Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 21
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|This week Dr. Barber looks at the Majesty of Christ as it is revealed in his text for this sermon. He also looks at the texts throughout the New Testament that refer to the “right hand” to see what that implies for us about Christ, who is seated at God’s right hand.|
Our Majestic Christ
Will you turn with me to the book of Ephesians chapter 1? I want to talk to you about “Our Majestic Christ.” Now to catch you up, in 1:3-14 Paul teaches and tells the Ephesian church about the riches of their salvation. He says He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. He redeemed us through Christ’s blood. He forgave us our trespasses according to the riches of His grace. He sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise until the day of redemption. Verses 3-14 show us what God has done. In effect He authored a great salvation.
Now in verses 15-19 Paul prays for them and tells them he hopes that they will understand and experience and know for themselves two things. One is the greatness of God’s wonderful plan. There are two things involved in that wonderful plan. One is the hope of His calling, and the other is the glory of the riches of the inheritance of His inheritance of the saints, in other words, of being God’s own peculiar possession. He said, “I want you to know this. I want you to understand this. I pray that you might know these things.” Now he also prayed that they would know the greatness of God’s wonderful power to accomplish the plan. That’s a wonderful thing. Not only did He give us an assignment. Not only did He give us a great future to look forward to, but He gives us His power according to His might and strength that we might accomplish the things that God has assigned.
We’ve seen His power and His might and His strength. All of that has been demonstrated in the raising of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is the key to believing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If a man does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus he does not believe in the Gospel. All of our hope hinges on whether or not Jesus arose from the dead. There’s more proof that Jesus rose from the dead than that Plato existed. Yet men tend to turn away and shun that great event, the resurrection of Jesus.
Look at verses 18-20. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.” How many times in our Christian walk do we doubt whether or not God can or will do things in and through us? We’re facing a dilemma, we’re facing a problem, and we wonder, “Does God have the power to help us overcome? Does He have the power to help us bear up under?” The assurance that God gives us is in the raising of Jesus from the dead.
One of the questions that I’m asked all the time is, “What about death? When I die am I assured that I’ll go right in the presence of Jesus? When I die am I assured one day my body, which is buried in the ground, will be resurrected and changed and glorified and clothe my immortal spirit forever? How can I be assured of that?”
Look with me in I Thessalonians 4. The Thessalonian believers were concerned about the righteous people in their midst who had died. They wondered what would happen to them. “Is God powerful enough to raise their bodies from the dead one day? Is God powerful enough to take their spirits to be with Him?” You know some people teach that there’s a soul sleep when a person dies. No sir! There is not. Immediately our spirit goes to be with the Lord Jesus. Paul says in Corinthians, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” That’s a promise to believers.
Look at verse 13. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep,…” Now that word “asleep” ought to just fire you up. It has nothing to do with the spirit. The word “asleep” has to do with the body. It’s a picture of what’s going to happen one day. When you get tired you lay down. After you’ve slept for awhile you get back up. That’s the picture.
I used to serve with a pastor who used to say at funerals, “I’m going to plant a body.” I thought that was rather crude until I studied I Corinthians 15. That’s exactly what he was doing. When you plant something what do you expect it to do? Come up one day. That’s what He promised. Because He bodily arose He promises that He’s the first fruit of many others. He set the pattern. As He was raised, our bodies one day will be raised.
Watch what he says in verse 13. “…that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.” People grieve who don’t understand death. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
Now wait a minute. How can He bring with Him those who have fallen asleep? I thought their bodies were in the ground. Well they are. There was a departure. He brings their spirits with Him as He comes to meet us in the clouds. Verse 15 says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, when Jesus comes for His church, which we call the rapture of the church, that is the moment that the bodies, the dead bodies, of the righteous dead will rise up and be changed first before we are changed.
Verse 16 says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Their spirits are coming down. Their bodies are rising up. Then he says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Boy, the power and strength and might of God was all demonstrated in the raising of Jesus from the dead. Then He ascended, and God sat Him on His right hand.
So when it comes to assurance, we have the assurance because of the resurrection. He can accomplish whatever’s necessary in our lives now and in the age to come. When we die He will care for our body and our spirit just as He promised.
