Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 1:19b “. . .according to the working of his mighty power,. .”
The Apostle, not satisfied to speak of the “exceeding greatness” (v. 19a) of God’s power, now begins an attempt to speak the unspeakable. He wants to give fuller expression to a divine thought. His language begins to swell to correspond with the nobility of the theme.
Thinking of power has triggered Paul’s imagination, and caused him to catch on fire. As is often the case in this epistle, the Apostle is having trouble containing himself. His mind is skyrocketing into infinity, and if we plan to scale his thoughts, we must go chasing after him.
Trying to describe more adequately the power available to believers, Paul stacked words on top of words. Grasping for every synonym possible, he used the strongest terms language could offer. “Power” refers to sheer, awesome, brute strength. “Mighty” portrays this power as capable of conquest. “Working” denotes an energizing action, an effective, propelling force.
A casual observer may view this heaping of words as hyperbole, but people intent on godliness see it otherwise. Saints actively engaged in daily and hourly struggles with inward and outward corruptions have no trouble believing such excessive amounts of power are essential.
Believers have a power which hundreds of metaphors and adjectives could not adequately describe. Words can not measure this amount, enumerate this total, or gauge this quantity. Language leaves us wondering, “How much power is available to me? How much divine strength is at my disposal?” Not even Paul’s extensive mental thesaurus yielded vocabulary adequate to provide an exhaustive answer to these questions.
Despite his herculean effort to describe with words the power available to believers, Paul realized he was restricted by the limitations of human vocabulary. Knowing words could never adequately describe the power available to believers, Paul chose to use an example. He will illustrate the power by its greatest manifestation in history.
The power available to believers is “according to,” in proportion to, the power displayed on one occasion. Paul now turns our attention to this scale by which we measure the possibilities of the divine power available to us.
Eph. 1:20a “. . .which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him
from the dead,. . .”
The power available to believers was supremely displayed in the resurrection of Jesus. The power working in us is not a weaker power, or another, but the same in kind and in degree as the power which was displayed in the resurrection of our Lord.
The power exerted in Christ’s resurrection is now my power. We have access to “the fountain that laughs at drought” (Maclaren). Such a truth is simply overwhelming. It boggles the mind, and leaves us reeling, but we must steady our dizzying heads and begin to contemplate the fact. As best we can, we need to ponder the power available to us.
“How much power was necessary to take Christ, crucified, mutilated, disgraced, dead, and to raise him in newness of life, radiant, triumphant, glorious?” (Eerdman). In trying to answer this question we begin to fathom how much power is available to us for everyday living. Our feeble minds will never be able to perceive a full answer, or to compute the power’s full quantity, but as we stand beside Paul and look toward the Jerusalem tomb, the logo of our faith, we can begin to unveil the full extent of what is ours.
I can not “preach” this truth into your heart, but please, in your mind’s eye, come walk with me and let us together gaze into the garden grave. To learn the lesson of this text, we must let “the chamber in the rock” be our classroom. The Father will be our guide, the Holy Spirit our teacher, the mangled and bloodless body of our precious Savior shall be our object lesson.
Please come with me. If our thoughts go elsewhere, they will not learn of the power. Take your eyes off self. Obsessive self-contemplation leads only to despair. Our condition looks hopeless on the surface. Sin continues to dwell within us, death ever looms on our horizon. The warfare is hard and relentless. We never leave the trenches. Problems aplenty perplex us every step of the way every day. We often feel spiritually lifeless. The body sometimes seems to be a sepulchre in which all our spiritual vitality is entombed.
We all know these things are true, but must look away from them a moment. Only by looking in a different direction will we be able to see the potential capabilities of the power available to us.
Please come with me. If we are teachable, by the time we leave the tomb, we will have flung away every ounce of despair lingering in this auditorium. A Christian who learns the lesson of the tomb should never again feel insecure, forsaken, or powerless.
