Incomparably Great Power
“And 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.”
Suppose a certain Christian has a very bad temper (I will use this poor illustration as an example for what I want to explain today— but you can replace the “bad temper” with any other personal struggle). He tries once to overcome it but he cannot. He tries the second time to deal with it but he fails. The third time he tries to resist it but again he is not successful. At which point he thinks to himself: “Why doesn’t God do something about my temper?” He appears to blame the Lord for not doing something. We see here that this Christian’s problem is that he expects God to do a work on behalf of his temper. He considers that if God will but move His hand, everything will be fine. But Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” “Has” means it has already been done. God’s thought is this: not that we ought to ask Him to do more; but instead, He wants to open our eyes that we may see what He has already done. Yet we tend to pray: “O God, why do You not give me greater power so as to drive away my bad temper and many other unpleasant things?” We ask for greater power! Yet the Bible tells us we do not need greater power, but what we need is the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we might realize the “incomparably great power for us who believe”. If some day the Lord opens our eyes to see the greatness of the power in us, then we will realize and that there is surely nothing greater than this! And this is what we want to talk about today.
[We spoke of this before when we first looked at this passage the first time. Paul tells us of the mystery of from eternity to eternity. In other words, God had revealed his original plan and will in eternity past. And he has also revealed what is to happen in the eternity to come— that his plan and purpose (what he wills or wants) will surely be realized. What then, lies in between these two eternities? What lies is time (our lives in the world), where God explains to us how he will work out this plan of his.]
Read verse 17-18. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Paul’s prayer for them (and us) is on two levels. On one side (the objective side) Paul prays that they may know God himself, and know him better— that they may also know the hope of his calling, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. On another side (the subjective side) he prays that “the eyes of their hearts be enlightened”— and for what purpose? That they may know something very important! What? Look at verse 19. That they may know “His incomparably great power for us who believe.” After we have come to know God himself along with his plan and work from eternity to eternity, something happens in our hearts. His power begins to be manifested and demonstrated in us. First, we see. Then God’s power works in us. This again is what we want to talk about today. Many Christians change the order of things. They set aside knowing God’s eternal purpose first, and they consider the inward working of God— his power in us as of foremost importance. “That ‘I’ can be more holy, that ‘I’ can be more victorious, that ‘I’ can be more spiritual.” What these Christians stress is the side of “I” rather than the side of God. The order is wrong. The correct order is this: Because we first come to know God and his eternal plan, therefore, God will now work in us to accomplish his plan and purpose. Our personal victory and our personal work are all for that eternal purpose.
Many believers emphasize their personal problems: how they can gain personal victory, personal holiness, or answers to their personal prayers. Of course, many Christians do not actively seek God at all. But among those who do seek after God and after spiritual things, many seem to have just one aim— how their personal problems can be solved by God. Whatever they read or study in the Bible or whatever they pray, turns out to be about their own personal problems. What they desire to have or expect from God is nothing more than deliverance from this or deliverance from that, so that they might experience personal victory and not have to struggle so much. So many of God’s people are centered on themselves too much. Everything in their lives revolves around themselves— so much so, that all that they are concerned with are their own selves and their personal lives.
Of course we need the working of God in our lives. We very much need personal victory and holiness. We very much need personal power and strength. And we really need personal deliverance from all things that hinder in our lives of faith. But the main issue isn’t here! The heart of the issue is God’s purpose and plan. God expects us first to see the vision— to know the goal of his work— to be enlightened towards his eternal purpose! And then God will surely work powerfully in us to achieve his purpose. In other words, God’s purpose is not merely to give us some personal victory or personal holiness since his objective cannot be limited like that. He wants us to see that from eternity to eternity he has his work to do, and that every believer— every redeemed sinner— has a part in that plan of his. That is what you need to see at this time— that’s what we so desperately need enlightenment with— that you have a purpose and even if and when he empowers you, he does so for his own greater plan and purpose. We remember studying Romans 12, how just as the body is composed of many parts, so also we are all members of one body— the body of Christ. Some Christians have not yet arrived at this enlightenment, they cannot see God’s purpose in the body. They are sinning greatly against God and against the body of Christ, the church, by acting alone as if they don’t belong to the body— as if they are independent, as if they can fulfill God’s purpose all alone, as if their Christian life and faith is all that matters. They have no clue about God’s eternal purpose, his eternal plan. How can God empower them to do anything! When God works in us powerfully by his mighty strength, he works in order that we may fulfill his eternal plan, and not only to satisfy our personal Christian goals for victory or holiness! Whether we have the vision of his eternal plan or not— whether we are enlightened in that sense or not makes a big difference— whether the power of God is working in us or not.
