“8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (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."
We anticipate a little, however, in what we have said thus far in the sense that we need at this point to look at what Paul says about the ascended and exalted Lord in 8, 9. There are two things to be said about these verses, the first, that the bestowal of the gifts flows from Christ's finished work in death, resurrection, and exaltation; and the second, concerning the difficult statement in parenthesis in 9.
First of all, then, the bestowal of gifts on the basis of the finished work of Christ. The significance of the ascension of Christ is well expressed in our Lord's words prior to ascending to the Father's right hand: 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth ....' This is surely a reference foretelling the result of that ascension, for the ascension of Christ was not merely His returning to the Father, but His assumption of an official position - the evidence of His having been given a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. This is an interpretation that is borne out by the apostles' preaching itself, and is the interpretation they placed on Christ's ascension. Peter said, on the day of Pentecost,
'There being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear'.
It is as ascended Lord that He thus bestows His gifts upon the Church. And still today, when He is allowed to be Lord, He gives gifts to men, and appoints some to be apostles, prophets, evangelism pastors and teachers - where He is allowed to be Lord!