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All things under His Feet

“And he subordinated all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of whom is filling the all in all.”

(Ephesians 1:22-23)

Paul continues his doxology by citing Psalm 8:6 directly, speaking of the language of all things being subordinated to Christ. And, at first glance, we might be tempted to dismiss this citation as simply being exalted language or our exalted Lord. And, if we do that, we will miss several important principles that Paul is setting before us.

The first has to do with the way that Paul is applying Psalm 8. Remember, when someone quotes a passage from the psalms (really from any place in scripture), then the author is directing us back to the original so that we might understand the citation in its context — in the case here, in the Old Testament Psalms. 

David writes Psalm 8 as a psalm that is designed to magnify God for his power in creation — he begins with the familiar language of “how majestic is your name in all the earth!” What becomes plainly apparent is that as we move down the psalm, we see the Dominion Mandate from Genesis 1:28 being fleshed out, but here, in poetic form. Man is given rulership over all of the creation as God’s regent. Just a note of digression here, as the psalms were meant to be sung as the hymnal of God’s people, this is just a reminder of how important it is to God that we sing theology. But, I digress.

What becomes immediately apparent is that Paul is applying this psalm not just to humans in general, but to Christ. Indeed, the Dominion mandate was given originally to Adam, the first covenant head and now is applied by Paul to Christ, who is the second Adam, the greater covenant head. That which the original Adam failed to do, the greater Adam does. He does it in part through his church through the Great Commission (hence the language of the filling at the end of this verse) and he does it in its fullness in the new creation. Thus, the work of dominion will not be completed by mankind as a whole — that would be appealing to Adam’s failed covenant headship, but in Christ, the successful Covenant head.

When we begin to look at both the psalm and this passage in Ephesians in this way, we will also notice that in verse 4 of Psalm 8 you also have a reference to the “son of man.” Again, if looking at Psalm 8 alone, one would simply apply this to those who are the children of Adam. Yet, with Paul applying this to Christ, it adds meaning to Jesus’ own self-designation as “the Son of Man.” Often we only think of this as an allusion to Jesus’ humanity or to Daniel 7:13, but we must also remember that for Jesus to fulfill the original man’s failed covenant and intercede for fallen man, he first had to become man.

Further, we find the language of the church being the body of Christ with Christ as the head. Much could be said here as to this analogy which Paul likes to use, but the most important aspect in the immediate context is that of headship. Jesus is the head of the body. That means, if the body is going to function and live, it must do so in conformity to the will of Him who is the head. When churches simply do what they wish for their own purposes, it is rebellious at best and outright dying (or dead) at worst.

It is true that sin often causes confusion within the body, much like a stroke does, creating a blockage between the brain and the rest of the body. Yet, that is not the ideal nor should it be something with which the church should be content. Indeed, the purpose of church discipline is for the chastising of sin, so that the body may behave like Jesus calls the body to behave so that it may indeed reflect the fullness of Christ to a watching world.

Learning War…the Christian Life

“And the Sons of Israel once again did the Evil in the eyes of Yahweh when Ehud died. Ans Yahweh sold them into the hand of Yabiyn who reigned in Chatsor; the commander of his army was Siysera, who dwelled in Charosheth-Hagoyim.

(Judges 4:1-2)

Again, note that Shamgar seems to be an overlapping judge as the account of the people’s fall into sin and God giving them into the hands of Jabin follows the death of Ehud. As for names, while we know the king of Hazor as Jabin in the English language (in fact, the letter “J” is more or less a more modern invention, originally being a variant of the letter “I” when “I” was used as a consonant and not as a vowel…). Similarly, the “Ch” of Chatsor would be pronounced as a hard sound, like the ch in “Loch Ness.”

Hazor is in the northern portion of Canaan, just north of what we would know as the Sea of Galilee.  We are also introduced to Sisera, the general of Jabin’s armies and the man who will become the enemy of God’s people due to his harsh oppression and his mighty force of chariots.

As we continue into this account, let us not lose sight of two things…first that the oppression is a direct result of the sin of the people…they continue to do “The Evil” in the eyes of God. And second, we must remember that God is disciplining his people in this specific way so that they will learn the art of war (see Judges 3:2). God could have chosen a variety of ways to discipline his own, but this was what God deemed proper, not only with respect to defending their homeland, but also to the end of taking the whole of the territory that God had promised to the people.

