Eph 1:15-23

Sermon Discussion Questions:

1. Read Eph 1:15-23 together. What questions do you have? What stands out to you most?
2. How does Christ's resurrection and exaltation benefit us?
3. Look again at verses 1:20-23. What does it mean that Jesus has been given as the "head of all things to the church"?
4. How does this teaching make us hopeful, calm, confident, and joyful? What leads you to feel the opposite of those things?

Do you remember what the breaking news headlines were April 9th, 2023—Easter last year? Or what about April 17th, 2022? Or the year before that? I looked them up—they mostly had to do with the war in Russia, leaked documents, and vaccines. Not surprising. But, the point is, I had to look them up. No headline or story stuck in my mind, but were all just other sticks and debris among other debris that flows down the eddies and streams of my attention. But that sent me on a search for what may have been other significant events that have taken place on this holiday in the past, events that had a greater magnitude that would stick out in our minds as matters of great import.


In 2009, on Easter Sunday, the American commercial ship captain, Richard Philips was rescued from Somalian pirates, a story so harrowing it was later turned into a feature length film starring Tom Hanks.


In 1991, the country of Georgia, formerly a part of the USSR, votes to become an independent nation from Russia.


In 1945, the Battle for Okinawa began, one of the bloodiest battles in all of WWII, resulting in over 150,000 causalities between the Allied and Japanese forces.


In 1918, following Germany and the United Kingdom, in an effort to save energy during the Great War, Congress passes the Standard Time Act, introducing Daylight Savings Time to our country. Interestingly, next year, in 1919 congress repeals the act because of its unpopularity, and it isn’t introduced again until the 60’s (for those of you holding out hope to stop changing your clocks, there is precedent).


In 1722, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen lands on a small Pacific Island littered with statues of enormous heads that the locals called moai. Since he landed there on Resurrection Sunday, Roggeveen titled the island “Easter Island.”


All of those are (perhaps) interesting tidbits of information from history, seasoning to pepper conversations with and satisfy curiosities. But, likely, had I not mentioned any of these, they would not stand out in your mind, and perhaps they are just additional detritus bobbing down the river of your attention. But what about the Easter Sunday, two-thousand years ago? The gravity of that Easter Sunday cannot be exaggerated—it is not another object in the river, it shapes the very river of our minds. Consider that there are approximately 2.3 billion people on the planet who claim to be Christians—that’s a third of the world’s population, the largest religion by far. Add to that the additional 1.1 billion who claim an secular/agnostic faith, but live in the shadow of Christianity, who have “Easter Sunday” as a public holiday, and that means that about half of the planet, right now, is reflecting on that fateful Easter Sunday, two millennia ago. Surely, if there is any event in history with considering, it is this one.


And yet, for many, the Resurrection can sometimes feel like another stick in the stream, another thing floating by that we acknowledge, perhaps with gratitude, but then turn our eyes to the next object, the next story, and functionally forget. Which make sense for those outside the church, but for Christians seems very out of place. And yet, here we are. But in Paul’s letter to the young church in Ephesus, he writes out a prayer for them, a prayer to help them consider the significance and consequence of the Resurrection of Christ.


15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering 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 of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that 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 rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

(Eph 1:15-23)


The Knowledge


Paul is grateful for the Ephesian church. He has heard of their faith and their love towards other Christians, so Paul wants them to know that he continually is praying for them. But, he doesn’t stop there—he wants them to know what he is praying for them. So he tells them: he is praying for them to know something. Three things, specifically: the hope to which we have been called; the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints; and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. These are three separate things, but they are all intertwined. They all are the blessings that God give to us: hope, an inheritance, and power. But it is that last blessing that he is going to spend the rest of his time explaining—why? Hope looks forward to what is unseen, our inheritance is kept in heaven for us—they are invisible, standing beyond the horizon. But what about power? Power implies a present experience. But, that leaves us with the question: do you experience the immeasurable greatness of his power…according to the working of his great might? If I offered you a pill, and promised you “immeasurably great power and great might” if you took it, what would you anticipate the results to be? Energy? Mental clarity and focus? Paul’s sentence sets us up with some lofty expectations. Physical strength and acuity? Yet, John Calvin reflecting on this passage, explains:


“In what do we excel the children of the world but in this, that our condition appears to be somewhat worse than theirs? Though sin does not reign, it continues to dwell in us, and death is still strong. Our blessedness, which lies in hope, is not perceived by the world. The power of the Spirit is a thing unknown to flesh and blood. A thousand distresses, to which we are daily liable, render us more despised than other men.” – John Calvin


