The ascension is often the broken wheel on the gospel wagon. If you visit your local Christian bookstore, you’ll often find lots of books on the cross or resurrection, but you’ll find very few that delve into the gold mine of the ascension. However, the ascension is no lone essential for a full gospel, and it is a doctrine we cannot live without.
The doctrine of the ascension was understood as essential in the New Testament church and also in the early church. The Apostles Creed says, “[Jesus] ascended into heaven, / and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” The Nicene Creed, in similar fashion, says, “He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father.” Right next to the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus sits the doctrine of the ascension. We could multiply testimony to the importance of the ascension through out Church History, but the point is we must not neglect the ascension’s importance.
It is not just generally important. It has major implications for living in light of the gospel and there are applications especially important for men related to this doctrine. Here are three implications of the ascension with import for men.
1. The ascension of Jesus guarantees us the Spirit.
In John 14:16-20, the Apostle reports,
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
We could stay put on these verses alone because they are so rich with truth, but the core truth that opens up all the other truths in this passage is that the ascension of Jesus is necessary for us to receive the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascends to reign at the right hand of the Father, the Spirit descends to empower us to live on mission.
John talks about obeying the commandments in this passage, but it’s not a kind of self-justification obedience. It’s the kind empowered by the Spirit and enabled by our union and communion with the Triune God. Notice how many times John says we are “in” the Father, Son, or Spirit. This union and communion is made possible by the work of the Spirit.
This means, for instance, that when men are commanded by Paul to love our wives and not provoke our children, we are not commanded to do so to self-justify. We are not called to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps like the world says “real” men should. Rather as Paul says to the Philippians, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (2:5). The kind of mindset the gospel demands of men in their homes and in the church, as we lead, is empowered by the Spirit’s work, because Jesus Christ ascended and now reigns.
2. The ascension of Jesus guarantees we reign with him.
Paul encourages the Ephesians,
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
It should be noted how Paul weaves in many of the key components to the gospel—grace, salvation, resurrection, ascension, reigning, and covenant love. Verse six, four our purposes here, will be our focus. Paul says, “[God] raised us up with [Jesus] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
As Jesus Christ sits in heaven and puts all things under his authority, we sit alongside of him. We reign with Jesus Christ now. Notice how Paul ends this section, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). The focus turns again to the implications of the ascension; it allows us by the power of the Spirit to do good works; we are his workmanship created for this very purpose.
The fall out for this gospel truth is world wide in its effect. As Jesus sits and reigns, we are sent out as ambassadors of his kingdom doing good works.
Men, as we serve and lead in our homes, we are doing the good works “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10).
As we work and strive for excellence in our workplaces no matter what your occupation, we are doing the good works “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10).
Pastors, as you strive to shepherd God’s bride and proclaim the gospel, you are doing the good works “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). We live on mission in the power of the Spirit as ambassadors of the reigning Christ in all spheres of our lives.
3. The ascension of Jesus guarantees we will preserve in this fallen world.
In his first epistle John says,
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. —1 John 2:1-6
The author of Hebrews says,
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:14-16
Both of these passages have something in common. They deal with the Christian as a sinner and saint living in the “already but not yet.” John goes to great length to show that Christians cannot live in persistent, unrepentant sin. However, he has a pastor’s heart, and he realizes how discouraging sinning can be.
He knows we often doubt our salvation when we sin. We have often pondered how much sin can God really forgive? So he says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1).
To paraphrase, John says, “I don’t want you to sin, but I know we live in fallen world where we are not fully glorified. So when you do sin, don’t be discouraged. You have an Advocate with the Father, and because of this Advocate, your sins will always be forgiven. Repent freely.”
Throughout Hebrews, the author deals with the realities of persecution and suffering. How can we hold fast in a world where our faith will be tried by sin, suffering, and persecution? The author’s answer? God is not a cold impersonal deity. He’s a loving Father and at his right hand sits a Man who knows all of the weakness of living as a human. He knows we are weak and so provides direct access to the throne of grace where all the promises of Christ are yes and amen for us.
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Men, as we lead and love and serve, we all will sin often.
Don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose heart. Don’t fall away. I have confidence you will preserve because Jesus Christ reigns. Repent because yours sins have been forgiven. Approach the throne of grace and you will have everything you need to stand firm with conviction in the face of any persecution and suffering. Call out boldly asking for whatever you need to lead your family and for pastors to lead the Church.
The ascension guarantees we will preserve in a fallen world. Do not lose heart, men.
The ascension isn’t a dollar store doctrine. It’s essential for Christian living and for growth into the image of Christ as men. We cannot lead well without understanding what the ascension does for us. We cannot have faithfulness or fruitfulness in ministry without it. Lose sight of the ascension and reign of Jesus Christ and you start to manufacturer results.
Place the ascension within the scope of the gospel story and you will boldly live, lead, love, and repent. Men, our Savior reigns.
Assistant Editor, Manual
Mathew is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He’s the Managing Editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He’s married to LeAnn and they have three daughters. They enjoy traveling, relaxing at the beach, and wandering in the woods. Mathew regularly blogs at Grace for Sinners and contributes to a number of other publications. The Sims are members at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.
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