I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work 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 age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. [NRSV]
This text is part of the introduction section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He praises their faithfulness, wisdom and hope. He is grateful for their generous support of his ministry. And we may find it difficult to hear the first portion about any specific church today. While we would hope that were like that church the Paul describes. Some read Paul’s letters with a style of writing what he hopes for the church and not necessarily the reality of the church, based on the instructions and corrections contained in the following parts of his writing to the church. But I suggest that to sort out that discussion is not the focus of our reading today.
It is who we are at the world-wide, timeless church of Jesus -the Christ, present for the world that Paul affirms for our faith.
He reminds us of the Gospel Message:
“God put this power to work 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 age to come.”
Christ is the Authority:
The church has handed over the reigns of our authority contextual academic criticism and theological reflection, we have given up on deep commitment and lifetime covenants, exchanging what is trending, fun, entertaining and simple. Not that faith has be complex, but we have made the wall the define us so low and world-like that it is difficult to know when we are faithful and when we are not.
The result is that we don’t think we have to deal with authority. We base God’s loving authority on the cruelty of those who have misused authority in God’s name or in God’s image for their own purposes and blame God for the evil in the world.
The setting of Ephesus was the powerful center of worship of the Roman goddess Dianna at the temple of Artemis. This was a place one would go to make offerings for favor in futility, in family, crops, and wealth. Make your donation and you will be blessed with abundance. The Roman government found great wealth and devotion. The church would have been such a small size organization in the middle of Sin-City. (How many churches are located ON the stripe in Las Vegas? zero) The church at Ephesus was off-off-off “the Strip.” And Paul is speaking about the authority of Christ and the Church.
Which has the greater authority today? The United States of America or the Throne of God? Which can tax, imprison and offer your life? Both? But which one loves you? What one created the other? God is not the creation of humanity, God is the creator, designer, love, and judge of the world and all the nations of the world, in our time and all times. God trumps the United States of America. (That is not a back-hand political comment, that is the truth.)
As the church we given up so much of our authority and calling in the name of being fair, kind, and inclusive. These are not ours to relinquish but have given permission to not trust God’s authority in our lives. And we wonder why the church is not the center of our social life as it has been in the past.
We question who more and more people in our country less faith have, less understand, and less respect for the church… and it comes when the God’s People concede that there is a greater authority than God.
We have more freedoms than did the church at Ephesus and yet Paul is calling them to be faithful to God’s authority when there were so many reasons not to in that environment. Paul is not saying, “let’s just all get along.” He is not saying, “Why can’t we be friends.” He is not singing, “We are the World.”
Paul is saying God has power and dominion over all things. Period….and his list continues:
- With Power and Dominion
- Above every other name
- In that age
- And in our age
- And in the age to come.
God is the top dog, the chief above all chief, the supreme head of the universe. Not because God is on a power trip, but authority comes from creation, design and love.
In particular, Paul encourages our trust in Christ’s Authority:
“And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Because Jesus has given his life for ours, we follow his lead and call upon our lives.
The authority of Church is given by God, through Christ and continues through the Holy Spirit..
The problem we face is that at times we abused that authority
We allow others to abuse that authority
And rather than risk being wrong we hand over the power to governments, academies, armies and those who hunger for power who have the squeaky wheels of our collective attention.
- Authority? We would rather be entertained.
- Authority? We’d rather not be responsible.
- Authority? We’d rather abdicate and take our chances that someone else will get it better than we would do.
That is not how God works.
- God is the author of Authority.
- God entrusts that Authority in Christ
- Christ entrust that Authority in the Church and the ongoing body of Christ, present it the world
- The Holy Spirit is our strength and guide to use God’s authority, AS the Church, for the work of God and glory of Christ.
The So What of this passage is to remind us that God is still in control; God remain the authority.
- If we ever wonder why things are unfair,
- If we wonder, why nations are at war
- If we wonder, why people suffer under different governments
- If we wonder, why there are those who hunger and thirst
- If we wonder why there are terrorist, tyrants and evil in this world
The answer is that someone is not trusting God’s gracious and awesome authority.
What do we do about it.
- We start with ourselves and our church. We stand for Jesus Christ.
- We give our own affirmation, allegiance and trust to Christ.
- We encourage one another under God’s grace, commands and love as the guide of our hearts, minds, souls and lives.
- We show the world through our individual and local witness what it to be the body of Christ.
If we are not shine the light of Christ as a lampstand for the world to see, there is wonder why are fearful, diminished and feel powerless.
Paul says to the church then, and now.
You and I are the body of Jesus Christ, we will not be silenced, limited, or stopped by anything.
Authority is not the preacher’s, nor the congregations nor the conference, the authority is God’s through Christ.
For all that our church faces in this world, we need to reclaim our authority to lead the world to Christ.
- We have the commandments of God
- The life and grace of Christ
- And the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit,
- Don’t give up doing things the world’s way.
More next week…