Tuesday, March 31, 2009



Authority. Not a popular word in today’s egalitarian society. But it is a Biblical term. We find it in Ephesians 1:21 where it proclaims that Jesus Christ has been exalted "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion."

The term used here is the Greek "exousia." Its meaning was rooted in the concept of the "liberty to do as one pleases," it passed to that of "ability or strength with which one is endued," then "the power of authority," and "the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others." Jesus Christ has been given all authority. That is stated clearly and unequivocally in the Scriptures:

John 17:1-2, "These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life."
The same truth was declared by our Lord Jesus Christ as He gave His great commission to His disciples. It was proclaimed as the basis for which they were to carry out their gospel preaching ministry. It was to be conducted with the understanding that all authority is bound up in Christ.

Matthew 28:18-19, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." The church is to conduct its ministry with the understanding that Jesus Christ is the risen and exalted Lord, and that His will and purpose will be accomplished.

The fact that He stands in such a place of authority is not readily apparent in this age. For whatever reason God has chosen to allow the forces of darkness to continue in their evil ways for a season. Sometimes it does not seem as if Jesus has the authority that Scripture says that He has. Sometimes we might be inclined to doubt God’s authority when it comes to earthly affairs. When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, and when Jesus refused to answer his questions, Pilate said to Him, "You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?" Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above..." (John 19:10-11).

And so it was in the early church. The church faced much persecution. The Apostles were threatened not to preach in the name of Jesus. James was martyred. Peter was imprisoned. Believers suffered much for the cause of Christ, as they have throughout the centuries and even now in many parts of the world. Paul himself was in prison as he wrote this epistle. He was imprisoned as a result of preaching the gospel. He was stuck in a prison cell. And it begs the question, how are we to understand these things? And still further, how can God’s church suffer so much affliction if Jesus is exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion?
Some of that answer lies bound up in the truth of who God is and what He is trying to accomplish through His church. He demands that we accept the truth about Him by faith. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him." (Heb. 11:6). We accept by faith that God is the creator of all things. That Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins. That He was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. That He gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. That He is exalted above all and will return again and consummate His plan and purpose for mankind.
As Paul was writing from a prison cell, writing the inspired word of God which we have here, he was encouraging the believers in Ephesus regarding these important truths about our Lord Jesus Christ. They lived in a hostile environment. It was the time of the Roman Empire. Caesar demanded allegiance from his citizens. Cultic worship was the norm. The church, though growing, was small and fragile. It would have been hard for them to visibly see the truths spoken of here. And what about us? We live in a time where the church has an ever declining influence on our society. The things of God were once held in higher regard in our world. Even amongst unbelievers there was some degree of respect for the church, for the Word, for ministers of the gospel. Not any more. And the church seems to have lost its way. It has less and less influence upon our society. We may not be locked up in prison cells, but our own fears and declining influence amount to invisible cells that undermine our ministry in this day.

That is the context of Paul’s prayer here in Ephesians 1. He wants for us to see through eyes of faith what we cannot see any other way. He wants for us to live according to the unchanging truths that are proclaimed here. He wants for us to gaze into the heavens and to see through eyes of faith that Jesus Christ is risen, that He is exalted at the Father’s right hand, that He has defeated His enemies at the cross, that He will fulfill His purposes, that He is the supreme authority over all.


I. All authority has been given to Him

1. He raised Him. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead speaks to these truths. All the forces of evil were unleashed against our Lord Jesus Christ. The religious leaders sought His death. The Devil filled and used Judas. The crowds cried out for His crucifixion. The politicians decreed His death. The soldiers beat Him and carried Him off to the cross. They mocked Him, "If You are the Son of God, come down from that cross." (Matt. 27:40). Even His own disciples scattered from Him. But things were not as they appeared. The evil forces unknowingly conspired together to fulfill "the predetermined plan" of God (Acts 2:23). And in a great display of the authority and power of God, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. In His resurrection Jesus triumphed over sin, and death, and hell, and the devil himself.

2. He seated Him at His right hand. Five times we are told in the book of Hebrews that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. At the Father’s right hand He is superior to the angels (Heb. 1:3). At the Father’s right hand He will subdue all His foes (Heb. 1:13). At the Father’s right hand He is seated in the heavenlies as our high priest who intercedes for us (Heb. 8:1). At the Father’s right hand He is "waiting...until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet" (Heb. 10:13). At the Father’s right hand He is an example to us with regards to endurance through hardship and adversity (Heb. 12:2).

