Review: Last week we finished our wallowing in the terrible state of affairs in which we were languishing before we accepted Jesus and got to those two magic words "But God". In spite of how unworthy we were, in spite of the life we were leading, not because we deserved it or earned it (because we did not deserve it), "But God" by grace offered Jesus to us. When we were dead in sin and trespass, killing our innocence, killing our ideals and killing our will, "But God" came to our rescue.
This morning we will dive into what "But God" did, and why. We will see how he handled our dire straits, and why.
Remember that Ephesians 2:1-7 is one sentence from Paul, one complex thought. With verses 1-3 abbreviated, Paul says:
First let's focus in on what God did why Paul says "But God".
The parenthetical phrase of "by grace you have been saved" will be a topic on more discussion by Paul in a few verses, so for now let's pass it.
God took us from the blackest death to the whitest life. The Scripture clearly says that prior to salvation, we were God's enemies. We were his enemies, but he still did this for us. Paul says that we were made alive with Jesus. When Jesus was resurrected, our future was also opened. We were raised. The death and resurrection of Jesus is what killed our old "us" and brought to life the new "us", alive and with Jesus. From God's perspective, when he raised Jesus, we were raised too. As far as God is concerned, we were there in the death of Jesus and we were there in his resurrection. We were there. When he died we died. When he was buried we were buried. And as a result, when Jesus was raised, we were raised and Paul tells us that we are now seated with him.
Last week we made the case that sin kills innocence, and innocence can never be recovered. When God made us alive through Jesus, he did not give us back our innocence, he does not turn back the clock, but what he did do is allow us to remove the sense of guilt. But if we are still walking around in the burial cloths, we have not taken advantage of this gift. If we are still walking around in the guilt, we have not appropriated what he has offered us. We have not realized and accepted his mercy.
We said several weeks ago that sin was a condition of separation from God. When he brought us back to life, he made it possible to be reconnected to God, but in our burial clothes, we keep some distance. Imagine yourself or a child of yours that rebelled and did some horrible things, left home and felt he could never show his face again. He was too ashamed. He assumed that his folks would never want him around again. And then someone told him that there was a sign in front of his parents house inviting him to come home, as a forgiven son. What a difference that would make in his life and his opinion of himself. That was the news that Jesus brought to us. He came to take away the sense of estrangement by telling us that God wants us back home. But most of us haven't quite accepted that we are really welcomed back home.
Last week we said that sin kills ideals. Jesus reawakens those core ideals in the heart of man. We can, if we will, recognize that those ideals are real, and with the help of Jesus and the Holy Spirit they are possible to be lived. We have the option of getting back on the high upward road.
Perhaps the most important part of this being made alive, is the restoration of the lost will. With God's help to reverse the natural path of resistance, to temptation, to routine sin and loss of will; back to resistance to temptation and making the decisions that we can be proud of and can live joyfully with.
It has already happened. It was done 2000 years ago. Paul said that we were made alive with Jesus. Past tense. That is when it happened. In the parenthetical phrase that we temporarily passed over, Paul said that
Remember, grace is fathomless favor, when we do get what we do not deserve. Mercy is sort of the opposite, in a certain way. Mercy is when we do not get what we do deserve. Grace and mercy, close cousins, but slightly different.
And where are we now?
So what God did when he "But Godded" was to resurrect us to life with him and seat us beside him with Jesus. Not a bad "But God".
But why did God do it?
1) Now that we have seen what he did after he "But Godded", let's look at why he did what he did. There are two reasons. The first one is exposed in verse 4.
"But God" intervened, and came to our rescue because He loved us. The love referenced here is the Greek word agape. This is the form of love that is selfless love that seeks the best for others.
Calvary proved two things.
Do you realize that God can love you without being able to save you? Do you challenge that? It is by grace that we are saved. You cannot keep God from loving you, but you can turn your back on his love and refuse his redemption. It is like; you can't keep the sun from shining, but you can stay out of the sunshine, in the shade or inside and prevent the sun from shining on you.
