We sometimes use the busyness of life as an excuse for not serving Jesus in the local church.
And, over the previous posts we have been looking at why that is such a serious mistake. One of the biggest reason being as a believer God has gifted you to serve the church. This spiritual gifting is easy to take for granted and so we are working our way through Ephesians 4 and looking at how Paul highlights this privilege.
He begins by reminding us of exactly who gave us this gift. Then he points out how He gave us this gift.
And we can at least get this.
From what is honestly a little bit more of a confusing section in these verses.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:8,
“Therefore it says.”
Which means Paul’s quoting Scripture, here the Old Testament, and he likes to do that, the writers of the New Testament clearly saw the Old Testament as having authority, and here’s he specifically, quoting a psalm.
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men.”
In other words, Paul’s saying this giving of spiritual gifts to the church was prophesied about in the Old Testament.
Now we sometimes think of prophecies only as prophets standing up and speaking about something that will happen in the future, but that’s not the only kind of prophecy we find in the Old Testament, sometimes God takes real historical events, and he uses those events to prefigure something that is going to come later.
And that’s what is happening here.
Because, in Psalm 68 David is talking about how God’s defeated his enemies, and it’s hard to know which enemies and when some people think it refers all the way back to the Exodus, and others that he’s talking about the time when God helped him defeated the Jebusites. .
But really, whichever, he’s at least giving us a picture.
How after a king won a battle, he would come into the city, with a long line of people following behind, sometimes people he had captured, sometimes even perhaps, prisoners of war, whom he had rescued, and as the city was celebrating all around him, he would ascend to the highest hill, with all these people who had come with him, and with all the spoils of war, he had taken as well.
And at that moment.
A good king might receive gifts, as people came to bring him honor, and yet, even as he received those gift, a good king would be generous, and would distribute those gifts among his people.
And Paul’s saying.
That’s a good picture of what happened with Jesus.
Because he went to war.
And he won.
Through his death and resurrection, he achieved a great victory, over his enemies, and after that victory, he ascended from earth into heaven.
Leading a host of captives.
And I don’t know.
I am not sure.
But maybe this is describing the way Jesus triumphed over demonic forces, or the opposite, it could be a picturesque way of describing, Jesus presenting the people He had freed, to His father.
The point is.
That part of the whole goal, and this is something, even Jesus Himself said, as to why He had to leave, and ascend, was so that He could send the Spirit.
To gift the church.
Which of course, we know He did.
And that’s Paul’s point, as we think our spiritual gifts, he wants us to picture this great king, in his moment of great triumph, thinking about and actually sharing his victory with his people.
In other words.
Jesus kept working for us, even after He was exalted.
And you know in case we are confused, Paul goes on to explain.
That’s verses 9 and 10.
And his explanation is actually a little bit confusing as well, but I will try to give you what I think is the idea.
He says in verse 9.
“In saying, He ascended, what does it mean, but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth.”
It’s like Paul’s clarifying.
I quoted that verse.
But I don’t you want to miss the point, the significance.
Obviously, the reason we have these spiritual gifts is because Jesus ascended into heaven and gave them to us, but you have to slow down and think about that, because if it says he ascended to give us these gifts, it also has to mean that he descended first.
He came down.
Into the lower regions.
And that’s a little bit tricky, because there are lots of different ideas of what Paul means, but I think he’s simply saying, he descended into the lower regions, namely, the earth.
Like, by lower regions, I mean, literally the earth.
I know some people think it’s talking about Jesus descending into hell. But, really I don’t think there’s much reason for thinking that.
Because the earth, obviously, is much, much lower than where he’s sitting and ruling right now and I think the point, is to get us thinking about what Jesus went through, to give us these spiritual gifts, we now enjoy.
It’s maybe like he’s saying if you want to know why you should be using your gifts within the church, you have to think about the cost; because, it’s Jesus who has given you this gift, and in order to give you this gift, He had to make himself nothing, and take on the form of a servant Himself.
In other words, He had to come down.
Like, I think we can imagine, if someone gave us a gift, that cost him his life, that we’d have to be pretty hard-hearted to take that gift for granted, and yet, that’s not even a small comparison, of what it cost Jesus, that we might have the Spiri, and so if you are thinking, it’s no big deal, if I just sort of live life off myself and do my thing, you better think again.
Jesus came down.
And you know, in case that’s not grabbing hold of you, the way it should, Paul goes on and reminds us of who this Jesus is in verse 10.
“He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”
I mean, in case you write Jesus off.
Where, you look at him dying on the cross and think, I guess, it’s not so serious, if I don’t take seriously, His plans, Paul says, this one who descended in order to give you these gifts, is also the very one who ascended.
In other words.
He’s the one whom God the Father’s exalted to the position of highest authority anywhere in the universe.
Like Paul says it back in Ephesians 1.
“He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
And I guess I am just saying.
I think we have to keep these things in mind.
As we think about relationship to the local church.
It’s not like we are just here.
Doing our thing.
Has given us a gift.
And He’s given us this gift at great cost to himself.
And we have got to take that seriously, because when we talk about Jesus, we are talking about the King of the Universe.