Well, in Ephesians 1:20-23 Paul moves from the might of Christ to the majesty of Christ. He wants them to see the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the beautiful, beautiful part of chapter 1 that just should thrill all of our hearts. He wants them to see that Christ is ruler of the universe, but He’s also Head of His body, the Church. We’re going to look at the fact that He’s the Ruler of the Universe. We’re going to look at His majesty.
Maybe you’re living in a low place right now, and you’re discouraged and defeated, but you’re looking at the lions, you’re not looking at the Lord. When you get your eyes up you’ll realize how majestic He is. That’s what causes us to see life from a different point of view.
First of all in verse 20 we want to find that our Lord Jesus Christ is seated in the place of highest honor. It says in verse 20, “…which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Now in their culture when a sovereign wanted to honor someone he would always put him at his right hand. The right hand was always emphasized when a sovereign wanted to honor someone. He put him on his right hand. Paul is not speaking of human sovereigns. He’s speaking of God Himself.
Now understand, no created being could ever be associated in the place of highest honor with God. Jesus was the uniquely begotten son. He has always existed. He’s the Son of God that came to this earth to be the Son of man and is the God-Man. He has that place reserved for Him. He’s seated in the place of highest honor. God never said to an angel, “Sit here at My right hand.” God never said to a human being, “Sit here at My right hand.”
You see, the disciples argued about who would be at the right hand and who would be at the left. They tried to decide who was the best one to be seated at the right or left hand. What did Jesus say? He said, “It’s not for Me to tell you. My Father decides who sits there.” The Father reserved the place for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The honor was reserved for Jesus alone. The Son of God has always held that place.
Here’s the uniqueness of it. Now He’s the son of man, the God-Man. We have a representative in heaven seated at the right hand of God, the God-Man. He’s seated in the place of highest honor. I grabbed hold of that right hand years ago. He grabbed hold of me.
I started looking in scripture to find out where “right hand” was used in the New Testament. I found it is used 138 times. That would be a little laborious to work through. Seventy percent of the time it refers to the right hand of God. Let me just give you a little sample of what I found. I challenge you to do your own study on the right hand of God.
First of all, we find it’s at His right hand that you find His power. Those very words are used. It’s called the right hand of power. The “power” means the ability to do what we cannot do. We have a representative in heaven. It’s His Spirit that lives within us. Look up. He wants us to come to Him. He wants to show us that honor in our lives as He gives us the power to do what He’s assigned us to do.
Secondly, I found the word “right hand” was associated with all the fullness of joy. He says, “In thy right arm we find the pleasures of life.” Now folks, if you’re looking for pleasure, if you’re looking for joy, don’t look down here, look up there. The one who is seated far above all principalities, He’s the one who wants to give you joy that you’ve never had before. It’s not an outward joy. It’s an inward joy, that kind of joy that no man can take away from you and no circumstance can rob you of. He’s the one who, in His right hand, has the fullness of joy.
I found that His right hand was associated with His saving deliverance. Man didn’t save himself. It was the right hand of God that reached down to us through His Son Jesus Christ and rescued us out of a miry pit and put our feet on the rock and gave us a brand new song. This is the right hand of God. Jesus is the one who administrates all from that position.
I found that His right hand is associated with His righteousness. Oh folks, when you do what you want to do and ask God to bless it, that’s nothing but filthy rags in God’s sight. You say, “How can I be righteous before Him?” It’s in Him who is seated at the right hand, at the place of honor. In His right arm, in His right hand, you find righteousness.
I found He is our security. You have no security unless you run to Him, because it says His hand is the right hand of our refuge. It’s a place we run to when we have no other place to turn. We know we can come to Him. He should have been the first place we turn. If you’re resting on heritage, if you’re resting on good deeds you have no security. But if you have run to Jesus in His right hand you have security. He is your refuge. He’s the one who does in your life what no one else could ever do. He’s in the place of highest honor.
But not only that, it gets better. He’s in the place of highest authority. He says in verse 21 that now He’s “…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one that is to come.” Not only did sovereigns seat on their right hand those they wanted to honor, but they would seat on their right hand those who they wished to share authority and rulership. You see, Jesus is unique. We’re talking about human sovereignty. When it comes to God, He is God. God the Father has assigned Him all authority in heaven and on earth.
