“Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”

“Now that He ascended,”
Literally:  “But that He went up”–Paul, in applying this to Christ, shows that it implies that he must have descended from heaven, before his ascension to heaven. This must necessarily follow, if the one ascending is divine, and has a home in heaven, as Psa. 68:18 indicates.

It is affirmed in the Psalm that Christ ascended–“Thou hast ascended on high.” This implies that there must have been a previous descent; or, as applicable to the Messiah, “it is a truth that He previously descended.”

                 NOW THAT:  (Gr.-to de)-Literally:  “But that; now this”

        HE ASCENDED(Gr.-avebê)–It is by no means certain that Paul meant to say that the word “ascended” demonstrated that there must have been a previous descent; but he probably means, that in the case of Christ there was, in fact, a descent into the lower parts of the earth first. The language here used will appropriately express His descent to earth.

The meaning of Paul’s appears to be this: The Person who ascended is the Messiah, and His ascension plainly implies His descending; that is, His incarnation, humiliation, death, and resurrection.

“is the same also that He also descended first”
Literally: “what is it except that He also first went down”–The logical explanation of this verse is that since Christ also ascended, He must have of necessity descended at some previous period.

         Paul reasons that (assuming Him to be God) Christ’s ascent implies a previous descent; and that the language of the Psalm can only refer to Christ, Who first descended, then ascended.  For God the Father does not ascend or descend. Yet Psalm 68 plainly refers to God (vv. 8, 17-18). It must therefore be GOD THE SON (John 6:33, 62). As He declares (John 3:13), “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven.”   None but Christ can be referred to in the Psalm as having done so; for it is of God it speaks.       

“into the lower parts of the earth?”
Literally:  “into the lower parts of the earth”–There are some who view this as simply referring of Christ’s humiliation in descending from heaven to earth. But the words more naturally mean His descent into Hades (Hebrew–Sheol), or the world of spirits, which is mentioned as the extreme of His humiliation.

         His soul at death descended to Hades, that is, underwent the ordinary condition of departed spirits of men. The leading captive of satanic powers here, is not said to be at His descent, but at His ascension; so that no argument can be drawn from it for a descent to the abodes of Satan. Acts 2:27-28; Rom. 10:7 favor the view of the reference being simply to His descent to Hades.–

       “Because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell (literally: Hades), neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.
       “Thou hast made known to Me the ways of life; Thou shalt make Me full of joy with Thy countenance”
(Acts 2:27-28) .

       “Who shall descend into the deep?  (That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)”- (Rom. 10:7).”   

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things”

“far above all heavens”
Literally:  “the {One} going up above all the heavens”–Far above any and all of heavens, or whatever is called heaven.  Greek–“passed through the heavens” to the throne of God itself.  The One Who descended is now exalted to the right hand of God. God's throne is represented above the heavens, as God is above all.

        “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast {our} profession” (Heb. 4:14).
        “For such an High Priest became us, {who is} holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).

         It is  not really clear what Paul means by “heavens,”  but the expression  means that Christ is exalted to the very highest, or apparently what Paul calls the “third heaven” (II Cor.12:2).  The cosmology of the Bible seems to include a first heaven (the firmament; the atmosphere); the second heaven (outer space) and third heaven (the most elevated area of space; the home of God).
         Now He is ascended far above all heavens-higher than all height; he has a name above every name.  Here His descending into the lower parts of the earth is put in opposition to His ascending far above all heavens.  His abasement was unparalleled; so also is His exaltation.

         “That He might fill all things”
         This may mean that Christ took our humanity, His humanity, above all heavens and filled all things. 
         As God He had previously filled all things, and now as God-man, in our humanity, He fills all things.

VERSES 11-12:  Go together to make one complete thought

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Literally, this might read, “He Himself gave some (as) apostles, and some (as) prophets and some (as) evangelists, and some (as) pastors and teachers.”  This verse does not refer to the gifts he has given to men.  What Paul is referring to here is that Christ takes certain men who have been given gifts and He gives them to the Church.

