'We Have' - Three Times In Ephesians

Alfred E. Bouter

'In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. ... Through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. ... In accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him' (Eph. 1:7; 2:18; 3:11-12 NASB).

The expression 'we have' occurs three times in Ephesians (see references above) and is also repeatedly used in Paul's other epistles to indicate true Christian privilege. Let us look at these three passages with respect to our past, present and future.

We have Redemption

Once we were far away from God, His enemies, but now we are redeemed with complete deliverance from hostile powers and purchased with the incalculable price of Christ's precious blood. 'We have' redemption (so also in Col. 1:14); what a wonderful possession! Accordingly, God has forgiven our sins and trespasses: a complete transaction of acquittal. God sees us in Christ (Eph. 1:6); no thought of failure, sins, or shortcomings. Thus, our God and Father looks at us as being 'in the Beloved', fully acceptable and for His own pleasure! No power, enemy, or failure can ever nullify this position or take away what 'we have' in Christ. This new position is according to the riches of God's grace (1:7; 2:7), which is much more than a provision with respect to the greatness of our needs, for which indeed His richness in mercy has provided (2:4). The riches of grace are linked with what 'we have' and are related to what is for the satisfaction of God's own heart; He would not be satisfied with anything less than giving us this wonderful place of nearness in the Beloved!

The first 'we have' in Ephesians implies a tremendous transfer from darkness to light and into a relationship of intimacy with the Son of God's love (Col. 1:12-13), but it also leads to a further description of our present privileges: the second we have' in Ephesians. Notice that what we have and enjoy is 'through Him' (Eph. 2:18), our Lord Jesus, 'in whom' also we are accepted (1:7) (being perfect Man. He is at the same time a divine Person, on the 'same level' with the Father and the Holy Spirit). What we are and what we have is closely linked with the Beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be enjoyed forever in fellowship with Him. We will never thank Him enough! This passage (Eph. 2:18) also shows that the privileges we have not only are linked with Christ, but with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.

We have Access

True Christian privilege leads to worship, for which we now have direct access to God. By way of contrast: only the high priest in the Old Testament was able to enter God's presence (the holy of holies) -on the great day of atonement. Otherwise the entrance was closed (Heb. 9:1­10). In the fullness of time Christ came and has worked an eternal redemption for believers, providing them free access to where God has received Christ (Heb. 9:14; 10:19-22). This access was already indicated in Acts 7 when Stephen saw 'the glory of the Lord' linked with Christ at God's right hand. The entrance we have can be summarised with the words, 'we see Jesus' (Heb. 2:9). Indeed, this is the right of entry we have to serve the living and true God and to approach Him as worshippers. It involves the freedom and entitlement to enter into His presence, and to have fellowship with God, as illustrated in the prodigal son when he returned and was restored (Luke 15:20-22). Furthermore, this new access is a privilege for believers taken from the Jews and from the Gentiles ('both' Eph. 2:18), and united together by 'one Spirit.' The word access also implies that we are under a new leader: Christ (cf. Heb. 10:19-22; 12:1-2). In addition, it entails the mission, work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, while on our side it presupposes a right spiritual condition: being tilled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Furthermore, as worshippers, we may say, 'Abba, Father' (Gal. 4:6: another verse where we find the Trinity indicating the nearness and intimacy of the relationship we have with the Father, who seeks worshippers (John 4:23). This brings us back to the first statement in this paragraph that Christian privilege leads to worship.

We have Boldness

This leads us to the third 'we have' which is highlighted in Ephesians 3:12. The 'we have' privileges in Christ are going to be our eternal possession, to enjoy together with Him and the Father, as well as with all Christians. But what we are going to enjoy for eternity to come, if already our present enjoyment is according to God's plan and wisdom. 1 think this is why in Ephesians 3 it is said, first of all, that 'we have boldness,' sometimes translated 'confidence'. This boldness is the practical disposition of believers as linked with Christ in the glory, without any hindrance or separation. The same word in the Greek text is used when the lord spoke openly of His coming sufferings. and Peter rebuked Him (Mark 8:32). In fact. 'openly' or 'freely' is a common translation for this word boldness, and is used many times in John and Acts. This helps us to understand why it is linked with liberty (the same word as in 2 Cor. 3:12) and absence of hindrance (cf. Acts 28:31). It is significant that the word is used once more in Ephesians: 'And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel' (6:19 used as a verb in 6:20 as in 1 Thess. 2:2). In this case it refers to Paul's ministry towards people, whereas in Ephesians 3:12 it is linked with the believers' response to God. True liberty is needed for both activities!

The third and last `we have' (3:12) in Ephesians is linked with boldness and also access. Let us again consider the word 'access', used in 2:18 as well. We find this word one more time in the New Testament, namely in Romans 5:2, associated with favour on God's side to declare us righteous, and with faith on our side to enter into the good of this favour. This word 'access' in Ephesians 3 is characteristic of Paul's ministry according to God's plan and wisdom (3:91), permeated with the unsearchable riches of the person of Christ. As we are 'in Christ', so is God's eternal purpose. What stability and assurance! Accordingly, the position we have gives boldness (see above), qualifying us to be actually found - already now - in the presence of our glorified and exalted Lord: it provides direct access (see above). Similarly this access is related to a subjective matter, namely an inner condition of assurance or confidence in the believer. This in turn is linked with faith; putting our trust in Christ in the glory, a faith focused on Him. Faith is one of the key­words in Ephesians; it occurs eight times (1:15; 2:8; 3:12,17; 4:5,13; 6:16, 23), perhaps underlining the thought that the new position we have (expressed by the number eight) is received and enjoyed by faith in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ.

May the Lord bless His Word and may we appreciate what 'we have' in giving an adequate response to Him and to the Father (Eph. 3:14-21)!