Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
Ephesians 4:8, RSV
Our dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you have given us the Lord Jesus on high and that we are allowed to be with him and find joy even while still surrounded by all that must fade and perish. For in Jesus Christ you hold us by the hand through anxiety, need, and death. Grant that he may be with us as we continue our pilgrimage. Grant us your Spirit, for we are poor in spirit and in soul. Give us your Holy Spirit from on high. Just in our weakness we come to know what strength and victory you bring through the Lord Jesus, our Savior. The Lord Jesus is our Savior for body, soul, and spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
The context of the words of Ephesians 4:8, RSV
Ephesians 4:1–10 is Paul's compelling description of Christian unity. Every saved believer, regardless of talent or skill, Jew or Gentile, male or female, is saved by the same faith in the same God. Each Christian, therefore, is part of a single, universal family of believers in Jesus Christ. At the same time, God gives different gifts to different people, so that they can serve the many roles needed to accomplish His purposes here on earth. Rather than being concerned about what gifts we might lack, each Christian can rejoice in our unity, and focus on serving God to the best of our ability.
Truly understanding saving grace, as Paul explained in prior chapters, is the Christian's first motivation for living a godly life. Here, Paul encourages believers to live in way which honors that gift. All saved Christians are part of a single, unified family, part of the ''body'' of Christ. At the same time, different believers are given different talents. Some are called to positions of leadership and authority. All Christians should turn away from the ''old self'' we were prior to being saved. Paul's explanation of the ''new self'' includes some basic, practical steps.
Meaning of the words
"Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men"."
Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 in this verse. The "it" he refers to is Scripture. Paul seems to have assumed his audience would recognize this reference to Psalms without Paul needing to spell it out. This implies that early Christians commonly used the Psalms in their gatherings. The quote itself references two actions fulfilled in Jesus.
First is the ascension of Jesus. After His ascension, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost (Acts 2) and gave spiritual gifts to God's people.
Second, Jesus "gave gifts to men." This statement uses the Greek word anthrōpois, which is a general word for human beings. "People," in other words, not merely "men." All believers have at least one spiritual gift. Some are listed in Scripture (Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:4–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11), while it's possible there are others not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. The focus of Paul's teaching is not on how many gifts, or even which gifts, a person has. Rather, the point is that Christians should strive to use the gifts God has given in order to serve others.
Ephesians 4 is the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
This chapter is a part of Paul's exhortation (Ephesians 4–6), with the particular section about the mutual interdependence of the Christians as the church (verses 1–16) and how they should live in the world (4:17–5:20).