Jesus knew what was ahead for His followers. When He gave them the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, to baptize and to teach them all things (Matthew 28:18-20),
He did not leave them powerless. He gave them the gifts necessary to carry out that task, and He promised them that He would be with them!
Christ’s ascension could have been a very discouraging event for the disciples, just as His death was at first. But the Lord Jesus did not forsake them, for He gave gifts to them and to every believer—gifts which are meant for the spiritual unity and growth of His Holy Christian Church on Earth.
When Christ ascended into heaven, He left His Church with going-away presents. These gifts were not given just to the apostles or the disciples of Jesus’ day. St. Paul writes, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men’” (Ephesians 4:7-8).
The apostle was writing to the believers in the city of Ephesus close to thirty years after Jesus ascended into heaven. Yet it was still true. And two thousand years later, it is still true! Each one of us has been given unique gifts from Christ Himself. We are all able to fulfill that Great Commission in our own special way.
This is important to remember for several reasons.
First of all, we should remember that not all have the same gifts and abilities. The gifts we have are ours because the Lord has chosen to give them to us.
Secondly, no one should become discouraged that he or she does not have the gifts that others have been given. Instead each of us should realize that Christ has given us certain gifts, and He would have us use them in the work of His kingdom.
For every job that has to be done, certain tools are needed. For example, we wouldn’t tear out the old plumbing in our house unless we had a torch and solder, or a cleaner and glue to put everything back together again. Every job is different and specific tools are needed to equip us for those jobs.
As saints—that is, as Christian believers—each one of us has a part to play in the work of ministry, and our tools for this work are not the same as we might use at our places of secular employment.
The equipment we use in the work of the ministry comes from the Word of God. We are equipped with the tools for this work every time we attend worship services and/or Bible Classes and whenever we read our Bibles at home. The equipment—the tools—are given us as the Holy Spirit works through the divinely inspired words of the apostles, the prophets, and the evangelists.
We could say that the Spirit gives us all that we need as going-away presents from our Savior!
And what wonderful going-away presents they are!
First and foremost He has given His Holy Word to guide us and strengthen us in this life.
Through the same Word we are brought together into the unity of the faith and strengthened in that same faith.
But He has also given individual gifts to each believer for the work of ministry!
Thanks be to our ascended Lord for His grace!