Saturday, June 28, 2008

THE WORKING OF HIS MIGHTY POWER


Ephesians chapter 1 is so rich with information about the Gospel, it is so wonderful to read.

· Four Petitions (Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 28:1, Ephesians 1:4)

Ephesians 1:15
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

Ephesians 1:16
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

Ephesians 1:17
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Ephesians 1:18
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:19
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

Ephesians 1:20
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

Ephesians 1:21
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

Ephesians 1:22-23
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

You notice that the prayer starts in verse 17.

Where are these four petitions?

The first three petitions are in verses 17, 18, and 19. In verse 17 the Apostle prays that the Ephesian saints may receive more wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God.

Did the church at Ephesus need more knowledge of God?

Most certainly they did. This was the first of the seven churches in Asia that were addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 2, and this was the church that left her first love.

The second petition is in Ephesians 1:18, look at verse 18, where the Apostle prays that the church at Ephesus may understand and “that ye may know what is the hope of His calling”.

Could we use a little more understanding of “what is the hope of His calling”?

In other words, do we need a little more understanding of “what are the riches of the glory of Christ’s inheritance” in the life hereafter?

I believe we do. If we would have a little more understanding of the life hereafter, our present life would be more focused, and we would have an always present awareness of Heaven and Hell. It would make us examine ourselves more often, and see where we are heading. Also it would drive us to more personal witness of what God has done for us, and what God is going to do to those who remain unsaved. Remember there are only two destinations: Heaven or Hell.

Now the third petition is in Ephesians 1:19, look at verse 19, where the Apostle prays, “that ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe”.

What is he praying for?

He prays that the church at Ephesus may know a little bit more of the exceeding great power of God to us-ward. That is an important “us-ward”, because it refers to the power of God to those whom He chose from before the foundation of the world, as it is so clearly stated in Ephesians 1:4. And thus, in this third petition he beseeches God for more understanding in this matter of “Election”.

Does we need more appreciation of God’s elective program?

I believe we do. If we would have a little more appreciation of “Election” we would understand that there is no Gospel without “Election”. There is no Good News, there is no Salvation, and there is no Heaven without “Election”. We would be more grateful for God to have elected us unto salvation. He could just as well have passed us by. Just imagine the horror if God would have passed us by.

But if God has not passed us by, if the Father indeed has drawn us to Jesus, if God has indeed called us with an holy calling, then why are we not in awe of this indescribable gift?

Let us go on to the fourth petition in Ephesians 1:20 and following. The Apostle prays that the church at Ephesus may know “what is the working of God’s mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised him from the dead”.

Is that a petition?

Is that a question?

O Yes!

What Is the Strength of God’s Might in Raising Christ? (Ephesians 1:19-20, Romans 1:3-4, 2 Corinthians 13:4, Psalm 18:5, Isaiah 53:8, Hebrews 2:9, Acts 2:24, 1 Samuel 2:30, Colossians 2:15, Psalm 24:7-8)

Ephesians 1:19-20
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

Have we given it a second thought what God had to do in order to raise Christ from the dead?

What is the big deal?

There were so many people who died and were made alive. In the Old Testament both Elijah and Elisha were God’s instruments in bringing children back to life. In the New Testament the Lord Jesus made alive the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow at Nain, and Lazarus of Bethany. The Apostle Peter was instrumental in bringing Dorcas back to life, and the Apostle Paul was instrumental in bringing Eutychus back to life. These kinds of actions are routine miracles for God.

And so, what is the big deal?

But the raising of the Lord Jesus Christ must be a big deal, because God mentions it so many times. For example, God says in Romans 1:3-4, “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.

And God says in 2 Corinthians 13:4 “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God”.

Why does the raising of Christ require so much power from God?

To answer this question we first must realize that the death which Christ died was no ordinary death. Therefore His resurrection must be an extraordinary resurrection.

What was this death that Christ died?

One man rightly stated (and I quote) “If Christ had merely died a corporal death, no end would have been accomplished by it. It was essential also that He should feel the smart of the divine vengeance in order to appease the wrath of God and satisfy His justice. Hence it was necessary for Him to contend with the power of Hell and the horror of eternal death” (end quote).

This sheds some new light on the words found in Psalm 18:5, “The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me”. More literally the Hebrew text says, “The cords of Hell compassed me about: the snares of death confronted me”. This is a Messianic uttering, because this is a Messianic Psalm. Here God gives us the aspect of imprisonment and binding of Christ by divine justice, and He could not be released until He had paid our debt to the uttermost. And thus when we read in Isaiah 53:8, “He was taken from prison”, we should not think of an earthly prison, but the prison of Hell. Therefore when we read also in Hebrews 2:9, “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man”, we see that in the Greek text it is indeed the word “taste”.

But bodily Christ did not “taste death”. Bodily He fully died. And so this cannot refer to His physical death, but it must refer to Him enduring the second death, which He tasted for every one of His people. On the day of Pentecost, in the year AD 33, the Apostle Peter gave a sermon on the street outside the house where they had assembled, and in this verse he referred to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a veiled sense Peter indicated that the Lord Jesus Christ was not just raised from death, but He was raised from the dead. He was among the spiritually dead, but He was raised out from among them. Let us see then what the words of Acts 2:24 mean, “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it”.

