Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.
It is Christ himself in virtue of his exaltation.
I. THE ASCENSION THE GROUND ALIKE OF THE FOUNDING, THE PRESERVATION, AND THE PERFECTION OF THE CHURCH, This historic circumstance is the sequel of our Lord's resurrection from the dead, and can only be rightly appreciated by marking its connection with the humiliation by which it was preceded. It was the Son of God who descended, and therefore it was the Son of God who ascended up far above all heavens, and who, like a conqueror, is here represented as dividing the spoils of conquest. He is exalted to give the Holy Ghost with all his gifts and graces. It is a very touching as well as inspiring thought that the humanity of our ascended Lord has not been so transmuted as to change his relation to us. We cannot doubt the identity of his person. The same Lord who went about every day doing good upon earth, is now doing good every day in the fullness of spiritual blessings which he is dispensing from the throne of his ascension-glory.
II. THE GIFTS OF THE ASCENSION. These stand in abiding connection with the peace, the sanctification, the hope, of believers. But the special reference is to the blessing of the Christian ministry. Ministers may be nothing in themselves, but as the gifts of Christ they ought to be highly esteemed. If we love Christ, we ought to set store by his servants, who shepherd the flock in the absence of the great Shepherd.
III. THE UNWORTHY RECIPIENTS OF THESE GIFTS. "Yea, for the rebellious also" (Psalm 68:18). They were for men, as the apostle asserts; for rebels, as the psalmist asserts. It is not usual for conquerors to divide their spoils among rebels, yet our conquering Lord gives gifts even to those who put him to death. The ministry is still the Lord's gift to a wicked world, for he is still the Source of the inward life of the Church and of its authority. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.