16 – Ephesians 4:7-10 – Ascension

“According to Christ’s generous measure, each one of us has been entrusted with a degree of grace. Consider what the Scripture says, ‘When He ascended up on high, He led a host of vanquished foes and distributed gifts to mankind.’ (That He ascended implies he must first have descended to the world below. He that descended is the same Who also ascended beyond the highest heavens that His presence might fill the entire universe.)
                                                                                            (Ephesians 4:7-10, paraphrased) 

v. 7

In the previous passage, Paul discusses the unification of the Church in general.
Paul now turns his attention to individual members, for the phrase “each one of us” is a pivotal point. Unity is preserved as every saint makes use of the gifts God bestows.

It is by grace Believers receive spiritual gifts. Those who desire to respond to what Christ has done for them are empowered to spread the Gospel. The utilization of the gifts He gives depends a great deal upon the motivation, personality, and ability of each Believer. The following facts should be considered:

Every gift is distributed by the Spirit of God.
Every gift is unique.
Every gift is given by God’s grace – unearned and undeserved.
Every gift is to be utilized, rather than remain dormant. 
Every gift is bestowed to benefit others – never for self aggrandizement.
Every gift is provided for the development of the Body of Christ.
Every gift is to be used as the Holy Spirit directs.

v. 8

Paul borrows his illustration from a Messianic Psalm of victory (Ps. 68:18). It was written by David to highlight his conquest of the Jebusites and the ascent of the Ark which was carried up Mount Zion in triumphal procession (II Sam. 6-7). The joyous installation of the ark in Jerusalem serves to illustrate the permanence of Christ’s vicarious atonement on Calvary.

As a conquering general, Christ triumphed over all His foes. Great military leaders often paraded their captives in chains to demonstrate the complete decimation of the enemy. The Captain of our Salvation made an open display of His victory throughout the entire universe (Col 2:15). Christ “leading captivity captive” means He frees all who are bound by the chains of sin. 

Christ’s self-sacrificial death was only the beginning of the blessings He bestows upon His Church. Ten days after His ascension He sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). As a victorious Roman general divided the spoils of war among his troops, so Christ distributes spiritual gifts among His followers. Since these are apportioned by Christ Himself, no recipient has the right to boast (Rom. 3:27). Whatever gifting the Lord imparts to His servants is obtained rather than attained

v. 9

The universal benefits of Christ’s redemptive act were made possible because He first descended to earth via His incarnation. In this passage Paul emphasizes Christ’s death and burial on earth and subsequent resurrection and ascension into heaven. The Apostle contrasts Christ’s obedience and humility with His magnanimous exaltation (Phil. 2:6-8).

The phrase “the lower regions of the earth” has been a source of much theological debate. It could infer Jesus entered hell during the three days His body lay in the tomb. However, this alleged decent into the underworld is founded upon several obscure Scriptures that are difficult to interpret. Peter writes that Jesus “made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,” but this reference is also shrouded in mystery (I Pet. 3:18-19). Although a few Biblical verses suggest Jesus visited the demonic regions to declare His achievement on Calvary, He actually had no need to state the obvious. While the apostle John depicts the risen Christ holding “the keys of hell and death,” this in no way infers He physically snatched them away from Satan (Rev. 1:18). All theories suggesting Christ interacted with demons in the interval between His death and resurrection are based on conjecture. One day all the saints will know what actually occurred during this three day interval.
v. 10

Christ’s “decent to the lower parts of the earth” in the previous verse is now contrasted with His exaltation that is “higher than the heavens”. Jesus left His previous position in glory to condescend and take on “the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). The same Son of God who descends later returns to His Father far above the visible heavens. As a result of His proactive plan of salvation, Christ rules the entire universe by His divine omnipresence and omnipotence (Col. 1:18-20).


A Point to Ponder:

Paraphrase Philippians 2:5-11. What does this passage teach regarding Christ’s humility?


Maxim of the Moment

Faults are thick where love is thin.