Ephesians 4:7-16; The only free people are captives of Christ.

Class Outline:

Title: Ephesians 4:7-16; The only free people are captives of Christ.


Tuesday June 29, 2021


PSA 68:18

Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives;

Thou hast received gifts among men,

Even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there.


The psalmist may have in mind the Canaanite kings and warriors that were taken captive in the conquest of the Promised Land. And if Paul has believers in mind when using this verse in EPH 4:8, how could we equate them? We should be reminded that some think that Paul is using “captives” as referring to unbelievers or fallen angels paraded like a procession in celebration of His victory. We cannot rule out that interpretation completely, but in my view (and in many others), that doesn’t fit the context of Eph 4 which is all about the victorious saints.


Another interpretation is that the captives are sin and death. This also cannot be completely refuted. However, it may be that we are probing a depth of interpretation that Paul didn’t have in mind, meaning, perhaps Paul just wanted us to see the general principle of the psalm, that the Lord was victorious and defeated His enemies. He led forth His captives (whoever they may be) to Zion and gave gifts to men.


Paul’s reference to PSA 68:18 is about the Lord’s astounding victory and the many varied blessings that come to His saints by means of that victory.


I tend to think that when Paul references captives, he has in mind believers in the church. He may also have in mind the Old Testament saints that were in Hades that Christ would have certainly freed for passage to heaven, but the reference to gifts given might point only to the church or to both the church and the OT saints freed from Paradise in Hades who would receive the gifts of the New Covenant. Then again, he may by simply quoting the verse in reference only to Christ’s ascension and gift-giving and he may have nothing in mind about the word “captive.”


Further passages in the psalm indicate a salvation of God’s enemies.


In the very next line:

PSA 68:19

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,

The God who is our salvation.


The procession accompanies God into the sanctuary.

PSA 68:24

They have seen Thy procession, O God,

The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.


Egypt and Ethiopia (then enemies of Israel) reach out to God.

PSA 68:31

Envoys will come out of Egypt;

Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.


Still, the Lord also captures His enemies, but in their case they are destroyed, not led to Zion.


PSA 68:22-23

The Lord said, "I will bring them back from Bashan.

I will bring them back from the depths of the sea;

23 That your foot may shatter them in blood,

The tongue of your dogs may have its portion from your enemies."


How then, if Paul is referring to us, could we be identified as captives? We were all born into this world as God’s enemies, children of disobedience.


The answer is plain if we consider what we all were before salvation. We were no different in place and type than a Canaanite idol worshipper. All have gone astray and all have turned to their own way, but the Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him.


PSA 53:1-3

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God,"

They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;

There is no one who does good.

2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men,

To see if there is anyone who understands,

Who seeks after God.

3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;

There is no one who does good, not even one.


LUK 4:16-19

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,


18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are downtrodden,

19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."


Plus, in the psalm the captives are being led to Zion, and in Paul’s reference “He ascended on high,” is commented on by Paul as meaning “He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” (EPH 4:10).


One final aspect of Paul’s reference to PSA 68:18 is that the ascension up Mt. Zion is also depicted by David in the carrying of the ark to the same place - Psa 24.


The conquering of Jerusalem was a long time in coming, but not for a lack of trying. The history of it reveals the struggle of man trying to do by their own might what God can do through the so-called insignificant men of faith. David conquered Jerusalem after the failed attempts by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin during the time of the Judges.


A very brief history of the taking of Jerusalem.

Map of the movement of the ark.


The ark spent seven months in the hands of the Philistines after Israel thought it was a good idea to take it into battle.


JOS 18:28

the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), … This is the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin according to their families.


JUD 1:8-9

Then the sons of Judah [Simeon was with him] fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the sons of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country and in the Negev and in the lowland.


Joshua had already slain the king of Jerusalem and his four allies after the battle at Gibeon (JOS 10:3,18-26), but had not conquered Jerusalem, his capital. This was not done till after Joshua's death, when it was taken by the tribes of Judah and Simeon. But even after this capture, and notwithstanding the fact that it had been set on fire, it did not come into the sole and permanent possession of the Israelites. After the conquerors had advanced still farther, to make war upon the Canaanites in the mountains, in the Negeb, the Jebusites took it again and rebuilt it, so that in the following age it was regarded by the Israelites as a foreign city (JUD 19:11-12, the second appendix to the Book of Judges).


JUD 19:11-12

When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, "Please come, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it." 12 However, his master said to him, "We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; but we will go on as far as Gibeah."


The Benjaminites, to whom Jerusalem had fallen by lot, were no more able to drive out the Jebusites than the Judaeans had been. Consequently they continued to live by the side of the Benjaminites (JUD 1:21) and the Judaeans (JOS 15:63).


JOS 15:63

Now as for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the sons of Judah could not drive them out; so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day.


[reminding …]

JUD 1:8-9

Then the sons of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the sons of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country and in the Negev and in the lowland.


It would appear that as Judah went south to fight that the Jebusites returned to Jerusalem, rebuilt and resettled, and Benjamin, to whom this city was allotted, could not drive them out.


JUD 1:20-21

Then they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had promised; and he drove out from there the three sons of Anak. 21 But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.


As time rolled on, in this the border city of the lands of both Benjamin and Judah, the Jebusites could not be dislodged until David succeeded in wresting this fortress from them, and make the city of Zion the capital of his kingdom.


After Saul died, David was made king of Judah only where he ruled in Hebron for 7 ½ years. Then all Israel came to him and made him king and he reigned for 33 years. Upon making him king, David captured Jerusalem and made it his capital.


2SA 5:6-10

Now the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, and they said to David, "You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame shall turn you away"; thinking, "David cannot enter here." 7 Nevertheless, David captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, "Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him reach the lame and the blind, who are hated by David's soul, through the water tunnel." Therefore they say, "The blind or the lame shall not come into the house." 9 So David lived in the stronghold, and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him.


David’s first attempt to transport the ark from its long storage ended in failure since the Law concerning the ark’s transportation was not obeyed.


[K&D] On further reflection, David could not fail to discover where the cause of Uzzah's offence, which he had atoned for with his life, really had lain, and that it had actually arisen from the fact that he (David) and those about him had decided to disregard the distinct instructions of the law with regard to the handling of the ark.


According to Num 4 the ark was not only to be moved by none but Levites (sons of Aaron particularly), but it was to be carried on the shoulders (by using the poles), not in a carriage; and in v. 15, even the Levites were expressly forbidden to touch it on pain of death. But instead of taking these instructions as their rule, they had followed the example of the Philistines when they sent back the ark (1SA 6:7 ff.), and had placed it upon a new cart, and directed Uzzah to drive it, whilst, as his conduct on the occasion clearly shows, he had no idea of the unapproachable holiness of the ark of God, and had to expiate his offence with his life, as a warning to all the Israelites. [Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament]


Good intentions with ignorance of God’s word cannot serve God or His people. We must understand all instructions in scripture.


Months later, David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem successfully when the Law was obeyed and up the ascending hill.


(notice the change in the description - no cart this time)

2SA 6:12-13

Now it was told King David, saying, "The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God." And David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.


More detail is given in Chronicles.


1CH 15:1-2

Now David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said, "No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God, and to minister to Him forever."


1CH 15:12-15

and said to them [David gathered all the Levites], "You are the heads of the fathers' households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. 13 Because you did not carry it at the first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance." 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. 15 And the sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders, with the poles thereon as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.


The placing of the ark in his new capital city gave David great joy. But, being reverent to God, David then pondered deeply the significance of taking the ark up the hill and placing it on God’s chosen mountain. For this, he wrote Psa 24.


PSA 24:1-6

A Psalm of David.


1 The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains,

The world, and those who dwell in it.

2 For He has founded it upon the seas,

And established it upon the rivers.

3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?

And who may stand in His holy place?

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood,

And has not sworn deceitfully.

5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord

And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

6 This is the generation of those who seek Him,

Who seek Thy face —  even Jacob.



Only the Lord Jesus is qualified ascend up the hill of the Lord. He alone has clean hands and a pure heart. This is affirmed by David in the second half of the poem.