Summary: Eleventh in a series on Ephesians. Our situation was hopeless, but God intervened.
When we began our study of Ephesians chapter 2 last week, we saw that Paul painted a very realistic, and yet disheartening picture of what our lives were like without Jesus Christ. Paul made it clear that we need a Savior because without one, we are dead in our transgressions and sins; we were dominated by the world, Satan and our own flesh; and we are doomed to face the wrath of God. But fortunately, Paul doesn’t just leave us there. He makes it quite clear that God has an answer to all the problems that we have apart from Christ. Let’s read together what Paul writes about God’s answer.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Although we’ve been using the NIV translation in our study of Ephesians, you’ll notice that I’m using the NASB translation this morning. If you’re still working on memorizing the Book of Ephesians, I want to encourage you to go ahead and memorize this passage in the NIV. There is nothing really wrong with that translation, but unfortunately the NIV translators chose to change the order of the wording in verse 4. Normally, that’s not a problem. In fact, in order to translate the New Testament Greek into English it’s often necessary to change the order of the words in order to make it fit with our English grammar.
But in this case, by inserting the phrase “because of his great love for us” between “but” and “God”, I think the NIV translators missed out on the powerful message communicated by those two simple three-letter words: “But God.” In fact, in just those two simple words Paul conveys the very essence of the gospel.
There is a sense in which those two words may very well be the most important two words in the Bible. Because they show how God enters into the lives of those he has created in order to do a work that no man could ever do. Let me share with you just a few examples. I’m just going to put these verses up on the screen and read them. I don’t really need to comment on them because they speak for themselves.
The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
Genesis 7:24, 8:1 (NIV)
Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." "I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."
Genesis 41:15, 16 (NIV)
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.
2 Samuel 14:14 (NIV)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26 (NIV)
He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.
Luke 16:15 (NIV)
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
Acts 3:15 (NIV)
He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.
Acts 10:28 (NIV)
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:26, 27 (NIV)
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.
1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.