It says in Matthew 28:18 when He came to His disciples after His resurrection He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” Now just how high of an authority does He have? Oh folks, look at the words. First of all, it is far above. It’s not just above. That would be one thing, but He stretches it. In the Greek it is very emphatic. Far, exceedingly above any!
Then he uses the word “every.” Sometimes the word “every,” pas, in a limited context doesn’t mean everything. But oh, it does here. Any rule, any authority, anything that claims to have any He far exceeds it. As a matter of fact, if you tried to compare any ruler and authority with Jesus Christ they wouldn’t show up on the scale. He’s far above.
The word “to rule” is the word arche. It’s the word that originally meant “the beginning of something,” but it has the idea of the dominion or domain that somebody ruled over. In other words, Jesus is far above anybody’s territory they think they’re ruling.
Also there is the word “authority” (exousia). It means the right and the might. It’s talking about the right to exercise authority in one’s domain. Now depending on whether they are great or small, people have authority exercising within their domain. Power is the word dunamis, which refers to one’s ability which is measured by His authority. What he’s saying is you’ve got some big ones, you’ve got some little ones. You’ve got some great kings, you’ve got some small kings. No matter who they are, Jesus is far exceedingly above their rule and their reign and their power.
The word “dominion” is only used here. It’s the word kuriotes, and it means lordship. It talks about the lordship of somebody as they exercise their power. Jesus is far above every dominion. Then he goes on as if to say, “Hey I want to add something else to it. Every name that is named, He’s far above it.” In other words, get the history books. Take a book of all the kings on earth. Take a book of all the kings that will be and put them all together, and He’s far above any of them.
But not only do we see He’s in the highest place of honor and the highest place of authority. He’s in the highest place of lordship. The reason I put that last is because in verse 22 look what he says. He says, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet,…” He’s King of kings, Lord of lords. When it says He put all things in subjection, the word “all things” again is emphatic. It means “all things, all powers.”
The term “under His feet” in their culture referred to the place of total defeat, to the place of complete subjection. Now this is very, very important. Every rule, every authority, every power, every lordship, every name that is named, and you can exhaust every one of them, He is high above it, and they’re all subjected to Him. They’re under His feet. They’re already defeated folks. They’re up under His feet. Our minds usually turn to earthly rulers, but in the Jewish culture the terms there, “rule,” “authority,” “power,” and “lordship” are terms they would use for spiritual, angelic rule and dominion and power.
Paul, I believe, is beginning to set the stage for what he’s going to bring out in chapter six. He wants you to make sure that down here anything you see on this earth is trivial.
The spiritual powers of angels are far greater. We know that we have an adversary who is the devil and his demonic fallen angelic host. We know that they’re there. It’s very important in Scripture to realize that they’re there. But folks what he’s saying is you take all of their power, sum it up, and again they don’t compute when it comes to His authority and to His power.
That’s why he’s praying for the Ephesian believers. When I was in Ephesus, modern day Turkey, and walked up that long street and saw the Temple of Artemis, I began to realize that every other shop had some kind of idol that they were selling in those little shops. They were the most idol worshipping people. Satan had a stronghold in Ephesus like you wouldn’t believe. What Paul is saying is, “Hey, folks, you think that’s powerful? Hey folks, He’s seated in the highest place of authority and honor and lordship.” They don’t even compute when it comes to His power.
You’re asking, “Okay, if He’s in a perfect place of authority and lordship, how come evil still exists in this world?” Now that would be an intelligent question to ask at this point. Why does it say in I Corinthians 15 He must reign until all the enemies, and death being the last one, are conquered? I thought it said He’s already been given that place? Oh, He has. But folks He hasn’t chosen to manifest that to everybody else down here on this earth yet. He does what He does when He gets ready to do it. A lot of people are saying, “Oh no! Christ does not reign. The devil reigns on this earth.” Oh no! God reigns over him and don’t forget that. However, He’s allowing him to do what he’s doing because by allowing him to do it He’s purifying His church, and He’s readying the world for the final judgment. They’re going to find out one day that He is in that place of power.
