Ephesians 2:4-10 But God!
Ephesians 2:4 beings with the simple declaration of “but” and clarified that by almost immediately adding “God” to his statement. In the Greek, the two words are not separated so it literally reads, “But God.”
“But God” is one of the truly great phrases in the Bible. It is used to describe a major option to a situation that would otherwise be hopeless. In the case of Ephesians, it takes the hopeless situation described in Ephesians 2:1 as, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins” and turns it into “But God in love, mercy and in grace made us alive” in verse 4.
But God! Hopeless and helpless because of our sin, God stepped in acted on our behalf. God stepped in and provided a way that we might be made alive, a way for us to be alive spiritually and a way for us to be made alive physically as we are promised a new, glorified body that will have no decay and will never die. When God stepped in, He made it possible for us to spend eternity alive with Him in His home which we call heaven. But God!
In Ephesians 2:1-3 we have the picture of what we deserve because of our choice to follow Satan and to sin. In Ephesians 2:4ff we have the picture of what the love, mercy and grace of God has provided for us. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes God’s justified judgment on sin while Ephesians 2:4ff describes God’s gracious provision for that sin.
Ephesians 2:4ff details what God has done for us. In verses 5 and 8 Paul declared that “by grace you have been saved.” In verse 5 Paul wrote that God has “made us alive with Christ.” In verse 6 Paul wrote that God has “raised us up with Christ.” Then Paul wrote in verse 6 that God has “seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
Paul used several different words to explain why God chose to offer life even though we deserved death. In verse 4 Paul described God as loving and merciful. In verse 7 Paul wrote about God’s kindness. Then, in verses 5 and 8, Paul described God as being gracious. Paul stacked one after another the key characteristics of God to describe what it took to offer us life.
In verse 4 Paul wrote about God’s “great love for us.” God loved us and then that He made us alive with Christ. Too often Satan tells non-Christians that they need to first get their act together so God can love them and then they can ask Him for forgiveness. The Bible is clear, God has always loved us and there is nothing we can do to gain more love. Our responsibility is to respond to His love and what it offers us. Read Romans 5:8. His love us does not negate His justice so our sin will be paid for, either by us or Jesus.
Paul described God’s love as being “great.” Read Ephesians 3:18 and 19.
The biblical description of God’s great love for us needed a totally different word. In Greek that problem is solved using various words to describe the difference between brotherly love, erotic love, and God’s love. Paul was describing God’s love that moved Him to provide salvation from the death sentence we were under.
God has provided salvation because He is loving. John recorded in I John 4:8 that God is love. See also John 3:16 and I John 3:1. God’s gracious provision of salvation from the death that sin caused begins with His love. As deeply as God hates sin, He loves the sinner and wants him to return to Him. The parable of the Prodigal Son returning home pictures the Father running out to him and throwing His arms around him and shouting, “My son has come home.” Love responds that way. Read what Jesus said about a sinner returning to God in Luke 15:10.
God provided salvation because He is love and directed that loved to us. He also provided salvation because He is “rich in mercy.” Make note of the fact that God is rich in mercy. In verse 7 God is described as rich in grace, which is, according to that verse “incomparable.” Read Ephesians 3:8 and 16. A rich, loving God has provided a rich redemption for us. God is rich so He is not limited in what He can shower upon those He loves and who belong to Him.
God chose to provide for our salvation because He is “rich in mercy.” Mercy is the act of withholding deserved punishment. Read Psalm 86:15. In the context of Ephesians, the punishment deserved is eternal separation from God, but God is love and He is merciful. God rich mercy flows from His love. Deserving of death, God in mercy reached out and offered us that which we did not deserve. He mercifully offered us life.
In verse 7 Paul used another term to describe God. Paul said that God is kind. In Ephesians Paul presented a slightly different picture of God’s kindness. Here, Paul wrote that one of the goals of providing salvation was to allow God to bless us with kindness. The Greek word that Paul used denoted one who had a sympathetic concern for others. Read Romans 2:4 and Ruth 2:20.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, he did connect God’s kindness with salvation when he reminded them, as he reminded the Christians in Ephesus, that before they were saved, they were living in sin, and deserving of judgment. Then Paul wrote, according to Titus 3:4-5, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Here in Ephesians God’s kindness is associated with His desire to shower blessings on the redeemed day after day and then for all eternity. When we talk of the characteristics of God we generally talk of His love and mercy and grace, but we need to remember He is also kind. His kindness impacted His desire to redeem the lost and like all His characteristics, it impacts His desire to shower us with blessings.
One important thing to note is the connections between the attributes of God spoken of here and the characteristics Christians are expected to display each day. God is loving and so should we be loving. God is merciful so we should show mercy. God is kind so we should seek to demonstrate kindness in our interactions with others. God is gracious and so too should we be gracious. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the characteristics the Holy Spirit seeks to develop in us and there can be no doubt that they are those same characteristics of God enumerated here. Read those verses and then Colossians 3:12.
Paul added that God who is great love and mercy is also gracious. God is gracious because, like all His other attributes, it is who He is. Read Exodus 34:6. To be gracious means to show kindness to one who does not deserve it. Isaiah 30 presents an interesting picture of God’s graciousness. The chapter begins with God saying to Israel, “Woe to the obstinate children.” The chapter goes on to detail the sins of the nation and what it is costing them. It peaks in verse 18 that reads, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.” When Paul refers to God as being gracious in Ephesians. he is specifically referring to all the undeserved blessings God has promised to shower upon believers. Specifically, he was referring to God’s desire, because He is gracious, to make “us alive with Christ,” raising “us up with Christ,” and promising to seat “us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” It is ours via grace because we, as Paul so clearly stated, there is nothing mankind can hope to do to earn or deserve it.
I would encourage you this week to think again about the truth that without the salvation God provided through the death of Jesus you would be dead in sin.
Think about the nature of God who loved us, who is rich in mercy, who is kind beyond our imagination and encompasses grace and know that every one of those characteristics are still available to us today as we seek to live as those who have been redeemed.