Pastor David B. Curtis

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Our Surpassing Power

Ephesians 1:18-23

Delivered 11/10/2013

We began last week looking at Paul's prayer for the saints in Asia Minor. I wonder if we were to take out our prayer lists and compare them with the prayer list of Paul, how they would compare. If you look at what Paul asked God for, next to none of it - was physical, all of it was spiritual.

The prayer of Paul in Ephesians chapter 1 is the first of two of his recorded prayers in the Epistle. It establishes a standard for prayer which few of our prayers meet. If taken seriously as a model for our prayers, our prayer life would have to be radically transformed.

From the b'rakhah of Ephesians 1:3-14, we turn to the prayer of Paul in verses 15-23. The heart of the prayer comes at the end of verse 17:

that the God of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:17 NASB

In Paul's prayer, the issue is not just knowledge, but the knowledge of "Him." The pronoun "Him" refers not to Christ, but to Yahweh, the immediate subject in this context. The word epignosis here rendered "knowledge" means: "accurate and certain, and especially, experimental knowledge."

The very heart of Paul's prayer for these saints is, "that you may know Him better." That's it! That's the whole prayer right there. Paul is praying that the Ephesians and all saints might know Yahweh better. That the saints would understand who they are and what they have in Christ. The Church today is in desperate need of the knowledge of Yahweh.

A. W. Tozer begins his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy [Harper & Row], p. 9) with this provocative sentence: "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." He goes on to argue, "We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "Our supreme need is to know God" (God's Ultimate Purpose [Baker], p. 342). He meant, to know God well, to know Him deeply, to know Him truly, as He is revealed in His Word.

A very helpful book on the nature of God is the book by A.W. Tozer, entitled THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY. Among other things that he says in the book, a significant statement, I think, is this one:

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base, as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

He's saying the most important thing that a man has is his understanding of God, and the most important message the Church has to give is the knowledge of God. And I think he's right.

To know God and all that God has revealed about Himself is the highest pursuit of life. Yahweh desires that we know Him. The Bible is so explicit about this. In Hosea chapter 6, Yahweh, through the prophet, is rebuking Israel for their hypocrisy; they carried out the sacrificial system with hearts that were totally estranged from God, and he says this:

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me. Hosea 6:6-7 NASB

Hosea lays the charge at Israel's door that she is being unfaithful to Yahweh, who is her husband. "This," says Hosea, "is what Adam did. Yahweh desires that men know Him, this is meaning to life. This is what we're all about. This is our highest pursuit and God's highest purpose for us.

Many people claim that they want to "know God," but they are unwilling to use the means that God has ordained to discover Him, because many of them are in fact seeking feelings and experiences instead of an intimate knowledge of Yahweh:

For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:3-5 NASB

Does this describe your quest to know Yahweh?

Consider also that these believers in Asia Minor to whom Paul writes did not have the New Testament. We have possession of the sacred Scriptures, we have further resources than did the churches of Asia Minor, but we too need the work of the Spirit in understanding them. We too need to have given to us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in knowledge of God and to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18 NASB

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened..."—this is a Hebraic expression:

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, Psalms 13:3 NASB

The word in our text in Ephesians translated "enlightened" is from the Greek photizo, which means:"to give light, to shine, to enlighten, illumine, to bring to light, render evident, to cause something to exist and thus come to light and become clear to all."

The word heart is from kardia, which in Scripture is often used as we use the word soul, to designate the whole spiritual nature in man. For us the heart refers to emotions. American culture has so designated the heart to refer to emotions. But the Hebrews spoke about feelings, not in terms of the heart, but by using the Greek word. splagchnon, which would translate: "bowels."

Paul's prayer is that the Spirit would illumine their understanding that they may understand spiritual truth. "That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened"—are an amplification, an explanation of the words of verse 17—"a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation."

Other texts of Scripture reveal a strong emphasis on the fact that divine "wisdom" is necessary to understand God's inspired "revelation" in Scripture. In the Tanakh, the psalmist prayed for the wisdom required to understand the Law of God:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. Psalms 119:18 NASB

We have to have our understanding opened by the Lord to perceive spiritual truth. Do you remember the episode that Luke records for us in his 24th chapter -how on the road to Emmaus the risen Lord appears to those two disciples? They are so defeated, so downcast by the horrible thing that has happened in Jerusalem. The Lord joins them, but they don't know who He is. He walks along with them as a stranger and unfolds to them all the passages in the Tanakh concerning the promised Messiah, including His sufferings and His resurrection. Do you remember what they said afterward as they were discussing this?:

They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" Luke 24:32 NASB

That "burning of heart" represents the eyes of the heart being opened. It is the enlightenment of the heart so that it comes alive to the truth of God.

