Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 1:20 - 1:23

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 1:20 - 1:23

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Eph_1:20-23. He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

LITTLE do men imagine what power is necessary to effect the salvation of their souls. They are ready to suppose that they can repent, and turn to God, of themselves, by the force of their own resolutions. But the creation itself was not more the product of a Divine power, than the new creation is in the souls of men. Yea, if we can conceive that any one thing needs a greater exertion of omnipotence than another, it is this. The Apostle strongly expresses this idea in the passage before us. He is praying for the Ephesian converts, that they may have just and adequate notions of the power that has been exercised towards them, in bringing them to their present state. Overwhelmed, as it were, with the thought, he accumulates all the most forcible terms that language could afford him, in order to convey some faint idea of the subject: and then he illustrates the point by the most stupendous effort of omnipotence that ever was exhibited since the foundation of the world; namely, by the raising of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and the investing of him with all power, both in heaven and earth.

In contemplating this work of omnipotence, the exaltation of Christ upon his Father’s throne, we shall fix our attention upon two things:

I.       His supremacy above all creatures—

The death, the resurrection, and the ascension of our Lord Jesus, we pass over in silence. It is not the act of our Saviour’s elevation, but the state to which he is elevated, which we propose for your present consideration. This includes,

1.       A state of dignity—

[“The right hand of God” is a metaphorical expression for the place of the highest dignity and glory in the heavenly world. There Jesus sits, exalted “far above all” creatures in earth, in hell, or in heaven. The phrase, “principalities and powers,” is applied in Scripture to men [Note: Tit_3:1.], to devils [Note: Eph_6:12.], and to the holy angels [Note: Eph_3:10.]. And the Apostle evidently intended to comprehend them all, because he specified yet further “every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Now it should seem, that as, on earth, there are different ranks and orders of magistrates, from the king, who is supreme, to those who exercise the most limited jurisdiction, so there is a gradation of beings both in heaven and hell. We read of Michael, the archangel; and of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils; and to them we ascribe a pre-eminence among their fellows. But however exalted any creature may be, Jesus Christ is raised “far above” him. The lustre of the whole universe, in comparison of his, would be only like that of the twinkling stars before the meridian sun; they may have a splendour in his absence; but before him they are constrained to hide their inglorious heads: they are eclipsed, they vanish at his presence. If he but suffer one ray of his majesty to appear, men fall, as dead, at his feet; devils tremble; and “angels worship him” with profoundest adoration.]

2.       A state of power—

[While Jesus yet hanged upon the cross, “he spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them openly in it.” From that time “all things were put under his feet;” and more especially from the moment that he was seated on his mediatorial throne. It is true that “we see not yet (as the Apostle says) all things put under him.” But though they are not visibly, they are in fact. All his enemies are like the live kings of Canaan, when Joshua and all the elders of Israel put their feet upon their necks. They are living indeed; but their power is broken: and they are doomed to a speedy and ignominious death. Devils are more aware of this than men: when they saw Jesus in the days of his flesh, they asked, “Art thou come to torment us before our time?” Still however they combine with men, and stimulate them to oppose his will. But when they are consulting together, saying, “Let us break his bands asunder, and cast away his cords from us,” he “laughs them to scorn, and has them in derision.” He suffers them to accomplish their own will, as far as it may subserve his purposes; and “the remainder of their wrath he restrains.” Full of pride and blasphemy, they boast what great things they will do: but “he puts his hook in their nose, and his bridle in their jaws,” and in a moment brings all their boasted projects to an end [Note: Isa_37:29. Job_5:12-13.]. Whatever they may effect, they are his instruments, to “do what his hand, and his counsel, had determined before to be done.” In all things “his counsel stands, and he does all his pleasure.”]