To put this notion into perspective requires us to look at history. At the creation, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the whole of the world (Genesis 1:28). Of course, after the Fall everything changed. Yet, as God brings Abraham into the land, the promise of dominion is renewed, but on a smaller scale — the land of Canaan is promised, but with much larger borders than we typically think of — these borders extend from the Euphrates river to the Nile and as far north as what we would call modern-day Turkey (Genesis 15:18-21). Yet, once again, the people fell into sin and never took over the land.

Later, after the Resurrection of Christ, Jesus affirms in what we know as the Great Commission that the “Dominion Mandate” of Adam has been renewed in Christ, for “all” authority in “heaven and on earth” was given to Him (Matthew 28:18). We are told in that same passage that the dominion will be enacted through the spread of the Gospel and the process of making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). In turn, at the Ascension, the same commission is given to the Apostles — a restored Dominion Mandate, where they are to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Sadly, much like the history of the Judges, the history of the church has been marked by falling into sin again and again and Christians have been unable to fulfill this mandate and commission. We are given the instruction that we are to tear down the strongholds of the devil in this world and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God (sounds an awful lot like the discipleship portion of the Great Commission! — 2 Corinthians 10:4-6), we are given the promise that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the forward march of the church when we seek to tear down these strongholds (Matthew 16:18), and we are given spiritual armor to fight these battles (Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 13:12). We are even given the weapons to do battle in the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). This sounds a lot like military language, does it not? Has not God chosen to teach us war as well? Yet, this war is spiritual in nature as we fight against the spiritual forces of evil that have entrenched themselves in this world (Ephesians 6:12).

Ultimately a new Judge will come to restore us to peace…that is the Lord Jesus Christ who will destroy those who oppress his people and who will restore peace and freedom from “The Evil” all of the land that belongs to him — the whole earth. And, just as the people remain faithful during the lifetime of the Judge who delivers them, so too will the people remain faithful to Christ for his entire lifetime…and he lives and reigns forever! Praise be to God!

We are told that the things we find in the Old Testament are meant as shadows of the fulfillment found in Christ (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). Let us not lose sight of that. And let us also not lose sight of the reality that we have been called to a lifetime of war, not peace, as we live out the great Commission in this world…but note something, war is to be had with the enemy, not with those inside of the church body we might not agree with…how often the church has gotten that principle backwards.

Dwelling where it is good to do so…: Genesis 20:14-15

“And Abimelek took a flock, cattle, servants, and maidservants and gave them to Abraham. And he returned Sarah, his wife, to him. And Abimelek said, ‘My land is before your face; you shall dwell where it seems good to your eye.”

(Genesis 20:14-15)

 

Here we find a very interesting event. Not only do we have a repeat of the basic event that Abraham experienced when he left the king of Egypt (with the abundance of gifts), but this time Abraham is welcomed to stay in the land rather than run out of the territory. It seems that Abimelek understands, despite the event that has transpired, that God is with Abraham and he recognizes Abraham’s presence in the land as something that is beneficial to the region and land. Indeed, in Abimelek’s action, we find the promise that God gave to Abraham that the nations shall be blessed in him (Genesis 12:2-3).

What I find is most interesting, though, is the nature of the invitation that Abimelek has made. God has already given the land to Abraham, yet Abimelek is essentially inviting Abraham to take a portion of what God has already given to him as an inheritance. How this pattern has continued through history. God has given Christians this world for care and dominion, yet so often unbelieving authorities have felt magnanimous in giving us privileges and rights within their specific territories. Indeed, we have been called to be under the authority of the rulers of our lands, but if these rulers are not acknowledging God’s ultimate authority, they are trying to usurp for themselves that which was never given to them in the first place.

Abimelek refers to Canaan as “my land.” Abraham has an equal right to claim exactly the same thing of the region, yet Abraham waits on God’s timing to inherit the land. We too are being led by Jesus to a promised land, yet we will not dwell within it until the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. For now, though, we press forward speaking to all who will hear and telling them of the truth of the real owner and master of the land. Indeed, about 400 years after the death of Abraham, Israel would enter this land as a nation and would bring judgment upon the enemies of God with a sword. When our Lord returns, those who are the enemies of God will once again face judgment, but this time not with the sword, but with the fires of Hell. In Joshua’s day, there were some Canaanites left in the land; when Jesus returns, judgment will be absolute and complete. In that day, there will be no magnanimous discussing of terms—absolute judgment will reign. Let us tell those around us as to who they must serve if they will be spared the wrath of God poured out upon their heads!