For this reason we must come to really understand this very important principle: that the subjective work— the powerful work that God does within us— must be based on objective seeing— that is, seeing what God is doing and envisioning his eternal plan. We must understand that the subjective power comes from the objective vision. First the vision, then the power. First the enlightenment— the vision, then the inward subjective work. This principle is very important to understand. If a person does not have vision, he cannot expect God to work powerfully in and through him. Suppose I send Joshua to the store to buy some things for me, I should give him enough money to buy them. What is my motive here? Well, my motive is not that Joshua have a few dollars in his pocket. My motive is that he buy me some things. Likewise, God gives us power not merely to give us some spiritual enjoyment personally, but to arrive at his own great goal. This issue (or truth) we must not only come to understand well, but we must also resolve it thoroughly in our hearts before God.
How many fail to personally receive the working of God in them because they have not yet received the vision, since all the subjective work of God is based on the vision— the vision which God himself supplies us with when we ask for it— when we pray for it. Vision comes first, and then the powerful working within. Initially, it is seeing the vision. After that, it is experiencing the work within. First comes the knowing of the hope of God’s calling, and of the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. And after that, comes the knowing of “his incomparably great power for us who believe”. Ultimately, we should really ask God for mercy to help us understand that it is not enough for us to be just servants in his household fulfilling a little service here and there— but that we should be his friends who understand his heart and mind and participate in it. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples, and consequently to us: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) What Jesus is saying here is that we are his friends because we know his business. We are not just servants in the house doing menial work. We are his friends conducting the Owner’s business. We must see! We must know! We must have vision— so much so that our hearts are captivated by this vision. Only then will we realize that God’s work is our work.
Once we have received the vision however, we must also come to know the work of Christ in us. Unless, we know the power of God in us, we are actually useless to him. Vision helps us to see God’s plan, while power enables us to accomplish that plan. Vision helps us understand God’s plan, but power helps us to work out his plan. For this reason Paul shows us here that we must come to: “know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” as well as to “know…. His incomparably great power for us who believe.” We need to know not only God and his plan and his purpose, but we need to also know his incomparably great power— the strength of his might. We cannot say that we truly know God if his power has not worked in us. We cannot say that we truly know God’s plan and purpose if we have failed to experience his power in us. At the same time, if we know God and his plan and purpose without knowing his great power for us, we will only have head knowledge and sound doctrine, but will have no practical experience. What are we saying? We are saying that we should therefore come to know that “incomparably great power for us who believe”. And that power is none other than the power of the resurrection. We should know and experience the resurrection power of God together with knowing his plan and purpose.
Verse 18-19 says: “that you may know … his incomparably great power for us who believe.” This power is really great. It is so great that unless God opens our eyes we will not be able to see just how great it is! It is so tremendous that the Christians in Ephesus to whom Paul is writing did not realize the scope of its greatness. The greatness of God’s power was beyond their comprehension. They needed Paul to pray for them that God would grant them the spirit of wisdom and revelation and to enlighten the eyes of their hearts so that they might capture its greatness. We really have no way to determine how great this power is! We can only say that it is indeed great— far greater than we can ever imagine!
Listen to what Paul said one time to the Corinthian Christians regarding this great power. He said: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) The “Jars of clay” he is talking about is our physical bodies. Don’t think there is very little in your jar of clay. We understand from Paul that there is a tremendous treasure in our earthly bodies. The question is: Do we actually believe it? In our earthly vessels or jars of clay as he puts it, is the treasure, and this treasure is more precious than you can ever comprehend or imagine. We need the Lord Jesus to open our eyes to see just how precious this treasure is. On one hand we see this earthly vessel— this earthly tent of a body which will soon perish! And on the other hand, we see the Lord’s great power within for us who believe!
