“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4 (ESV)
Ephesians 2:1-10 is one of the pinnacle chapters in the New Testament. Within these ten verses we witness the biblical truths of spiritual death, sin, condemnation, new life, grace, faith, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that each believer in Christ is God’s workmanship.
The Apostle Paul began in vv. 1-3 with the assertion that all unbelievers exist in a natural state, or condition, of sin. Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Ephesians 2:1–3 presents a hopeless picture of an unregenerate person who deserves nothing but God’s wrath. The wrath of God, however, is not the entire story. Its dark background contrasts with the glorious exhibition of God’s grace toward the unregenerate. Verses 4–10 set forth the grace of God which works on some unbelievers and gives them life (vv. 4–5), raises them (v. 6a), and seats them in heavenly realms with Christ (vv. 6b–10).”
Today, we begin to examine this glorious exhibition of God’s grace beginning in Ephesians 2:4. The first two words in 2:4 establish a pivotal contrast to Ephesians 2:1-3, wherein hinges all the blessings from the Lord: But God!
But God! The conjunction of contrast “but” indicates an alternative condition for natural and fallen man. In other words, the Apostle Paul was saying “on the other hand.” This contrast is solely from God. He is the subject of what Paul is now about to say. What does the apostle say about the One, True, and Holy God and His initiative towards natural and fallen man?
To begin with, Paul says God is rich in mercy. The Lord presently and actively is a merciful God. Mercy (ἔλεος; eleos) means to have pity and compassion. It is a characteristic of God which is found throughout the New Testament (cf. (Matt. 9:13; Luke 10:37; Rom. 9:23; 11:31; Gal. 6:16; Titus 1:4, 3:5; Heb. 4:16; James 2:13; 3:17; 1 Peter 1:3). If grace is God giving sinners what they do not deserve, mercy is God “not giving” sinners what they do deserve.
God is not just merciful, but Paul also says the Lord is rich in mercy. The word rich (πλούσιος; plousios) means abundantly wealthy. Paul says God is abundantly wealthy in mercy towards sinners.
Additionally, God is also loving. His love (ἀγάπη; agape) is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is a great (πολύς; polus), extensive and extravagant love. It is a love towards those who do not love Him (Ephesians 2:1-3; I John 4:7-12; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-20). It is a love God has for the fallen and wicked world (John 3:16). It is a love which does not dismiss or ignore God’s holiness or His justice.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “God loves His people of His own will. Paul excludes any consideration of merit, effort, or ability on the part of those who come to life (Deuteronomy 7:1-8). The hopeless condition of sinners apart from Christ that Paul has described in vv.1-3 is the context for understanding his teaching on God’s election in 1:4-6 and on His gift of life here in vv.4-10.”
Have you received God’s great mercy and love in Christas your own? If so, praise and thank Him today. If not, repent of your sin and place your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone for eternal life.
Soli deo Gloria!