HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE AND GAVE GIFTS TO MEN
The context of Ephesians 4:8 lies in the passage of Ephesians 4:1-16. Paul was speaking of the unity of the body of Christ which should inform the spiritual conduct of every believer. He declares that there is one Lord, one Faith, one baptism and by this he meant that believers are eternally united in Christ who purchased them with his shed blood.
He also recognizes that God has given each believer special gifts by which to minister to the body of Christ. These gifts and offices are set out in Ephesians 4:10-12 and the purpose of these gifts is clearly outlined in “Ephesians 4:12-13 where he teaches that these gifts and offices are “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”
To understand Jesus “led captivity captive and gave gifts to men, we need to appreciate that Paul is foremost describing the death and resurrection of Christ by which he descended to lowest parts of the earth (place of the dead) and on the third day, He rose again with Power and in Glory. 1 Corinthians 15:4 says of Christ “He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures”
There is divided opinion on the meaning of the first part of Ephesians 4:8 regarding Christ having “led captivity captive”. Some theologians believe that the statement is symbolic of Christ’s victory over death in the same way that a triumphant ancient king led captives as he celebrated his victory. Matthew Henry Commentary observes concerning this verse: “As great conquerors, when they rode in their triumphal chariots, used to be attended with the most illustrious of their captives led in chains, and were wont to scatter their largess-es and bounty among the soldiers and other spectators of their triumphs, so Christ, when He ascended into heaven, as a triumphant conqueror, led captivity captive, He gave gifts to His followers”
Other Bible scholars view Paul’s statement here as a foreshadow of the triumph that Christ would make of His divine enemies when He comes to earth to conquer them and reign as Eternal King (Hebrews 1:13; 10:12-13). While this is futuristically true of Christ, the passage context favors the first interpretation because the passage clearly alludes to Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. We can therefore deduce that Jesus snatched spiritual captives from Satan (cf. Matthew 27:52-53) and conquered Death and Hell (1 Corinthians 15:55) and empowered His Church to eternal victory.
Besides, Christ gave the church (believers in Him) gifts on His ascension when He sent the Holy Spirit to take His place as the Superintendent of His Church on earth.
Ordinary men like Peter were henceforth empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister for Christ so that the Church moved into all ages, resounding with the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Notice that Peter preached the first sermon under the influence of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and as scripture affirms “…the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)” Many other signs and wonders were performed by the apostles confirming that the Power of the Kingdom of God was now resident with men (Daniel 5:21b).
By taking captivity captive, Christ clearly demonstrated that henceforth “… the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5) and that Kingdom of God shall advance against the kingdom of darkness “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). This is the true Kingdom Power that Paul contemplated as he penned the letter to the Ephesians. The Church as Christ’s Kingdom agent on earth will conquer and break the strongholds of satan by the Power of the Risen Christ.
So, every child of God received something from the Lord, take time to discover what you have been given to fulfill His purpose on earth. Colossians 4:17 says, “And say to Archippus (insert your name), “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”