(Vs. 8.) This is a quotation from Psalm 68:18, and it speaks of our Lord's ascension to heaven from Mt Olivet in the sight of the apostles (Acts 1:9-11). In this he fulfils the type of the High Priest entering into the holiest to make intercession for his people, to prepare a place for them and to send down the Holy Spirit with his grace and gifts to them.
"He led captivity captive." He led a train of vanquished foes; he conquered those who had conquered us, such as sin, Satan and death. Christ conquered and triumphed over every spiritual enemy and those of his people.
"And gave gifts to men" the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially such as qualify men for the work of the ministry and make them useful for God's glory and the good of the church (Rom. 12:5-8).
(Vs. 9,10.) These verses are simply saying that it could not be said of Christ that he ascended into heaven if he had not first descended or come down to the earth (John 3:13). "the lower parts of the earth" does not mean hell (as the Catholics say), but rather the whole of his humiliation, beginning with his mother's womb. He was made flesh!
"That he might fulfil all things" that were written, prophesied and typified of him. All that he did, is doing and will do is according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3,4; Luke 24:27).
(Vs. 11.) He himself appointed and gave men gifts that qualified them to be apostles. This was the first and chief office in the church. They were called by Christ, had their doctrine directly from him and had a power to work miracles to confirm their doctrine (Heb. 2:3,4). This office is now ceased.
"And some prophets" not ordinary ministers of the Word but unusual men of God in the early church who had a particular gift to interpret Scripture (especially the prophecies of the Old Testament) and of foretelling things to come, such as Agabus (Acts 11:27-30).
"Evangelists" preachers of the gospel who were travelling missionaries.
"Pastors and teachers." Many say this is one and the same office, and it may be, for every true pastor is a teacher of the Scriptures. But it seems to me that there are teachers in the church who are not pastors. Pastors are the shepherds of the flock, while teachers may be gifted brethren in the church, teachers of the Word and assistants to the pastors.
(Vs. 12.) The reason Christ gave us these ministers of the gospel is for "the perfecting of all believers", for the best of believers are imperfect. Our faith, love, knowledge and sanctification need growth and maturity (1 Peter 2:2).
"For the work of the ministry," to preach the gospel to the lost (2 Tim. 2:10), to oversee the church (1 Peter 5:1-4) and to teach the things of Christ (Matt. 28:19,20).
"For the edifying of the body of Christ." We preach and teach, not to divide nor to scatter the sheep, but to strengthen, build up and give comfort and assurance to the people of God.
(Vs. l3.) We pray, preach and teach until all the elect come to saving faith and are united in their sentiments concerning Christ, the source and object of faith. We preach until all of the elect come to a spiritual knowledge of Christ, behold his glory, trust in him and appropriate him to themselves. We preach that the elect may grow to a spiritual maturity. We will not be perfect until Christ comes and we are conformed to his image; but we, through proper use of the Word, grow from spiritual infancy to maturity and strength in Christ (1 Peter 2:1,2). The next two verses indicate that this is the meaning.
(Vs. 14,15.) When we were first converted, we were babes in Christ babes in understanding, having to be fed with milk; babes in strength, having to be protected, watched over and pacified; babes in fruit, having the buds of the fruit of the Spirit but not the full flower. As children we are in danger from false teachers, cunning men and strange doctrines. As our tree ministers feed us the Word of God, we grow up in all things in Christ. We become strong in faith, love, patience, knowledge and all grace. The danger of our being deceived or led away from Christ is lessened. The Word of truth is the instrumental means of such growth (1 John 2:12,13).
(Vs. 16.) Because of Christ, who is our Head, the whole church (called the whole body) in its various parts and members is joined and firmly knit together (1 Cor. 12:12,13,27). The bond (or cement) which holds us together is the grace of faith and love supplied by Christ to every part. When each part or member is working properly, the body grows to full maturity and builds itself up in love.