January 10th 2019 – Ephesians 4:8-16

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? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

Ephesians 4:8-16

As to the perplexing matter of the 'ascending' and 'descending' in 9, there are two views. The first, traditional one, is that the reference is to our Lord's descending, in the mystery of the Incarnation, the implication being that His ascending to the right hand of the Father would never have been possible had He not first descended from the glories of heaven to earth's shame and suffering. This is the view of Hendriksen and, substantially, Calvin and others like Irenaeus, Bengel, Alford, and Ellicott, and reference is made to the fuller passage in Philippians 2:5-11, on the same theme.

Another view, however, expressed in ICC by Abbott, should not be summarily dismissed. This holds that a descent was necessary in order that He who ascended should give gifts, and that the 'descent' is subsequent to the 'ascent'. The meaning would therefore be that the ascent would be without an object, unless it was followed by a descent - that is to say, the 'ascent' of Jesus at His ascension is followed by the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. Those who hold this view point out that in the context of this verse there would be no point in 'identifying' this Christ, since it was already well-known who He was and what He had done in His incarnation, death and resurrection. This is food for thought, indeed!