In other words, we don’t seem very powerful. And that is why Paul is praying, why he is writing, and why I am preaching. That you may know the hope, the inheritance, and the power of God at work in you. We may not by human eyes appear to have this infinite power pulsating through us, but this is why Paul is praying for the eyes of their hearts to be opened. Notice that Paul does not pray for them to get a calling or obtain an inheritance—they have it. They just don’t know it fully, they have not experienced the full reality of knowledge. If a student is selected to receive a full-ride scholarship to her school of choice…but she never opens the mail telling her the news? She has the scholarship, but she isn’t enjoying it. This is why Paul is going to lay before us the exalted state of Christ.




Christ as He now dwells in heaven, is the clearest revelation of our final hope, of our great inheritance. But, more than that, it is the resurrection and exaltation of Christ to His throne in heaven that serves as the clearest display to us of what immeasurable power is currently at work in us. If I hand you the keys to a car and you ask me how powerful the car is and I tell you, “Well, this is the same engine that was used in each car that won every major racing competition in the world,” that would give you an eye-popping knowledge at just how powerful this car is. What it has accomplished in that much more serious arena would open your eyes to see the greatness of the power before you.


This is what Paul is wanting to do for us now by showing us the power of God revealed in the resurrection of Christ.


The Power


Paul points us to the power “…that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead ,” (Eph 1:20a).


Think of the strongest person you know. At the local gym I attend, there are weightlifters there who are big—they keep you humble. Some of them look like they just eat the weights. But, at that gym, there is also a physical therapy clinic, which means there are also a lot of elderly persons there. And the contrast between the gladiator-looking strongmen and the grandpa who uses a screwdriver to pry the heel of his shoes on is stark. But, the reality is that even if we are blessed with health, a strong body, and long life…one day, we all are going to have fingers shake as we try to put our socks on. It is a sobering reality to consider that humanity’s smartest, healthiest, wealthiest, most powerful, and most influential will expire just like everyone else. Our education or 401Ks or impressive cholesterol levels will not stop death, it is just too strong.


But not for God. Jesus’ resurrection is unique even amidst the other miracles he performed. Every person that Jesus healed, even those who raised from the dead, all one day died. But Jesus resurrects and never dies again (Rom 6:9). I love the way Peter describes it: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it,” (Acts 2:24). What brings down the greatest and brightest and strongest of us all, could not hold Jesus down. It was not possible. This is the first data-point for us to consider as we think about the magnitude of the power of God at work in us. But Paul doesn’t just stop with the historical fact of the resurrection of the body—he keeps going.


“…when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” (Eph 1:20).


The power that the Father worked in resurrecting Christ did not stop at the physical resurrection of the body, but was also displayed in Jesus Christ ascending back to heaven and being seated at the place of highest honor in the heavenly places: the Father’s right hand. In the Bible, the right hand is a motif of power. Most people are right-handed, and so what you hold in your right hand is what you are capable of, what you can accomplish. In Psalm 110, we see the prophecy made of the Messiah: “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,”(Ps 110:1). Jesus’ return to the Father’s right hand is not Him exiting the world, diminishing His influence and ministry. To be at the Father’s right hand is to be in the position of highest authority and most significant power; it is to be in the captain’s, the judge’s, the director’s chair. And that is exactly what Paul emphasizes:


“…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:21-22a).


Every institution of authority there is, stands under His authority. Every school board, every elder team, every court, every parent, every president, every law—all are subject to Him; none can operate out from under His authority. At the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ now sits as the authority, the king of all kings. Later, Paul will use similar language of “rulers…authorities…powers” to describe demonic entities (Eph 6:12). This means that even the most sinister, wicked forms of power in existence, are not operating outside of His sovereign control. That means when wicked authorities—Pilate, Herod, Judas, Satan—think they are subverting God’s plans, they are do nothing but fulfilling them. Which means, Christian, if you could but see what God sees, you would never anxiously worry about the evil of the day. We lament evil, of course—as does God. Yet, we could put it even more starkly, if we could but see what God sees, the grand conclusion He is working in all of the evil affairs of men, we would see that our enemies are doing exactly what we want them to do.


