As I’ve mentioned several times, I love what I call “tension” verses/passages in the Bible. Our faith is filled with truths held in tension, and I hold dearly those passages which balance them, such as Isaiah 57:15, which tells us about God’s transcendence and his immanence all within the same verse.
We see that “truths in tension” motif here in vss. 1-13. Verses 3-6 are all about unity: One body, one Spirit, etc. We’re to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
But as Paul mentioned in verse 4 and in several other places, we’re the Body of Christ. And every human body is a great example of “diversity in unity.” In 1 Cor. 12, he makes the point forcefully that the hand is not the foot is not the eye (so we've got diversity). And if the body were made up of an eye, where would the sense of hearing come from? But even though the body is made up many parts, it's still one body. We studied our gifts and how we fit into the Body before, but here are some points we didn’t discuss (at length) at that time:
· This all started with his Incarnation. Despite what you might have heard from some well-meaning Bible teachers, vss. 9-10 is referring to him leaving the heights of Heaven, the pinnacle of praise and glory and worship and willingly diving into the depths of this sin-wrecked world. He went through all the frustrations—both big and small—this world had to offer, and he lived a life of sacrificial perfect obedience to the Father’s plan in preference to his own interests. Of course his emptying of himself culminated in the Passion. To use C.S. Lewis’s illustration, the skin diver dove below the surface, going deeper and deeper into the depths and darkness, until finally he touched the bottom and sprang back up to the top and beyond three days later.
· This “beyond” was Christ’s ascension. Of all the “big” events in the life of Christ (Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, etc.), the Ascension is probably the most underrated aspect of his work. We talked about the importance of the Ascension before, with at least five major reasons why it’s crucial to the Christian faith. One of them is that when he ascended on high, he sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us. Today’s passage relates to that point as a subset. Christ ascended back to where he as before--to the ultimate hero’s welcome--and sat down at the right hand of the Father. This was the final stamp of victory on his work, and the point at which the Father officially declared his Son to be Lord over all and placed all things under his feet.
· And what traditionally happens when a conqueror sits on the throne of a conquered city? He starts distributing the booty, the spoils of war, the property of the vanquished enemy. That’s the language of verse 7. Christ made all the so-called great conquering “heroes” of history (like Napoleon or Caesar) look like pansies. Now we need to think clearly here, since the analogy only goes so far, as all analogies do. The Lord Jesus wasn’t really distributing Satan’s property when referring to the spiritual gifts we’re talking about. But the gifts we’ve received are similar in that they’re the result of our Lord’s completely humiliating victory over the Enemy of our souls. It’s all of one piece, included in his Ascension. He’s giving these gifts to his friends as both a celebration of his victory and as a kind of “in your face” to our Adversary.
Tomorrow we’re going to look a little more at the gifts themselves, and what they’re supposed to do. In the meantime, let’s revel for a little bit in the victory celebration.
Lord Jesus, I am blown away from the fact that you left the Throne of the highest heavens and dove into the depths. . . to pull me out. Then you conquered death, Hell, and the Enemy all in one swoop. And on top of this, you invite me to share in your victory. By your grace, I want to see that victory lived out in me. Please.