“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
But God. Who knew these two short words could be so glorious? We see these two words after the first three verses of chapter 2, which describe our natural state. We were dead in our sins and trespasses, and by nature, children under the wrath of God. And then we come to this section and these two wonderful words- but God. John Stott writes, “These two monosyllables set the gracious initiative and sovereign action of God against the desperate condition of fallen humanity.” God comes in and saves us because of his great love for us!
There are three things to notice that God does for us. In verse 5, God made us alive with Christ, in the first part of verse 6, he raised us up with him, and in the second part of that verse he seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus. Stott points out in his book that these three things correspond with the Apostles’ Creed that we still recite today. Part of that creed includes the words “… he rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty…” Paul now writes that about us! This is something he addresses in other letters. Roman 6 covers this topic in depth. Verses 4 and 5 say, “Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” In Galatians, he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When Paul writes that God has made us alive in Christ, we should not mistake this with the thought that God is going to make everything better. There is a false gospel that claims that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God. This goes against what the New Testament teaches. I Peter 1:6-7 states, “You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trialsso that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul writes in Romans how our momentary sufferings aren’t worth comparing to the glory that is coming. We read in Hebrews 11 about people who were tortured, mocked, scourged, sawed in two, and imprisoned, all because they knew that they were gaining a better resurrection (vs 35). Alistair Begg, in his sermon on this passage (accessed at truthforlife.org) says, “So, the idea that somehow or another Jesus comes simply to add to the sum of our total happiness, to clean everything up, to make everything absolutely better. We can’t testify to that. We are not supposed to testify to that. No, the story of the believer is ‘I was dead, and Jesus has made me alive.’”
God has seated us with Christ in the heavens. This is the third time the heavens are mentioned. The first time was in 1:3 where Paul says we’ve been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. In 1:20, God exercised his power by raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens. And now he has raised us up and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus. When Paul talks about the heavens, he is talking about the unseen world of spiritual reality. Peter warns the church in 1Peter 5: 8, “Be sober minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” Later in Ephesians 6 we are going to see that the church engages in spiritual battle in the heavens.
Now let’s look at why he did those things. Was it because of anything we have done? Absolutely not! It is because of his mercy (vs. 4), his love (vs. 4), his grace (vs. 5), and his kindness (vs. 7). First it says God is rich in mercy. What is mercy? Mercy means to love or have compassion. We were slaves to our fleshly desires, but God, in his love for us, had compassion on us and made us alive in Christ.
It is also because of his great love for us. John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Today it is unpopular to say that Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven. It is considered narrow-minded. But Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). He also said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). I have heard the example of someone with diabetes. The first doctor tells them that they need insulin. That is what will help their blood sugar stabilize. The second doctor tells them that all medicines lead to the same thing. Only one doctor is right. Today we have people telling us that all paths lead to God. But they all teach different things. Two opposing ideas can’t be true at the same time. There are some excellent apologetics resources out there. I will devote a blog post to some of the ones I have used soon.
Next, we have grace. Grace is defined as undeserved favor. We deserved nothing but judgement because of our sin and transgression. Paul reminds us several times that we are saved by God’s grace. It is important to note that God did not wait until we had improved our condition to save us. Despite our sin, he reached down to us. Pastor Terry Morrow, in his book on Ephesians, writes, “Every place there is light or darkness, God reveals his grace and manifests his mercy. Paul was declaring that grace is on display for all of the heavens to see.”
Lastly, it says he acted because of his kindness. In Psalm 86:5, David wrote, “For you, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abounding in faithful love to all who call on you.” Stott writes in his book, “For as living evidences of his kindness we shall point people away and beyond ourselves to him to whom we owe our salvation.”
I want to leave you with this verse today. It reminds us of God’s kindness, his love, and his mercy.
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:4-5
Grace be with you!