This sermon is number 17 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 17
"The Bounties Of Our Conquering Christ"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning in our Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4 again. We began our studies in chapter 4 last week where we looked at verses 1 through to 6. This week we're going to look at verses 7 through to 10. Let's read - to get the context - those first six verses that we studied last week, and remind our hearts about the unity and the bond of peace, and so forth, that we learnt about, that is to prevail within the church of Jesus Christ.
Verse 1: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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 unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love".
We're looking this evening at: 'The Bounties of Our Conquering Christ' - verses 7 to 10. Verses 1 to 6, that we looked at last week, told us of the commonality within the church of Jesus Christ. We studied how we are meant to be kept in the bond of peace, because all are equal in the sight of God within the assembly, and we're to treat one another with patient charity, love, and look after one another in the spirit of Christ - the spirit He had for us. Now Paul continues throughout this chapter, and he moves from the commonality within the church of Jesus Christ of its members, to its individuality. He has first been looking, at verses 1 to 6, at the body of Christ as a whole organism - a group of people that makes up one organisation, which is the body of Christ, and which is to operate as such within the world. But now he is moving away from that, and he is looking at individually, one by one, each Christian that makes up the church of Jesus Christ, which is the body of Christ.
He is telling us how we are to use what God has given us with regard to gifts. Gifts, spiritual gifts, have been given to the church of Jesus Christ, and individually have been given to Christians to make up the church for one reason: to edify, and to unite, and to build up, the church of Jesus Christ. So you can see the progression of thought in Paul's mind. First of all he's talking about how we relate to one another, how we walk in the church of Jesus Christ - walking worthy of the calling wherewith we are called, looking after one another, treating one another well. Now he continues, as to how we can actively build up the church of Jesus Christ by the spiritual gifts that God has given to us.
If you were to go into any evangelical bookshop today, you would see great reams and shelves of books on church growth. Mechanisms and principles, schemes and ideas, of how we can build up our individual local churches and make them burst at the seams with people. A lot of those books are orientated by the 'numbers game' - but real church growth, and a real manual and book for church growth, is the book of Ephesians. For Ephesians tells us the way in which we can be sure, 100% sure, of building up the local church and edifying the whole body of Christ - the church of Jesus Christ worldwide.
Now to do this Paul begins speaking of spiritual gifts - he says in verse 7: 'But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ'. Then he goes into verse 8, and he quotes from the Old Testament as you'll see from your margin, he quotes from Psalm 68, and he says this: 'Wherefore [Jesus] saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)'. One of the principles that we should adhere to within the Scriptures, and especially within the New Testament, is whenever an apostle or a writer quotes the Old Testament, we should go back to the Old Testament and understand the context of what he was quoting in its original context, historically speaking, within the Old Testament.
So, we're going to do that. Look back to Psalm 68, and we're going to take time to read quite a number of these verses within the Psalm because this is foundational for our understanding of what the apostle is saying to us in these verses. Psalm 68, a well-known Psalm, and the Psalmist David is writing here and he says: 'Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary. Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor. The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil. Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon. The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan. Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place' - here's the verse: 'Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them'.
Scholars take two interpretations of this Psalm. The first interpretation is found in the Aramaic Targum (sp?), which is like a commentary on the Old Testament holy Scriptures that the Jews used from time to time. It says that this Psalm speaks of Moses on Mount Sinai, when the law was delivered to Moses. They say, look at verse 7, that that depicts God marching in triumph before all Israel - from Egypt, right through the Red Sea, taking them right through in deliverance into the promised land - that this is God's exodus of His children, God marching before His children in triumph. Then He brings them through the Red Sea and to Sinai's mount, where He gives them His law and He reveals to them His great name through His righteous law. Verse 8 - you remember within Exodus chapter 20 you read that the mount shook, there was a great thundering and lightning, and fire and smoke, when the law was given - and you can read in verse 8 how the Psalmist depicts that the earth shakes at the voice of God. Look at verses 11 to 14, kings and armies flee while the people of God sleep beside their camp fire peacefully, in the safety of their Almighty God. Look at verses 16 to 17, it depicts God looking from the mount of the law, Mount Sinai, looking across to Mount Zion and Jerusalem, and moving - beginning to walk with all His people, the Psalmist says tens of thousands of chariots, and walk right up Mount Zion, up the slopes of Jerusalem in victory. Leading His captives in His train, and giving gifts unto His own men - verse 18.
