Passage: Ephesians 4:7-10
Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 For it says:
When he ascended on high,
he took the captives captive;
he gave gifts to people.
9 But what does “he ascended” mean except that he[c] also descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.
Ephesians 4:7-10 is our passage for today. Let’s take it part by part.
First, Ephesians 4:7 talks about the grace given to each of us. The thing we should notice the most is that this grace is given not according to our worth or even our need, but according to the measure of Jesus. The terminology here is of something freely transferred from one person to another. BDAG suggests that “bounty” or “grant,” like a financial aid grant for college students, are similar concepts.
Which is a good thing: grace is constrained only by the giver, not by the recipient. I may need more grace than I ever thought possible, but the supply is overwhelming. This is good, because as we connect back to the opening verses of this chapter, we that First Baptist Church of Ephesus is being reminded of their need to be unified in the Spirit. While Brent has done an excellent job of noting what those commands entail, I will beg his indulgence to make a quick observation:
We’re never going to live as one faith, one body, one hope, one faith, as we serve one Lord and God and Father of all without a whole lot of grace. That does not mean we do not strive to do so–“free grace” is not a gift to be trivially used–but we’re going to need it. We’ll need it from God about our own lives and then from God to be able to lavish it on one another.
The purpose of that grace was so that we could work together, to build one another up. Look again at Brent’s post about walking worthy, look back at Ephesians 4:1-6, and how we are to work at living with humility and gentleness with one another.
4:8 gives us a quote from Psalm 68:18. For the Bible nerds among us, it’s worth noting that Paul’s wording matches the Targum of the Psalm. There’s a long, wandering discussion of how the Old Testament gets cited and used in the New Testament, so we won’t hit it here. But it’s worth recognizing that the same problem you have when you read in the New American Standard and someone else is reading the ESV…
What we definitely have is the image of Christ ascending in majesty. Several of the commentaries I own point us to the Roman Triumph as Paul’s idea here, but remember that Paul is quoting King David. The Romans were not yet on the scene when King David wrote. Taking a look at all of Psalm 68, briefly, shows us David exulting in the victory of God over the wicked. David celebrates that God has delivered the righteous from the power of the wicked, an important consideration alongside the calls for unity and celebration of grace: the presence of God is no place for the deliberately wicked.
Ephesians 4:9 gives us a lovely conundrum, with some advocating that it refers to Jesus descending into Hell, while others suggest that it simply refers to coming to the Earth itself. After all, compared to Heaven on High, Earth is a pretty low part of Creation. The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary from Lexham (by S.M. Baugh) connects the descent of Christ to His death, citing John Chrystostom and the overall mission of Christ.
However, the exact location does not appear to be Paul’s point. His focus is on the descent of Christ and the subsequent ascension of Christ as showing the filling of all creation under His dominion. That is how verses 9 and 10 blend together: the filling of all things by not only the command of God but the actual presence of Jesus within them.
What do we do with this, devotionally?
A few musings:
- Recognize that you are never in a place that Jesus has not filled with His presence. It may not feel like He’s there, but He is. God descended right down into the midst of our mess. Whatever mess that may be.
- Recognize that God has filled all the earth with His glory, and that while it takes redemptive grace to be saved, God’s creation grace means there are things we can learn from through sciences and arts that make life better–though we never want to just make the world a nicer place to go to Hell from.
- Recognize that your need for grace is matched by God’s grant of grace, and that grace is to empower your walking worthy of His name.