Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter and Christ’s Mission in Ephesians 1:20-22

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! We just celebrated Easter, the victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m also finishing up an essay on “Missio Dei and Imitatio Dei in Ephesians” and it has had me thinking about how Ephesians 1:20-22 reveal how Christ’s resurrection and ascension relate to God’s strategy and plan for our redemption.
In Ephesians 1:20-22 Paul alludes to both Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:5-6. I should quote those verses in their context:
18 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, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:18-23, NIV)
Let me start with the allusion to Psalm 8 in v. 22. God “placed all things under his feet” comes from the second half of Psalm 8:6. Psalm 8 is a meditation on God’s creation of humanity to serve as his vice-regents as reflected in Genesis 1 (see, for example, the references to having dominion over the realms of the beasts, birds and fish in Psalm 8:7-8 and compare with Genesis 1:20-25 and note the dominion language in how it relates to the material in Genesis 1:26, 28). The psalm describes God’s commissioning of the human race with their dominion as over all creatures in terms of having all things placed under their (“man’s” feet), that is, under their reign and authority. This is applied to Christ, who, as Messiah, represents the whole human race and fulfills our destiny in his own person.
In Ephesians 1:20 we have the reference to Christ being seated at God’s right hand, alluding to Psalm 110:1: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (NIV). Here the Davidic king (who is much greater than David himself) is invited to sit at the place of honor beside God as he brings all his enemies into submission. Psalm 110 looks forward to the restoration of the pattern described in Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 through the Davidic king. Paul informs us that this has begun to find its fulfillment through the resurrection and exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ establishes his triumph over all his enemies, including sin and death, and provides the foundation for our confidence that in him we find not only the forgiveness of our sins and new life in Christ by the Spirit, but also points to the ultimate redemption in which in the saint will reign with Christ for ever and ever (cf. Rev. 22:5; 1 Cor. 15). To him, our great redeemer, be all glory, honor and praise, now and forever!

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