Ascension gifts of Jesus are quite literally Christ Himself functioning in the church through the Holy Spirit, who apportions Christ’s grace to particular men. When those men act in the ascension gift they have been called to, it is Jesus Christ acting in the Church by the power of His Spirit for the good of the Body of Christ.
The next few posts will cover the ascension gifts of Jesus listed in Ephesians 4:11. We will cover the following topics:
- Ascension gifts – Jesus gave gifts
- Ascension gifts – the heart of
- Ascension gifts – the church
jesus gave gifts to men
Eph 4:8 …”When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers NIV
As a Spirit word, the Psalmist prophesied that the Lord would ascend on high and receive gifts from men1. The Spirit then reveals in Ephesians that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who, in fulfilment of this word, ascended on high and now He has given gifts to men (Eph 4:8). This is elaborated on in verse eleven when Scripture says it was Jesus who gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
The introduction of Paul’s apostolic letters gives us some insight into this giving of gifts as a result of the ascension.
Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God NIV
Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God NIV
1 Cor 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, NIV
Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead NIV
Using these introductions in conjunction with Ephesians 4:8 and 11 we can see that the ascension gifts are firstly “gifts of Jesus Christ” and secondly they are not abstract gifts or powers but literally – men2. Finally, these men would be gifts of Jesus given to the church. This is covered in verses twelve and thirteen when Paul says that they are given for the express purpose of preparing God’s people for works of service etcetera3.
The ascension gifts must firstly be understood as being gifts of Christ himself. Jesus is called our apostle and high priest4 and it is His apostolic service to the Father5 on earth that is expressed through these gifts. Jesus was the consummate apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Colossians declares that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in Jesus. In Him, the Godhead is fully revealed and fully at work. That the church is the body of Jesus means that His service continues as He dwells in the Church by His Spirit gifting each member of the body to participate in His ‘work on earth’.
As a result of the ascension, the Father has called men to Jesus; these men are ‘apportioned grace’6 and gifted with aspects of the anointing of Jesus7 through which Jesus served the Father on earth. For example, a pastor is a man called by God and imparted with the pastoral anointing of Jesus Christ, and through that man Jesus gives ‘of Himself’ to His body, the church. This is true of every ascension gift of Jesus. So when Jesus declared to His disciples that the works he had done would be replicated by the disciples and in fact greater works than these8, it was because a portion of His grace would be given, through the Holy Spirit, to chosen men who would serve Jesus on earth as gifts to the church, preparing the saints to do these greater works.
Jesus, in conjunction with His ascension to the right hand of the Father, gave specific gifts to the church. These gifts are men who are called to Christ by the will of God the Father, and who in response, willingly give themselves to Jesus Christ – in a sense they could be identified as “you received gifts from men” in Psalm 689.
These people are unique in that they are motivated by love for Jesus and willingly become ‘life servants’10. They have one passion and that is to be servants of Jesus Christ – even though Jesus willingly calls such men his friends11.
The ascension gifts of Jesus are not called by men, made in Bible Colleges, hired by church boards, nor voted in by congregations, they are “sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father” for the gospel of God. They are not however, self appointed or self-proclaiming but recognised by the church as gifts (Mat 7:15-20) and appointed by apostles12 (Tit 1:5).
Ascension gifts are those particular people whom God has called according to His will, through Jesus Christ and empowered by the Spirit to be gifts to His church. They are captivated by Jesus Christ and can do nothing but pursue the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus and share that knowledge with the body of Christ and all who will receive their teaching.
- Ps 68:18 When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men NIV ↩
- while I use the term men I do not intend that this article should be seen as gender bias. Nor do I wish to discuss here the role of women as ascension gifts ↩
- the purpose of these gifts will be discussed in a later article ↩
- Heb 3:1 ↩
- John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. NIV ↩
- Eph 4:7 ↩
- Luke 4:18-20 ↩
- John 14:12 ↩
- this idea will be discussed later under the title; ascension gifts – the heart of ↩
- Ex 21:5-6 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. NIV cf Deut 15:16; Ps 40:6 ↩
- Jn 15:14-15 ↩
- Who appoints apostles? They begin as teachers, pastors, or prophets etc and as such are recognised and appointed by others as ascension gifts. Their apostleship will emerge and be recognised by their churches and other apostles. ↩