Paul lists three things that he prays for the believer to know as a result of the Spirit's work, each is introduced by the interrogative pronoun, "what": Paul prays that his readers might grasp more fully the hope into which God has brought them byHhis call.

"So that you will know what is the hope of His calling..."—note this is not the hope of your calling. This is the hope of His calling, that is the hope that lays ahead of the one who is called by God.

The genitive that follows (calling) is a subjective genitive, "hope produced by His calling." This is talking about the effectual call that always accomplishes God's purpose of saving His chosen people. Paul writes:

and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:30 NASB

Those called by God are justified and glorified. And those called have hope.

The New Testament concept of hope is built on the Tanakh. The Hebrew word for hope is tiqvah: " waiting—A standing still in anticipation or expectation, a trust in God, and the patient waiting for God's outworking of His plan." Since God's promises are as certain as He is faithful, the hope of their calling is not some vague, wishful thinking that everything will work out for our good. It is an absolute certainty about the future, an attitude of eager expectancy, of confidence in God and His ability to do what He has promised.

What was the hope of the early church?:

looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Yeshua, Titus 2:13 NASB

The Second Coming of Christ was clearly the hope of the first century church, but it is a hope that has been fulfilled. We believe that Yeshua returned in the first century, just as He promised He would.

Now, since the Second Coming, the resurrection, eternal life, and righteousness have already come, we today no longer hope for them. You don't hope for what you have:

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:24-25 NASB

As Preterists, we are not taking hope away, as we are so often accused of doing; we are saying it is fulfilled. We have as a present possession what the early church hoped for.

So, what is our hope today? For all who have placed their trust in Yeshua the Christ, our hope is heaven—"But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." We don't "see" heaven, but we have an absolute certainty that it is our future destiny.

The second thing that Paul wanted the saints to comprehend is:

"...What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints"—the Greek text can be interpreted in either of two ways. Some take it to mean: "the riches of the glory of the inheritance that comes from God and is enjoyed among the saints." In other words, they take it to be a prayer that we would come to know all of the spiritual blessings that God has given to us.

A second way to interpret it is that it refers to the inheritance that God has in His people. In other words, we are God's possession, purchased by the blood of Christ. Thus we are His portion or inheritance which He will finally and ultimately possess throughout eternity.

I think that Paul is referring here to that which he has already spoken of in verse 11. "...In whom also we were chosen as God's portion [inheritance]." Those whom Yahweh saved are His inheritance, His portion. This phrase in verse 18 does not speak of "our inheritance" but "His inheritance." Those who trust in Christ are the glorious inheritance of Yahweh! In the Tanakh, that's what Israel was called; she was called "The Lord's Portion," the Lord's inheritance. And that's what we are. We are the Lord's Portion, the Lord's Inheritance. We have an inheritance in Him, and He has an inheritance in us. God glories in His saints. Isn't that something? That's amazing. F. F. Bruce rightly notes:

"That God should set such a high value on a community of sinners, rescued from perdition and still bearing too many traces of their former state, might well seem incredible were it not made clear that He sees them in Christ, as from the beginning He chose them in Christ."

The only reason that believers are seen as anything other than children of wrath (2:3), is that God has done a work; a work that Paul has spoken of in the eulogy of verses 3-14.

Yahweh's inheritance is His "saints." Paul uses this term for all who believe in Yeshua. Paul addresses those he is writing to as "saints" in verse 1. He is writing to Jews and Gentiles. In verse 15 he commends them for their love for all the "saints." Not their love for Jews, but "all" saints, Jews and Gentiles. And in our text the saints, Jews and Gentiles, are God's inheritance:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, Ephesians 2:19 NASB

"You [ Gentiles]... are fellow citizens with the 'saints' [Jews]." Saints was a designation for Israel in the Tanakh, but now the Gentiles are also called "saints," by virtue of their faith in Christ.

