But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Ephesians 2:4 (ESV)
Today we finish up our study of contrasts in Scripture, marked by the conjunction ‘but’. We’ll consider perhaps the greatest contrast of all. Ephesians is a rich, deep book, worthy of slow, serious study. Paul left Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus during his second missionary trip (Acts 18:18-19) and the couple founded the church. Paul pastored the church for three years, his longest tenure anywhere. After Paul, Timothy led the church and the Apostle John also pastored the church some years later. One of Paul’s major themes in the letter he wrote to the church was that they understand what an amazing gift salvation is. It’s in the middle of this discussion that we get to chapter 2.
Ephesians 2:1-3 describes who we were.
There’s not much need for comment or elaboration. Let’s just look at what Paul says.
- We were spiritually dead in disobedience and sins, lots of them.
- We lived in sin. It was our lifestyle, our frame of reference, our worldview.
- We obeyed the devil. In fact, he was actively working in our hearts.
- We gave in to whatever desires, inclinations, bad habits we wanted. Self-gratification was our driving force.
- We were destined to be on the receiving end of God’s wrath.
Hold up here for a moment. That’s a lot of depravity right there. For many of us, our first reaction to that list is, “Yeah, but I wasn’t that bad.” Be honest. Granted, it is difficult for us, now that we have been redeemed, to re-imagine that mindset that made us enemies of God. But a failure to recognize our utter lostness and hopelessness prevents from grasping the wonder of what God did for us. Paul describes it verses 4-7.
It is into that darkness that the light of the glorious gospel bursts forth.
- God, being rich in mercy. His mercy defines Him. He is a mercy-aire
- His boundless love motivates moves Him to action. He cannot stand by and watch as we are condemned by our own rebellion. He chooses to get involved.
- First, He makes us alive. He reverses the spiritual death that doomed us.
- That spiritual life is an eternal thing. We will live forever, and so He made a place for us in heaven, in His dwelling place. See, He wants us with Him, with Christ Jesus. This is possible through the death and atonement of Jesus.
- Why does He want us in heaven? So that He could explain to us how much He loves us, how His great mercy is and grace were poured out for us in the death of Christ to save us.
This is where words begin to fail. We rebel. But He redeems. We audaciously turn our backs. But He lovingly opens His heart. We deserve the justice of wrath. But He, being rich in mercy, delivers the grace of reconciliation.
So what do we take away from this?
Embrace the superabundant love of God, His delight and His grace. Do not listen to the whispers of the enemy who would try to convince you that you’re on probation, or it’s all a mirage.
Remember it’s all His work and none of ours. Serving Him now is the response of gratefulness not the obligation of debt. The debt is paid.
Ensure those still in darkness know that there is a way out, but only one way.
Want to study more of Ephesians? Study Tip: Ephesians
Read more from the Study in Contrasts series.