God’s children need to know what they have received from God at the moment of their new birth. When a man or woman receive Jesus personally into their hearts as Lord and Savior, they are born again by the Spirit of God into God’s family. They become children of God. That moment is perhaps one of the most precious moments of their entire lives— the moment God’s Spirit purges them of the stain of sin, and clothes them with godly righteousness. But even thought it takes a moment for that to happen, it will take them a lifetime to discover what they had fully received in that one moment. And it will take them a lifetime to experience what they had received as well. It will take time to have their eyes opened to see how great a gift God has given them at the moment of their conversion— to know the incomparably great power which God will manifest in their lives from that moment on. Most Christians, after they had been touched and changed by the power of God’s saving grace, (after their regeneration) think of it as an ordinary event. But to those whose eyes are opened, they know that the power God had touched and demonstrated in their lives is beyond measure. They know that this is a life of eternity— an eternal life, that this— my life— will live forever! And they know that this is indeed power, great power. They know that the power that saved me, and the power that courses within me right now is exceedingly great. No child of God can fully know on earth the extent of what God has given him or her at the moment they were born again. Still, blessed are those who know even a little more.
Consequently, our spiritual progress (or growth) cannot be judged by how much power we receive from the Lord, but by seeing more and more just what kind of power this is which the Lord has given us— that it is indeed incomparably great power. He puts that treasure into our jars of clay at the moment of our new birth, but it takes a lifetime for us to discover how great and how precious is this treasure. A Christians has not really progressed or grown spiritually if what they saw of the treasure on the day they met Jesus personally is the same after 5, 10 or 15 years as a Christian. Even though 5 or 10 years have passed this Christians is still like a newborn baby. But God wants us to see and to know through the revelation of the Holy Spirit the incomparably great power he has for us who believe. Whether we are strong or weak is really dependent on whether we see more or less. The Christians who sees becomes strong, whereas the one who does not see all that much remains weak.
So we can say that the point today is seeing. It is not because we ask God to give us something or another that he therefore works in us. Not at all! The truth is that what he could give us has already been given us and is already in us. What we must ask of God today is for him to grant us the spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may see, to open the eyes of our hearts that we may be enlightened— why? Because when our eyes are opened we come to experience all that God has promised. In the past when saints of the Lord went through spiritual crisis, instead of God giving them more strength, they came to fully realize that they already have it. They did not beg more for what they did not have. Instead they understood that that they already had what they looked for. And for this reason they were able to shout praise and thanksgiving to God. David was a boy when he went up against Goliath. He did not ask for more strength from God. He knew the power was within him, already given on account that he was a child of God, a soldier in God’s army. No one who has not yet been enlightened and seen can begin to imagine how great is this power of which Paul is talking about.
So, just how incomparably great is this power then? Look at verses 19b-20a. “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ.” I think we ought to pay attention to the word “like” here— “like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ.” We should understand that the power which God shows to those who believe is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ. In other words, as much as his mighty power worked in Christ, so also that much power God will work in the church. Whatever power God used to work in Christ, he will to the same extent work in us who believe. Both powers will be the same. Have we understood this, and can we see this? If we cannot see this, then we need to pray. We cannot imagine that just because we are professing Christians who read and recite Bible that we see the magnitude of this teaching. Just knowing the Bible and reading Ephesians several times does not count here. What counts is revelation. We need God’s revelation to see that the extent to which the power of God worked in Christ, that same power is available for the church and for us who believe!
Paul prayed that the Ephesian saints see the incomparably great power which God has already given them. Now, if we do not see that the power in us and the power in Christ is one and the same power, we too should pray that we may see. If the power that is manifested in us is less than the power that was manifested in Christ, we should then realize and confess that there are many things still that we do not see. And we ought to humbly confess and pray to God to make us see. But whether we see or not, the truth remains that the power which God works in believers is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ. Praise God for that. This is the truth. Let’s ask God to open my eyes and the eyes of my church members so that we may really see and understand. Let us not ask him to give us more power from the outside— but let us only ask him to help us discover and to see more and more what he has given us already. And when God opens our eyes to see, we will then praise and thank him more and more what we have been given.
