“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved….” (Eph. 2:4-5).
I have trouble finishing an entire piece of french silk or pecan pie. Not because I don’t like it enough. Strangely, its because its too rich in flavor to handle, too good to take in fully. If I ever finish an entire piece, its after a long time and with many sips of milk in between bites. Can you relate?
The verses above are a lot like that — almost too good to stomach, too rich to fathom! We must take it in small bites and wash it down slowly with much contemplation. In the previous passage Dr. Paul has given us the terminal diagnosis of the human condition and we were left feeling hopeless in the waiting room. Then we are hit with the biggest BUT in all of Scripture.
“You were dead in the trespasses and sins…BUT GOD!”
The 2-words “But God” change everything. I was mentoring a college student a few years ago, and he came back from a Christian conference where a well-known preacher gave a message on those two words that rocked this student’s world. Years later he’s still telling everyone about the significance of living a “But God” life. :) Think about how every faith testimony you’ve ever heard and they all have a “But God” moment in it.
“I was heading down the wrong path, hanging with the wrong people BUT GOD never stopped pursuing me.”
“I was chasing riches and fame BUT GOD got my attention when I lost everything.”
“Our marriage was crumbling and we were about to get a divorce BUT GOD…”
“I was determined to pursue a career in this or that field BUT GOD had other ideas and eventually called me into ministry.”
The rest of the passage is beyond summing up in a short reflection. That would be like trying to cram an entire piece of pie into someone’s mouth. Instead, take some time to chew on each of the following delicious bites of truth about the kind of God we have in Jesus Christ.
But God, being rich in mercy. He’s merciful to the core. When we deserve wrath and judgment, he is overflowing with second-chances. How merciful? When Jesus was once asked, “How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Jesus essentially said, “An unlimited number.” Then a few chapters later Jesus modeled such mercy and forgiveness when he uttered from the cross, “Father, forgiven them. They don’t know what they are doing.” If you squeeze an orange you’ll get orange juice. If you squeeze a lemon you’ll get lemonade. If you could somehow squeeze God to see what he’s made of you would be sprayed with enormous amounts of mercy.
Because of the great love with which he loved us. God didn’t save us because he pitied us. He didn’t send Jesus to die in our place because he felt bad for our condition. He didn’t launch a rescue plan because he felt some obligation as our Creator. He didn’t reach out to us because we deserved it, or because we are so worthy of affection. Let this sink in because I know this seems so cliche. God’s motivation for offering forgiveness and salvation was, is and will always be the mind-boggling fact that he actually loves us! In The Screwtape Letters the senior devil says memorably of God (whom he calls the Enemy): “We must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created…Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them.” It is because of the great love with which he loves YOU that he still extends his hand of mercy to you today.
Even when we were dead in our trespasses. All he owed us was judgment. “The wages of sin is death” and we were drowning in lake of our own sinfulness. Yet he continued to love us even while we’re running after other lovers. For love’s sake He sent Jesus to earth to pursue us like a runaway, unfaithful bride. He still comes as a jealous lover begging us to leave our life of cheap thrills and one-night-stands behind and to come back home to a loving, caring, faithful husband. Like a lover who catches his bride in bed with another man and still takes her back and chooses to forgive and forget, that’s how God loved us even while were were dead in our trespasses. That’s not a human kind of love. That’s divine. That’s amazing grace.
He made us alive together with Christ. Behind this phrase is a larger concept and truth that boils down to this: Our lives are now bound up with Christ’s life. Everything that is Christ’s is now ours. Just as Jesus is God’s beloved son, so we are adopted in Christ as God’s beloved children. Just as all the riches of heaven are at Christ’s disposal, so we have an inheritance stored up in heaven awaiting us. Just as Christ was raised from death to share in a new Spirit-empowered life, so we can begin to live a Spirit-empowered life ourselves as we receive the Holy Spirit. We have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Christ through his resurrection (Rom. 6). In short, we have been made alive together with Christ. Wow, chew on that for a bit! The implications are deep, wide and limitless.
by grace you have been saved. All is grace. Grace is all. We stand in grace. We breath grace. We walk in grace. We stumble, trip and fall onto grace. Grace lifts us back up gently. Grace shuts the mouth of shame, self-condemnation, and the Enemy’s lives. Grace is our future. Grace erases the disgrace of our pasts. Grace is God’s native tongue. If my blood type is called o+, then Jesus’ blood type is called grace. Grace is best friends with Peace. They always go together. If we have Grace, we also have Peace — peace with God. Yes, by grace we have been saved.
If you couldn’t quite digest all of this in one sitting, I don’t blame you. But if you even had a small taste of this rich treasure of Scripture today, you are richly blessed for it! Keep chewing. It’s worth every bite.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good!” PSALM 34:8