But God … Grace, Mercy, Love
Ephesians Series #049
October 27, 2019
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we’re thankful for all that You’ve done for us, all that You’ve provided for us, and as we study in this Epistle to the Ephesians, we are reminded at the very beginning that You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. In this epistle we come to understand what some of those are, but certainly not all of them. And in our passage that we’ve been studying in Ephesians 2:1–10, we are reminded that the foremost, foundational blessing is that You have made us alive together with Christ, You have raised us with Him, and You have seated us with Him.
“This is a foundation for understanding who we are as believers in Christ, our new identity in Him which has to do with our purpose in life, which should define everything we do in our waking hours. For we are here not to serve ourselves, not to serve those for whom we might be employed, but to serve You in every area of our life as husbands, fathers, as mothers and wives, as children, as adult children, as employers and employees, and in every other realm of life, we are to serve You and glorify You. That is done by transforming our thinking from that of the world to that which You have revealed in Your Word.
“Father, we pray that You would encourage us to continue to pursue this, that we might be conformed to the character of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray this in His name, amen.”
Turn to Ephesians 2:4–5, where we focus on God.
One of the great statements, and we find it twice actually in this chapter, is “but God.” Later it is “but Christ.” But God has done so much for us—that is the emphasis. This is the center of Ephesians 2:1–10, the beginning of Ephesians 2:4 “but God,” and understanding His character.
Ephesians 2:4–6, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved …through faith.)”
I want you to notice as we get ready to pursue this, that we have the word “mercy;” we have the word “love” twice—the noun and verb; then the word “grace.” The foundation of God’s work on our behalf is understanding this aspect of His character. The result is that He is doing this for us.
The “us” here must be understood. This is word has a variety of meanings in Ephesians. It can refer to unsaved Jews that Paul spoke about at the very beginning of the epistle, which becomes clear from various passages such as Ephesians 1:12–13 where he says, “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”
There are some who will say that the “we” here refers to the apostles; the “we” refers to sort of an epistolary “we” referring to Paul and the others who are with him; or that ”you” refers to the Ephesians in the Ephesian church. However, it becomes clear as you read through this that that’s not how he is using these terms.
There are a number of scholars who would disagree with that, even some dispensational scholars like Dr. Hoehner from Dallas Seminary who has a fantastic commentary on Ephesians. This is one thing that I and several other, shall we say, more consistent dispensationalists would state: that the “we” here is talking about the Jews, who at the beginning of the Church Age trusted in Jesus as Messiah, but by Acts 10 and 11, when Peter took the gospel to the Gentile Cornelius—a Centurion in Caesarea by the Sea—that at that point Gentiles were brought into the Church.
Once that happens, then you see the dynamic of this new organization, the Church with a capital “C,” that it is comprised of Jew and Gentile together. That’s the thrust of this epistle—the previously unrevealed truth that the church would be made up of Jew and Gentile together—and the dividing line between them would not be a factor in this Church Age.
That is why, in a couple of different places when Paul is talking about the baptism by the Holy Spirit, which is the unique marker of the Church Age, that in Christ we’re baptized in Him, and there is therefore neither Jew nor Greek.
Of course, Paul was still an ethnic Jew, Titus was still an ethnic Gentile, but that ethnic distinction did not impact their relationship with God or their access to God.
In the Old Testament Jews could go all the way into the Holy of Holies. If you were a High Priest or you were a priest, you could go into service in the Holy Place. But Gentiles could not go beyond a certain point, so it impacted their relationship with God. There was a distinction between what God allowed the Jews to do and what He allowed Gentiles to do. He was teaching certain things.
But now in this Church Age, that’s not impacted. You’re still a Jew or you’re still a Gentile, but that doesn’t impact your access to salvation, it doesn’t impact your access to the throne of God because we have a high priest now who is at the right hand of the Father.
When those verses talk about “no distinction between Jew and Gentile” or “no distinction between slave and free,” in the Old Testament again, there was a distinction between slave and free in terms of your access and how far you can go in the temple service.
The third characteristic that’s marked out is “no distinction between male and female.” That just really gets butchered today, because there are so many people who come from a feminist perspective, who want to say, “See, women can now do everything that men can do.” That’s partially true; they have equal access to God the Father, just as Gentiles have equal access with Jews, just as slaves have equal access with those who are free, women have equal access with men to God’s presence.
The temple also had a marker, the court of the women, which they couldn’t go beyond; there were distinctions. But men and women are equally created in the image and likeness of God; and therefore, they have equal value before the sight of God and with each other. Both are necessary for the proper function of the human race, to value one another. But that does not mean that there aren’t role distinctions.
