|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 14
Meditation Title: Made Alive
Eph 2:4,5 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
Here's another of those link words – ‘but'! This word screams out to us, “Contrast!” What follows in this verse is in direct contrast to what we have just previously considered in the first three verses. Consider again some of the things we were told about our old lives in those verses: We were dead, disobedient, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature, objects of wrath! That's what we had been like, summarized if you like by three words – hopeless and helpless. Yes, we had no future and there was no way we could get ourselves out of the state. And then it came – “But”!
Something happened, something that was beyond us: “God… made us alive.” We were dead and when you are dead you have no abilities whatsoever and so it had to be God who had to come and change us and bring life, for there was no other way it could happen! How did He do it? He “made us alive with Christ .” How did He do that? By “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead,” (1:19,20) that we have seen previously. Yes, He placed His Holy Spirit within us, His very own presence, for He Himself is THE power that energises all things and by doing that He linked us to Christ and made us one with him.
Now note one more thing: “even when we were dead in transgressions.” Never get the idea that God waited until you did something of merit, as a reward if you like. Even when we came to conviction, even when we were asking for forgiveness, right up to the point when we were ‘born again' by God's Holy Spirit, we were still living a life where we transgressed or strayed away from God in our own self-centred thinking. We had done absolutely nothing to merit our salvation. We were dead; we were sinners – right up to the point of being born again. NOTHING beyond that merited our salvation.
Now why do we emphasise this? Because there are two words in our verses today which emphasise what we have been saying: grace and mercy. ‘Grace' is simply (in this context at least) divine favour, God's goodwill towards us that is not earned but given freely, i.e. unmerited favour. ‘Mercy' is compassion or pity that is felt and given when there is absolutely no reason for it. When we ask for mercy we have nothing to bargain with; it is just a straight forward plea for Him to do good to us, almost without reason. The reason of course is because God is a merciful God – He looks to bring good to us even when He sees we deserve punishment (see Deut 4:31, Neh 9:31, Jer 3:12). God looks to be merciful but He still has to abide by justice; that is why it was necessary for Jesus to take our punishment on the Cross. Likewise He does not express mercy until He sees repentance. He wants to, but He has to wait for the right conditions to grant it.
What is it that binds grace and mercy together? It is the fact of God's love. Love in this context may simply be described as a commitment of benign goodwill towards us. God's love is a good feeling towards us which He is committed to, because it is part of His very nature. Now that nature desires our best and desires to bring us to a place where He can overlook our part sins because His Son has dealt with them and we have received that provision, not because we have worked for this approval of us, but because He has! Hence mercy and grace are expressions of His loving nature.
Note in passing, there is nothing hesitant or nothing partial about this. Paul speaks of God's “great love for us” and that He is “rich in mercy” These are words of abundance. There is no half-heartedness about God's feelings or actions towards us; He is all out for us, as proven by giving His Son on the Cross.
Now, if we go back to the beginning, we now see what we were (dead) and what God has done (made us alive) and why – because of His love expressed in mercy and grace. This incredible transformation was nothing to do with our efforts but all to do with HIS activity. How wonderful! Now, today, we are ‘alive' to God because He has placed His Holy Spirit within us, and that was possible because Jesus had dealt with our sin on the Cross. All we are able to say was, “Yes, please Lord.” (essentially) and there we were, born again (Jn 3:5-8), new creations (2 Cor 5:17), made anew by the Father (Jn 1:12,13). So, if you thought you were a Christian by your good efforts, please think again. Your part was surrendering; all the rest was God's. As Paul says elsewhere, that leaves no room for any boasting on our part (Rom 3;27,28). Hallelujah, what a relief!