Speaker: 
John Piper
Date Given: 
April 4, 2010

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

This is a message for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord and Treasure of your life. I know that there are hundreds who are not believers listening to this. I am glad you are listening. I have chosen this message for you to hear. I want you to hear what the Bible has to say to those put their faith in Jesus. My prayer is that in listening, God would grant you to see the truth of Jesus and the infinite and eternal value of what you are missing. And what you can have freely simply by receiving it as a gift.

Resurrection Power Now

So my message for believers in Jesus is this: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and what became of him after his resurrection, shows the greatness of God’s power toward us now in this life. Perhaps you can remember three words to capture this message: resurrection power now. I’m taking this message from this phrase in Ephesians 1:19: “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”

I know that the vast majority of you do not feel that power. It sounds idealistic. It sounds like religious hype. It sounds vague and theoretical. It does not correspond to experience, and so you instinctively feel like this sermon is going to be like a piece of fiction. I don’t blame you for feeling that way. I have often felt that way myself. But by God’s grace the word of God may change your mind and your heart. I can’t. God can. God may.

The Main Reason We Don’t Feel It

And there are reason’s that we—we Christian believers—do not feel the gracious, omnipotent power of God that is now at work toward us—that we do not feel resurrection power now. The most basic reason that Paul mentions here in Ephesians 1:18 is that the eyes of our hearts are dull to spiritual reality. Under this main reason for why we do not feel the magnitude of God’s power toward us are three subordinate reasons.

3 Subordinate Reasons

One is that, because of this spiritual dullness, we are not fully aware of the blinding, deadening power of sin that is now being conquered in our lives by God’s superior power. If you are feeling healthy, you will be thrilled with the power of your medicine, only if you know the deadly power of the disease it is holding back. If you are forgiven and have any measure of victory over sin in your life, you will be amazed at the power of God, only if you know the indescribable depth and power of sin.

Another reason we don’t feel the power of God toward us now is that we are not fully aware of the magnitude of demonic power that is coming against us at all times—yes, even in this modern, scientific age. If you feel safe, you will be thrilled with your protector, only if you know the deadly power of the enemy he is holding back. If you have any measure of freedom from demonic control, you will be amazed at God’s power toward you now, only if you know the indescribable power of Satan.

And the third reason we don’t feel God’s power toward us is that we do not consider fully what has happened to Jesus and his present role in the universe. If Jesus gave his life for you, and you belong to him—body, soul, and spirit—you will be amazed at God’s power toward you now, only if you see what has become of him since the resurrection.

The Greatness of God’s Power Toward Us in This Life

So I say it again, my message for believers (and all who will listen) is this: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and what became of him after his resurrection, shows the greatness of God’s power toward us now in this life. Sum it up with three words: resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

Paul Praying for Believers

In Ephesians 1:15–23, Paul is praying for believers. He is concerned with the very thing I have been talking about—believers who do not feel the power of God in their lives now. He knows he cannot change this. Only God can. That is why he is praying. But he does write the prayer. And I am preaching a sermon. Knowing things matters when it comes to deep change in our hearts. God answers prayer through what he has given us to know.

What is he praying for? We are going to focus on the answer in verse 19. But glance first at Ephesians 1:17–18. Paul is praying “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know . . .” So boil it down to this. Paul is praying, and I am praying and preaching, that God would enlighten the eyes of your hearts—that is, take the dullness away that I referred to earlier—so that you may know . . . . something.

Conscious, Experiential Knowing—Now

And the “knowing” here is not the kind of knowing the devil has. In one sense, the devil knows these three things that Paul is about to mention. That’s not the kind of knowledge Paul is praying for. He means “know” in the sense of conscious experience. It’s the difference between knowing this brown stuff is honey because of the label on the jar, and knowing this is honey because of tasting it. The devil doesn’t taste the wonder of this knowledge. Paul is praying we would know with the knowledge of conscious experience.

He wants us to know three things, and we are only concerned with the third. Verses 18–19: “. . . that you may know [1] what is the hope to which he has called you, [2] what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and [3, the one we are concerned with] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” He’s not praying that we get the calling, or become heirs, or get the power. He is saying: You have the calling; you are heirs; you have the power of God toward you, and you don’t know them as you could and as you should. I want you to know them. I am praying that you may “know . . . the immeasurable greatness of his power toward you who believe” (verse 19). He is praying that we would be spiritually experientially conscious of God’s power toward us as believers now.

What Became of Jesus After He Rose

Then amazingly he spends all of verses 20–23 describing what became of Jesus after the resurrection, and says that all of this shows the greatness of the power at work toward us now. So he is praying, and he is revealing. That’s why I’m praying and preaching.

Let’s pick it up again at verse 19 and then read the rest of it, and I will pause as we go and point out five aspects of what became of Christ starting with his resurrection.

