Amazing but true: we can have complete and intimate access to the God of the universe:
We know that in many key areas, such as attending special events, VIP meetings, posh restaurants, or expensive concerts, access for us mere peons is difficult, if not impossible. Only certain elites and celebs are allowed into some of these places, events and activities, and they have special access rights and privileges which we do not.
Because I am not one of the rich and famous, I will likely never be able to attend such events or go to such functions since I will never be wealthy enough, or have the right connections, or have elite status or some special privilege. Try as I might, I will not be able to just waltz into the White House or Buckingham Palace – not without a special invitation or pass. So I will only be able to look on and wonder what things might be like inside.
It can be like that in the spiritual and religious arena. Some groups, like the Gnostics of old, believed that they had special understanding, or insider knowledge, which they alone possessed. Thus they could get access to spiritual truths, experiences and realities that the masses could not.
And even though ancient Israel was meant to be a missionary people, sharing the light of God with the surrounding pagan nations, they tended to be a bit exclusive, ignoring the Gentiles around them. Of course the great news found in the New Testament is this wall of division is broken down, and Gentiles now have full access to God through Christ.
The Apostle Paul of course makes much of this truth, especially in places like Ephesians 2-3. As we read in Eph. 2:13-14: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
Or as he says in Eph. 3:6, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Paul, the once proud Jew, absolutely delights in this new reality. He cannot seem to stop speaking about it and glorifying God for it.
And in Eph. 3:11-12 he goes on to say the following: “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” There is that word “access” – and it is coupled with the words “boldness” and “confidence.”
Paul marvelled at all this – and so should we. And to make this all quite practical, Paul goes on to say in verse 13: “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” It does not matter how much hardship or tribulation Paul – or the Ephesians – must go through: having this reality of instant and full access to God through Christ far outweighs all that.
So much can be said about these things, but one Christian preacher who always can be relied upon to give us a rich, full, and spiritually vital commentary is Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He of course spent 8 years delivering a series of 260 expository sermons on Ephesians (preached from 1954 to 1962).
They are now available in eight volumes, totalling some 3000 pages. Here I want to quote from his third volume, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ which discusses Ephesians 3. Chapter 7, “Boldness, Access, Confidence” looks at verse 12. He begins that chapter with these words:
As we look at this verse we must remind ourselves that the grand objective which the Apostle has in mind as he writes the whole of what we have found in this chapter is that these Ephesian Christians might be kept from fainting at the tribulations and the trials which the Apostle himself was being called upon to endure. One of the first things we always tend to ask in a time of trouble is, Why is this? In view of the fact that we are what we are, why should this happen to us? Why should this be allowed? It’s a temptation that the devil is ever ready to insinuate into the minds of God’s people, and the Apostle deals with it here in the case of these Ephesians.
In this particular statement Paul brings this part of his message to a kind of grand climax and conclusion. In a sense we can say that everything the Apostle has been saying would have been of no value at all to the Ephesians unless it brings them inevitably to this particular conclusion. In other words the ultimate purpose of all Christian doctrine, Christian teaching, indeed the end of the Christian salvation itself, is to bring us to what we are told in this verse. We need to be reminded of, because we are living in days when many think of the Christian salvation and its benefits in other terms, such as some particular blessing we desire, or some particular need which we want to be satisfied. Thank God all those things are true, and we can never thank God too much for them. But, over and above them all, and indeed before them all, the grand objective towards which all is designed, is to bring us into the presence of God, to enable us to worship and to pray.
The Apostle is telling the Ephesians that they need not faint or be troubled and unhappy on his account. . . . And his desire is that his Ephesian friends may realize that the same experience is open to them and possible for them….
Lloyd-Jones goes on to say that for the Apostle Paul, doctrine and practice must always go together:
There is a principle here which we ignore or forget at our peril. All Christian doctrine is meant to lead, and is designed to lead, to a practical result and outcome. This cannot be overemphasized. Truth is not merely something for the mind or the intellect. It is, of course, primarily for the mind and the intellect, and it is taken in with the mind and the intellect. But it is fatal to think that truth or doctrine or theology – call it what you will – is to be regarded as an end itself, something that you are aware of and that you can appropriate with your mind, that you can discuss and argue about. Doctrine is meant and designed to bring us to God. It is meant to be practical.
We have a perfect illustration of this truth in the very section we are examining. Here the Apostle, as we have seen, introduces us to some of the profoundest doctrines, yet he makes it clear that it is to lead us into an experience which enables us to say, ‘In whom we have boldness and access and confidence by the faith of him’. Nothing is more remarkable about the Apostle Paul, nothing more moving, than this, that though he can soar into the heavens his feet are always fixed firmly on earth. Like Wordsworth’s Skylark, he always remains ‘true to the kindred points of heaven and home’. He is never a mere theoretical theologian; he is not an intellectual who enjoys bandying terms about. He was the supreme theologian, but his object, his intent, his purpose is always this practical end and result. In other words, if your knowledge of doctrine does not make you a great man or woman of prayer, you had better examine yourself again. The more you know, the more it should show itself in your prayer life, in your holy living, in every other respect. That is why you never find doctrine or theology in isolation in the Scriptures. You generally find it at the beginning of every epistle….
Let me finish with what he has to say about the term “access”:
This can be translated as ‘entree’. A man says that he has gained an entree into some exclusive club; many people are not allowed in, but he has found a way of getting in, a means of entry. It connotes the privilege of entrance, of admission. Paul’s use of the term means, then, that here is a relationship existing between us and God whereby we know that we are acceptable to Him and have an assurance that he is favourably disposed towards us. That is the essence of this term ‘access’. We know that God is ready to look upon us favourably and that he is waiting to receive us. So we do not hesitate as it were on the doorstep, we have a right of entry, an access, an entree. This is a very strong term which the Apostle has already used in verse 18 of the second chapter….
Throughout the New Testament we are taught that confidence is an essential element in true prayer: boldness, access, confidence! An eminent instance of this teaching is found in chapter 10 of the Epistle to the Hebrews: ‘Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest . . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. . . . (vv. 19-22).
I for one am utterly amazed that I have such open and unlimited access to God. Not only can I pray with confidence and boldness, I can go directly to God for everything else. Indeed, I am “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6) because of what Christ did on my behalf. Amazing grace indeed.