That's the first interpretation of the Psalm, understood to be Moses and the God of Moses delivering Israel out of Egypt, and bringing them to Mount Sinai, and then to Mount Zion. The second interpretation, many believe, is simply David - that this Psalm speaks of David's triumph. It is a victory hymn, where David defeated his enemies in the conquest of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem - remember that Jerusalem was not always inhabited by the Jews. David in his triumph tramples through the Jebusites in Jerusalem, and then goes up to Mount Zion in triumph because of the victory of God. As he does so, he brings gifts to all those who have fought in the battle with him.
Those two interpretations are quite correct, and I wouldn't like to say which one is correct - but I know this much: that as Paul is writing to us in the book of Ephesians, if you want to turn back to it, what I believe Paul the apostle has in his mind is a scene that many of his readers would have known. It is a scene that you find within the Roman Empire, and it was a ceremony of the Roman Empire called a 'Triumph Parade' - often just simply named 'The Triumph'. What would happen was as the generals of the Roman Empire were having their conquests, and trying to spread their Empire across the whole world, each general that would have a victorious battle would eventually be brought back to the capital of Rome. If they were victorious they would be brought into a festive, ceremonial parade and atmosphere - and through the streets of Rome they would erupt with gladness and celebration. That particular general would be clad in garments of purple, he would be robed, he would be riding in a chariot to the capital of Rome.
As you would be a bystander there all you could smell, as you watched those generals riding towards the capital, would be an incense, a sweet smell from the censers that would be burning from the Triumph Parade. Along that route there was a fragrant smell, a pervasive scent, as men and women and boys and girls would lift clusters and handfuls of rose petals, and throw them along the road to praise that great general. That aroma would fill the whole city of Rome. At the end of that Parade there the Emperor would be sitting, in all of his supposed divine nature, and he would be witnessing all of this - seeing the victory of his great general, smelling the fragrance of the perfume of the flowers that are being thrown at his feet. He would be lifted in his spirit at the victorious efforts that his general presents to the foot of his throne. As the victor parades up the street, in his train and behind him you will find the captives - the rebels against the Empire, brought with him to pay in punishment.
Once that great general would arrive in the capital, and all the celebrations would be finished, he would then divide the spoil of battle with those who had fought with him, and with those at home. To those trailing behind in that procession, captives from battle, that sweet fragrance of rose petals would be a fragrance unto death. But to those who had been emancipated by the forces, as far as they were concerned, of freedom, the forces of life, the forces of the Empire, that would be a savour unto life.
I believe this is what Paul had in mind as we read these verses that he wrote. He talks about a great victory: 'Unto every one of us', verse 7, 'is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ' - and the whole point of what Paul is saying in verses 7 to 10 is this: Christ Jesus our Lord, our great Captain, our great General, the Captain of the Lord of hosts, has died, has risen from the dead, has ascended on high - and after His victorious work and battle of salvation, He now is in a position at the right hand of God to dispense and present gifts to His church. To that end we find in verse 7, if you look at your first title, the cry of this great battle. What Paul is trying to get to us tonight, is that the unity that he has been speaking about in verses 1 to 6, that unity is the prerequisite for usefulness within the church. There is no use having unity without gifts, for it will bring nothing. There is no use - like the Corinthians - having gifts without unity, because it will bring chaos and turmoil. The two must come together: unity and usefulness.
John Calvin put it like this: 'The mighty victories which God wrought for Israel were noble triumphs, but the noblest triumph which God ever gained was when Christ - after subduing sin, conquering death, and putting Satan to flight - rose majestically to heaven that He might exercise his glorious reign over the church'. The church of Jesus Christ has been given the goal and the destiny to forward the Empire of Christ. He has not left us armless, but He has given gifts unto men, given gifts to the church by which we may go forward on behalf of the head of the church, Jesus Christ. How do we know that? Because of the cry of battle. The cry of the battle in verse 7 is 'grace', look at it: 'unto every one of us is given grace'. This was a favourite expression of Paul, you find within his epistles that he uses it 90 times over. What this literally means 'unto every one of us', there is a change of emphasis - Paul is saying to each one of us: 'Despite what I have said before about the unity of the church, yes we are one body, but we are one body made up of individuals with individual gifts and works to do'. So there is unity, but there is also diversity.
