THEREFORE IT SAYS, WHEN HE
ASCENDED ON HIGH: dio legei, (3SPAI) anabas (AAPMSN) eis hupsos
: (Psalms 68:18)
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What Paul is
explaining in this "parenthetical" section (verses 8-10) using an OT
quotations is how Christ was enabled in the divine plan of God to give
the gift described in
Paul wants the saints to know that although the gift is free, there was
a great cost that had to be paid to make this bestowal of grace
available. And so Paul proceeds to tie the giving of gifts to the
triumphant ascension of Christ. He explains that it is Christ's
exaltation to the right hand of His Father that makes possible for Him
to give gifts to men. And so Paul turn to
to illustrate beautifully what Christ did for us. This
says - What is it? The Word of God in Psalm 68. What Paul is saying is that the truth he has just stated (see
should not surprise us because it was foretold in the Old Testament (now
it might "surprise" a Gentile reader for they had been far off
from the Hebrew Scriptures). In other words, the previous statement
about the grace given to believers by the Lord is not something that
just popped into Paul's mind, but a truth which was always a part of the
manifold wisdom of God (see note
and His marvelous plan of redemption, especially as it applies to the
Church, even though the Church itself was a mystery in the OT.
Paul then goes on in verses 9 and 10 to write a "commentary" on the OT
feel that the Scripture Paul quotes from is
Thou hast ascended on high. Thou hast
led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men,
Even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there. (Comment:
Note that the verse in Ephesians is reads "gave gifts" instead of
"received gifts" is "gave gifts". In this Psalm David is extolling the
Name of Jehovah because of the great victory He had given him. David's
victory reminds him of the prior glorious "victorious" acts of God,
including the Red Sea crossing, destruction of Pharaoh's hosts, the
subsequent wilderness journey and entrance into the Promised Land of
Canaan. In each of these scenarios God's people were in dire straits and
yet God, as it were, had come down and delivered them and then ascended
back to heaven! And herein we see the wisdom of God's inspiration of
David who spoke primarily of a local event, which the Spirit intended to
have a double meaning, a greater prophetic message, foretelling what would happen to the Messiah over a millennium later! From
comparison of the Old and the New Testament passages, it is also clear
that Paul is teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah. As an
aside, the exact fulfillment of such detailed prophecies of course
provides one of the great proofs of the divine inspiration of the
John MacArthur comments on
Paul's use of
Psalm 68 noting that this psalm...
is a victory hymn composed by David
to celebrate God’s conquest of the Jebusite city and the triumphant
ascent of God (represented by the Ark of the Covenant) up Mount Zion
(cf. 2 Sa. 6-7; 1Chr 13). After a king won such a victory he would
bring home the spoils and enemy prisoners to parade before his people.
An Israelite king would take his retinue through the holy city of
Jerusalem and up Mount Zion.
Another feature of the victory
parade, however, 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. (MacArthur,
J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Wayne Barber gives the
background to help Paul's selection of Psalm 68:18 to explain how Christ
was enable to give gifts to men...
The writer is giving a picture here
of those days when the general would go out to battle. He would win a
victory, and then on the way back into town the commander and his
chariot would be up front. Boy, he is proud. He has won the victory. The
people line the streets and are all shouting, "Hallelujah, the victory
has been won." Behind him, chained to the back of his chariot, are all
the people that he has conquered, the generals and the leaders of the
armies. Then behind them are all the spoils of war. As soon as he gets
into town, he goes up to the holy mountain and there on the holy
mountain, the riches or spoils of war, are given to him. He in turn
disperses them to all the other people. He has to receive the gifts in
order to give the gifts. Now I am saying that for a reason. In Psalm
68:18 it says, "Thou hast received gifts among men,..." When Paul quotes
that Scripture, he doesn’t say that. He says, "And He gave gifts to
men." The liberal stands up and says, "There is a contradiction in
Scripture right there. It says in the Old Testament that He received
gifts. Paul says He gave gifts. There is something wrong here." Friend,
how are you going to give them until you have first received them? Paul
just takes it that extra step that the Psalmist did not take. He is not
contradicting anything. He is just fully explaining what the Lord Jesus
did for us on the cross when He ascended back in to heaven.
The Lord Jesus came down and
conquered sin, death and many other things. He ascends back to the
heavens. He has His captives with Him. Then and only then can He give
gifts unto men.
There is a wonderful picture here of what Christ has done for us. You
see, without the ascension, there would never be a Christ who could send
His Holy Spirit, the Gift, who in turn could display all the different
gifts. What did He say in John 14? "I must go to My Father." Why? "So
that the Holy Spirit might come." He is the gift. The Holy Spirit is the
one who is going to be making sure He carries out God’s desires of
having the pie sliced in the way that it is sliced. But Jesus has to
ascend first. You say, "I don’t understand. He is the Son of God. Why
does He have to qualify for anything? Why does He have to ascend in
order to do anything? He is God." That is right, but He is also the
God-man. We forget this. He uniquely became a brand new creature never
seen before. He became the God-man. Not only that, but when He ascended,
He went into the throne room by His own blood and there received the
name that is above every name. He was exalted on high. Now, as Lord of
the Universe, He qualifies to give gifts unto men.
