In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul explained how believers are adopted into God’s family and the truth that all believers throughout all time will be united under Christ, the head of the church. As we study Ephesians chapters 2 and 3, we’ll see Paul’s explanation of how God turns sinners into saints and gives them a place within the church.
“BUT GOD . . . ”
At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul used verses 1 through 3 to describe the status of unbelievers before God redeems them. In verse 1, he reminded readers of a harsh reality— before Christ, we were all dead in our sins. Dead. Spiritually dead. Think about this—the dead have no life within them, no breath, and no ability to move limbs, think thoughts, or speak with God. This state of being dead exposes our need for Christ to step in, to give us breath and new life. Without His intervention, we have no hope.
In verse 2, Paul reminds us that if we are followers of Christ, we once walked within sin. But now as followers of Christ, we are redeemed, washed clean, made righteous by the blood of Christ. Those who choose to not follow Christ continue to be spiritually dead. Paul describes them in two ways. First, they follow the course of this world. They follow the ways of the world instead of God’s ways. And the ways of the world originate in Satan and oppose God and all His ways. Second, unbelievers follow the prince of the power of the air, or Satan. First John 5:19 says that Satan controls the world until Christ returns.
In verse 3, Paul uses the term all, in “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,” which informs his Gentile readers that the Jews have also been disobedient. Before Christ, we followed the desires of our flesh, or human instincts, instead of the desires of God. We submitted to our flesh instead of submitting to God. Therefore, we became children or objects of God’s wrath, because disobedience and unbelief in Christ leads to His wrath (Romans 1:18–2:29; John 3:36).
Without God’s intervention, verses 1–3 are extremely hopeless. We are left to our own desires, which lead to a spiritually dead life separated from God.
But God. The greatest words in all the Bible! Verse 4 begins with the words but God. The sinner, the unbeliever, now has hope because God decided to work through Christ, to act on our behalf, to open our eyes to the truth, to soften our hearts and make us alive in Christ! Why did He choose to do this, even though we were dead and had nothing to offer? “But God, being rich in mercy . . .” God’s mercy is undeserved kindness toward us, sinners. And He doesn’t just have mercy; He is rich with it!
He also chose to make us alive “because of the great love with which he loved us.”
This love is an agape type of love, which seeks the highest good for the one being loved.
God’s love is so great for us that He seeks our highest good! Even though we are undeserving. What wonderful news! Through the richness of His mercies and great love for us, God has made us alive with Christ.
Paul closed out verse with an ever-important reminder: “By grace you have been saved.” God’s grace saved us. We did not save ourselves. Remember, we were dead in our sins with no ability to reach toward God. Instead, the living God extended Himself to us with an offer of grace, making us alive with Him. God gives life to the dead (Romans 4:17).
Think about the contrast between being dead in sins and being made alive together with Christ through God’s grace. What does this truth mean to you?
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