If you were to look up the word 'grace' within the encyclopaedic dictionary you would find ten definitions. I want to give you four of them this evening. Within the word of God the statement and the term 'grace' means, first of all, 'unmerited, but freely given, love and favour' - isn't that lovely? Unmerited, unearned, free gift of salvation to all who will believe! We have believed and, praise God, we have received. The second definition is 'the grace, the work of the Holy Spirit', the divine influence that works within our hearts when we're convicted of our sins, and He regenerates us by the Spirit of God. Then, when we're saved, He begins to sanctify us day by day in the image of Christ - and when we go through trials He strengthens us. That is the grace of God, the work of the Spirit within the soul of the believer.
Thirdly, we read that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, Enoch found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Grace can also describe a state of God being pleased with you - not because of anything you do, but because you believe Him. The fourth definition of grace is the definition of the word 'grace' within our passage. If you turn to chapter 3 and verse 2 you find it here, Paul says: 'For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward'. That grace that Paul is speaking of there is a grace, not a saving grace of salvation, but it is an equipping grace whereby God gives us things that we need to live the Christian life. Someone has defined it like this: 'This grace is an outflow from the heart of God'. Isn't that beautiful?
If you think of the greatest gift of grace, you must think of the Lord Jesus. What was He but, as Hebrews says: 'The express image of the heart of God'? Where do our thoughts come from? Our thoughts come from our heart. Where do our words come from? They come from our thoughts. He is described as the Word of God, He is the linguistic, in flesh, description of what is in the very heart of God. He is the epitome of grace, He is the outflow and the overflow of the heart of God - and it is He who gives gift to the church, He overflows in grace to you and to me.
Now listen: spiritual gifts are not natural abilities. You may be good at mechanics, you may have an artistic flair, you may be athletic, you may be musical - all those things are very good and can be used for the Lord, but those are natural abilities and natural talents, and within that realm all men are not equal. Some can do it, some cannot. Some have no natural abilities, almost. Some are overflowing with natural abilities. Spiritual gifts are something quite different than that. You see, Paul describes these spiritual gifts as being given by grace according to the measure of Christ. That means that if Christ measures out your spiritual gift, you can't say that you're better than anyone else - because all of us have had our gift measured by Christ. All of us have had our gifts given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself, and no one gift is more important than another.
I think that expression is beautiful: that Christ measures out our gifts. That means, my friend, that when you go through difficulties, when you go through trials, when you face tribulation, and heartache, and heartbreak - that God is up there, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is measuring out the exact amount of grace that you need for that particular situation. He will not shortchange you! If anything, He will overflow - and as we've been learning in the book of Ephesians, He will abound more and more in grace toward you. Philippians 4: 'My God shall supply all your need' - do you not find it so? Daniel found it so in the den of lions, didn't he? Can you imagine? This isn't a fairytale or a Sunday School story, this is real! Lowered into a den of lions, the threat of being eaten alive - but the grace of God shut the mouth of the lions. Out on the sea the disciples are tossed to and fro: 'Master, carest Thou not that we perish?' - but the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ could say: 'Be still'. Paul and Silas lie in a jail - to all intents and purposes, perhaps, at the very end of their life's experience, yet the grace of God was measured out to them enough that they were able to sing the praises of God in the face of darkness!
That is how the grace of God is measured by the Lord Jesus. My friend, listen: if it's measured by the Lord Jesus, you need not worry. You need not worry about Him getting a little bit less, my friend He will give exactly what you need! Moment by moment Christ is measuring it out for your soul. He is be-gracing you, from the very moment you knelt down in submission and repentance to the Lord Jesus Christ He poured His grace, every moment of your life, into you. Day by day, as you mature and grow in the Lord Jesus, you will get more and more grace for every single need that you pass through. You will develop more into the body of Christ, and there's no exceptions to that! There will be no-one able to stand before the face of God on that day and say: 'I didn't get grace'.
