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The Greatness of Christ – Ephesians 1:19b-23

This sermon was preached on Sunday, October 10, 2010.

A few weeks ago I made reference to myself–my own [health] situation–as a sermon illustration which I have done a couple times and I thought, I’m not going to do that for months. I just won’t because it’s not about me and I’m not going to talk about myself. Well, I’m kind of forced to today, because, uh [he is searching carefully for the right words], for the last eight weeks, I’ve been telling everybody that I’ve had bronchitis and I’m trying to get over that. Well, I got a call. I had a test a little over a week ago at the hospital and they went in to do a bronchoscopy, took a look in the lungs, and the doctor called me on Thursday afternoon this week and he said, “I’m sorry, I just got the results today, and I’m really sorry, it’s cancer.” I was like, “Well, tell me something I don’t know.” It was like, “You’re male.” Yeah, I know you went down there and you saw it, but I said, “Yeah, but how are we going to treat the bronchitis?” And he said, “You don’t have bronchitis.”  “Oh, [and he chuckles, a nervous laugh] oh.” He said, “The tumor is talking.” What happened was it just hit a nerve. It’s still pretty small and it’s growing very slowly, but it hit a nerve and that nerve then was producing mucus and coughing, similar to bronchitis symptoms, so he said, “We may be able to freeze that section off and go back down in there at Geisinger [Medical Center] and remove the irritation for a while.” Of course, I told him I’m believing for healing, and before, I thought, “When I’m healed—I’ve been prayed for so many times and I’m still standing for it, but when I’m healed–how will I know?” I mean, I have a CAT scan every six months.  Now I will know; the coughing will stop. And you know, there are people who take insulin all their life. I can take cough medication, and so I’m doped up on that right now, and [he pauses] I’m happier. [Congregation laughs and he says] No, no. Can you get high on Mucinex? I don’t think there is anything in Mucinex to make you high. I’m high on Jesus, amen? [Congregation applauds and many respond with their own amens.] And I don’t ever want you to feel sorry for me.  I’m going to tell you, at the end of the conversation, I was saying, “Thank you, doctor. I appreciate the information because I’ve been wondering.’ And then I said [to him], “How are you doing? You have a great weekend.” He didn’t know how to respond. And I was more up that he was; he was starting to break up a little bit. But I’m happy in Jesus.

When you are in the center of God’s will, it doesn’t–nothing else matters. You’re right where God wants you, and His plan and purpose is being worked out in your life, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m loving life. I am. You know? Our marriage has never been better. It’d be nice if Arline would come to church. [Congregation laughs, because Arline works at the local airport and sometimes has to take a Sunday shift. She considers it to be a very valuable ministry, and loves to use the opportunities there to share the love of Jesus with everyone. However, today is different.] She is in Wilmington [Delaware] this weekend for a high school reunion.  I think it was the 10th or 20th, I’m not sure. [Congregation laughs again because it is clearly a higher number than that, but also because it is very evident that Pastor is meeting the cancer head-on with grace and humor, and he will not be deterred from his mission to teach others about Jesus as long as he is able.]  It’s one of those round numbers, a low round number. Anyhow, marriage has never been better. I’ve never been more proud of my sons. The church is doing well. Actually, we’re growing; I don’t know if you noticed but we’ve had to add several dozen seats to give you more elbow room. Once we fill in this area right here [he indicates the very front], then we’ll do something else. The church is doing well! Troy Polamalu [Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety] is healthy [Pastor is a big Steelers fan, and so are many in the congregation ]. That’s just a joke; I don’t care that much. I’m not into idolatry. I have preached against it, so, hey! I’m having the time of my life. I am. I can’t wait for what God’s going to do. I can’t wait for our trip to Cuba here in November, just to spend time with Arline, but spiritually to be in that atmosphere, where the greatest revival on the planet is happening right now. So I’m having a blast. I hope you are too, no matter what you’re facing. Can you have a blast no matter what you are facing? Do you believe that, amen? Amen! [Congregation breaks into applause.]

Ephesians, chapter 1. We’re going to finish the chapter today. By the way, I would really recommend–I know we have to miss weeks traveling and so forth. This series, I really recommend getting the CDs. That’s another thing. Today is a day of firsts for a lot of things–I don’t think I’ve ever said that before–because there are threads running through this whole series, and there is information I’m going to share today that I may not repeat. So the threads are the supremacy of Christ; the fullness of the Spirit–this is going to carry through the whole book of Ephesians; there are going to be family life issues that carry through; and then we’re going get into American spiritual history. As we’re touching on that, Centre County [the county in PA in which Pastor lives and works] is going to come up at some point. We’re going to talk about spiritual warfare, so I encourage you, if you miss, get a CD, and that way you can keep up with us.

