So we ended the last blog saying that we are hopeless in and of ourselves, but there is hope. How does that work? How do we who are hopeless in and of ourselves still have hope? The only way that hopeless people can have hope is if someone outside of our hopeless situation extends hope to us. The only way that dead people can come to life is if something supernatural occurs and Someone outside of humanity breathes life into a corpse. This is our Hope.
Here, Paul explains how we were spiritually regenerated, just as Jesus was physically regenerated.
Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV
 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.
1) But God, being rich in mercy
2) because of the great love with which He loved us
Alright, the language here is fairly straightforward, so I’m going to post the key terms and Strong’s/Vine’s numbers below for those who want to look into it further.
rich — #4145, plousios, ploo’-see-os
mercy — #1656, eleos, el’-eh-os
great — #4183, polys, pol-oos’
love — #26, agapē, ag-ah’-pay
We see a couple things here, Paul is saying that God does something (mentioned in verse 5) because He is “rich in mercy”, or has an “abundance of compassion”, and has a “great love” for us. A couple things to note here:
- the word “love” here, or agapē in the Greek, is the same word used to express God’s attitude and affections toward Jesus (Jn. 17:26).
- We must consider who the word “us” is concerning. We really only have three options:
- The entire human race
- Christians, those who have confessed Christ as Lord
- The Elect, those who God chose and predestined to become His adopted children (which we discussed on the Ephesians 1:3-6 post
The Entire Human Race
I don’t believe this is the best understanding of the word “us” in verse 4. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- When we look at vs 5-6 we’ll see how “we” were dead and God made “us” alive with Christ and raised “us” up with Him. So, saying that “us” is “all humanity” wouldn’t line up with the rest of Scripture because some people do clearly spend eternity in Hell, not having been raised with Christ.
- Additionally, the action being applied toward us is God’s loving us as He loves Jesus, loving us as adopted children. It wouldn’t make much sense to say that God loved all of humanity as He does Jesus when part of humanity is destined to spend an eternity in Hell, which Jesus is not destined to do. The overall usage of “all of humanity” just doesn’t fit in the entirety of this thought.
This gets closer, given that Paul opens the letter with “…To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…” To be sure, God’s love toward Christians is absolutely the same as His love for Jesus, but I don’t think that God’s love only applies toward those who already profess Christ as Lord. Primarily because Scripture says in several places that Christ died for us (the ultimate expression of God’s love) while we were still His enemies (Rom. 5:6,8,10).
Though this is definitely the most controversial of the three, I believe that this is who Paul speaks of when he uses “us” in verse 4. The reason for this is both logical and Scriptural:
If God’s love doesn’t apply to all of humanity, and doesn’t only apply to those who have already confessed Christ as Lord, then there must be a mixture of both those who have confessed Christ as Lord AND those who have not yet confessed Christ as Lord, but whom God chose and predestined to adoption as His children from before creation and time (Eph.1:4-5).
Paul’s opening line is to the “saints”, or Christians, at Ephesus. He then goes right into identifying them as part of the “us” that God blessed (Eph. 1:3, 6), chose (Eph. 1:4), predestined (Eph. 1:5), redeemed (Eph. 1:7), forgave (Eph. 1:7), revealed His will (Eph. 1:9).
The most compelling reason is Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…” God did each of these before we had confessed, or were able to confess Christ as Lord and fall into the “Christian” label. Yet before we confess Christ, and after we confess Christ, the label of “The Elect” still applies to those whom God chose and predestined. So, Paul is saying that God loves the elect as His adopted children just as He does His begotten Son, Jesus.
Side Note: One of the main objections to “the elect” is that it challenges the need for evangelism, missions, etc. That’s really a baseless argument though, because we don’t do those things because people do or don’t get a choice, we do them because Christ commanded us to do them. Additionally, “the elect” is something that should provide those who confess Christ with immeasurable security and confidence in their relationship with and to God, but this doesn’t give us any reason to avoid missions or evangelism because as finite human beings, we don’t know who falls into “the elect”. Yes, God can and will save whom He has chosen and predestined. And even though He doesn’t have to, He has chosen to use Christians, the part of the elect who has confessed Christ, to reach the lost, or the part of the elect who hasn’t confessed Christ yet.
1) even while we were dead in our trespasses
2) made us alive together with Christ
3) by grace you have been saved
Here, Paul tells us what God’s love for the elect resulted in, His making us alive with Christ. Paul continues his theme of telling us that we were dead in sin while God reached out to us. We were dead in sin when Christ died for us. We were dead in sin before God made us alive. Because we were dead in sin, we were not capable of having any merit to deserve God’s salvation. So, Paul breaks from his original thought and states that it was by grace we were saved. In other words, God saved us despite who we are, not because of who we are.
Because God loved us (the elect), He had an abundance of compassion and He saved us while we were dead and couldn’t save ourselves, when we didn’t even want to.
1) and raised us up with him
2) and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
Here, Paul is again connecting our spiritual resurrection (regeneration) with Christ’s physical resurrection, just like he did in Ephesians 1:19-20. The power of God that raised Christ from the dead also raised us from the dead, if we are in Christ. He raised us from our spiritual death by breathing life into our spirit, and will raise us from physical death when Christ returns.
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus tells us “All authority iin heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Paul alludes to this when he tells us that we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, which is a position of power (Eph. 1:20-21). So, we have been given a measure of the authority Christ has been given. This would have had profound implications for the church at Ephesus with all of the occultic practices taking place. This should have the same profound application for us today in our overly “spiritualized but really demonized” culture. Regardless of anything going on around us, Christ is in ultimate authority, and we have been stewarded a portion of that authority. This should give us courage to step out and engage the world around us for the gospel, and contentment in the things we can’t change.
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus
In verse 7, Paul answers the “WHY?” question. Why would God do this? Why would God sacrifice Himself for His enemies? Why would Jesus absorb the wrath of God, that we rightly deserve? Is it because God loves us more than Himself? No. God did this for God’s glory. God did this so that we would see His goodness and kindness in Christ and praise His name in the coming AGES!
We were dead in our treason against God. God breathed life into us through the power of Christ’s sacrifice. God brought us into relationship with Him. God did this for His glory. God did this for our good and ultimate joy in Him. God did this.