Paul is pointing to what it cost God for us to have our gifts! Jesus had
to go to the cross! Jesus had to resurrect! Jesus had to ascend! Jesus
had to go into the presence of the Father before the Spirit could come
who is the actual one who disburses the gifts unto men.
During World War I there was a
tradition in the towns, particularly in France. During the war, many
times the cities defended themselves. Therefore, their little army was
the army of that particular city. They had a tradition. They had walled
cities with huge gates and walkways over the gates. When the group of
men who had left the town to represent them in battle came back, the
people would get on top of that gate. They would have a choir who would
chant. The men would come back, wounded and broken and bleeding from
battle, but they came back waving their flag, which meant they had won
the victory! The people on top of the wall would shout at them, "What
right do you have to enter through these gates?" They would hold up the
hands of the wounded. They would hold up the hands of the bleeding. Then
they would raise that flag and say, "We have been to battle, and we have
won the victory!" The gates would swing open, and they would walk
through. The streets would be lined with people. They would shower them
with hallelujahs for the victory that had been won.
Can you imagine the Lord Jesus’ return back into heaven? He ascended. He
is the ascended Christ. Without His ascension, we would have no gifts.
Without His ascension we would have no body. Without His ascension, we
would have nothing. He had to ascend and go back to the Father so that
the Spirit could come and give gifts to the body. As He walked up to the
gates of heaven, the choir of heaven on that gate would say, "What right
do you have to enter these gates?" The Lord Jesus Christ would hold up
His hands with the nail prints in His wrists. He would show them the
nail prints in His feet and the spear mark in His side. Then He would
say, "I’ve been to Calvary, and I have won the victory!" Then the gates
would open up in heaven, and the Lord Jesus would march triumphantly to
the Father and sit at His right hand, the name above every name, the One
who is going to send His gift to His body who will dispense the gifts
unto all men.
It cost God everything for us to be diverse. It cost God everything for
us to have our gifts. Until we are free in His Spirit, empowered with
His might, then the church is not operating. Whatever we are doing is
nothing more than a secular organization on this earth. We have got to
see that. We are not preserving the unity of the Spirit when we
criticize a brother because they see things differently. They are gifted
differently. Friend, we need to function in the gift that was blood
bought for each one of us. You’ve got enough to do simply living in your
own gift. That is why Paul says to work out your own salvation. Begin to
function in the gifts that you have and honor the fact that it cost Him
everything for you to have those gifts. (Ephesians 4:7-10: Preserving the Unity of
Hoehner has an interesting
thought on Paul's quotation from Psalm 68 writing that...
Ephesians 4:8 includes a quotation
from the Old Testament, which confirms God’s giving of gifts. Most think
it quotes Psalm 68:18 with five minor and two major changes. The two
major variations are the change from the second to the third person, and
the change of direction from having received gifts from men to the
giving of gifts to men. However, it is better to think that Paul was not
quoting one particular verse of the psalm but rather that he was
summarizing all of Psalm 68, which has many words similar to those in
Psalm 68:18. (Walvoord,
J. F., Zuck, R. B., et al: The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 1985. Victor).
Here is C H Spurgeon's
68:18 from his epic work,
The Treasury of David...
Thou hast ascended on high.
The ark was conducted to the summit of Zion; God himself took possession
of the high places of the earth. The antitype of the ark, the Lord
Jesus, has ascended into the heavens with signal marks of triumph. To do
battle with our enemies, the Lord descended and left his throne; but now
that the fight is finished, he returns to his glory; high above all
things is he now exalted.
Thou hast led captivity captive.
As great conquerors of old led whole nations into captivity, so Jesus
leads forth from the territory of his foe a vast company as the trophies
of his mighty grace. From the gracious character of his reign it comes
to pass that to be led into captivity by him is for our captivity to
cease. The Lord Jesus puts death to death.
Thou hast received gifts for men,
or, received gifts among men: they have paid thee tribute, and will in
every age continue to do so, delighting in thy reign. Paul’s rendering
is the Gospel one: Jesus has “received gifts for men,” of which he
makes plentiful distribution, enriching his church with the priceless
fruits of his ascension, such as apostles, evangelists, pastors, and
teachers, and all their varied endowments. In him we are endowed with
priceless treasures, and we give him ourselves, our all. (The
Treasury of David)
Great King of grace my heart subdue,
I would be led in triumph too;
As willing captive to my Lord,
To own the conquests of his word.