“And He gave…”
Literally:  “And indeed he gave”– It has just been shown that Christ “gave gifts to men” (vv. 7-8). Of these gifts were various offices. Let us look at our text.  In this verse we see that the Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, gave certain gifts to His Church. 

         The object of all these offices was to promote “the unity of the faith” (v. 13). Christ has appointed the offices, and gives the men in the church who are fitted for these offices. In the matter of those offices that continue, it is the duty of the church to recognize and call out the men who meet the conditions Christ has given.
         The gifts to the Church, “evangelists, pastors and teachers” are set forth in type in the service and worship of the Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.  The buildings were shadows of the Church, the present habitation of God through the Spirit.  Christ has given these men to the Church so that the Church might be brought to full maturity.

         “some,  apostles”
         Literally:  “some, {to be} apostles”– He gave some to be apostles. The object here is to show that he has made ample provision for the extension and edification of His Church.    


The first gift we see that Christ gave to His Church was the gift of apostles.  Paul tells us in Eph. 2:20 that these apostles were the foundation stones of the Church, with Christ Himself the Chief Cornerstone.   That foundation has been laid, so there is no longer a need for apostles. 

The office of Apostle NO LONGER EXISTS.
1.       Apostles were immediately appointed by Christ as we know in the case of the twelve and as Paul claimed for himself (Gal. 1:1).
2.       Apostles had to be eye-witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:21-22; 2:32; I Cor. 9:1).
3.       Apostles had the gift of inspiration for further truth which was to be revealed through them to the Church.  This is the burden of Christ’s farewell discourses (John 15:17).
4.       Apostles had the gift of miraculous powers by which their supernatural mission was attested.

In spite of the fact that some men may try to take this title upon themselves, there are no longer any apostles. The apostles did their job of laying the foundation of the Church, so there is no longer a need for them. 

         “and some, prophets”
         Literally:  “and some prophets”–Prophets were those who were given, as were the apostles, particular insight into the doctrines of the faith (3:5).  They were under the immediate influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which distinguishes them from teachers (see I Cor. 12:16).  An inspired office, essential in the church for its teaching until the New Testament was completed.


         Then we find that Christ gave the gift of prophet to His Church.  These prophets were important during the time that the complete Word of God was being written.  In each local assembly, the Lord would raise up certain ones to whom He gave this gift of prophecy, which consisted of both the gifts of foretelling and forth telling.  Whenever He had something He wanted to be known to a local assembly, the Lord would reveal it to the prophet in that assembly, and then that prophet would forth tell, or reveal it, to the assembly.  But now, there is no longer the gift of prophecy, for the canon, or Word of God, is complete.  All that the Lord wants His local assemblies to know now is contained in the Bible, the verbally inspired, inerrent, and complete Word of God.  Also, in Rev. 22:18, we see the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:  “…I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, ‘If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.”  Therefore, there cannot be any more prophecy, for that would be adding to the Book of the Revelation, a crime that is herein condemned by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.    

         “and some evangelists”
         Literally:  “and some evangelists”–It is interesting, that in all the New Testament, that only one man is actually called an evangelist, and that is Philip, who, by the way, was one of the original seven deacons. Timothy is told to do the work of an evangelist (II Tim. 4:5).  This office is to preach the gospel, and will be necessary as long as the church continues on earth. As this office did not require extraordinary gifts, it is permanent.


         Now we come to the third of the gifts which Christ gave to His Church.  This is the gift of evangelists. These First Century evangelists were travelling missionaries.  Paul, though being an Apostle, also did the work of an evangelist.  They were not evangelists as we think of them today.  They went into new territory, and they did it all alone with the Spirit of God Who went before them.  These ancient evangelists were not only those who preached the gospel and got people saved, but they were also church-planters.  Apollos in Acts is a good example.
         Those whom we call evangelists today are really not the same as the evangelists of the First Century Church.  Unfortunately, many of these evangelists are also filling the position of pastor, and this is where much of the confusion has come about which I wish to address in this thesis.

