What does Ephesians 4:8 mean?
ESV: Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
NIV: This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.'
NASB: Therefore it says, 'WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE the captives, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO PEOPLE.'
CSB: For it says:When he ascended on high,he took the captives captive;he gave gifts to people.
NLT: That is why the Scriptures say, 'When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.'
KJV: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
Verse Commentary:
Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 in this verse. The "it" he refers to is Scripture. Paul seems to have assumed his audience would recognize this reference to Psalms without Paul needing to spell it out. This implies that early Christians commonly used the Psalms in their gatherings. The quote itself references two actions fulfilled in Jesus.

First is the ascension of Jesus. After His ascension, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost (Acts 2) and gave spiritual gifts to God's people.

Second, Jesus "gave gifts to men." This statement uses the Greek word anthrōpois, which is a general word for human beings. "People," in other words, not merely "men." All believers have at least one spiritual gift. Some are listed in Scripture (Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:4–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11), while it's possible there are others not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. The focus of Paul's teaching is not on how many gifts, or even which gifts, a person has. Rather, the point is that Christians should strive to use the gifts God has given in order to serve others.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 4:1–10 is Paul's compelling description of Christian unity. Every saved believer, regardless of talent or skill, Jew or Gentile, male or female, is saved by the same faith in the same God. Each Christian, therefore, is part of a single, universal family of believers in Jesus Christ. At the same time, God gives different gifts to different people, so that they can serve the many roles needed to accomplish His purposes here on earth. Rather than being concerned about what gifts we might lack, each Christian can rejoice in our unity, and focus on serving God to the best of our ability.
Chapter Summary:
Truly understanding saving grace, as Paul explained in prior chapters, is the Christian's first motivation for living a godly life. Here, Paul encourages believers to live in way which honors that gift. All saved Christians are part of a single, unified family, part of the ''body'' of Christ. At the same time, different believers are given different talents. Some are called to positions of leadership and authority. All Christians should turn away from the ''old self'' we were prior to being saved. Paul's explanation of the ''new self'' includes some basic, practical steps.
Chapter Context:
The first half of Ephesians focuses mostly on doctrine, setting up ideas related to the Christian faith. The last half, beginning in chapter 4, puts those theories into practice. Paul begins by emphasizing the ultimate unity of all Christians, regardless of individual spiritual gifts. Paul also begins to explain how knowledge of the truths should translate into action. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 feature specific, real-world applications of Christianity to daily life.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
Accessed 4/22/2024 3:47:46 PM
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