In today’s study we see Paul transitioning from doctrinal to practical. His subject is, now that he has explained the mystery and the manifold wisdom of God that was previously hid in Christ, this is how we as believers in Jesus Christ should be walking.
Chapter 4:1: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, Just as in Paul's other epistles, he transitions from the doctrinal to the practical with the word therefore (Romans 12:1; Colossians 3:5). In other words, now that you know the mystery, the manifold wisdom of God, this is how you should live.
The word beseech means to call or invite. The word worthy is anxious which means to deserving or due reward. The word vocation speaks more of a calling than a career as it is commonly used today. Paul also loves the word therefore to express in lieu of all that I have previously stated.
Verses 2-3: With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In these verses he goes on to tell them five things regarding walking worthy.
It is to be done in 1. lowliness (humility); 2. meekness (gentleness); 3. longsuffering (patience); 4. forbearing (self-control or refraining); and 4. endeavoring (concerted effort) to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It is possible because of the common love and the bond of peace that we share. The word bond speaks of a uniting principle.
Verses 4-6: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. In these verses he goes on to tell them seven reasons why they should walk worthy. These include because there is only one body, one Spirit (2:18, 22), one hope of your calling, i.e., rapture/return, Titus 2:13, which should be a unifying event, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Galatians 2:16), one God and Father who is above, through and in you all.
Verse 7: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. The point is that God has given every believer his favor for each of us to live as we ought to and to walk worthy (verse 1).
Does this mean that he has given more to some than to others? I believe that he is simply saying that every one of us have been given enough grace to fulfill God's purposes and callings in our lives (Romans 12:3; John 1:16). Remember that grace can also be interpreted as gift.
Verse 8: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Paul now quotes from Psalms 68:18. Remember that the context is the gifts that he just in the previous verses. As such, whatever he is quoting is to make his point. In context, the Psalmist is speaking in the future tense when Christ will reign after taking back what belongs to him.
The phrase led captivity captive in these verses speak of him triumphing over his enemies by the resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-22). The picture would be that of a Roman Triumph which was a celebration of the success of a military commander. On the day of his triumph, the successful general would wear a crown of laurel and an all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta ("painted" toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly. In some accounts, his face was painted red, perhaps in imitation of Rome's highest and most powerful god, Jupiter. The general rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war and at Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline Hill, he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god Jupiter.
The order of the procession would be the captive leaders, allies, and soldiers (and sometimes their families) usually walking in chains; some were destined for execution or slavery. All this was done to the accompaniment of music, clouds of incense, and the strewing of flowers. This most likely what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
It is important to note that Paul did not quote the passage precisely. The Psalmist said thou hast received gifts for men while Paul said and gave gifts unto men. So, one says received while the other gave. He must be saying that what he received, he was now giving, i.e., grace gifts (verse 7, 11). Again, the point and context is gifts.
Now, for years, I have taught that those captives being referred to were those who were in paradise who had died before the resurrection. Not so sure about that view now. He seems to be referring to his enemies instead.
Verses 9-10: (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) It must be noted that these verses are parenthetical. That means that verse 8 runs directly into verse 11. This verse simply speaking of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
Unlike what the Apostle’s Creed says, Jesus did not descend into Hell, but Hades; the place of the dead (Luke 16:19-31). Hell is where men go after the judgment and that has not happened yet, therefore, it was empty then and it is empty now.
Verse 11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; These are some of the gifts that were given unto men. Apostles laid the foundation, prophets foretold and forthtold, evangelists had the gift of evangelism, pastors oversaw a flock, and teachers taught the Word. Some contend that the last two are one and the same.
Also, some are quick to point out that these are not gifts, but positions that were given to administer the gifts. Others will content that they were transitory because of the past tense of the word gave. Even if you don't believe they were all transitory, most in conservative circles will acknowledge that at least apostles and prophets were, therefore, affectively splitting the baby.