Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:17 “And came and preached peace to you which were afar
off, and to them that were nigh.”
Christ purchased for us peace with God (2:16). Jesus wanted everyone–Gentiles “which were afar off” and Jews “that were nigh”–to know this, and to receive reconciliation. After His resurrection, the first word Jesus spoke to His assembled followers was, “Peace” (JN 20:19). He then sent His disciples forth to spread the tidings of “peace” everywhere.
Christ’s redemptive work at Calvary would have been of no avail had its results not been broadcast. The same is true today. Talking is still the God-ordained channel through which people are reached with news of the reconciliation with God purchased by Jesus. To spread the tidings of His “peace,” the Lord speaks through believers to unbelievers. When a follower of Christ heralds the message of peace, it is as if Jesus did it directly Himself. “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 C 5:20).
Christ’s work at Calvary does not speak for itself, nor does it appeal in silence to the consciences of men. Salvation is a by-product of words, of a message which interprets to sinners the meaning of the cross.
Even living a godly life in and of itself is not enough of a witness for Christ. Holiness is needed, but good deeds alone bring glory only to self. Words must be added, explanations offered, for glory to be given to Jesus.
It is incumbent upon us to tell what we have experienced, for the peace Earth craves is the peace only Heaven possesses and dispenses. In the realms of blissful order and perfection, there is unbroken serenity, tranquil peace. We who live in heavenly places and bask in the overflow of heavenly graces must share with the lost around us the Source of our peace.
The peace men seek in things of this world is at best temporary and in the end disappointing. This explains why the worldling is never totally satisfied. Few traits more characterize the lost than restlessness, inner dis-ease. The result is a never ending quest to squelch the turmoil within.
Our text alludes to an Old Testament passage which portrays the lost. “I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:19-21).
Ocean waves are the result of two gravitational fields, one emanating from within the earth, one from the moon. If winds become strong, waves become “troubled.” As Lloyd-Jones aptly says, every person by birth similarly feels the tug of two forces. A sin nature pulls downward, a call from God pulls upward. Waves of everyday living, the ebb and flow of existence itself, hang in the balance. If winds of sin are allowed to dominate, to blow freely upon the surface of one’s life, the result is trouble, no rest, no peace.
To drown this restlessness, people try God-substitutes, such as sex, alcohol, and drugs. (Not even the threat of death by AIDS has slowed America’s hell-bent desire to gratify her sexual passions. Anything for which a society is willing to die has attained the level of cultural deity.) Pleasure becomes a mania. People incessantly want to be doing something new and fun. They cannot stand to be still and quiet. They want to go out, forget troubles, drown anxieties by thoughts of new things. Escapism dominates our culture, as if running from restlessness will cure it, but restlessness can be ended only by finding rest, spiritual rest in Jesus.
Eph. 2:18a “For through him we both have access. . .”
The connecting word “for” reiterates the fact that the peace we proclaim (v. 17) is based upon, and found solely in, the access to God Christ has made possible. True peace is found only in God through His Son Jesus.
This peace is offered to all. Jesus made “access” to the throne of God possible for “both” groups, Jews and Gentiles. All are on equal footing.
“Access” draws a powerful word picture depicting liberty of approach. “Access” referred to the introducing of a person into the presence of a king. Believers owe their freedom of entrance to Another, but do have “access.”
Any tour of a royal residence involves restrictions. At the White House, I passed through a security check-point, and had the unfortunate experience of triggering the alarm system. It is hard to express the panic I felt. I had visions of Secret Service and FBI agents slamming me to the ground and accusing me of concealing a weapon with which I intended to assassinate the President. Fortunately, they only asked me to remove my keys and re-enter the check-point. This time I passed without a beep, thankfully. I learned then and there what restricted access means. Believers need not worry about this when they enter heavenly places. God’s gate is open. No guards interfere. Christ gives “access.” Avail yourselves of it.
Eph. 2:18b “. . .by one Spirit. . .”
“One” stresses again that the similarities which unite believers are more significant than any differences which tend to divide them.
Access to the Father was secured by the Redeemer’s work, and rests every moment henceforth on that work for its continuance. Based on what happened at Calvary, the Spirit implements the access Jesus made possible. Jesus obtained permission for us to enter; the Spirit gives us heart and strength to come. Jesus is the door (JN 10:9); the Spirit is the guide. Christ opens the way; the Spirit conducts the saint in and presents Him.
When granted “access” to a King, one was accompanied by an official of the court, someone who could guide the suppliant, and help with protocol. The Spirit fills this role for us. He makes sure we come to the Father in the right way. We gain access “by one Spirit,” or more literally, “in one Spirit.” We come surrounded, animated, and penetrated by the Spirit. He is the atmosphere in which we move to enter God’s presence.
Eph. 2:18c “. . .unto the Father.”
We are ultimately presented to “the Father.” The source of all is the end of all. A father is the first source and final satisfaction of a dependent child. As His children, we sprang from the Creator, and are to find in Him our fulfillment. We come from Him and are to return to Him.
This return to “the Father” was not easy to make possible. Never underestimate the full magnitude of lostness. The combined efforts of all three persons of the trinity were required to restore what we lost in Eden. The Father thought the plan of salvation before time, the Son wrought the plan in time, the Spirit brought the plan to each believer.
Salvation of a sinner requires all three persons of the trinity. Anyone who seeks to enter the Father’s presence without the Son and Spirit “falls back like a bird lightning struck” (Parker). One can know the Father, and have access to Him, only by means of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. “God in Christ by the Spirit becomes to us our Father” (Lloyd-Jones).
The whole Divine family had to work upon us, and accept certain roles, to save us. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal, yet for our salvation the Son accepted subordination to the Father (PH 2:6ff). In turn the Holy Spirit accepted subordination to the Father and to the Son. Jesus said of the Spirit, “He shall glorify Me” (JN 16:14).
Jesus’ coming to earth to dwell in human flesh was a condescension, as is the Holy Spirit’s coming to earth to deal with human flesh. The Spirit leaves the portals of glory to retrieve us poor lost sheep. His task is to personalize the effects of redemption. The Spirit works out salvation in us, one by one. The Father “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (JN 3:16), but even after this we sinners still walk the wrong road.
Men are so depraved that the shed blood of Jesus is not enough to win us. Despite Calvary, we continue to wander. The Spirit has to come find us, call us by name, convict us of sin, and take us by the hand to God.
To the very end of our earthly lives, the continued access of believers to the Father is totally dependent on the Spirit. The proud, boastful, and self-sufficient are turned back, but the humble and lowly are enabled, empowered, and emboldened by the Spirit to come to the Father.
Yes, “the Father.” Let us leave intense theology a moment and bask in simple, sweet love. “The Father” is a concept which takes on extraordinary meaning in light of the Sonship of Jesus. Christ’s Father is our Father. The kind of Father God was to Jesus is the kind of Father He is to us. As He cared for Jesus, He cares for us. We hence can surrender totally to Him, trusting Him to fulfill our every need. Even when overwhelmed by troubles and problems, a sense of joy can be ours because we are children of God, “the Father.” This truth should override all else.
“It is a priceless boon to have the right to go to some lovely and wise and saintly person at any time; to have the right to break in upon him, to disturb him, to take our troubles, our problems, our loneliness, our sorrow to him” (Barclay). This is what Jesus and the Spirit provide us in regard to the Father. One door is always open. One ear is always ready to listen. One heart always cares. One seat is always empty awaiting us.