God’s Power, Christ’s Resurrection, and Us
Many of you are aware by now of the financial package introduced by the federal government to help Canadians out in this trying time. Last I heard, the total was $82 billion, unless it’s changed since then.
“Eighty-two billion dollars.” Those words roll off of our tongue so easily. And yet do we have any comprehension how big of a number that is?
Let me try to help you understand how much money this works out to be. Consider someone who works full-time and earns an annual income of $50,000 dollars. How long would that one person need to work to earn $82 billion? The answer is 1.6 million years.
But maybe that one person will take too long by themselves. So consider that there’s about 4,500 people living in Nipawin. If every single one of those people earned an annual income of $50,000, it would still take the entire town 364 years of non-stop work to come up with $82 billion.
Do you know what you can buy with $82 billion? I drive a 2006 Honda Pilot and I wondered how many 2020 models you could get for that much money. The answer is about 1.7 million of them. But maybe, if you had $82 BN, you wouldn’t be interested in an ordinary car. Maybe you’d want a fighter jet. Maybe you want to buy some of the used F-18s from Australia like Canada’s armed forces are doing. For $82 billion, you could buy 23,000 of them. You’d be able to give five to each person in Nipawin and keep five hundred more for yourself.
Please understand that nothing I’ve said here is intended to be a criticism of our government and what they are trying to do to help Canadians in this time. I’m grateful and I don’t think I could do any better than what’s being done. All I’m trying to illustrate here is how easy it is for us to talk about things that are huge and immense without really appreciating just how big they actually are.
And isn’t that true on a morning like this? If you were all here in this room I’d say, “He is risen!” And you’d say, “He is risen indeed.” But do we have any idea what we actually mean when we say that?
Our passage this morning helps us come to terms with the immensity of what we really mean when we say that, and just how big this reality actually is. We’re going to see that the resurrection of Jesus is such a big reality that it makes $82 BN seem like a drop in the ocean.
Our passage comes from Ephesians chapter 1, and we should know that we’re really jumping in to something mid-stream. Starting back at the beginning of this letter, the Apostle Paul has been exploding with passion and joy as he's been praising God for His work in the Ephesian Christians.
He has surveyed what God did for them before the foundation of the world, when He sovereignly chose them for adoption. And then he’s spoken about the redemption that Jesus accomplished on the cross, and finally turned his gaze all the way into the eternity that awaits us. And in the original language, this is all part of one big run-on sentence. It’s hard to miss that Paul’s heart is just bursting with the glory of God which He has displayed in this work of salvation.
And so with his survey complete—and I picture him almost out of breath here—Paul prays. That’s what we find in verse 15: “For this reason.” These words point back to this entire section that began in verse 3. Because of God’s eternal, sovereign purpose and glorious grace, and because this grace has reached the Ephesians and saved them and given them faith in Jesus and love for all the saints, Paul prays for them. As he writes in verse 16, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
There’s a whole sermon in this verse—how Paul’s joy in God, and His praise for what God has done in the Ephesians, overflows into thankful prayer. And if we had more time we’d unpack this some more. But for now we should just note that this is what he does. He gives thanks for them and he prays for them.
A Prayer to Know God More
What we want to focus on this morning is what he is praying for them. And verse 17 shows us the main request in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. He prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).
There’s so much in this little verse we should notice, and so much we could spend time on. I do want us to notice the Trinitarian nature of this verse. The prayer is addressed to God the Father, who is called “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And then notice that the word “Spirit” is capitalized. That’s because this is best understood and pointing to God the Holy Spirit.
Paul is asking that God the Father would give the Ephesians the Spirit who will work in them to give us wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God. We can sum that up really simply by saying that he is praying for them to know God better.
We know from earlier in the chapter that the Ephesians already do have a certain measure of the knowledge of God. Verse 9 says that he has made known to us the mystery of His will. And verse 13 speaks about hearing “the word of truth” and believing in Christ. All of this points to what the rest of Scripture confirms: that to be a Christian, by definition, means you have some measure of the knowledge of God.
