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Sermon #51 — Ephesians Sermons

 

Title:                           The Fulfilling of All Things

 

Text:                            Ephesians 4:7-16

Subject:                     The Ascension of Christ and Its Benefits

Date:                          Tuesday Evening — November 1, 2016

Readings:     Bobbie Estes and Merle Hart

Introduction:

 

I want to talk to you about The Fulfilling of All Things. — You will find my text in Ephesians 4:7-16. — The Fulfilling of All Things (Ephesians 4:7-16).

 

The King is gone. Our blessed Lord and Savior has been taken from our midst. From the Mount of Olives, where in agonizing conflict, his garments were dyed in blood, he has mounted in triumph to his throne in heaven. Having obtained eternal redemption for us, our sin-atoning Substitute entered into the holy place of the Triune God, and sat down upon his throne. After having shown himself for forty days among his beloved disciples, giving them abundant proof that he was really risen from the dead, and comforting them with his wise instructions, he was taken up. Slowly rising before their astonished eyes, he gave them his blessing as he disappeared into the heavens. Like Jacob, whose departing act was to bestow blessings upon his twelve sons and their descendants, our Lord poured out his blessing upon his Church, as he ascended up into Glory.

 

But now he is gone! His voice of wisdom is silent before us. His place at the table is empty. And his voice is heard no more by mortal ears. It would have been very easy to have found reasons why he should not go. Had it been a matter of choice to us, we certainly would have begged him to stay, unless God had given us grace to say, “Not as we will, but as you will.” The natural desire of our souls would have pleaded, “Abide with us.”

 

What a comfort it would have been to those disciples to have their Teacher present with them! It would have been a great consolation to that persecuted band to see their Leader visibly at their head. Difficulties would disappear, problems would be solved, perplexities removed, trials made easy, and temptations averted, if only he would not go. Let Christ himself, their own dear Shepherd, be near, and the sheep would be peaceful and secure. Had he been here we could have gone to him in every affliction, like those of whom it is written, “They went and told Jesus.”

 

Yes, to the unbelieving minds of his weak children, it seemed most expedient for Christ to stay. — How sad, how perplexed, how troubled his disciples were after his death, as they buried him in the heart of the earth! — How excited they were when they learned that he was risen from the dead! — How confused they must have been as they watched him ascend up into heaven, departing from them! — A great multitude of chosen sinners must yet be converted. With the eloquence of his gracious words and the arguments of his loving miracles, surely the multitudes could be easily won. If he put forth is power, the battle would soon be over. His voice could awaken the dead. The personal presence of Christ is worth more than thousands of Prophets and Apostles. That’s the way flesh thinks. We suppose that, if Christ were visibly present among us, the progress of the Church would be like that of a triumphant army passing through the world.

 

That is the way flesh and blood reasons. But our thoughts are not his thoughts, neither are our ways his ways. All our thoughts in this matter must be silenced by our God’s own declaration. He says, “It is expedient for you that I go away.” He might have told us that his majestic presence was expected by the saints in heaven to fulfill their happiness. He might have said that it was proper for him to return to the reward of his home after such a long exile. He might have added that it was proper that he should return to his Father and to the angels of light. But our tenderhearted Lord knew the fears of his disciples. He knew that those fears arose from their personal interests. Therefore, he comforted them by letting them know that it was for their good that he was going away. — “It is expedient for you that I go away.”

 

He has gone; and though our weak minds cannot comprehend it, it is better for us that he is now seated in heaven than to have his physical, bodily presence with us. Oh, we would delight to have him here! There are thousands of places upon this earth where women would delight to kiss his feet, and men would rejoice to unloose the laces of his shoes. But he has gone away to the mountains of myrrh and the hills of frankincense. He no longer sits at our tables. No longer does he walk our streets. He is now leading his heavenly flock by the fountains of living water, and feeding them in the garden of God.

 

But we who are his sheep below should never imagine that we have lost anything by the ascension of our great Shepherd. No! We are the gainers of it. The Master himself says, “It is expedient for you that I go away.”

 

Our Lord Jesus has gone into heaven, for the benefit of his redeemed. He has gone to Glory for the good of his chosen. Let us, then, bow in quiet submission before his throne, asking God the Holy Ghost to teach us some profitable things from the ascension of our Savior.

 

Proposition: In the text before us, God the Holy Spirit tells us that the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven is the fulfilling of all things.

 

(Ephesians 4:7-16) “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill {fulfil} all things.) (11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) 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: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

 

Context

 

Do not forget the connection of this passage to the context. Paul is urging the saints of God to walk together as one body in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to walk worthy of the high and holy calling that is ours in Christ. Here is a great motive for that unity — Having fulfilled all things as our God-man Mediator…

Š      All the Old Testament Prophecies and Types

Š      All the Ceremonies and Commandments of the Law

Š      All the Work He came Here to Perform (Daniel 9:24; Matthew 1:21)

Š      All Righteousness!

Š      All Redemption!

Š      All Things!

