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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Ephesians 4.7-11

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,

Paul is ingenious in his Old Testament exegesis and so much of it is lost on my Gentile mind which glosses over footnotes and ignores Psalmic references. But to the scribe who finds treasure new and old in his storehouse, there is gold here. (Matthew 13:52) Psalm 68's conquering king is re-figured by Paul's theology as the risen Christ, victorious over satan, ruling in heaven. But what is the connection to gifts? What triggered this psalm in the apostle's mind? Paul expects a level of familiarity with the Old Testament which we fall far short of. It is not just an isolated verse, but the whole of the psalm that frames Paul's thinking and lurks between his words, lingering in the margins. Psalm 68 is an encouragement to God's weary inheritance. It is a reminder that God is the good giver. He is the one who sheathes the wings of us, his precious dove, in silver, coating our dull tawdry feathers with shining gold. Psalm 68.13. God bestows gifts on an unworthy and ordinary Israel. The triumphant Christ hands out his bounty to an unworthy and ordinary church. It was he who gave us our gifts. He is the maker of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. We are not self made men. Our feeble wings fly only with his anointing. No boasting then. No comparing. No sideways glances at how others are getting on. We each got what Christ chose to give. And he knew what he was doing.

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