Today, Ephesians 1, starting with verse 19, it’s actually the second half of the verse. Would you stand with me as we give honor to God’s Word. The second half of the nineteenth verse: That power—that’s the great power of God–is like the working of His mighty strength, which He—God–exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, 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. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

[Prayer] Father, we thank you for Jesus. We thank you for Your love for us, we thank You for the Holy Spirit, we thank You for Your Word. Jesus, we love You so much today. Holy Spirit, help us to exalt Jesus in this place. Help us, that our minds are fixed right now, our mind is not distracted by anything else, but our mind is fixed on Jesus for these moments. I pray, Holy Spirit, you will anoint Your servant to speak, and our hearts to receive, our ears to hear, and You would accomplish in us what You desire.  Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.

I kind of enjoy coming up with titles for messages and I normally try to get a title that’s kind of a little provocative and interesting. It might catch the eye of someone who drives by [as with many churches, State College Assembly of God has a marquee on the busy street in front of our church on which we post the service times and upcoming sermon title], or sees the ad in the paper. This week, I mean, what do you do with a text that just talks about the greatness of Christ? It’s like, yeah, I mean, what do you say beyond that? Jesus is so awesome. He’s everything. Sometimes we say, “He’s everything to me.”  He’s not just everything to me, He is everything, period. He’s the greatest wonder of the universe in every way, so how do you even start to scratch the surface? The apostle Paul was crazy about Jesus, he was. He had a direct encounter with the living Christ and all of his life he just dedicated to living his life for Jesus, and it’s reflected here in this letter to the church of Ephesus. It’s reflected in all of his letters. In his letter to the church of Colossi—Colossians–in the first chapter, he emphasizes the spectacular divinity of Christ while acknowledging his humanity. In Philippians, chapter 2, he emphasizes the humanity of Christ while acknow-ledging His divinity. Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, is the One who is our reason to live. He is crazy about us. Are you crazy about Him? In this text, it says He is exalted, and it shows the purpose of that exaltation in verse 22.

Two things I want to share with you today, competition and compassion. Notice here in verse 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. You know, still today, there is a lot of competition for glory to Jesus. Just turn on your TV for a while and not a whole lot of glory [is] given to Jesus, a lot of times not even on the Christian channels is there glory given to Jesus. And so it goes to men and women. You know, we have awards, and we have this and we have that. We have athletics, and music, and theater, and it just goes on and on and on and on and on. So little honor [is] given to Jesus, so little honor. He’s always had competition, always, in our lives. There are always competing factors to grab the glory, to grab the focus, to grab our attention away from fixing our eyes on the One who is above all, above all.

Well, particularly in Ephesus, He had grand competition.  I want to share a little bit today, as we are now about the fourth week into this series, about Ephesus, because you have to understand. Now if you’ve read Acts 19, you understand that there was a great temple to Artemis and in the King James [referring to the King James Version of the Bible], it says Diana. Artemis was the Greek goddess and Diana was the Roman goddess, and they kind of merged and the two became one, so it doesn’t really matter whether you say Artemis or Diana, they are kind of one and the same.  Ephesus was about the fourth or fifth largest city in the known world of that time, a city of about 300,000. Even though it was not the largest city, its influence was far greater in proportion to its size than one would expect. So the only possible parallel I can think in our society is Hollywood. Hollywood is certainly not the largest city in the US, but its influence, cultural influence, in America and globally, is far greater than its size.

So what was the influence of Ephesus? The influence was it was the center of goddess worship for the Greek and Roman empire.  It had one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The temple built to Artemis was, at the time, the largest building in the world. It would be like, years ago, the Los Angeles Coliseum, before other coliseums were built, or the Pentagon, such a huge building. But it was the biggest building in the world. It had 121 columns; one of them still remains standing today.

Who was Ephesus named after? You have to understand here the competition because as we get deeper into the series we’re going to pick up on some of these spiritual things. It was named for Ephesia who was Queen of the Amazons. How many have ever heard of the Amazons? Yeah, that name is still around today, not just a river, but Seriously. Who were the Amazons? Well, in Ephesus, they believed–it was part fact and part mythology, and scholars have not really been able to sort out the percentages how much is true and how much is myth—but they believed, hundreds of years before Paul goes to Ephesus, maybe as far as 1000 years BC, there was a tribe of women and they were warrior women, and they were the original man-haters. Whereas virtually every society on the planet for human history has been patriarchal, this was a grand matriarchal society. Men were not welcome. Now they would–as the story was told, they were warrior women, they were hunters and they were very aggressive–but there was a city nearby where there were men and once a year they would mate with those men. Some say after they mated with them, like a black widow spider, they would kill them, but most say they did not kill them. They just kind of discarded them. And when they had children, if they had a male child they either killed the child or would get rid of it, and they would keep the daughters. This was an all-female city of the Amazons. Why is the river in South America named Amazon? Because the European explorer [Francisco de Orellana] who went there in the 16th century encountered a tribe where the women were fighting and he knew the legend, so he named the river the Amazon River. That’s why.