Ivor Powell says this: 'God never gives December grace in June. He never supplies strength to climb a mountain when the children are walking on flat land'. But God says to us today: 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be...and when you pass through the waters I will be with you'. Not 'till you pass', but 'when you pass through the waters I will be with you'! Can you believe that? My friend, whether you believe it [or not], you'll receive it because God has promised it. He has said: 'My grace is sufficient for thee' - isn't it nice that He said 'for thee'? He didn't leave that there, He said 'it's sufficient for thee' - that means it's sufficient for anybody. It is the cry of battle sounded by Christ, and isn't it wonderful to know that it's His cry? It's received by the Christian.
Now, as you look around the church of Jesus Christ you see some obvious gifts. You see the preacher, you see the elder, you see the deacon. People can get into their mind that those are the only gifts to the church of Jesus Christ. You might say: 'Well I don't believe that' - well, practically speaking, that is the way most of our churches are operating. 'The people who do an outward work are the only ones who are gifted' - that is a false perception. Paul uses the analogy in the book of Corinthians of the church of Jesus Christ, just like a physical body - and there are so many functions within the members of a physical body, and each function is different. I've often thought of this subject, and thought about the horror if I walked up to the pulpit with my windpipe over my shoulder, and my liver under my arm! There would be a few people sick, and a few people walk out, because it's not right - in fact you could nearly say it's disgusting! Because the organs are not in the right places, and they are not having their right function. Organs that should be inward are outward, and it's detestable, isn't it?
My friend, that's what the church of Jesus Christ is like when it's not operating right. When people want an outward role, but God wants to give them an inward role - and some people want an inward role, and they ought to have an outward role. Some people think they can do a certain gift and they can't do it! They don't recognise the gift that God has given to them, because they don't feel it's a significant enough gift. My friend, that's all fallacy! That is not within the word of God, in fact, if the truth be told, as we were seeing yesterday: David was the one who inwardly had the zeal for the temple, and although Solomon built the temple, it probably will be David who will be accredited for it. I think on the day of judgement I will be a long, long, long way behind some people who you never ever see what they do for the Lord.
Have you ever wondered what your spiritual gift is? Have you? Is it preaching? Is it evangelism? Is it administration? What is it? Is it pastoral work, and caring for folk, and looking after folk? Is it giving? Is it helps? Is it the gift of encouragement that is so deeply needed within the church today? What is your gift? Do you even know the gifts that God has given? How can you discover your gift, and how can you develop it? Simple: in the body, in the body. The folk that aren't at the Bible Reading tonight will never develop their gift if they're not coming where the body is to grow. My friend, if you exempt yourself from the life of the body, you will not grow. If I sever my arm and leave it over there it will never grow, for it's apart from the body. You need to be in the body!
You see, gifts are not toys to be played with, but they're tools to build the church of Jesus Christ with. That one faith that you find in verses 1 to 6, that one body - within it every single individual is gifted through Christ. Do not call God and Christ a liar! You have a gift, this is a talent, this is a spiritual gift - and when you knelt at the cross of Christ to be saved, God's Spirit gave you at least one gift, at least! Do you know it? It's not humility to say 'I don't have one', that is calling God a liar! That's not humility! My friend, God has placed you within this assembly, or whatever assembly you attend, to activate and to carry out your gift actively within the assembly. Are you doing it?
That is the cry of battle - grace, and gifts that are given to men. The second point is: the battlefield - where were these gifts won? How were they won? Verse 8: 'Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men' - what is the field of battle? Christ has the grace to give these gifts to men, but how can He give them? Why were they not given to the Old Testament saints? Why are they only given now within the dispensation and the age in which we are in? Simply one answer, please listen: the work of Christ. Oh, I thank God for the work of Christ. It is all of Christ, is that not the theme of Ephesians? We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ! Hallelujah!
But you know, my friend, it cost a great deal to give you your spiritual gift. Because the battlefield that you see down here, it started off with the valley of incarnation. He first descended - and we read that Paul quotes from Psalm 68 verses 18 and 19, that He led captivity captive, He ascended up on high, and gave gifts to men. It doesn't presuppose that if you ascend, it means that you first had to descend from heaven. Some scholars say that, but that's foolishness because Enoch went to heaven and he didn't come from heaven, Elijah went to heaven and he didn't come from heaven - but in this context, where David the prophet is prophesying in his Psalm about the Messiah of Israel, and we know that the Messiah of Israel is God the Son, it does presuppose that if He ascended from the earth it is because He descended from heaven. Why? Because He is the pre-existent one, John 1:1: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God', verse 14, 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us' - never forget that. Never forget that He is God of very God, young people, let no-one deny that to your mind or at your door. He is God! Light of light, Lord of lords, Holiness of holiness - that holy thing that was born within the womb of the virgin was God! As God He had no beginning, and He will have no ending - He descended from on high.
