7.11 Ephesians -- Access to the Father
f. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
Actually, Jesus did not preach peace to the Gentiles, though he foretold that his message would reach to them. It was Paul primarily who, for the first time in history, preached the same message of salvation to Jew and Gentile.
g. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
This statement is the summit of the Gospel. Beyond all the complex interactions of sin and sacrifice, substitution and redemption, faith and adoption, is the one crucial point – access to God. This was the goal that the Old Testament history was tortuously working towards. This was the reason for Jesus' pilgrimage and passion: to give all men unfettered access to God – not through rules of behavior, nor through holy days and festivals, nor through regular religious observances, nor even through reading a holy book of God's words. But through the immediacy of His own Spirit, indwelling the worshipper. You can’t get closer than that!
The word "access" is 'prosagogy,' used only three times in the New Testament: Rom 5:2and Eph 3:12. Christians today take this for granted, it is a "given" -- "of course God listens to us." We have inherited Judaism's complacency towards God. But to the Gentiles that Paul was writing to this was an astounding innovation. Never before in all history was it preached that the God of the Jews welcomed outsiders, and even made provision for them to know Him on equal terms with the Jews. This was an unheard of Gospel that horrified the Jews. The shock value of this teaching goes right past our eyes unnoticed.
In a sense, this was God's problem and His strategic solution: "How can I fix what was lost in Eden, when Adam and I could talk face to face?” What Adam took for granted – intimacy with God – was now banished from human experience and possibility. Even the righteous exceptions (Noah, Abraham) knew Him only sporadically, and what they knew was very limited, not even His Name (Ex 6:3). This vanished capability of man to know God was held forth as a promise to Israel, and through them to all mankind, as a hope for the indefinite and distant future. And as time passed, through the centuries, God would lift a portion of the veil between Himself and Israel and permit them to know a little more of Him: Exodus, Conquest, the highpoint of David’s reign, the lowpoint of Exile and Captivity. But all of this revelation was provisional, temporary, "until the Messiah comes." When that time arrived, the Jews expected a restoration not only of the kingdom of David over the Gentiles, but more grandly, the rule of God over all human affairs, and the Presence of God in the worshipper’s life.
But when the Messiah came, everything went south. He did not perform according to plan, no angelic army was deployed, the Gentiles were not exterminated from within the borders of the Promised Land, and the only person killed was the Messiah himself. The Jews did not see that the primary problem that God faced in bringing about His Kingdom among mankind was not the political situation, not Roman domination, it was not the "Gentile problem" at all. It was the "sin problem," the same old bugaboo that Israel had been wrestling with since Mt Sinai. The disciples reflected the external priorities of the majority of their countrymen when they asked Jesus,
"Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
They were still looking for an external reorganization of the world where Jerusalem becomes the new Rome. Jesus’ answer was "Yes, but." He did restore the kingdom, but not the one they were looking for. His answer was Pentecost – it was the restoration of the capacity of the believer to know God, and the simultaneous opening of a peace offensive on the Gentile world. This did not satisfy the "old guard," who preferred to kill pagans rather than convert them. And so they missed the fulfillment of the promise first made to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through him. The Cross and Pentecost were God’s answer to the sin of Adam: the Cross restored the rightstanding that men lost in the sin of Adam, and Pentecost restored the communication, the access of man to God. But now, instead of it being merely the relation of Creator to creature, the added gift of Jesus' sacrifice was to transform the God-man relation to one of Father-son/daughter.
This is the center of the Gospel, which Paul summarizes in these few words. Formerly there were two paths, one leading to a dead end for Gentiles, the other leading to forgiveness for Jews. Now there is one Savior, one Spirit and one path for all – and this path is better for everyone than was the former Jewish monopoly.