Gifts Of An Ascended Lord
The ascension of our Lord Jesus was a climax to His life here on Earth. He entered into heaven in His own right, in the merit of His own perfection. He bore the marks of sin and suffering, for He who ascended into the hill of the Lord to stand in His holy place had clean hands and a pure heart; but they were wounded hands and it was a broken heart. The only way to the Throne was by the Cross, but the only outcome of the Cross was the crowning of Jesus as Lord.
So He received that Name which is above every name, and before that Name every knee shall bow. But what is He doing now? What has been the result of His ascension? What effect has it on each of us? Does it make any practical difference to know that the man Jesus is in heaven and is on the throne?
In his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost Peter said, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this” (Acts 2:33). Here was Peter explaining the ascension as a basis of a new enterprise. On His arrival in heaven He received the promise of the Holy Spirit. But why? Not for Himself surely; His whole life had been lived in the power of the Spirit. It was because He was full of the Holy Spirit that He defeated Satan in the wilderness. It was through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God.
It was not for Himself, but rather to make it possible for Him to perpetuate His life, His work, His witness here on Earth through every one of His disciples. “Greater works than these shall ye do, because I go to my Father.” He told them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, even the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my Name.” The presence of that perfect Man in heaven made a demand on God that could never be refused. It was His delight to give to His Son, by virtue of the triumph of the Cross and Resurrection, the right to bestow eternal life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit upon all who come to Him in simple faith.
The great gulf which sin caused between God and man has been bridged; the fellowship which sin ruined has not only been restored, but created in a sense never known before—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We are lifted, in spite of our sin, to a new relationship with God. The Holy Spirit is vested in the Lord Jesus and through Him is at the disposal of all who submit to His Lordship. Here therefore is the beginning of a new heavenly enterprise. Here is the Lord Jesus not localized in one body in one place, but indwelling a multitude of bodies in a multitude of places. For wherever there is a Christian there is Jesus! To quote Major Ian Thomas, “Deity has clothed itself with humanity.” That is an overwhelming thought; one which would cause us to shrink from it altogether were it not that the New Testament makes the object of it perfectly clear, and how the task is to be accomplished. Paul especially shows this to us in Ephesians 4. You want to know the object of Christian life, the strength of it, the basis of it—here it is:
I. A Unity Established (Ephesians 4:3–6)
Paul speaks of endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit, i.e., to preserve something which already exists. It is not a question of creating artificial union of denominations, but rather recognizing the character of unity which already exists—a fellowship of the life in Christ into which every convert is introduced. That unity is seven-fold: one Body, one Spirit, one Hope, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all. The center of all is the Lord. One Body was formed at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit; not one group or denomination, but one Body. The Head is in heaven and the Members here below. No one sect can claim this. The whole body is one in Christ indwelt by the same life. The same Spirit who convicts, regenerates, sanctifies and empowers also unifies, binding every Christian together in one life. We are members one of another: bound in a bundle of life with the Lord our God. We have one hope, one common destiny, to be like Him and with Him, lifting us above the hopelessness of the world and causing us to acknowledge one Lord. One faith centered in Him; one way of openly confessing our faith in Him—Baptism; one God and Father of all.
Above all—He is Sovereign; through all—He is transcendent; and in all—He is incarnate still. Such is the unity of believers; this great gift of an Ascended Lord. What a travesty is the 20th century expression of it! This is not a question of denomination; there is plenty of room for all. Unity is not uniformity. It is rather a hair-splitting intolerance over doctrine, with each claiming to be a contender of a point of view. A clash of temperament among Christians leading to friction and tension; a sin against unity of body is a sin against the Holy Spirit and makes revival impossible. We are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit; to concentrate on it. All of Satan’s efforts are directed to breaking it, and the first priority of the Christian should be to preserve it. How?
Lowliness—the estimate of ourselves in relation to others.
Meekness—the estimate of ourselves in relation to God.
Longsuffering, patience, forbearing one another in love.
Phillips says, “Making allowance for each other because we love each other.”
II. A Diversity To Be Recognized (Ephesians 4:11–12)
Within that glorious unity there is to exist a wonderful diversity:
Verse 7—He has given every one of us grace.
Verse 11—He gave some apostles.
It is grace according to the gift, and the grace of God only flows into the life which is using the gift He has given. If God means you to be a preacher, His grace will only be available as you yield your life to that purpose, but it will be available. Similarly this applies to a Sunday school teacher, a missionary, evangelist, nurse, housewife. Then Christian service is a luxury. To covet someone else’s gift makes it a drudgery. These gifts are bestowed (verse 12) for the perfecting (or adjustment) of the saints. This same word is used for mending nets, and making good the damage caused by wear and tear. How constantly the Christian needs adjustment:
- To the world—he is in it but not of it. It is not easy to draw the line.
- To the Church—he is in fellowship with others.
- To himself: the spirit—is it gracious, loving, kind?
the soul and mind—are they pure?
the body—is it His temple?
- To God—total surrender.
III. An Objective To Be Realized (Ephesians 4:13)
Till we all come, not a few of us but all of us, unto a perfect man; the sum total of what every Christian is, possessed by the Holy Spirit, is required to attain that objective. No one of us can reveal Christ perfectly. He is too big for that, but all of us together, anointed, sealed and filled by the Holy Spirit, become a perfect man.
Chapter 3, verse 10—“Unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” Do you see that? To reveal the full measure of the stature of Christ requires the full maturity of every Christian (verse 16). For from Him, the whole body, closely joined and knit together by the contact of every part with the source of its life, derives its power to grow in proportion to the vigor of each individual part; and so it is built up in a spirit of love.
What a picture of a church; knit together: each member in direct touch with the source of life; each vigorous in spiritual health, receiving grace for His appointed task. Are you committed to that personally?