His initial persecution of the Christian church demonstrates that Paul had no idea how a group of people who worshiped a crucified Jewish man could be part of God’s plan to exalt Israel and save the world. Yet once he met Christ on the Damascus Road, everything changed (Acts 9:1–31).
Paul, who was a Pharisee at his conversion, was given the calling and grace to preach to all nations the gospel of Christ: to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring the mystery “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church” (Eph. 3:8-10). “This was 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. 3:11-12) The work of Christ that saves His people from God’s wrath and provides a way for the Gentiles to be accepted on the same basis as Jewish Christians before the Father is “according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Even Paul’s calling formed part of this eternal plan.
Paul hardly could have conceived that he would be one of the chief agents through whom the Lord would save the nations. But the transformation of Saul, the zealous persecutor of Christians, into Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, had always been part of God’s plan to extend the gospel to all people.
This gospel presents to us Christ Jesus, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him” (Eph. 3:12). Jews and Gentiles alike need not fear the wrath of God any longer when they come to Him through the Son, for in Christ we are reckoned as righteous and acceptable to the Father.
John Calvin comments, explaining how faith gives us confident access to God: “Faith produces confidence, which again, in its turn, produces boldness… First, we believe the promises of God; next, by relying on them, we obtain that confidence, which is accomplished by holiness and peace of mind; and, last of all, comes boldness, which enables us to banish fear, and to come with firmness and steadiness into the presence of God.”
If you have met Jesus “on your own road”, and by faith have believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, everything has changed for you, too. The Lord has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, chosen us to be holy and blameless, adopted into His family, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, forgiven and reconciled with Him, who has shared His wonderful mystery with us that gives us eternal hope, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, to show that we belong to Him, we have the power of God’s mighty strength, and we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places. As I read over this partial listing of blessings, I see that we are empowered in One Spirit together with other believers to share His truth with others boldly. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
Our boldness and confident access to the Lord, are through His gift of grace. He wants us to use it — to enter into His presence boldly and confidently, but humbly, knowing that He will hear us and He wants to give us good things for His kingdom’s sake. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. 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.” (Heb. 4:16-18)