I bring this up because this is a big matter of chatter right now because of some things that have been said recently, and it’s misunderstood by so many people, but role distinctions have nothing to do with basic personhood. Everybody, male or female, are equal in the image of God.
Let’s use an analogy—a football team. They can’t be the quarterback. They can do everything else. But if you listen to the chatter, if you say that a woman can’t be the quarterback, they treat it as if they can’t even be on the team.
That’s not what Scripture says. Scripture says there’s a number of things that women can do that men can’t do, though the trans-genders are trying hard to have babies.
God created different roles for men and women; it’s obvious physiologically. But in Christ we have equal access to God, and the thrust of Ephesians is that that equal access applies to Jew and Gentile.
Paul in Ephesians 1:12 says, “… that we who first trusted in Christ …” that is, “we Jews.”
Ephesians 1:13 contrasts that, “in Him you also—that is, you Gentiles—also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
Also, in other passages, for example in Ephesians 2:11–13,
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—that’s very clear that the ‘you’ refers to Gentiles—that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
“But now in Christ…” That’s the other ‘but now’ that’s so important. You have “but God” in Ephesians 2:4; now in Ephesians 1:13, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
As we looked at this chapter, we saw that it breaks down into three sections:
The Problem: Who we were before we were saved, Ephesians 2:1–3
We are all born physically alive but spiritually dead. We were spiritually dead, and we were alienated from the life of God.
The Solution: Ephesians 2:4–9, God’s love, His mercy, and His grace toward us in providing us a salvation that is free. A salvation that does not entail any form of works or effort, anything that is meritorious on our part, anything that we can look at and say, “See, look what I did.”
There is nothing we can add to it; the cross is sufficient. Therefore, we do not add baptism to it, we do not add any form of ritual to it; we do not add any form of morality to it. It is simply faith alone in Christ alone.
The Purpose: Ephesians 2:10. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. Good works have a role; that is, obedience to God has a role. That is the reason we are saved or one purpose for which we are saved.
Last week we looked at the key concepts in terms of spiritual death and spiritual life. And we talked about spiritual death, secondly, talking about the fact that how does an unsaved spiritually dead person hear and understand the gospel?
Specifically, interacting with the more and more popular high Calvinist concept of total inability. They have a false view of spiritual death. Spiritual death is not a person who can’t do anything: can’t hear, can’t think, can’t exercise any sort of positive desire to just know God. For them, all of that is meritorious.
If you look at the heavens that displays the glory of God, then say, “There must be a Creator. I want to know more about it.” They would say that was meritorious—that you can’t even think that unless God gives you that thought.
Human responsibility and volition are completely excluded by that, and it’s a false concept of death. They compare it to physical death where a physically dead person can do absolutely nothing.
John 16:7–11, it is God the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of unbelief because they have not believed in Christ Jesus. He does that to the world. That’s the same group of people for whom God sent the Savior, for God loved the world in this manner, John 3:16.
Part of spiritual death is that we follow the thinking of Satan. Satan is the second phrase that’s there that is according to the prince of the power of the air, but that defines the first course which is the course of the world. The world represents satanic thinking. It is rebellion against God.
Ephesians 2:1, “And y’all—plural, talking about the Gentiles who are saved—who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which—that is, sins—y’all once walked according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience …” That is Satan; he is the energizer.
He has an army of demons who are involved in influencing the thinking of people, so that is referred to as demonic influence. Demonic influence is anything contrary to the Word of God. It has its ultimate source in the kind of thinking exhibited by Lucifer in his rebellion against God:
- He exhibited his arrogance, “I want to be like the Most High.”
- He exhibited his desire for autonomy to be independent from God
- He exhibited antagonism to God, his hatred of God and all things related to God.
That is what comprises the idea of worldliness. Worldliness is not how you dress. It may reflect worldliness, but in and of itself, how you dress isn’t worldly, whether you go to movies, whether you watch TV.
I remember when I was a kid or in high school, a friend who’d mentored me, had gone to a somewhat legalistic Christian school, and he didn’t think Christians should go to movies at all. Then his wife convinced him to go see the Sound of Music and he thought, well maybe there might be a few exceptions. That’s legalism!
It can be legalism, but it might not be legalism. Some people may say, “You know, there’s messages in all this. I just choose not to do that.” But it doesn’t make you more or less spiritual. It’s when you think that it makes you more or less spiritual that you start getting into legalism.