Isn’t that a phrase we use sometimes to describe a genuine Christian? We might say that someone “knows the Lord,” or that maybe we’re not sure if someone else truly “knows the Lord.” And that’s a good phrase to use.
But I think we understand from human relationships that knowing someone is not all-or-nothing. It grows, it develops. Think of someone in your family. When did you first come to know them? And yet, how much more do you know them now than you did back then?
That is along the lines of what Paul is praying for here. That the Holy Spirit would give us a growing, deepening relational knowledge of the God whom we know.
And don’t trip up over that word “revelation.” Paul is not praying for God to show us new or different things that what He has already revealed in Christ. Rather, he is praying that we would have eyes to see what has already been revealed to us.
We see that in the phrase at the beginning of verse 18, which speaks about the eyes of our hearts being enlightened. Paul is not praying for new or different glory to be revealed to us, but rather that the Spirit will help us see the glory that is already right in front of us, the glory that is already shining out in the gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
And we see this as he goes on to flesh out his prayer in more detail and asks God to help us know three crucial truths. These are truths we already know in some measure, but not nearly well enough. There is so much more to see in what we see.
And so Paul prays in v. 18 that we would know "the hope to which he has called you."
Do you know that God has called you to a hope? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you should know that you're going to heaven when you die. You should know that your future is unspeakably bright. But Paul is praying for more than just knowing that with our head. He's praying that our hearts would truly perceive the hope to which he has called us.
There's a difference, isn't there, between knowing in our heads that we're going to heaven when we die, and living and breathing and walking around like we are people with an eternal hope? I can’t help but think about recent events and how the pandemic and the isolation is shining a spotlight on what it looks like to live with and without hope.
These circumstances are hard on everybody, but when I turn on the radio I hear people who don’t have hope. All they’ve got is this world, and when this world crumbles, they have nothing. But as those who have been saved by Jesus, we have hope, unshakable and untouchable by any earthly tragedy. Eternal hope that anchors us and roots us when the ground around us starts to give way.
Some of you have experienced this hope at work in your life in dramatic ways. I remember God doing this for us so clearly the month before my mom died. Heaven felt like it was inches away. Eternity with Christ felt real and palpable. And the hope to which God had called us, and especially our dying mother, stabilized our emotions in a way that can only be described as supernatural.
And that’s the kind of thing that Paul is praying for here. That we would really see, really know, the hope to which He has called us.
Second, Paul prays that we would know “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” as the rest of verse 18 says. In many ways this is connected to our hope, because a big part of what we hope for is the inheritance that God has promised us.
Do you know that, if you know Christ, God has promised you an incredible inheritance?
Just a few verses before, Ephesians 1:13 & 14 told us, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14).
In Christ we have an inheritance. And do you know what that inheritance is? Brace yourselves. Because the answer is everything.
Hebrews 1:2 says that God has appointed Jesus “the heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). And through the gospel, He has made us fellow-heirs with Christ. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17).
This is the incredible truth of the gospel: Jesus came and pursued us and saved us in order to share his inheritance with us. And when He comes to finally reign on this earth, receiving His inheritance, we will be there to receive it and enjoy it with Him and rule over all things it with Him.
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
Do you think, if we really got that, we would’t be so attached to silly trinkets here on earth? Do you think we’d be content to live with less, knowing how much is in store for us? Do you think we’d be patient in suffering, knowing how many aeons of glory are in store for us?
So this is what Paul prays for. That we’d really get this, really understand this, really know the riches of our inheritance.
Third, Paul prays that we would know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19a).
Do you notice the piling up of language there? It’s not just God’s power toward us. It’s not just the greatness of His power toward us. It’s the immeasurable greatness of His power towards us.
God’s power toward us is so great that it cannot be measured. And that’s saying something, because we can measure a lot. We can measure $82 BN, and even more than that. We can measure how much water is in the oceans and how wide the universe is and how many atoms are in it.