What are these “pains” that are called the pains of death?

We know that lying dead in the grave is not painful. In fact, on the cross Christ already endured the full payment for all our sins, and thus He should not have to suffer more after that.

What does it mean then that Christ was “loosed” from the pains of death?

It means that at the end of about six hours on the cross, when He cried with a loud voice, “It Is Finished!” Christ was loosed from His spiritual sufferings, from the pains and cords of the second death. And also it means that Christ on Sunday morning was loosed from His physical death when He was raised from the grave. The fact is that Christ had to be raised from the grave because God stated in 1 Samuel 2:30, “them that honour me I will honour”. This is a basic principle of God’s government. And since Christ did not commit any sin, God was obligated to take Him back into God’s holy heaven after Christ completed the payment for all the guilt of all the sins that were imputed on Him. And so, God delivered Christ from the pains and the cords of Hell, and subsequently God also delivered Christ from the powers of darkness.

Now, is it not highly probable that Satan would do his utmost to prevent Christ from coming out of the grave?

Shortly after Jesus was born the Devil stirred up Herod the Great to kill the baby Jesus. The Devil stirred up Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus so that He might be killed. The Devil stirred up the chief priests and almost all the members of the Sanhedrin to have Jesus arrested and brought to trial, so that He might be killed.

Should it not be expected that the Devil would also do his utmost to prevent the bodily resurrection of Christ, and keep Him in the grave?

And thus the Devil stirred up the chief priests and the Pharisees to say to Pilate, “Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure”, so that a heavy stone was placed over the entrance of the tomb, and the stone was sealed, and a watch of soldiers was set to guard it. But all to no avail, because God said in Colossians 2:15, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it”.

Does this not indicate that there was a concerted effort on the part of the powers of evil to oppose His resurrection?

That is why He triumphed over them. That is why in Psalm 24:7-8 the “King of glory” on His entrance into Heaven was greeted as, “the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle”. This then is the meaning of God’s might in raising Christ from the dead. Now let us see:

What Is the Power God Exerts in Saving His Elect? (Ephesians 1:19-20, Colossians 1:13, 2 Timothy 2:26, Romans 8:31, Jude 24, Ephesians 3:20, Hebrews 13:20-21)

Let me bring back to your memory the words of Ephesians 1:19-20, “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places”.

This is His power to us-ward who believe. According to this analogy, with respect to our conversion, the working of his mighty power works in us in the same way that He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.

Can you see the parallel?

Like as Satan sought to hold Christ forever in the grave, so Satan sought to hold us forever in his clutches. Like as God defeated Satan, triumphed over all his resistance, and raised Christ from the grave, so He powerfully removed us from the power of darkness and made us experience the first resurrection in our souls. We read in Colossians 1:13, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son”.

We read here that God has performed this awesome task of choosing us while we were still in the kingdom of Satan, moved us out of the kingdom of Satan, past the gates of Hell that were supposed to hold us in, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gates of Hell were not able to prevail against us. And God did that with an exceeding great power to us-ward like as the great power He used to raise Christ from the dead. And so, we can clearly see that no one can do that by his own initiative. No one can bring up so much power to accomplish his or her salvation. And thus we can clearly see that this process of salvation must be entirely done by God, or else it will not succeed.

How can anyone claim to have saved himself by choosing the Lord Jesus as their Savior?

They are deceiving themselves.

Do we not read that all the unsaved are “in the snare of the Devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26)?

Now then, why is God’s raising of Christ from the dead made the standard of measurement of the power which He exercises in those who believe?

The answer is this: The bodily resurrection of Christ is both the pattern and pledge of what God can and will do for His people. Let us check this out. In the Old Testament the standard miracle was the deliverance of the nation of Israel out of Egypt. Again and again the prophets pointed to that miracle of splitting the Red Sea to show the people how mighty God is and to what extent He will go to save His people out of the house of bondage. At the same time we know that the miracles of the Passover, the Exodus, and the Red Sea crossing were all pictures of God’s mercy and grace for those He chose to save. From all the children of Israel, who were as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand which was on the seashore, God chose to save only a remnant for His own purposes. But the Red Sea crossing especially was the supreme demonstration of God’s power to help and to save. When the prophets sought to inspire courage and confidence they pointed back to that mighty deliverance. But when we come to the New Testament the Red Sea crossing is no longer mentioned. Instead the New Testament repeatedly points to the empty tomb, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, as the great triumph of God’s omnipotent power, and it is the standard of what God will do for us who believe.

Does the empty tomb then represent a greater miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea?

I believe it is. God would not have replaced the miracle at the Red Sea by the miracle of the empty tomb if it was not a greater miracle. And think of it now. That same power which God wrought in Christ in raising Him from the dead, has operated in us to bring us to Christ, and is still operating in us to keep us faithfully in the hands of Christ.