Christmas Evan (1766-1838)
commenting on Psalm 68:18 writes...
The ancient prophecy of David
is fulfilled here on the foot of mount Olivet. To take "captivity
captive," signifies that Christ conquered the allied principalities and
powers, the devil, sin, death, and hell; and that he deprived them of
the instruments wherewith they enslaved men. He not only silenced the
cannon on the spiritual Gibraltar, but he took rock, fortifications, and
all. He not only silenced the horrible and destructive battlements of
the powerful and compactly united ghostly enemies, but he threw down the
towers, razed the castles, and took away the keys of the dungeons. He is
the Master henceforth, and for ever. He did, also, at the same time,
save his people. Where, O Jesus, is the army of which thou art the
Captain? "Here! all the names are written in pearls on the breastplate
which I wear as a high priest." He had no sooner left the grave than he
began to distribute his gifts, and did so all along the road on his way
to his Father's house; and, especially after he entered the heaven of
heavens, did he shower down gifts unto men, as a mighty conqueror loaded
with treasures with which to enrich and adorn his followers and people.
They were gifts of mercy: gifts to the rebellious; to those who threw
down their arms at his feet in penitent submission, that the Lord God
may dwell among them. The apostle shows that a portion of these gifts
are gifts of ministry. Accordingly, whenever God condescends to dwell
among a people and in a country, he gives that people and country this
ministry. He sends them his gospel in the mouths of faithful servants.
He establishes there his house; the board and the candlestick; and then,
in his Spirit, he dwells there and blesses his heritage. (The
Treasury of David)
(dio) It is an urgent invitation to listen attentively and is
because Jesus has distributed grace to each member of His body.
(lego) personifies the Scripture as speaking. It is always good
to maintain a high view of the precious word of God and to recall that
when the Scripture speaks, it is truly the infinite, transcendent,
incomprehensible God Himself personally communicating with us! This is
an awesome thought which should continually fill our hearts with praise
and thanksgiving that the Creator has condescended to communicate so
intimately with His creation. Hallelujah!
- He who? Clearly the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ of the New
Testament is Jehovah of the Old Testament. In fact the Greek word used
for Jesus in the NT is kurios, which is the same word used over
6000 times in the Greek translation of the OT to translate Jehovah
(LORD, Yahweh). Jesus is LORD in both testaments! It was not the Father
Who ascended but it was the Son, Who subordinated Himself for the work
of salvation, although He is subordinate in Himself but co-equal with
His Father (misunderstanding of these basic doctrines led to the Arian
heresy which held that Christ although divine was a created being).
(anabaino from aná = up + baíno = to go) means to
go up and here describes Jesus ascending on high (into heaven) after His
victory on Calvary over sin, Satan and the world. In the first chapter
Paul referred to this momentous event writing...
which (refers to the working of the
strength of His might) He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him
from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every
name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.
22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as
head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fulness of
Him who fills all in all. (See notes
(hupsos from húpsi = high, aloft) means elevation, altitude, the sky.
As used figuratively in James (see below) it speaks of dignity or being
exalted (as having a "high" position).
Luke 1:78 Because of the
tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise (KJV = Dayspring -
the Messiah's coming would be like the coming of dawn, light driving
away darkness) from on high shall visit us (cf Mal 4:2, Lu 19:42,
44 - the Jews failed to recognize His time of visitation!)
Luke 24:49 "And behold, I am
sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in
the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
may be able to comprehend with
all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and
James 1:9 But let the brother
of humble circumstances glory in his high position
Revelation 21:16 And the city
is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he
measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and
width and height are equal.
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF
CAPTIVES: echmaloteusen (3SAAI) aichmalosian: (Judges
5:12; Colossians 2:15)
He led captive
a host of captives - In the context of Ephesians 4, this passage
depicts our triumphant Lord Jesus Christ returning from earth to heaven
after His victory at Calvary.
This is a quotation from Psalm 68:18,
a messianic psalm of victory in which God is praised for deliverance. He
led captivity captive. The inferences drawn from the triumphal return of
the King are: (1) the thought of victory; and (2) the bestowal of gifts.
The captives are most probably the Old Testament saints in sheol
E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV
Bible Commentary: Nelson)
In His crucifixion and resurrection,
Jesus Christ conquered Satan, sin, and death (cf. Col 2:!5-note), and by that
great victory He led captive a host of captives, who once were prisoners
of the enemy but now are returned to the God and the people with whom
they belong. (MacArthur,
J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Although I favor
the above interpretations, it must be mentioned that there are other able
commentators who feel this passage indicates quite a different identity
of the captives. For example Martyn Lloyd-Jones feels
the picture is one of triumph over
enemies, one of the leading of enemies in triumph. In ancient times, if
a king or a prince or a great military captain waged successful warfare,
when he came back to his own country there was always a kind of victory
parade. The conquered kings and princes and military chieftains and
captains were all made to walk in the procession in their chains. The
conqueror was ‘leading captivity captive’. He had taken his foes captive
and was now making a public display of them. At the same time he threw
gifts to his own people. He was riding in his chariot distributing his
largesse among the acclaiming people, and he was leading these conquered
men as captives at the same time. (Lloyd-Jones,
D. M. Exposition of Ephesians in 8 Vol. Baker Book
He led captive
(aichmaloteuo from aichme = spear + halotós = be
taken, conquered) means to be taken a prisoner of war by the sword.