Why do you think the apostle John wept in Revelation 5? What did he go there to see? He went up there to see how the ruling power of God will bring everything to its completion on this earth. He’s the one who said in John 1, “We behold His glory, the glory of the only begotten Son of God. We know who He is.” He gets up to heaven. They are about ready to unveil it for him. They’re preparing to open the seven-sealed book. An angel says, “Is anybody here worthy of opening the book?” It says no one in heaven, no one in the earth, above the earth or under the earth was worthy. Now he meant created beings. They weren’t worthy. John began to weep. “Oh no. That’s why I came up here, to see how His lordship would be vindicated on this earth.” An elder standing over there said, “Look over there. Look over there by the throne.” It says in the center and around the throne was the Lamb. Oh man! The Lion of Judah. How can a Lion be a Lamb? Like a Lamb He conquered sin, but like a Lion He’s going to conquer Satan. He was a Lamb standing as if slain. Slain lambs don’t stand up. They’re dead. Oh yes, He resurrected, and He’s standing there at the center of the throne. He comes forth, and all man’s praise breaks out in heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb, the one who can open up that sealed book.” He hasn’t shown the world yet who He is. He’s shown you, and He’s shown me.
That’s why Paul said in Ephesians 1, we’ve been allowed in on the mystery that the world can’t figure out. They think its all falling apart. That’s why he says, “He’s summing up all things under Christ Jesus.” We know that. The world doesn’t, but they’re going to know. There’s going to come a time here when He’s going to unveil who He is. They’re going to see it like they’ve never seen it before.
As a matter of fact, if you’ll look in 2 Peter it says why He waits so long. It’s not the reason you think. Some people say, “Well if He really cared about us…” There are a lot of people out there who think God’s not in control. Why look at the laws. They’ve all been thrown out. “Why look! We’re winning! We’re winning!” Oh no! God’s judgment on a people is letting them have what they want.
Folks, don’t ever for one second think He’s not in control of what’s going on. He knows exactly what’s happening. He’s in the highest place of authority, and the highest place of lordship.
Look in 2 Peter 3:9-10. Why is He so slow? “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That’s why He’s slow. He wants as many as possible to come to know Him. As bad as He’s got to let it get, that sometimes drives people to Jesus. Verse 10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,…” In other words, back away. Quit asking the questions and start living like you ought to live. The world is going to know His place of authority one day. His lordship will be revealed.
I’ve got one more thing. I want you to turn to Revelation 20:1. Let me show you how He’s going to exercise His power over Satan. Folks, you wonder why I never mention Satan much. I’ll tell you why. I had rather mention the one who is all powerful over him. I found out something. The devil loves prime time. Give it to him negative or give it to him positive. He still likes it. I’m just not going to fool with him. I know he’s out there. I know his demonic world is out there. But folks, I know a power that’s far above him, and He’s got him on a leash. If we will surrender to Him, we can know that power. Revelation 20:1 says, “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.” I love that, one angel. Verse 2 continues, “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed.”
You know that at the end of a thousand years He releases him for a short time, and an army raises up against the Lord again. I think it’s God’s way of showing you, “I told you. They won’t turn to Me, regardless of what I do.” Thus He vindicates the fact of His righteous judgment. Then in verse 10 is his demise. “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
I want to be standing right by the edge of that thing when he throws him in. I want to hit him right in the mouth as he throws him in there. Don’t you feel that way? You can feel that way about him folks. He’s doomed, and he knows it. Well, verse 11 says, “And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life; and the dead was judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
He’s in the highest seat of honor. He’s in the highest seat of authority. He’s in the highest seat of lordship. Nobody can touch our Lord. He’s the God-Man. Isn’t that precious? He understands me, and He understands you. In His right arm, in His right hand is the power to do whatever He assigns in our life. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be defeated. Learn that when you obey, you get to experience that rule and reign that He has to offer to you. He’ll show you what real victory is all about. He won’t change your circumstance very often, but He sure will change you in the midst of your circumstance. He is King Jesus. King of kings, and Lord of lords.