Having fulfilled all things, “with his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” and sat down as King upon his Throne! — Now, our great Mediator, our Substitute, our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ rules all things from his lofty Throne of Grace in heaven for the perfecting of his Church.

 

Divisions: I want to make only two statements in this message. These two statements will give you the teaching of God the Holy Ghost in our text.

1.    Our Lord Jesus has now ascended into heaven (vv. 8-10).

2.    The ascension of Christ is indescribably beneficial to our souls (vv. 7, 11-16).

 

The Ascended Christ

 

1st — we are assured of this most blessed fact — Our Lord Jesus Christ has now ascended into heaven (vv. 8-10).

 

(Ephesians 4:8-10) “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

 

David’s Prophecy

 

Here the Apostle Paul expounds to us the meaning of David’s words in Psalm 68:18. There David made a plain prophesy of the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ long before he came into the world. — Turn back to Psalm 68. Let’s look at verses 18-20 for a minute. This Psalm is a prophetic declaration of Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and glory as our Substitute.

 

(Psalm 68:18-20) “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. (19) Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. (20) He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.”

 

Verse 18 — “Thou hast ascended on high.” — Having accomplished all that he came here to accomplish, having redeemed his elect from all sin, having brought in everlasting righteousness for us, when he had made an end of sin, having obtained eternal redemption for us, the Lord Jesus took his seat in glory by the merit of His own blood as our Mediator. — Read on

 

Thou hast led captivity captive.” — We do not have to guess what this means. The Apostle Paul tells us that our all-glorious Christ, “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us,…took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15). The Son of God took every enemy of our souls into captivity. That includes Satan (Revelation 20:1-3).

 

(Revelation 20:1-3) “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”

 

Next we read, — Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” — The ascended Christ, who entered into heaven as a Forerunner for us, received gifts for us? What gifts? — All the gifts of grace, righteousness, and salvation for men, even for us rebels “who were by nature children of wrath even as others,” that God the Holy Spirit might come down here and dwell in our hearts in grace (John 16:7-11) and that the Holy Lord God might dwell among us forever in the world to come. As the result of this, he daily loads us with the benefits of grace (v. 19).

 

Verse 19 — “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. — Selah.” — Just think about that! — He daily loads us with

  • Mercy and Grace.
  • Forgiveness and Righteousness.
  • Access to God and Divine Promises.
  • Refuge for Our Souls and Peace.

 

Now, read verse 20…

 

Verse 20 He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.” He who is our God, he alone and none but he, this holy Lord God, Jesus Christ our almighty, effectual Savior, he is the God of salvation. To Him and to him alone belong the issues from his death. — That is to say, all the fruits, benefits, and blessings issuing from his death as our Substitute are his to give.

 

Place and State

 

Let’s go back to our text (Ephesians 4). — Our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into glory. When Paul says that “he ascended up on high,” he speaks both of the place to which he ascended in his human nature, the highest heaven, and particularly that state to which he was advanced, for then he was highly exalted in the eternal glory.

 

Our blessed Redeemer, having risen from the dead, is gone into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. What does this mean?

 

Victorious King

 

1.    It means that Jesus Christ is a victorious King. God has crowned him with glory and honor above his fellows. Heaven is his throne, and earth is his footstool. And he shall reign, with incontestable sovereignty, until all of his enemies are put under his feet (Philippians 2:9-11).

 

(Philippians 2:1-11) “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (5) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

As he ascended up to heaven, he led captivity captive. The allusion here is to the public triumphal parade of a Roman commander, who led his captives, bound in chains, through the streets to make an open show of them. Our Lord triumphed at the cross, but his triumph was not complete until he both rose from the dead and ascended on high, having the keys of death and hell at his side. I must say it again, lest you miss it — The Lord Jesus Christ led into captivity all those who once held us captive.

Š      The world, wherein we were once bound, is under the domain of Christ.

Š      The curse of the law, by which we were condemned, has been forever consumed in Christ.

Š      The sin, which once enslaved us, is forever drowned in the sea of Calvary’s blood!

Š      Satan, who once took us captive at his will, is in the captivity of our Christ, bound in the chain of our great King’s omnipotence! — “God is gone up with the shout; the Lord with the sound of the trumpet” (Psalm 47:5). — “Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).

Š      Death, which once had the power over all flesh, is now defeated by Christ. He arose crying, “O death! Where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory!”

 

Gates Open

 

2.    The ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ is the opening of the gates of heaven for poor sinners. — We are told “He gave gifts unto men.” Having received power over all flesh, our Lord now gives the gifts of heaven to the sons of men (John 17:2). He received gifts as the God-man Mediator. And he gives the gift of life unto men.

 

David mentions a sweet and blessed fact that Paul was not inspired to mention in our text. — In Psalm 68 the Holy Ghost inspired David to tell us that our Lord Jesus “received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also.” Here is the greatness of his grace. Our glorious King persuades his enemies to lay down their arms and be at peace with him.

 

Justice Satisfied

 

3.    The ascension of Christ is a declaration of Jehovah’s satisfaction with our Savior.

Š      The Triune God has accepted his righteousness for us.