The author of Hebrews thought the matter to be of utmost importance. So important that it is repeated five times in the book, that Jesus is at the right hand of God. It is a truth that we perceive through eyes of faith, and as we grap a hold of it it encourages us and emboldens us and grants us assurance and hope.

3. He exalted Him far above every other entity that exists or ever will exist. Whether you see that or not, it is true. Whether you believe it or not, it is true. The truth of it is a truth to be accepted by faith. Inasmuch as He reigns over all, we rejoice and praise Him in that, and we draw comfort from the truth of it, and we are emboldened by the truth of it, and we go forth sharing the gospel message by the truth of it, and we endure suffering and persecution by the truth of it, and we challenge the forces of evil by the truth of it.

II. All authority has been given to Him with regards to the church

A. He is head of the church

1. Church = Greek "ecclesia" = the term is a combination of two Greek terms meaning "out" and "a calling." It was used in Biblical times of a gathering of people, summoned for any definite purpose. Here it speaks of the whole company of the redeemed throughout this present age. It includes both Jews and Gentiles, but only those who have been called by God, who have been redeemed by Christ, who have been born-again and indwelt by the Spirit of God.

2. Define "Head." Head is used here metaphorically of the relationship in which Christ stands with regards to His church. He is the head of the church. He has authority over His church.
3. Seven figures illustrating the relationship of Christ to His Church

a. He is the Vine, we are the branches.
b. He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep.
c. He is the Groom, we are the bride.
d. He is the Cornerstone and the Foundation, we are the the stones.
e. He is the High Priest, we are a kingdom of priests
f. He is the Last Adam, we are the new creation
g. He is the Head of the body, we are the members
4. He is the head of the church.

a. We are all joined to Him in a mystical and vital union. 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body."

b. We receive direction from Him. The body can do without many parts, but it cannot do without a head. The head gives direction to every other part of the body. If it operates apart from the instruction of the head, we call it spasmodic in its behavior. So if we refuse to listen to the head we are spasmodic in our Christian behavior.

c. We are identified with Him. We bear His likeness. What bodily feature do we use for the sake of identification? The head. It is there on your driver’s license. As believers we are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We are being made to look like Jesus. His body reflects his glory. And it is His purpose to present His church to Himself with a perfect resemblance to Himself (Eph. 5:27; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2).

5. He is Lord of His church. Churches are organized in a variety of ways. Some churches are Pastor led, others are elder led, still others function according to a congregational rule, but what is needful, and what is Biblical is for churches to be Christ-led. We believe in an elder led form of church government, but our church government is only effective if we are careful to seek to do that which our Lord Jesus Christ directs us to do. He is Lord of the church. He is able to communicate His will to us through His authoritative Word and as he "works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Inasmuch as He is Lord of the church we look to His Word and the Spirit for guidance, we endeavor to sanctify Christ Jesus as Lord of our church. We follow not after temporal goals or selfish whims, but endeavor always to do the bidding of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

B. He has been given "as head over all things to the church"

1. God’s Word Translation, "God has put everything under the control of Christ. He has made Christ the head of everything for the good of the church." Note that the text does not simply say that He has been given as head of the church, but that He has been given as head over all things to the church.

2. One thing that this verse should cause us to reconsider is our view regarding the entities in the world and their relative importance and influence. Who yields the most influence and who is the most important? Most would say governments. Some would say the educational institutions. Still others might give a higher place to the media, or to science, or some other body of people. Few would place the church in that position, but clearly is that entity which exercises the most influence and is the most important. Jesus Christ has all authority over all things for the good of the church. That means that all other authorities can only do that which is permitted or allowed by Him. That means that He can use, and does use, all other entities to accomplish His purposes.

3. An OT passage alludes to this truth...Eccl. 2:26, "For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind."

4. But we see this truth highlighted throughout the history of the church. When Stephen was martyred, a great persecution broke out against the church, and as a result the believers were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria--fulfilling what had been commanded of them in Acts 1:8. Paul was imprisoned, but his imprisonment actually "turned out for the greater progress of the gospel" (Phil. 1:12). Because of Paul’s imprisonment, other believers were emboldened and the gospel was made known to the whole praetorian guard. I just read a brief biography of John Bunyan. John Bunyan was locked up for twelve years because he would not stop preaching the gospel. This despite the fact that his wife was left to care for their young children, one of whom was blind. He yearned to be with them, but he would not violate his conscience. He remained in prison for all of those years. Some might have supposed that the forces of darkness were winning. Some might have supposed that Jesus Christ was too weak to protect him, or too impotent to affect his release. But Christ was at the right hand of God. He allowed it to happen. It only happened because it was permitted by Him. And what happened as a result? He used the time to write Pilgrim’s Progress. A tremendous book that has been used to encourage Christians through the ages ever since. One of the most read books of all time.

