(From In Christ—The Church at Ephesus, forthcoming.)
That power (Eph. 1:19) includes the power needed to perform miracles, the power to create and mature moral excellence, the power and influence that belong to riches and wealth, the power and resources that arise from mass agreement and popularity (culture), and the power of military might. We might be tempted to think of this as exaggeration and hyperbole. But it is not because of the actual greatness of the corresponding reality. We usually think of hyperbole as overstatement, but in this case it is drastic understatement. God’s power actually is much greater than any words can convey.
This mighty power shines both in and through believers according to the vitality or measure that God works through them. This power resides in believers inasmuch as believers reside in Christ, but it is not manipulable by them. We are not in control of this power, but rather It is in control of us. Those who think that they can control or direct It are severely mistaken. It is in believers like ocean water gets in a sailing ship. Similarly, believers are in It (the reality of God’s power) in the same way that a sailing ship is in the ocean. The ship cannot manipulate or direct the ocean. Rather, the ocean directs the ship because it has, for all practical purposes, infinitely more power.
Paul then compared this with the power of God “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (v. 20). The power at work in believers is the same power that raised Christ from the dead in both its extent and purpose. The extent of God’s power is life-giving. No other power in the known universe has the ability to create life. Both science and science fiction wax hyperbolically, both believing and hoping that such power is potentially ours. But there is a woeful lack of evidence to back up this idea.
God wields the greatest power in the universe, and with regard to humanity God’s purpose is the renewal, revivification, regeneration and recreation of humanity in the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. This regeneration in Christ is no less significant than God’s previous generation in Adam, and inasmuch as Adam was the creation of a new species of life on earth, so is Christ. The appearance on the world scene of the New Man in Christ is no less significant than the appearance of the Old Man in Adam. The importance of this fact cannot be overestimated. It may seem like exaggeration and hyperbole, but it is very real. And humanity is only at the dawn of this realization and its importance for the world.
God’s power resurrected Jesus Christ from death and established Him as the Chief Ruler of the world (Matthew 28:18). With Christ on the world throne, the political race for world domination should be obsolete, and the valuable resources consumed in that arena should be put to better use. Imagine a world where the money that is currently used for war, defense and political contests would be used for socially redeeming purposes, like education, social services, etc. It is curious that those who want political power to correct the problems of the world end up being the very people who cause the problems of the world because their sinful desires are significantly magnified by the power they acquire.
And precisely where is Jesus seated? Most translations say heavenly places or heavenlies. The Greek word is ἐπουράνιος, which is a compound of ἐπί and οὐρανός. The latter is usually translated as heaven and the former modifies the latter. How does it modify it? It suggests a different order, like the difference between cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers—the difference between three and third or one and first. ἐπί points to an order or magnitude rather than to something quantitative. It is also interesting that the whole word (ἐπουράνιος) does not function as a noun, but as an adjective. Thus, it does not point to a place, but to a quality or attribute, to the order, composition or arrangement of something.
The point is that Christ was seated in an order, not simply a place. The point is that Christ holds the highest authority in the heavenly order, which means that He hold the highest authority on earth, among governments and rulers of every kind. The point is not the mere fact of Christ’s being seated at God’s right hand, but the implications for the authorities who govern this world.