“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:7–10).
Though One, We Are Uniquely Gifted
Even though the church is unbreakable and one, we are diverse and varied. Paul tells us “grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” The grace Paul writes of is not the saving grace of Christ, but the enabling grace of Christ. This is roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work grace.
Paul sees every part of the body of Christ, the Church universal, as partakers of Christ’s enabling grace. He gifts us with His Spirit, and the Spirit’s gifts, that we might serve this world effectively.
“To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” Paul wrote elsewhere (1 Corinthians 12:7). “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). The Spirit has been given to each one believer. He is God’s grace towards us, enabling us to do our part in the overall body of Christ. Each of us has a job to do in the church.
Jesus Gave Specific Gifts
In making the point that Christ has given enabling grace to His church Paul goes to Psalm 68:18. He points out that Christ “ascended on high,” and when He did He “led a host of captives.” In other words, when Christ ascended back to the right hand of the Father, he paved the way for broken humanity to become reconciled to God. Every person who has believed in Jesus has been set free from their captivity to sin.
But then Paul, in quoting Psalm 68, writes, “And he gave gifts to men.” Stop! This isn’t exactly what Psalm 68 says. The psalm says he receives gifts, but Paul says he gives gifts. The change is subtle, one only an apostle under the inspiration of the Spirit could make, but it is a necessary change. In the days of the Old Testament, the king would win a victory, take a city, and receive gifts. However, in the days of the New Testament, King Jesus wins the greatest of all victories and then proceeds to give us gifts. This is the surprising grace of God.
However, before detailing the gifts, Paul tells us where Jesus was located when He gave those gifts. He was ascended, in heaven, in His glorified state. Jesus could not ascend unless He first descended. In His eternal glory, Jesus could not ascend. He couldn't go any higher. There was no place for Him to ascend.
But through the incarnation, through His death, and through His burial, Jesus descended. He descended all the way to death for you and me. He went low, but has now gone high, “that He might fill all things.”
Why Jesus Gave Those Gifts
His current goal is to fill His church completely. This was His “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him (Ephesians 1:10). By first descending, then ascending, it became possible for Christ to pour out gifts, and himself, that he might fill his church.
During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.