Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 1:21a “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and
We again find Paul stacking up words to make a point (see 1:19). The power which resides in believers exalted Jesus even above “the mighty kingdoms angelical” (Coleridge).
The words in our text were traditionally used by the Jews to designate the angels according to rank. In His administration of the Universe, God has divided the angels into classes and categories. We know little about these gradations, and must be careful to avoid idle curiosity regarding them. We must not become so intent on the angels that their lustre dazzles our eyes and obscures the brightness of Christ.
About all we can safely say about the categorization of angels is that they are divided by rank. The Bible definitely teaches the existence of orders and authorities in the angelic world. This reminds us angels are first and foremost soldiers, warriors. They are never portrayed in the Bible as singers, but as ministering servants who help us in our spiritual warfare.
Jesus has authority over all these spiritual fighters. He created them (CL 1:16). They belong to Him. “The Son of man shall send forth his angels” (MT 13:41). Jesus exercises lordship over them all, and the power which exalted Him to this position is the power which indwells all believers.
Eph. 1:21b “. . .and every name that is named,. . .”
Finding vocabulary deficient, Paul uses a catch-all phrase similar to his “any other creature” of Romans 8:39. This is his way of saying, “In case I forgot anything. . .” Whatever a name can be given to, Jesus is over it. When we enter a royal court, we may not know the names of all the courtiers, but we can quickly determine who the king is. We know Christ is above all, though we do not the exact names of all powers under Him.
Eph. 1:21c “. . .not only in this world, but also in that which is to
Christ’s rule will know no end. He oversees all forces, whether present or future, temporal or eternal. No matter how the administrative structure of the cosmos is changed in the next world, Christ will still be preeminent. Whatever powers may yet rise up will be absolutely inferior to Christ.
Jesus is above every spiritual power we know about, and above every one yet totally unknown to us. The power which has done all this is the same power available to believers today.
Eph. 1:22a “And hath put all things under his feet,. . .”
“Put under” translates a military term for subjecting one to another. “All things” means nothing which exists is excluded from Christ’s domain.
In the preceding verse, angelic orders were mainly in view, “but here the idea is widened to include all created things in heaven and in earth, rational and non-rational, organic and inorganic, visible and invisible” (Scroggie). God has subjected “all things” to Jesus.
The thorn-crowned brow now bears a diadem. The hand once nailed to a cross now sways the scepter of the whole Universe. The feet once pierced now stand atop the world’s powers. Pompey once boasted he could rouse all Italy to arms with one stamp of his foot. Jesus can claim the same of all creation. It all lies subjected to Him at His feet.
Ancient conquerors often trampled vanquished foes under the feet of their horses, and crushed them with their chariot wheels, as Jezebel learned at the command of Jehu. A conqueror sometimes actually put his foot on a defeated foe to show subjection. Joshua, after defeating an alliance of five kings, had the defeated monarchs brought before him. He commanded his captains to put their feet upon the necks of the subdued sovereigns (JS 10:24). This pictured absolute victory on the part of Joshua and Israel.
This is the imagery Paul is calling to our minds in this passage about Jesus. Christ is Lord of “all things.” Paul was a fact-denying optimist. Though jailed, persecuted, and hounded, he believed he was on the winning side. He knew he was serving the King of kings and Lord of lords, and also realized the power which enthroned Jesus was available to believers.
I dare not leave this verse without one further thought. God placed the government of His Universe in the hands of Christ; we should be willing to entrust control of our lives to Jesus’ care. The Father trusts His Son with everything. We ought to leave our particular concerns in Christ’s hands. He who rules all can also manage the details of our life.
God trusts Jesus, man should do no less. Dear unbeliever, Jesus is entrusted with your whole Universe. Be wise, and trust Him with your self.
Eph. 1:22b “. . .and gave him to be the head over all things to the
church,. . .”
“All things” refers to the same “all things” placed under Jesus’ feet (1:22a). “To” carries the thought of “in behalf of, for the sake of.” “All things” have been put under Jesus in order to benefit the Church.
“Ecclesia,” a wonderful word we translate “Church,” is literally “ones called out.” It refers to the ones called out of the fallen world to enjoy vital union with Christ. The word does not refer to organizations or buildings, but highlights the spiritual relationship between God and His people.
For our benefit, we are joined to a Head who is also Head over “all things.” The conquering, ruling Christ is God’s gift to the Church.
We are blessed to have a Head endowed with ultimate power and authority. The Church could not go forward if Her Lord were not able to crush Satan. If our Head did not have power over death, He could not give us life. Fortunately, Jesus has all authority in Heaven and Earth (MT 28:18), which makes possible the “therefore” in the Great Commission (MT 28:19-20). Nothing can prevent the realization of Christian hope. Nothing can pre-empt the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose for each believer in particular and the whole Church in general.
The events of our individual lives are ordered of the Lord. God “works all things together for good to them that love Him” (RM 8:28). Affliction or affluence, rain or sunshine, sickness or health, pain or gladness–none can enter our lives without the Head of “all things” allowing it. Whether we deem circumstances as positive or negative, Providence works through them all to accomplish His purpose in each believer’s life.
The Church as a whole is the focal point of history. Time revolves around her. Providence works in a special way for the good of the Church. History is ruled by Christ, who dictates it according to His intentions regarding the Church. In managing the Universe, God always consults the best interest of the Church. He dispenses time with His people in mind.
Christ uses His power over “all things” to perfect His Church. He allows the storms which try the Church. Fire and flood are brought to bear upon her to purge what is polluted and profane.
Christ uses His power over “all things” to perpetuate the Church. The fortunes of nations rise and fall according to the destiny of God’s chosen people. Egypt, the premiere empire of the world, was warned of famine to come in order to spare Jacob’s family. Assyria and Babylon were lifted up to punish God’s people. Cyrus the Persian gained preeminence to restore Israel to its land. Alexander the Great vanquished the known world, providing one common language to facilitate the spread of the soon coming Gospel. Rome ruled the world in order to build roads for Paul and other Christian missionaries. Rome’s widespread reign also allowed for freedom of movement by the first heralds of the good news.
Charles Martel defeated the Moors at the battle of Tours in 714 AD, thereby saving western culture as Christian. The evil hordes of Islam were allowed to come so far, but no farther. God blew the Spanish Armada into oblivion in 1588 to save the English speaking world for Protestantism. Mr. Carter may have been President primarily to secure the release of Pastor Vins from a Russian prison. Baptists had long prayed for this to happen.
God sets up kings, tears down kingdoms, confounds the councils of monarchs, and controls the conflicts of armies, all on behalf of His Church. Why has communism fallen? We know the technical, economic, and social factors, but should also know the ultimate reason: communism defied the living God and put its hand on the Church, the apple of His eye.
The communists have been totally confounded. They do not know what to do with Lenin’s body. Three years ago his tomb was the most visited attraction on Earth; now it is an embarrassment. We Christians have trouble relating to this type of a problem. We never have to worry about what to do with the body of our Leader. Our Founder is not encased in a mausoleum; He is enthroned in a paradise.
Jesus lives, and He rules the world for the benefit of His people. Julian the Apostate spewed his wrath upon the Church, trying to obliterate her from the face of the earth. As he grew more powerful, and seemed invincible, one of his followers, Sibanius Julianus, a teacher of paganism, taunted a Christian teacher, “What is the carpenter’s son doing?” The believer replied, “He is preparing a coffin for Julian.” Soon Julian was lying on a battlefield, dying with the words, “Galilean, thou hast conquered.”
“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17a).