        PASTORS: (Gr.-poimenas)–were the shepherds of the local flocks (local assemblies).  Christ especially prepares certain members of His Body to shepherd the local flocks, to minister to them in sickness, sorrow and bereavement, as well as to feed them on the Bread of Life.


The Pastor-Teacher

         To really understand this position we must look at it as it is written in the original Greek text:  (Gr.-poimen kai didaskalos).  Let us examine these three words:  What we have here are two nouns and a conjunction.  First, let us examine the two nouns.
1.       poimen—This word literally means “shepherd.”  What does a shepherd do?  A shepherd feeds his flock; protects his flock; leads his flock; looks over his flock; but there is one thing that he CANNOT do with his flock.  He cannot REPRODUCE his flock.  Then who does reproduce his flock?  His FLOCK reproduces his flock!  Only the flock can reproduce itself.
2.       didaskalos—As the English text has explained, this word means, “teacher” or “instructor,” or “trainer.”  This is how the pastor/shepherd feeds his flock–he teaches them.

Notice that nowhere do we see that this position shows that the pastor is to be the sole, or even, chief, soul-winner.  In fact, it does not even show that the pastor is to be doing the soul-winning, or flock reproducing, (church growing) in the local church.  The pastor is not called to be doing “the work of the ministry.”  Au contraire, he is called to equip his people to be doing the work.  Unfortunately, the curse of most churches today is the Biblical illiteracy in the pulpits, as a result of the shoddy teaching being done in our seminaries.  Is there any surprise that we have Biblical illiteracy in the pews when there is so much of it displayed in our pulpits?

3.       kai—This little Greek word is a very interesting word.  Usually it is translated into English as “and,” but interestingly enough it can also be translated as, “even,” or “also.”  Therefore, perhaps the better way of translating these three words might be; “shepherd (or pastor), even a teacher,” or perhaps, “shepherd (or pastor), also a teacher.” 

But we are not finished with this office of pastor.  We have looked at:  (1) the office:  pastor; (2) the duty:  teacher; but there a third  aspect of this position of leadership in a local church.

I Timothy 3:1-2

         In I Timothy chapter 3, the Holy Spirit, through the inspired pen of the apostle Paul, introduces us to the third aspect of this position of pastor-teacher:  that of the position of overseer of the local church, for that is what the word “bishop,” really means.  The Greek word which was erroneously translated as “bishop” is (Gr.-episkopos), which literally means, “overseer.”  This describes the authority of the office.  The pastor has been given, by Christ Himself, the oversight of the local assembly.  But remember, as the Lord Jesus said, “For unto whosoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”  Although the pastor-shehpherd has been given much authority in this position of bishop-overseer over the local church, he also bears a great responsibility to the Lord as to how he carries out this position.  It in this position that he must give an accounting to Christ Himself as to what he has done with the local assembly that Christ has placed in his trust.
         When we examine the qualifications given in I Tim. 3:2-7, we find that all but one have to do with the personal or ethical qualifications of the bishops.  The exception is found in verse 2, which says that the bishop must be, “apt to teach.”  Notice that this qualification goes right along with that which was given in Eph. 4:11—“pastor and teacher.”  You cannot get around the fact that a pastor’s primary responsibility to his flock is that he is to be their teacher and must have the ability to do that very thing.

So we see that there are three aspects to this one position over the local assembly:
1.       Pastor:  Who is to feed the flock; guard and protect the flock from heresy; and lead the flock of the local church.
2.       Teacher:  This is how the pastor feeds  the local flock.  And to what purpose does he do this feeding?  This is answered when we go back to Eph. 4:12—“For the perfecting (Gr.-katartismos)  (growing; maturing) of the saints (believers; church members), for the work of the ministry (Sunday School teachers; deacons; training soul-winners), “or the edifying of the body of Christ.” 
3.       Bishop/Overseer:  He has the administrative authority over the local church.  It is his responsibility to choose teachers and song leaders; to decide who is to come to the pulpit and preach or teach; and to decide on which ministries the church proceeds.

