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 been 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 ESV)
Yesterday Paul described the natural position of all human beings: we are deplorably filled with disobedient sin which has us headed towards an eternity filled with pain and sorrow. And there is nothing we can do about it. Its as if we are in an airplane plunging toward earth. The outcome is certain and irreversible. Then Paul writes the two greatest words in the Bible:
Despite our rejection of Him… despite our selfishness… despite our evilness… God chose to intervene and save us from the eternity we are headed for. What great news! There is an unmistakably vivid contrast between who we are and who God is. We created our own hopeless situation because we rejected God. But like a hero who swoops in at the last second to save the day in a movie, God rescued us from certain destruction.
God did this because He is “rich in mercy”. “Grace” is defined as giving someone something good that they don’t deserve. “Mercy” is the withholding of something bad that someone does deserve. A judge who dismisses a penalty against someone who has committed a crime is demonstrating mercy. This is exactly what God – who is our judge – has done.
Every human being is up to his/her ears in sin. We are guilty. There is no denying it. Each of us certainly deserves to be separated from God forever. But God has “great love” for us. The Greek word for “love” here is αγαπε (pronounced: ag-ah’-pay) which means “to seek the highest good for the one who is loved”. God loves us and seeks our highest possible good even though we don’t deserve it.
The other day we learned that we are all born spiritually dead. There is no one who, if physically dead, would not welcome being alive again. But that is something no corpse can do for itself. It takes an outside force to bring a dead person back to life. Likewise, no human being can make themselves spiritually alive – which is our greatest need. Only God can, and does, do that [Romans 4:17].
God intervened into human history in the form of Jesus Christ to take upon Himself the penalty that we owe for our sin. As mentioned, God is our judge. But He is also our victim. We have wronged Him, yet He does not seek revenge. Which of us when we are wronged do not seek justice and retribution? None of us.
But not God. He is not motivated to serve His own interests. He is motivated by His “great love with which He loved us” to seek the interests of those very people who wronged Him.
This is the great news of the Bible.
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