Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?
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Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?

The Conqueror Who Sends Gifts From Heaven

Posted March 1, 2024

“Therefore, it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’”Ephesians 4:8

Human history is a saga of conflict between nations, peoples, and individuals. I remember my uncle’s story of being wounded at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. His feet froze in the deep winter snow. But he returned, limping up the sidewalk to the school where his mother taught. She was called to the office door. That’s when she saw him. Her son had not just survived but conquered. He was the gift to his mother that day.

Jesus is the ultimate Conqueror. He came down from heaven to stand against our enemies, not just the enemies of sin and death, but the very power of the devil himself. Satan was not able to disqualify Jesus by tempting him, nor did he have the power to turn him from the cross. Instead, Jesus set his face like a flint (Is. 50:7). He had come to engage the enemies of Adam’s fallen race, and he fought to the death.

Jesus’ goal, the reason he laid down his life, was not to dominate us but to free us. He is the conqueror who sets us free, the champion who overcomes our oppressors. And having triumphed, he is the victor who lavishes his people with the spoils of his victory.

Let’s look at Jesus’s defeat of our enemies and what that means for you and me.

Our Conqueror’s Power

The Jesus who ascended to the right hand of God is clothed in power today. He is seated on the throne of heaven in triumph. Yet incredibly, his conquest began not with power, but in his moment of greatest weakness when, seemingly helpless, he was nailed to a cross. Though he could have asked his Father to deliver him at any moment, instead, Jesus conquered the penalty of sin by enduring the cross, staying there until the end.

His final cry, it is finished, signaled victory. Jesus had triumphed over every power that stood against him, and us—sin, death, and even Satan himself. His victory was so complete it is pictured as “a triumphal Roman military procession. The defeated king with all his surviving warriors and the spoils of war were paraded through the streets of Rome.” We find this dramatic description of our Savior in Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15).

How often do you and I think of Jesus as a conqueror? Do you think of him as the boxer in the ring whose hand is lifted in victory by the referee while his opponent lies on the ground, or the foot soldier, covered in mud and sweat but still pushing to take the next hill? Let’s not air brush our picture of Jesus to make it suitable only for the walls of nurseries and retirement homes. Instead,let the picture Paul paints for us in Colossians stoke our imagination with confidence in his victory.

The Spoils of His Victory

Good leaders don’t just win, they allow their people to enjoy the spoils of victory. Winning politicians distribute jobs and promote justice and the welfare of their communities. Even parents give good gifts to their children.

Two texts, one from the Old Testament and one New provide insight into this reward system. Let’s start with a quote from one of David’s psalms:

You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there. Psalm 68:18

This verse pictures a victorious king being showered with gifts upon his return from battle by those he has liberated. He is receiving this bounty from a wide range of grateful citizens, both faithful subjects and former rebels. King David writes these words to the Lord God himself, the King under whom he served.

Paul quotes David’s words, changing them slightly to showcase how Jesus is the one who fulfills David’s prophecy. Paul writes, “Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high, he led a host of captives, And he gave gifts to men’” (Eph.4:8).

We can picture Jesus doing both. Having conquered his enemies at the cross and ascended to the throne, he receives gifts from the conquered and pours them out on his church. His people thus not only benefit from his victory but are equipped to serve through his generosity.

His Lavish Generosity

And his generosity is beyond belief. Paul immediately lays out one group of gifts in Ephesians 4:11–12, leaders for the church who have been called and equipped to serve God’s people in every place and time throughout church history. This gift is prioritized by Paul in his letter to the Ephesian churches. Godly leaders are a gift from Christ himself to you and me, as he nourishes and cherishes the church—his bride—through the leaders he has equipped (Eph. 5:29).

“But what is my gift?” That’s the question we default to as we take “spiritual gift inventories,” diligently studying the description of the various lists in the New Testament: Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:7–11; 1 Peter 4:10–11. What we find aren’t just lists, but a picture of abundance. The lists aren’t meant to confuse us with their variations. Nor are they intended to tempt us to compare. No, they are meant to display the lavish generosity of our conquering King. He has provided gifted leaders and gifted followers to his church so that together we might serve his beloved bride.

Friends, let’s rejoice in Jesus’ triumph and receive his gifts with gratitude. But most of all, let us keep our eyes fixed on him, the Conqueror and Giver, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God(Heb.12:2).

He is our ascended Lord. And we are his joy.



Footnotes

  • ESV Study Bible notes for Colossians 2:15, Clinton E. Arnold, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

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Rondi Lauterbach

Rondi Lauterbach is a pastor’s wife who has been a friend and encourager to women in their life’s callings. She is a mother, grandmother, Bible study leader, Pilates teacher, and fierce competitor at all board games. Her first book, Hungry: Learning to Feed Your Soul with Christ, was published in 2016 by P&R Publishing.