But God

by Mike Ratliff

ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, – χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι – καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NA27)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in the trespasses, he made us alive with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and he raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

This being the Lord’s Day, let us focus on our wonderful God with worshipful, grateful hearts. Back several years ago when I was confronted with Reformation Theology I was amazed that the passages that the Holy Spirit used to “nail it” firmly in my heart that it was what best lined up with the Bible in all areas of doctrine were many if not all of the same passages that I had taught from, memorized in Evangelism Explosion training, and read every day during my devotions. They were all very dear to me because they spoke of the saving work of God on my behalf. Of course, I must confess, I was never a “theological Arminian,” just a default one since that is what most SBC churches teach. It was as this confrontation took place over each point of doctrine I was amazed that the in every case it really came down to whether our salvation is work of cooperation between us and God (Synergism) or if it is all of God (Monergism). It was as I did some serious study on the Sovereignty of God throughout the Bible that the last thread of synergism I held on to finally broke away. 

Here is Ephesians 2:1-3 from the NA27 followed by my translation.

Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας· ἐν οἷς καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν, καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί· (Ephesians 2:1-3 NA27) 

And you being dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience; among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, performing the desires and the thoughts of the flesh, and we were by nature children of wrath as also the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

Those three verses speak of the horrendous depravity of man. There are no exceptions for Paul includes all Christians in there who “once conducted ourselves…” This is a view of fallen man, that is, all of mankind outside of Christ.

However, go back to the top of this post and read Ephesians 2:4-7. The first two words in v4 are “But God,” which translates ὁ δὲ θεὸς (ho de Theos), or literally, “but the God…” Here δὲ shows “distinction.” Paul used it here to mark a transition to something new. The subject of this sentence is θεὸς, and is, therefore, the distinction. He is the transition. He is the One who marks the ultimate contrast between what we were and what we are. Without God’s provision, intervention, and hope, we would still be dead in our trespasses and sins, doomed forever. So much for Seeker Sensitivity…

Those who are in Christ should often reflect on the magnitude of this. Once we were dead, now we are alive (Romans 6:13; 1 Corinthians 15:22); once we were enemies of God, now we are friends (Colossians 1:21; Luke 7:34; once we were aliens, now we are citizens (Ephesians 2:12-13); once we were lost, now we are found (Luke 15:6, 9, 24, 32); once we were far off, now we are near (Ephesians 2:13); once we were cut off from God, now we have access to him (Romans 5:2); once we were at war with God, now we are at peace with him (Romans 5:1); and once we were condemned, now we are justified (Romans 5:9).

Why? It is because of that first part of Ephesians 2:4, ὁ δὲ θεὸς! About five years ago I wrote a series of articles on the Doctrines of Grace and linked to many others by more well known theologians back on my old web site long before I started this blog. A friend who is part of a local church in our area that could best be described as “hostile to all things not Wesleyan” told me that while he could find no scriptural problems with anything in what I had written nor in those articles I had linked to, he was stuck. I smiled for I recognized that expression as being from where I had come from a few years earlier. I asked about his “stuckness.” He said that he totally “got it” that God is sovereign and his saving us and faith is a gift, et cetera is all scriptural, but he just could not understand how anyone could come to God without “Doing Something Themselves.” I simply smiled again and said, “Right, and that ‘something’ is believe the Gospel and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in Repentance.” His reply was, “That’s it?” We talked some more, but his religious background had him convinced that what I had just said was something we did not the result of something God had already done in us. It took awhile, but he has come to terms with silliness of empty religiosity.

The work of our salvation is complete. Christ has done it all and we did not nor will we ever deserve it.

         [6] For [j]while we were still weak, at the right time [k]Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but [l]God shows his love for us in that [m]while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, [n]we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from [o]the wrath of God. [10] For if [p]while we were enemies [q]we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by [r]his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received [s]reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

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[j] ver. 8, 10; [Hos. 13:9; Eph. 2:5]

[k] See ch. 4:25

[l] See John 3:16

[m] ver. 6, 10

[n] See ch. 3:25

[o] 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:16; See ch. 1:18

[p] ver. 6, 8; Col. 1:21; [ch. 8:32]

[q] 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 21

[r] 2 Cor. 4:10, 11

[s] ch. 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “But God

  1. Amen, my brother! Man, in his flesh, hates God and one way he suppresses what he knows to be True is to make believe that a spiritually dead man can do something that warrants God’s approval. We are, as one of my elders puts it, hard wired for works righteousness. Only problem, Christ alone has the ability to succeed in that endeavor – and His work in that arena is complete!

    All praise to our glorious God, Who has redeemed a people unto Himself, saving us from Him!

  2. “Of course, I must confess, I was never a “theological Arminian,” just a default one”—you’re a hoot Mike lol

    I’m so encouraged by your friend “getting it” and I hope many more people even I know would “get it”…

    thanks Mike for your passion and desire to see men and women be set free by the TRUTH that it’s ALL GOD -”Salvation is of the LORD” and ZERO from us. And that brings about the most subliminal superlative praise and adoration that only GOD is worthy of all glory and honor. We praise him from whom ALL blessings flow.

    “But God” is such a profound statement that has caught my attention because it always means HOPE. thank you Lord Jesus!!

  3. Amen and amen…. how can there be “anything in us” that could respond to the gospel, when we have verses such as Ephesians 2: 1-3 so clearly describing man’s absolute fallen nature??? We can argue over this till the cows come home – but we cannot contradict God’s word – if we truly believe in our hearts that His Word is our ONLY standard!!! I still believe that is why we have that beautiful portion of scripture regarding coming to Him as little children….. and for me, this portion of scripture sums it up…
    Isaiah 55:8-9
    8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the LORD.
    9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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