~ Taken from Vincent Cheung, Commentary on Ephesians ~
In Christ's exaltation, God has placed him "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" (v. 21). Some commentators observe that Paul's readers reside in a region where idolatry, the occult, and various superstitions run rampant (Acts 19:17-19, 24-28), and they suggest that the apostle is possibly concerned to show that "none of the powers they were prone to fear could compare with Jesus."16 Although our struggle is "against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (6:12), Christ has been exalted above all of them, and God has fully equipped us to stand our ground (6:13-17).17
Paul wants to make it very clear that there is no exception but that Christ is over "all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come." It matters not who, what, or when these entities are, but Paul says that "God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything" (v. 22). Christ rules with God on his right hand, and there is nothing above him or equal to him. Christ's authority in turn secures our protection and victory, because it is "for the church" (v. 22) that God has so exalted him, so that Christ's ultimate authority directly benefits and empowers God's people.
Some of us will tend to think that this biblical revelation of God's power and Christ's exaltation is less relevant (or even totally irrelevant) to the church today as when Paul wrote this letter. Surely there is no room for serious consideration of "the powers of this dark world" and "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" in this modern scientific era! But this is not so. Besides the fact that science itself is irrational18 and superstitious19, our present struggle is still against "the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (2:2).
Much of the world's population is blatantly idolatrous and superstitious, and most of the rest (including the scientific community) is not essentially better, but only more sophisticated in their idolatries and more "scientific" in their superstitions. Divination and even necromancy are just as popular as ever among westerners; the main difference seems to be that they have added eastern religions and superstitions to their repertoire.
Even some professing Christians affirm that their lives may be governed by planetary and other natural forces, when Scripture explicitly condemns such a belief. And some of these so-called believers even think that if they will rearrange their furniture according to the Feng Shui manual, then wealth and fortune will more easily come their way.
Now, regular scientists may deride the disciplines of parapsychology and paranormal research as pseudo-sciences, but they have yet to establish their own disciplines of natural sciences on rational grounds by a tenable philosophy of science. The scientific method cannot even tell me why my pencil drops to the floor when I let go of it, still less can it refute Feng Shui.
In contrast, the biblical doctrines of the sovereignty of God, the predestination of men, and the exaltation of Christ constitute the definitive answer to all idolatries and superstitions. Because God is sovereign over all things, because he has predestined all men (either for salvation or for damnation), and because he has exalted Christ over all powers, we stand upon a rational and infallible foundation when we deride idolatries and superstitions, condemn all non-Christian religions and philosophies, and refute the scientific method.
The missionary preaching in the jungle has no reason to fear the witch doctors, and the believer living in the city has no reason to fear that his window is facing the wrong direction. Likewise, the college student studying at the university has no reason to think that his professor's irrational and superstitious method can learn any truth, let alone refute his faith.20 The convert from a culture that is prone to ancestor worship is now free (and obligated to) abandon the blasphemous and forbidden practice. Whether we are speaking of ancient idolatries or modern superstitions, pantheistic mysticism or atheistic science, they are all irrational nonsense. Therefore, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
In fact, the biblical worldview does not answer only "adult" superstitions, but it also provides a direct answer to children's fear of ghosts and monsters. Non-Christians may simply tell their children that there are no such things as ghosts and monsters, but how do they know this? On the basis of empiricism, it would be impossible to comfort a child who thinks that he has seen a monster, that is, unless he is as irrational as the empiricist when it comes to epistemology, and thus inconsistently applies the empirical theory. Perhaps the empiricist should stop telling his son, "Believe only what you can see and feel," and instead tell him, "Believe only what I tell you I can see and feel"!
On the other hand, Christian parents can tell their children that even if there are things like ghosts and monsters, Christ is above them all, and he will protect and vindicate those who trust him. Of course, we can (and should) teach our children a comprehensive course in biblical demonology to dispel false ideas about the supernatural, but even before we do that, the sovereignty of God and the exaltation of Christ already provide us with a broad and yet direct answer to all things concerning the "powers."
Thus we do not act like theologians when we need doctrinal information and then change to act like mystics when we need divine power. A theology that is biblical is also a theology that is powerful. Thus Paul is, in effect, praying that his readers might become better theologians, not greater mystics and charismatics. For the church to lay hold of God's power for this generation, it needs a fresh and accurate understanding of the sovereignty of God, the predestination of men, and the exaltation of Christ.
16 Turner, p. 1228.
17 Clinton Arnold, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians; p. 52-56.
18 Vincent Cheung, Ultimate Questions and Presuppositional Confrontations.
19 Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays, "Is Science Superstitious?"
20 Gordon H. Clark, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God; The Trinity Foundation, 1996.