One translation puts this verse, verse 8, like this: 'Now the word ascended implies that He also descended into the lowest level, down to the very earth'. A Jewish New Testament that I have at home, translated by David H. Stern, puts it like this: 'The lower part that is the earth'. Paul put it, in another place, like this: 'Though he was rich' - I could never expound that statement. The riches that He had, the glory that He had before He came to earth, before His incarnation - 'He was rich, yet for our sake He condescended and became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich'. He humbled Himself. The Greek says - and I cannot expound this either - 'He emptied himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross'. The valley of incarnation, because He was put in flesh for the fact that without the shedding of blood there is no remission - so the Christ of God had become flesh, had to walk as flesh, had to die as flesh, and bleed as flesh, so that He could go through that valley in order to give you and I a gift from Himself.
He went down the valley, the valley of incarnation, the valley of humiliation. During that descent into that valley there was the descent of proclamation. Paul says in verse 9: 'He descended into the lower parts of the earth' - now there are three interpretations of that statement. First of all: that it is the incarnation that we've already spoken about - that He descended into the lower parts of the earth, in regards to His humanity and His suffering within the cross. The second interpretation is: that He went into Hades, and Hades was the place where the dead went before the Lord Jesus shed His blood and died for sin. There were two compartments to Hades, one for the righteous dead, one for the unrighteous dead - and we find that in Luke chapter 16 in the story that the Lord Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus. They believe that Jesus went down there, between the death on the cross and the rising at the resurrection, that He descended into the lower parts, as many say, of hell.
Thirdly there is an interpretation that He came by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and gave gifts to men there, by His Spirit. Which one do I believe? Well, if you go to 1 Peter, turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 3 verses 18 to 20, we read this: 'For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water'. Now, what is all that saying? Well, if you leave all out around that verse, you see in verse 18 and verse 19 that this verse says that Christ descended and preached. Now does that mean He descended into the gates of hell and preached there? Now it's not the falsehood that the cults preach, that the Lord Jesus had to be punished and tortured in hell for an atonement for our sins. The work of Calvary, the work of salvation, and the work of the atonement, is finished, is utterly done! Yet many of the ancient church fathers and early writers believed that, between His death and His resurrection, that He descended into Hades, He preached deliverance to the captives - those who trusted in God in the Old Testament, He opened the gates and brought them to heaven - and those demons that defied God in the Old Testament, those who were lost, He preached triumph to them.
I believe in this instance, in Ephesians chapter 4, that the lower parts of the earth that Paul is describing - it is a description, it is a word and a term of emphasis, to contrast the highest heights that He came from to the lowest depths that He went to. I personally, at this moment of time anyway, don't believe that it's speaking of a specific place. I believe it is speaking of a condescension that cannot be described - now that may well have included a descent into Hades as 1 Peter seems to indicate, but that is not what it literally is meaning. It is speaking, I believe, of every condescension that the Son of God had to make right from His incarnation, coming from glory, coming to earth, through His humiliation of living a life of poverty, living a life of blasphemy, going to the cross, bearing our humiliation, our chastisement - dying and being buried, all that! Surely that is the lower parts of the earth, the great poverty of His battle.
But my friends, isn't it wonderful that our story, our message, doesn't end there. Isn't it wonderful that there was the peak of ascension. Verse 8 says: 'he ascended up on high' - He endured the cross, even the death of the cross. But it doesn't end there, it goes up in a great crescendo: 'Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father'.
'The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now.
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor's brow'.
We too - because He has ascended - one day will rise from the dead, one day will ascend in rapture to go to be with Him, and then we will come again to serve Him, and to rule with Him. Can you think of anything greater to praise God for than this? The beauty of it is this: we've learnt in Ephesians chapter 1, look at it, Ephesians chapter 1 and verses 19 and 20: 'That the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places'. Paul was saying in chapter 1: the power that was used by God's Spirit to raise Christ from the dead, to take Him to glory, is the power that the Spirit is using in your life at this moment! Oh, my friend, do you know that power? For we have it, and if we aren't using it or utilising it, if we don't even know it's there, it's because we are ignorant of it - it's not because it isn't there!
