Ephesians 4: 7-10
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
‘When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.’
(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Psalm 68: 4-6; 11-12; 17-20; 24-26; 32-35
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him – his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land....
....The Lord announces the word,
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
‘Kings and armies flee in haste;
the women at home divide the plunder....
....The chariots of God are tens of thousands
and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
When you ascended on high,
you took many captives;
you received gifts from people,
even from the rebellious –
that you, Lord God, might dwell there.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour,
who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death....
....Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the young women playing the tambourines.
Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel....
...Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
Perhaps like me, you have at some stage completed a spiritual gift inventory like the Network Course to help you discover how God has gifted you and how you might use that gift in serving others. While it's so important to find, use and grow in whatever our gifting is, it's possible that we can get so focused on developing our gift that we forget it's source and purpose. Any gift I might have is not given to draw attention to myself as I use it, but rather to focus us on the lavish generosity and awesome power of the Giver.
That's what Paul is reminding us of here in Ephesians. He uses Psalm 68 to show how Christ received the authority to dispense spiritual gifts. This particular psalm was a song composed by David following a victory in battle. In those times, after a king won such a victory, he would bring home the spoils and enemy prisoners to parade before the people. Another 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.
In the same way, through His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has conquered Satan, sin, and death. In Colossians 2: 15, Paul puts it like this: "...having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." By that great victory Christ freed us from the bondage of sin and has returned us to God and the people with whom we belong. The phrase 'when He ascended on high' depicts our triumphant King Jesus returning to the glory of heaven with the trophies of His great victory. Upon arriving there, He sent the Holy Spirit and with the coming of the Spirit came empowered gifts distributed among those who are part of His Kingdom.
We have all been entrusted with certain gifts which we should discover and develop. As well as being tools which should be used to serve and build up others, these gifts are reminders to the church of all that Jesus has accomplished for us and, when used effectively, glorify Him and further enforce all that He achieved.