Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 3:10c “. . .the manifold wisdom of God,. . .”
Focusing on the Church, angels see a design which is neither ordinary, humdrum, nor mediocre. Instead, they behold a “wisdom of God” which is “manifold.” This word described the endless variety of colors in flowers, and denoted the intricate beauty of an embroidered pattern in cloth. The Septuagint used this word to describe Joseph’s coat of many colors.
The “wisdom of God” displayed in the formation and functioning of His Church is “manifold,” many-splendored (Bruce), sparkling with beauty, abundant in variety, infinite in diversity. The many-shaded “wisdom of God” reveals itself in the many-colored, multi-cultural, and multiracial fellowship of the Church. In every race in every clime one can find Christians. The sun never sets on the Church. Criswell tells of a convert in Portuguese East Africa who said to a missionary, “You have opened to us a door great and wide to the whole world and we have learned that when we join the church of the Lord Jesus Christ we join a world thing.”
In the Church, people of all kinds and all types in all places find themselves knit as one body. Only God could do this. He left no stone unturned, left no point neglected, overcame every obstacle, and provided for every possible emergency, in making sure the Gospel could appeal to, and be applicable for, every human being. His wisdom in conceiving the Church was “manifold,” many-sided, not lacking in any detail.
Eph. 3:11 “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in
Christ Jesus our Lord:”
Paul understood sovereignty. He knew who was in control. Behind all events in history, God is working out “the eternal purpose.” Before time’s first tick, God formed His whole plan of operation for human history.
The incarnation of Jesus is the central event in human history. We in western culture are reminded of this every time we date a check or look at a calendar. For us time is divided into two parts, before Christ and after Christ. From this supreme event flows one ultimate result, the Church, which angels observe with awe. The Church is the final phase in God’s redemptive plan, and the ongoing focus of God’s attention in history.
Nothing could thwart the purpose of Christ’s incarnation. Herod tried, by killing the babies of Bethlehem (MT 2:16). Satan made a bid, by tempting Jesus in the wilderness (MT 4:1ff). The chief priests tried, by having the tomb sealed (MT 27:66). All these attempts were in vain. The same is true of all efforts to frustrate the Church in its mission. The bride of Christ will accomplish everything for which she was established by God.
In some places the Mississippi River flows north, west, and east, but these are brief detours, which in the end make it easier to flow south. Similarly, God’s purposes for the Church sometimes appear to be frustrated and turned and twisted, but it eventually returns to its intended course. Nero may try to vanquish it, darkness and error in the Middle Ages may seem to stifle it, the atheism of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao may seek to crush it, America’s materialism and increasing secularism may try to dilute it, but the mighty river of the Church will either simply flow around these things or roll over them and obliterate them from the face of the earth. Either way, the Church will stream on to its appointed destination.
When all else is gone, the Church will still be rolling on. If every philosophy, institution, and government collapsed, in the midst of the rubble the Church would still stand. The heralds of the cross will survive. If the whole world were plunged into a nuclear holocaust, and only two people survived, I believe at least one of them would be a Christian. Until Jesus comes, the Church is here to stay. It cannot die, for it rests not on the sinking sand of human acts, but on the impregnable will of the Almighty.
Eph. 3:12a “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence”
However high into the spiritual stratosphere Paul soared, he always landed with both feet fixed firmly on the ground. He never got so lost in ideology that he forgot the practical. His discussion of angels watching us, and of God’s eternal purpose, now yields to practical, everyday matters.
When we come into Christ we become part of the angel-watched band and, since the One to whom we are united is the essence of God’s plan, we also become part of “the eternal purpose.” In addition to this, we receive a very practical, everyday result–“we have boldness” to come to God.
“Boldness” translates a term combining two words meaning “all” and “telling.” Hence, the word means to tell all. The Greeks used this term to signify “the free speech which was the right of every citizen in a democratic state” (Bruce). Believers have freedom of speech before God. We can be totally frank and honest with Him. We pray, not timidly, but persuaded He listens to our prayers. We open our minds and hearts freely to Him. Be not like Madame Guion, who said she “was always breathless when in the presence of Napoleon.” Before God we should relax and speak freely.