By means of this supremacy, he is enabled to carry on,

II.      His government of his Church—

In investing his Son with “all power in heaven and in earth,” God had especial respect to the welfare of his Church. He constituted his Son,

1.       The Head of the Church—

[The Church is called “his body,” and “his fulness.” The body, we know, consists of many members: and it is the whole aggregate of members that constitutes the body: and the body, joined to the head, forms the complete man. This is the precise idea in the text. Every believer is a member of Christ: the whole collective number of believers form his entire body: and, by their union with him, Christ himself is represented as complete. The body would not be complete, if any member were wanting; nor is the Head complete without the body: but the body united to the Head is “the fulness,” the completion of Christ himself [Note: ð ë Þ ñ ù ì á .].

The head however exercises a controul over the whole body. As being the residence of the soul, it may be said to actuate all the members: it moves in the limbs, sees in the eyes, hears in the ears, speaks in the tongue, and imparts a vital energy to the whole. Thus does Christ “fill all in all.” There is not a member of his mystical body which does not derive all his strength from him. From him the understanding receives its comprehension; the will, its activity; the affections, their power. It is by him that we live; or rather, as the Apostle speaks, “he is our life.” In all persons, there is the same absolute dependence on him: “in all” circumstances, his agency is wanted: (It is as much wanted to produce a good thought, as to carry it into execution.) “In all” ages, he is equally the true and only source of good to man. None in any place or period of the world have any thing which they did not first “receive out of his fulness [Note: Joh_1:16.]:” so true is it, in the strongest sense of the words, that “he filleth all in all.” Thus is Christ, in his present exalted state, the living, and life-giving Head of all his Church, his Church militant, and his Church triumphant.]

2.       The Head over all things for his Church’s good—

[In the management of the universe, Jesus consults the best interests of his Church. If he permit evil to befall his people, it is with a view to their deeper humiliation. It, on the contrary, he fill them with peace and joy, it is for the purpose of quickening them to more Holy ardour in his ways. Nothing is further from the intention of their enemies than to do them good: but they are all under his controul; and when they desire nothing so much as to frustrate his purposes, they ignorantly and unwittingly fulfil them [Note: Gen_50:20.]. As, in his own case, the envy of the priests, the treachery of Judas, the cowardice of Pilate, and the blind fury of the populace, conspired to bring him to that death, which was to fulfil the Scriptures and to redeem the world, and which was of necessity to precede his exaltation to glory; so every creature, whatever be its aim, is executing his gracious purposes with respect to his Church, and is doing that very thing, which every member of the Church, if he could foresee the final issue of events, would actually wish to be done.]

We may learn from hence,

1.       Our duty towards him—

[Is he the supreme Governor of the universe? then we should obey his voice—and submit to his will—and seek in all things his glory. Is he in a more especial manner our Head? then we should look to him for direction, and depend on him for every thing we may stand in need of.]

2.       Our security in him—

[Who shall overcome him, when “all things are under his feet?” or, “Who shall pluck us out of his hands,” provided we belong to him? We may, with St. Paul, defy all the principalities and powers both of earth and hell [Note: Rom_8:38-39.]. Neither the Church at large [Note: Mat_16:18.], nor the smallest member of it [Note: Amo_9:9. Mat_18:14.], has any thing to fear. “If he be for us, none can be successfully against us [Note: Rom_8:31.].”]

3.       Our happiness through him—

[The principal subject of the Apostle’s prayer is, that we may know what mighty power God exercises towards his believing people. The exaltation of Christ is introduced by him quite incidentally, and merely for the purpose of illustrating his main point. But, having introduced the subject, he draws a parallel between the believer’s exaltation, and that of Christ. Behold then the Lord Jesus raised from the dead, and seated at his Father’s right hand, far above all principalities and powers: such is the honour, and such the happiness, that is imparted to the believing soul [Note: Compare ver. 19–22. with 2:5–7.]: and even that which he now enjoys, is but a shadow of what he will enjoy to all eternity. Believer, let your expectations be enlarged: the felicity of the Head is the felicity prepared for the members: “Such honour have all his saints.”]