Summary: Sin made us captives to Satan. Grace made us captives to Christ. (#13 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“Therefore it says ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men’. (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things).”
As we come to look at this parenthesis wherein Paul explains his reference to Psalm 68:18, I want to share some thoughts with you ,that at first may cause you to wonder what I’m saying has to do with this passage.
In essence, it has nothing to do with the passage; but the process by which this sermon came has something to teach all of us, and I do not want to let this opportunity go by without addressing it.
I want to give you an exhortation today, concerning your personal decisions when it comes to choosing who you will listen to as a teacher of God’s word.
First the exhortation, then my explanation. If you find yourself under the leadership of any teacher of the scriptures, and it has become evident to you that the person teaching and preaching to you has stopped being willing to learn, himself, you must not let that man teach you any more. You have a responsibility before God to study and grow in the knowledge of His word to you, and if you sit under a man who has become un-teachable, either by stubborn self-pride or slothful neglect, then you have a responsibility to take yourself out from under that man’s authority.
The man who has ceased to learn is no longer fit to teach, because he has, in effect, said within himself that he knows it all…or at the very best, that he knows enough.
The scriptures are living and active, and there is no man who can say that everything he thinks he knows about them is complete and totally accurate. When in his mind, he feels he has no more to learn, and certainly will not let his thoughts be changed on any one issue, the process naturally leads to legalism, and error.
Now it may not lead to the kind of error that, if followed, will bring you to a place of drinking poison for him and laying down in the grass to die; but it will at the very least, lead you into the kind of error that will effect your relationship to other Christians, and the view you have of a lost world and their need for a Savior. It will affect your relationship with God, because as in any relationship, if it does not grow, it suffers. It doesn’t sit still, it regresses. You grow apart rather than together.
Now, why am I going over all this territory before addressing today’s topic? It is because when I sat down to write this sermon, I had a direction in mind that was based on some things I have held to be true for a lot of years. But I’ve never actually taught in detail on those things I was now prepared to put down in a sermon. Once I began reading and researching and pondering this sermon, I was forced to realize that some of the arguments I was basing my thoughts on, concerning this passage, were weak and even non-existent.
I thought I was going to tell you a neat story about Jesus preaching to those in Abraham’s bosom and then leading them home. I thought I was going to tie in the thief on the cross who had received a promise from a dying Jesus, that he would join him that day in Paradise, and that all of this had to do with Paul’s statement that He descended first into the lower parts of the earth.
As I studied and realized for the first time that much of my thinking that tied all these things together was based on error, I had to let God change my thinking, which put me right back to square one in the effort to prepare this sermon.
I don’t know if the things I have to say to you today will be as exciting as it might have been, had I clung to my past understanding and gone ahead with what I wanted to present. But I do come with confidence that had I done that, the Holy Spirit would not have used it, and therefore I would have been sinfully guilty of wasting your Sunday morning.
But I have to say to you, that I have had this happen in the past, in my times of study and sermon preparation. And one inevitable result of this process is that I come with confidence that the Lord has been my Guide and Inspiration for the sermon, since it is not what I wanted to say, at all! :>)