The third thing that Paul prays that the saints may comprehend is:

and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might Ephesians 1:19 NASB

Paul here wants the saints to understand that Yahweh is omnipotent! Paul stacks synonyms on top of each other to show us His great power, and then gives examples in the following verses.

There are four different Greek words for power here. The first word "power" is from dunamis, which means "power, might, strength, force." Our word dynamite comes from this word, but dunamis is not an explosive kind of power like dynamite. It speaks of inherent ability that carries the potential to perform or accomplish a task. Paul's prayers contain a strong emphasis on our need of the inherent power of God that He has made available to us in the Lord Yeshua.

His second word, "working" is from energia, which means: "operative power." The third word "strength" come from kratos, which means: "ultimate power." It speaks of manifested power, power put forth in action, specifically, the historic acts of God as in creation, with Israel, and especially in the person of Yeshua the Christ. It also speaks of a power that overcomes some form of resistance like the resistance of sin, of Satan, of the world system, and of death (spiritual and physical). The fourth word is "might" and it is from ischus, which means: "endowed power." The accumulation of these words expresses the highest form of power. It was nothing short of the omnipotence of God to which the effect here spoken of is due. No created power can raise the dead, or quicken those dead in trespasses and sins.

Although the Greek is "highly poetic," so that a crude English paraphrase cannot do it justice, he is essentially praying that the Christians might know something about the powerful force of the powerful power of God!

Believers, our God Yahweh is omnipotent. The word means: "all-powerful," and refers to the fact that God's power is infinite and unlimited. He can do with power anything that power can do. Said another way, God has the power to do al lHe wills to do. He has both the resources and the ability to work His will in every circumstance in the universe. He is able to do everything He needs to do or wants to do.

This doctrine is assumed everywhere in the Bible. One might easily find 500 verses that either teach omnipotence or implicitly assume it. Although the word is not found in our modern translations, the concept might be truly said to be assumed on every page of the Bible. It is found in the King James Version of Revelation 19:6, "For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." George Frederick Handel composed his majestic "Hallelujah Chorus" around that phrase. Jeremiah said:

'Ah Lord ! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, Jeremiah 32:17 NASB

Among the many titles given to God in the Tanakh is one that relates directly to His omnipotence. In Genesis 17:1, God speaks to 99 year old Abraham, who has been promised a child by Him. By this time, his body is "as good as dead" (see Romans 4:19-22). In the face of all his very understandable doubts, God reassures him by calling Himself, "El Shaddai," which means: "Almighty God." It was God's way of saying, "Don't look in the mirror, Abraham. Look at me. If I say you're going to have a son, it's going to happen. Age means nothing to me. I am Almighty God."

So Paul prays that the saints might be divinely enabled, by the Holy Spirit, to comprehend the "surpassing greatness of His power." God's infinite power, even over death, assures us that His promises, unlike those made by others, will be fulfilled. We, like Abraham before us, can be "fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform" (Romans 4:21).

Paul says that this immeasurable power of Yahweh is, "toward us who believe."

The "us" here includes Paul, a Jew, in with this group of Gentiles as those for which God's power works. Paul recognized that God's power was not for ethnic Israel, but for spiritual Israel (Rom. 9:6-7). It was for those who believe.

It is important to note that Paul is not praying that God would give them this mighty power, but rather that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened to know that this power has already been displayed in them if they believe in Yeshua the Christ. It is because of this power that Paul could say:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NASB

What are the "all things"? This doesn't mean that he can leap tall buildings at a single bound or run faster than a speeding bullet. It doesn't mean that you can pass an exam that you haven't studied for, or fly an airplane even though you have had no instructions. Verse 13 must be taken in the context of verses 10-13. What he is saying is, "I have the power of Christ to sustain me in life's difficult circumstances." A literal translation would read like this, "I am strong for all things in the One who constantly infuses strength into me."

The phrase "I can do" is from the Greek word ischuo, it means: "to be strong, to have power." Paul is saying, "I am strong enough to go through anything, because the Lord Yeshua makes His power available to me as I trust in Him." Trusting in Christ gives us inner power to deal with any and every situation in life. When we come to the bottom of our human resources, we find an unlimited power in Christ. Paul talked a lot about the power of Christ. Walking in fellowship with Christ gives us the power to deal with any and every situation.

