“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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 and seated us with Him in the heavenly places” - Ephesians 2:1-6
BUT GOD. These two words encapsulate the very heart of the Gospel.
While the phrase “but God” appears hundreds of times throughout Scripture, Ephesians 2 is perhaps one of the most concise expositions on the Good News we have. Its message has changed everything about our lives, both now and for all of eternity. It presents this glorious contrast between the richness of God’s mercy and the depth of our human depravity.
Chapter 1 of Ephesians reminds us of the glorious truths of our salvation, our position as God’s chosen children, and all of the blessings of God that we inherit because of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. But we can’t even begin to comprehend or appreciate the magnitude of God’s extravagance until we understand where we came from. Chapter 2 of Ephesians makes that all so clear. We came from utter depravity!
WE WERE DEAD IN OUR SINS.
Before the mercy of God rescued us, we were doomed to utter destruction — separated from an infinitely good God because of our rebellion against His ways. We were governed by the wicked desires of our flesh and spiraling towards hell under the rule of Satan himself. We were not simply marred or broken; we were completely lifeless, without the slightest inclination towards holiness.
The most vital part of us (our spirit) was dead to the most glorious reality in life - God. We gladly submitted to the temptations of our sinful nature and racked up a debt that was impossible to clear in and of ourselves. We were without hope of redemption outside of the radical intervention of the grace of God. Charles Spurgeon explains it like this:
“Paul does not mean simply that we were in danger of death; but he declares that it was a real and present death under which we labored. As spiritual death is nothing else than alienation of the soul from God, we were all born as dead men, and we live as dead men until we are made partakers of the life of Christ.”
We had no capacity to change our own condition, no power to bring ourselves to life. We had eyes, but could not see. We had ears, but could not hear. We had hearts of stone, hardened against the One who created us in His image to worship and enjoy Him forever. We were natural enemies of God and He would have been completely justified to condemn us according to our sins. But He was too kind to leave us in the prison that our disobedience created.
Compelled by His unyielding affection for His creation, God provided a Door to freedom from the control and consequences of sin! His love for us was not merely a sentiment or a passing emotion. He was willing to take the most extreme measure to save us from ourselves: He offered up His own Son in our place! We were rich in sin, but God was richer in mercy! Willing to pardon; eager to forgive; determined to redeem and restore. Nothing could have separated us from His desire to have us in His family.
That is the very anthem that we sing! It is the banner that we wave! It is the story worth telling and retelling to anyone and everyone who will listen. Our rescue has come. Our freedom has been purchased and our hope has been secured. All of the wreckage of our choices have been fashioned into life from ashes!
Standing on the ground of Christ’s merit and not our own, may the praise of the mercy of God be our soul’s refrain every moment of every day! May our song ever be that we were wretched sinners, undeserving of any goodness at all…….BUT GOD!