The Nature and Beauty of Gospel Worship
Ephesians 2:18
For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

I. We obtain this privilege as a fruit, and upon account of the reconciliation made by the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 9:8, and Hebrews 10:19-22). Peter also gives us the same account of the rise of this privilege (1 Peter 2:4, 5). That which is ascribed unto believers is, that they offer up "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable unto God by Jesus Christ." That is the worship whereof we speak.

II. The worship of God under the gospel is so excellent, beautiful, and glorious, that it may well be esteemed a privilege purchased by the blood of Christ, which no man can truly and really be made partaker of, but by virtue of an interest in the reconciliation by Him wrought. For "by Him we have an access in one Spirit unto God." This I shall evince two ways. First, Absolutely. Secondly, Comparatively, in reference unto any other way of worship whatever. And the first I shall do from the text. It is a principle deeply fixed in the minds of men, yea, ingrafted into them by nature, that the worship of God ought to be orderly, comely, beautiful, and glorious.

1. The first thing in general observable from these words is, that in the spiritual worship of the gospel, the whole blessed Trinity, and each Person therein distinctly, do in that economy and dispensation, wherein they act severally and peculiarly in the work of our redemption, afford distinct communion with themselves unto the souls of the worshippers.

2. The same is evident from the general nature of it, that it is an access unto God. "Through Him we have an access to God." There are two things herein that set forth the excellency, order, and glory of it.

(1) It brings an access.

(2) The manner of that access, intimated in the word here used, it is προσαγωγή, a manuduction unto God, in order, and with much glory. It is such an access as men have to the presence of a king when they are handed in by some favourite or great person. This, in this worship, is done by Christ. He takes the worshippers by the hand, and leads them into the presence of God. There are two things that hence arise, evidencing the order, decency, and glory of gospel worship.

1. That we have in it a direct and immediate access unto God.

2. That we have access unto God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ours in Him. Before I come to consider its glory comparatively, in reference to the outward solemn worship of the temple of old, I shall add but one consideration more, which is necessary for the preventing of some objections, as well as for the farther clearing of the truth insisted on; and that is taken from the place where spiritual worship is performed. Much of the beauty and glory of the old worship, according to carnal ordinances, consisted in the excellency of the place wherein it was performed: first, the tabernacle of Moses, then the temple of Solomon, of whose glory and beauty we shall speak afterward. Answerable hereunto, do some imagine, there must be a beauty in the place where men assemble for gospel worship, which they labour to paint and adorn accordingly. But they "err, not knowing the Scriptures."There is nothing spoken of the place and seat of gospel worship, but it is referred to one of these three heads, all which render it glorious.

1. It is performed in heaven; though they who perform it are on earth, yet they do it by faith in heaven.

2. The second thing mentioned in reference to the place of this worship is the persons of the saints: these are said to be the "temple of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 6:19).

3. The assemblies of the saints are spoken of as God's temple, and the seat and place of public, solemn, gospel worship (Ephesians 2:21, 22). Here are many living stones framed into "an holy house in the Lord, an habitation for God by His Spirit." God dwells here: as He dwelt in the temple of old, by some outward carnal pledges of His presence; so in the assemblies of His saints, which are His habitation, He dwells unspeakably in a more glorious manner by His Spirit. Here, according to His promise, is His habitation. And they are a temple, a holy temple, holy with the holiness of truth, as the apostle speaks (Ephesians 4:24). Not a typical, relative, but a real holiness, and such as the Lord's soul delighteth in. Secondly, proceed we now in the next place to set forth the glory and beauty of this worship of the gospel comparatively, with reference to the solemn outward worship, which by God's own appointment was used under the Old Testament; which, as we shall show, was far more excellent on many accounts than anything of the like kind; that is, as to outward splendour and beauty, that was ever found out by men.

1. The first of these was the temple, the seat of all the solemn outward worship of the old church; the beauty and glory of it were in part spoken to before; nor shall I insist on any particular description of it; it may suffice, that it was the principal state of the beauty and order of the Judaical worship, and which rendered all exceeding glorious, so far, that the people idolized it, and put their trust in it, that upon the account of it they should be assuredly preserved, notwithstanding their presumptuous sins. But yet, notwithstanding all this, Solomon himself, in his prayer at the dedication of that house (1 Kings 8:27), seems to intimate that there was some check upon his spirit, considering the unanswerable: ness of the house to the great majesty of God. It was a house on the earth, a house that he did build with his hands, intimating that he looked farther to a more glorious house than that. And what is it, if it be compared with the temple of gospel worship? Whatever is called the temple now of the people of God, is as much beyond that of old as spiritual things are beyond carnal, as heavenly beyond earthly, as eternal beyond temporal.

2. The second spring of the beauty of the old worship, which was indeed the hinge upon which the whole turned, was the priesthood of Aaron, with all the administrations committed to his charge. The high priest under the gospel is Christ alone. Now I shall spare the pains of comparing these together, partly because it will be by all confessed that Christ is incomparably more excellent and glorious; and partly, because the apostle on set purpose handles this comparison in sundry instances in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where anyone may run and read it, it being the main subject matter of that most excellent Epistle.

3. The order, glory, number, significancy, of their sacrifices was another part of their glory. And indeed, he that shall seriously consider that one solemn anniversary sacrifice of expiation and atonement, which is instituted (Leviticus 1, will quickly see that there was very much glory and solemnity in the outward ceremony of it. But now, saith the apostle, "we have a better sacrifice" (Hebrews 9:23). We have Him who is the high priest, and altar, and sacrifice all Himself; of worth, value, glory, beauty, upon the account of His own Person, the efficacy of His oblation, the real effect of it, more than a whole creation, if it might have been all offered up at one sacrifice. This is the standing sacrifice of the saints, offered "once for all," as effectual now any day as if offered every day; and other sacrifices, properly so called, they have none.

(J. Owen.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

WEB: For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

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