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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Romans 5:1-2 - Access to God in the present

Having peace with God, says Paul, gives us access into ‘this grace in which we stand’. Grace here refers to the blessing of justification. By calling it a grace, Paul is reminding his readers that they did not merit it in any way whatsoever.
Paul also says in this clause that we ‘have obtained access’, which raises the question, ‘To where have we obtained access?’ The answer is to God’s presence, but his presence in a particular way. There is a sense in which Christians are in God’s presence in the same way as unbelievers are because God is everywhere. This is not the kind of divine presence that is meant here by Paul. Instead it is his gracious presence as the God of mercy. It is also access to the presence of the one who is the permanent Judge.
Paul uses a particular tense for the verb translated as ‘obtained access’. He uses the perfect tense, which describes a past action with ongoing effects. What he means is that when we believed in Jesus we were accepted into God’s presence and from the point of view of justification we have never left his presence. We are accepted by God, and having been given access we can now utilise the privileges connected to this marvellous status, such as speaking to God. It is also important to remember that we are given access together with every other person who has the same access into God's gracious presence.
Paul is using a word picture here that is based on the practice of an inferior person being introduced into the presence of a greater person through a qualified intermediary, such as what happened when someone was taken into the presence of a monarch or an emperor. God the Father is the greater person, each believer is the inferior person, and Jesus is the intermediary between them. When a sinner trusts in Jesus, he takes that sinner, as it were, to God and says that the sinner should be accepted because of what Jesus did. Of course, in everyday life, even in palaces, an intermediary could only do this occasionally for a person and ultimately the intermediary might die. Jesus in contrast does it permanently for those he represents. It is ‘through him’, says Paul, that we have this amazing, unchangeable access to the holy Father’s presence.

I hope we can see the greatness of the grace that God has shown towards all those he has justified when they believed in Jesus. Differences in their experience will emerge as they move on in the Christian life, but they all begin it at the same spiritual place, that of justification, and they all retain this standing.

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