Some think that the prayer ends at verse 19 and that verse 20 begins a new hymn of praise. But Paul is clearly still focusing on the attribute of God's power, and then He gives us an example of that power in the resurrection, exaltation, and dominion of Christ:

which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:20 NASB

Paul's words indicate a direct relationship between the infinite power of God, which is manifested in Christ, and His resurrection and ascension.

In the Tanakh what was the standard of power? When the Tanakh talked about power, what did it refer to? Listen to what Yahweh tells Israel:

"When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. Deuteronomy 20:1 NASB

So when Yahweh wanted to encourage Israel in the Tanakh, He said, "Remember my power that brought you out of Egypt..." And they would remember that what He did was enable them to walk through the Red Sea on dry ground. The waters were piled up, and they were able to escape Pharaoh. Then the water collapsed and all Pharaoh's army died.

Well in the New Testament the standard of power is the resurrection. It's the power that He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. The resurrection power that raised up the Lord Yeshua the Christ from the dead is the power that works in every single believer.

So Paul says the measure of the power of God that works in me, a Christian, is the measure of the power that raised up Christ from the dead, which caused Him to ascend to the right hand of the Father, which there gave Him dominion over all of the earth and over all of the church. That power works in every one of us.

"...Seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places"—this is the exaltation of Yeshua. Kings place at their right hand those whom they design to honor, or whom they associate with themselves in dominion.

These verses refer back to Psalm 110, where in verse 1 of that Psalm we see David writing:

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." Psalms 110:1 NASB

Paul uses this verse in reference to Yeshua. And if you think that this is simply Paul reading too much into the life of Yeshua, let me remind you that Yeshua Himself claimed this verse was referring to Him. When Yeshua is teaching the crowds, He says:

And Yeshua began to say, as He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? "David himself said in the Holy Spirit, 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET."' Mark 12:35-36 NASB

Yeshua quotes Psalm 110 in reference to Himself.

"The heavenly places"- denotes the place where Yahweh dwells.

Murray Harris has said, "The Resurrection proclaims 'He lives— and that forever'; the Exaltation proclaims 'He reigns —and that forever.'"

The resurrection and ascension of the Lord Yeshua transformed the disciples from a frightened, discouraged, and defeated band of men to a dynamic, confident force which, in the words of their enemies, turned the world upside down.

In this chapter Paul speaks of the power of Yahweh in the resurrection and ascension of Yeshua. In chapter 2 he speaks of the believer's resurrection and ascension, in Christ. As the power of God raised Christ from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places; so you, that were dead in sins, hath He quickened and raised you up together in Him. He wants them to understand this analogy. They had been raised from the dead by the same almighty power that raised Christ. There was as great a difference between their present and their former condition, as between Christ in the tomb and Christ at the right hand of God.

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:21 NASB

These "rulers and authorities and powers and dominions" were an angelic hierarchy that intertestamental Jews had come up with so that they could rank the differing "powers" that they thought may be helping or hindering them as they went throughout their day. The Rabbis had seven heavens in which various ranks of angels served.

Paul piles up four different words, "rule, authority, power, and dominion," to encompass all spiritual powers. These words may indicate different gradations of rank or power among the angels and demons (Matt. 12:45). But whatever levels of spiritual power exist, Yeshua is over them all.

"...Not only in this age but also in the one to come..."—the Complete Jewish Bible says, "either in the `olam hazeh or in the `olam haba."

The "olam" appears with the Jewish ages of the Second Temple period, and they distinguish between two types of olam: olam hazeh (this world) and Olam Haba ("the world to come"). The "olam hazeh" or "this age" is characterized by darkness, wickedness, sin, and death. It is called "night." The "Olam Haba," or "the age to come," as it was called by the rabbis, was known as a time of joy, peace, light, eternity; it is known as "day." The rabbis connected the olam haba and the resurrection.

Jewish theology maintains that olam hazeh was formed a few thousands of years ago, which is the time between Adam's fall and the coming of Jewish Messiah, and is bound to pass and to be replaced by olam haba (the world to come).

So to the Jew's time was divided into two great periods, the Mosaic Age (olam hazeh) and the Messianic Age (olam haba). The Messiah was viewed as one who would bring in a new world. The period of the Messiah was, therefore, correctly characterized by the Synagogue as "olam haba" or "the world to come."

So Yeshua is above all power in their age, the last days of the Old Covenant age and in our age, the New Covenant age. He rules forever!