The idea is to gain complete control over another, either by force or deception.
The allusion is to a triumphal possession in which one marched the
captives that one had taken in a war.
A host of
(aichmalosia) describes the state of being captive or of taking
someone captive by the force of the spear.
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN: edoken
(3SAAI) domata tois anthropois: (1Samuel 30:26; Esther
He gave -
As noted above, Paul substitutes "gave" for "received". Some might argue
that this contradicts the infallibility of the Scripture. But there is
really no contradiction for it is true to say that Christ both received
and gave. Listen to what Peter, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, says
in Acts 2...
"Therefore having been exalted to the
right hand of God, and having received from the Father the
promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see
and hear. (Acts 2:33)
Comment: And so we see Christ
has both received and given, the latter action presupposing the former.
So the Son received the gift from the Father and gives gifts to the
Church, thus there is no contradiction for both statements are true. The
same Holy Spirit Who inspired David to write received, also inspired
Paul to write give, these actions being two sides of the same "coin" for
the same intended meaning is brought out in both cases; i.e., that
Jehovah Jesus is the One through Whom and by Whom the gifts flow to the
Church. This pictures Jesus as our Great High Priest, Who mediates the
receiving and giving between us and His Father.
- The greatest gift Jesus gave was the Holy Spirit, Who in turn
brought life to men in salvation, baptized (brought them into union)
with the body of Christ and then distributed individual spiritual gifts
to each believer as He willed.
In the gospel of
John Jesus referred to His giving of the Spirit, recording that...
on the last day, the great day of the
feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If any man is thirsty, let
him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture
said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" 39
But this He spoke of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were to
receive; for the gift of the Spirit was not yet given (as He would be
given by Jesus at the appropriate time), because Jesus was not yet
glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Jesus promised to
send the Spirit to His
"When the Helper comes, whom I will
send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds
from the Father, He will bear witness of Me" (John 14:26)
"But I tell you the truth, it is to
your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall
not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7)
"And behold, I am sending forth the
promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you
are clothed with power from on high." (Lu 24:49)
(didomi) means He granted these gifts based on decision of
His will and not on the merit of the recipients.
Upon arriving in heaven, He gave
gifts to men. Paul here uses yet another term for gifts (domata) to
express the comprehensiveness of this gracious provision. Like a
triumphant conqueror distributing the spoils to his subjects, so Christ
takes the trophies He has won and distributes them in His kingdom. After
His ascension came all the gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit (John
7:39; 14:12; Acts 2:33). When the Savior was exalted on high, He
sent the Spirit (Acts 1:8), and with the coming of the Spirit also
came His gifts to the church. (MacArthur,
J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
(doma from didomi) is a word that means present or gift
but which lends greater emphasis to the character of the gift. For
example, in secular Greek doma was used of a thing given, as in a
mean a gift as such without any benefit necessarily derived from it.
Vine explains that doma...
lends greater stress to the concrete
character of the gift, than to its beneficent nature
this verse is in plural (domata) and refers to the actual gifts
which prove Christ’s generous character (cf, dorea in
Doma is far
more common in the
being found some 58
times (Gen. 25:6; 47:22; Exod. 28:38; Lev. 7:30; 23:38; Num. 3:9;
18:6-7, 11, 29; 27:7; 28:2; Deut. 12:11; 23:23; 1 Sam. 18:25; 2 Sam.
19:42; 1 Ki. 13:7; 2 Chr. 2:10; 17:11; 21:3; 31:14; 32:23; Est. 1:1; Ps.
68:18; Pr. 18:16; 19:17; Eccl. 3:13; 5:1, 19; Ezek. 20:26, 31; 46:5,
16f; Dan. 2:6, 48; 5:17; Hos. 9:1; 10:6; Mal. 1:3)
except in Eph. 4:8, is used of human gifts in the only other NT uses...
Matthew 7:11 "If you then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask
Him! (Comment: here doma refers to a good gift from man to man
irrespective of the character of the giver which may be evil.)
Luke 11:13 "If you then, being
evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall
your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
In Philippians 4
Paul uses doma to refer to the material gifts the Philippians
repeatedly sent him for his needs writing...
Not that I seek the gift
(doma) itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account
(anthropos) to those men and women who compose the Church.