Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – “But God”
September 21, 2014
Ephesians 2:4-10 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 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them
As we begin this study this morning, I am faced once again with an awesome problem. There is so much contained in this portion of Scripture that it not possible in one single message to relate to all that it has to offer us as believers. This one passage is filled with such great hope and promise.
Last week, we saw that Paul painted a dismal picture for the one who was without Christ. They were dead in their sin and their were in bondage to cultural demands and lusts that controlled the outcomes of their lives. As John Stott; pastor, teacher, and theologian has said; “Paul plumbs the depth of pessimism associated with man’s sin but then he arises to the heights of optimism about God.” As I read this passage, I can’t help but believe that God could have put a period at the end of verse three and then closed the book on mankind. In fact, God could have chosen to close the book after Adam, the representative of all mankind, fell in the Garden of Eden. He could have washed his hands of man but he did not close the books. He did not give up on man. How do we know this? We know this because the very next phrase is “But God.”
But God… This is perhaps the greatest single phrase in all of Scripture. Contained in this two word phrase is a new identity for man. Contained in this little phrase is the most powerful change that could ever come. What a turning point. We were objects of wrath but God out of love showed us mercy. We were dead but God made us alive. We were slaves, in a position of dishonor and powerlessness but God raised us up and set us at His own right hand, a place of honor and of authority. We were desperate and lost on the road toward destruction but God took aggressive action to reverse the condition and the conditioning of sin in our lives.
In verse 1-3, the sinner could only anticipate the wrath of God but God showed mercy and everything changed. Paul immediately turns to describing God’s motivation for the work He does in us. He begins by reminding us that the work of God is resourced through the endless riches in Christ. One of His greatest assets is His mercy, and mercy is defined as the act of not receiving what we deserve. This is a poignant point, especially, since the preceding verses detail the demise and the faulty condition of mankind.
We have talked about this word mercy before. It is a common word in Paul’s writings. Paul uses it often because Paul understood the level of mercy that had been given to him, personally. Think about it for a moment. Do you remember the story of Paul before his conversion experience? Paul was not only a nonbeliever but he sought to destroy those who professed Christ. Remember the story of Stephen? Paul stood at his side while he was being stoned and worse yet, Paul was not a passive player in this event. In fact, it was Paul who ordered that he be stoned. He rejected God and he rejected the people of God. In some people’s mind, this would be the worse kind of sinner. But God met Paul and changed his life, changed his focus, his destiny, and his purpose (Acts 8:1).
You see God could have given him a death sentence which he deserved but because of His mercy, God did not give him what he deserved. Neither does he give those who come to Christ what they deserve. We deserved the wrath of God, but God gave us mercy. We deserved death, but God does not measure out His gifts by what one deserves but what He desires to give. And it is amazing that God is rich in mercy. His bank account of mercy never runs dry. This word mercy is an interesting word. In most cases, mercy means to show concern or compassion toward those who have suffered some undeserved calamity. But here in this passage, Paul lets us know how much greater God’s mercy is for us. While mercy most often points to some undeserved calamity, in this case, mankind deserved the calamity they were in. Even though they deserved it, God showed them mercy. Why, does He do this? It is because He is compelled by love.
The love described here is the kind of love that seeks the highest good for the one being loved. Once again, notice that the measure and depth of the love being given is not based on the one being loved but on the one giving the love. Notice how this is evidenced, God extended His love and mercy to us while we were dead in our trespasses and sin. He did not wait for us to be alive and then love us. His love is unconditional and far reaching. The intensity of God’s love is defined by the adjective “great.” He is rich in mercy but He is great in love.
Paul then defines how God’s mercy and love have been showed to us. He uses three verbs to do so. Paul says that we have been made alive, we have been raised, and we have been seated. The first of these three verbs points to the fact that we have been made alive. This provides a stark contrast between those individuals discussed in verse 1-3 and those in verse 4-10. In verses 1-3 they are categorized as being dead while we now see those who are in Christ as being alive. You were dead. This is true. But now you are alive.
But how are we alive. The Bible tells us that we are all appointed to die. This body, this flesh will die but our spirit will live on. That part of us that has been touched by the power of God will live forever. You see, Christ died physically so we could be made alive spiritually. While the resurrection of our bodies is yet to come, we are made alive in our spirit now. God has once again breathed His breath into. We are alive.
The second thing that God does is that He raises us up. Not only are we alive, but we are living through the power that God has bestowed upon us. Christ rose and ascended to heaven in order to conquer death and the grave. He ascended to show His power over every force, authority, or power ever raised up against God or man. You see our position in Christ has changed. We are no longer enemies of God (Romans 5:1-11). We are no longer powerless against the claims of sin but we can now resist the temptation that is at our door (James 4:7). We can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Why? We are alive and we have been raised with Christ.
And then finally, we are seated together with Christ. Now once again that is not a physical positioning but a spiritual one. In the spirit we are seated with Christ and in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says that From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Notice that in essence that all that God did for Christ, He did for us as well. He raised Christ. He raised us. He made us alive together by grace and he seated us with Christ. We are in Christ.
The essence of these three actions on the part of God relate to the fact that we have a new identity spiritually. Notice in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. Unbelievers are identified as being dead, controlled by forces more powerful than they, and they are guilty of sin and should receive the penalty of God’s wrath. But God changed that by sending His Son to die for all mankind. And if they would confess their sin and surrender their life to Christ, they would have a new identity, in Christ. They would no longer be dead but alive. They would not just be an empty shell but would have a purpose and a reason for living. And lastly, they would spiritually be seated next to the Son where they would be given honor and power to overcome every force that would come against them.
How is all of this accomplished? It is by grace, a gift we did not deserve. You did not deserve the gift of God because you were dead in your sins and not capable of making a decision for life, but God came and gave Himself so you could have life. Though undeserved and unmerited, God extended His mercy and His love to mankind. It was by grace we are saved and not by works. This means that we do nothing to achieve our own salvation.
If these things are true, and they are. Then we are called as believers to exhibit these things in our lives. How do we live this out. John Piper made the following observation concerning mercy and how we ought to live. So we say, “Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore, I do this and not that. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I speak this way and not that way. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I cultivate this kind of emotion and put that kind to death. Because I exist to glorify the mercy of God in Christ, I live this way and not that way.” Christian living is built on something! It is built on the mercy and grace of God!
Copyright © Robert W. Odom All rights Reserved