Powers and Authorities

“To me, the least significant of all the saints, this grace was given to declare to the nations the incomprehensible riches of Christ and to give light for all of the plan of the mystery hidden from the ages in God who created all things, in order that the manifold wisdom of God through the church may now also be made known to the rulers and to the authorities in heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord in whom the boldness and freedom to enter with confidence through faith in him.”

(Ephesians 3:8-12)

So, who or what are the “rulers and authorities in heavenly places” to whom the wisdom of God is being made known through the church? To begin with, it is useful for us to define some terms. The first is ἀρχή (arche), which most commonly refers to the beginning of something (cf. Matthew 19:4,8; 24:8; Mark 13:8,19). Occasionally, it is used to speak of the authority of someone in a position of power as in Luke 20:20, hence we have translated it here as “rulers.”

In Ephesians, Paul will again use this term in chapter 6 when he is dealing with spiritual warfare and those with whom we are at war. In both cases, spiritual powers, not necessarily earthly powers, seems to be in view, though, outside of Ephesians, Paul does not exclusively use this term in this way. 

The term έξουσία (exousia), which refers to those who have a state of control over something. If we can speak of ἀρχή (arche) in the sense of having a position of authority, then έξουσία (exousia) speaks of the ability or resources — the “might” — to rule over peoples or places. Again, in Ephesians, Paul uses this term exclusively to refer to spiritual authorities against whom we do battle. In Ephesians 2:2, even using this term to refer to the “Prince of the Power of the Air,” who is the spirit now in work in the “sons of disobedience.” 

So, how then is the “manifold wisdom of God” being made known to these spiritual forces “through the church”? The simple answer is that through the clear preaching of the Gospel, the church advances like an army at war, tearing down the gates of Hell and removing every lofty idea that raises itself up against the knowledge of God. As we fight the spiritual battle with sin that is within us as well as with sin that is all around us in the world, then these spiritual forces take notice. It is said that the Devil is not too concerned about what you do if he does not see you as a threat. Truly, that is the way the enemies of Christ think of the church.

So, if the world does not see the church as a kind of threat to their way of life, then the church is not doing its job. My grandfather, a Methodist minister, used to say that “if you are not stepping on people’s toes, you are not preaching the Gospel. Though we ought not go about life looking for fights, if we live faithfully, those fights will find us. The world will see us as a threat if we are truly making known the mysteries of God.

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on November 30, 2020, in Ephesians, Expositions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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