This week we’ve been looking at the unity of the Body of Christ we’ve been called to. As God’s blood-bought children we are called into union with Christ, identified with His righteousness, seated with Him in heavenly places and exhorted to live and walk in a manner that is worthy of the divine calling, with which we have all been called. We are not to guess how we should live but are taught in Scripture to be humble of heart, with a gentle and patient spirit.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Eph 4:1-7)
Every believer is saved by the same grace, through the same faith, given by the same Savior, who is both Lord and God of all. While our faith is unified under a single God, God’s grace is given out personally. He knows exactly what we need and how to meet that need. This grace is given at varying levels as God sees fit. Every believer is on the team and is strategic in God’s plan, with his own unique skills, position and responsibilities. Not to use our gift is an affront to God’s wisdom, a rebuff of His love and grace and a loss to His church. If we do not use it, His work is weakened and His heart is grieved.
“Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.'” (Eph 4:8) Paul used an interpretive rendering (of Psalm 68:18), as a parenthetical analogy to show how Christ received the right to bestow the spiritual gifts (Eph 4:7 we studied yesterday).
Psalm 68 is a victory hymn composed by David to celebrate God’s conquest of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and the triumphant ascent of God up to Mt. Zion (2 Sam 6-7; 1 Chron 13). After such a triumph, the king would bring home the spoils and the prisoners. Here Paul depicts Christ returning from His battle on earth back into the glory of the heavenly city with the trophies of His great victory at Calvary.
This is cited as an illustration of Christ’s bestowing spiritual gifts on His church. The Old Testament text in Ps 68:18 pictures God as a victorious warrior returning to Mount Zion. “You have ascended on high” leading Israel’s defeated foes in triumphal procession “You have led captivity captive”; He then distributes to Israel the spoils of war “You have received gifts among men”.
Similarly, when Jesus returned to heaven we see in today’s Scripture that “He ascended up on high”, He conquered Satan and his entire demonic horde “He led captivity captive”. This phrase depicts a triumphant Christ returning from battle on earth back into the glory of the heavenly city with the trophies of His great victory. “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:15)
Jesus is the one who led captivity captive, when he brought them out with Him from Paradise. The victory of the Lord Jesus was on the cross. He defeated sin and the devil on the cross. He descended to preach to those in Paradise. His other reason for being in Paradise was to take the keys of hell and death away from Satan.
An Israel king who won a triumphant victory would bring home the spoils and prisoners to parade before his people. One feature of the victory parade would be the display of the king’s own soldiers who had been freed after being held prisoner by the enemy. These were often referred to as recaptured captives, prisoners who had been taken prisoner again, so to speak, by their own king and given freedom.
The picture if vivid in its demonstration that God has yet unsaved people who belong to Him, though they are naturally in Satan’s grasp and would remain there had not Christ by His death and resurrection made provision to lead them into the captivity of His kingdom into which they had been called by sovereign election. Jesus spoke these words. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Rev 1:18)
Unto every believer is given some gift of grace, for their mutual help for God’s glory. All is given as seems best to Christ to bestow upon everyone. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not a mere head knowledge, or bare acknowledging Christ to be the Son of God, but such as brings trust and obedience.
The gifts given to men are through the Holy Spirit of God, and are distributed as Jesus’s spoils throughout His kingdom. After His ascension, came the spiritual gifts empowered by the Spirit, who was then sent. (John 7:39; 14:12; Acts 2:33). Pondering the gifts we are given from His victory over the sting of death only reinforces the conclusion I drew yesterday: To not use the gifts the Lord gave me for His kingdom is pridefully sinful.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ was our perfect sacrifice, Who gave His life as the ransom price for sin, and set us free from all the evils that have ensnared us. Thank You that Christ defeated sin and Satan, death and hell and triumphed over every evil foe. Thank You that because You live we too shall live. I pray that the spiritual gifts and graces with which I am graciously endowed, would be used for Your greater glory and for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ. May we all seek to build one another up in godly love – this we ask in Jesus name, AMEN.