So here we have, fast forward to Paul’s time, you have this temple built to Artemis. There are various statues of the goddess Artemis. She was, supposedly, the daughter of Zeus and the twin fraternal sister to Apollo. You’ve heard of Apollo. Apollo was the pervert, child-molesting son of Zeus. But Artemis was the daughter, and again she was a hunter and she was a goddess–and this is a contradiction, this is where we are going to pick up on the theme of Mary, eventually–she was both the goddess of virginity, a perpetual virgin and mother. So she was, in Greek mythology, she was a virgin mother. Isn’t that interesting, because it’s in Ephesus where Mary is exalted to the title of Mother of God, about 450 years after Jesus. We’ll come back to that sometime.

So we’ve seen the statue. Arline and I saw the statue [of Artemis] in the Vatican Museum that they have, and she was called “The Many-Breasted One”. I am not going to show a picture today but the statue of her, the idol of her, has 50 or 60 or so, of them, so it’s a weird picture. [Some in the congregation laugh.] It’s not attractive. [He chuckles.] It won’t tempt you, I’ll tell you that. So she is the center of this town. You’ve got to understand. Artemis is the center and everybody is hypersensitive about it in Acts 19. If anyone says anything about her, anything negative at all, I mean, the place is in an uproar. Okay? Like someone threatening to burn the Koran, [the people of Ephesus are] very, very sensitive to this.

So here she is, and by the way, women would go there and pray to her, that they would not have pain in childbirth and she supposedly had the power to grant them less or no pain in childbirth, and that’s why, when Paul writes to Timothy in I Timothy, chapter 2, you have this very odd section about women being saved in childbirth [verse 15]. That is an allusion to the goddess Artemis, that God will take care of his daughters when they are having children, not Artemis. That’s what that whole section is about.

So again, we have five books of the New Testament that deal with Ephesus. Ephesus is so important today. It is the birthplace of radical feminism, in Ephesus. So as Paul writes to Ephesus, he is saying that Jesus is greater than the competition. Let’s look at that again, in light of what I just shared with you. He raised Him from the dead—verse 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. He does not name her. And by the way, I want to mention too, the crescent moon and the star, the symbol of Islam, is connected to Artemis. The goddess of the Americas, the Virgin of Guadalupe, is connected to Artemis, so we’ll come back to that in time. But Paul simply here is saying [voice rising now] Jesus is above every power, every name, spiritual, natural, everything, He’s above it all! He is the King of Kings, He is the Lord of Lords! And even though there may be competition in human terms, [back to regular voice] when you step back and look at it, in cosmological terms, when you look at it from the standpoint of all eternity, of everything there is, there is no competition with Jesus. Nobody compares. He is the incomparable One; He is the awesome One.

Verse 22, compassion. Competition and compassion.  And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church. [He emphasizes the phrase “for the church”.] Again, God’s crazy about us. Jesus is appointed head of all things for us, for us. We pick up on this theme in chapter 5 when we come back to: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up what? For her. You see this already in chapter 1. His entire purpose is about us.  [His voice rises again.] We are not His part-time job, you with me? We are not His hobby. We are His reason for being. How do you respond to that? When someone loves you that much, and they’ve given everything for you, the God of the universe has taken on human form and has died for us and loves us, [voice lowers now] devotion is the only appropriate response to Him.

Compassion. Usually when we use the term compassion we think in terms of something is wrong, somebody’s sick, they are in need, someone is in an emergency and we care about them, so we come along side of them, but it is more than that. Compassion is a whole lot more than sympathy in action. Com-passion. “Com” is to come alongside. Passion, passion, what is your passion? We are His passion, and He comes alongside of us, by the Holy Spirit, just like a husband who is madly in love with his wife. He is beside her and he has passion for her. His [Jesus’] love is that deep, for you and for me. And He is made the Head, not for Himself. He is made the Head, verse 22, over everything for us. The Head serves us. He is all-in-all, He is the ultimate. How do I tell you about Him? I have to tell you what the whole Bible says about Him, because He is all through the Bible.


In Genesis, He is the Word that spoke the universe into being.

In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb.

In Leviticus, He’s the Sanctifier.

In Numbers, He’s the Pillar of cloud by day and the Pillar of fire by night.

In Deuteronomy, He is the Teacher.

In Joshua, He is the One that reclaims the land.

In Judges, He gives victory over enemies.

In Ruth, He is your Kinsman-Redeemer.

In I Samuel, He is our trusted Prophet.

In II Samuel, He is the Son of David.

In I Kings and II Kings, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

In I and II Chronicles, He is our Intercessor and High Priest.