Š      The Triune Jehovah has accepted his atonement for us.

Š      The Lord our God has accepted his Christ for us, and accepted us in him!

 

The ascension of Christ means that he is beyond the reach of the enemy, and we are too. We are more than conquerors through him! The ascension and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the salvation and glory of all who trust him.

 

First Descended

 

There was something that was necessary to make the ascension of Christ possible. He first had to descend (vv. 9-10).

 

(Ephesians 4:9-10) “(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

 

It is evident that David was aware of the fact that before the Messiah could ascend on high, he must first undergo deep humiliation, for his ascension is a proof of his humiliation. Here is another of the many proofs of our Lord’s deity. He who is God the Son was the Son of Man long before he became a man, long before his humiliation (John 3:13).

 

(John 3:13-16) “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

The Son of God, the Lord of Glory, descended into the lower parts of the earth in the incarnation.“My substance was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” (Psalm 139:15). He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, and was buried in the earth. Our Lord Jesus humbled himself first, then he was exalted. First he descended, then he ascended. The same must be true of us. — “He that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.

 

The ascension of Christ, I say again, is the fulfilling of all things.

Š      He filled all the types and shadows of the Old Testament.

Š      He filled all the prophecies of Scripture.

Š      He fills all his offices (Prophet, Priest, King) for us.

Š      He fills his Church with his power.

Š      He fills his people with his presence.

Š      He fills the world with his goodness.

Š      He fills heaven with his glory, having obtained eternal redemption for us!

 

The Benefits

 

2nd I want you to see that the ascension of Christ is indescribably beneficial to God’s elect (vv. 7, 11-16).

 

In verse 7 we are told that every believer receives the fulness of grace from the ascended Christ. Everything that our souls need is freely given to us by “the measure of the gift of Christ.”

Š      He gives us pardon.

Š      He gives us righteousness.

Š      He gives us peace.

Š      He gives us joy.

Š      He gives us sanctification.

Š      He gives us his Spirit.

Š      He gives us himself.

 

Another benefit that we have received by the ascension of Christ is the blessed ministry of the Gospel by pastors according to God’s own heart, who feed his Church with knowledge and understanding (vv. 11-12).

 

(Ephesians 4:11-12) “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

He gave us the Apostles. — Though they were chosen before his ascension, he gave them special power and authority afterwards. These apostles were given to teach us infallibly the doctrine of the Gospel.

 

He gave us the Prophets. — These were not the prophets of the Old Testament, but men like Agabus, who are Divinely gifted to understand the hand of God in providence, making proper and powerful application of the Scriptures. — They are men who, like the sons of Issachar, are men who have understanding of the times and know what Israel ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32).

 

He gave us the evangelists. — These are itinerate preachers, missionaries, who go from one place to the other establishing Gospel churches.

 

He gave us pastors who teach us the Gospel (Jeremiah 3:15). — God promised in the days of the Messiah that he would give pastors after his heart, who would feed the people with knowledge and understanding. The work of God’s servants is here described in three ways (v. 12).

Š      He is to labor at perfecting, or unifying the saints.

Š      He is to labor in the ministry, dispensing the truths of the Gospel.

Š      He is to labor for the edification of the Church. The pastor must labor for the salvation of God’s elect and labor for the growth God’s saints in the faith and knowledge of Christ.

 

For another thing, the ascension of Christ, and his rule in heaven is for the purpose of completing his purpose and will for his Church (vv. 13-16).

 

(Ephesians 4:13-16) “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: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

 

The Lord Jesus Christ will continue to work through the ministry of the Gospel, until his Church is brought to perfection (v. 13). One great reason for Christ’s gift of pastors to his Church is that the saints may be established in the faith, that his Church may be built up and grow up in mutual, family love. For that purpose he intercedes for us in heaven.

Š      Let every pastor take great care to guard the walls of Zion from those deceitful, crafty heretics who would destroy God’s Church (v. 14).

Š      Let every Gospel preacher faithfully speak the truth in love (v. 15). — Love for Christ! — Love for Your Souls! — Love for God’s Glory!

Š      It is Christ alone who can unite us in the Spirit, give us the blessed bond of peace, fitly join us together by the effectual working of his power in us (v. 16).

 

Application

 

I urge you, for your souls’ sake, to cherish the Church of God, the House of the living God, where Christ meets with and ministers to his elect by his Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. The great purpose for which God has established a standing ministry in his Church is the perfecting of the saints, for establishing the whole mystical body of Christ, in Christ, their glorious head. When the Lord graciously gathers his people together, there he is, in the midst of them. Then, everything is made blessed and refreshing. There is life and prosperity, vitality and joy, where Christ walks in the midst of his Churches. The body is edified, when the good will of him that dwelt in the bush dwells in the assembly of his saints. That good will flows from his heart into the hearts, of his people, and the fragrance and savor of Christ’s name, is as ointment poured forth!

 

(Song of Songs 1:3) “Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.”

 

(Hebrews 10:19-25) “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (21) And having an high priest over the house of God; (22) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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