… according to the working of his great might, that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
–Ephesians 1:19–20 (ESV)
In the last four verses of Ephesians chapter 1, Paul completes his long prayer for believers by using the strongest possible honor and shame language—to describe the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the foundation of our hope in God. Here is an outline of the honor and shame references in the first two of those four verses … beginning with the end of verse 19 and then verse 20:
- “according to the working of his great might, that he worked in Christ:” power and might are inherently honorable. “Power, moreover, always expresses honor in the ancient world” . The greatness of the power displayed is commensurate with the greatness of the honor achieved.
- “when he raised him from the dead:” this is an event by which immense achieved honor is accrued both to God the Father and God the Son because of the utterly unique supernatural power necessary to accomplish this. Relatedly, there is great honor in the resounding victory associated with it, for power is never neutral, it is always expressed in relation to an opponent or enemy. The resurrection is, in fact, a phenomenal act for which the greatest honor imaginable ought to be given to God the Father and God the Son.
- “and seated him at his own right hand:” this speaks of ascribed honor—in three ways: First, Jesus Christ is “seated. ”This is the place of rest and authority appropriate for kings; others are kneeling, standing, working, bowing before—but Jesus is sitting. Second, where Jesus is sitting—at the Father’s own right hand—is the unique place of singular honor, for only one Person can sit at the right hand of the Almighty Sovereign God. And third, it is at the “right hand.” Neyrey says, “The right hand is deemed honorable both because it is the ‘right,’ not the left, and because it is the weapon- or power-wielding arm” .
Can you imagine what this dramatic exclamation of the honor of Jesus Christ might mean to people immersed in a culture of honor and shame? For people in the peasant culture of the New Testament / Mediterranean world to which this letter was addressed—people constantly struggling to avoid shame and maintain their honor in their community—I can only imagine how encouraging, how uplifting and exhilarating this letter must have been.
But there is much more to come concerning honor and shame before the end of Ephesians chapter 1.