15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 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 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, 21 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 to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection 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.
- There is surpassing greatness of God’s power toward believers. The prayer is not that God would have this. The prayer is that we would apprehend it.
- It is not simply power toward us. It is not even simply great power toward us. It is surpassingly great power. It is “ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος τῆς δυνάμεως ” – hyper mega dynamite power! If it surpasses everything, it is ultimate, uncontestable power. There is a world of difference between great power and surpassingly great power. Surpassingly great power means there is no dispute or contest. The war is over before it starts. It is guided nuclear weapons against bows and arrows – there is no contest at all. No power is greater. It cannot be surpassed – it is surpassingly great power.
- Notice that the surpassing greatness of the power is not toward those who are exceptionally righteous or who are prayer warriors and intercessors. Paul is not praying for them to become more progressively “sanctified” or to become prayer warriors. He is praying for them to have the eyes of their hearts opened to the reality of God’s oeverwhelming power regardless of their merit. The surpassing power is towards those who only believe. That is the single criteria.
- However surpassingly great this power is, it is not made manifest to the fleshly mind. The eyes of our heart must be supernaturally opened in order to apprehend the manifestation of this surpassingly great power.
- “These” (Ephesians 1:19) refers to the hope of His calling, His inheritance in the saints, and the greatness of His power toward us who believe.
- Whatever nuance this little galaxy cluster of power words carries, we know that we can see an example of them all coming together and manifesting in the resurrection. All of this power and might and strength was manifested in Christ when He – the Father (whom Christ is seated at the right hand of, Ephesians 1:21) – raised Jesus from the dead.
- The invocation of the resurrection as an example is very interesting. It implies that there is a precursor to the exercise of God’s power where it is obscured or withheld. Jesus had to die, and the manifestation of God’s power had to be absent, before resurrection power could be manifested. The situation had to be thoroughly hopeless before this kind of power could be manifested.
- Along these same lines, if power can be brought to bear at the time when things are most hopeless – for instance when someone has been dead for 3 days and there is no way to talk of mere swooning – then the power is incontestable. The message is, kill me thoroughly, and I will literally rise from the dead. Do your worst. I can’t lose here.
- Apparently, similar power to the resurrection was manifested, or perhaps it was considered part of the resurrection, that Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father God. We might say that the ascension is considered here as just as much a display of power as the resurrection.
- We have a list of different kinds of authority structures: rule, authority, power, and dominion, and in case that missed anything, every name that is named.
- If that isn’t enough, although authority structures may change over time, we are talking about the form these take from now through the “age” to come. Not sure what this means, but it sounds like Jesus is in charge of things pretty much forever.
- What are all these Greek words for power, and how important is it to delineate their various meanings and nuance?
- power (Ephesians 1:19) – Greek δύναμις or dynamis. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1411&t=NASB. Force, especially miraculous power – usually, by implication, a miracle itself. Ability, abundance, strength, violence, mighty work. We obviously derive English words from this like dynamite, dynamo, and dynamic.
- working (Ephesians 1:19) – Greek ἐνέργεια or energeia. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1753&t=NASB. It means working, strong effectual working, operation. So I think this means possibly, a sort of administrative power, a very well planned coordinated effort that is effectual. It’s like the power of a great chess player that uses all his pieces to overwhelmingly win. I think it is obvious we get English words like “energy” and “energetic” from this word. I’m not sure how much of a clue that is to what Paul means by it though.
- strength (Ephesians 1:19) – Greek κράτος or kratos. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/eph/1/1/t_conc_1098019. It means force, strength, power, might, dominion. The only nuance I see there is the idea of dominion, meaning sovereignty or control. This indicates a sort of territorial or authoritative reach of control, like a king’s dominion or a nation’s borders. In other words, the idea of dominion indicates authoritative reach.
- might (Ephesians 1:19) – Greek ἰσχύς or ischys. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/eph/1/1/t_conc_1098019. It means ability, force, strength, might. If kratos means dominion or sovereignty, perhaps ischys means the ability to enforce it.
- brought about (Ephesians 1:20) – Greek ἐνεργέω energeō, see above. Same word!
- What are the different Greek words for authority and what is the significance of their different meanings?
- rule (Ephesians 1:21) – Greek ἀρχή or archē. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G746&t=NASB. It means beginning or origin, first person in a series in the sense of a leader, origin, active cause, principality or rule or magistracy. It seems basically to mean authority, except that there is another word for that used in the same sentence. We would have gotten English words like “archeology” and “monarchy” and “anarchy” from this word.
- authority (Ephesians 1:21) – Greek ἐξουσία or exousia. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1849&t=NASB.
- power Greek δυνάμεως or dynamis. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1411&t=NASB. Examined above in the “power” question. It is interesting that the word is used twice, once denoting power and here in a list of authority words. You can’t have authority unless you have the guns to back it up.
- Where is all this power? How is it manifested? If all this power of Christ raised from the dead is towards us, why are we getting sick and struggling and even sinful and all?