Worldliness can be reflected in fashion. It can be reflected in the things produced in media. It can be reflected in literature. It may not be, but worldliness is the way of thinking. It’s not necessarily certain specific actions. That’s what I’m trying to get across.
Ephesians 2:2, “… the course of this world is according to the prince of the power of the air …” That’s demon influence, that’s satanic influence. Every unbeliever is demonically influenced because they are thinking according to the course of the world. It’s impossible for them to think biblically. They may have a morality that is similar to the Bible, but because they are spiritually dead, it is according to the course of “… the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience.” That’s about as clear as the Scripture can get.
Ephesians 2:3, Paul applied it to the Jews as well. The first verse is the primary statement: we’re all dead in trespasses and sins. The other two verses just define that.
Spiritual death is defined in Ephesians 4:18, “… being alienated from the life of God …” It is not this idea that you can’t understand and respond to general revelation in God’s creation and have a desire to express more.
John 5:25, Jesus completely contradicts this Calvinistic understanding of spiritual death when He says that a time or an “… hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God—see the dead can hear—and those who hear will live.”
The other aspect is if the unbeliever is as spiritually dead as the Calvinists explain it: that they can’t even exercise positive volition, then why does the god of this age—another term for Satan—need to blind the minds of unbelievers? Because if they’re already completely dead and blind, how can you make them even more dead and blind? 2 Corinthians 4:4.
It just doesn’t fit with what the Scripture says.
Demon Influence: the effect of the thinking of any person which imitates the thinking of Satan and his fall.
Demon influence: any person who is thinking like Satan in the same categories. It can involve morality. It can involve immorality. It can involve religion. It can involve people who think they’re Christians and think they’re living some kind of Christian life.
That is equivalent to the course of this world; that is, the world system which I call kosmic thinking (spelling it with a K), so that it reflects the Greek word KOSMOS, which is translated “the world.”
It represents arrogance toward God in two areas:
- Autonomy—independence from God
- Antagonism—rejection and hostility toward God.
This is at the root of every system of thinking. Think about religious systems from Islam, Church of Christ Scientist, Buddhism, Hinduism, any kind of Animism, Spiritism, or any kind of religion. It is all hostile to God and antagonistic to God, even though many of the systems, such as Mormonism have a strict moral code of conduct. It is still demonic especially when you think about the source.
All unbelievers are demon influenced. Believers are demon influenced when they’re thinking according to the world—human viewpoint, when they are not thinking according to the Word of God and walking by the Spirit. The sin nature has a tremendous affinity for the thinking of the world. It is the enemy within us.
Examples of the kosmic system—kosmic thinking; two kinds of demon influence:
Direct demon influence, where you have some sort of revelation from a spirit, where somebody says, “Well, God spoke to me, or an angel spoke to me.”
The classic example is of Mormonism where Joseph Smith had a vision of the angel Moroni, who revealed to him the book of Mormon. In almost a similar scenario an angel appeared to Mohammed and gives him the Quran. That’s direct demon influence.
Indirect demon influence:
All of these human viewpoint philosophical systems and religions: everything from postmodernism, to transgenderism, to LGBTQ philosophy, to open-border philosophies, to socialism, Marxism—all of these are human viewpoint systems. Mysticism, works-oriented religious systems, all of that and much, much more comprise what is meant by demon influence.
We often think of demon influence as somebody who has certain specific ideas, but just anybody who is not thinking biblically and has a belief system that isn’t biblical. They all have the characteristic of independence from the God of the Bible and a hostility to the truth of Scripture.
2. In our passage today, we see this emphasis on God’s love in three categories:
- He is rich in mercy. The idea there is that God is not parsimonious. He’s not stingy in His mercy. He is rich in mercy. It’s overabundant, it’s sufficient. That means it’s more than enough. It covers everything.
- He loved us with a great love. How great is God’s love! The word that’s translated “great” has the idea of expansiveness; its boundaries are infinite. We can’t measure it; it’s immeasurable. It’s difficult for us to even comprehend all that is involved in God’s love. Paul says that later on when we get down to the middle of the book. We can’t understand the dimensions of His love.
- Because of His love, He makes us alive together with Christ; the first of the three verbs that we see in Ephesians 2:5–6.
The overall structure of the passage:
Ephesians 2:1, “He made alive;” that makes more sense in the English, but the first 3 verbs aren’t found into you get down to Ephesians 2:5, “made us alive together.”
Ephesians 2:1–3 talks about our problem … this is the past.
