************ Sermon on Ephesians 1:19a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 8, 2005
"His Incomparably Great Power For Us Who Believe"
Ascension Day 2005
Topic: KingsWhy did he hang the crown on Christ? Because He alone has the power to command the waves. He Who died, arose, ascended into heaven, and is seated at God's right hand has power and authority.
Subtopic: Decrees of
In the years 1014-1035 there ruled over England a Danish king named Canute. King Canute tired of hearing his retainers flatter him with extravagant praises of his greatness, power and invincibility. He ordered his chair to be set down on the seashore, where he commanded the waves not to come in and wet him. No matter how forcefully he ordered the tide not to come in, however, his order was not obeyed. Soon the waves lapped around his chair. One historian tells us that, therefore, he never wore his crown again, but hung it on a statue of the crucified Christ.
Today we celebrate Ascension Day. Today we celebrate that the ascended Christ was given kingdom, power, and glory. Today we celebrate that Jesus is Lord, Ruler of everything, Master of all.
In our Scripture reading Paul tells us about the power God exerted in Christ. Step by step Paul leads us to see the incomparably great power of God shown in and through Christ.
I The Power Exerted in Christ
A The power of God exerted in Christ was seen on Easter Sunday when God "raised him from the dead" (Eph 1:20). I always thought of Easter as Christ's resurrection. But the New Testament writers almost always see it instead as God's resurrection of Christ. Jesus did not raise Himself from the dead; rather, He was raised by the Father.
How great is the power of God that He could raise Jesus from the grave. Here is the complete record: Confucius' tomb – occupied. Buddha's tomb – occupied. Mohammed's tomb – occupied. Jesus' tomb – empty! Argue as you will, there is no point in following a loser. Only the Lord God Almighty has the power to raise from the grave. Allah, the god of Mohammed, doesn't have this power, nor does the god of Confucius, nor does the god of Buddha.
B The same power that raised Jesus from the grave was also used to bring Him into the "heavenly realms" (Eph 1:20). Neither Moses, nor David, nor John the Baptist ascended into the heavens; but Christ did. God brought Him up into His presence.
Once in heaven, Christ was seated. To be seated is a mark of Christ's exaltation. Everyone else must stand or bow before the awesome LORD, but Jesus is seated beside Him as His equal. He shares in the glory and praise given to God.
Christ was not only seated, but He was seated at God's right hand. In mind here are the words of the psalmist:
(Ps 110:1) The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."This verse is quoted more often by the New Testament than any other Old Testament verse and shows the glory and honor and power given to Christ. To be seated at God's "right hand" is a mark of exaltation. In the Ancient World a king's most trusted advisor or counselor was seated at his right hand. And, we speak today of a "right-hand man" – someone important and indispensable to the President of a corporation or country. To be seated at God's right hand means Christ has been given a position "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion" (Eph 1:21). God exalted Christ over all powers whether they be human or angelic, visible or invisible, on earth or in heaven. He is exalted far above all the powers of darkness as well.
Christ has also been raised above "every title that can be given" (Eph 1:21). Paul identifies this title in his letter to the church at Philippi. He says,
(Phil 2:9-11) [God] gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord ...The title/name given to Jesus is Lord. It means Master, King, Sovereign. He is the LORD of lords and the KING of kings.
In heaven God gave not only gave Christ honor (at His right hand), position (above all earthly and heavenly powers), and title (a name above every name), but He also gave Him rule, authority, power, and dominion. Paul says "God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything" (Eph 1:22). The first part of this thought comes from another of the Psalmists:
(Ps 8:6) You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet ...This too was a text of great importance to the early church as is seen by its frequent use in the New Testament Scriptures. To be under someone's feet is to be under their control and at their mercy. And, to be the head means to be the source, the direction-setter, and to have authority over. In this case it means that God has given Jesus control, authority, and power over all persons. He is the Master Who can do what He wants and they are the slaves who must hasten to do His every wish; He is the King Who decides the fate of men and nations and they are the vassals who must answer His bidding; He is the General Who gives orders and they are the soldiers who must follow orders.
C What I want you to realize, congregation, is the immense greatness of the ascended Christ. The Father has given Him all glory and power. He rules everything that exists. He upholds the universe. This is His world. He controls every situation. His commands apply to every area of society. Everyone and everything is responsible to Him. He has the power to do all things. And, He has authority over all things.
Topic: ChristChesterton's vivid example is right. There is a profound difference between power and authority – and Jesus has both because he is the ascended Lord.
Subtopic: Authority of
Over lunch, British writer G.K. Chesterton once expounded to a fellow writer on the relationship between power and authority. "If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever."
Tonight, we celebrate the immense greatness of the ascended Christ. Tonight, we celebrate the fact that the ascended Christ has been given all authority and all power. Tonight, we celebrate the fact that God has exalted Christ to the highest place so that before Him every knee should bow and to Him every tongue should give praise.
II His Power For Us
A This immense greatness of the ascended Christ is of great interest to you and to me. You see, it is intimately involved in the day-to-day lives of God's children. In our text Paul says Christ's great power is "for us who believe" (Eph 1:10a). And, further on, He says Christ is head over everything "for the church" (Eph 1:22). So Christ's power is "for us." His rule is "for us." His authority is "for us." His headship is "for us." His honor, His position, His title is all "for us." And, we can add, to God's praise and for His glory.