5. The forces of evil are subjected to Christ. And even that which they suppose to do in opposition to Christ’s church, He turns around and uses it for good.

III. All authority has been given to Him with regards to His purpose

A. Christ’s body, the church is the fulness of Him.

1. As the body of Christ we stand as Christ’s representatives here on earth. We are ambassadors for Christ, we know that from Scripture, but this verse speaks to something even greater. In our presence here on earth the church embodies Christ. When you see the Church, you see Christ. That is why when Saul was persecuting the church, Christ met him on the road to Damascus and asked him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4).

2. We are given an explanation as to this thought later in this epistle, in Ephesians 4:10-11, "He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things...And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." This is one of four passages that speak to the matter of spiritual gifts. God has given a unique set of spiritual gifts to every believer. No one has all of the spiritual gifts. We have each been given a unique set of gifts that we might fulfill our particular role of ministry in the church. No one has been give all of the gifts. That means we are dependent upon each other in the work of the ministry. Together, the collection of gifts, manifests the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. The body in its giftedness and the Spirit’s indwelling presence literally manifests Christ’s presence on earth.

3. And the church is empowered by these gifts to do supernatural things. The risen and ascended Christ empowers us by the Spirit to do things that we could never do in our own strength and power. Inasmuch as we exercise these gifts by the Spirit the church fulfills its ministry.

B. Who fills all in all. The term "fills" is in the present tense. This is important. It is not that He has filled all in all, but He keeps on filling all in all.

1. Let me try to illustrate what God is doing. In the early 1600’s King James the Vith ascended to the English Throne and began working to establish overseas colonies. At its height it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1922, the British Empire held sway over a population of about 458 million people, one-quarter of the world's population, and covered more than 13,000,000 square miles (33,670,000 km²): approximately a quarter of Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories. In a sense you could have said that the British Empire endeavored to fill all in all. But of course their influence did not continue, like all of the empires before it, its influence waned.

2. But not so the reign of Christ. Centurie ago, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and in his dream he saw a great statue, "which was large and of extraordinary splendor" (Dan. 2:31). The head of the statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. These various parts of the statue represented the neo-Babylon empire, the Medo-persian empire, the Greek empire, the Roman empire, and a re-constituted Roman empire. In King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream he saw a stone that was cut without hands that crushed all of the other empires. That stone became "a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:35). Daniel explained in his interpretation of the dream, "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever" (Dan. 2:44).:

3. God is still at work fulfilling that prophecy. And the Lord Jesus Christ will reign. He will fill all in all. There will not be a place where His supremacy is in question. There will not be a place where all in not brought into complete submission to Him. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

4. And the church is central to God’s plan. He is at work saving souls. He indwells each person that He saves. His influence grows in their lives. He uses them to bring others to a saving knowledge of Him. The gospel seed that was planted by the early church has germinated and has spread to the far reaches of the earth. There will come a day when the saints are gathered before His throne and they will sing a new song, saying, "Worthy, art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9).

5. So the church is not some left over relic from the past; it is not an anemic presence in this fallen world; it is not a second-rate influence in the world, inferior to the forces of politics, education, or enlightened thought. The church is God’s program. And everything else in this world serves God’s purpose in preparing the church for glory, and equipping God’s church to do His bidding, and saving souls to fill His heaven.


1. Jesus Christ reigns and will reign forevermore. What does this mean for you and for me? A Pastor came across a poor old uneducated Christian man who was reading his Bible. The Pastor asked him what he was reading. "The book of Revelation" was the man’s response. "And what have you learned," asked the Pastor. "We win," said the old man.

2. That’s the truth of it. And because Jesus Christ reigns we can go forth with confidence in His name and by His power to proclaim the gospel. Because He reigns we can be confident that He will work all things together for good in our lives. Because He reigns we can come boldly before the throne of grace and be confident that He can give us mercy and grace to help us through troubled times.

3. For the unbeliever there is a warning here in these verses. If you have refused to trust in Christ, you are dead in your trespasses and sins, you are enslaved to your lusts, you are held captive to the world, the flesh, and the devil. In your sins you are a child of wrath and the time will come when you will no longer be free to decide your fate. Jesus Christ will return "dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:8-9). God has provided a way of forgiveness and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. The Scriptures say, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31). Don’t delay!

Pastor Jerry

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