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GIFTS FROM THE ASCENDED CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 19, 2010

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).


The Apostle Paul is speaking here of the ascended Jesus, who is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. He says that every true Christian “is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Then he says, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Ephesians 4:8). That is, the forces of evil were defeated by Christ on the Cross, and the captives were set free. Now Jesus “gave gifts unto men.” Grace is the gift of Christ (v. 7). And He gives “gifts unto men” (v. 8). Dr. McGee said, “This means He conferred gifts upon living believers in the church so that they might witness in the world…through the Holy Spirit [He] bestowed His gifts… enabling them to function as members of the body…and He has been doing the same with each new believer ever since” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 253).

Seated at the right hand of God, Jesus our high priest gives gifts unto men. We must say that all spiritual good that comes to us is,

“the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).

Let us think of three of those gifts tonight, as they are found in the New Testament.

I. First, Christ gives the gift of repentance.

Too often people think of repentance as a human work, as something we do. But the New Testament teaches that repentance is a gift that is given to us by the risen Christ. It is “the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). The Apostle Peter said,

“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

This means that the repentance that the Jews experienced when they turned to Christ was a gift, every bit as much a gift as the “forgiveness of sins.”

The word “repent” comes from the Greek word “metanoia.” It means “a change of mind and purpose” (Vine). We are told that Jesus gave repentance. He gave a change of mind and purpose to many Jews in the Book of Acts. But Jesus also gave the gift of repentance to Gentiles,

“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).

The Scofield Study Bible says “Repentance is the trans[lation] of the Gr[eek] word (metanoia – metanoeo) meaning, ‘to have another mind’…a change of mind in respect of sin, of God, and of self” (The Scofield Study Bible, note on Acts 17:30). Jesus gives real converts a change of mind. That change of mind is,

“the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote a book called A Treatise on Conversion. He explained that repentance produces a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of affections, which produces a change of a person's life itself! (Richard Baxter, A Treatise on Conversion, American Tract Society, reprint, n.d., pp. 11-120). The Apostle Paul said,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…literally, a new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17).

Now, let me ask you, if you are unconverted, how are you going to be able to make yourself have a new mind? How are you going to be able to change your own heart and affections? How are you going to change your very life? You can’t! Thought patterns become habitual. It is as impossible to change your inner nature as it is to make a dead body come back to life!

The self-help teachers and motivational preachers are really snake oil salesmen – hucksters and tricksters. Have you ever met anyone whose mind, and heart, and inner affections, and entire life was changed by these speakers? If you check carefully enough you never will find anyone permanently changed by them – and certainly not spiritually changed! Why? Because human beings have to have their stomachs clamped with a “lap band” to lose a few pounds. Human beings are so weak-willed in their natural state that they can’t even regulate their diets. How could they, or anyone else, ever change their own hearts, and their very lives? No, no, repentance has to be a gift! It has to be a gift that Jesus gives to you from Heaven. Repentance has to be,

“the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).

II. Second, Christ gives the gift of faith.

One of the first verses I memorized as a teenager, new to the church, was Ephesians 2:8,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

I hear of some foolish preachers who say that salvation is the gift mentioned here, not faith. What kind of silliness is this? Since no one can have salvation without faith, both repentance and faith are spoken of as a gift in Ephesians 2:8. Salvation and faith are both “the gift of God.” They are both “the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). The Geneva Bible of 1599 has a good, sensible note on that verse which says, “The gift of God, and faith, do stand with one another.” You can’t separate them, as some try to do!

The Bible says that Jesus is “the author…of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The Greek word translated “author” is “archēgǒs.” It is composed of two Greek words that mean “the beginning” and “to bring.” Christ is the one who begins and brings faith to us! Christ is “the author…of our faith.”

Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins by His vicarious atonement. He rose from the dead to impute His righteousness to you, and give you the new birth. But how do you “get” these benefits from Him?