Oh, the peak of ascension was a glorious peak, but it didn't finish there either because there's the parade of jubilation. It says that He led captivity captive, and he's quoting again from Psalm 68 - and it's a Hebraism used in the Hebrew language, the AV margin says it means 'a multitude of captives' - but that's not what it does mean. It's used in Judges chapter 5, and in the song of Deborah, Deborah says this: 'Lord, you've led captive him who led us captive!'. That's the meaning - old Spurgeon said this: 'When our Saviour was expiring His last breath on the cross, when He gave up the ghost, His spirit descended down from that cross and put the devil himself in chains and pulled him up to glory to answer to God'. My friend, isn't that - I know it's metaphorical - but isn't it wonderful? To think that the one who made us captive in sin, in the world, making us slaves to the flesh and to the death that is within us - that there at Calvary's cross, and in the very ascension of Christ, He led captivity captive. Oh, I love to say that to the devil - for I've nothing to say to him of myself, but I can tell him that.
Turn with me quickly to 2 Corinthians and chapter 2 verses 14 to 16. Paul says, now he's alluding to the same situation: 'As also ye', verse 14, 'As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit...' - I think I'm reading the wrong passage! That's chapter 1, chapter 2 - yes, we'll get it - verse 14: 'Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?'. Has the penny dropped? Do you remember our description at the beginning? That great victorious general, and all his hordes and followers throwing the petals - and as the horses hooves trample them underfoot, and the sweet fragrance goes up the whole cortege to the Emperor in his divinity (supposed) sitting on the Throne, smelling, filling his lungs with that savour that means joy and victory to him!
Can you see the Son of God ascending to heaven, and the corridors filled with angels singing His praise, and Father God - if He could - standing to His feet to welcome His Son in victory! Do you know that because Jesus Christ has led captivity captive, and because He has trailed along in His chariot in chains the devil himself - and sin, and hell, and all that we have to fear - because of it He gives us gifts! Now listen: because of the death of Christ we have pardon from sin, because of the resurrection of Christ we have eternal life unto resurrection - but because of the ascension of Christ we have the Holy Spirit! I often think Christians today are like a gentleman that goes into a shop and buys two books. He walks out the door with one book, and he leaves the other one behind him - it's his book, for he's purchased it, but he hasn't taken it, he hasn't claimed it as his own. My friend, you're saved, you have the pardon of sins through the death of Christ, you have eternal life through the resurrection of Christ - but do you know the joy of the life in the Spirit of Christ? You have got Him, He's in you! He has been purchased by the blood of Christ to be in you - but have you taken Him?
My friend, if you let Him fill your whole life He will show you gifts that you could not have imagined - for there are spoils of battle, for Christ has come in glory, He has ascended to heaven, He has rewarded His followers with gifts - gifts unto men. Because of that God has highly exalted Him, God has honoured Him - and it says in verse 10 He has ascended far above, and He has filled all things. Think of this! There is a Man in the glory, there is a Man in heaven on the throne of God, there is a heart that is a human heart, that beats with a human heartbeat - because of that He is touched with the feelings of your infirmities. Because of that you have a High Priest that can be touched with those feelings, and that can succour and can help - my friend, have you realised the great Lord Jesus Christ that we have who makes intercession for us? The Jews believed in seven heavens - but Paul says He has been given a higher than the highest heaven, and one day all of creation will be under His feet, and His very presence will and does fill all things.
F.W. Grant said this: 'There is not a place between the depth of the cross and the height of glory which He has not occupied'. I close with this: we often say to the unrepentant sinner 'Christ has paid for your sin. Why ever would you not take the gift of salvation?'. I say to you today: Christian, Christ has paid for your gifts - why ever would you not use them?
Our Father, we thank Thee for the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that at this moment in time - because He has died, because He was buried and rose again, and ascended unto Thee, and sits at Thy right-hand - He dispenses to His church spiritual gifts. Lord, may we fill our lives with praise of Him, activating our gifts given through the blood of Christ and through His life in heaven. Lord, that we may unify and activate the church of Jesus Christ by Him filling us as He fills the universe around us. Hear us we pray in His lovely name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventeenth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Bounties Of Our Conquering Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]