September 5, 2009

Ephesians 1:19b-21; A Devotional

...according to the work of His mighty strength which was worked1 in Christ, arousing2 Him from the dead and sitting Him at God's right side in the celestial realms, far above any3 ruler, authority, power, or lordship,4 or any name named,5 not only in this era, but also in one to come.6

The first thing we must do is to remember the context of this passage. Paul is describing to the Ephesians what he is praying on their behalf. Specifically, he has been praying that they may have a deeper understanding of the things of God. Thus, we can understand this passage to be one of those things that Paul was praying for the Ephesians to understand. Since this is something that he prays for the Ephesians to understand, we can be sure that he will explain some of it in the upcoming chapters.

For now, let us consider what this is saying. It is talking about God's mighty power, and what this power has accomplished.

This was accomplished on the central point upon which the entire Christian church was founded: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think us, as theologians, tend to overlook that according to Scripture, it is the resurrection which is the defining element of the gospel. Often we talk about the cross instead (which is important, don't get me wrong), but that isn't what the NT writers talked about the most. Perhaps if we thought more eschatologically we would recognize that the power of God to resurrect Jesus Christ is the same power promised to us to arouse us from the dead in the age to come.

However, God's mighty strength didn't stop at the resurrection. It also extends to the elevation of Christ over the whole cosmos. Christ the the supreme ruler of all things, and as members of His body we we share in this as well, just as we will share in that resurrection.

What if the Church actually thought this way? What if we considered ourselves to be representatives of this mighty ruler, this ruler who is above all others? What if we walked out in that kind of confidence? What if we walked out with the humility to recognize that we represent something beyond ourselves? I believe that if we did, the kingdom of God would move through this world in power, and speed.

So let is examine our way of thinking and be kingdom minded. Let us think and act in the knowledge of our position in relation to Jesus Christ. From there, we'll see the glory of God on this Earth.

Translation notes

1 Here I am deviating from the norm and it is important for me to explain why. First of all, in Greek, the subject of a sentence can be implied by the conjugation of the verb. For instance, if I wanted to say "I know John", I could say each word: "ego ginosko Ioannen" or I could say "ginosko Ioannen". The 'o' at the end of 'ginosko' tells you that the subject if the 1st person singular, so the inclusion of the subject is unnecessary.
In the text, the verb is 'energesen' which is in the 3rd person singular. There is no subject, so the question is, who/what is the subject. Most translations seem to say God, but I'm not so sure. It seems to me that, grammatically, the word is most closely associated with the word 'energeian' in verse 19. I believe this is supported by the verb and the noun being directly related ('a work' and 'to work'). Therefore, 'en' is translated 'which' instead of 'who' and no new word needs to be introduced. It is important to note that this makes absolutely no change in the meaning of the text anyway since is it God's work that we are talking about. (It is relevant to note that the NLT seems to agree with me, though I'm not sure whether that's good or not)

2 Often translated 'to raise', 'egeiras' does primarily mean to wake someone up. Thus, I used arouse here.

3 'pases ', a derivative of 'pas', is the basic Greek word for 'all', and is also used to mean 'every' or 'any'. Here I translate it as any simply because it flows nicer. The meaning is the same, it is purely as aesthetic choice. The same is true with replacing all of the 'kai's with commas.

4 Paul uses 4 synonyms (or rather 5, though I'll get to that under footnote 5) to describe how much power has been given to Christ. This building up of synonyms is a common Hebraic rhetorical device, and we shouldn't invest too much time in figuring out the differences between these 4.
More specifically, they are:
  1. Arches: Literally means beginning, top, or head. In this case head, referring to a head ruler.
  2. Exousias: Literally, means the right to decide something or one who possesses the right to decide something. It's etymology is a little weird, so I won't get into it. I felt the word 'authority' really captured this meaning.
  3. Dunameos: This is the same word that I translated as 'power' in Eph 1:18-19.
  4. Kuriotetos: Based off of 'kurios which means lord. Kuriotetos refers to the rank of being lord. Thus 'lordship' is a rather exact translation.

5 The Greek here actually literally reads 'name named', 'named' being the past participle. This can mean one of two things. The first (the option taken by the NLT) is anything which has ever been identified. The second (which is taken by the NIV) is any title given. I believe the latter to be correct, making this actually a fifth synonym to 'head', 'authority', 'power', and 'lordship'.

It is important to note that this fifth synonym is grammatically isolated from the other four by the reiteration of 'any' and by the dependent clause which is connected to the verb 'named' ("not only in this age, etc..."). I believe this is because this last synonym is best understood as the full breadth of the category of these synonyms. Perhaps the best translation could be "and any other title that might ever be given".

6 The verb 'mello' means "to be about to happen", thus referring to the immediate future, though the participle, as used here, can be used for the generic future (as most versions translate it). If we take it to mean the immediate future, than Paul isn't referring to all possible future ages, but specifically to the age of the kingdom of God which is to be ushered in by the return of Christ. However, the use of this verb does not demand this, and thus we shouldn't force the issue.


bethyada said...

I have read elsewhere that modern Christians emphasise Christ's death whereas Paul focuses more on the resurrection (though as you say, both are important). Perhaps that is why some argue for Christos Victor over penal substitution? Though I don't know enough about that debate.

I think there should be a semicolon after "named", not a comma.

Kevin Jackson said...

What an encouraging passage. God's power in us, as we follow Christ, and because of Christ. This is our inheritance as believers.

Jc_Freak: said...


That is exactly why many perfer Christos Victor. The EOC believes in Christos Victor and their main criticism of the West is that we focus too much on the cross.

However, for me, the cross is the center of justification. The resurrection is the hope of glory. I believe that the apostles were more resurrection centered because they were more eschatologically centered, while we tend to be more focused on soteriology. Just my thought.

Also, a semi colon wouldn't work. A semicolon requires a full clause on both sides. In this case, the subject of the dependant clause is 'name' and the verb is 'named'. You can't separate the subject and verb from the objects with a semicolon.