- Another way of asking the last question: how can it be that there is this great power, that is so hidden that unless we have a supernatural opening of our “heart eyes”, we would not even realize it is there. What kind of surpassing power could remain that hidden? How can it be surpassing if you can’t even know about it unless your internal eyes are opened to its subtle influence? It sounds like very very weak power to me.
- Notice that the phrase “These are in accordance” renders the words “These are” in italics in the NASB text. That is because the Greek text does not have these words, and the NASB translators added them to make the meaning clear. However, the NKJV does not include them, saying only, “…toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power…” So the NASB implies that there is some quality Paul has listed that is in accordance with his power, limited to those who believe. The NKJV implies that the power directly influenced our belief. Which is correct?
- I actually think the NASB translation makes sense, because in context he is trying to explain the nature of the power he just elicited by using the example of the resurrection.
Reflection on this passage
We have quite an incredible passage here, the veritable mountaintop of scripture. We have here incredible things that are hidden from the normal human mind, that must be revealed to us by prayer. I would intuit from this that simply reading these things may help us, but the only true knowledge of them comes from the supernatural intervention of God. Paul does not say he simply writes these things that they may be enlightened. He prays for the eyes of their hearts to be enlightened to apprehend these things.
And what wonderful things these are! It would seem an amazing thought that God has hyper mega dynamo power – surpassingly great power. It is not simply great power. It is surpassing all other power. There is no greater power. It is literally the greatest power that exists. All other power is a distant second or lower. That might be a comforting thought, but it is not comforting at all. If our conscience tells us that we are on the wrong side of justice, and God is just, then this power is the most most frightening thing possible. It is a great blessing and mercy that it is hidden. But the great great wonder here is that this surpassingly great power is towards us who believe! All of this hyper great power is for us!
We’re like Jacob returning to Canaan, expecting to encounter the righteous wrath of his brother. We expect a hostile army to confront us, and we rightly fear for our life. But instead, we encounter a sweet brotherly embrace. All is forgiven, all is forgotten! But it’s even better than that. It’s as if we are a tattered and injured and bruised escaped criminal, and the authorities are all out on the hunt for us, but then when they finally find us, it’s so they can award us a giant inheritance. What?!!! And it’s even better than that! It’s not a big mistake, because all our secrets are known, so we are greatly rewarded and there is nothing left hanging over our heads. In Christ we are not simply forgiven, we are JUSTIFIED and the enormous power of God is ON OUR SIDE. This is amazing stuff!
It is not just enormous power that is on our side. There is authority. This is ultimate vast authority – “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named.” You name every name, you list every possible office, king, president, prime minister, dictator, whatever, and Christ is far above them all. His authority transcends even the very idea of a king or president. He’s not elected, and He’s not just there by birthright. It’s always better than that.
You could have some weird militia protecting you, and they have firepower. But they don’t really ultimately have the authority. The legitimate authority will always have the superior power. The gospel says, the ultimate authority in the universe, in all universes, in fact in all possible future universes, is on your side. God is not your prosecutor, He is your defendant. And His word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). There is no authority greater who wields this great surpassing power – God answers to no one. And all of this power and authority is towards YOU, simply because you believe in His only begotten Son.
If this is all true, why are we having such struggles in life? If this enormous power is directed towards me, why don’t I see more evidence of it? It all sounds wonderful. It sounds like a great thought, a wonderful fantasy. But here in the real world, I as a believer have terrible health struggles. There are significant people in my life with destructive addictions. Many people I know who are believers have terrible financial struggles. We are divided because of political issues. We have so many intractable problems. I feel I am far from having my “best life now.”
The mystery of evil is great, but I think there is an important clue to the question in this passage. These things, this surpassing power and authority far above all other authority, is “in accordance” with the kind of manifest power he exercised when He raised Christ from the dead. The power of the resurrection presupposes that there was a period preceding the resurrection when the power to rescue or avert death was withheld. This power is made manifest, not at all times, but at the right times in the right way. We misunderstand if we think this is power which always rescues us from all harm. And I think there is a good reason for this. Power which merely rescues is less than power which resurrects. Power which rescues leaves the power of death ultimately waiting in the wings – and death wins. Power which lets death have its way, and then resurrects, is surpassingly great power. But you cannot have resurrection power unless you first die.
Furthermore, I think it is a mistake to say that we have no evidence whatsoever of God’s power in our current day-to-day life. Today I have faith, I have joy in these things. Today, when I am sick, I know that there is coming an eternal paradise when I will never be sick. Today, I have a home and a wife and handsome sons and a church family and dear friends. Today I am blessed with an incredibly rich and wonderful life for which I am grateful. Today I know that every sad thing will come untrue. I have tremendous hope, and will even on my deathbed. today, in this very life, in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows, the Holy Spirit is present with me speaking to me of the great things of God in Christ. These things are not nothing. Our faith is an immense blessing in the here and now.
And so the surpassingly great power wielded by the One who is far above all authority I could ever imagine is for me. And He will persist in His great love for me with power and authority in this age, and also forever in the age to come. Is there better news than this? We are not just safe. We are assured of immense comfort and rich lavish blessing forever and ever. Rejoice believers! God has you in His infinitely powerful hand, and no one can snatch you out of His grasp! Amen.