In Ezra, He’s our Temple, our house of worship.

In Nehemiah, He is our mighty Wall, protecting us from our enemies.

In Esther, He stands in the gap to deliver us from our enemies.

In Job, He is the Arbitrator, who not only understands our struggles but has the power to do something about them.

In Psalms, He’s our Song; He’s our reason to sing.

In Proverbs, He is our Wisdom, helping us make sense of life and to live it successfully.

In Ecclesiastes, He is our Purpose, delivering us from vanity and emptiness.

In the Song of Solomon, He’s our Lover, the Rose of Sharon.

In Isaiah, He is our Mighty Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father and much more.

In Jeremiah, He’s the Balm of Gilead, the soothing salve for your sin sick soul.

In Lamentations, He’s the Ever Faithful One upon whom you can depend.

In Ezekiel, He’s the One that assures that dead, dry bones will live again, as He calls us from sin.

In Daniel, He’s the Stranger in the fire.

In Hosea, He’s the faithful Lover, always beckoning us back even when we’ve abandoned Him.

In Joel, He’s the Spirit’s Power.

In Amos, He is the Arms that carry us.

In Obadiah, He is the Lord of the Kingdom.

In Jonah, He’s the Great Missionary.

In Micah, He’s the Promise of Peace.

In Nahum, He’s our Strength and Shield.

In Habakkuk, He is the Holy One.

In Zephaniah, He’s pleading for revival.

In Haggai, He is the Restorer of lost heritage.

In Malachi, He’s the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings.

In Matthew, He is the King of the Jews.

In Mark, He’s the Servant.

In Luke, He’s the Son of Man, feeling what you feel.

In John, He’s the Son of God, speaking for God.

In Acts, He’s the Savior of the World.

In Romans, He’s the Righteousness of God.

In I Corinthians, He is the Rock that followed Israel.

In II Corinthians, He’s the Triumphant One, giving victory.

In Galatians, He’s our Liberty, He sets us free. [voice rising now]

In Ephesians, He’s the Head of the Church!

In Philippians, He is our Joy!

In Colossians, He’s our Completeness!

In I Thessalonians, He is our Hope!

In II Thessalonians, He’s our Glory!

In I Timothy, He’s our Faith!

In II Timothy, He’s our Stability!

In Philemon, He’s our Benefactor!

In Hebrews, He’s our Perfection!

In James, He’s the Power behind our faith!

In I Peter, He’s our Example!

In II Peter, He is our Purity!

In I John, He is our Life!

In II John, He is our Pattern!

In III John, He is our Motivation!

In Jude, He is the Foundation of our faith! [fully shouting now]

And in Revelation, He is the Coming King! He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!!!  [Congregation breaks into applause, for our Pastor’s effort and for Jesus.]


I wish I could say it better, so I am going to ask a preacher to help me, Dr. S.M. Lockridge, years ago, “Do You Know Him?” Let’s play it. “Do You Know My Jesus?” [There are several postings of Pastor Lockridge’s statement, but this is the one Pastor Grabill used. This website is posted on Youtube, from July 22, 2008. I suggest you go to that site, for the accompanying video masterfully underscores his powerful words.]

[Following the video, Pastor Grabill is fully shouting now.] Amen, amen! Let’s stand. Let’s make some noise in this place! Let’s give Him praise, tell Him how much He is worthy of praise! We love You, Jesus! We love You, Lord! We love You! We shower to You our love and affection, our dedication to You! Thank You, Lord, for who You are! [His voice is at regular volume now.] Today may be your first day that you’ve ever been here, and some of you may be uncomfortable with making noise to the Lord, but the Bible says make a joyful noise unto the Lord [Psalms 66:1, 81:1, 95:1-2, 98:4 and 6, 100:1]. The Bible says: Shout unto God with a voice of triumph [KJV, Psalm 47:1]. And there are times to be quiet but some people interpret reverence as always pretending like church should be a funeral. It’s not a funeral; my Jesus is alive! It’s a celebration, [congregation applauds] and I think it’s important. Heaven is not going to be just elevator music playing in the background. Heaven’s going to be some awesome, raucous place. I think we really need to make some noise in this place for Jesus. [His voice is raised again.] Is He worthy? Amen, let’s do it! Let’s shout unto Him, tell Him how much you love Him. Bless His Name! We love You, Lord! We love You, Lord! We love You, Jesus! You are the Ultimate! You are Incomparable! You’re more than wonderful, You’re more than glorious! We bless Your Name! We bless Your Name! We bless Your Name! We bless You, Lord! We bless You, Lord! We bless You, Lord! Let’s sing, let’s sing!

[The service closed with a rocking version of “King of Majesty” by Marty Sampson of Hillsong Church, copyright 2001.]



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