A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com
Presented at Trinity Fellowhip on 6/28/98
The theme of Ephesians is God's eternal purpose to build his Church: to redeem from every tongue, tribe, and nation a people for his name and build them together as living stones into one great Temple to the praise of Jesus Christ; to preserve them in that structure for all eternity as showcases of his glory and his grace, in order that "the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (3:10). This is the greatest, loftiest, most exalted truth your mind will ever entertain. It is like a many-faceted diamond glowing with, catching, and shedding abroad the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
It is not possible to spend too much time in the contemplation of these celestial mysteries, these holy truths. All eternity will not suffice to exhaust the wonder and mystery of it all. The greatest joy of eternity will be that every day that passes in never-ending succession we will be granted to see just a little deeper into this inexhaustible well of truth and light. And the greatest privilege the believer has in this life is that with every day that passes even now we have the opportunity to see just a little deeper into this same truth.
Each verse then is one facet of the diamond. 2:1-10 deals with Regeneration. 2:11-22 deals with the unification of those regenerated into one body, the Church. Today we come to the climax of this section: 2:17-18. "And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father."I. THE PROCLAMATION OF THE PEACE (v. 17).
God has left nothing undone for our salvation that omnipotence can do. The Lord Jesus Christ himself not only provides, he not only constitutes, he also proclaims the peace that God has wrought between Himself and Man, between Man and Man.
Who are the near and the far? In context it would be Jews and Gentiles. The contemporary application would be to those reared in Christian families or a Christian culture and those without that advantage. The Jews were monotheists who had the Law, the Temple, the Sacrificial System, and the Prophets of the true God to prepare them for Messiah's coming. They had very high standards of public morality. They were NEAR! The Gentiles were polytheists given up to every kind of sensuality, most of whom were not even seeking the truth. They were FAR. But neither was IN the Kingdom. Both needed the same message of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.
So too, the question for us is not are we near or far, but are we IN? Think of a man who runs onto the train platform just as it pulls away. He was very close, but he missed the train. Many of you are very near. You were raised in the Church; you may be members of the Church. You lead good moral lives by the standards of men. You have heard the Gospel, and intellectually you believe it, in so far as you believe anything. But have you ever made it PERSONAL, confessed your sins to Christ, asked him to be your Lord and Savior and committed your life to him? To be so near but not to be IN is just to be that much more tragically OUTSIDE. No one is too good to need Christ, and no one is too hopeless to turn to him. The message is to those who are near and to those who are far. The message is to you.
When did this preaching that is referred to take place? There are several possibilities. Was it during Christ's earthly ministry? No, then he only preached to the Jews. Was it through the Apostles in the composition of the New Testament? Yes, surely, for they acted as his representatives. "Therefore, we are ambassadors of Christ, as though God were entreating you through us" (2 Cor. 5:20). But the "we" in this verse is inclusive. Therefore, there is another way this preaching takes place as well: through the Church. When Luke wrote the book of Acts, the history of the NT church, he called it "those things that Jesus continued to do and teach" after his Ascension.
Do you get the implications of this point? This day--this hour--this moment, Scripture is being fulfilled in your ears. The Christ who spoke is the Christ who speaks whenever the New Testament is read or faithfully proclaimed. Though I am a most inadequate instrument, a very imperfect spokesman, and a terribly unworthy servant, nevertheless I am an ambassador of Jesus Christ. As though God were entreating you through me, I urge you to be reconciled to Him. But look again. The pronoun is plural. It is WE who are the ambassadors--you and I, each one of us who truly knows Him. Whenever you faithfully share the Gospel you are the instrument and the means by which the Lord Jesus Christ himself, having come, now preaches peace to those who are far and those who are near. Through YOU he announces the Good News: release to the captives, freedom from the guilt and bondage of sin, futility, and death: PEACE to those who are near and those who are far away.
That is what is at stake in your Christian life--whether you search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things be so, whether you do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, whether you allow the Message to transform you so that your life is in harmony with what you say. Will the preaching of Jesus Christ be heard or muted? Will it be clear or distorted? That is what is at stake.II. ACCESS IN ONE SPIRIT (v. 18).
This is the ultimate purpose behind it all. Why did Christ come and die, why does he preach peace through his Church? So we can have access. The climax of the work of Christ in joining sinners to himself and to the Church is fellowship with God. Why did Christ have to die? So we could escape Hell? NO! That is just a fringe benefit. Why did Christ have to die? So we could have help with the petty problems of this life? NO! That is just a fringe benefit. Listen to the typical Evangelical proclamation of the Gospel, listen to our prayers, listen to our popular Christian music and our popular TV preachers, and tell me whether we have not reversed our priorities, put our cart before the horse, put the fringe in the center and moved the central things to the periphery of our lives? THIS is the climax of the argument in chp. 2: "for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father."
The word "access" could be translated "introduction." This same word PROSAGOGE was used as the title of a servant whose duty was to introduce guests to the king. You don't just walk up to the king on his throne and slap him on the back; you approach with reverence, and someone has to present you. I remember meeting Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, a famous Christian apologist, back in the 70's. I was visiting the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School my senior year in college, where he taught at the time. I had read and enjoyed several of his books, and he was the first real Author I had met in the flesh. Believe it or not, I was just a bit in awe of him at the time and hesitant to just walk right up and introduce myself. But my friend David, who had gone to the seminary the year before and had been in his classes, played the role of the PROSAGOGE: he said, "Come on, I'll introduce you." "Dr. Montgomery, I'd like to present my friend Don Williams, who is thinking of coming here next year. You definitely want him in your class; he knows even more about Lewis and Tolkien than I do." And we had a delightful conversation and became good friends.
Well, how about meeting the Author of all Creation? How can I, a worm, a speck of dust, an inexcusable rebel against Him, dare to approach a holy God? The Lord Jesus Christ himself brings us into the presence of the Father; otherwise we could not dare to go. It was not for nothing he said, "I am the WAY, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." So he puts his arm around you and leads you up to the Throne. "Father, I'd like to introduce my friend _______. He means a lot to me. I died in his place to pay for his sins so I could bring him here." And what do you think the Father says to that? "You are welcome in my house; I am so glad to see you. Any friend of my Son is a friend--yea, a SON--of mine."
This access to the Father we have through Christ is "in one Spirit." The whole Trinity is involved in our salvation. Sin is so serious a matter that it takes the whole Trinity to overcome it. They have different roles in the one work: the Father plans and initiates salvation; the Son accomplishes it; and the Spirit applies it in our lives. It is not enough to study this verse, even to understand it. You can hear it a thousand times and your prayers can still be mechanical. Then somehow inexplicably the truth gets in gear with your soul and you experience the reality of access--communion--intimacy with God. It is not natural for finite and sinful creatures to know this; it is supernatural. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.CONCLUSION:
Do you have access to God? It is there for you in Jesus Christ. For "He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father." Amen.
Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams