What Christ gives us full access rights to is amazing:
The other day I was going through a few old cards in my wallet. One of them was an access pass to Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne. If I flashed that card at the gate I could waltz right in for free. Why is that? Am I someone special? No, but I was married to someone who was: my wife worked there for a long time, so being related to her, I got certain benefits that most other folks did not have.
Sure, that may not be as spiffy as having a lifetime Gold Membership Pass to some VIP restaurant or sporting arena. But the point is, ordinary folks do not usually have easy – and cheap – access to places or events that only the elites can get into.
Yesterday I posted a piece on this issue. As is so often the case, I managed to sermonise it, looking at the amazing access believers have to God through Christ. It was based in Ephesians 3:12 and featured some powerful quotes from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2023/09/02/on-our-vip-access/
When I posted a link to that on the social media, a friend reminded me that in his previous volume of expository sermons on Ephesians MLJ also discussed this same topic (thanks Kerry). So I grabbed my copy of that book and reread the relevant chapter. As expected, it was so good that I decided then and there that I must pen one more article on this tremendous spiritual truth.
His second volume of sermons, God’s Way of Reconciliation, covers Eph 2. And Ch. 22 is titled “Access to the Father.” In it he covers just one verse, Ephesians 2:18 which says: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
Again, Lloyd-Jones does such a good job of dealing with this passage that the best thing I can do is simply offer a few lengthy portions of this chapter. His opening paragraph is worth quoting in full:
Here, in this statement, the apostle reaches the grand climax of the mighty argument which begins in the eleventh verse of this second chapter of his Epistle. There is nothing beyond this; this is the very top. The acme. This is the quintessence of the Christian faith and the Christian position. There is no doubt, therefore that we are looking at and considering one of the greatest and most glorious statements that is to be found in the whole range of Scripture. To me it has been a thrilling experience to take these steps with the apostle, step by step. Each time we climb higher and higher and higher. But at last we have reached the top, we are standing on the summit, we have arrived at the grand plateau, and we are just looking, looking and gazing, with astonishment and amazement at the height to which we have been brought. Indeed to me the statement before us is not only stupendous, it is staggering. ‘Through him, we both have access – access! – by one Spirit unto the Father.’ Our chief trouble, and the whole trouble with the Church, is that we do not realise the meaning of a statement like this. Were we to do so the Christian Church would be revolutionised. Were we to do so we should be lost in ‘wonder, love and praise’. We should realise that the most marvellous, wonderful thing that can ever happen to anybody in this world is simply his becoming a Christian. If only every Church member, every Christian in the Church, realised the truth of this statement, the Church would be so different that we should scarcely recognise her. But oh, how different is the Church from what we find here! How many think of Christianity and of the Christian Church simply as a place which they attend now and again, and that perhaps in a perfunctory manner, hesitating, and doubtful whether they will or not, and as a matter of duty; or as a place in which they may exercise certain gifts that they have, and be busy – a kind of club, an institution, a human society. What a contrast to what we have here! This is Christianity, this is what makes one a Christian. The Christian Church really consists of people who realise that this is the whole object and purpose of everything – access by one Spirit unto the Father. We must meditate upon this, we must pause with this, we must look into it and we must take time to do so; for, as I shall try to show you, we find gathered together in this one verse the most stupendous things that we can ever be told or can ever realise about ourselves.
Many more quotes can be offered here, but let me offer just one more. MLJ rightly reminds us of the Old Testament background here. Back when Paul wrote this letter, many – perhaps most – of the converts to the faith were Jews. So they knew their Hebrew Scriptures, and they had to understand their sacred writings in light of this new person, Jesus, and his new community of believers.
Lloyd-Jones reminds us of how very different things were for the Jews living under the Old Covenant – certainly in terms of getting direct and intimate access to a holy and righteous God. He says this:
Under the Old Testament ceremonial the common people were not allowed to enter into the ‘holy place,’ still less the ‘holiest of all’. Into the holy place the priests alone were allowed to go. But even the priests were not allowed to go into the ‘holiest of all.’ One man only was allowed in there, and that was the high priest, and he was only allowed in once a year, and then ‘not without blood’. He went in once a year. And it was such a tremendous thing that while he was there, hidden from view, the people waited apprehensively for his return. In the Old Testament, we read in great detail, about the kinds of vestments and clothing that were to be worn by the priests and the high priest; and you will find in the case of the high priest that round the hem of his great robe bells were to be placed. Have you ever asked yourself what was the purpose of the bells, the pomegranates and the bells? What was the object? It was just this. The people knew that it was a tremendous thing and a staggering thing for anybody to go into the ‘holiest of all’, into the presence of God. ‘Who shall dwell with the devouring fire?’ asks Isaiah. ‘God is a consuming fire,’ His holiness is such that everything tends to shrivel out of His presence. The high priest goes in once a year to represent the people and make an offering for their sins. The question is, Will he come out alive? And how delighted the people were to hear the jingling of the bells on the hem of his vestment! They knew then that he was still alive, that his sacrifice, the offering that he had presented. the blood that he had taken, was sufficient, that God had accepted it and that sins were forgiven. As he came out they heard the jingling of the bells louder and louder. He had been into the ‘holiest of all’. But what we are told here is this, that through Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we ourselves can enter into the ‘holiest of all’. We have access to the Father: no longer in the outer courts, no longer merely amongst the priests, the veil has been rent, we go right in. We have access unto the Father. Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 3:18. ‘For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust. . . .’ Why? That I might not go to hell? that I might be happy? that I might no longer fall to a particular sin? All perfectly true; but that is not what Peter says; what he says is this – ‘Christ suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.’ ‘These things I write unto you,’ says John as an old man nearing the end of his life, ‘that you might have fellowship with us; and truly, our fellowship (as apostles) is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.’ My friends, this is the grand end and object of salvation, that we enter into the presence of God and have fellowship with Him. We are no longer afar off, we have been made nigh, we are brought right in, we are face to face with Him, we are have fellowship with God. To know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent! Have you got the access, have you realised it? Are you exercising your right to it?
Fantastic and mind-boggling truths indeed. If you try to get free entry into the zoo my wife worked at without the zoo membership card that I had, you will not die, but you will be denied entry. You must pay up to get in. Coming into the presence of God in the Old Testament was a terrifying thing. Death could be the outcome if someone sought to approach God in the wrong way.
But God himself paid up. He paid the price by sending his son to die in our place. So while God is just as holy, pure and perfect in the New Testament as in the Old, a new way of approach has been opened up to us,. Those who turn from their sin and place their faith and trust in Christ now have direct and immediate access to the Father – with full membership benefits. That is utterly remarkable.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was absolutely right to say that this “is not only stupendous, it is staggering”.