And I was going to share some of those numbers with you this morning, but they are so big that they are almost meaningless. It’s hard to wrap our heads around them.
But the point is, we can measure those things. But we cannot measure the greatness of God’s power toward us who believe. The only reference point for God’s power, the only thing we can compare it to, is what verse 20 and following compares it to.
The immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe “is according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 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. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20–23).
No distance we can measure—not from one end of the universe to the other—compares to the distance between where Jesus was on that dark Saturday before the resurrection, and where Jesus is today.
That Saturday his body was a corpse in a grave, bloodied and ripped to shreds after being hung up naked in front of jeering crowds who looked on him as someone accursed by God.
But God's immeasurably great power raised Jesus from the grave. He brought Him from death back to life. A dead heart started to beat. Still lungs started to breathe. Vacant eyes fluttered and saw again. Cold, clammy skin took on colour. He raised Jesus from the dead.
And then Jesus ascended to where God seated him, verse 20, at His right hand in the heavenly places. Jesus, as the son of David, took His place at God’s right hand just like the Scriptures had foretold (Psalm 110:1). And He is in a place of such power and authority that all rule and authority and power and dominion are beneath him, like verse 21 says. And not just a little bit beneath him. No, He is extremely high above them.
Down here you’ve got all of the power structures of this earth—corporate ladders and bureaucracy and governmental authority. And above them are the angelic and demonic power structures—the rulers and authorities in unseen places who are really running the show here on planet earth. And yet far above them, past the clouds, is Jesus. He is far above “every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” Ephesians 1:21b).
Jesus is not like so many leaders who get to the top, only to be toppled by someone better. There is no current threat to His position of greatness and there never will be. And, as verse 22 says, God has put all things under his feet. He is Lord over all, ruling the universe with absolute sovereignty. And—here’s the amazing thing—“gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
In His exalted state Jesus has not forgotten His church but rather is exalted as the church’s head. We are the body of this super-exalted Lord. We are “the fullness of him to fills all in all,” as verse 23 says. You want to look somewhere on earth to see the spiritual reality, the fullness, of the risen Christ? It’s the church—the people of God.
That’s why the church doesn’t need to panic when pandemics come. Our head is the sovereign of the universe. It’s like when your best friend is in the government and can make really cool things happen for you. It’s like that but infinitely bigger. Our leader is the king of the universe. We literally have nothing to worry about.
And that brings us back to verse 19 and where this all came in. Because what was Paul’s point in telling us about this resurrection and ascension and exhalation of Jesus? He brought it all up to tell us about the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us.
If you want to know what God’s power towards us is like, this is what you should think of. Don’t think of something small like “This one time I heard that God did a miracle.” The scale of God's power, the unit of measure in our minds, should be, “God took Jesus from being falsely accused, murdered, a dead body in a grave, all the way to being the highest, most exalted, most powerful person in the universe, standing far above any ruler, with all things under His feel, filling everything in ever way, holding that place forever.”
Jesus Christ is very real, very alive, and has uncontested authority over the universe. And the distance between Him and the grave is the measuring stick for God's power for us who believe.
Why Don’t We See This?
Now maybe you're listening and thinking, “Really? then why haven't I ever seen that? I've never seen any miracles or great displays of power.”
If you struggle with that today, then I have two levels of response for you. The first is that this is exactly why Paul is praying like this! If we were experiencing a miracle a minute, if we were seeing this all with the eyes in our heads, then he wouldn't need to pray for the eyes of our heart to be enlightened.
It's precisely because, at our place in the story, we need faith to see this, because we struggle so much with trusting and believing these things, that Paul prays for us to see how great God's power is. In the middle of weakness and suffering and disappointment and temptation, we need to remember the resurrection, remember the risen Christ, and ask God to open our eyes to know His great power in us.