        But wait, we are not yet finished with the titles for this all important position of leadership in the local church/assembly.  There is yet one more title at which we must look, and we must go to Acts 10:17 in order to find this title.  This is the title of “elder.”  The Greek word that is translated as “elder,” is (Gr.-presbuteros).  This is the root word from which we get our English word of presbyterian.
       Paul called for the “elders” of the local assembly of Ephesus to meet with him.  And when look at Acts 20:28, we see that Paul is referring to the position of pastor—when he speaks of   “the flock,” and the position of bishop/overseer when he says, “which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers,” to these very same elders.  Also see I Peter 5:1-2 in which that apostle also applies these titles together. 

        “The elders (pastors) which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder, (pastor) and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
        “Feed (teach) the flock (local flock) of God which is among you, taking the oversight (bishop) {thereof}, not by restraint, but willingly; not by filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (I Pet. 5:1-2).

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the working of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”        

“for the perfecting of the saints”
Literally:  “with a view to the perfecting of the saints”– For the complete instruction, purification, and union of all who have believed in Christ Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles.

         These men are to prepare the church so that the believers might do the work of minister and building.  This describes the task and purpose of the pastor-teacher.  Helping them to higher and holier lives.  This is really the basic ministry of the Church itself–“perfecting” what is lacking in the faith of the believers.
         We call the pastor of a church as a minister, but if you are a Christian, you are as much a minister as he is.  You don’t have to be ordained to be a minister.  The pastor has specific gifts given to him that he might be able to aid the members of the local assembly in the work of the ministry.  They are the ones who are to go out and do the visitation and witnessing.  The sad truth of the matter is that basically we have the Church in reverse order.

        PERFECTING:  (Gr.-katartismos)– This Greek word is not found anywhere else in the N.T.  A.T. Robinson defined the word to mean, “for the mending (repairing) of the saints;” that is, bringing the believers to a condition of fitness for the discharging of their functions in the Body.

        The Greek implies correcting in all that is deficient, instructing and completing in number and all parts. It properly refers to the restoring of anything to its place; then putting in order, making complete, etc. Here it means that these various officers were appointed in order that everything in the church might be well arranged, or put into its proper place; or that the church might be complete. It is that Christians may have every possible advantage for becoming complete in love, and knowledge, and order.
        In classical Greek the word was used of refitting a ship, or setting a bone.  The preposition “for” denotes the ultimate purpose.  Ministering and building are means to this end; but their being brought to this condition is not an end in itself, but for a purpose–that they may be fitted “for the work of the ministry.”

        “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might ……perfect that which is lacking in your faith” (II Thess. 3:10).
        “Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight…”(Heb. 13:21).

        “But God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle {you}(I Pet. 5:10).

        SAINTS:  (Gr.-hagion)–While it is true that in experience some believers are more “holy” than others, yet in their position before God, ALL believers are “sanctified,” i.e., “saints” by virtue of what they are “in Christ.”–Unger’s Bible Dictionary

        In II Thess. 1:10 “His saints” are described as “them that believed,” i.e., the whole number of the redeemed. 

“for the work of the ministry”
Literally:  “for the work of the ministry”–For carrying on the various works assigned to the ministry.


         It is a great mistake to single out a body of men who have received so-called ordination at the hands of men and call them the “ministry.”  ALL believers are in the ministry and must function in that place in the Body which Christ has appointed them to. 
        If you say that you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and evidence that you are a spiritual “do-nothing,” then you are certainly a puzzle to the angels of God and a delight to the demons of darkness.  The ministry bestowed upon you by the evangelists, pastors and teachers is in order that you may serve other members of the Body of Christ more effectively and function for Him.  The tragedy is that so many of Christ’s people constantly stand in need of being ministered unto and never come to the place where they can minister unto others.

“for the edifying of the body of Christ”         
Literally:  “for the building up of the body of Christ”–This is the ultimate goal in all these varied gifts, “building up.”

The Body of Christ is His Church, (2:20), etc..; and its edification consists in its thorough instruction in spiritual things, and its being filled with faith and holiness.  All was intended to minister to the building up of the church both within and without.

Leave a Reply