Eph 4:7-8 “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
We are one body, blessed, governed, and cared for by One Triune God. Though we are members of one body, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are also blessed as individuals. Paul has just expounded in verses four through six all that pertains to our one body (faith, hope, baptism, Spirit, Lord, Father). He interjects a “but” here in verse seven so that we don’t miss something important.
Grace is not something that is only given to the body (although the body of Christ collectively certainly enjoys great grace). The grace of Jesus Christ is given to each of us as individuals. The love and mercy of God are pointed at each of us directly. The Holy Comforter comes to comfort you and me as individual people. God is mindful of each of us in our individual triumphs and struggles. When Jesus asked the Father to forgive as He hung on the cross, it was not some faceless sea of humanity that was before Him; He saw each and every one of us. He could have called each of us by name. He is your Savior, and He is my Savior. It is personal because He made it that way!
We do not yet see and hold the fullness of the gift of Christ. To do that would require that we look on the face of God, and no mortal can do that and live (Exo 33:20). By His grace, we do have the measure (a portion) of the gift of Christ. Even though it is a portion, God’s portions are not stingy. We have a sufficient portion of the gift of Christ to allow us to live the abundant life He promised (Joh 10:10). This is why He said that he led captivity captive.
In the very literal sense, we were all captives to sin and death; the children of wrath, even as others (Eph 2:3). By the time Jesus made His final ascension back to the Father (Act 1:9) He had destroyed sin and conquered death: destroyed sin by becoming sin for us and conquering death when He walked out of the tomb alive! His return to the glory He had with the Father “before the world was (Joh 17:5)” is proof that He has accomplished the Father’s will in His death and resurrection. Jesus has taken the sin and death which held us captive and made them captive to Him. The law of the Spirit of life in Him set us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). In leading captivity captive, He gave unto us the gifts of eternal life and service to God.
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible dictionary defines captivity as “the state or condition of being in bondage to one’s enemies, especially if this involves deportation to a foreign land.” Jesus, the enemy of sin and death, captured captivity. He took our captivity (sin and death), brought it into bondage, and deported it. Sin was deported to the land of forgetfulness (Heb 8:12) and death was deported to the land of victory (1Co 15:54). Jesus ascended up and gave gifts (peace, love, joy, righteousness, eternal life, etc.) unto His children!
May we always view Him exalted (ascended up) and praise Him with thanksgiving for His gifts to us!