Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and now ascended to the right hand of God the Father, at whose right hand is a torrent of everlasting pleasure. Greetings in the grace and peace that come from the Father, and also from His Son, our Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the light of the Lord’s perfect and sinless life, sacrificial death, solemn and grim burial, eucatastrophic resurrection, against-all-odds resurrection, turn-the-whole-story-around resurrection, and then His crowning and splendid ascension to glory, I want to plead with you to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling that you have been so graciously given. What this means is that you must walk in humility of mind and in meekness of spirit. Christ’s ascension beyond all created glory means that we may bow lower than the most contemptible.
Do this in all patience, giving way to one another in a spirit of humility and love. Make a point to labor at maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bands of peace, cinched tight by the fingers of God. This unity is a gift, and is our present possession. We not have to attain to it. We do not have to achieve it. We do not have to get there. We have it already, as a shared possession, and must simply maintain it by staying far away from every form of pride. Pride is the only thing that can loosen the bands of peace.
The body of Christ is one, and the Spirit is one. You were called into that one body with one hope of your shared calling. We only have one Lord, and we have one faith in that one Lord, and we all share in one baptism. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one—one God and Father of all of us, who is over everything, and through everything, and in each one of you. And to each of us God has given grace according to how much Jesus Christ has given—which is everything.
This is why Scripture says that Jesus ascended into Heaven, leading captivity captive, imprisoning imprisonment, and He did this in order to bestow His gifts upon men. The triumphal procession went through the heavenly gates of Paradise the blessed, and following Him through those gates were all the saints of the older covenant who had longed for His coming. Abraham was there, and Isaac and Israel, and Samuel, and David, and Isaiah, and Jehoiada. Sarah was present, and Rebekah, and Rachel, and Leah, and Rahab, and Ruth, and Bathsheba. They all watched as the risen Lord approached the throne, the throne with a nimbus like an emerald rainbow, and He came up to the throne on the clouds of heaven, and He approached the Ancient of Days.
In order to ascend, He first had to descend, and so He descended into Hades, into the lower parts of the earth, and this is why He now holds the keys of death and Hades. Because He descended, God has raised Him up, and so He has now ascended above every heaven that there is, and He did this in order to fill the entire cosmos with His glorious presence. That presence is an authoritative presence, and so He has been given ultimate possession of every tribe, every nation, every language, every island, every continent, and every mother’s son of us.
What Daniel saw in his night visions, the great parade of liberated captives saw with their eyes. They saw Him come with the clouds of Heaven, they saw Him come before the Ancient of Days, and they saw Him brought near. And before He gave any gifts to men, they saw that He was given gifts of His own. He was given dominion, and He was given glory, and He was given a kingdom, such that all people, nations, and languages, should serve and worship Him with pure and undefiled worship, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. Because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, He was given a dominion that is an everlasting dominion, one which cannot fade or pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed; His kingdom cannot be destroyed.
Those who had been captives saw what He was given. Those now everlastingly free saw their freedom and ours in His strong right hand. And then they saw Him turn and sit down beside the Ancient of Days. And they saw Him raise His scepter in order to delegate to His saints all that He had just been given. Every created thing in Heaven and on earth was now settled upon Him, and this meant that a man, our older brother, our high priest, received the inheritance of all things. And because we are in Him, He raised His hand in the ultimate benediction, and gave gifts to men. By His grace, we share in His inheritance.
What gifts did He give? He gave ministers to the church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. Just as He received a gift that turned to give, so also He gave the same kind of gift. These are gifts that are intended themselves to give, so that the saints might be established and prepared for the work of ministry, so that the whole body of Christ might be built up and edified.
As that body grows, we will all then come to the completed unity of faith, in the knowledge of the Son of God, who is the perfect man. We will grow up into the full measure of that perfect man, and we will become a restored humanity in Him. Maturity according to the template of Christ will be ours. We will no longer be immature children, tossed here and there by any little gusts of doctrinal wind. We will no longer be gullible, and we won’t fall for the tricks and intricate schemes of false teachers, who want nothing other than to waylay the saints of God.
Instead of all that, we will speak the truth in love, and we will love the truth that we speak. We will grow up into the perfect pattern provided by the new man, and we will grow up like Him in everything. This will happen to us as the body because He is the Head, and we are growing up into Him, as He provides direction. The whole body is being gradually knit together and wound up together, as every joint fits together properly, and we are no longer dislocated members, at odds with one another. We will come together as every part of the body contributes to the effort. In this way the body grows and increases, built up according to the purposes of God in love.
And so it is that we are gathered now in the ultimate Ascension irony. Because Jesus has been given the name that is above every name, we have the privilege of putting our names behind every name, and expecting God to bless it there. That is love.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.