What does Paul mean when he says Christ's power is "for us who believe?" What he means is that Christ makes His power as ascended Lord – His immense power, His immeasurably great power – available to us to use in the Christian life. But you need to be plugged into that power before it is yours.
In his book "Spiritual Stamina," Stuart Briscoe tells the story of a man who bought a new computer. Bringing his new prize home, he carefully opened the box, gingerly took the machine out, studied its manual, and connected the wires. Eagerly he flipped on the power switch -- but nothing happened. Puzzled, the man switched the computer off and rechecked all the connections. He rounded up a screwdriver and fastened the wires more securely. He read again the relevant portion of the manual. Satisfied that he'd followed directions, he flipped the computer on -- and again nothing happened. As his anger rose the man's little girl walked into the room.
"Hi, Daddy!" her cheery voice rang out. "What a pretty computer! Can I plug it in?"
How's your power source? Are you plugged in to the immense power of the ascended Christ? By the Spirit, through persistent prayer and Bible reading, you can be. By the Spirit, through diligent use of the means of the grace, you can be. By the Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, you can be. By the Spirit the vast power of the ascended Christ is yours to use and to hold.
More specifically, plugged into the immense power of the ascended Christ we are able to live the new life, witness, and be sure of attaining our future hope.
B Each and every day we all run into temptation and sin. All around us and even within us are evil desires that would have us stumble and fall into ruin, into slavery, into darkness. It is only the power of the ascended Lord which can enable us to keep His Law and obey His commandments and not fall into temptation.
Topic: GodApart from the power of the ascended Christ we cannot keep His Law. Apart from Christ we can only follow temptation and fall into sin. But with Christ's power we can make a beginning in living the new life.
Subtopic: Power of
Ludwig Nommensen, a pioneer missionary to the Batak people of Indonesia, spent two years living with them and studying their traditions. At the end of that time, the chief asked him if the Christian faith differed from Batak traditions. "We, too, have laws that say we must not steal, nor take our neighbor's wife, nor bear false witness," the chief said.
The missionary answered, "But my Master gives the power to keep His laws."
The chief was startled. "Can you teach my people that?"
"God can give them that power if they ask for it and listen to His Word." So for six months Nommensen taught the Batak about the power of God. At the end of that time the chief said, "Stay, your law is better than ours. Ours tells us what we ought to do. Your God says, 'Come, I will walk with you and give you strength to do the good thing.'"
Topic: GodHis conclusion: the power of the ascended Christ in the believer's heart makes a tremendous difference in how we live and what we live for.
Subtopic: Power of
Writing in "The Sunday School Times" many years ago, Newman Hall told about a Christian friend who was invited to debate publicly with some men who had no use for the Lord or the church. The believer said, "When you can find me twelve families who were once Christians but by embracing your views have become more virtuous, useful, contented, and happy, I will think it worthwhile to argue with you, and not before." Then he said, "I can find you one hundred families who were once living only for this present world, but who because of Christ have become better husbands and wives, better parents and children, more virtuous, and sober, and happy."
C The power of the ascended Christ is also needed to be witnesses. It takes a lot of power and a lot of courage to be Christ's witnesses. In the Great Commission Jesus draws a direct connection between His power and the command to evangelize. He says,
(Matt 28:18-19) All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations ...The disciples experienced this first hand. It wasn't until they were filled with the power of the ascended Christ that they dared to leave their upper-room hideaway and proclaim the Gospel. Consider also the experience of John Paton.
Subtopic: Power of
Title: Able to Evangelize
Paton was sent by the Scottish Presbyterian Church in 1858 to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific. For four years he worked on the island of Tanna, where his life was in constant danger. When he was forced to leave, not a single convert had been made. He then worked for two years on the island of Aniwa. It never rained during that time, and the island's chief concluded that Paton's presence had angered the gods. Paton dug a well and prayed to God for water. God heard his prayer and thereby turned away the fear and hatred he had faced thus far.
But it was not until 1869 (11 years after he started) that Paton baptized the first convert. After that many became Christians. Even then danger kept lurking. Four of Paton's fellow missionaries were killed on a neighboring island.
Much later, when Paton lived in retirement in Australia, someone asked him, "Weren't you afraid all alone on those islands?" Paton answered, "Yes, I was, but I would say over and over to myself the words of Christ, 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations ... And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"
All of that was a hundred years ago. The world has changed, and so have mission situations and methods. But one thing will never change: it is only by the power of the ascended Christ that we are able to be His witnesses in Visalia, Eritrea, Japan, Yreka, and the furthest corners of the earth.
Are you afraid to tell others of Christ? Are you scared of the reaction you will get? Do you dare to speak out against the evils of our land: abortion, homosexual practice, pornography, gay and lesbian marriage? Again, it is only by the power of the ascended Christ that you can confess Him before men.
We all know that many churches and many members don't really witness to Christ. I can't help but think that the only reason for this is because they are not plugged into the power of Christ.
D Lastly, because the ascended Christ has been given all power and authority, we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our future is assured. Because the ascended Christ has kingdom, power, and glory we know that when we die we are received into glory. Because the ascended Christ has kingdom, power, and glory we know that someday our bodies will be raised and made like Christ's glorious body. Because the ascended Christ has kingdom, power, and glory we know that someday the goal of history will be reached and we will have a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth. His promises cannot fail, His Word cannot be broken, because all power and authority are His.
Christ has ascended. His are honor, position, title, authority, and power. So He is so awesome, so immensely great. But what is even more awesome is that His honor, position, title, authority, and power are for us who believe.
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