Now secondly, what I’ve just said is true, and yet it’s perhaps not exactly how Paul might respond to your question this morning. Because if we look at the text, we see that Paul’s train of thought is not finished. There was no “chapter 2” when he first wrote the letter. He just keeps on going. Right after telling us about God’s power toward us according to His power in Christ, he writes, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1)
This is who we were before we were saved. We were spiritual corpses. Some of us were nicely put together corpses, like a body in a coffin at a funeral. Some of us were decomposed and disgusting, like a corpse on a battlefield somewhere. But either way, you were a corpse.
Your spirit was as dead as Jesus’ body was in the tomb. And what were you doing? You were “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were like spiritual zombies, dead and yet shuffling along, doing whatever Satan wanted us to do. That is the world today. This is what is going on around us at all times. How hopeless.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4–10).
If you are in Christ, you have been resurrected, just like Jesus. God did a miracle and the eyes of your soul started to flutter. You saw the truth of the gospel—of Christ dying for your sins and raised for you and reigning as Lord— and it was beautiful and compelling to you. Your spiritual heart started to beat and you rose and walked out of your spiritual grave into new life in Christ. You bowed your knee to your new King. And that happened because you were made alive together with Him and raised up with him and already seated with Him in the heavenly places. That is your status and your spiritual reality in Him.
And your physical reality, here on earth, is that you are no longer a zombie, shuffling after Satan and doing whatever he wants you to do. Now, you are God’s workmanship and you are living a life devoted to good works, which you were created for, which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in.
And it would take a series of sermons to unpack this passage, but know this: it is no small thing that you know Christ today. I don’t care if you have a boring testimony and never did anything “bad.” You were born dead, and if you know Christ and are following Him today, then it’s because He resurrected you. That is power that no human could have exercised. You and I can’t save anybody.
Parents, you can’t save your kids. They’re dead. They need more than good parenting. They need a resurrection. Christian, you can’t save your co-workers or your friends. They need more than a good example and a nice friend. They need a resurrection.
Now of course God might use your good parenting or your good friendship or your hospitality or your prayers. That’s usually how He works—through us. But it’s Him working. And unless He does the resurrection, people will stay dead.
So do you see how much God has already exercised His power in your life? And just think of all that’s to come. Your physical resurrection, and all of the coming ages of God’s kindness being lavished on you in the New Creation.
Now I so desperately want to keep going, because Ephesians doesn’t end here and there’s so much good stuff still ahead. Ephesians is on my short list of books to preach through next and so maybe this just wets your whistle today.
But let’s remember where we are. It’s Easter Sunday, when we remember that Christ is no longer in His grave but is risen. And this passage reminds us of God’s power toward us who believe—that we are no longer in our spiritual graves, but are risen with Christ. And yet here we are today, in our separate homes, and we can’t be together, and this is hard, and maybe you’re really struggling with all of this. Maybe you’re not, but would you agree that we all need this Ephesians 1 prayer for ourselves today?
Do any of you feel like you know God enough? That you’ve seen all that you can see of His glory? That you have fully wrapped your mind and heart around your hope and your inheritance and the power of God in Christ and in us?
If you do, then you really need this prayer, because only someone who is blind to these truths would think they’ve seen enough of them. And if you don’t, then you already know that you need this prayer. We need this prayer.
So my encouragement to us on this Easter Sunday is that we would take this passage and pray it. Pray it for yourself. Pray it for your family. Pray it for your church. Today, more than ever, some of us need a lot of faith to believe this. So pray. Pray with thankfulness in response to God’s eternal purposes, and how those purposes are working in our lives today to give us faith in Christ and love for one another. Pray that God would open the eyes of our heart to see more of His glory and know Him better and understand His power towards us today.
I guarantee you this morning that there are so many changes that you will see in your life the more you understand these truths. There is nothing more practical for us than to see God’s glory. Because its as we see His glory that we are “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
What might God do among us if each of us determined to take up this prayer and pray it for each other together in the coming days? What might it look like for Him to answer?
I can’t wait to see the answer to that question.