Let us now look at what this power has done for us. Look again at verses 19b-20. “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.” This power caused Christ to be raised from the dead. How great this is! Every time we think on the resurrection we feel how precious it is. What is resurrection? Resurrection is that which death has absolutely no power to hold at all. As Acts 2:24 says: “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Death cannot hold it. No person has ever entered into the realm of death and come back to life again. People died in all generations. And everyone who has entered into death was held by death and has not returned. But there is One Man who came out of death. And this Man is the Lord Jesus Christ. “I am the resurrection” Jesus said, “and the life” (John 11:25) Jesus is life! Therefore, all who believe in him will never die. He is also the resurrection. Therefore, all who believe in him, although they die, will live. All who have ever entered into death have been held by death and none has ever come out. But there is a power which can enter into death and come out of it. And this power is the power of God. It is the power of the resurrection. Most people cannot comprehend how terribly powerful is the power of death until they come face to face with death or with someone close to death. Then they will begin to understand how powerful is death. It is easy to enter into death but impossible to come out of it. People may reject life, but no one can reject death.
On one hand Satan works through darkness and on the other hand he works through death. But there is power that comes from God. It is able to pass through death and not be held by death. The power of the devil cannot overcome it, neither can the power of Hades or death swallow it. It is called resurrection. It is that power which can pass through death and not be affected by it— it is called resurrection. And here is the amazing truth. The power that is now in us who believe is this very power. And this power which raised Christ from the dead will also cause us to pass through death and not be held by it— since as this power once raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, so it will raise us from the dead.
Now this power of God not only caused Christ to be raised from the dead, it also did something else as well. Look at verses 20-22. “and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realm far above all…. and God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” Here we see something very important, that God made Christ head over all things. Why? Of course, because Christ is above all, but also because of the church— for the sake of the church. Christ is made head over all things so that the church may be benefited. Consequently, the church may receive from the Lord the supply of this power. Now, since the power in us is such a power, and we have such a treasure in us, what else can God give us if we still fail as Christians or as a Church? Rather we should say to the Lord, “Lord, do not give me more, for you have done it all and given all.” We need to see that this power is within us individually and as a church, and there is therefore no problem we Christians cannot solve and no temptation we cannot overcome! For the power in us Christians is the resurrection. It is that power which surpasses anything else and it is that power which put all things in subjection under the feet of Christ. It is “like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ.”
Paul is careful how he writes these words. He considers that we may misunderstand such inner works as being purely a personal matter— that is, purely for ourselves. So he immediately adds in verses 22b-23 these words: “for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” This power working within us is not for personal reasons alone. It is much more so for the sake of the body of Christ, the church. Moreover, this shows that God wants us to know how his eternal plan is related to the church and not just to individual Christians. The Church is directly related with the eternal purpose of God. It is the preeminently the church and not the individual. Please understand then that when power is manifested in you today, it is for the church and not primarily for your personal self. God wants the church and not just the individual Christians to have this power. Do you realize that you cannot get the power all by yourself! And for this reason then, we should all look to God for grace that we may see what the body of Christ is all about. Our lives and mission need the health and protection of the entire body; individual Christians are more or less not useful to God. When we talk about my life and spiritual health, we are talking about our lives and health together. If one of us bleeds, the whole body bleeds and eventually dies. On the other hand, if the ear hears, the whole body hears, and if the eye sees, the whole body sees. What one member receives, all the other members share in together. So, we must learn to live in the body. We need to learn not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but let us learn to treasure the church. And let us learn to walk with all the children of God. And in so doing, we will see that the body is the vessel for the preservation of life and spiritual health. Paul said: the church… is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” This incomparably great power is what those who are not self-serving, but who know the value of the church have experienced. Whoever does not see the church with the eyes of his or her heart, nor deny himself, will not be able to experience this great power God has given to those who believe. For this reason, when we talk about the subjective work of God in us, we must take the church into consideration above our personal needs for personal glory or victory. Remember Moses who was beloved by God. God wanted Israel to be saved. It was Israel in God’s heart— God’s first born. Without Israel, there would have been no need for Moses! The church is very important to God. We need to think on that level if we want God’s power to work in us for his purpose.
May God open our eyes that we may really see what God is doing in us. The incomparably great power does not come to us as additional grace, nor does it come for our own glory. Instead it is experienced through seeing, and it is given for God’s purpose in the church. So what we really need here is not more power but revelation. To see is very important. Hearing the word of God is not enough. You have heard a great deal of teaching, but if you have no revelation you will not be able to witness and experience his power in your life, and consequently in the church. What we hear would be like a dead account that cannot be collected. It is hearing and then seeing that counts. We need to pray that God give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might truly see.