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 seen saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
- Ephesians 2:4-7
The two words that begin this passage are two of the most precious words in all of scripture – but God. Without these two words we should know very little about the greatness of the love of God. Without these two words we should all perish. The preceding verses do not paint a flattering image of the Christian. Paul lays out before us the true state our sin has caused – “you were dead in the trespasses and sin…were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Did you hear that? We were dead. There is not anything dead people can do to bring life back to themselves. They are dead. Dead people are just dead. There is no hope. If you kill yourself, you cannot bring yourself back to life. With our sin, we’ve all killed ourselves. The trigger has been pulled and the fatal bullet has entered our hearts. It’s over. This is the reflection of humanity that Paul lays before us.
When it seems the darkness could not get any blacker, God intervenes. He has the final word, not us. He doesn’t let our sin keep us dead. He comes to conquer sin and give us life. Like David going up against Goliath, Jesus faces the massive enemy of sin on our behalf and slays the great giant, cutting off his head, claiming victory for God, and sending life rushing toward us like a mighty river overflowing its banks. Like Lazarus we are raised from the tomb after our body has begun to rot. We are unbound and we can breathe again. We have newness of life. What was once lost we have regained. Only this time, it can’t be lost again.
“But God” is the hinge upon which this verse, and the life of a Christian, swings. Without those two words, without God stepping in, we are still following the prince of the power of the air. And we are still dead. But our Lord would never allow that for his children! He placed himself inside of that deadness so that we could have fullness of life. Jesus took on all the sin, all the darkness, all the ruin, all the trespasses, all the disobedience, all the lustful passions, all the desires of the body and the mind, all of the wrath; and he did it willingly. He did it so that we could hear those precious words, “But God.”
Paul goes on to expound on this great truth. What has the death and resurrection of the Lord accomplished for those whom he’s saved from death? First we see that those in Christ have been raised with him. When Jesus walked out of the tomb that first Easter morning, it wasn’t just for his own glory. No! It was for ours as well! His glory comes by giving us dead sinners glory! His glory comes from raising us up with Christ! Don’t you know, Christian, that you’ve been raised from death? Don’t you see that you’ve been resurrected to a new life with a new heart with a new obedience through Christ’s resurrection? Did you feel that on Easter? If not, listen to what Paul is saying. We have been raised with him!
Secondly, the death and resurrection of the Lord gave us a seat with Christ in the heavenly places. This statement is so glorious that we cannot even imagine the full breadth of it here on earth. Seated with him in the heavenly places?! How wonderful that is. That means that right now, today, you who sinned just moments ago, you who are sinning with nearly every breath, are seated with Christ in heaven. You will be there one day fully. You’re seat will be warm when you get there for Christ has been saving it for you.
So Paul goes on to say this has all happened so that in the coming ages God can show us the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ. There is a grand purpose for this “But God” and it’s not what we think. The purpose of raising us dead sinners and seating us with Christ is for the express purpose of lavishing his kindness upon us for eternity. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the entry way into the kindness of the Lord. It took the unfair death of God on a cross to give us the unfair life of his grace. It required the cruel punishment of the spotless Lamb to give us the wonderful kindness of eternal life. We were dead, but God has redeemed us. Now those in Christ have nothing but eternal happiness to look forward to.
This is such wonderful news! We don’t deserve it. We couldn’t ever deserve it. It has to be a gift. The Lord has provided. The great question now is why? Why would the Lord do this? Why intervene? Why not just leave us to reach the end for which we were headed? The answer is the most surprising thing. The answer is the hardest thing for us to come to terms with. The answer is found in verse 4: because of the great love with which he loved us. Did you hear that? Great love. O, our Lord loves us! He loves you! He’s done everything he can to prove it. He died for you. He rose for you. He saw who you had become and he reached down to save you from eternal damnation because he loves you. Our whole lives we long to be loved. From birth to death we search for approval, for notice, for acceptance. This passage tells us explicitly, directly, unashamedly that we are massively, wildly, and lavishly loved by the only One whose love matters in the end. The all holy God is smiling on us. Why? For no other reason than because he loves us, just as a father loves his child so the Father loves you, child. Bask in it. Revel in it. Be swept away in it. Let God love you. It’s all you ever wanted and you and I will see in time, in the ages to come, just how kind and just how much he really does love us.