The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the magnitude of the power available to us by revealing in graphic detail its ability to overcome every obstacle which can enter our path. The forces of evil array themselves against us in three ways: the world, the flesh, the devil. Jesus, in his death, was under attack by these exact same forces. In His resurrection, Christ decimated evil on all three of these fronts.
Do you fear the jeers and taunts of the world? Are you frightened by your own fascination with its glitter and pomp? Are you afraid in the moment of testing you will be unable to stand?
The world hurled its worst attack against our Savior. Men carried spite, and “scoffing rude,” to its most hellish intensity against Jesus. Society carried human hatred to the ultimate limit to eliminate Christ.
You wonder, “Is the power in us able to overcome the world?” Do not ask me. Sit beside me in the tomb, look at the corpse, and ask it, “Is the power sufficient to stop the world?” The answer is soon forthcoming. Behold! The corpse begins to stir. The world at its worst has fallen before the power which now indwells us. The world’s power has been utterly broken. Fear it no more. We have a power stronger than the world.
We all shutter before the flesh, and shiver at the thought of our own weakness. Our old man relishes sin, and often shuts us up in a crypt of evil habits. A part of me actually yearns for evil. I carry an enemy within me. The Adamic nature haunts me.
Can the power available to me defeat this indwelling enemy? Can the flowing tide overcome the sin of my flesh? Again, sit beside me in the tomb. Look at the corpse. See what our sin has done. Agonize for a moment. Your sin and mine have brought the pallor of death upon His form. Sin–your sin, my sin, the product of our own flesh–has invaded and permeated His perfect flesh. He who knew no sin became sin–my sin, your sin. The thought causes me to abhor myself. I can hardly stand to say it–my evil put the furrow on His brow, my sin broke Him, my wickedness put the agony in His cry. All sin–past, present, future–has been compressed into His body. Our flesh, the natural habitat of sin, could never be any stronger than this. The flesh has done all it can to destroy Him.
Lean forward and ask the corpse, “Is the power we have sufficient to stop the flesh?” Look! The answer is given. His body which was broken stirs again. The flesh has met its conqueror, a power which flows in me.
I hear you whining, “Yes, but what about our adversary, the roaring lion?” Sit with me again in the tomb. Satan is doing all he can do to hold Jesus. The wrestling match of the ages is underway. Satan has mustered every force in his arsenal to retain Jesus in the realm of the dead.
Wait! I feel a rumbling. Earth is shaking, the stone is rolling away, the keepers are quaking and falling down as dead men. Something extraordinary is happening. We had better ask our question quickly, “Is the power given to us able to overcome the devil?” Our answer is rushing forth. Step back, a power is surging through the tomb. Watch out!
Do you “know” (v. 18) this power? Has this illustration helped you understand it better? The power which surged through the tomb still floods toward us today. Its current is continuous and unabated.
Learn from the resurrection of Jesus. No power could withstand Him. No influence could match Him. No antagonist could equal Him. The mightiest foes, the “big boys”–the world, the flesh, the devil–have already been vanquished by the exact same power now given to believers.
Ours is a verified power. The resurrection of Jesus proved its potency, and pictured the extent to which it is available to us.
Only one question remains. How can we harness this energy? First, sit. This is the theme of these opening verses of Ephesians. Take time to meditate, to contemplate. Read the Bible often. Pray at length. Prayer-ettes and devotion-ettes will not help.
Second, crave. You can never experience the power while having a flippant attitude. We constrict the flow of God’s power by our own carelessness and worldliness. The filled ones are the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness (MT 5:6). Even in his more mature years, the mighty Apostle was still seeking to know Jesus, “and the power of his resurrection” (PH 3:10). The Apostle who for years had made powerful strides and advances in the Christian faith desired to know even more of the power.
Third, yield. God is willing to work through you and in you; be willing to be worked upon. Drop yourself like moldable clay at the potter’s feet. Let him put you on the wheel and mold you at his pleasure.
When we “know” (v. 18) the power, our question will change from “How can I overcome?” to “How can I not overcome?”