Ephesians 2:4–5, beginning with “But God,” Paul gives us God’s solution to our problem. It’s a perfect solution because God is perfect, His solutions to problems are always perfect. This is the present.
Then it focuses on the future:
Ephesians 2:7, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:4–5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
The opening, “But God” is a contrast with Ephesians 2:1, which says “… we were dead in trespasses and sins …” and in contrast God makes us alive. That is the focal point.
That is just the wonderful thing about Christianity—that we are made alive. Many people didn’t even realize they were dead when they were spiritually dead. Some come to realize that life is pretty miserable for them, but they have no idea what the solution is. But God makes us alive together. Jesus came to give us life. He said, “I came not like the thief to steal and destroy, but to give life and to give it abundantly.” John 10:10.
We see that word again: various words in the Greek for “abundance” all emphasize the expansiveness, the richness, the wealth of God’s grace, that we can’t outdo the grace of God. He has provided everything for us, and He makes us alive.
He gives us real life, not just this fake life that people think they have because of the things that they do and the things that they experience in their chasing after happiness and all manner of other things.
But it’s the Word of God that tells us that Christ gives us real life, and it starts when we trust in Christ. At that instant, we’re made alive together with Him—this is God.
Then He defines the specific aspects of God that are important for this topic:
- Why does He make us alive together with Him?
- What is it about God’s character that He wants to make us alive together with Him?
God is rich in mercy. The word translated “rich” indicates the superlative character of His mercy. It’s expansiveness. It is not a small thing. It is without boundaries. It’s infinite. “Mercy” in Greek is ELEOS, “kindness or concern expressed for someone in need. It expresses mercy, compassion, and clemency.” ~ Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich Dictionary.
We can say that it is unmerited kindness. It’s something that we don’t deserve because we are fallen. Some people emphasize mercy for those who have things happen to them that are not deserved; that’s how it was used in classical Greek.
But scripturally it is an expression of God’s love toward us who don’t deserve it. We’ve done nothing whatsoever to deserve it, but God Who loves us has provided us this. Mercy is an aspect of the expression of the love of God towards those who are in desperate need.
We can do absolutely nothing to make ourselves savable; we can do nothing to make ourselves attractive to God. We are fallen, dead rebels as far as God is concerned. Yet He has chosen in His character to do all that is necessary in order to solve our problems. God always solves our problems better than anything we can do.
Here I have written the Hebrew word chesed. Chesed is an Old Testament concept that is translated around 200 times with this Greek word in the Septuagint. Chesed is a multifaceted word; it indicates God’s covenant loyalty.
A lot of people, when they hear that this is talking about a legal concept of covenant loyalty, think, “Well, that seems kind of stilted and sterile and it doesn’t sound quite personal.” Let me explain why your thinking needs to be adjusted.
When you got married, whether you’re married now or not, you all understand the concept of getting married and going and standing before a clergyman or maybe a judge. If you are getting a state-sanctioned marriage then there is a marriage license, which involves a contract between the two parties.
When you get married—most people have a lot of emotions at that time, and they’re very much in love with the person that they are marrying—but when they go through the marriage ceremony itself, whether it has to do with just a civil ceremony or with a Christian ceremony, they are entering into a legal contract: they are making a provision, an oath, that they will stick to that contract, whether it’s for better or for worse.
Better usually comes in the first 30 or 40 years of the marriage. That enables you to get through the worst part, which is taking care of each other when you wake up in the morning and don’t know who you are much less who your spouse is.
Some of you have had to take care of elderly parents, going through many horrible things. What enables them to stick together, let me tell you, is those first 20, 30 or 40 years when they raise children together, when they have that together.
When people remarry later in life—I’ve seen this happen several times—they get married and everything goes good for two or three years, and then all of a sudden the other person starts developing serious health problems. They don’t have the foundation in the relationship to go through the really hard times.
I just recently heard about one couple that had gotten married later in life, and then a couple years later he started having all kinds of problems, and she said, “Okay, I did not sign up for this. I’m out of here!” There is no foundation in that relationship for the 20, 30, or 40 years ahead of time.
The point I’m making is you enter into a legal contract. Doesn’t sound romantic when I say that, does it? You enter into a legal contract that you’re going to stick with that other person through thick and thin, and that defines what that love relationship is. There is that romantic element to it, but that’s not the foundation of it. The foundation is that you are pledging to honor that relationship, that legal contract.
