Ephesians 1:19-20

Sermon preached on February 26, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

"A woman once came to C. H. Spurgeon at the end of a service. 'She was accompanied,' says Spurgeon, 'by two of her neighbors and entered my vestry in deep distress. Her husband had fled the country; and, in her sorrow, she had gone to the house of God, and something I said in the sermon made her think that I was personally familiar with her case. Of course, I had really known nothing about her; I had made use of a general illustration which just fitted her particular case. She told me her story, and a very sad one it was.' I said, 'There is nothing that we can do but kneel down, and cry to the Lord for the immediate conversion of your husband.' We knelt down, and I prayed that the Lord would touch the heart of the deserter, convert his soul and bring him back to his home. When we rose from our knees, I said to the poor woman, 'Do not fret about the matter. I feel sure your husband will come home; and that he will yet become connected with our church.' She went away, and I forgot all about her. Some months afterwards, she reappeared, with her neighbors, and a man, whom she introduced to me as her husband. He had indeed come back, and he had returned a converted man. On making inquiry, and comparing notes, we found that, the very day on which we had prayed for his conversion, he, being at that time board a ship far away on the sea, stumbled most unexpectedly upon a stray copy of one of my sermons. He read it; the truth went to his heart; he repented, and sought the Lord; and, as soon as possible, he came back to his wife and to his daily calling. He was admitted as a member at the Tabernacle, and his wife who up to that time had not joined the church, was also received into fellowship with us. That woman does not doubt the power of prayer. All the infidels in the world could not shake her conviction that there is a God that hears and answers the supplications of his people." (From Whitecross, The Shorter Catechism Illustrated. p. 155)

God's power is incredible. Remember how He used it to deliver His people from Egypt? God sent ten plagues upon Egypt and brought them out with great power. The Egyptians followed them and it looked like they were lost—they were hemmed in on one side by the Red Sea and on the other by the Egyptians. But God sent darkness and then opened the sea for the Israelites to go through on dry ground with walls of water on each side.

Remember David before Goliath? For forty days Goliath had challenged the Israelites. Saul and his men were dismayed and terrified. But young David answered Goliath's challenge. He said to Goliath, (1 Samuel 17:45f)

"You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,
but I come against you
in the name of the LORD Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have defied.
This day the LORD will hand you over to me,
and I'll strike you down and cut off your head.
Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army
to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth,
and the whole world will know
that there is a God in Israel.
All those gathered here will know
that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves;
for the battle is the LORD'S,
and he will give all of you into our hands."

David defeated Goliath. It's an incredible story.

There are many such stories. When the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem, they said to Hezekiah, (2 Chronicles 32:13f)

"Do you not know what I and my fathers have done
to all the peoples of the other lands?
Were the gods of those nations
ever able to deliver their land from my hand?
Who of all the gods of these nations
that my fathers destroyed
has been able to save his people from me?
How then can your god deliver you from my hand?
Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you
and mislead you like this.
Do not believe him,
for no god of any nation or kingdom
has been able to deliver his people
from my hand or the hand of my fathers.
How much less will your god
deliver you from my hand!"

But what happened? God delivered Jerusalem and Hezekiah. King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed to God and an angel of the Lord annihilated the Assyrian army. King Sennacherib had to withdraw in disgrace to his own land. After he did so his own sons killed him in the temple of his god.

In the New Testament we read about Peter being rescued from jail by an angel. We read about Herod, who had James put to death, about to make more attacks on Christians, but God struck him down. He was eaten by worms and died. We read about Peter raising Tabitha from the dead. We read about the Gentiles being given the Holy Spirit, about Paul being bitten by a deadly snake and not getting sick and dying.

Those are incredible stories. They all illustrate God's incredible power.
But the great question is—is that power available to us today? According to the apostle Paul the answer is an emphatic, 'Yes!'.

Perhaps we won't see people being raised from the dead, or people being miraculously released from prison—but the point is that God's power is available to us. Jesus is ruling all things for the church. We are to be sure that God's power is available to His people.

This is what our text is about. Paul prayed that we would have the eyes of our hearts opened that we might be able to grasp,

"his incomparably great power
for us who believe.
That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,"

You Christians are to grasp God's great power. This is our theme this morning. In particular there are three things about God's power that I want to draw your attention to. We should be rejoicing over this great power that is available to us because we are in Christ.

First, Paul tells us that

God's power for us is immeasurable.