People say to me, “How can I come to Christ?” Or “how can I have saving faith in Christ?” They seem to think they can learn how to have faith. If you studied the Bible every day for one hundred years you could never “learn” how to come to Jesus. You could never, ever “learn” how to have saving faith in Him. Faith has to be a gift! Faith is,

“the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).

Instead of trying to “learn” how to have faith you should be praying to God for Jesus to give you the gift of faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is “the gift of Christ.” Pray to God each night that He will give you saving faith through His Son, Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are both “the gift of Christ.” Let us stand and sing hymn number eight on your song sheet! Sing stanzas 3, 4 and 5.

Thy work alone, O Christ,
   Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy Blood alone, O Lamb of God,
   Can give me peace within.

Thy love to me, O Christ,
   Not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest,
   And set my spirit free.

Thy grace alone, O God,
   To me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone, O Son of God,
   Can this sore bondage break.
(“Not What These Hands Have Done” by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).

III. Third, Christ gives the gift of revival.

On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter said,

“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).

Peter said that Christ, at “the right hand of God exalted”…”hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” Christ “shed forth” the Holy Spirit at the time of the first revival at Pentecost. He has done the same thing time and again, in every subsequent revival!

We should remember that Jesus predicted this earlier, in John 16:7-8,

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7-8).

Notice that Jesus said, “I will send him unto you.” It is Jesus who sends the Holy Spirit to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” It is Jesus who sends the Holy Spirit to do this work in every individual conversion. And it is Jesus who sends the Holy Spirit to do this work in a larger measure in many people in revival. Iain H. Murray gave this definition of revival,

A revival is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, brought about by the intercession of Christ, resulting in…a widespread movement of grace among the unconverted (Iain H. Murray, Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, pp. 23-24).

I think he is right. Revivals are not “triggered” by our efforts, our preaching, or anything else we do. Real revival is “brought about by the intercession of Christ.” Revivals are “the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).

Let us pray for Him to send the Holy Spirit in revival. Charles Simeon pointed out that “The work of conversion must be very gradual among you, unless God pour out his Spirit in a most extraordinary measure upon you” (Murray, ibid., p. 24). We saw that happen among us this past summer. Dr. John S. Waldrip was preaching in his church camp. Suddenly quite a large number of his people were converted. When I heard about that I asked him if he would come and preach for us. Several people in our church were converted. Then our church and his came together, and Dr. Waldrip continued preaching, mostly sermons adapted from Dr. Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844). The services of prayer and preaching went on for several more nights, and a large number of people were hopefully converted. Looking back on these meetings I can only say that we experienced a “touch” of revival. Let us pray that Christ will send us nights like this again,

“…when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

And when revival comes, we will know it is “the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). Amen.

Please stand and sing hymn number 5, written by that wonderful poetess of the First Great Awakening, Anne Steele (click here to read about her).

He lives, the great Redeemer lives,
   What joy that blest assurance gives!
And now before His Father God,
   He pleads the merit of His blood.

Hence, then, our dark despairing thoughts;
   Above our fears, above our faults,
His powerful intercessions rise;
   And guilt recedes, and terror dies.

In every dark distressing hour,
   When sin and Satan join their power,
Our cause can never, never fail,
   For Jesus prays, and must prevail.
(“His Powerful Intercessions” by Anne Steele, 1760;
     to the tune of “Just As I Am”).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Ephesians 4:1-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
      “His Powerful Intercessions” (by Anne Steele, 1760; to the tune of “Just As I Am”).
 

THE OUTLINE OF

GIFTS FROM THE ASCENDED CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).

(Ephesians 4:8)

I.   First, Christ gives the gift of repentance, Acts 5:31; 11:18;
II Corinthians 5:17.

II.  Second, Christ gives the gift of faith, Ephesians 2:8;
Hebrews 12:2; 11:6.

III. Third, Christ gives the gift of revival, Acts 2:32-33; John 16:7-8;
Acts 3:19.