When we look at God’s Word, chesed has to do foundationally with His honoring His covenant with man, His covenant with Moses. Often that’s the foundation of the Old Testament. It is translated, God’s lovingkindness; His faithful, loyal love, but chesed has to do with loyalty to His contract. He is not going to break it just because Israel was rebellious. He stuck with them; they are still His chosen people.
“Mercy” is one aspect of that. God, many times in the Old Testament, is extremely merciful to Israel despite their idolatry, their rebellion, their spiritual adultery, their disobedience. The fact that they’ve committed horrendous sins, such as child sacrifice out in the Kidron Valley, yet God did not walk away from them and leave them.
God brought them under discipline, God took them out of the land, but God never broke His contract with them. That is the picture of love, and He was merciful to them. He did not destroy them because of their disobedience.
The Old Testament gives us that picture of God’s mercy.
In the New Testament we have pictures of God’s mercy in the way Christ healed many of the sick, cast out the demons of those who were possessed, and He even raised some from the dead. All of course to demonstrate that He was God, but they also demonstrated His mercy.
But the greatest act of God’s mercy is our salvation. Titus 3:5, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy …”
Paul is stating the same thing in slightly different words: God saves us according to a standard, and that standard is His undeserved merit and kindness, the expression of His grace in what is called “mercy.”
It is “… according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration …”
Notice here, just as in Ephesians 2:4–5, the connection of mercy to regeneration, to being born again, to be given new life.
“… He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Peter 1:3, he opens his first epistle by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again—that’s the same connection—according to His abundant mercy—that’s the standard, His own character—has begotten us again—regeneration: given new life and He’s—begotten us again to a living hope—not a dead hope, not some uncertainty.”
Hope, in the Bible, is always a conviction of certainty. It is a confident expectation of what will happen. It’s not a wishy-washy sort of expectation, like you have plans for the afternoon and it may or may not rain, but you hope it won’t rain.
Then after church you go out and it’s a deluge. So that happens. That’s how we use the word “hope,” but the Bible uses the word “hope” as a confident expectation—“through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
That resurrection is a picture, as well, of new life that we have in Him: we have eternal life.
Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy—and then the next phrase is very interesting—because of His great love with which He loved us.”
The Greek here is very, very important. The word we use “because” indicates causality. That’s indicated clearly in the text. The cause of our salvation is God’s love. The cause of our salvation is not our faith.
When we get to Ephesians 2:8–9 we read, “… for by grace you have been saved through faith …”
It’s the same preposition, but the noun following it is in the genitive case, which indicates means — not cause. But when it’s used with a noun in the accusative, it means cause. So the ultimate cause of our salvation is the love of God. The means is through faith. Faith doesn’t cause our salvation.
Again, that is a little problem, I think, with the way some Calvinists express things, because they see faith as meritorious, and therefore causative of salvation. But that’s not what the grammar says. It is through faith—and as we’ve seen, the faith that saves is non-meritorious because it’s the object of faith that is meritorious—and that is Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”
We have two uses of the word “love.” The first is AGAPE, it is the noun; and the second is the verb AGAPAO, which means to love.
Now the distinction between AGAPE and the second most common word for love in the Scriptures, which is PHILOS as the noun and PHILEO as the verb, is that’s a more intimate love.
For example, God has AGAPE love for the unbeliever, but He never has the PHILEO love for the unbeliever. Never once. That’s reserved for those who are saved. And He loves those who are saved with a more intimate love.
To understand the implications of the word “love”, I want to look at three passages.
John 3:16, a verse that’s familiar to many of us, as translated in many versions—and the way you probably memorized it—is erroneous, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
In that English translation, it often looks as if—and I’ve heard people paraphrase it this way, “For God loved the world so much.” But that’s not what it says in the Greek.
The Greek word translated “so” is HOUTOS, which means “thus” or “so” or “in this manner” or “in this way”. The NET translation, which I have on the screen, says it well:
“For this is the way God loved the world—or for in this manner God loved the world. For God loved the world this way: He gave His only begotten Son …”
That is the best way to translate this because John is giving us an example of the extent of God’s love; the expansiveness of God’s love—that He gave His only begotten Son to us.
The condition for salvation is clearly stated, “… whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” There is nothing added to that.
This word, as it’s translated there, “whoever believes in Him,” is a present tense in the Greek. Sometimes you will read theologians who say, “See what that means is you have to continue to believe. If you don’t continue to believe, then you weren’t really saved.
In fact, what you will find among those who are Lordship Calvinists that they will draw a distinction between the aorist tense, which they will say just talks about a point in time, that up to a point you believed, but you didn’t continue to believe. That’s the difference between an aorist tense and a present tense.