A literal translation of Paul words here would be 'surpassing greatness' or 'immeasurable greatness'. A Greek lexicon (BDAG) says it was a word used in reference to a spear-throwing contest and in such a case would refer to casting a spear way beyond the measuring markers. The idea is that it exceeds the markers of the measuring scale. John Eadie comments, (Ephesians, p. 92)

"The greatness of that power is not to be measured; it is 'exceeding' for it stretches beyond the compass of human calculation."

One of the great things that the Bible teaches us is that we should not think that God's power is limited. We should not be like king's officer who doubted that God could end the famine in Samaria. The story is told in 2 Kings 6 and 7. The army of Syria had come and laid siege to Samaria. They were starving them out. It was horrible. The famine was so severe that two women made an agreement to kill their little sons and eat them. They agreed to kill and eat one the first day and the second the second day. They did that the first day but second day the mother whose son was going to be killed hid him. When the King of Israel heard the story from one of the women, he was so angry he decided to kill Elisha. When he came to get the prophet Elisha said, (2 Kings 7:1)

"Hear the word of the LORD.
This is what the LORD says:
'About this time tomorrow,
a seah of flour will sell for a shekel
and two seahs of barley for a shekel
at the gate of Samaria.'"

When the King's officer heard that, he said to Elisha,

"Look, even if the LORD
should open the floodgates of the heavens,
could this happen?"

Elisha replied,

"You will see it with your own eyes,
but you will not eat any of it!"

That's exactly what happened. That evening at dusk the Lord caused the Syrians to hear the sound of a great army and they fled. No one in the city knew it but four lepers went and found the Syrian camp abandoned. They ate and drank but then went and told the people in the city. The people were in such a hurry to get the food that they trampled the officer who didn't believe in God's power.

God's power is immeasurable. It is so far beyond our power to measure that it is beyond our comprehension.

The second thing I want you to see about this immeasurably great power for us who believe is that

It is like the power that raised Jesus from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus was incredible. I think that we Christians often overlook how glorious and amazing it is. Have you considered the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? The power that did this is nothing short of astounding. Earlier this week I read a quote by F. F. Bruce and at first I didn't comprehend its truth and I wasn't going to include it in my sermon. But the more I thought about our text—the more I saw the truth of Bruce's words. He wrote, (Ephesians, p. 271)

"If the death of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God, as Paul wholeheartedly believed (Rom. 5:8), the resurrection of Christ is the supreme demonstration of his power."

The resurrection of Christ the supreme demonstration of God's power? Is that so? My first thought when I read that was,

"Well, what about creation in Genesis 1? That was a pretty big demonstration of God's power. He spoke and created all things out of nothing. Wasn't that greater than even Christ's resurrection?"

But as I thought about it I realized that Bruce was correct. Christ's resurrection was greater. It was of a different order altogether.

To help us see this—let's consider Christ's resurrection.

The thing to note about the resurrection of Jesus
is that it was unlike any other resurrection from the dead. Jesus' resurrection was unique.

It was a resurrection to a new order, a new creation.

There were other resurrections in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the Old Testament we read about the prophet Elisha bringing the Shunammite's son back to life. (2 Kings 4) We also read about a group of Israelites who were about to bury a man when suddenly they saw a band of raiders. So they threw his body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched the bones of Elisha, the man came to life and stood on his feet. (2 Kings 13:21) In the New Testament Jesus raised Lazarus (John 11) and the widow of Nain's son.

Throughout the ages many people have been raised to life. But where are they now? They're not here. I've never met Lazarus. He's not hiding somewhere. He died a second time.

Now I don't mean to downplay
how incredible the resurrection of someone like Lazarus must have been. I'm sure that Phil could take some hours telling us how incredible Lazarus' resurrection must have been from a medical standpoint and the miraculous processes that took place in his body. I mean, think about it—he was dead for days and they say that after about five minutes without oxygen your brain dies. But Lazarus came back complete and whole. God's power in raising Lazarus was astounding and great.

But those resurrections, as remarkable and incredible as they were—were nothing like the resurrection of Jesus. They pale in comparison to it. Those resurrections were only
temporary. Those resurrections were only according to the life of the first Adam. They were raised as they were before. They were still sinful. They were still subject to death. Those resurrections belonged to the aeon of the first Adam.

What we must understand about the death and resurrection of Christ is that it moved beyond that. Christ's death was the death of the second Adam. It was the death of Him, who not knowing any sin, was made sin for us. His resurrection was the beginning of the new era, the new creation.

Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. writes, (The Centrality of the Resurrection, p. 116)

"It is.. not only meaningful but necessary to speak of the resurrection as the redemption of Christ. The resurrection is nothing if not his deliverance from the power and curse of death which was in force until the moment of being raised. Here too the adamic factor is pivotal. The resurrection is the salvation of Jesus as the last Adam; it and no other event in his experience is the point of his transition from wrath to grace."

We see this in several New Testament passages. Romans 1:3-4. Paul wrote,

"regarding his Son,
who as to his human nature
was a descendant of David,
and who through the Spirit of holiness
was declared with power to be the Son of God
by his resurrection from the dead:
Jesus Christ our Lord."

What is in view there is the contrast between the two aeons—the aeon of the flesh and the aeon of the Spirit. (See Gaffin, p. 98-113) One is the aeon of death, of the present evil age.

We see this contrast again in
1 Timothy 3:16. Paul wrote,

"Beyond all question,
the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,"

There is a contrast there- he appeared in a body, in the flesh, and was vindicated, or justified, in the Spirit. The verse contrasts the earthly and heavenly orders. When Jesus came to earth, He became one with us. He became a curse for us. He was made subject to the condemnation of the law.

Gaffin continues, (The Centrality of the Resurrection, p. 116)

"To Paul's way of thinking, as long as Christ remains dead, Satan and sin are triumphant, or, more broadly, the dominion of the old aeon remains unbroken. Strictly speaking, not Christ's death, but his resurrection (that is, his exaltation) marks the completion of the once-for-all accomplishment of redemption."

Gaffin continues about Christ, (p. 121-122)

"As long as he remained in a state of death, the righteous character of his work, the efficacy of his obedience unto death remained in question, in fact, was implicitly denied. Consequently, the eradication of death in his resurrection is nothing less than the removal of the verdict of condemnation and the effective affirmation of his (adamic) righteousness."

Gaffin concludes, (p. 113)

"The history of Christ is the gospel in a nutshell… Christ, the eternal Son of God became incarnate in the present evil age with the humiliation, suffering and death this sarkic existence involved, and as the incarnate Son of God raised up to be the source of life for others of the eschatological power and life this pneumatic existence of the coming age involves…"

God's power in Christ's resurrection—He began a new creation. Christ became a life-giving Spirit, the source of our life. Now His resurrected life is available for us. As the apostle Paul said in Romans 6:4,

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism
into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life."

So the resurrection of Jesus was the supreme demonstration of God's power. In Christ's resurrection we see the victory of Christ over the powers of the fallen old age. In His resurrection we see the beginning of the new order—an order that will reach its culmination in the new heavens and the new earth where God's people will dwell with Him in glory.

The third thing we should see from our text is that

God's power, which is immeasurable, is for you.

Paul is not talking about God's power as an abstract concept, a mere theoretical idea. No, quite the contrary, this power is available for us. Paul wrote,

"and his incomparably great power
for us
who believe."

The thought here is not- God has given us a hope, an inheritance, and in the future will quicken us as He did Christ. No, we are to realize God's power that is for us now. As John Eadie writes,

"The order of thought is not, the hope—then the inheritance—and then the power which shall confer it; but, the hope—the inheritance—and the power which sustains and prepares us for its possession."

In other words, this power is for us now. We see this from verse 22 as well. It tells us that God appointed Christ over everything,

'for the church'.

He is ruling all things 'for the church'. His power is available for the church now. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

I love the reference the apostle Paul makes to God's power for us in
Ephesians 3:20. He wrote,

"Now to him who is able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,"

His power is at work in us now. F. F. Bruce writes, (p. 271)

"And glorious power, in its 'surpassing greatness,' is at work in the people of Christ: it is 'the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead' that dwells in them (Rom. 8:11), energizing the new life within their mortal bodies and so making the hope of resurrection real for them."

Christ's resurrection makes all the difference. It is the beginning of the new order. The power of the new order has broken through.

Now for you Christians, this means that it is available for us. Jesus is ruling all things for His church.

What I suggest for you Christians is that you

ask for great things from the Lord.

Ask Him to make us holy so that we would be able to have a great impact on our communities. Ask that He would open the hearts of men and women around us. Ask that the north country and the whole would be dedicated to God's glory. God's power is immeasurable. It is the power of the new aeon. It is available for the church.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, I suggest that you open your eyes and see that you need this power.

Right now you're under the power of the old sinful age. The old sinful aeon is doomed and if you remain in it you're doomed too.

There's only one that can deliver you from it—Jesus Christ. Go to Him today. As Him to save you, from your sins, from the evil age—and bring you into His kingdom.