You have ascended on high; You have led captives away. You have received gifts from men, even from the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
Psalm 68:18Psalm 68:18. Consider
The Ascension in three aspects.
I. AS A FACT. "Thou hast ascended." What was shown in figure is now fulfilled. What was a faith is now a fact (Acts 1:2-9; Ephesians 4:7). While there is much that is strange, there is nothing that is incredible. The marvellous thing was not Christ's ascent, but his descent. Believe in the Incarnation, and all beside, down to the glorious ascent from Olivet, becomes not only credible, but natural.
II. AS A POWER. Christ ascended as a conqueror. His entrance into heaven was a triumph. His power is seen not only in victory over his enemies, but in blessings to his friends. Power over matter is great, but power over mind is greater. Christ's power is moral and beneficent. The work he did on earth was the earnest of the work he carries on in heaven. His "gifts" are not only kingly, but they are bestowed in the most kingly manner. "The rebellious" are not excluded. There is mercy for the greatest sinner, as there is grace to the uttermost for all the saints. Christ's "gifts" are not only precious, but permanent. As long as there is need on earth there will be supply from heaven (Hebrews 4:14-16).
III. AS A PROPHECY. Christ was the first, but not the last, to ascend, He has "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." His ascent is the pledge of his people's ascent. "Where should the living members be but with their living Head?" His ascent is the sure prophecy of his second coming, and of the everlasting glory of his kingdom (Acts 1:11; Colossians 3:4; Hebrews 9:28). "In his blessed life we see the path, and in his death the price, and in his great ascent the proof supreme of immortality." - W.F.
I. HIS ASCENSION. It would seem, then, that the two radiant messengers who appeared to the disciples, as they were gazing after their Master with ardent eyes, formed only a small part of His celestial retinue. It would seem that in His train there were thousands and myriads of the chariots or cavalry of God. And may we not presume, further, that His reception in heaven, imperfect as our ideas of it unavoidably are, would yet be such as was befitting the Divine dignity of His person and the unparalleled glory of His achievements?
I. HIS GLORIOUS EXALTATION. The exaltation of our Redeemer is indeed a sufficient ground of thankfulness and praise; for it is an illustrious proof to the universe that God is reconciled; that there is forgiveness with Him and plenteous redemption for all sinners who will implore His mercy.
Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive.
(Henry J. Swallow.)
II. HIS TRIUMPHANT VICTORY. He has vanquished all our enemies — sin, Satan, death.
III. HIS MEDIATORIAL GRACE. He had purchased blessings for us; and He went to receive them at His Father's hands, that He might impart them to us. But what are these blessings so dearly bought and so freely bestowed?
1. The privilege of prevailing intercession.
2. The gift of universal dominion.
3. The Holy Spirit.Conclusion: —
1. Let our affections be where He is.
2. Let us cast away every desponding thought.
3. Let us inquire — Are the designs of His mediation, with respect to ourselves, likely to be answered? Are we maintaining continual regard to Him in all His offices, and so persevering in faith and holiness that we may say with humble confidence, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory."
(R. Davies, M. A.)
II. HIS VICTORY AND TRIUMPH. It often happens that the fruits of a victory are very imperfectly perceived at the moment; and that they are more fully manifested in the triumph which commemorates it. Now, what a triumph is to a victory, that the ascension of the Saviour was, to the victory which He achieved at His death over our spiritual foes. The one is the completion or commemoration of the other — the manifestation of its reality, and the proof of its unparalleled magnitude and importance. To the inhabitants of heaven the ascension of Jesus Christ proved conclusively His victory; for when He entered heaven He was seated at the right, hand of the Father, invested with unlimited dominion as Mediator and Saviour, "angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him." Still further, when He entered into heaven, He entered it in a public capacity, as the forerunner and representative of His people, to take possession of it in their name, and to prepare it for their accommodation.
III. HIS RECEPTION OF GIFTS, AND THE OBJECT FOR WHICH HE RECEIVED THEM.
1. What are the gifts here referred to?(1) Among those gifts may be mentioned first, the extraordinary or miraculous gifts of the Spirit.(2) At His ascension, the Saviour was empowered to dispense the Holy Spirit not only in His miraculous but in His sanctifying gifts and operations. These latter influences, though less splendid and striking in their nature and effects, are far more valuable than those miraculous gifts. The renewing and purifying influences of the Spirit are inseparably connected with a state of grace and acceptance, and they seal the soul to the day of redemption; for they produce that conformity to the moral image of God which prepares for heaven, and which is the sure presage of admission to it.(3) At His ascension, the Lord Jesus was empowered to dispense not only the gifts and influences of the Spirit, but all the blessings of salvation. "Him hath God exalted with His right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour," etc.
2. How did He obtain these gifts?(1) As a donation from the Father.(2) As a reward due to His previous labours and sufferings.(3) While this arrangement is most wise and equitable in reference to Him, it is fraught with infinite kindness to us. To whom can we go for whatever we need with such freedom as to Him? And if there be any friend on whose kindness we may calculate with confidence, it must surely be that Friend who died for us on the accursed tree.