Is this not awesome?

Is this not giving us great comfort?

The mighty power of God is operating on our behalf.

It is a power which is beyond resistance, for we read in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” It is a power which is superior to and triumphs over all our weaknesses, for we read in Jude 24, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling”.

We read in Ephesians 3:20 that it is a power “that is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”. It is a power that is able to make us perfect in the sight of God, for we read in Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

How thankful we should be for God’s power working in us. What a great blessing to know that this great power is working in us and is there to strengthen our faith, and to give us confidence for the future. And now we want to look at:

What Is the Nature of the Power God Exercised? (Romans 6:4, Ephesians 2:5-6, Romans 5:21)

What is the nature God exercised in raising Christ from the dead, and in bringing us out from the deadness of Satan’s kingdom, making us spiritually alive, and giving us faith?

Now if we keep in mind the nature of Christ’s death was a satisfaction for sin, and that it was a spiritual death as well as a physical death, then we realize that there is a whole lot more involved in raising Him from the dead. Look at it this way: The Lord Jesus said that one human soul was worth more than all the material goods on this planet earth combined. If that is so, then the raising of Christ from the dead was a greater act of God than there will be in the destruction of the world and creating a new one, because Christ is certainly greater than any human being. Moreover, the death of Christ was a legal transaction. Therefore the legal element also entered into His resurrection. His death was the enduring of the full penalty of the Law, and it was inflicted by God the Judge of all. It was endured with the fullest confidence that God would raise Him from the dead. And thus, God’s raising Him from the dead was God’s answer to the dying appeal of Christ, who was cast out by the world. It was God’s response to the Savior’s trust in Himself. God’s righteousness required that God should raise Christ from the dead. God’s holiness demanded that the sinless One should be released from the grave. Therefore, by raising Him from the dead God openly declared that all that Christ has taught was true; there was no mistake in it at all, no sin because any mistake or any imperfection is sin. God set His seal upon the triumphant ending of Christ’s ministry. And God proved that the payment Christ made for all His people was to the full satisfaction of the righteousness of God. But let us now take this a step further.

Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”.

Did you see that?

Christ was raised by the glory of the Father.

What does that mean?

It means that Christ was not raised as a single person, but as the Head of His people. The church rose also in Christ and with Christ. And that is also what the words in Ephesians 2:5-6 indicate, “But God, …… hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.

To create the world was and act of God’s power. But to bring forth a new creation out of a ruined old creation was a glorious power, which transformed a curse into a never ending blessing. That was to the glory of the Father. Christ was made a curse for us. He was under the curse that should have rested upon us.

Now let's see Romans 5:21. “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord”.

Down to the grave the power that prevails over man is death. But the grace of His resurrection reveals the more excellent power of His righteousness. And with His liberty His people are also freed.

Therefore, what is the nature of the power God exercised?

It is not only His omnipotent power, but in addition it is the power of the glory of His righteousness. Let us now see:

What Are the Analogies of Christ’s and Our Resurrections? (Romans 4:25, 1 Corinthians 15:17, Romans 1:16-17, Colossians 1:13, Hebrews 7:16, 1 John 3:2, Ephesians 1:19-20 )

The resurrection of Christ was not only a pattern of our resurrection, but His resurrection was also the pledge and a component of the purchase of our resurrection, for we read in Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”. Our justification hinges on His resurrection. God’s raising of Christ from the dead was the pledge that He would make alive all for whom He died. Otherwise He would be a Bridegroom without a Bride, or a Redeemer without the redeemed. “If Christ be not raised, then your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). This we need to see clearly before we go on.

Let us now see some analogies. As Christ was delivered from eternal death by the righteousness of God, so too are all who believe (Romans 1:16-17). As Christ was delivered from the forces of Satan, so too are we delivered from the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13). As Christ has been made “after the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16), so we shall never perish "but have everlasting life". As Christ was raised to honor and glory, so shall we be. God says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”.

Let us now summarize what we have learned so far about the greatness of God’s power in connection with His work for the saints. Keep in mind that this is not a formal statement of doctrine, but it is a prayer for the saints. It is a prayer for the up-building of the saints in their understanding of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we engage in personal witnessing we shall always meet those who want to know what the power of the resurrection of Christ means. Here in this prayer the Apostle makes the request that God’s people might know, first, what is the awe-inspiring excellency of that power?

Secondly, that it is a power “to us-ward”, acting for us, on our behalf, if we belong to God’s elect.

Thirdly, that it is an effectual power, for we believe according to God’s irresistible grace.

Fourthly, it is a power that operates within us according to what it wrought in Christ when God raised Him from the dead. And it is no lesser power that still works within us to carry forward the good work in our souls to a triumphant completion. And then it is also important that Christians should firmly and fully know these things. Or else we would not be able to pray the prayer that God has written here for our benefit. God gave us this passage in Ephesians 1:15-23 for our edification.

Are we anxious to learn what God has to say?

Let us pray that this will indeed be the case, because “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”. AMEN.

By Alfred Chompff


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