So one reason he did the "But God" was because he loved us.
2) The second reason is the answer to one of the greatest questions in Christianity. It is one of the most common questions that comes up from people getting into the Bible and starting to mature in their Christianity, and we have dealt with it here in class:
Why did God Bother?
Why did God go through all of this? It starts with "Did God know that Adam was going to sin?" Of course he did. Then why did he go through the creation, and the fall and the sacrifice of Jesus? Why did he bother?
If God knew the end from the beginning; if God knew that Adam would blow it; that by blowing it he would plunge mankind into such a predicament that only the death of God himself could get us out; and God could see all of the hurt and pain and heartbreak that sin would bring; if God knew that in advance, why did he bother?
It is a profound question. It is not one easily answered. But when that question is raised by you or to you, remember Ephesians 2:7. Here is the answer:
Ephesians 2:8&9 are well known by many Christians, but we will look at them later. Verse 7 is often overlooked by most people.
Verse 6 says
If you are God, how do you demonstrate infinite power? Or infinite knowledge? Perhaps lots of ways, but one obvious one is the creation. You look through a telescope and start trying to comprehend the magnificence of the universe, and you become breathless as you begin to understand the expanse and the power and the immensity. You look through a microscope and you see the intricacies of the design. You look at the simplest cell and discover that it is a factory, more complex than any factory man has ever designed. You start studying the realities of the design in the universe; then, somehow you can at least get a grip on God's power and God's knowledge.
But how do you demonstrate infinite love? Power and knowledge are attributes that you can sort of see or envision. But how do you demonstrate infinite love?
By allowing exactly what God allowed. Give man his sovereignty; give him his freedom to put himself in a predicament that is so dire, so hopeless that only the death of God himself could extradite him from it -- and then by doing just that, at the cross.
I don't think we comprehend much of what really happened at the cross. Understanding what all happened on the cross is a study that will probably occupy us for all of eternity. We had a wholly perfect God hanging on a cross; he was made sin for us; I don't have any capacity to grasp that. But that act satisfied all the requirements to make man perfect and acceptable to God, to be with him.
Why did God do that? Here is the reason.
One thing we need to understand. All of God's blessing, little ones and big ones, are there for one reason: to glorify God.
There is a parallel here to God's relationship with the nation of Israel. We all know that they are his chosen people. We all know that they turned away from him. We all know that the Bible tells us that he will gather them up again. Why? To honor them? No. Ezekiel 36 gives us the answer, and it is the same answer that Eph 2:7 gives us:
He will re-gather them to glorify himself -- to show his name is holy and almighty, in spite of how they had defamed it. He will gather Israel, not because they deserve it. He does it because his reputation is on the line. God says "I said I would do it; it is there in writing; and I am a God of my word; I said it I am going to do it, to glorify myself".
The same reason he did what he did for us. God "But Godded" for us for the same reason: to show the world how kind he is and the depth of his grace toward us.
Look at the beauty of how Paul builds his thought.
God did it:
This is a description spiraling upward to heaven.
Through all times to come, we are destined to be evidence of how much he loves us. And not only to love us, but to love us so much that he was willing to arrange our redemption at his great cost.
Let's look at a visualization. There is an old expression, but one that I am not sure I have heard before. "When you see a turtle on a fence post, you know that he did not get there by himself."
We were dead and separated from God by our actions and decisions. Despite our unworthiness, not only did he withhold the judgment and punishment which we deserved, he instead showers us with unfathomable blessings.
To the sinning and unbelieving world, we are the turtle on the fence post. We could not have gotten here on our own. It is clear that God intervened. All the world can see and cannot really ignore the evidence. That is why God did it: to show the world his love for us and to show the world that he is a God of Love.
... we will go back to the "saved by grace" parenthetical phrase we skipped, and go on to Paul's discussion of saved by grace, not works, in verses 8, 9 and 10.