Ephesians 4:7–10 (NKJV)
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
What gifts? And what’s the connection to ascension?
The gifts will be detailed in the next lesson. Except for one interesting twist, they’re the usual spiritual gifts. More on that tomorrow. The ascension reference comes from Psalm 68:18.
You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the LORD God might dwell there. (NKJV)
But Ephesians 4:8 says “gave gifts,” while Psalm 68:18 says “received gifts.” Why the switch? John Calvin answers this brilliantly in his landmark work – Institutes.
Paul purposely changed the word, and employed it, not as taken out of the Psalm, but as an expression of his own, adapted to the present occasion. Having quoted from the Psalm a few words descriptive of Christ's ascension, he adds, in his own language, and gave gifts, ― for the purpose of drawing a comparison between the greater and the less. Paul intends to shew, that this ascension of God in the person of Christ was far more illustrious than the ancient triumphs of the Church; because it is a more honorable distinction for a conqueror to dispense his bounty largely to all classes, than to gather spoils from the vanquished.
Psalm 68:18’s mention of receiving gifts is about things for God’s dwelling place (the tabernacle or the temple). Christ’s triumph over the grave (the lower parts of the earth) and over the forces of death (Satan) is greater. The Israelite builders needed to receive gifts to support building God’s dwelling place. In contrast, Christ now gives to us gifts that support building God’s new and better dwelling place – us.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? – 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV)
This gets into one of the most intimidating concepts in Christianity. The Holy Spirit lives in us. We are God’s dwelling place. That’s a responsibility I didn’t plan on.
The weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here: