Christ Over All — What’s in a Name?

A Meditation on Ephesians 1:15–23 and a Prayer for the Church

Why the name Christ Over All? The answer to that question begins with a prayer we find in the Bible, a prayer for a certain powerless and unimpressive church.

When Christians walked down the street in those days, they did so on Roman roads. Rome’s roads made way for the gospel, but those roads also reminded Christians of the vast domain of the state who built them. Christians lived in the shadow of pagan culture-making institutions. Down the street from the church at Ephesus, the Temple of Diana offered sexual immorality as a religious rite. When they went to work each morning, Christians entered an economy hostile to their most precious beliefs. When taken seriously, their new Christian faith undermined the bottom line of the ancient world built as it was on idolatry and superstitions.

These churches did not have impressive buildings. They did not have the respect of their communities. The temptation to syncretism or accommodation was real. As a people gathered in Christ’s name—a man crucified by Rome—the church was not welcome.

Paul’s message to these churches both encouraged and excited: Christ is over all (Eph. 1:22)! Or more completely, Paul reminded the Ephesians of all that God did in Christ

when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 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 one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

(Eph. 1:20b–23)

When Paul wrote this prayer of thanksgiving for the church at Ephesus, he meant every word. Christ is over every rule, authority, power, and dominion (v. 21a). He is over every name that is named, both now and forever (v. 21b). However high or great they may seem to human senses or sensibilities, all things are under his feet (v. 22). Not some things; all things. That’s the greatness of the power that raised Jesus from the dead. The Roman roads and Roman taxes and Roman economy that Christians participated in are all under the sovereign rule and reign of Jesus.

Our roads today aren’t so different from theirs. In fact, they are wider and longer and busier. Our vulnerabilities and temptations are no less real. The temptation that gave rise to Paul’s prayer remains: forgetting that Christ is Lord is a threat in all generations.

We look at a world around us, teeming as it is with powers and authorities, and we can forget where they are, namely, “under his feet” (v. 22).

For that reason, the great need for the church in our day is to see Christ as Lord and everything else under his feet. Jesus is a million times greater than the greatest name or kingdom in this age.

But beyond writing a message for the church about Christ, Paul had a message about the church concerning Christ. For Christ is not only over all things, but the Father “gave him as head over all things to the church” (v. 22, emphasis mine). That is to say, in every local church, however small and despised, there is a manifestation of the immeasurable power of the living God (v. 19).

Here’s what this means: whatever our challenges are today, we who are Christians have every reason for encouragement, because the power that raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is at work within us.

While every person views the world from a certain perspective, believers in the exalted Lord Jesus Christ are those who have surrendered a perspective that begins and ends with the finite self for a perspective that begins and ends with the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is a supernatural work of spiritual seeing (1:18), and it is nothing less than the work of the Triune God.

And so, we pray. Like the Apostle Paul, we pray for God to edify his people with the power of the risen Christ and the knowledge that he reigns on high over all things.

Indeed, the Apostle could have simply written about these things to his churches, but instead he prayed them. Apparently, words were not enough. If Paul’s Spirit-inspired words required a dependence upon the Spirit’s active work to illuminate and apply those words to his readers, how much more for us who are beginning this new website? As a fellowship of pastors and theologians, we will do a fair amount of writing for the church. We will also invite others to write for and with us. Yet, following Paul, this means we will also do a fair amount of praying for the Spirit’s help.

The name of this new website, Christ Over All, comes to us in the context of a prayer. It is fitting, therefore, that we begin our work of writing for the church with this prayer for her encouragement with power:

You are the blessed God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for your church in every place she meets, that she would see Christ as supreme over all with everything else under his feet. We pray for the church, that she would know the Lord Jesus Christ’s limitless dominion over all earthly powers. May she know that the immeasurable greatness of the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work within her.

When the world looks at her, may they see a display of your manifold wisdom in the unity and love and obedience of your people. For this we pray that you would strengthen your church with power to know how much she is loved by Christ.

Even in this short prayer we have asked for much, but we ask for more still. With confidence and with boldness we pray with the Apostle Paul that you would do immeasurably more than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us. Advance this cause of yours in the things we write and say here. To you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Trent Hunter

Trent Hunter

Trent Hunter is the pastor for preaching and teaching at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina. Trent is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Graphical Greek, an electronic reference guide for biblical Greek, Joshua in Crossway's Knowing the Bible series, and is co-author of Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ. Trent is an Instructor for the Charles Simeon Trust Workshops on Biblical Exposition.