The problem is there are several times in the Scriptures in John, where the disciples believed in Christ, and it’s an aorist tense, so it doesn’t hold true consistently. Also, the way they treat this is an erroneous way of handling both the aorist tense and the present tense. Present tense can just be talking about something that happens now.
In teaching Greek, I say, “There’s a present tense that is right now; there is a present tense that’s just sort of characteristic—it’s today, tomorrow, or the next day; there’s a present tense that may last for several weeks or years; and there’s a present tense that may last longer than that.” So just because it’s a present, you can’t hang these theological conclusions on it.
It is simply stating the fact that belief is the condition, and anyone who has ever trusted in Christ as Savior is saved eternally because at that instant, they are regenerate, born again, given new life in Christ. Even if they completely apostatize later on, it’s too late! They are saved if they believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins.
It doesn’t say, “If you believe and stay faithful,” “if you believe and never commit certain sins.” It just says, “If you believe.” That’s the condition because it’s a recognition that Christ did the work and it’s never me. Lordship salvation brings good works in through the back door instead of the front door.
The second verse related to God’s love in salvation is Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
He exhibited His love through the death of Christ. Romans 5:8 is Paul’s version of John 3:16—God’s love is demonstrated toward us. It’s that AGAPE love which is not conditional. God loved us even when we were rebellious, spiritually dead, and obnoxious to Him.
In 1 John, which was written some 60 years after John wrote the gospel, he says, “In this the love of God—that is, God’s love toward us—the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
Both in the Gospel of John, as well as in the first epistle, John is talking about life that we get from Christ.
1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us—God had the initiative—and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The implication, 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
It’s always tied to application: what we are to do. Christ said that we are to love one another because that is the greatest evidence that we are a disciple. Not that we’re a believer, but that we are a disciple or a student of the Lord.
Ephesians 2:5 takes us back to the fact, “but God … even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved.”)
This takes us back to Ephesians 2:1, “And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins …”
He repeats that part to tie things together. This is one long sentence, from Ephesians 2:1–9 in the Greek, so he does things like this, so the train of thought isn’t lost.
“… even when we were dead in trespasses—alienated from God—God made us alive together with Christ.” He destroys that alienation. That is what is meant by being made alive together with Christ.
Here he’s using “we” to refer to Jew and Gentile. We are now together. We’ve experienced the same new birth, we have experienced the same regeneration, and we are alive together with Christ.
Then you have the interjection, “(by grace you have been saved).”
This is important because when he uses the word “saved” for the first time, it’s in conjunction with and parallel to and explaining being made alive. Regeneration here is clearly stated as the meaning of being saved.
Sometime saved means to be healed, sometimes this word is used just for physical deliverance, but here it’s clearly talking about regeneration and being made alive together with Him.
In the Greek, SUZOOPOIEO, a compound from different words. The SU at the beginning means together, the ZOO means alive, and POIEO means to be made, so it’s simply being made alive together. Every place that it is used, it is talking about God giving life.
For example, in a parallel passage in Colossians 2:13, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him.”
We are alive together with Him. This is what happened to you and to me at the instant of our salvation.
That’s the first of three things that Paul emphasizes here: it is regeneration. We move from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive and having the ability—the capacity—to have an intimate relationship with the Creator God of the universe. And then learning about and realizing the purpose that God has for us, which is w explained when we get to Ephesians 2:10.
All of this emphasizes God’s work: God makes us alive together with Him. When we believe in Christ, we don’t make ourselves regenerate. That’s the means. God is the One who does all of the work in regeneration.
When I get back from vacation we will get into the next two verbs that are used “being raised together with Him” and “being seated together with Him in the heavenlies.”
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things this morning, to be reminded that there was a time when we were each spiritually dead. We were without Christ, we are without hope, we didn’t have eternal life, we didn’t understand the meaning and purpose that we had in life as Your creatures.
“But now we have made been made alive together with Christ, we have a unique role from believers who lived in other dispensations, we have a unique role as Church Age believers in a special way in which we glorify You as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“We pray that if there’s any here this morning or any who are listening online, if they’re unsure or uncertain of their eternal destiny, if they desire eternal life, that there is only one way and that is to trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
“There He paid the penalty for our sin, and we don’t earn or deserve our spiritual life, our regeneration, our salvation. We simply trust in Christ. It’s not by works. There is nothing we can do to merit it. The merit is all at the Cross.
“We pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.”