The Glory and Weight of Access to God: Ephesians 2:11-22
It is hard to fully appreciate the blessings that we have in Christ if we do not consider the seriousness of our lost condition. Paul wants us to think deeply about the weight of God’s wrath and our hopelessness apart from Christ, so that we will begin to appreciate with greater depth the beauty of God’s grace. He calls us through a rehearsal of these truths to abandon any temptation to entertain religious pride, by striping us of every potential pillar that could support such a foolish structure. In Ephesians 2, he paints a vivid picture of grace by describing the negative side of our standing before God before our conversion. Now he will complete the picture with positive assertions about our standing before God after our conversion.
Verse 13 says that since my conversion, I am brought near by the blood of Christ. Two truths make this statement astounding, first is the phrase “brought near.” Since we are far removed from Old Testament Levitical practice, it is hard to grasp how shocking this statement would be for a Jew, especially to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles. Under the Old Covenant, only the priests could work in the Holy Place, and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement under strict qualification according to Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:6-7. The Jews new nothing of entering God’s presence, like this verse describes. They saw the terror of the Lord at Mount Sinai, and understood His holiness in a way that we fail to appreciate in our age. When they thought of temple worship, they were constantly reminded of their sin, its horrible wage, death, and their need for a mediator to come to God. In the traditional setting, here in Ghana, you cannot approach a chief in any way. There are specific practices that regulate the way we come, and who can bring us and speak for us, yet we feel we can have unhindered direct access to God. Actually, through Christ, we do have this access to God, and are even invited to come with confidence before the throne of grace, in Hebrews 4:16. Because of grace and only by grace we have access to God though Christ.
Secondly, he says that it is through “Christ’s blood.” Once again, for the Jew, blood was a constant reminder that the “wages of sin is death.” Their sin caused an innocent animal to loose its life and shed its blood for the atonement of their sins. We often forget how disgusting and offensive our sin is to a holy God. People in America often live sheltered lives from the gruesome realities of death. Something as simple as a chicken fillet or a hamburger seems so clean to your average American. You walk into a clean grocery store and pick a neatly packaged wrapping of meat, but in the developing world it is very different. If you want beef or chicken, you may walk up to a bloody mess with a butchered cow hanging in the market. You may see them slaughter your chicken. Death is all around you, and this was the way of life for the Jew. He saw the sacrifice before it was killed. He put his hands on that goat or lamb as he confessed his sins. He saw the gruesome reality of his sin as the blood ran out of his sacrifice. He understood the great cost of the “pleasures of sin for a season.” It was the blood of Christ, our sinless sacrifice that bought this privilege and not our own works. It was our sinless Savior hanging on the cross bearing the judicial wrath of the Father, that purchased our redemption and access to the Father. Let us never forget the beauty of grace and weight of our sin. I was separated from God and at war with Him, yet through the blood of Christ when I was converted, I was brought near to God!