interesting to note that five times in this Epistle Paul refers to “riches” — twice “the riches of his grace”, and twice “the riches of his glory”, all of which are “the unsearchable riches of Christ”, 3. 8. Next we come to

3. The Energizing Power of God

Paul’s third request in his prayer is much longer, consisting of five verses, 1. 19-23, and he prays that we should know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe .. .”. Our attention is focussed upon “his power”, that is, the power of God. From the Greek word for “power”, dunamis, the English words “dynamite” and “dynamic” are derived. Paul wants us to grasp its “exceeding greatness” or “immeasurable greatness”’ but, when dealing with the infinite, it is difficult for our finite minds to comprehend the greatness of this power. With man, power is measurable, but with God His power is immeasurable! Such power is “to us-ward who believe”; it is at the disposal of the Church, and it is displayed in the commencement, the course and the consummation of our salvation.

To explain the “immeasurable greatness” of such divine power, Paul says it is “according to the working of his mighty power”, or, “according to that working of the strength of his might”, R.V. To describe graphically the surpassing greatness of the dynamic power of God, Paul uses the most forceful language by uniting the words “working”, “strength” and “might”, all of which present various shades of thought to one’s mind about the power of God.

For us to understand the “immeasurable greatness” of such divine “power”, Paul directs our attention to its manifestation, not in creation or the exodus, though great it was on those occasions, but in Christ, and so he brings before us in the subsequent verses resurrection power, ascension power and dominion power, as displayed in Christ. Furthermore, “the exceeding greatness of his power” is demonstrated by five aorists that Paul uses: He “wrought (it) in Christ”; “raised him from the dead”; “set him at his own right hand”; “hath put all things under (him)”; and “gave him … to the church”. We shall now look at them in turn.

The “power which he wrought in Christ” — which He operated and exerted in Christ — was on four distinct occasions, as Paul now shows. First, “when he raised him from the dead”, 1. 20. Christ was held by “the pangs of death”, Acts 2. 24 R.V.; He was buried in a sepulchre, which was sealed by a massive stone and guarded by soldiers, but the power of God was exerted with the strength and might in Christ to break the bonds of death, and so Christ arose, leaving an empty tomb! Never again will Christ die, for “he ever liveth”, Heb. 7. 25, and never before has resurrection power been displayed in this manner. The same resurrection power has worked in us to bring us out of spiritual death into life. One day, by the same power “they that are Christ’s” will be raised from the dead.

Secondly, when Christ was received up into heaven and God “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places”, 1. 20, then divine power was again exerted. The place of exaltation for Christ is at the right hand of God, which is probably a quotation from Psalm 110. 1. This exalted position is one of authority in the heavenlies, which here signifies the highest of the three heavens, an uncreated sphere, even “heaven itself …, the presence of God”, Heb. 9. 24. For this position of power, He “ascended up far above all heavens” which were created by Him, and so He is “made higher than the heavens”, Eph. 4. 10; Heb. 7. 26. The degree of His exaltation in relation to the highest orders of created beings is “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion”, a rabbinical phrase applied to the various orders of supra-mundane beings, and far above “every name that is named” which may apply to mundane beings, “not only in this age (not, world, a.v.), but also in that which is to come”, 1. 21, and so throughout the present age and the coming millennial era, the supremacy of Christ is final. His sovereign position of exaltation and His superiority to all other beings, both supernatural and natural, are unchallengeable.

Thirdly, the “exceeding greatness of his power” is demonstrated in the subjection of all beings, both super-human and human, to Christ, for God “hath put all under his feet”, 1. 22, which may be a quotation from Psalm 8. 6. Peter declares that “angels and authorities and powers (are) made subject unto him”, 1 Pet. 3. 22, whilst the psalmist states that all creatures on earth, in the air and in the sea are put under Him, Psa. 8. 6-8. Hence, all supernatural and natural beings are in subjection to Christ, none of which, though great they may be, are higher than He, but all are under Him.

Fourthly, the transcendent greatness of divine power was finally demonstrated when God “gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, …”, 1. 22, 23. From the celestial and terrestrial realms, Paul turns to the ecclesiastical, the Church, where Christ is supreme as its Head.

In three spheres, Christ is said to be “the head”. In angelology, He is “the head of all principality and power”, Col. 2. 10. In anthropology, Paul declares that “the head of every man is Christ”, 1 Cor. 11. 3. In ecclesiology, “he is the head of the body, the church”, Col. 1. 18; cf. Eph. 1. 22-23. Whether it is angels, man, or the Church, there is only one Head, and that is Christ, for, in all realms, He must have the preeminence.

This title, “the head”, is not used for Christ’s supremacy over a local church but only the Church in its totality. It is not found in Corinthians where the church in its local sense is brought before us. Christ is the Lord of each local assembly, according to Corinthians, but He is the Head of the universal Church, as seen in Ephesians. As “the head over all”, Christ is the sovereign Head “to the church, which is his body”, signifying His primacy of authority over the Church and His right of direction to the Church. It involves submission by the Church to His will as mentioned later in the Epistle, 5. 24.

Having said “the church, which is his body”, Paul adds, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all”, by which he means that Christ is the Head and the Church is His Body, but the one is not complete without the other. Therefore, the Church, as “the fulness of him”, is the complement to Christ. The Head, being in heaven, is now invisible, and so He expresses Himself through His members on earth which are visible. While they are here on earth, the greatness and glory of the Head will be manifest through His members.


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