But God, being rich in mercy

by Mike Ratliff

4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, 5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, — χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι — 6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NA28)

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us,  5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, he made us alive with Christ — by grace you have  been saved — 6 and he raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,  7 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 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Let us this day 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 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 NA28 followed by my translation.

1 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, 2 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· 3 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 NA28)

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins  2 in which you once walked according the world system of this age, according to ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among whom also we all conducted ourselves once in the lusts of our flesh, indulging  the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, as also the rest.  (Ephesians 2:1-3 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 eight years ago or so 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 while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “But God, being rich in mercy

  1. Funny about so-called coincidences. This is the same passage preached upon at the church we visited Sunday. And the preacher was unabashed in pointing out the things you did here – we were without merit and without ability; it was all of God and it was all for His glory. A couple of quotes from well-known dead guys about God’s sovereignty. It was good!

    How sweet is the grace of God for those who have been called to taste and see that the Lord is good; good indeed.

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  2. It is a small fellowship, the pastor has been there less than 3 years, although the church itself has been around for a while. I found them on the Founders church search page. Arpelar Baptist Church, about 10 miles west of McAlester; some 32 miles from our mountain. I am trying to convince Matt (the pastor) to accompany me to a pastors’ fellowship lunch in OKC this Saturday.

    He researched me on the internet after I contacted him via email last week and was most thankful that I handed him a copy of the Semper Reformda Baptist Library🙂

    I will join them for Bible study this evening.

    May God be glorified!

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