“…in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
Ephesians 3:11b-12 NIVUK
Is Paul being a bit presumptuous with this verse? After all, we might remember the fear the Israelite slaves had of God – we read in Exodus 20:18-19, “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not let God speak to us or we will die.’” So in those days the people were so afraid of God that they trembled in fear. There was no way they were going to approach God. Not unless they had a death wish. But in Paul’s letter, he suggested that through faith, the Ephesians could freely approach God. What then has changed? God hasn’t because He is unchangeable. We read in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change…” And in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” It is through Jesus that we can approach God. He came to this world to bridge the gap between God and His creation. Through Jesus and His sacrificial death at Calvary, we are made righteous and free from sin, a necessary state because no sin can ever be allowed in God’s presence. The New Covenant of love and grace has replaced the Old Covenant of obedience to the Law.
How can we ever thank God enough for His “mysterious plan” and His unlimited grace and mercy. The writer to the Hebrews wrote in 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need“. There is that word again – “confidence“. Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites had no confidence that they would survive an encounter with God. In fact, they were told to not even touch the mountain where God was meeting Moses, let alone God Himself. And they trembled in fear at the very thought of God and what He could do to if His people were disobedient. But we, God’s people (and remember from earlier in this Epistle, we were individually chosen by God before the creation of the world), have nothing to fear because Jesus is at God’s right hand, interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Because of our faith in Jesus and all He has done for us, we truly can approach God confidently and fearlessly. I love the first two verses in Romans 5 (NLT), “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Before God we are righteous, at peace and one day we will share His glory. Truly, an “undeserved privilege“.
So what happens when we approach God “with confidence”? We have the faith to do so, secure in the knowledge that Jesus is there, waiting for us. Well, one thing is that, as the verse in Hebrews says, we receive mercy. Mercy when we really deserve judgement. Declared not-guilty when we should be getting punished. It is not that God has stopped being the righteous Judge. It is because Jesus took the sin-crimes we committed onto Himself, and in return gave us His righteousness. So in God’s presence we are not-guilty.
There is grace there at His throne as well. Grace to overlook our human traits. Grace is a blanket of God’s love and favour; we don’t deserve it but He covers us with it anyway. The grace is there in “our time of need“. We are needy people. Pilgrims struggling along against a tide of human cultures in a society that oppresses us, conflicts with us, puts us down. But our loving Heavenly Dad thinks we are wonderful. We are part of His family. We can sit on His Heavenly knee feeling His gentle arms around us. Feeling the whisper of an “I love you” in our spiritual ears. Paul knew that when the Ephesians approached God’s throne they would receive what they needed. He would rather have been with them but he reminded them that there was Someone better. And we too must never forget that. Thanks, Dad!