“Access” is liberty of approach. “Confidence” means we have assurance our right of entry will be neither challenged nor denied. If we have to come by stealth, we fear being caught and cast out, but “access with confidence” means we know God’s gate is always open. No guards interfere.
When God offers “boldness and access with confidence,” dare we come hesitantly? If we enter with doubt, we are not heard. “He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
A fearful Roman citizen once approached Caesar Augustus with trembling. The emperor, offended by this, asked, “Do you take me for an elephant that will tear you?” God, too, is hurt when we come as if He does not care for us. Doubting God’s love always leaves the believer anemic.
Eph. 3:12b “. . .by the faith of him.”
Our “boldness and access with confidence” are made possible “by the faith of him,” faith which has Jesus as its object. Our liberty of approach to God is based not on our own merit, but on our Mediator’s worth. We can “draw nigh” solely due to a Go-between. Only by “faith of him,” by union with Jesus and attachment to Him, are we allowed to approach God.
We can pray only because of Jesus. Recognizing our need for a Mediator keeps us mindful of our sinfulness as contrasted to God’s holiness. This protects us from presumption, and helps us display proper reverence.
Once we manifest “the faith of him,” once we understand the ground rules, deeming ourselves sinners, and God holy, we then with our Mediator “have boldness and access with confidence,” the essence of Christian living. True faith changes one’s attitude about approaching God. Lost people seek distance, and want to forget about a holy God, but the blood-bought throng seeks intimacy. They thirst after God, knowing they have “access with confidence” due to their Mediator, Jesus Christ. We crave “boldness and access with confidence.” We have it. Let us be busy practicing what we possess.
We need to know the full extent of our “access,” and should exercise our right to the hilt. Jesus gives “access” not only to God’s door, but to His house. I dare to venture farther. We can come to His room, eat at His table, sit next to His throne. I blush to press on, but shall. We can come to His heart, be familiar with Him and speak intimately. We can lean on His arm and rest in His lap, for He offers us His bosom, His essence.
Come with reverence, come with a Mediator, but with “boldness” and “confidence” come all the way, satisfied with nothing less than a straightforward, up close, encounter with God. Covet not only God’s ear, but also His heart. We can have His ear at a distance, but our birthright is, and our desire should be, nothing less than intimacy shared in His very bosom.
Prayer is hard work, and usually its most difficult part is gaining a sense of truly close “access.” The most critical moment of prayer is often the instant a saint first begins to approach God. One godly saint supposedly devoted a whole hour to meditation before he knelt down to offer a three minute prayer. I do not agree with the exact detail of this methodology, but I do applaud the sentiment behind it. In prayer, the beginning is pivotal. God knows what we need before we ask for it. Our requests are not as important as sensing “access,” intimate closeness to God.
At the outset, every obstacle to “access” must be confronted and removed. Never postpone prayer till you “feel” better or the right “mood” comes along. If we do not feel in the mood to pray, the sentiment is demonic. Ask God to drive Satan away. If we sense personal uncleanness, ask for forgiveness. If we feel as unworthy as filthy rages, wrap ourselves in the Mediator’s robe of righteousness. If we feel out of place, remember we have a ticket of admittance autographed with the very blood of God’s own Son. If our mind wanders, focus on our seat in heavenly places. If we feel weak, ask for strength. If we know not what to say, ask for wisdom. Whatever block stands in the way of “access with confidence,” have it removed immediately and march into the heavenly place where you belong.
The extent to which we perceive we have penetrated the heavenly throne room will have much to do with our spiritual effectiveness. Depth of penetration is our best support under the troubles of the world, and our best defense against temptation. In battle, do not focus too much on Satan. Know our foe adequately, but know our Lord abundantly, for as we gain total “access” to Him, we are made invincible against the gates of Hell.