3. For whom He received those gifts. It is a custom which has prevailed among almost all nations, that princes when ascending their thrones, and conquerors when celebrating their victories, have sent presents to their friends, and distributed largesses among the multitude. But how poor and worthless are the presents and largesses bestowed by earthly princes and conquerors, — such as gold and silver, and costly apparel, and other spoils taken in war, — compared with the gifts conferred by the Captain of our salvation, when He celebrated His victory, and ascended to His resplendent throne at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
4. What the object is for which the Saviour received gifts for men. "That God the Lord might dwell among them."(1) What is implied in God's dwelling among men? Dwelling among them as their God and father and friend, maintaining a gracious and hallowed intercourse with them, by imparting to them the influences of His Spirit, honouring them with the tokens of His love, and accepting of the worship and obedience which they render Him.(2) How did the communication of the gifts committed to the Saviour contribute to the production of the intended result, that is, to God's dwelling among men? The miraculous gifts conferred on the apostles not only enabled them to proclaim the tidings of reconciliation to heathen tribes and nations, but served farther to attest the Divine authority of their message, and to recommend it to the consideration and belief of those to whom it was proclaimed. The other influences of the Spirit, accompanying the Word, were still more effective: for they aroused the stupid and the ignorant as well as the learned and refined, dispelled their prejudices, opened their understandings, and prevailed on them to admit the truth into their hearts, and to submit their stubborn wills to its humbling proposals and its holy requirements.
(R. Balmer, D. D.)
II. OUR LORD'S TRIUMPHAL ASCENT DEMONSTRATED THE DEFEAT OF ALL OUR FOES. Easily may the sheep follow where the Shepherd breaks the way. We have but to follow those heavenly feet, which once were pierced, and none of our steps shall slide. Move on, O soldiers of Jesus, for your Captain cries, "Follow me!"
III. OUR LORD'S TRIUMPHANT ASCENSION WAS CELEBRATED BY GIFTS.
1. What are these .great ascension gifts? I answer that the sum of them is the Holy Spirit. I invite your adoring attention to the sacred Trinity herein manifested to us. "Thou hast ascended on high:" there is Christ Jesus. "Thou hast received gifts for men:" there is the Father, bestowing those gifts. The gift itself is the Holy Spirit. This is the great largess of Christ's ascension, which He bestowed on His Church at Pentecost. Thus you have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit blessedly co-working for the benediction of men, the conquest of evil, the establishment of righteousness. O my soul, delight thyself in Father, Son, add Holy Spirit.
2. But observe, according to Paul, these gifts which our Lord gave are embodied in men; for the Holy Spirit comes upon men whom He has chosen, and works through them according to His good pleasure. Hence he gave some, apostles, some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers. No one may be judged to be given of God to the Church in any of these offices unless as the Spirit dwells upon him.
IV. OUR LORD'S TRIUMPH HAS A VERY SPECIAL BEARING FOR THE UNCONVERTED. "Thou hast received gifts for men," not for angels, not for devils, but for men — poor fallen men. Does the text particularly mention " saints," or those that have not defiled their garments? No, I do not read of them here. What a strange sovereignty there is about the grace of God! Truly He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy; for in this instance He selects for special mention those that you and I would have passed over without a word. "Yea, for the rebellious also."
V. OUR LORD'S TRIUMPHANT ASCENSION SECURES THE CONSUMMATION OF HIS WHOLE WORK. "That the Lord God might dwell among them." When our Lord Christ came here at the first He was willing enough to "dwell" among us; but it could not be. "The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us," like a Bedouin in his tent, but not as a dweller at he, me. He could not "dwell" here on that occasion. He was but a visitor, and badly treated at that. After He had risen again, He went home, that from this throne He might direct a work by which earth should become s place where God could abide. Again is the temple of God to be with men, and He shall dwell among them.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou hast received gifts for men
(Dean Vaughan.)I. THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. Before Christ's victory and exaltation the influences of the Spirit had been confined, for the most part, to the seed of Abraham; but now He is to he a "free Spirit" in relation to the whole world.
2. Before Christ's ascension the influences of grace were given in mere drops; but now in New Testament times God "pours out His Spirit " in streams and floods. Now that Jesus has really purchased the Spirit, His influences are given copiously and abundantly, as they never were before.
3. Before Christ's ascension the truth which the Spirit found available as the basis of His operations was comparatively scanty, and only dimly apprehended, even by good men; but now the Spirit has all the testimony of the historical Christ to work with. Now, His definite work is to "glorify Christ," and represent Him in the world and in the Church.
II. A FINISHED REDEMPTION. The Gospel of salvation is a finished thing. Its Architect has seen it realized in the complete and glorious pile of the palace of saving truth. "Wisdom hath builded her house;" she hath also "furnished her table." And the magnificent structure and the rich provision is a "gift for men."
III. A COMPLETED BIBLE. That man surely wants the seeing eye who looks upon the Bible as a "thing of shreds and patches" — a mixture of fact and legend — an amalgam of truth and myth. He who is taught by the Spirit recognizes it on its Divine side and in its Divine plan to be the most strictly scientific of all books; and he knows that it is strong enough to bear the shock of criticism on its human side. The Lord Jesus has given us the Bible. His work on earth is the nucleus round which all the books of Scripture crystallize; and He had no sooner "ascended on high" than He caused the canon to be completed, and gave the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures to all the ends of the earth — a "gift for men."
IV. THE GOSPEL MINISTRY. The Apostolate was a "gift for men." New Testament prophecy was a "gift for men." The missionary commission is a "gift for men." The pastorate is a "gift for men." The ordinance of discipline is a "gift for men."
V. ALL THE CHRISTIAN GRACES (Ephesians 4:7). In conclusion, let us ask ourselves, What do we think of these "gifts"? Do we admire them? Have we made up our minds that they are "the best gifts," and do we "covet" them "earnestly"? Do we recognize that it is a nail-pierced hand from which they come? Are we holding out our empty hands to receive them?
(C. Jordan, M. A.)
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