What does it mean that He is given a name above every name in this age and the age to come? It also implies authority, prominence, excellence—but also, endurance. I was reminded by another pastor this week that the “great name” in Ephesus was Artemis. A mob of pagans, outraged that the gospel has transformed worshippers of Artemis into worshippers of Jesus, assault Paul’s companions and for two hours chant: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! (Acts 19:34). But, friends, where is Artemis now? Something you must google to find out. Jesus has been given a name above all names, an honor and glory that will persist through the ages. As the mob praised the power of Artemis, I’m sure it felt like they were gathering around something certain, something enduring. But they weren’t. And friend, every name which exalts itself, every passing authority, every movement that can whip up a mob into a frenzy will likewise have its moment, and then pass. But our God and our Lord stand, from age to age.


This is the power of the resurrection, the exaltation, the dominion of Jesus Christ, wrought by the Father. But Paul’s point here is not only to show you the transcendence of Christ in His glorified state, but to show you the power at work now for you.


“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his,” (Rom 6:4-5).


The Church


“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23).


Lest Christ’s supreme dominion wasn’t already clear to us, Paul emphasizes that all things are under his feet and he stands as head over all. But here, Paul’s argument takes an interesting turn. Remember what he has been wanting to do: he wants us to clearly understand the immeasurable greatness of power at work in us. To demonstrate just how powerful that is, Paul points us to the resurrection: it is that powerful. So he meditates on the whole package of Christ’s exaltation and rule—the power that the Father displayed in overcoming death and subjugating all authorities from now and forever under the Lord Jesus Christ, that kind of power is what is at work in the church.


But you can demonstrate the power of an object in a way that has nothing to do with the recipient of the power. For instance, the illustration of the car I used earlier—when I tell you that the motor of the car is the same one put into the cars that won all the races, those races had nothing to do with you. It is a good demonstration of the power, but the designer of the motor and the driver of the car weren’t racing for you. The motor wasn’t designed for you. You just so happen to now benefit from it. And that’s great! You’re joy in getting the car is a tangential bonus for the carmaker, not the point. That isn’t what the resurrection of Christ is like. Paul, who started with you, and then turned towards the example of Christ’s resurrection, now brings them together.


Immediately upon putting all things under Christ’s feet, the Father then gives Him as “head over all things to the church.” What does that mean? It means that everything that the Father has been doing thus far in raising Christ from the dead, seating Him at His right hand, exalting Him above every rule and authority and over every name from now and forever, placing all things under His feet is for…the church.


Christ, this glorious king, is now given to the church, as a head. This is marital language—later in Ephesians, Paul will use the metaphor of a husband and wife to describe Christ and the church, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior,” (Eph 5:23). He is a husband, the church is His bride. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (Eph 5:25). He dies for her.


Why did the Son of God come down and take on flesh at all? Why endure the trials and temptations of humanity, why endure the agony of the cross? The Son of God already was enthroned in heaven before, all things already were under His feet, He already had the hosts of heaven there to praise Him and glorify Him. For Him, this exaltation is a return, not a new arrival.


What does His return to glory bring? A bride, His church. Now, we must remember: God lacks nothing; He is not lonely, He is not bored, He did not have a deficiency that had to be remedied. He is an infinite fountain of joy and contentment. What could motivate Him then to leave that glorious place and endure it all? Paul already told us: Christ loved the church. He loved her.


I wonder if sometimes we picture Jesus saving the church the way we imagine George Washington fighting for independence. Washington did a great thing, he helped create this country…but that was a long time ago, and while we admire him, and benefit from his sacrifice, we know that we were nothing more than a theoretical idea to him. When we say that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for, we don’t mean that Jesus loved a theoretical idea of a church, a faceless collection of individuals. Jesus didn’t die for an idea. He died for a people. For people in particular. And so, He loves persons in particular. And so, Christ’s love for the church, like a husbands love for his wife, is personal.


And so, as a good husband, as a good head, what is His becomes ours, and what is ours becomes His. Our sin, death, judgment, our spot in Hell…He takes. He takes His bride’s sin, and bears the punishment, absorbs Hell itself. But then, He resurrects, He conquers the grave, and He ascends to the Father. And now, what is His becomes ours.


6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:6)


The church now is so identified with Jesus that we are actually described as “his body” and, surprisingly, Paul can describe us as: “the fullness of him who fills all in all,” (Eph 1:23b). The church is now so swept up into Jesus, that we are His representatives here on earth, the fullness of Him who fills everything.


What Happens If I Believe This?


You become hopeful.


You become calm.


You become confident.


You become joyful.