The Humility of Christ's Descension
Ephesians 4 provides believers with a solid framework for walking the walk we talk. In the first few verses of this beautiful chapter, the Apostle Paul tells believers we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling by Christ, which is to be inwardly and outwardly gentle, humble, kind, and patient. These attributes should permeate our interactions with others so that they see the change Christ has made in our hearts.
Christ also exhibited these qualities while here on earth; He asks us to do nothing more than what He has already done nor endure any temptation He was not subject to (see Heb 4:15). True, godly humility infuses every moment of our Savior’s life. I purposely use the present-tense infuses because even at this very moment Christ lives to make intercession on our behalf (cf: Heb 7:25). The life He commands us to live is the life He lives before God the Father.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.). Eph 4:7-10 NASB
In this seemingly mysterious citation, Paul loosely quotes from David’s Psalm 68:18-19. In the context of the chapter, we see he is pointing to the humility of Christ. Consider for a moment what it must have been like for the 2nd Person of the eternal God to descend down to earth, to be placed under the care of a young human mother (who, by the way, He created!), live life as a child and teenager, being tempted in all the ways every person is, to witness the total depravity of the human race through sinless eyes, and then willingly lay down His life to pay the ransom for these same depraved, wicked people. Finally, at death, He was placed inside the earth for three days and three nights. His descension to our world required humility none of us can ever sincerely comprehend.
Thankfully, Christ’s humility and obedience to the Father allowed His mission of salvation to be victorious, where He led captive a host of captives. As He arose from the death and ascended to heaven, Christ in effect took captive His enemies who thought they had beaten Him. His ascension boldly proclaimed to all creation that He had conquered sin and death, justly filling all things, once for all (cf: Eph 1:23). Satan lost; Christ won!
If it were not for Christ’s humility in choosing to descend from heaven, every one of us would be utterly lost to our sin for all eternity. Ponder that for a moment and let its reality sink in. Without Christ every one of us would be facing eternal prison with no hope of pardon. We owe Christ our deepest gratitude and humble acceptance of the amazing gifts He has given us – the gifts of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and adoption. The gifts He gave to men are more valuable than anything this life could ever offer.
As we’ve studied before, we are to use these gifts to bring Him glory and honor and praise, and to do the work He has set before us in preaching the gospel and raising up strong disciples rooted in sound doctrine and biblical truths. And we are to live our lives in such a manner that shows our appreciation and thankfulness, knowing that we are saved by grace, through faith, and with true humility understanding we owe our eternal exoneration to Him alone.