Online Bible Commentary
Grace Was Given
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." 9 (Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (NKJV)
Proper Biblical interpretation depends upon context. Therefore, each of these commentaries begins by giving some context of the passage.
The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.
There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this the subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.
The epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches.
The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ.
The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans, Paul’s previous writing.
Paul begins this passage by writing “But to each one of us grace was given” (v. 7a). Paul is writing this specifically to the Christians in the church at Ephesus, but, more broadly, to all Christians. God’s grace is given to all Christians.
Paul continues “according to the measure of Christ's gift.” (v. 7b). This “grace”, was in the form of “gifts”, in this case spiritual gifts.
Every Christian is given at least one spiritual gift of service. Spiritual gifts are discussed in detail in the next passage, in 1 Corinthians 12 and in Romans 12
Next, Paul quotes David in Psalm 68:18 "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive,” (v. 8a). When Christ ascended to Heaven, after His death and resurrection, He still held Satan captive, and still does today.
Christ has defeated Satan. He has defeated sin and death. To vanquish Satan, all we need do is remind Him that He has been conquered by Jesus, by rebuking him in the name of Jesus Christ.
Satan will be relinquished from captivity after the Rapture, when the church is taken to Heaven. The seven-year Tribulation period will follow.
Paul continues “And gave gifts to men." (v. 8b). Christ, after ascending to Heaven, then “gave gifts to men”. He sent the Holy Spirit to earth to distribute His gifts, spiritual gifts, to “men”, all Christians.
From Heaven, after His resurrection and ascension, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to earth to distribute spiritual gifts to His people.
After His resurrection, Christ ministered for forty days on earth before His ascension to Heaven. He then, ten days later, sent the Holy Spirit to earth to start the church on Pentecost and to distribute the spiritual gifts.
So, spiritual gifts were only given to the church, to New Testament believers. The church did not exist in Old Testament days. Spiritual gifts were not given to the Old Testament prophets.
Paul continues “(Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?” (v. 9). Before Christ ascended to Heaven, He “descended” during his three days in the tomb.
Paul is not saying that Christ descended to Hell. Hell is not located “in the lower parts of the earth”. He is saying that Christ, in death, was in the earth.
Paul writes “He who descended is also the One who ascended” (v. 10a). The One who descended to the grave was Christ, as was the One who ascended to Heaven.
He continues “far above all the heavens,” (v. 10b). Christ ascended far above all heavens.
Paul previously wrote of Heaven as being the third heaven. He wrote “I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2).
The “man in Christ” was the Christian man Paul. He was writing of himself.
He was likely writing of a near death experience where he was transported to Heaven. It was a Divine appointment, as evidenced by Paul including it in his authoritative epistle to the church in Corinth.
So, Heaven is the third heaven. It is believed that the first heaven is our atmosphere and the second heaven is our solar system.
Heaven is “far” beyond the solar system. It is “far above all the heavens”.
Paul concludes this passage by writing “that He might fill all things)” (v. 10c). Christ is the source of all blessings. Christ fulfills all things.
The purpose of Christ ascending back to Heaven, leaving us, was so that He could bless us, in all things. He needed to send the Holy Spirit.
Christ said “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Christ is holding Satan captive while He blesses us through His grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit on earth.
His grace was given to us so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. Christ’s spiritual gifts assure that we may have life, eternal life, and that we may have life abundantly.