Most of us are familiar with the saying “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”1 Although the quotation is supposed to remind us to understand others and to be kind to others, it often resonates with us in the other way: we feel that we are fighting a battle that others do not know or understand.
At times we feel strong and energetic, but all of us have, at some other times, felt defeated, overwhelmed, weak and helpless.
Regardless of how we feel, however, the Bible tells us that God is empowering us with an immeasurably great power. Part of the prayer of the apostle Paul is that we truly understand that power.
Saying that the power is available but not explaining it would have made it difficult for us to grasp the sense of the power. Fortunately Paul gives some description on what kind of power that is operating in us.
First we know that the power is a great power. Paul describes the power as “the surpassing greatness of His power… in accordance with the working power of the strength of His might” (v. 19).2 We get the sense through his choice of words that this is some awesome power although we might still not understand the power completely just from the description.
Next, Paul describes what the power can do and what it has done in the past. Paul says that the power that is operating in believers today is the same power that God has exerted on Christ in the past.3 Specifically he said:
God exerted the same power (vv. 20-21)
in raising Christ from the dead, and
in seating him on God’s right hand side, far above all authorities… in the present age and in the future.
God placed (or subjected) all things under Christ’s feet. v. 22a
God placed / appointed him to be head over everything for the church. v 22b
While we are not God and might never completely understand how this power has worked on Christ in the past, it is not difficult for us to sense that raising Christ from the dead and placing him above all things must have taken an awesome and “surpassing power” indeed.
And God is exerting that same power on us!
Paul does not pray for believers to have this power. He says God is exerting the same power toward us, so we have the power. His prayer is that we truly see / understand it.
So next time when we feel down, depressed, defeated, or weak, remember that we have this surpassing power from God!
And remember to pray about it, as Paul did for the Ephesians. Pray that the Spirit of wisdom and revelation might indeed help us to fully see this power / strength!
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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 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 his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:15-23 TNIV)
- It is often (mis)attributed to Plato or Philo of Alexandra, but the original source is now thought to be Ian Maclaren. ↩
- Compare with the New American Standard Version (NAS), which is an “essentially literal” translation. I do not choose Bible translation based on convenience or because a particular translation seems to support for what I am trying to say. The whole point of Bible interpretation is not to find support for what we want to say. Rather, we are trying to find out what the Bible says (and change our thinking if necessary). In this case, a more literal translation is used because seeing the word play does give a better sense of what Paul is trying to say. Readers who know Greek should of course check the Greek version: τὸ ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ… κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ κράτους τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ. ↩
- This outline is based on three verbs in aorist tense: exerted (ἐνήργησεν), subjected (ὑπέταξεν) and gave (ἔδωκεν), with the sense of placing or appointing. These verbs can be easily separated from the participles and genitives in the sentence. ↩