5 Aspects of What Became of Jesus

Verse 19: Paul is praying that we would know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” In other words, what he is about to show us is what this immeasurably great power toward us “accords with” (“according to the working of his great might”). That is, he is going to give us a way to measure its greatness. It’s like this, he says.

  • First, verse 20: The power of God toward us now is like the great might “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
  • Second, the power of God toward us now is like the great might that God worked (verse 20) when God “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”
  • Third, the power of God toward us now is like the great might that God worked when he exalted Christ “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (verse 21).
  • Fourth, the power of God toward us now is like the great might that God worked when he “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (verse 22).
  • Fifth, the power of God toward us now is like the great might that God worked when he made the church, “his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (verse 23).

Now take them one at a time more fully. Five ways to measure the greatness of God’s power now toward those who believe. Five glimpses of what became of Jesus after he died.

1. God raised Jesus and broke the power of death.

First, verse 20: The power of God toward us now is like the great might “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” God raised Jesus from the dead. Never to die again. The point here is that the power of death is broken for all who are in Christ Jesus. The enemy, death, is defeated. For Paul, the death of Christ was the death of death. O yes, believers die. But the sting is removed. The poisonous event has become a pathway to paradise.

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54–57)

The power of God toward us now is this power. It raised us spiritually from the dead (Ephesians 2:5) and gave us life and faith. This power opened our blind eyes, and conquered our rebellious wills, and created a new heart that loves God and people. And this power will guard us from the dominion of our indwelling sin and bring us to the end in persevering faith. This is resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

2. God seated Jesus at his right hand—and us with him.

Second, the last part of verse 20: God “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” That power that installed Jesus at God’s right hand has put us there also. Look at Ephesians 2:6: “[God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ. The power that took Jesus from death and put him eternally in God’s presence put you there too, and keeps you there.

3. God set Jesus over all demonic powers.

Third, verse 21: God set Jesus “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” We know from Ephesians 6:12 that these “rulers and authorities” include all the devils and demons of the universe. The power toward you now is a devil-defeating power.

Paul said in Colossians 2:15 that at the cross God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Christ.” So when Jesus rose from the dead, he was exalted over all the hosts of hell. They are a defeated foe. They are not yet out of the world. And battles are yet to be fought. But the power from God for us now in these battles is a resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

4. God gave Jesus as head over all things to the church.

Fourth, verse 22: God “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” Notice two things. The risen Jesus Christ is “head over all things.” Head! Implying authority and conscious active rule—over all history, all human beings, all demonic powers, disease, disability, all nature—weather, hurricanes, lightning bolts, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, global warming—all businesses and industry, healthcare, sports, March Madness, inventions, media, Internet, iPad mania, military might, governments, presidents, kings, chiefs, religions, universities, solar systems, stars, galaxies, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and ten thousand things no man has ever yet discovered. Jesus is now head over them all. Conscious, active, authoritative Ruler.

And the second great thing in verse 22 is that he is given as head over all to the church: “[God] gave him as head over all things to the church.” Which means: With all that power and all that authority and all that wisdom, he serves us as our Head and our Leader and Savior and our King and our Friend. In other words, this power is, as verse 19 says, “toward us.” It is resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

5. Where God rules, we will rule.

Finally, verse 23: We believers—we happy believers!—are “his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” I’m not sure I can express this. But I’ll try. God’s power toward us intends to fill the universe with the authority of his crucified and risen Son. And, though it takes your breath away, he intends to make us, the church, those who believe, the means of that fullness, the embodiment of that fullness. That is, where he rules we will rule. He created human kind in the beginning to inhabit a beautiful creation and to subdue it, and enjoy it, and reflect his glory in it.

That is what he intends to do through the new humanity called the church. He will fill creation with all his fullness of his glory. And you will be that fullness—“his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is the power of God at work toward you now.

Satan and His Hordes Are Real

I close with one application. Last week I spoke of the dangerous powers of sin, especially the sin of pride in my life—and your life. Now I add this. Noël and I are not unaware of our enemy. We know that Satan and his hordes are real. They hate us. They hate our faith. They hate our worship. They hate our marriage. They hate our children. They hate our ministry. If you want to know—experientially know—what verse 19 means, if you want Paul’s prayer answered in your life that you will “know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,” then wake up to the demonic battle that rages for your soul, your marriage, your children, your ministry every day.

Sin is defeated at the cross; yet sin remains to be fought. Satan was defeated at the cross; yet Satan remains to be fought. And for this fight, may God answer Paul’s prayer in our lives! May we know the power of God toward us who believe— resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

We Will Win

I testify from inside the battle to my comrades in the warfare: In the name of Jesus, and by the authority of his word and his blood and his never-ending life, we will win, for the glory of our risen king. Amen.

© 2014 Bethlehem Baptist Church