“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."
Next we turn to a consideration of the parenthesis in 9 and 10, which follows Paul's quotation in 8 from Psalm 68:18. We have to note that the Apostle does not quote from the Psalm as the AV reads it, but changes the word 'received' in the Psalm to 'gave' here in the NIV. The significance of this seems to be that while the Psalm represents God as descending from heaven to wage war against His enemies, and ascending again as Victor, loaded with spoils, Paul changes this, interpreting it in terms of Christ's activity, whereby He gives gifts to men. His meaning seems to be that the Victor, Christ, in His cross and resurrection, receives the spoils of that victory with a view to giving them away. The giving is implied in the receiving. There has already been a hint of this in 1:22, where Paul speaks of Christ's having been made Head over all things to the Church, as if to say, that He did not require the victory on His own account, but as something to pass on to His own people, in terms of the well-known words in 1 Corinthians 15:57, 'Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ'. It is the same thought as is given us in 2 Corinthians 2:14ff, where Paul speaks of Christ leading in triumph the captives of His grace, chained, as it were, to His chariot wheels. Paul looked on himself as one of these captives, being led in triumph by Christ. And Paul was one of the victorious Christ's gifts to the church, in his apostleship and ministry. By implication, therefore, there is the thought of God's people sharing in the ascended, exalted life of Christ, through the ministry of the Word.