Look at what O'brien says here, "The distinction between 'this age' and 'the coming age' is drawn from Jewish apocalyptic. With the first coming of the Lord Yeshua the new age as already broken in upon the present, so that the two ages now overlap. The age to come has been inaugurated but not yet consummated, and it is in this future sense that Paul refers to it here."

He is right on except he thinks we are still in the "this age." He doesn't know what time it is.

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, Ephesians 1:22 NASB

Paul here partially quotes Psalm 8, where David praises God by saying:

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, Psalms 8:6 NASB

David is here referring to the dominion of man over creation. Specifically, this can be said ultimately of Adam, who in Genesis 1:26-28, we see was given all of creation over which to rule, to have dominion:

We see in this passage that God gave all of creation to Adam to have dominion. Looking back to the Psalm 8 passage, we see that is what David was referring to. And now Paul, taking up this thought, shows that Christ has had "all things put under His feet." This is Christ's dominion—His managerial ruling of all things.

Do you see what Paul is doing? He is drawing a family tree of humanity. There is Adam, and there is Christ. The first Adam had all things given to him, and he foolishly ruled over the creation. Yeshua is the last Adam, and He too has had all things given to Him, and He rules over that creation as the Creator and Sustainer who always does what is best for it because it honors His Father.

In some places this rule seems as though it is still in process, or not fully completed, such as Hebrews 2:7-8, where the author says:

"YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. Hebrews 2:7-8 NASB

In other places, His reign is shown to be complete, such as Col. 2:15:

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Colossians 2:15 NASB

This shows the already but not yet of the transition period. They looked forward to, they longed for the return of Christ and consummation of the New Covenant.

One commentator writes, "This already but not yet theme is where we are currently, just as the believers in Asia Minor were in Paul's day." He doesn't know what time it is. We don't live in the age that they did. We live in what was to them the "age to come."

As we've already seen in verse 19, God's immeasurably great power is "for us who believe." And if the dominion of Yeshua over all things is an illustration of God's power in Christ, then wouldn't His rule in some way be "for us who believe?" For our benefit?

Well, in the end of verse 22 we see that is exactly what Paul is saying. "He gave Him as head over all things for the church." According to Greek syntax, this is a dative of advantage. It shows the benefit that the indirect object, here "the Church," receives. Christ's headship over all things benefits specifically the church. It is for the benefit of the Church, those who believe, that Christ rules.

This is the first mention of the church in Ephesians, and it is a major theme of the book. The Greek word translated "church" means, literally: "the called out ones." It never refers to a building, but only to God's people. The Tyndale and Coverdale use "congregation" for "church." And the Complete Jewish Bible uses "Messianic community." The word ekklesia, in secular Greek as well as in the Greek translation of the Tanakh, always refers to a group that assembles and meets together, never just to an entity:

which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:23 NASB

The "the called out ones" are looked at metaphorically as the body of Christ. Playing off of his use of the word "head" in the previous verse, Paul now describes those who benefit from Christ's rule over all things. The "the called out ones" are the body, which gains its nourishment from that which the head supplies.

Christ and His people are viewed together as a living entity: Christ the Head, supplying life and exercising control and direction; His people are His body, individually His limbs and organs, under His control, obeying His direction, performing His work. The directions are given by the head of the body, Yeshua, and those directions are contained in our Bibles.

"The fullness of Him who fills all in all"—in the Tanakh, the word "fullness" brought to mind the glory of God filling the Temple. Used by Paul, it points to the fullness of God's glory, the visible manifestation of His attributes, showing forth through the Church. God of old dwelt in the Temple, and filled it with His glory, so Christ now dwells in His Church and fills it with His presence.

In the wonderful purpose of God for us, He has given us, the body, the task of expressing Christ to the world. In that sense, we are His fullness.

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Yeshua began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. Acts 1:1-2 NASB

What Yeshua "...began to do and to teach..." the called out ones continue to do and to teach. Those who are believers, and members of His body, should see themselves as "filling up" the work of our Lord as a part of His body, which He empowers.

So the practical import of God's opening our eyes to see the magnitude of His mighty power that saved us and exalted Christ over all, is that we should properly represent Him on earth. People do not see the risen and exalted Christ, but they see His body, the called out ones. What do they see? Do we represent our risen, exalted Head in a proper manner?

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